Monday, November 8, 2010

To The Start

The New York Marathon’s course wasn’t the only thing that basically kicked my ass on Sunday. Getting to the start line did as well.

I knew that this was going to be a challenge, but I wasn’t quite prepared for how tired I would be before even crossing the start. On Saturday Kate and I decided to figure out what LIRR train I would need to be on. Except, for marathon weekend, the LIRR railroad peeps decided to do track work and there were no early morning trains. If I wanted to get to the Verrazano bridge after the back of the pack crossed the finish line I was good to go but since I wanted to be there for my start time I was a bit screwed.

Kate (yelling with toys) and me (awesome pink shirt with hearts)
go way back to the dawn of time.
After much discussion and an hour on the NY MTA Web site, Kate decided that driving me to a subway stop about 20 minutes away, taking the subway to Manhattan and then transferring to another train would get me close to the Staten Island ferry. I was convinced I would screw up this plan and end up in Toronto by mistake so I made her write directions down, print out maps from Google maps and keep her cell phone on until I made it to where I belonged.

After zero sleep (I think that my brain decided that not actually falling asleep would ensure I wouldn’t oversleep) the alarm went off at 3:30. I hopped up, got dressed, realized I didn’t have to eat breakfast at that point because it was the middle of the night and Bill and Kate drove me to the subway.

Rocking the signs Kate made for the Chilean miner
and me while trying to catch a brief nap.

Where I waited, and waited and waited. Finally the train rolled up and I got on, along with a mouse who would be my subway buddy as he/she ran around at top speed in the car I was in. I pretended that he/she was running a little mouse marathon. Go, mouse buddy, go!

My other travel companion was an entire Big Mac sitting in a seat near me. Not in a container or anything, just the sandwich sitting in a chair. Curious. Even more curious was the drunk dude who got on a few stops later, burped 88 times before taking a seat, sat for a few, looked around, noticed the sandwich and ate it. Nothing like strange Big Mac with subway seat cooties at 5 a.m.

Camera, why didn’t I bring you with me?

After almost an hour on the subway I realized I was going to miss my assigned ferry but there was nothing I could do so I decided not to stress a lot.

Ever since watching The Wiz and the video for Bad
subways scare me.

Finally I got to the transferring station and the next train I needed was courteous to show up right away. I was still convinced I was doing it wrong because I didn’t see anyone else who appeared to be running the marathon. But after I got off the second train runners swarmed everywhere. After climbing out of the subway I was happy to see a giant glowing sign: Staten Island Ferry. Yay!

The ferry ride was pretty cool. The sun was coming up and I had a great view of the Verrazano slowly growing closer. It looked long. And steep. Once docked everyone sprinted to the buses taking us to the start villages. Um, people, we have plenty of running to do and the start is still three hours away. I was expecting the bus ride to be all of five minutes but it was closer to 30. I ate my PB sandwich and read the New York Times over the shoulder of the guy in front of me to pass the time.

We finally rolled in to the start area, a.k.a. gun central. Police, armed guards and security were everywhere, searching bags and checking and re-checking race numbers to make sure only registered runners were going through. A bit intimidating, but better than having a shoot-out, a bombing or someone not registered getting a free bagel.

An almost mile-long walk was in front of me as I headed to the green start waiting area. IT WAS FREEZING! SO EFFING FREEZING! I pretty much had as much warm stuff with me as I could --- long pants, two hats, two pairs of gloves, three extra shirts, a trash bag, a blanket and four hand warmers, but I couldn’t stop shivering. It was sort of crowded (but not the chaos I was expecting, fortunately) so I didn’t use my trick of camping out in a portapotty because I thought that would be rude. Fortunately, the view of the bridge was beautiful so I had something to look at while I waited.

As I didn't have my camera with me, I've decided to represent my trip to the start line in tattoos:

My cousin Gia let me borrow a pic of her tattoo. The
guns at the race seemed more like bazookas though.

Thank you And thank you to the man
 who loves Brooklyn and the Verrazano Bridge enough to
 have this stuck to him for ever and ever.

Instead, I sat there in all of my warms for as long as I could until I had to check my bag. I had a hat, gloves, sweatshirt and blanket to toss (I hope they were actually collected and given to a NYC organization for homeless people as we were told they would) and remained amazingly cold and shivery. Fun.

As everyone waited for the corrals to open, I talked with a woman from San Diego who looked colder than I was. She was hoping to PR with a 3:25 and said that she hired a coach to help her. Her coach had her do two runs a week on a track – not sprints, but tempo runs. Seven-mile tempo runs on a track. Twenty-eight laps. On a track. I am never hiring a coach out of the fear that he or she would put me through that. I don’t think I would have the mental endurance for tempo runs on a track, now or ever.

Finally it was corral time. Announcements were continuously made in six different languages that the wave one corrals (there were three waves 30 minutes apart) would close at 8:55. In case you couldn’t hear, the announcements were also presented on more than a dozen gigantic tv screens set up all over the village. The corrals were actually kept open until about 9:15, but when they closed, they were closed.

The perimeter of the corrals were contained by tall fences covered in plastic so they couldn’t be climbed, and big gates and even bigger security guards sealed up the entrances to each corral. Of course, about a zillion people weren’t where they were supposed to be and I thought I was about to see a riot.

In my corral a group of about 100 runners wanted in. They were yelling that they had a right to be in their assigned corral (that is in the Bill of Rights after all, amendment 1 1/2: Congress shall make no law barring marathon runners from their assigned corral, regardless of their lateness) and the security guards were yelling that they weren’t getting in. Which they didn’t although they were told that they could run in the second or third wave.

Not sure if anyone actually tried climbing the fence (which looked impossible) or if punches were thrown because we were soon moved close to the entrance ramp of the bridge. The wind was blowing and gusting all over the place which made me more nervous (I was more nervous before the start of this race than any other race I can think of. Not sure why).

I thought about the last time I was on the Verrazano. I was in a car, packed in traffic and it took me an hour to get across. Two cars were randomly unattended (like, no popo or firefighters) and on fire leading to a mofo of a traffic jam. Standing there with a few thousand anxious runners with 26.2 miles to cover was much less stressful and much more fun.

I took a moment to take in the sunshine, the morning, the sight and the spectacle. Then, New York, New York filled the air, a cannon blasted, and we were off.

“I did it, I did it! I made it to the start of the New York marathon,” I thought. Goal One complete. Goal Two? Run a marathon on a course hellbent on crushing me. And enjoy it.

1 comment:

Kate said...

Love the mouse marathon image. :) Glad I could help you complete Goal 1!! :)