We got a little turned around in NYC, but it’s hard to get truly lost with an iPhone and Google Maps in your pocket.
Alright, so this post is about two weeks late… but I have a million excuses for that, not the least of which is that (even though it was only two weeks ago) the New York City Marathon is not even the most recent race I’ve run.
But I ran it.
I finished it.
I experienced every single mile in foot killing, calf cramping, brain crushing, soul breaking joy-filled-agony, plodding through the streets of five NYC boroughs.
It was a long day. From hotel door back to hotel door, I was gone and on my feet for the better part of thirteen hours.
I met lots of people. A few I shared conversation with. A few hundred thousand I passed in blur of running, a day filled with the endless noise of a quarter million spectators mashing against the quiet effort of fifty thousand participants.
If you haven’t seen the video yet, it’s mindfully over-the-top, but I think it captures the frantic build-up and epic mood of the race:
There were more hills than I had expected, both up and down, the elevation never seeming to stop changing whether it was a massive climb over a huge bridge or just a slight incline up or down a city street.
My leg cramped up pretty bad at 28k. That was a worst-case scenario that I was ready for… but hopeful to avoid. My muscle didn’t comply with my advance planning and careful prep, however. I hobbled a good five klicks before I found a BIOFREEZE station and slathered a handful of that goop on my calf.
Momentum was tough to find, too. There were people. So. Many. People.
Having trained in the remote and quiet asphalt trails of Edmonton I knew there would be people, but it was in such contrast that it really became a performance factor. Even just stopping to stretch out my cramping calf muscle, I was inches away from cheering crowds trying to (unsuccessfully) motivate me through my pains. And then to find a reliable pace and path to the finish in the bustle of people was a little bit like trying to get to the airport in rush hour: Possible, but more frustrating than one might hope.
It was an amazing experience, of course. Would I do it again? If I didn’t have to run the race, sure.
After three marathons I’m pretty solidly convinced that the marathon isn’t my bag… or at least I’d need to do a helluva lot more training next time, and that’s simply not compatible with my life right now.
In the end I rolled across the finish in less than five hours: not amazing, but factoring in the fact that this will go down as one of the most difficult races I’ve ever run, I’m happy that I finished standing up to be honest.
Over the few days I was in New York and doing race-type things, I took a lot of video and a handful of photos. Here are some of those photos:
A fresh pair of runners that are probably going to be my trusty companions through 42.2 km of New York asphalt.
I don’t know what it says about my training, or what it leaves out, but y’know how I track my annual goal distance for running each year and keep apprised of if I’m ahead or behind? Well, simply, I’m ahead. And officially, if I check forward a couple months (because I AM a couple months ahead) technically… just merely technically… I could skip any and all runs between now and New York, and (assuming I could still run NYC) never dip into the red on my annual tally. It’s just math, but that’s a comfortable mental space to be training in at the moment.
The running dreams have begun as NYC Marathon sneaks ever closer: I dreamed I was struggling to get to the start line, and when I ran I got lost in the basement of Central Perk cafe. Oi!
I guess it’s official. I was sitting at work when the email rolled into my personal phone, ding, and the news I’d been hoping, fearing, longing, dreading to hear appeared on the screen. A few weeks ago I’d put my name into the lottery for the New York City Marathon for 2016 knowing that as an international entrant the odds of getting picked were low… at best. Like a one-in-seven or one-in-eight chance. Not terrible, but not “book your vacation now” good. Today was the draw. Twitter was on fire with anxious runners pondering their chances. I watched, but then it hadn’t even been twenty-four hours since I got back from my last vacation, so pondering another one seemed a little premature. People were still asking me about Maui, and my mind was looking east, knowing the likelihood was going to be a “sorry try again next year” reply. But it wasn’t that. I got a spot. And I guess that means I’ll be training for another marathon this year, a marathon to cap off my 30s, just weeks before my 40th birthday, running through the streets of New York in November. Awesome. Crazy. Daunting. Everything.
It’s the first weekend in November and here’s the plan: leave the kid at home with her grandmother, get on a plane, fly to New York, check out the city, take lots of pictures, eat lots of food, and write a live blog (reverse chronologically, so start at the bottom if you want to read in order…) Stay tuned. Because this is how all that goes, New York style:
Nov 6th 1102 / Laguardia Airport, New York
And that’s it.
Two hours after stepping out of our hotel room I’m sitting at gate C34 waiting for the (on time) flight to Toronto to board. A subway, a bus, an airport and a couple of flights and it will be back to reality.
It’s been our ‘little fish in the big city’ vacation, and I can honestly say that I don’t think we squandered a moment of it. If you are just discovering this blog post, scroll down to the very bottom and read it that way. I’ve been blogging from this very big pond for most of the last week, live and in reverse chronology. It’s been an incredible, amazing, surreal, and always-packed experience that will take me weeks more to fully digest and process in my poor little brain. But for now, back to our little pond.
So for the last time from the Big Apple, at least for a while, this is me signing off…
Nov 5th 2323 / The Hotel… Again
It’s been a busy evening, our last in this crazy town for the foreseeable future.
We hung out in the hotel lounge for about an hour after I last posted, sipping some wine and snacking on some cheeses. A light snack to tie us over until after the show.
Then it was back to the big library to check out that children’s literature exhibit. We enjoyed that even more this second, not-so-hasty time thru, particularly after we discovered a display case with the original stuffed animals owned by Christopher Milne …y’know, like the original Winnie the Pooh characters.
Then it was off towards our show, swinging by the rink at Rockefeller for a looksee at it all lit up for the evening skaters.
The show was amazing. Box seats, so close to the stage you could practically smell the actors. McKellan and Stewart were perfect for their roles and incredible stage actors. It was an experience I don’t think I can justly put into words so shortly after having lived through it. Awesome. Mind-blowing. What else can I say?
Then a late dinner: we rushed over to 8th Street and picked up some take out at the kinda famous Shake Shack, scooting it back to the nearby hotel to gulp it down. More of an almost-midnight snack I guess.
The train to the airport leaves tomorrow though, so it is back to the room to pack for now.
Nov 5th 1542 / Back at the Hotel
The rest of our walk along the High Line was very enjoyable. At one point we had stopped to take some pics of the London Terrace apartment building, an epic-huge apartment consuming an entire city square block (which is saying something here) and this random guy (a local resident) stopped to chat. He gave us a ten minute long and very colorful history of the neighborhood, shared some of his opinions (but in a very friendly-like way) and we had kind of an international story-jab session right there on the old train tracks.
Then we went to Macy’s and did some more shopping. Impressive store, but I’d still rather be back in the park.
We’ve scored some sweet tickets to that show tonight, the one I was lined up for earlier, the one staring none other than Captain Picard and Gandalf, and so we’re kicking back for a bit before dinner, hanging out at the hotel lounge and waiting for the afternoon wine reception to start. I’ve had my fill of coffee today, time to upgrade for the evening.
It’s gonna be tough to leave all this tomorrow.
If you’re curious, I’ve been writing all this on my Android phone as we’ve been touring the city these last few days. We unlocked our phones before we left Canada and then bought US SIM cards. It’s been great having our devices, and not only for being able to routinely send media back home and check in with Claire every day, but this act of logging the whole trip –something I usually do anyhow, though never before from my phone– has forced us to pause, sit, find places to stop and rest for fifteen minutes here and there, and just soak in everything we’d just been seeing and doing. It is for us as much as it is for all of you, though. Just sayin’…
Nov 5th 1318 / High Line Park, Chelsea
A few years ago there was this unsightly old and completely unused elevated rail line that ran through the west end of Manhattan. It was overgrown with weeds and gently agreed to be an all-around eyesore. Then a foundation was formed with the idea of transforming it into an innovative public green space: this is High Line Park. I’ve blogged about it before and you can probably Google it, too (heck, Google is just around the corner from here.)
We’ve stopped to sit here, just to enjoy it. This, after another fairly casual morning: some more shopping, a duo of lunches in Chelsea Market (tacos at Los Tacos No.1 and sushi at the Lobster Shop… yes we couldn’t resist) and then hopping up the stairs to the High Line and this crazy park through this crazy city.
Karin is checking into our flights from her phone as I write this blog on mine, so I guess that means the clock is ticking on our visit. It’s sad, but I’ll be happy to see Claire again soon even though I’m sure she’s having fun back in Edmonton with her grandma.
Nov 5th 0919 / Cort Theatre Box Office Line, Midtown
Karin figured out that there were a limited handful of rush seats available for tonight’s preview performance of Waiting for Godot, so here I am standing in line nearly an hour before the box office opens. We would have winged it on something more random, but the play is a collaboration between Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart, so… it might be worth the wait, eh?
Not quite X-Men Live, but close, and if we can get some cheap rush seats… hey!
It basically means that all I’ve done this morning is wake up, have a lazy breakfast and then walk down about six blocks from the hotel through rush hour pedestrian traffic.
The theatre is right next door to FOX news, which is kinda surreal in itself, because… well… y’know. Surreal.
I’ve been having lots of crazy dreams in this city. The noise never stops despite our room being respectfully sound buffered. And these full days of new and interesting sights has my mind cluttered at the end if the day: tired, but crazy, crazy dreams.
There is just one more thing on my A-list bucket list and that’s a walk on High Line Park. So that’s on the agenda for sometime today, but other than that… back to standing in line I guess.
Nov 4th 2252 / Back at the Hotel, New York
So, we settle in to watch the show: it’s been billed as a live recording of Dr. Tyson’s podcast, Star Talk Radio, which in itself is completely geeky and wonderfully, randomly perfect for a chance bit of New York entertainment.
Lights dim, our hosts appear, and voila: there are more than two chairs. Surprise guests? I’ve listened to enough podcasts lately to know that having random celebrities make appearances when you record live is becoming standard show style. But who?
I dare not build to much suspense here because unless you are a complete science nerd like us, the name may not deeply impress you. But much to our joint surprise the guy that walks out on stage next is the string theory man himself, Dr. Brian Greene! I’ve read his books. I’ve written posts on this blog about him. Fanboy gush overload.
Needless to say, for a random activity on this Monday evening, I don’t think we could have scored much better. Two hours of a delicious blend of science-comedy podcasty goodness, and what a way to top of this day.
But now? Some sleep: Just one more day before we’re back home again.
Nov 4th 1958 / Town Hall Theatre, Times Square New York
We went shopping. Karin had it on her to-do list too hit up a few of the cool shops up near Central Park: places like Bloomingdale’s and FAO Schwartz (that famous toy store with the giant piano… which is actually there.)
We also stopped at Dylan’s Candy store, the place oozing with sweetness even as we walked in the front door. We were greeted by girl (best described as Wonka-incarnate in the form of a Dylan’s employee) who literally ran us around the store, prompting us to chase after her, and letting us sample a couple of the bins. Needless to say we left a few dollars behind and came out a bit of sugar richer.
Another subway trip back to the hotel, and we were about fifteen minutes off our dinner reservations. We dined at an amazing Italian joint called Tony’s where the waiter seemed pulled from a caricature of what you’d expect an Italian waiter to look and act like, and the seafood pasta was served family style and nearly toppled our table from its sheer size.
Now, we’re waiting for our show. As it turns out Neil Degrasse Tyson, the famous science guy, is recording a live episode of his podcast about half a block from our hotel… and we scored tickets. Near the back tickets, yes, but tickets. And we found a giant room full of science nerds, to boot. So random. So awesome.
Nov 4th 1449 / Back at the Hotel, New York
We’ve been walking again. I should have worn a pedometer or turned the GPS on to track it all. My poor dogs are sure tired. And by dogs I really mean feet.
After the 9/11 Memorial we struck off north again. Karin had been recommended this department store called Century 21 right there in the same area. It was supposed to be this epic shopping experience, but… meh. I guess I just don’t get it.
Escaping there, we found ourselves on lower Broadway. It was lunch so we hit up a Pret a Manger, a little fresh sandwich chain we’d eaten at in London a few years ago. Yum.
Nearby, we took a long stroll about halfway across the Brooklyn Bridge. There is a lot of restoration and construction work there right now, so peeking around the fences and the tarps was a bit of a challenge. But we found a few interesting vantage points, and saw like bits of curious things… like hundreds of locks with people’s names written on them locked to the various railings and cables on the bridge.
We took the train back north after this, hitting up the market in Grand Central for some cookies, and passed through Bryant Park once again where we finally bought a piece of art we’d been eyeing on our last few traverses.
Nov 4th 1101 / Ground Zero, Manhattan
We’re having a contemplative morning, at this moment sitting in the 9/11 memorial, a few steps from the North Pool, the footprint for one of the fallen towers. There are hundreds of people here, and even more in the 45 minute security line up outside.
We arrived here via a downtown tour through Battery Park and a distant viewing of the Statue of Liberty, and a swing past Wall Street to make sure all those stock traders and bankers weren’t slacking. Y’know, because of the economy and all…
So much of this stuff we are setting and experiencing has defined our lives, yet it’s the first time we’ve really stood here, walked there, touched it, taken it in and really absorbed it. It’s an odd feeling. And I think Ground Zero, as far away as we were on that day, has had such a profound experience in defining my adult life that it had been importing to be right here, at some point in that life. So, like I said, it’s been a contemplative kinda morning.
Nov 4th 0834 / New York Subway
We’re on our way downtown on a New York Monday morning after a light breakfast and a take-it-easy morning.
I don’t want to assume this is the norm, but every time we get on the train there has been at least one interesting, umm, shall we say “character” riding. For example, this morning: A very drunk man is drinking from a milk jug (but not milk) and ranting loudly, asking over and over again “WHAT KIND OF NUT…?” then just trailing off and laughing and mumbling to himself. Awesome.
We’re on our way to check out the GhostBusters Station building first thing… y’know, like from the movie.
Nov 3rd 2130 / Back at the Hotel, New York
We spent nearly 4 hours in the Museum of Natural History, including the awesome planetarium show. The place is full of dense and detailed exhibits. It’s all pretty brilliant, actually, and our feet were very sore thanks to all the mindless waking.
We were practically kicked out at the end, the place closing at five on Sundays, and we made our way back to the nearby subway station. That particular station was near one of the marathon exits, and packed. But it was nothing compared to a couple stations later down the line when we suddenly found ourselves crammed, standing, and pressed like sardines into the car. Awesome one-time New York experience, but I wouldn’t want to do that everyday.
We spun by the hotel for a peak at the nightly wine reception and ended up sitting and chatting with a nice couple from Manila for about an hour and a half.
Then it was off to supper. Karin had the thought of checking to see if there was anything “New-Yorky” at Grand Central Station, which is just down the street from our hotel. So we wandered that way, stopped at the winter village at Bryant Park (where some dude looking for change serenaded us with some improv poetry… so I gave him a buck), and finally to the station front doors.
I made Karin walk in the front doors, a proper entrance, because you can only see something that cool for the first time once.
But there was nothing we wanted to eat there though, so we stopped for pizza slices at this hole-in-the-wall joint nearby. It was great, except for the party where the lid came off the chili peppers and smothered one of my slices in dried chilis. Back to Times Square after that (to pick up some warm shirts because it’s got pretty cool here the last day and isn’t looking much better for the next few) and then for some quiet time at the hotel.
Another deep breath…
Nov 3rd 1454 / Hayden Planetarium, New York
We’re sitting in the waiting area inside the Hayden Planetarium waiting for the Space Show to start.
We have spent the last 2 hours on our feet, navigating through Central Park and around the remnants of the marathon. A lot of people have finished, but I have a feeling there are still lots to go. Figuring out how to do something which on any other day would be completely simple, like cross a road, is a feat of cartography and city-route-finding today. Eventually we got back to the Museum of Natural History, where now we’re just hanging out.
Our City Passes got us into the museum and also entry to the Dark Matter show (narrated by Neil Degrasse Tyson, who is the director of the planetarium if I recall.) Good deal!
Oops… the show is gonna start now!
Nov 3rd 1259 / Conservatory Water, Central Park
We found the marathon, though it was not an easy feat. Between getting on the wrong train, traversing an epic level of security, and fighting through crowds, it took us an hour of waking to find mile 24 of the race.
We did some cheering, but since we didn’t know anyone running, standing there for the duration wood have been fairly pointless. So, we started wandering again, along the racecourse at first, then a bit more into the park.
Karin wanted to check out the Alice in Wonderland statue by the water conservatory, so that’s where we’re hanging out now… and considering our plans for the rest of the afternoon.
Nov 3rd 1050 / Manhattan, 34th Street Subway
We’re waiting for a train, hopefully one headed north so we can get up to Central Park to catch some of the marathon.
It has been an eventful morning. We had a bit of a mix-up with our clocks. Daylight savings ended today and between that and a bit of jet lag, it’s… well, more to think about than I need on vacation.
We wandered south from our hotel in the direction of the Empire State Building after breakfast. The temperature has dropped. It’s now jacket weather. And after a short wait and a lot of waking through empty queues, we were once again riding a very tiny elevator to the top of a very tall building.
Security was on extra-high alert this morning, too. Armed guards with assault rifles were at every door and guarding the corners of the building. We figure it must be due to the race today.
Another spectacular view awaited us, though it was a lot cooler this morning and the wind was blowing, so we packed it in after only about half an hour of fighting for a spot to look at the city below. And after a quick tour through the gift shop, it was back down to street level.
We were originally planning to make a quick swing through Macy’s before hitting the subway and seeking out some runners, but a Sunday street market caught our eyes and instead we bought some gyros and ate those in a smallish park before getting on the trains. Now, to find that race…
Nov 2nd 2326 / New York, Back at the Hotel
Back at the hotel and the play was pretty awesome.
And we (and some random dude from Florida who claimed to have seen him in the restroom a few minutes earlier) are all pretty sure we saw Doogie Howser during intermission. I’m not generally a big name-dropper, but celebrity-spotting seems to be the unofficial theme of our vacations lately; Counting Mr. N. P. Harris, we’re three for three on our recent trips. Is it just us or are people in these cities always stumbling across famous folks?
Big Fish was nifty-cool, and followed the movie and book… save for some tweaks that probably tuned it better for both the stage and as a musical. For our first on-Broadway play, we didn’t do too bad anyhow.
Nov 2nd 1936 / New York, Neil Simon Theatre
Having just eaten an awesome meal of pastrami sandwiches (and coconut cake for dessert) we walked eight blocks of eighth avenue towards the theatre where our show is set to start in about 20 minutes. Adventure, yes. But only in the way that stumbling thru crazy crowds of tourists just as oblivious as us is an adventure. We hit up a tacky souvenir shop along the way, took some colorful nighttime photos, but mostly just tried not to get swept into the frenzy too far, too fast.
I already mentioned, we’re seeing Big Fish and they are, as I write this, semi-chaotically filling seats. We were in in the first wave and pretty much settled. And while by the time we escape from this show our first 24 hours in the city will be wrapped and stamped, I don’t know if “settled” is the word I’d use to subscribe that first day. Fun, yes. Settling and relaxing, no.
Hopefully I’ll have enough battery left to check in after the show again…
Nov 2nd, 1647 / New York Public Library
We went for a walk, dodging through bustling Saturday evening crowds of New Yorkers and marathoners, too, and ended up in a bit of a rainstorm –not bad since it is apparently snowing back home. We were close by, so we ducked into the New York Public Library for shelter and explored the reading room, the gift shop (of course) and some of the stacks before (at least that’s the plan) scouting back to the hotel to change for dinner.
Libraries, one might say, hold a special place in our relationship, one back home being where we first met, working as pages, and all. So, it’s not entirely odd that we’d spend some time admiring this fabulous building on this particular trip.
Also, there was a fairly cool little exhibit on the history of children’s literature; We may need to come back and check it out when we are on a more free schedule (at least more free than dinner reservations and show tix.)
Nov 2nd, 1512 / New York, Hotel Lounge
Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to the Big Apple for my wife, the musical buff, without at least a couple Broadway shows to fill our evenings. We opted to go the “wing it” route, and even as I write these words, Karin is standing in line at the discount ticket both to see what kind of show we might be able to get into tonight.
I was hanging out in Times Square, watching the people, sitting on the big red steps, taking photos and some video, and just sitting out all in for a while, but my batteries need a recharge–camera and otherwise– so I slouched back to the hotel, just a few blocks from the ticket booth, to plug in and find a cup of coffee.
Deep breath. It’s only day one, right?
And as I was writing that last bit, Karin txted me and it turns out we got tix to tonight’s showing of Big Fish, which she tells me is an adaptation of the movie which was an adaptation of the book. I liked those both, and readers of this blog know I’ve even written a few posts about it, so it was on my short list, too.
Nov 2nd, 1245 / New York, MoMA Cafe
We spent the rest of the Saturday morning exploring the Museum of Modern Art, home to the world of such renowned artists as Pollock, Warhol, and Van Gogh. Also home to many works of art that might just make you ask the question: “that??” Even Karin couldn’t figure out the giant green piece of canvas.
They did have a special exhibit that was profiling mute modern popular culture and design, including an interactive bit on video games: some of our favs like SimCity, Katamari Damacy, and Portal all made the cut and were on display.
Now, not quite through the last of the displays, we’re sitting and we’ve just had lunch in the museum cafe and are planning our soon-to-be rush back to Times Square to buy some Broadway tix for tonight.
Nov 2nd, 0958 / New York, Top of the Rock
We did the touristy thing again and took the elevator ride to the top of the Rockefeller Building, famous for such things as being the home of NBC, the inspiration for the show 30 Rock, and that old black and white picture of the construction workers eating lunch on a steel beam hanging over the cityscape. What a view!
There was a bit of haze on the sky, but the view of the Manhattan skyline was clear. We spent about 45 minutes just snapping pics of the sights, before standing in line for the elevator ride back down. Only 60-some floors… not too bad.
Navigating over here, on the other hand was a little tricky. We walked towards 6th avenue, but a 5k trace was just starting. 15000 people running, and we were on the wrong side of the road. It was great for some pics, but it took us 30 minutes to find a gap in the runners big enough for us to run through.
Then, only slightly lost in the NBC areas of Rockefeller, we finally found the elevator ticket both and rode the ear-popping 43-second ride to the top of the observation deck. And like I already said: what a view!
Nov 1st, 23:52 EDT / New York, Hotel
We arrived. We grabbed the bus from the airport that connected us to the subway and fifteen minutes later were barreling in the direction of Manhattan on a giant silver train.
Karin got a little caught up in the turnstile at the subway station and (in lieu of hopping over and getting arrested in our first hour in the city) needed to go beg to be let through.
Besides the dude with industrial strength BO, the train was uneventful, and a half hour ride later we were stumbling through Times Square station and emerging into the Friday night bustle of Times Square, alight and crazy with thousands of people.
Our hotel is a block off the Square. lying in the shadows of West 43rd, and after checking in and doing some preliminary exploration of the character-filled building, we ventured back our into the insanity to explore.
We spent a half hour in each of the Toys R Us, the Disney Store, and the M&M store, poking into a few other shops along the way.
We scarfed a deliciously salty pretzel from as street vendor and after a couple hours wend our way back to the relative quiet of the hotel. It’s been a long day after all, and things are just getting started.
Nov 1st, 17:42 EDT / Toronto Pearson Airport Gate A10
Delayed. The second stretch of our flight is an hour and twenty minutes late. Apparently there was some kind of shooting out at LAX that is causing ripples of disruption across the whole system.
Our plan was to take the bus and subway to our hotel one we reached New York, but we’re contemplating a cut-off to when we just call a cab and be done with it.
Nov 1st, 10:52 MDT / Somewhere over Saskatchewan
And we’re off.
A tearful goodbye from Claire, a fairly smooth trip to the airport, and a flight that was on time. What more could we ask for?
We’re on our way to New York City for a five day weekend of big city exploring, playing the tourists, and embarking on one heckuva photo expedition.
Over the summer we celebrated our tenth anniversary. This was a bit understated, but with the intention that this trip was the celebration. Not quite a second honeymoon… but then no kid, no dog, and potentially a lot of fun. So maybe it is…