Thursday, November 17, 2011

Race Report: ING NYC Marathon - Part 2 (Saturday/Race Eve)

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In case you missed it, this post continues on from Race Report: ING NYC Marathon - Part 1 (Friday).

The day before the marathon was packed with lots of fun activities! First up was the expo which was held at the Jacob Javits center. I had wanted to get there right when it opened at 9AM, but had a late start that morning due to me wanting to get more sleep in. The expo was about a mile away from my hotel, so technically I could have walked there but I felt like I did enough walking the night before and wanted to try to rest as much as possible.

Luckily, the marathon arranged a shuttle service between the midtown hotels and the expo. The closest pickup location was at the hotel one block over. Once I got there, there weren't too many people waiting, but thirty minutes later, there were tons. I was worried that all of us would not fit on the bus once it finally arrived since one had already passed us fully packed. Thankfully, the bus stopped right where was I standing so I was able to be one of the first ones to get on.

Right as I was about to step on, I quickly realized that I had forgotten my printed registration form back at the hotel! *headdesk* The form that they very clearly stated MUST be printed ahead of time and brought to the expo as they would not accept any versions on your phones or have places for you to print there. Ugh!

Had to jump out of line and speed walk back to my hotel to get my form. At this point, it was almost 11AM and I already had a tight schedule that day (Broadway matinee at 2PM!) so I took a cab directly to the expo.

Finally at the expo! One of the main things I love about the NYC marathon, oops I mean the ING NYC Marathon, is how international it is! You really do feel like you're part of the Olympics.

Considering how large the race is - reportedly over 47,000 participants, of which over 20,000 were from outside the US (yes, I'm full of stats today!) - bib pick up was pretty quick and straightforward. Although, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it's a well oiled machine by now.

You first go through a checkpoint where they check your ID and registration form. From there, you head to your booth to get your bib, goody bag, and race shirt. I noticed my bib listed my name and underneath, "UNITED STATES" which I thought was fun since it's normally your city. I was also excited to see that the race shirt was super cute - a long sleeve teal tech T with a graphic of the five boroughs. (In fact, I had almost purchased the short sleeve version of the shirt the night before at the parade - glad I waited!)

Now normally you're stuck with the size that you listed when you registered but here you can request what size you want. Gah - decisions!!! Luckily, they had volunteers by the booths holding the shirts in all the different sizes. You couldn't try them on, just hold them up to your body. I couldn't decide between sizes and was getting all frazzled about it until the volunteer pointed out that I really shouldn't be stressing out about this. But it's a big decision!!! I finally went with what two of the volunteers suggested and I was on my way.

The expo itself was pretty large but about the same as other big races like Disney, Chicago, etc. The first half you enter is what I like to call Asics-ville. I was hoping to find all the cute race gear highlighted in the many, many emails sent prior to the race but they were nowhere to be found! I was worried that maybe some of the good stuff had been sold out since I was there the last day of the expo but then I remembered they still had this "Marathon Monday" store so I was hoping they would be found there.

ASICs did have a ton of race merchandise but nothing was really that cute. Actually, there were some cute stuff but they were all in the men's section. Hmph. But I couldn't walk away empty handed so I did get a fleece hat and arm warmers that I thought might come in handy the next morning on Staten Island.

While wandering around, I stumbled across the brightroom booth that were not only taking pics but also videos, too!

I chuckled and thought why not! I probably won't be here again and if there's a time to cheese out, this is it! I got my picture taken:

And maybe I did a video, too. A really embarrassing, cringe-y video that if I could figure out the embed code I would post here, too. Thankfully, I could not. (But it's not hard to find if you really want to see it and laugh.)

Did you know that there is a Mount Kilimanjaro marathon? I didn't until I saw them at the expo. Of course, I'm not surprised (and I bet there are some crazies that read this, and thought, "Ooh, I'd like to run that!" You know who you are.) I was also amused to see booths like the one below - pretty sure I didn't see them at the Akron expo.

Oh, another fun surprise - this year I've been busting out my magic bullet to make my smoothies and I'm a big fan. Well check it out - they have one especially designed for the marathon!!!

Besides having a different design, they also added larger cups. I'll be honest, I was tempted! But there's nothing wrong with my current "bullet" and I didn't want to have to worry about how to get it back home. Looks like you could still buy it online but with shipping, it would be almost $60 and I think it was $32 at the show. *sigh*

Moving on!

Mmmm... cheese...

On to my  ~celeb spotting... It was super fun to see some familiar runner faces at the expo like Lolo Jones:

... and Dean Karnazes...

... as well as Ryan Hall.

Speaking of Ryan Hall, check out this cool promotion he did with Asics. Wish I could have checked this out in person!

Finally, there was one person while I was there that attracted a whole lot of hub bub. Not Apolo Ohno, but Mr. AC Slater himself... Mario Lopez!

I was totally cracking up when I kept overhearing, "Who's Mario Lopez?" I didn't have time to wait in his line but that's OK because it seemed to be all business. No posed pictures, just autographs. And if you wanted him to sign it to you, you had to have your name on a post-it prior to handing it over. Reminded me of the time I waited in line to get 98 Degrees' autographs. Wait, what...

Right before I left, I spotted these two bloggers, Emily from Sweat Once a Day and Lauren from Health on the Run, and introduced myself. I had fun chatting with them for a bit and discussing the race. They were spectating but planned to run NYC next year.

I didn't plan my day very well because I didn't get a chance to grab lunch before quickly heading back to the theater district to meet my parents for the matinee showing of Billy Elliot.

I wasn't sure what to expect since I hadn't seen the movie version but I have to say, I really really enjoyed it! The lead was so adorable and such an incredible dancer. Even better, my dad managed to stay awake for the whole show :)

From there, we took the scenic route to our next stop...

... which was St. Patrick's Cathedral for what I have now heard is called the Runner's Mass.

Now I've been to mass here many times and I've never seen it as packed as it was that evening. Looking around, you can tell it's definitely the marathon crowd but I wasn't expecting any kind of special mass or anything. Probably because of the time I attempted the Chicago marathon, we attended a similar kind of "marathon mass" at the church super close to all the marathon hotels. It was also packed with runners (you can tell by all the running shoes and race shirts) and I remember my sister observing that they didn't do any kind of special blessing / shout out for the runners.

So I figured it would be the same thing for this big city as well. Boy, was I wrong!

First, I noticed in the program that the presiding priest (Father Joe) was also running the marathon the next day! And this is a guy about my dad's age so how awesome is that?

Father Joe also made a point to relate the entire homily (or sermon, if you will) to the marathon. At one point, he asked the marathoners who expected to finish in over five hours to stand up. I was sitting to the far left and immediately stood up just as he continued with, "I bet you guys don't want to admit that." Doh! Well I was already standing at that point so after he acknowledged me, I sat down all embarrassed. My mom leaned over and whispered to me, "You're so humble." I busted out laughing.

Now I probably won't get this right but I think what he wanted to point out was that as runners, we provide people with hope. People can see runners finish marathons in three or four hours and think, "Oh, I could never do that." But when you hear of runners that take five or more hours, it gives them hope and they think, "Hey maybe I can do that, too." Well, I'm happy to provide anybody with hope when it comes to running! (There was definitely more to the homily and I am doing a horrible job capturing it here but I encourage you to read Molly's take as she described it much more eloquently.)

It was also a nice moment when he had everyone running the marathon to stand and there was applause. But even better when he then asked everyone that was there to support a marathoner to stand. Of course, the cheers were even louder! Love my mom and dad! :)

It was a really nice homily and I know I don't go that often, but that may have been the first time I actually paid attention to the whole thing, haha.

But it didn't end there. At the very end of mass, he asked all the marathoners to join him at the altar for a special blessing.

My Parents' View
It took us awhile for all of us to get up there. We all formed into this big circle easily five people deep. I guessed it was at least 200 people total from all over the world. Of course, everyone whipped out their cameras and their phones and I was so bummed that I left mine at the pews. Luckily, I found a picture online:
The Father said a special prayer and then sprinkled us all with holy water - it was really sweet! And I totally chuckled that someone on the other side of the circle had raised up his "Go Father Joe" spectator sign.

Now comes for the funny moment. Mass was now over and all of us runners are slowly working our way off the altar. As soon as I turn around, I see my mom and dad had left their seats and were now standing right up front waving at me with their camera saying "Wait! Wait, we'll take your picture!" Suddenly, I was having flashbacks to my first grade Christmas pageant days.

I knew this would not go well but I humored them for a bit. So I'm standing there at the altar with all these people trying to get by around me, feeling super awkward as my mom is standing there pressing the camera button for what seems like forever. I'm not surprised. I was at least 20ft away, there was dim lighting, and my mom doesn't know how to do the "press half way to focus" thing on her camera yet. So of course when the flash would finally go off would be the exact moment that someone decides to walk in front of me. Which is how we ended up with these beauties (can you spot me?)...

Take 1 - FAIL:

Take 2 - FAIL:

By now, I'm laughing hysterically as I gave up and rejoined my parents. They still insisted on taking this one:

Good grief, that was taxing! I had mentioned on Twitter that there were two consecutive embarrassing incidents with my parents while in NYC and that was one of them. I'll spare you the details on the second one, but in short, my parents tried to marry me off to the son of a fellow Filipino couple they had met - THAT DAY.


On to dinner... I'm glad I had made my reservations earlier that week. I tried to get a spot at Patsy's which was recommended by Roadbunner's BF but they were completely booked. So I went to Yelp and decided on Fresco which had good reviews and was located close to the church.

I was starving by this point and definitely had my fill of yummy carby deliciousness.

But of course I couldn't resist one more NYC staple to tide me over for the night. Carbs... salt... this should be part of every pre-marathon diet!

After a long and busy busy day, it was finally time to rest up at the hotel. I was excited to go through my goody bag and get all my race gear ready to go!

The cute race shirt:

And some of my fave freebies...

First up, we got another one of those bandanna tube-y things... now I have one to go with my Akron Marathon one. It's still in its packaging but I did see lots of people wear this around their neck and face to stay warm the next morning.

I *love* this!!! It's a big magnet with little stickers you peel off to reveal your final finish time. You can see my finished product here.

I thought this was cute! Almost used it too but then I was worried I would lose it.

Gotta have the race tattoo! Which I did use - stay tuned for that...

And I am always needing more lens cloths! (No really, I am!)

Time to finally lay out all my gear! Isn't it crazy how much we have to pack? It's like we're going camping!

Nighty-night... thank goodness we had a time change that night and *gained* an hour. (Although to be honest, even if the time change was in our favor, it still made me stress out about my alarms going off at the right time.)

Next post will be Race Day! :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Race Report: ING NYC Marathon - Part 1 (Friday) *

* In celebration of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1 opening on Friday, I tried to make this blog title extra long.

OK, are you guys ready??? I'm so excited to finally tell you all about my awesome ING NYC Marathon weekend! (Is it weird that I have to always include ING in the marathon name? NYC Marathon just doesn't sound as grand and special to me.)

This one's going to be a bit different. I'll be doing a series of posts and they will read more like a trip report vs a race report so I hope you enjoy hearing about all my little random adventures during my too-short weekend in the Big Apple.


I started off the trip in style by splurging on miles for a first class ticket to NYC. Sooooooo worth it. This definitely had some awesome perks that I usually only see on international flights: fully reclining seats with footrests, personal entertainment center loaded with tons of movies and TV shows, Bose headphones (never used them before - they are AMAZING!), hot meals, and more! I was planning to sleep during this flight but ended up staying awake so I could take full advantage of all the benefits!

Breakfast while watching Midnight in Paris - pic taken before the bread basket arrived, hence the empty plate on top :P

Why yes, I would like a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie and a glass of milk while watching Horrible Bosses
The flight flew by (pun intended) and the next thing I know, I'm looking at the Manhattan skyline.

I should mention my trip to NYC was fairly short - arrived Friday afternoon, left Monday afternoon. I wanted to squeeze in as much as possible so I had planned a pretty tight itinerary.

The main thing I wanted to do on Friday night was to check out the marathon's Parade of Nations and fireworks display at Central Park. My plane landed at JFK at 4PM and the parade started on the upper west side around 6PM. I was worried about missing some of it so my goal was to get into Manhattan as quickly as possible. I have to give a big shout out to my NYC resident blogger/twitter buddies The Running Laminator and Absolut(ly) Fit/50by25/Laura for all their helpful advice while I was in town. Turns out the quickest way to get from JFK to Times Square (one of my FAVORITE places in the world and my home for the weekend) was the train. Specifically, you'd take AirTrain to the Jamaica Station and from there, hop on the E to Manhattan. The whole thing will cost you $7.25 compared to $40 fare + tip, so it's a heck of a lot cheaper, too. (Note: I'm providing this level of detail in case any future NYCM runners find this post and need some travel tips, heehee)

I made sure to not check anything on my flight so I could get out of the airport quickly. I'd say I probably walked off my plane at 4PM and walked into my hotel room in Times Square by 5:15PM. Not bad!

Love this place!!!
We stayed right in the heart of Times Square at the W Hotel. Now as you know, hotels in NYC are not cheap and it just gets worst when you are staying at a prime location during a huge event weekend. But I will say we saved a lot of money by booking our room through the official travel agency, Anthony Travel. Their rates are locked well in advance and are posted on the race website. I can confirm they were over $100/night cheaper than if I had tried to book directly from the hotel website, expedia, or other travel sites.

Let me take you on a tour!

Sadly the view was so so
Love the bliss products

I really appreciated the special touches that the W hotel added for us marathoners. When I checked in, they gave me a little gift bag and a special handout with marathon info (pretty much the same info on the website, but I still appreciated it).

Here is what was inside! :)

After getting settled in, I hopped back onto the E to head to the marathon festivities which were being held at the marathon Finish Line. (That should be capitalized, right???)

Here we go... finally starting to feel real!!!

GAH!!! There it is!!! Usually, I'd rather not spoil the finish line surprise but I couldn't really avoid it in this case. It was just so exciting to see it in person since I normally see it on TV. :P

Once I wandered around a bit, I went to check out the parade. I did get there a little bit late so I was worried I wouldn't be able to find a seat. (Event was free, by the way.) No reason to worry as there were tons of seats at the tops of the bleachers.

I got there just in time to see the Philippines (my peeps! lol). Each country was announced as they walked by... I felt like I was at the Olympics!!! (I would continue to feel like this for the rest of the weekend, by the way.)

At the end, everyone came out at once and it was wonderful to see all the different flags on the marathon course.

I am so clueless sometimes - I originally thought all these bleachers were set up *just* for the parade and the fireworks. It wasn't until later that I realized, oh, these are actually the main finish line viewing seats for Sunday. Oops! hahaha. Same seats that my parents had tickets for.

After the parade, there were some speeches as Fred Lebow and Grete Waitz were inducted into the NYRR Hall of Fame.

Then all the lights dimmed and the race course was lit up as they had a "ceremonial first finish" with some surprise guests who turned out to be Meb Keflezighi and Edison Pena (aka the Chilean miner runner). My bad photo is below but there's a better one here.

Once they crossed the finish line, there was a burst of fireworks!

And that was just the beginning because now it was time for the fireworks show! The first song they played was "New York, New York" and it was just perfect!

The fireworks went on for a quite a bit. They had a DJ there that was playing some really fun "Audrey music" - you know, stuff that would make you hit the dance floor. Next thing you know, it was turning into a PAR-TAY!

People had emptied out onto the race course and some were just standing around or trying to exit, but there was definitely a big pack of people down there getting their groove on. And I would almost guarantee it was mostly people from other countries because you know how they can be way more fun than we are. ;)

There would be no dancing with my pre-marathon feet so I later departed to Queens to hang out with an old buddy from my Hoboken days.

Once I finally returned to Times Square late that evening, I remembered another item on my "to do" list - Shake Shack! I had seen the movie "Something Borrowed" and I swear the main thing I got out of that movie (besides cute John Krasinski) was what is this Shake Shack and how do I get some?

Thankfully, there was one near the theater district and I couldn't wait to try it out! For some reason I wasn't in a burger mood, so I got a hot dog and a peanut butter shake. The shake was delicious! The hot dog was so-so, so I definitely should have gone the burger route. (This will be remedied, don't you worry.)

I just love Times Square at night. It makes me happy.

And so ends day 1... time to rest up to tackle the expo and other race-eve activities!
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