Sunday, December 13, 2015

Running with 'Empire State of Mind' stuck in my head

Not quite the view the hotel postcard portrays
New York City is big, right?  That's why it's called the Big Apple.  Well, the Big Apple seems a whole lot bigger when you're running 26.2 miles through it.  On November 1st, I ran the New York City Marathon, one of the biggest marathons in the world with about 50,000 runners.  Runners come from all of the world to run through NYC's 5 boroughs (a fancy word for neighborhood), which include Staten Island, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens, and Manhattan.  In the words of Alicia Keys and Jay-Z, these streets will make you feel brand new, lights will inspire you, let's hear it for New York, New York, New York!  (I really could not get that song out my head the whole time I was there)

My first night in the city, I had the chance to catch up and have some pre-race oysters (don't worry, I had them post race too) with New York native and fellow Race Within US blogger, Miri.  We went to a place called White Oak on Friday night for their happy hour oyster deal.  Great oysters, great wine and great company!  

Unfortunately I didn't get to enjoy as much of the Big Apple as I would have liked since I had some work to do while I was there, but did have the chance to see some sights on  my way to and from the race expo.

I made my way through Times Square, and wandered over to Bryant Park and for the first time caught a glimpse of the Empire State Building.
Bryant Park ice skating...on Oct. 31st. Too soon NYC, too soon.

Naked Cowboy, where are you?

Maybe next time I'll make it to the top
So the night before a big race, most people carb load with a big pasta dinner.  I am not one of those people.  I wanted to grab something near my hotel so I could call it an early night, so went to a little tapas bar called Kilo.  If you are in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, I recommend this small, but quaint place for a bite and glass of wine.  I probably had one of the oddest pre-race dinners, even for me: mushroom tacos and duck hearts.  Yep, I said duck hearts.  After growing up eating chicken hearts from the chickens you helped butcher, I felt like I sort of had to try them.  They were actually pretty awesome, if you're into that sort of thing.  The mushroom tacos were equally as awesome.  The staff and bartender were also a friendly bunch.  

Now it's race day.  The marathon's website describes it as a 26.2 mile block party, and that is a pretty apt description.  Other than when you cross the Staten Island Bridge, there are cheering crowds the entire way.   It was really quite an experience and really an all day event. I left my hotel near Central Park around 6:45 a.m. and returned around 4:30 p.m. and was only running for 4 hours and 45 minutes of that span of time.  I took the subway to catch my 7:45 a.m. ferry to Staten Island where the course begins.  Everyone is assigned a wave and a corral color.  I was wave 3 orange.  Which meant that I didn't start until 10:40 a.m.  But even taking the 7:45 ferry, I felt like I made it just in time.  Once you get off the ferry, you are put on a bus to take you to the start villages.  I have no idea how long the bus ride was, but let's say it was long enough for me to doze of and take a nice little power nap.  Finally, I woke up, got off the bus, went through security and then made my way to the orange start village.  I was able to grab a cup of coffee just in time to hear announcements that they were lining up for wave 3.  It was probably around 9:45 or so at that point.  It was chilly so we all had lots of layers on that would soon be discarded when it was start time.  It's always a lot of fun to see the sweat shirts and pants (or bathrobes) that people wear pre-race. It's all the crap they otherwise would probably be tossing out.  It's really a highlight of wonderful, outdated fashion trends.  
An old hoodie to remember me by, NYC!

So 10:40 a.m. (4 hours after I left my hotel, and we were off!  Over the Staten Island bridge and on our way into Brooklyn.  Most of the time, to be honest, I had no idea what borough I was in unless someone was holding a sign that said "Welcome to XXX."  Somewhere along the way, I saw a face I recognized!  Miri was awesome enough to come out to the course on and cheer me on!  It's always so great to see a friendly familiar face in a sea of strangers.  THANK YOU MIRI!!!  And around mile 20 or so, I saw another face I recognized.  I'm running along and suddenly the cheering crowds start cheering a lot more zealously.  I soon figured out why as I ran past Alicia Keys, who was one of the celebrity runners that day.   Ok, so at that point in the race I was red-faced, sweaty and salty.  She looked like she was completely fresh and dry.  My only guess is that her small entourage running with her must have been sponging her off along the way.  Well sorry, Alicia, but I left you and your sponging entourage in my dust.  A small cloud of dust.  Well really more like a mist of sweat that was probably flinging off of my soaked ponytail.

So about 4 1/2 hours after I started this thing, I think I might have finally made it to Central Park.  It was actually really beautiful running through the park, and of course, tons of people cheering and keeping the block party going.   I was thinking, awesome, I'm close to the finish line and my hotel!  The finish line, yes. My hotel, no.  I finished, got my bling and then tried to make my way out of the park.  I wanted to go south, towards my hotel on the south end of the park.  Unfortunately, the finish corrals, took me north, very far north (or what seemed very far considering I just ran 26.2 miles).  Finally, I got out of the park, only to be forced to walk in the masses of people back south to the family meeting area.  And any attempt to divert down a less busy side street, was thwarted by barricaded streets and New York City's Finest.   Basically, it took me another full hour after crossing the finish line, to get out of the finish area and to my hotel.  Ugh!

Now considering I was meeting my friend for post race oysters at 6:00 and it was now 4:30, I was hardly left with any time to shower and nap!  Lucky for my friend, I opted to fore go the nap rather than the shower.  (you're welcome Kay Kay!)  But the oysters and company made it worth skipping the nap.

The New York City Marathon finished off my marathons for 2015.  It was also marathon/state #25!  Halfway there folks!   I'm thinking the Wicked Marathon in Kansas at the end of March 2016 if anyone wants to join me!  I need at least three more people so we can dress up as the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and Dorothy! My dog Dean will be playing the role of Toto!

Happy holidays and thanks for all the words of encouragement and support over the past year!  

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Motown is mo' fun

Canada to the left, U.S. to the right
My first time to Detroit definitely made me want to return again soon.  I ran the Detroit Free Press Marathon in mid-October, marking Michigan off of my list of states.  Speaking of press, Detroit seems to get some bad press, but un-derserved in my opinion.  Although I stuck mainly to the downtown area, I was surprised by how nice it was.  I stayed at the Marriott which was in the monstrous GM building.  And from my room in that monstrosity, I had an amazing view of the Detroit River and across the boarder into Windsor, Canada.  
The GM monster

Oh, did I mention that this awesome race runs into Canada? Not only can I check off running in another state, I can check off running in another country!  It is a bit odd though when you go to the race expo to pick up your packet and a U.S. Customs official is there asking for your passport before he'll hand over your bib.  (and if you forget it, you don't get to run into Canada, and will be forced to run the U.S. only half marathon).

My hotel was fairly close to the expo, so I was able to enjoy Detroit's lovely riverwalk.  They had graffiti art, sculptures and scenic views.  What more can you ask for?  Well, to be honest I could have asked for some warmer temperatures, because the wind coming over from Canada was a bit brisk to say the least.  Here are some scenes from the Riverwalk.  

 Since I figured I'd spend a lot of Sunday running and then napping, I did most of my exploring on Saturday.  It was recommended that I venture to Corktown, so I headed that way to a brewery, called Batch Brewing Company.   I don't remember the beer I had but I do remember that it was pretty darn good.  If you ever find yourself enjoying some local Detroit brews there, I would also highly recommend the smoked whitefish spread.  Their menu had a lot of other things that looked amazing, but one person can only eat so much.  

So my marathon goodie bag gave me away as a runner to other runners who were doing their own mini pub crawl.  I had the pleasure of meeting a fellow runner Andrew (who learned the hard way about forgetting your passport).  He introduced me to his friends Rachel and Carl, who were locals (and my apologies if I've remembered your names wrong, I'm horrible with them).  They were all so nice, and invited me to join them on their bar crawl. 

We ventured to a cocktail bar, (maybe called the Sugar House, maybe called Bill Murray) for some Bill Murray movie themed drinks.  We were there right as they opened the door.  As they say, the early bird gets the craft cocktail.   I ordered the Au Revoir, Gopher, which is a delicious mezcal cocktail that comes along with an awesome presentation from the bartender.  I'll just say it involved some smoking action.  One of my hosts ordered the Ectoplasm Cooler, which was the precise color of ectoplasm.  If you are a craft-cocktail seeker, I say seek out this place.  

We continued on to the Westin hotel bar, where we witnessed Michigan State beat University of Michigan.  And by witness, I mean listened to a lot of simultaneous cheering and groaning though out the bar.  This game was a big deal, I guess. I'm not much into sports.  And since 2 of my 3 hosts were British, they also didn't seem much into the game.  But everyone else in the bar was, that is for certain!  After sampling another local Michigan brew, I had to bid adieu to my wonderful, gracious hosts and try to get some rest before the race.  I can't say thanks enough to the three of them for befriending me and making my time in Detroit fun and memorable!!  Let me know if any of you are ever in Chicago as I'd love to return the favor! 

Into Canada
Out of Canada
Now it's race day.  Brrr, brrr, brrr!  The cold temperatures were verified by the snow flurries that fell as we waited to cross the start line.  Seriously, it was October.  Snow is not allowed!  Eventually I crossed the start line where we made our way to the Ambassador Bridge, which we crossed over and into Canada.  Oh, Canada!   We ran into Windsor and were greeted by lots of red maple leaf flags and cheering Canadians.  Oh, and of course, we were also greeted by lots of customs officials, looking for our bibs to confirm we were legit to cross the border.  

We ran a few miles through Windsor along the river and then we hit the Windsor tunnel to pass back into the U.S.  We ran a fair distance through the tunnel, and it wasn't nearly as hard to breathe as I thought it would be considering all the residual car fumes that are probably hanging out in there.  It was pretty cool though where they border was indicated.  In Canada, in the U.S., in Canada, in the U.S.  You could go back and forth over and over if you wanted.  We were greeted back to the U.S. by a LOT of U.S. Immigration officers.  You know how when you go through Customs in U.S. airports when returning from a trip abroad, and all the officers seem angry, like they hate you and don't believe at all that you are actually a U.S. citizen?  Well these officers were nothing like those.  They were cheering, giving us high fives as we crossed back over the border.  They were fantastic! 
I can see my hotel from Canada! 
Inside the Grand Trunk
Are they serious?
 I finished the race with one of my best times in maybe 2 years.  No PR, but I was happy with my time.  I returned to the hotel promptly after the race to thaw in a hot shower for at least 30 minutes.   Of course I was hungry, so I was forced to return outside to get some food.  I ended up at a nice little pub called the Grand Trunk Pub.  I ordered the sandwich dubbed the Corktown, and ridiculous is all I can say.  And if you're eating it, you actually can't say anything at all, because you are basically buried under the largest mound of corned beef you've ever encountered.  See what I mean?  I had to dismantle the thing to eat it. That thing was delicious though.  I'm getting hungry thinking about it right now.  Wonder if they deliver to Chicago.

The Spirit of Detroit 
Tiny oyster fest.
After lunch I did a little more wandering downtown, past the Spirit of Detroit and back along the river front.

In my usual post-race M.O. I enjoyed some post race oysters for dinner at Joe Muer seafood, which was conveniently located adjacent to my hotel.  It ain't a race without some oysters.  It's like a food medal.  I haven't officially finished until I have that medal around my neck and some oysters in my belly.

There are so many other great places that I came across but didn't have the opportunity to enjoy.  I'm looking forward to heading back to take in more of the Motor City and meet more of those friendly Michiganders. Thanks again to Rachel, Andrew and Carl for making my time in Detroit so much fun!