New York City – Part 3 – Packet Pick-Up, Central Park, and the TS Alliance Gathering

November 3 we were all in better humor…to begin with. We slept well after being put through tourist Boot Camp the day before and were eager to hit the streets and see stuff. After breakfast at the hotel, the first order of business was to pick up Allen’s race packet and our passes for the bleacher seating along the home stretch of the race.

Look at that moxie!

Allen agreed to try the Subway again. So, of course, we found out that the Subway line that runs from the station one block from our hotel was down for maintenance for the weekend. But not before standing on the platform for several minutes, wondering why the station was so empty. We eventually walked down to the station at 50th and Broadway, also very close to our hotel, and rode the subway downtown.

Subway Station. Courtesy of Ariana

We were only able to get so far and then hoofed it the rest of the way. The air was cool, but not uncomfortable and there was lots to see so I don’t think anyone minded.

Look at that face! She’s already planning her move to the city.
Almost to the Expo. The sign behind him said something about the marathon but changed as I took the picture. Lame.

Big races have huge expos in the days preceding the event. The TCS New York City Marathon held theirs at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. The building was sprawling and a separate event was taking place in the suite we passed on our way to the race expo. When we came in, we saw a long line of people standing behind a sign I didn’t take the time to read. On the way out, I was curious, and read it. “America’s Got Talent.”

 

Woah
On our way upstairs to the Expo

At the expos there are vendors for every type of running gear, gadget, device, training, and food. There are designated areas to pick up the necessary “packet” containing the race number that carries the timing chip, other important race day info, and often goodies like Biofreeze samples and lip balm.

One of many magical moments on this journey
Allen signing the Marathon year sculpture.

We also had to make a stop at a separate booth for the passes Allen got for Ariana and me to sit in the bleachers to see him make his final charge toward the finish. We walked around for a bit and then went back to the hotel to drop off his packet.

If you think we didn’t wave these around (like Wayne and Garth at the Alice Cooper concert) at every check point on the way to the grand stands, you’d be wrong.

 

 

The TS Alliance was catering a luncheon for all the runners on their team with a time frame of 1 – 4, near Madison Ave and 89th street. This was the farthest Uptown we went during the trip. I planned to use this large window to squeeze in seeing The Dakota, Strawberry Fields and anything else we could fit in, all while making our way uptown and across Central Park. We rode the Subway, without incident, from 50th to 72nd and then headed Eastish, toward Central Park.

When we exited the Subway at 72nd, this was the view.

As a teenager, I developed a love of The Beatles and more specifically, John Lennon. His lyrics and sometimes haunting voice, touched my teenage soul in a way I’d come to seek out in other music. I even did an extensive, huge part of my grade, paper on him my Junior year. I wanted to see the looming Gothic apartment building where he and Yoko had lived, and where, on December 8, 1980, he was shot to death by Mark David Chapman.

The Dakota
The Dakota

As we approached it, the desire grew to cross the street and touch the sidewalks where he walked, and ultimately fell. I can’t really explain the reverence I felt for this man I never met, and never had the opportunity to even share the same air on this planet. I suppose it was that way for the millions who cherished him.

The Dakota sits across the street from Central Park, and can be seen from the Lennon memorial part of the park, Strawberry Fields. It took some hiking around and frustration before we found the mosaic memorial. Allen was starting to get stick-up-the-buttish even though we still had plenty of time to get to the luncheon. As we climbed the path to the mosaic, I could feel both positive energy and solemnness. I was awestruck by the respect everyone gave to the art on the ground and how everyone made their way to the front of the line, slowly, took their pictures, had their moment, and then moved aside for others to move forward.

Imagine Mosaic in Strawberry Fields
Imagine Mosaic in Strawberry Fields

I would’ve liked to soak those feelings in but no sooner had we gotten to the Imagine mosaic and snapped a few pictures, Allen was heading back down the hill.

I take most of the blame for not getting all the time I wanted since I scheduled our visit before his event. But he is not without responsibility. He told me the window of time and I planned accordingly. If I’d known he wanted to get there at the top of that time frame, I would have obliged. Communication, people. It’s key.

Bethesda Terrace and Fountain in Central Park
Bethesda Terrace in Central Park
Bow Bridge in Central Park
Central Park. Courtesy of Ariana
Central Park. Courtesy of Ariana
Central Park. Courtesy of Ariana
Central Park. Courtesy of Ariana

As we made our way through the park, growing more and more certain that it would never end, I started wanting to pull the stick out of Allen’s butt and beat him with it. He was power-walking ahead of us the entire time and didn’t stop, even when we did to take pictures, unless we yelled for him.

Allen speeding away from us in Central Park. Courtesy of Ariana

When we go back, I will give Central Park the time it deserves. This wasn’t the trip, however.

We got to the luncheon, being held on the top floor of a beautiful apartment building, and there was still plenty of food, though they had started to put it away. The view was spectacular.

 

TS Alliance rooftop luncheon view.
TS Alliance rooftop luncheon view.
TS Alliance rooftop luncheon view.
TS Alliance rooftop luncheon view. Courtesy of Ariana
TS Alliance rooftop luncheon view.
TS Alliance rooftop luncheon view.
TS Alliance rooftop luncheon view.
TS Alliance rooftop luncheon view.
TS Alliance rooftop luncheon view. Courtesy of Ariana

We ate and met the Regional Program Manager, Shelly . She told us that she had two children with TS and how the Alliance was close to her heart, her passion. She talked about her own family’s struggle with the disease as well as the advancements in treatment and working toward a cure.

Allen with Shelly, the Regional Program Manager for the TS Alliance.

As she talked, I thought about *d* and all she and her family had gone through with Aiden. My heart swelled, excited and feeling so grateful that there was an organization so set on helping her and Aiden and other families just like them. There was gratitude for being able to be there, in that amazing city, supporting Allen as he ran a race not just for himself, but for Aiden, for the cure. I wished so much that *d* could have made the trip to meet Shelly and the others running for the cause. She deserved to feel that same rush of excitement, and hope, but circumstances wouldn’t allow it. I know Allen wanted her there as well, and because she couldn’t be, it made the race that much more meaningful. It was never JUST about the race, but by the time we stood in that meeting room at the top of that skyscraper, we were definitely feeling the significance of the journey.

Shelly thanked Allen for running for the Alliance and us for supporting him. She gave him a gift to be opened after the race as well as some TS Alliance visors and we began the trip Downtown.

One amazing thing about Manhattan is that you really can’t walk anywhere without seeing something iconic and we paused for some pictures of Radio City Music Hall before we arrived “home.”

Radio City Music Hall. (Not sure why I look photoshopped here. I’d like to think I’d do a better job if I was going to do that…)
Radio City Music Hall. Not a great shot of the Hall, but Ariana’s face made the pic worth it.

Once back at the hotel, Allen planned to do nothing but relax as he prepared himself mentally for the race the next morning. Ariana and I strolled over a block to 9th Ave and hit a couple thrift stores. I’d planned many more, but as it does, the day got away from us and we were working with limited daylight and time before supper. We went to Housing Works Thrift Store at 730-732 9th Ave. Things were fairly priced and all the proceeds help the homeless and those with AIDS so I made sure I bought something. Spoiler alert! It was a BOOK. We wandered down 9th Ave a bit farther and stopped at 602 9th Ave, Thrift and New. This place was more pricey and carried mostly antiques so we left empty handed. By that time, it was getting dark so we moseyed back to the hotel. Thrift shopping is something else I want to go back and give the proper attention.

On our adventure down 9th Ave, we saw an Italian place that happened to be on my list of possible pre-race supper restaurants. So, we returned to 9th Ave with Allen and had some fabulous carbs at Bocca Di Bacco.

Bocca Di Bacco (not my picture)

The wait was long, despite making a reservation with Open Table, and it was very loud. The food was good, but I’m not sure it was worth the wait. At least not what I got.

Bocca Di Bacco homemade pasta with meat sauce

But it was a Saturday night, in NYC, really close to Times Square, so…

We went back to the hotel and Allen completed his pre-race ritual of laying out his race outfit and number and going over the plan for the morning for the 100th time.

This picture was taken at home, which should give you some insight into the method AND the madness.

Then, it was off to bed where visions of tennis shoes, sweaty brows, and finisher medals likely danced in his head.

~L~

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New York City – Part 2 – Getting There

When I began planning this trip, in April of 2018, I realized almost immediately that this wasn’t going to be like every other city we’d gone to for a race. The magnitude of NYC is well known, but until we were actually planning on going there, I hadn’t wrapped my head around just how overwhelming and quite frankly, scary it was going to be.

At every race I attend with Allen, there is always some amount of alone time while he’s being herded toward the start, while he’s running the race, and up until we find each other in the crowd. Normally, I’m ok with that and will retreat to my car to nap or read. The idea of killing time wandering the streets of a city that has about 1.6 million people living in Manhattan alone, was terrifying. Add to that the thousands of people in town for the race (over 50,000 running) and the unfamiliarity of the city, and I’m about six months out from the trip and already having a freak out.

“But, L,” you say, “Aren’t you a 37-year-old, grown-ass woman?”

Yes. Yes, I am. But I’m also a nervous wreck on any given day and I live in a one-stop-light, dinky village nestled amongst the corn, bean and wheat fields. My “big city” exposure is minimal and nearly always with another person. And even then, because I’m a grown-ass woman, I never feel safe.  I’ll save that wonderful topic for another day though.

So, Allen agreed that we should ask a friend to go with us. I chose our friend, Ariana. She has no kids, plenty of vacation time, minimal obligations, and she’s awesome—just like me. But unlike me, she’s pretty chill. And balance is important.

Me on the left, Ariana on the right. Looks like the chillest person you know, right?

By the time we left on the morning of November 2, I’d logged hours upon hours of research time and felt as prepared as I was ever going to be. Google Maps and YouTube proved to be indispensable resources in learning the ropes before actually setting foot in New York. I shudder to think what it would have been like to go blindly into this. Kudos to past generations who survived without the internet.

In all my efforts to make sure we were prepared, wouldn’t be douchey tourists, and maximized every day were in the city without feeling rushed, I made myself SICK. It happens anytime I have a stressful event to plan for, whether the event is fun or not. I have IBS for a reason. So, I had successfully riled up my gut and spent a good portion of the week or two before we left, in the bathroom. On the 2+ hour drive to the airport, I was in a great mood, but still feeling nauseated and hoping it wouldn’t last the entire trip.

To my chagrin, our first minor faux pas happened when we got to the airport. We boarded a shuttle bus, each of us lugging a 40+ pound suitcase and a carry-on, and me with the cross-body messenger bag “purse” I planned to carry as we moved throughout the city. We were the only ones on board and in a rush to get seated, we just grabbed seats, our giant suitcases between our knees. Instead of explaining how stupid I felt when the bus began to fill up and me and my bedroom on wheels took up at least 4 seats, blocking the seats on either side of me, I’ll say, we learned our first lessons.

  1. If there is a luggage rack on the bus, use it.
  2. Always move to the back to allow newly boarding passengers to fill in the space ahead of you. (which, I actually knew, but in the haste of the moment, completely forgot)

It sounds stupid to have to say that, NOW, but maybe that gives you an idea of just how out of our element we were. This was just the first of so, so many stressful incidents before we were safely behind the door of our hotel room that first day.

Before we could board the plane, we checked our bags, which was frustrating, confusing, and stressful on its own (and all my fault, I’m sure), and then we had to go through security.

This sums up the anxiety pretty well, even if it was completely unfounded.

Every effort was made to pack correctly for this situation, we had plenty of time before we got up to the TSA agent to watch everyone else going through the line, and I’d watched plenty of videos on the TSA website. But maybe, if you suffer from raging anxiety like I do, you get why I was tweaking out on the inside. Definitely not on the outside. I wasn’t looking to get tackled by security for looking threatening! A nice pat-down, sure. But not wrestled to the ground for looking crazy. I fumbled my way through pulling off my shoes and all but dumping the contents of my purse and carry-on into the plastic bins. I didn’t want to hold up the line!  It wasn’t until I had my shoes back on and we were walking toward our gate that I relaxed.

We flew out of Indianapolis. It’s a nice airport. How nice wouldn’t register until we’d both landed and boarded at LaGuardia. I hadn’t been on a plane since I was a first grader, Allen since high school and Ariana since her early 20’s. Allen and I suffer from motion sickness and I was worried we would both be utilizing those back-of-the-seat paper bags. In an odd turn of events, once we were seated and buckled in on the plane, I felt euphoric. My stomach felt fine and I was turning cartwheels in my head! I made sure to point out the bag to Allen but he assured me he would be okay.

Take off was super exciting and I withheld (or maybe I whispered) an excited “Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” as the plane lurched forward on the runway, pinning us to our seats. We’d made it. I’d gotten us this far! We settled in but there was terrible turbulence.  As we began to descend, I noticed Allen looking rather pale. He started to sweat. I thrust my barf bag at him and was pretty sure he’d have to use it. He surprised me by successfully holding it in. However, once we deplaned, the first thing he did on New York soil was find a bathroom and throw-up. While terrible at the time, it’s going to provide us with a laugh for years to come. Right, Allen? Right?

Yeah. It was definitely him. (not my pic. Obviously.)

 

As we walked through the airport, we saw who we thought was Nik Dodani from Netflix’s Atypical. 

 

After we moved away we realized it PROBABLY WAS HIM, since we were, after all, in NEW YORK CITY.

 

 

 

 

(not my pic)

Our first stop, after the bathroom, was at a MetroCard machine. We each got an unlimited, 7-day card for $33 ($32 + $1 for the card) just like the YouTubers advised.

Then we got really confused by the bus ticket situation (again, I had studied, but failed to remember how to accomplish this). Luckily some nice fellows helped us out.

Bus Seating (not my pic)

We got on the bus and Allen’s motion sickness came back quickly. There’s something about riding sideways through rush hour traffic in Queens, on roads that feel like they’re made entirely out of pot holes that might have gotten to him.

 

 

Then came the Subway. I capitalize Subway because it definitely deserves it. It’s a beast that even New Yorkers on YouTube admitted had bested them at one time or another. I felt like I’d trained all my life for this moment. Okay, that’s being dramatic. Plus, even with all the research, I began second guessing myself (it’s my thing, it’s what I do) as soon as we had to figure out where to go. So much for my life’s work! I’d even come prepared with a couple different apps on my phone, MyTransit  NYC Subway, Bus, Rail (MTA) and New York Subway – MTA map and routes. The second one proved to be a lifesaver once I got the hang of it.

 

 

 

 

One thing I did manage to retain from all my research was that anytime we needed to stop to regroup, we moved toward the buildings and out of the way of people bustling down the busy sidewalks. I know that alone saved us from a great many nasty glares and “HEY, I’M WALKIN’ HERE”s, and possibly being trampled.  We saw it happen enough with other tourists who clearly didn’t have an anal retentive, OCD, perfectionist planning their trip.

Being confused about which train to get on wouldn’t have been so bad (and believe me, it happened more than the first day) but the Subway, in case you didn’t know, is underground. There are multiple flights of stairs sometimes. And we were all still lugging a good 50-60 pounds of luggage each. Down SO. MANY. STEPS.  And up. And down. We finally got on the right train and were only certain of that after a kind woman, clearly on her way home from work, confirmed it.

We rode from the Jackson Heights/Roosevelt Ave station to the 50 St/8th Ave station a block from our hotel, with our suitcases between our legs, a couple of us hanging on the center poles because there were no seats at first, an trying not to make eye contact or idle conversation with the natives despite our Midwestern urges to do so.

There was more starting and stopping and starting again and Allen was still very woozy. When we finally climbed back to the surface, our arms aching, me sweating, Allen ready to vomit, he said he would NOT be riding the Subway again.

That attitude*, coupled with all the stress of getting to that intersection in Manhattan, had me fuming. I planned for six months to make this trip as fun, streamlined, and budget friendly as possible.  I replied that I guess we’d have a great time sitting in our hotel room for most of the trip since taking a taxi everywhere would blow our trip funds in a day or two. I also suggested that he should get some rest before writing off Subway travel. Ariana, of course, was chill.

Allen, down for the count and clearly not remembering how beds work.
Ariana, showing Allen how it’s done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We checked into the Hampton Inn Manhattan Times Square North on 8th Ave between 51st and 52nd streets. A first for the day, the check-in was quick and easy (I can hear Allen saying, “Your mom is quick and easy.”  Damn it, Allen). After throwing up again, Allen hit the bed. It wasn’t quite 5:30pm.

The “view” out our hotel window.

After we all rested for about an hour, Allen felt better and was ready to eat. He still refused to get on the Subway so we looked for a place within walking distance. Another tip from my research had us using Open Table to make reservations and feeling super fancy. I make all that sound easy, when in fact, it too was ridiculous. I made the mistake of leaving the choice for supper unplanned. We kept running into long wait times on the reservation app for every place that sounded appealing  and were seemingly never going to make a decision. Allen finally picked Ceci Italian Restaurant, despite a long wait time, and I said fine, because I was tired of trying to figure out our best option.

We enjoyed the walk to the restaurant as it took us through Times Square and down Broadway. It’s easy to roll your eyes at the film industry’s depiction of the country bumpkin coming to “The Big City” but it rings true. It’s hard not to stare upward at the skyscrapers and the bright lights. It’s amazing, captivating, inspiring. The movies get that part right. Something else they get right is the traffic, which we noticed early on. I was glad every day that we were there that I had not decided to try to drive. NO. EFFING. WAY.

very cozy, a little pricey, a lot delicious (not my pic)

The restaurant was very dark and intimate, with many tables in a rather small space.

The food was amazing. I got the Lasagna Della Nonna…and Allen had his plate plus several bites of mine. He was clearly on the mend.

Lasagna Della Nonna
I don’t remember what Ariana ordered, but this is it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way back “home,” we stopped at the Rite Aid by the Subway station near our hotel and bought lots of snacks and a 2.5 gallon jug of water with a tap. We didn’t have a fridge or microwave, which kind of sucked, to be honest, but we were close to the ice machine and had plenty of paper cups.

When we got back to the hotel around 9pm, Allen wanted to do a light “3-mile shakeout” run on the treadmill. I filmed him for his Marathon Facebook page and because I was in awe of the fancy treadmills.

And day 1 ended with us all a little sore, a lot tired, and happy to pass out by 11.

*I should mention that Allen gets a stick up his butt before any big race where a personal goal is on the line. Afterward, he’s fine. But leading up to it…uuugh.

 

~L~