October 31, 2010

Night Before the Race: Marine Corps Marathon

Despite the success of last year’s strategy to go out the night before the marathon in order to celebrate Halloween, this year I decided to do things differently. With the marathon being on Sunday, I would need to be in DC on Saturday, and I didn’t really have many friends in DC with whom I wanted to go out. Instead, I tried to rally the troops to go out on Friday night in NYC – and what a night I had.

My friend Kristen invited me to join her and her coworkers for a karaoke happy hour, which turned out to be a ton of fun. Instead of getting a private room, we joined up with strangers at the main bar, and met some interesting people by doing so. My favorite part was meeting this guy Brett, who said he works for (big consulting firm), where Adam works. It’s a huge company, but I decided to ask anyway on the off-chance he might know Adam – and it turned out that they had worked together on a project before! Wow, small world.

After a few fun songs (I did a great job on “Summer Nights,” a decent job on “Fireflies,” and totally sucked at “Hey Soul Sister,” but didn’t care since I loved it), I eventually said my goodbyes. It was now time to head home and get changed for the costume part of the night! I was going as an Eskimo (see here for costume), a costume I had bought the year before when then-Boyfriend was going to dress up as a penguin (but we ultimately decided to go as a lion and lion tamer).

I headed down to Soho, where I was going to a house party thrown by a friend of a friend. It was 11pm before I got there, but I stayed for a few hours before taking the subway back uptown with my friends Ali and Dan. Ultimately, I was in bed by 2am – not a wild and crazy night, but probably not the best thing to do two nights before the marathon. I hoped that as a result, I’d be able to get to bed early the next night.

I got up for my 7am alarm, intended to give me time to go to the gym in the morning. However, packing took a lot longer than I anticipated, since I had to plan for the marathon, two days of regular work in DC, and then three days of work training and partying in Chicago. Lots of different outfits needed! I ended up dashing out the door at 9:30am without having worked out at all – but hey, I’d be running a full marathon the next day.

When I walked out of my apartment building, I immediately turned right toward the corner, where I hoped to catch a cab. A few feet later, a cab came flying down my street and pulled to a stop, where I gratefully prepared to get in. All of a sudden, I heard a lot of honking behind me, and another cab pulled up behind the first, the driver getting out angrily. Turns out that thanks to the new condos that have gone up, my neighborhood is now fancy enough where we have our own cab line in front of my apartment building – I just hadn’t noticed it. The cabbie who first tried to take me had just driven down the street without waiting in line, and the cabbie who was next in line was pissed. As soon as I realized my mistake, I immediately headed for the second cab, who rightfully deserved my business. But while I got in, the two cabbies continued screaming at each other – and I do mean screaming. When the cheating cabbie started screaming at the other cabbie, “I’m going to &$#*@*$ you up!”, I started worrying that maybe it was dangerous to be in either cab, but luckily we drove away without incident. However, my driver started scolding me for not coming to the taxi line, which was annoying. I travel quite a bit and have never seen/used the line before – though in fairness, I usually travel in the early morning on Mondays, not mid-morning on Saturdays. Still, the experience was a bit frightening.

I calmed down when I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare and was able to relax in the Admiral’s Club for almost an hour before the flight. Bliss! That was one of the benefits to traveling on a Saturday – no business travelers hogging the good seats šŸ™‚ The flight was pretty packed, though, which I wasn’t expecting.

I don’t know if any of you watch The Event, but I saw the first episode and was creeped out by the scene where the terrorist is on the plane and the good guy is trying to alert the authorities. They don’t believe him, so he ends up bursting through the airport gate in his SUV and driving out on the tarmac, right next to the plane, in an attempt to stop it before it takes off. Anyway, when I first sat down in my window seat, I discovered that the guy in the aisle seat was acting a bit odd. He read through the safety information card (who does that?) and then kept reading it again and again, following along with his finger as if he were memorizing it. Then, when it was time to turn off your cell phones, he pulled his out and actually took it apart – putting the phone, the battery, and the battery cover into different compartments of his bag. Furthermore, when I saw that that exit row seats across the way were entirely unoccupied and decided to move, instead of remaining where he was and having the whole row to himself, he moved a few rows back to share a row with another woman. With all those weird coincidences, my imagination started going into overdrive, and I wondered what on earth was going on.

To scare me even further (and tie it all back to that reference to The Event), as we were taxiing into position (and going much faster than we normally do for positioning), a police car with a siren came screaming up the apron of the runway right next to us, just like the SUV. We came to an intersection, and the police car turned as though to cut right in front of us – and our pilot slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting the car. This was when I really started getting nervous!

Luckily, the flight ended up being just fine – although the weirdo did keep craning his neck to look out the windows, which made no sense to me given that he could have had his own window had he just stayed put after I moved. I was just glad he didn’t cut my throat as his first hijacking move to prove he was serious! (Yes, I watched the “Hijacked” episdode of Surviving Disaster on Spike TV).

When I got to DCA and hopped in a cab to head for the expo, the first thing I realized was that a lot of my friends were there too – it was the day of the big Rally. The traffic was awful, and it took nearly 30 minutes to get to the expo instead of the 10 minutes it should have. I hoped the rest of the weekend wouldn’t be similarly impacted by the event – I was there for the marathon, not the politics! (It was only later that I learned how little the rally had to do with actual politics – my bad).

Walking into the expo, I was overwhelmed by the size of it – I had known but forgotten how big the Marine Corps Marathon was. Since I still had all my luggage with me, I asked for directions to the Excelsior College booth – they were sponsoring me for the race, and I had to go there to take a picture by the sign anyway, so I figured it would be a good place to put my stuff while I explored the expo. After taking care of that piece of business, explore I did – taking in lots of sights and also eating as many free samples as I could along the way. I had skipped lunch, correctly assuming that there would be more than enough Clif Bars and the like to sustain me, and I probably overdid it – those things are calorie-dense! The most interesting thing I saw at the expo was a new book written by the CEO of the marathon, which provided lessons for businesses based on running marathons. The book was structured with each chapter being another mile of the race – e.g., mile 1 – start slow and steady, saving yourself for what’s ahead. It was so deja vu to me to see that book in print, since that was a (not-so-original) idea I had come up with a year or two ago, and for which I even started writing an outline! Good thing I hadn’t gotten too far along in the planning/writting šŸ™‚

After I had fully scoped out the expo, my friend Rebecca got there, and shortly after that, my friends Jackie and Pons arrived – they had generously volunteered to host me at their home in the DC suburbs that night. Jackie and I have run many marathons together, but this was to be Pons’ first marathon, and I was really excited for him! They were also hosting several runners, so we made quite a big group as we walked around and took some pictures. Of course, their arrival meant another round of the booths – and another round of the samples. I was getting really full! Hopefully I could eat a light dinner to balance things out.

We were going to Jackie’s friend Lien’s house for dinner – Lien lived in Georgetown and was going to pick us up at the nearest Metro stop. We encountered quite a mess on the Metro though – the Rally was finishing up shortly after we were leaving, so the stairs and waiting areas were already plenty crowded. To make things worse for me and my suitcase, all of the escalators had been turned off – presumably to prevent a pileup if people got to the bottom and there wasn’t anywhere on the platform to go. Yes, they were that packed! Luckily, I was able to use my New York pushiness to get us spots on the train, and soon we were emerging back above ground.

Lien is a marathon runner as well, but wasn’t planning to run the MCM – until a friend of hers was going to drop out and gave her a free entry. As a result, Lien was now going to be getting up super early for the marathon as well, and she offered that I could stay with her and lighten the burden of people on Jackie’s hospitality. I gratefully accepted – particularly when Lien told me that she had a 30 year old son who was cute and a Harvard grad to boot. Listen, people, I’m all for a setup – send me who you’ve got! šŸ™‚

Lien cooked a fabulous dinner with two kinds of pasta, two kinds of sauce, and some even tastier red wine with which to wash it all down šŸ™‚ I thoroughly enjoyed myself, though again ate far more than I was anticipating. By the time dinner was over, not only was I exhausted, but I was also in a food coma. Bed couldn’t come fast enough! As I drifted off to sleep in Lien’s guest room, I was glad I had gotten to stay there instead of trekking all the way up to Jackie’s (and then having to come back into the city for the early morning race start) – extra sleep for me!


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