An Open Letter to Tourists Visiting NYC

First, welcome to our city!  We not only love showing off our city to outsiders, the money you spend while visiting is very important to our economy.  Many New Yorkers enjoy employment because of you.  Thank you!

Sadly, we often hate you just as much as we need you.  You actually make it impossible for us to enjoy areas of our own city.  There are many of you and you all clump up in the same places.  (This is a curse and a blessing, since we at least we know what to avoid.  I would like to visit Rockefeller Center again someday…or Times Square…or a museum even.)

Also sadly, many of you will return to your homes thinking New Yorkers are mean or rude or ___, because you had a less-than-stellar experience with one or more of us.  On the contrary, we are quite nice and helpful.  We just don’t tolerate some things very well, particularly your complete oblivion to the way we live.

This man was probably an awesome tourist who didn't do anything I mention in my letter.

Here are some helpful hints that could make your visit to New York City more pleasant for all of us.

1)  On sidewalks:  Please NEVER STOP IN THE MIDDLE.  Would you stand in the middle of a highway?  If the answer is no, then you have no business stopping and standing in the middle of a NYC sidewalk.  Remember:  the vast majority of us do not drive.  The sidewalk is what we use to get to work and run our errands.  When you stop, particularly if you are part of a group, you essentially bring our traffic to a halt and disrupt our day.  Likewise, if you are part of a group, don’t walk more than two abreast and please keep moving at a moderate pace.  Again, clumping up and meandering creates sidewalk traffic jams and ill will. (sidewalk = highway)

2)  In bike lanes:  If you are not on a bicycle, don’t be in a bike lane.  Again, we use our bicycles as vehicles.  Bike lanes are for pleasure riding, but they are also important to commuters to get to and from work and home.  If you are on a bicycle, please pay attention to what you are doing and do not try to take pictures from your bike.  Also, DO NOT STOP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BIKE LANE.  (bike lane = highway)

3)  On the subway: You have about two seconds to enter or exit the train–please move quickly!   If you are standing, make sure your backpack or bags aren’t hitting anyone around you.  If you are sitting, try to take up as little space as possible and don’t spread out over two or more seats.  If you aren’t sure where you’re going or if the conductor makes an announcement and you don’t know what he’s talking about, please do ask.  People will help you.  We all know that the subway can be confusing, particularly after hours and on weekends.

4)  On the Brooklyn Bridge:  There are two lanes clearly marked, one for bicycles and one for pedestrians.  Please see number 2.  And please also see number 1.  The Brooklyn Bridge does not span the East River for you to marvel at; it spans the East River to allow New Yorkers to travel back and forth between Manhattan and Brooklyn.  (Please continue to ignore the Manhattan, Williamsburg, and other bridges.)

5)  On escalators: if you don’t plan to climb, keep to the right, single file.  Many of us do not want to waste time riding up or down.  We actually climb the escalator.  We are hindered when you take up the entire step.

6)  At Ground Zero:  Please stop taking your picture smiling in front of what’s left of the WTC.  It’s creepy and inappropriate.

7)  And finally, when you are busy looking up, remember that you are looking at our homes.  We live everywhere.  You are never not going to be in our neighborhood.  Please conduct yourself the way you would want us to conduct ourselves if we were standing in your front yard.

Thank you for reading my letter.  I hope you enjoy your next visit to New York City–or any other large city.  Happy travels!

Marathon Medal

NYC Marathon 2010 Race Report

before the race

November 7, 2010

6:00 am
I got up after an amazingly restful night (seven full hours of sleep!) and got dressed. I had laid out everything I needed over the several days before, so there was no last minute worry. It is recommended that you wear “disposable” clothing over your running gear to stay warm, so I left the apartment in an old pair of sweats, carrying my clear plastic “baggage” with a hoodie and my breakfast inside.

6:45 am
I got on the train headed for South Ferry station. Over the course of a dozen stops, eight more people boarded wearing D tags on their shoes and carrying their plastic bags. I had my Luna bar and a bottle of Gatorade on the train.

7:20 am
Arrived at South Ferry and left the subway to get on the Staten Island Ferry. Talk about a madhouse! Several thousand runners were standing, sitting, and laying around. I discovered that an earlier ferry hadn’t appeared at the appointed time, so there were people there that should have already left. Because I got stuck in a ginormous clump of people and had no choice but to move forward, I ended up on the 7:45 ferry, which was earlier than the one I was actually assigned to.

8:05 am
Arrived on Staten Island and began the mile-ish walk to the shuttle buses. This is when it became apparent how cold it was outside, particularly with the wind coming directly off the water. I wished I had brought gloves.

8:30 am
Arrived at Ft. Wadsworth, the staging area for the marathon. I was assigned to green wave three, so I walked another mile or so to the green athletes village to wait two hours until I was scheduled to start running. I visited a porta-pottie, had half a bagel with salt, had some water, turned my baggage over to the UPS workers, then watched the beginning of the race on the giant screen that was in our village.

While watching the race, I spoke to a woman who was 80ish. She was running not only her first marathon, but her first race ever! Every runner has a story.

10:15 am
The corrals for my wave opened, so we all walked toward the fenced off area at the on ramp to the Verrazano Bridge. That was where we were told to discard our disposable clothing so that it could be picked up and donated to local homeless shelters. We all took off our warm gear and stood in the cold. And believe me, it was COLD.

10:30 am
The corrals were opened and we were released to the starting line on the bridge. There are three colors per wave: blue, orange, and green. The blue and orange runners run on the top level of the bridge; the green runners are on the lower level. I was headed to the lower level.

10:40 am
After singing the national anthem and a short speech by someone, the cannon went off and it was finally time to run! The Verrazano was BRUTAL. Since I was on the lower level, it was shaded and with the high winds…wind chills were probably hovering right at freezing. My teeth chattered the first half mile at least. Oddly, the bridge went by really fast and didn’t feel steep at all. The mile one marker is halfway across and then next thing I knew, we were in Brooklyn in the delicious sunshine!

That was where the runners still wearing warm gear started shedding. (There were really nice discarded pieces of running gear along the entire course. I was so tempted to pick things up!) But that was also where we started experiencing cheering crowds.

Miles 2 – 6, Bay Ridge and Sunset Park

This was a favorite part of the race. I felt good and it’s my home turf. I run through these neighborhoods all the time, so there was familiar terrain and familiar faces. Also, these neighborhoods have the most children, so there were lots of little ones lining the route wanting to give high fives. And my sweet husband was right at mile 4 waiting to give me a kiss. There were a bunch of guys yelling “Where’s my kiss?” but I did not kiss any of them.

Miles 6 – 9, Prospect Park, Prospect Heights, and Clinton Hill

Still cruising along through fabulous Brooklyn. This is where I saw co-workers Vanessa and Donna. This was also the stretch that had some of the best fans. There were lots of marathon watch parties, with people in costumes, giant bunches of balloons, posters and banners hanging off buildings, and lots of good bands.

Miles 10 – 13, Williamsburg and Greenpoint

It was a little more subdued in Williamsburg, the home of many Hasidic Jews (who, frankly, didn’t look all that enthused to have us running through), but there were also some enthusiastic hipsters hanging around and some good bands in this stretch as well. I saw another co-worker, Patty, in Greenpoint, just before we hit the Pulaski Bridge into Queens. At the halfway point I realized I had smashed by half marathon race record by 13 minutes! That felt like an accomplisment in itself.

This was a weird stretch in one regard, though. I decided not to run with a pace group, but thought if I saw one along the course that I thought I could keep up with, I might run along with them. Well, somewhere in Williamsburg, I was passed by the 4:50 pace leaders–and they were going quite fast. I was all “Man! I’m getting passed up by the 4:50 group!” But when I looked at my Garmin at the next mile marker, it appeared I was going a lot faster than that. So I was confused. About 20 minutes later, I was passed by the 4:30 pace leaders! That made more sense, because at the half point, I was exactly on track to hit 4:40, but it still makes no sense for the 4:50 pace leaders to be that far ahead.

Miles 13 – 16, Long Island City (Queens)

I think the Pulaski Bridge was the hardest of the race. Most people say the Queensborough (59th St.) Bridge is the worst, but I thought Pulaski was terrible. Halfway across the bridge was a group of bagpipers, which was really really cool and they helped get me over the hump. On the other end was a man with a bullhorn yelling “Welcome to Queens.” That made getting off the bridge that much sweeter. In Queens it felt like we were turning and turning and turning, but finally we were at the Queensborough Bridge. (Mike and Tommy Tom Tom were there and yelling at me, but I didn’t see them.) This is considered a pinnacle point in the marathon and this was where I started having trouble with my hip. I stopped halfway across to re-tie my shoe and I did a little stretching, but it didn’t help. Right at the bottom on the other side I started having shooting pains.

Miles 16 – 19.5, Upper East Side and Spanish Harlem

Needless to say, this was a painful part of the race for me. As you come off the bridge, you make a left onto 1st Avenue. Everyone always talks about the “wall of sound” that hits you at this point in the race, but I personally thought Brooklyn was more enthusiastic. In the 80s, there were A LOT of bars having watch parties, so there were people 10 and 12 deep and quite boisterous, but I was in too much pain to enjoy it. Thankfully, my hip settled into a dull ache by the time we got to the Willis Avenue Bridge.

Miles 19.5 – 21, The Bronx

Not much time is spent in this borough, but I found the people there to be particularly insistent that I keep going. lol The fans there were quite loud and it felt like every single runner was singled out for cheering purposes. I felt pretty good and as I crossed the 20-mile mark and moved into uncharted running territory, I started being less concerned about hitting the wall and more confident about finishing.

Miles 21 – 23, Harlem

Except for the sun in my eyes, Harlem was one of my favorite parts of the race. There were amazing spectators here and really good music. However, it was the transition from Harlem to 5th Ave. that was also the transition from Norma feeling pretty good to Norma feeling pretty bad.

Miles 24 – 26.2, Central Park

As we came down 5th Ave., the crowds were all out in the street, so we had about eight feet to run in, which sucked. There were a lot of people walking by this point, so it was all about dodging other runners, which caused the hip to act up again. I had to walk myself for about two blocks and then stop and attempt to stretch again. Both my hips were tight and my hamstrings were on FIRE. But I managed to make it into the park and I skipped the last water station in an effort to get to the finish as quickly as possible. (This was where I tore my name off my shirt because I was tired of hearing it. lol) Amazingly enough, as soon as I hit mile 25 I had a second or third or fourth wind and literally flew down Central Park South. I felt like a million bucks and it was my fastest mile of the whole race! I felt like I could run forever, but luckily I didn’t have to. Turned at Columbus circle and the finish line was just .4 of a mile ahead. It felt so good to run through the arches and high five the volunteers there!

I didn’t cry, in case anyone was wondering. I just felt awesome. Unfortunately, finishing the NYC Marathon isn’t the end of the NYC Marathon. There’s the mile-long march of death at the end, as you pick up your medal, your silver blanket thing, your food bag, then locate your UPS truck to pick up your baggage. I don’t suppose there’s an easier way to do it, but you seriously want to die by the end of it. And it’s cold. And it’s getting dark because of the time change. And there are eleventy billion family members for every other runner when you finally get out of the park. And there are eleventy billion tourists when you try to get on the train to go home. 🙂

After the Race, Final Thoughts

Well, they say if it was easy, everyone would do it. But when you’re one of 44,000+ runners, it does sometimes seem everyone actually is doing it. 🙂 Seriously, you will never feel closer to being a rock star as you will running NYC. Since my name was on my shirt, I heard “NORMA” shouted from all directions all the time. The crowd support overall is amazing and proves once again that New Yorkers are some of the best people in the world. It also proves that our city loves to PARTY. lol I especially appreciate the people along the course handing out paper towels and tissues. Also, thanks to the woman on 1st Ave. who had the oranges. That was a big pick-me-up after getting used to eating apples on my long runs.

Item most missed: lip balm!

I found the first half really easy, truth be told. 13.1 miles is a fun distance for me now and I’m looking forward to running a couple of halfs next year. I’m planning on running at least one more marathon next year and I’m hoping to run NYC again–I’m already in the lottery! But if I don’t get in next time, I’ll be out on the course again, cheering everyone else. Because that’s fun, too!!!

Broadway Show #2: Wicked

On the occasion of my 39th birthday, we finally went to see Wicked, something that was on my list of things to do for a couple of years.

Wicked lives at the Gershwin Theatre on 51st and Broadway, which seats about 2,000 and is home to the American Theatre Hall of Fame.

The set design and special effects are amazing! The stage is framed by enormous gears and clock parts, with the giant red-eyed, fire-breathing Time Dragon, animated and spewing smoke in between acts from above. The clockwork-themed set pieces move around the stage via tracks in the floor. The lighting was unbelievable—the rain looked real! (Look closely and you’ll see the lights hanging over the audience are tiny witch hats.) I felt a little sorry I didn’t pay more attention in my theatre lighting class.

For the few who aren’t familiar, Wicked is the story of Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, and her friendship with Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. In this production, Elphaba was played by Dee Roscioli and Glinda by Katie Rose Clarke. Both were really exceptional. While the singing was fantastic, it was their acting that really impressed me. All of the actors did a great job. I was least impressed by Fierro (Andy Karl) and Boq (Alex Brightman), who seemed part of the production only as an afterthought. There is a definite channeling of Kristin Chenoweth by Clark, although I suspect Glindas the world over are more Kristin-esque than not.

If you’ve read Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, I warn you…this musical is considerably different. It is far more light-hearted than Gregory Maguire’s book. There are some very witty, very funny moments. While it does touch on the discrimination of the Animals, much of the underlying political intrigue and competing religious ideology is completely missing. In fact, there is no explanation for the Clock of the Time Dragon even though it plays a huge role in the set design. However, I liked it very much and remain completely enamored of Elphaba.

The ending: wholly unexpected.

Norma’s Rating: 8 stars

A Year of Running in NYC

I ran the Joe Kleinerman 10k a couple of weeks ago, my ninth race of 2009, capping off my first year of running in NYC (and guaranteeing my entry into the marathon in 2010). I don’t know what other people think about when they run, but I generally think about what I would tell people about running. My geek status is probably secure by admitting that. (Or cult status, if you believe my friend Mindy.)

So during this particular race, I was thinking back to my first race post-move, which was the four-mile Run as One way back at the beginning of April. I recalled the surreal nature of lining up to race with about 7500 other runners. At that point the largest field I’d raced with was about 400 at Amarillo’s Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot 5k. Further, the surreal nature of lining up to race in Central Freakin’ Park was a bit overwhelming at that race. The Kleinerman 10k was the seventh race I’ve run in Central Park this year and trust me, that feeling wears off. I’d LOVE to race anywhere else at this point! But the upside is that I’ve done a fair amount of Central Park sightseeing via running and I’m pretty familiar with the lay of the land now.

Something I’ve enjoyed throughout the year is the camaraderie at the various races, the chatty fellow runners in the corrals, the friendly and helpful volunteers. I always found the runners in Amarillo to be quite snobby. I spent a couple of the six-point-two thinking about the nice people I’ve met, including the woman who yelled “I’m following you!” while I scrambled over an outcropping of rock before the race to get to the baggage area. (Thanks for being late, 6 train!) She was quite nice and we convinced one another that cabs on race mornings are probably better than public trans.

I spent most of the race just reliving other great race moments, like my first sub-30:00 5k at the Wall Street Run and my first appearance in the pink corral at the Japan Day race. (It’s the little things.) Not to mention continual PRs just from improved fitness and running on hills! (I never knew I could love hills…but I do…)

Goals met in 2009:
1) move to NYC – check
2) run two 10k races and a half marathon – check
3) guarantee entry to 2010 marathon – check

I was going to take it easy in 2010, maybe run a half and then the Marathon in November, but I made the mistake of looking at the New York Road Runners calendar. I’ll be running a five-mile race in January (a new distance for me) and a 5k in February–because it’s in Prospect Park, practically in my own backyard and far from Central Park! I also plan to run the Brooklyn half marathon for sure because you just can’t beat ending a race at Coney Island. But that’s it.

I swear.

I’m pretty sure of it.

Broadway Show #1: The Lion King

Thanks to Mike’s Aunt B’s granddaughter’s band director, we were able to get free tickets to see The Lion King tonight at the Minskoff Theatre. Despite having read very good things about the production, I wouldn’t have chosen The Lion King to be my first ever Broadway show. Still, I’m grateful for the tickets and I’m glad we had the opportunity to go.

The Minskoff Theatre is huge, by any standards. We were in the back row of the mezzanine–literally in the last row. It was an impressive vantage point for viewing a show with such extravagant effects. It gave us a good view of the moving floor that helps create so many illusions during the show. From further down in the theatre, it might have seemed even more magical, but I was glad to see how it all worked.

The lighting design, sets and costumes are really extraordinary, so I would recommend the show solely based on those things. Also, the acting/singing/choreography are very good–and it’s no small feat to make people operating fake animals “disappear.”

The audio, though, was really loud–so loud that there were times I couldn’t understand what was going on. For that reason, I was going to give The Lion King five stars. But then I bumped that up to eight because it was so amazing to watch. But then there was that weird “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” ballet thing, so I took my score back down to six. But then I liked the South African baboon lady so much, I gave the show one more point.

Norma’s Rating: 7 stars