Pre-marathon excitement: expo etc.

Posted 11/8/2018

The expo/bib pickup spans multiple days at the Javits center. I thought Friday might be a little calmer than Saturday (and it was Bank of America free museums weekend, which I wanted to prioritize). We got in early enough that I could attend the logistics presentation at 1:30, the strategy session at 2, and still have oodles of time to browse all the booths. It was truly overwhelming—a sea of people and a million things to look at.

They very sensibly have a separate area to try on the shirts before you pick up your packet so you can get exactly the right size. I ended up with the women’s small and it’s one of the nicest race shirts I’ve ever gotten! I was late for the logistics presentation because I had so much trouble finding the expo itself and within it the “Running Lab.” You had to make your way through the giant New Balance store, full of everything from the really nice but expensive official gear to useless accessories, and not straight through either—the exit was kind of hidden—then past three lines for photo ops with a giant New Balance logo, a Lady Liberty, and “NYC,” into the maelstrom of the expo.

The “lab” was a corner area with seating and a stage, surrounded by walls covered with blow-ups of the course map, sped-up video of driving through parts of the course (taken from the lead vehicles, I think), hints and tips, etc. Both the logistics and race strategy sessions mostly covered things I already knew from my obsessive reading and research, but there’s something both reassuring and exciting about hearing it from a live person with a giant screen. The strategy sessions (I attended the whole 2pm one and saw part of the 5pm) were led by a pair of coaches breaking down the course sections by borough. Some helpful tips were where it’s tempting to go out too fast (the start, obviously, but also the first section in Brooklyn and the first in Manhattan because they are both full of crowd support, flat, and straight) and where you can think you’re further ahead than you are (mistaking Marcus Garvey Park for Central Park, forgetting that once you do hit Central Park you still have more than 3 miles to go and some of it is uphill). Coach Roberto, one of the 2pm pair, made the great analogy that the last section of the marathon is like a “bad high school reunion,” because you start seeing lots of the same people you started with but they look terrible. The logistics session emphasized getting to the ferry at least 30-45 minutes early (great advice) and pumped me up for the therapy dogs in the start village (which I totally missed, alas). I stopped to pick up a pace wristband and asked one of the pace runners whether I should go aspirational or realistic; I ultimately took both a 5:00 and 5:15.

Our friend Harold met me mid-afternoon and we had a lot of fun exploring all the booths, from the slightly to the very bogus. After finding my name on the giant wall of runners, we started at the Bedgear outpost where there was a crazy cardboard tunnel to walk through that went from warm to cool. I tested a pillow which really did feel like it would stay cool longer (the salesperson assured us that the products are “technology-driven”). But the price? $199!!! The Michelob Ultra booth, which was gigantic, served actual beer (maybe not as terrible as most low-calorie beers, but I avoid them so hard to remember) and had the most confusing messaging: they are about the “future” where beer includes ingredients like cinnamon (?) and coconut oil (???) and is somehow related to running shoes and bicycles? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ We tried a bazillion recovery drinks and energy bars and I actually had a super-upset stomach that night and was really glad I went Friday and not Saturday! Ooh, I was trying to find out the name of the actually-delicious energy cookies and found the marketing materials which say that the expo creates “a forced flow of over 50,000 runners.” Hah. I loved every minute of it, though, and have a zillion stickers and multiple drawstring bags to show for it. It also says that 79% of runners made a purchase and that the median spend is $86. I got off easy: I did buy one thing, Race Dots, which the strategy  emphasis of “nothing new on race day!” convinced me not to try until a smaller-scale race (the next one for me is the “Give ‘Em the Bird” turkey trot). I was also super-tempted by Running Buddy and the Illumio jacket.

Marathons and other races from around the world had booths encouraging people to sign up. Harold and I were most interested in the Ottawa Race Weekend; J and I love Ottawa and as I recall Harold hasn’t been. The rep showed us the marathon course which goes along the Ottowa river and Rideau canal. I’ve biked most of it on a visit when I was training for a triathlon and got to stop and swim in the river, which was awesome. Unlike many cities with waterfronts (looking at you, Toronto!), Ottawa was smart enough to protect the whole water edge for public use, and it’s just gorgeous. I also randomly entered the drawing for a bib in the Marathon des Sables, an ultra with a little Burning Man thrown in (you have to carry all your water and food). Then we waited in a long line for a free photo on the cover of Runner’s World, for which I donned the shirt.

Saturday I had signed up for two free events at the NYRR RunCenter: a stretching class at 9:30 and an “inspiring stories” panel at 4. I walked through Central Park, gorgeous in the drizzle, and crossed the tail of the 5K Dash to the Finish. The class was Active Isolated Stretching, which I guess I’ve done some of without knowing what it was, and I discovered that my hips are really tight. I’ve just never been able to stick to any kind of stretching routine, and the instructor was reassuringly understanding and tolerant of that; I think my pseudo-Pilates routine does help, and in general I seem to do fine, so I’m not too worried. From there I went to the Museum of Art and Design, the American Folk Art Museum, and the American Museum of Natural History, before heading back down to the RunCenter. A three-museum day, hurray, but overall I probably walked quite a bit too much (3 miles was what the training schedule called for, and I did at least 7). The panel featured a guy who’s run 90+ marathons and is fundraising for pancreatic cancer, which his wife succumbed to; the founder of Fat Girl’s Guide to Running; and Wilfrin Fernandez-Cruz, a NYRR youth ambassador, along with his mother, and a surprise visit from Mikey Brannigan. It was inspiring as promised! I also used the time to write up my checklist for the morning:

  • Sunscreen and vaseline everywhere
  • Hat, bandana, phone fully charged
  • 2 wristbands: for poncho line (they emphasized you absolutely must have it to get your poncho) and 5:15 finish
  • Metrocard, ID, credit card, $20
  • 7 dates and 3 Rocktane gels
  • Baggie of extra vaseline
  • 2 ibuprofen

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