As I post this, it is marathon eve! All the training leading up to last year’s qualifier and the training that started just after Christmas, has led me to this point! All that is left to do is run the thing – which of course will be a subject for another post!
But before that, wouldn’t you like to hear about my first week in the States? Of course you would!
It started with an epic 34 hour journey – a 3am alarm, a 4am taxi and a flight that ended up leaving around 7am from Adelaide. I was lucky enough to get one of the ‘extra legroom’ seats at no extra cost!
That was the short flight, only around 9 hours. Then came the big one, 16 hours from Hong Kong to JFK (with only a few hours stopover in Hong Kong). No extra legroom this time but I was on the aisle in the middle set of 3 seats, with no-one in the middle seat. So while I couldn’t stretch out, I could both get up and move around as I pleased, AND sleep without a neighbour needing to disturb me. And I did manage to catch a few Z’s on that flight too!
Because I was using a shared shuttle, and I was the last to get dropped off, it was nearly midnight by the time I got to my hostel – the Blue Moon Hotel on the Lower East Side.
All my roommates were asleep so I had to somehow find my bed in the dark (top bunk – not my preferred choice but any bed was good at this point!)
The next morning I took the subway to Central Park for a much needed leg loosener! Unsurprisingly I wasn’t the only one that had that idea! It is an extremely popular spot for runners, and with good reason. I just had to negotiate my way around all of the tourists! (Maybe early morning would have been better, but there was no way I was setting an alarm that day!)
After that I found an awesome cafe across the road from the hostel and had some amazing avocado toast and good coffee (and learning that ‘Americano’ is what they call a long black here!!)
I then spent most of the rest of the day checking out the neighbourhood which was really cool. Busy, yes – it is New York after all – but not crawling with tourists like Times Square! Lots of cool street art too!
I even found a restaurant with my name on it but I didn’t go in as it didn’t look very vegan-friendly!
That night I went to a comedy club – UCBT – which was within walking distance. The show was only $8 and it was a bit of fun – it is a monthly event called ‘Channel 101’ and people can submit clips of up to 5 minutes of their own comedy show, the judging panel narrows the field down to 10, and those are voted on by the audience at a live screening. The top 5 then get to be part of next month’s screening, with a new episode. It was pretty cool – in the end 4 of the 5 shows that I voted for, were in the top 5!
On Wednesday I found the vegan bakery! Erin McKenna’s Bakery, once again, JUST around the corner! Did I mention how much I like this area? I had a donut which was delicious (if a little sticky) and then made my way to the Port Authority Bus Terminal to take a bus to Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut. It was quite a long trip – I didn’t arrive until 4pm and I hadn’t thought to pack a lunch! I had an apple and a granola bar in my bag and at the last minute I bought a bag of chips from a vending machine at the station. But that wasn’t exactly enough!
The reason for my trip to Mohegan Sun was not to visit one of the largest casinos in the world (impressive though it is – I do have a few nights in Vegas coming up so I should get my fair share of casinos!) but instead to see the legendary Def Leppard live. 25 years ago I wanted to see them when they came to Adelaide but my mum wouldn’t let me (and I do still remind her of this on occasions!). On one of their more recent Australian tours I happened to be inconveniently overseas. I had tickets to see them during their Vegas stint in 2013 but ended up cancelling that trip altogether. Then I heard they were doing a North American tour and thought – can I make this work? Mohegan Sun was the only date that fit with my travel plans (everything was already booked) even if it meant missing the best part of 2 days in New York. And I did have to wake up at 1:30am to book tickets as soon as they went on sale – no way was I missing this!
So anyway, on arrival at the casino I found the shuttle to my hotel, checked in, literally dumped my bag, got changed, and went back downstairs to get the shuttle back to the casino – I needed to find food, stat! I had been Googling using the free wifi on the bus, for vegan options at Mohegan Sun, but hadn’t found anything. I’m sure I could have got something at one of the restaurants but I just wanted something quick. So sweet potato fries it was! Followed by my first experience of Ben and Jerry’s vegan icecream – PB and cookies! So good! Australia NEEDS this!
I had a bit of a wander around the shops and hung out for a while at the record store which was playing a live DVD from the most recent Leppard tour – SO GOOD!
I entered the arena after the first band, Tesla, had already started. I’d heard of them but I don’t think they were very big in Australia. I am a big fan of the guy they’re named after, and electric cars are pretty cool too! I only knew one of their songs (and that was a cover!) but they sounded pretty tight.
My seat was good too – despite being in the second to back row, I had an excellent view. I genuinely believe there is not a bad seat in that arena! (Later on I was seriously wishing I was up the front – but I’m pretty sure VIP tickets were not in the budget!)
Next up was Poison – I wasn’t expecting to know many of their songs but they only played for about an hour and I actually knew all of the songs because it was exclusively old stuff! They really got the crowd going and sounded great!
Then it was time for the main event. I don’t want to go on too much about this but it really was one of the best concerts (if not THE best) I’ve ever been to. I always wonder how hard it must be for a band that’s been around for a long time, to come up with a set list – so many good songs, how do you choose? There will always be a few mandatory songs but there will always be good songs that get missed. And when the band is still recording excellent music even now, how much new stuff do you play and how much of the old favourites? Well I reckon they got it pretty spot on – not surprisingly the set was heavy on old stuff but still with a few tracks from the latest album which, while probably not as well received as the classics, sat very comfortably among them.
Apart from the fact that they make damn good music, one of the things I love about this band is how they’ve kept going after some pretty serious shit! And they are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year – coincidentally, so am I!
Not to mention, musically I love their sound – those delicious harmonies, and the way that every member of the band is equal up there and gets their share of the spotlight, unlike some bands where it’s all about the lead singer and guitarist!
I hope they manage to find their way back to Australia sometime and when they do I will certainly be giving VIP seats SERIOUS consideration!
It took a while for us all to get out of the arena (it was a capacity crowd of 10 000) and even longer for me to find my way out of the casino to the shuttle bus pickup point!
Then it was back to the hotel and a night in my own room – luxury!
Breakfast in the morning was a buffet and finding vegan options was a bit of a challenge so peanut butter on toast and cereal with almond milk it was! At least that would tide me over until I got back to NYC!
Then came me almost missing my bus back to New York. It wasn’t my fault, the concierge had told me the night before that I could just call a cab in the morning and it would come pretty quickly. But when I rang I was told that there was only one cab company in town and 2 of the 3 drivers had called in sick, so I couldn’t get picked up until 1:30. Which wasn’t particularly useful given that my bus was leaving the casino at 10! Luckily it wasn’t that far, as my only option was to walk! I made it with 3 minutes to spare but as it turned out the bus was about 15 minutes late, so I made it with plenty of time in the end.
I got lunch (a ‘tuna’ salad) from the vegan grocer Orchard Grocer down the road from the hotel on Orchard St and then went next door to vegan shoe store Mooshoes – I did buy a couple of things but the main attraction for me was the cat Marlowe who hangs out on the fron counter (in a shoe box, of course!)
He’s famous too – he features in the book ‘Shop Cats of New York‘!
Next up was a very pleasant walk across the Williamsburg Bridge (the views were magnificent but the bars made it impossible to take any decent photos!) to Williamsburg in Brooklyn where I found more street art and a motorcycle/coffee shop with my name on it!
Then I grabbed some DELICIOUS vegan sushi from Hana on Rivington St and headed off to see an off-Broadway show – Avenue Q. Highly recommended! (Tip – todaytix.com is a good website to find cheap tix on the day or a few days beforehand!)
Friday morning I went for my last run before the marathon, across the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. It was not a particularly cohesive run what with all the photo stops!
After that I took the train to Brooklyn. I notice that the train stations in NYC are almost like art galleries – lots of awesome mosaic work! And on the Brooklyn side some cool glass panels!
The main reason for going to Brooklyn was to check out brand new avocado bar Avocaderia, which 2 of my Adelaide friends had alerted me to the previous night.
I then went for a walk to Sunset Park – very much a local park. Not one for the tourists but pretty amazing views across to Manhattan!
I had one more vegan spot to check out – Dun-Well Doughnuts in the East Village.
And some more cool mosaics!
My last tourist stop for the day was Wall Street where I wanted to see the temporary ‘Fearless Girl‘ sculpture, staring down the famous bull.
Then it was off to Broadway for another show – Noel Coward’s ‘Present Laughter’ starring Kevin Kline and also featuring Cobie Smulders (best known for playing Robin on ‘How I Met Your Mother’) – an EXCELLENT show.
So that was it for New York – Saturday morning I caught the Greyhound to Boston. First stop was my AirBNB in Cambridge (a lovely spot!) to drop off my bags before heading out for coffee and lunch at the highly recommended Veggie Galaxy!
Next up was a trip to Fenway Park to see the Red Sox play – it was a great game which the Sox won 2-1. It happened to be Jackie Robinson day – the 70th anniversary of the first African-American player in the Major League, so all players on both teams were wearing Robinson’s number, 42. Which was a tad confising for this foreigner at first until I worked it out! It was also the 4th anniversary of the Boston bombings – marked with a moment of reflection at the time the first bomb had gone off, 4 years earlier. So a very significant day all around!
The atmosphere was fantastic – the whole crowd sang along to ‘Sweet Caroline’ with the mascot egging us all on!
Sunday was nothing but Expo Day. I got up late and went across the road to the local brewery/coffee shop (for a coffee, in case you were wondering!) before jumping on the bus to the expo.
But first, the finish line…
Got to the expo and collected my race number and my finisher shirt (which I tried on for size and promptly put it back in the bag – I was surprised by how many people were wandering around the expo in their shirts! Don’t they know it’s bad luck?)
The next few hours (I think it was 3 – totally lost track of time!) I wandered through the expo and I don’t want to think about how much money I spent but it was all stuff I needed (isn’t it always?) WOW that place is overwhelming! My main dilemma was whether to get the small or medium Celebration jacket. After much deliberation and consultation I went with the latter!
I wrote my name on the wall – lucky I’m tall because the only real spaces were at the top. Extended periods of times standing on your toes are good for you the day before a marathon, right?
I didn’t expect to see a swimming pool – that you could actually try out!
I also watched about the last 6 miles of a video of the course which was on a loop! The last 6 miles was enough for me!
Aaand I finally made it out of the expo with only 2 T-shirts, the aforementioned jacket, a hoodie, 2 pairs of calf sleeves, a running light, a bunch of Clif bars, a bumper sticker and a new pair of runners (not the Boston special ones, just my regular ones which were RIDICULOUSLY cheap compared to back home!)
So now it’s time to head back to Cambridge, make sure I’m all sorted for the morning, and go get me a pizza and cider as per tradition!