October 29, 2006, 5 a.m. - 8 a.m.
5 a.m. I woke up too early. So I went to the blogs. That is an easy way to kill some time and calm the nerves.
530 The marathon valet had done everything right for me. My layer-heavy wardrobe was laid out in perfect donning order: Shorts. West Point Army tech shirt. Socks. Kayanos with MCM ChampionChip attached. Disposable long sleeve cotton T-shirt. Army PT warm up uniform (black ankle-zippered pants and gray jacket with underarm zipper vents and light reflective striping). Breathable cap. Throw away gloves.
Applied body glide where it mattered. Loaded up with Gu in shorts hip pockets, sports beans in shorts waistband pocket, camera in zippered jacket pocket, $10 bill and debit card in other pocket and cell phone in pants pocket. Ready for breakfast.
600. Tiptoe downstairs for early morning breakfast party with my hosts' cat. I go for the toasted bagel and OJ. He goes for something really fish smelling that I stay away from. I study maps. I have two places to be this morning and am worried about how it will all work out. Just how far is Place A from Place B and how long will it take to get there among 30,000 or more people in a place I've never been to?
618. Knock on hosts bedroom door and hear him stir. The 15 minute warning for departure. That's all he asked for and all he needed. I finish eating and take a picture of me and the cat having breakfast together.
635. We're on our way. Gil knows the roads and manages to find a roundabout way to get past closed off roads on the marathon route to get me within 200 yards of the Iwo Jima Memorial.
655. Marines are everywhere sipping coffee, going over their briefing, checking gear, looking very ready for the day. I found it curious how many were officers. Lots of LTs. There was hardly a sergeant or corporal anywhere. I even saw a two star general walking around.
So where is Jeanne and the Charity Village? That is mission #1 for me.
It's downright nippy out. I'm shivering. Is it nerves or the chill? I presume the latter. I find the Autism tent and, voila, Miss Get Me To The Church Way Before It's Time is already there ready to go; or rather wishing she could go.
Here's somebody I've known for a year but only met in person 36 hours before and she's hinting as how the nature call has not happened today. I get the message loud and clear and express genuine concern; because I know the difference between running free with an empty load and wishing you could stop the clock and sit on the throne for however long it takes.
715. I grab a water bottle from the tent and check out the other charity runners getting ready. The T.A.P.S. folks are across the way. They are all running in memory of fallen military men and women. I pause to contemplate my good fortune that son T made it through seven months in Iraq.
Jeanne and I wander off to get a cup of coffee on the premise that caffeine has a motivating effect. She sips. I taste. It's Marines field quality mud and I endorse its chance of success for her.
We notice what Jeanne describes as Marines snipers up in a tall tower. I only saw them using binoculars but I was not going to argue with her on that.
720. We are waiting on Richie and Bex. We call Richie. Can you believe he was still in the hotel? He wouldn't believe us when we told him he had 55 minutes to get his butt to the starting line. Jeanne takes all the credit for his making it to the start on time.
Bex is en route but late. We sit in plastic chairs sedately, soaking up the warm rising sun. I am happy to be here where the crowds are thinner and everybody has a friend.
740. Okay Rich is out. Bex is closer but nowhere in sight. Jeanne has come back from an uneventful trip to the port-a-potties. The snipers haven't shot anybody and lots of folks are starting to head down to the start line. I chat with a few Autism benefit runners.
Why am I still here? I still have Mission #2 to accomplish. I call Michelle to see where she is. Approaching the start. I tell her to find a landmark and I'll call her when I get close so we can find each other. I hang up and cuss to myself because the valet failed to charge the cell phone the night before and I am down to one bar. I may need more juice than I have to connect with Michelle now and my host later, after the race. Air time is precious.
750. I take a picture of me and Jeanne from close range just before I say "it's time to go; Bex be damned." She agrees and we start heading down the hill that will be the Iwo Jima mountain for all of us when we finish the last .2 miles of the marathon.
800. We are approaching the front of the double inflatable Marine Corps arch start line. The noise is building. I need to find Michelle so call to get a fix on her location. Near Ambulance 14 on the west side of the road. Roger that.