19 August 2006

The Rage of Achilles

Over the last week or so, I've developed an irritating soreness and tenderness in my heels. This is something I've never really experienced before, so I didn't really worry too much, figuring it was probably due to my old shoes and would quickly be remedied by running in the nice spongy-soled pair I got a week ago. But the heels are still giving me trouble, to the point where I'm doing this weird balancing-on-the-balls-of-the feet walk around the apartment. Of course, less resourceful runners would make an appointment with a doctor specializing in sports medicine or podiatry, but a dearth of resources (and a surfeit of time) led me to the internet to for additional self-diagnosis. Plantar fasciitis was quickly ruled out, and I soon arrived at the inescapable conclusion that I'm suffering from achilles tendonitis. Additional research confirmed the likelihood of this, but also prescribed extended rest for the afflicted body parts, something that's more or less out of the question given my obsessive need to keep running until such point that my legs actually fall off. More disturbingly, however, most of the websites I consulted (which are surely reputable and authoritative, right?) informed me that this condition will increase the probability of a ruptured achilles tendon, an injury usually described as excruciatingly painful and not unlike being smacked on the back of the ankle with a baseball bat wielded by a steroid-pumped Jason Giambi.

And while I'm remarkably capable of enduring chronic discomfort (be it in the form of sore hips, tired muscles, or hearing Jessica Simpson blaring from a car radio), I'm also particularly averse to acute pain (whether it's a root canal, a stubbed toe, or hearing Ashley Simpson blaring from a car radio), and thus want to avoid anything having to do with the achilles tendon.

What to do? Today, of course, is my regularly-scheduled day off, so it's no biggie for the time being, and I won't feel too guilty lounging around and catching up on my reading. But tomorrow's another story, and I'm really afraid that the obsessive side of my brain (see Tuesday's post for further explication) will once again win out -- meaning that I'm going to head out tomorrow only to end up writhing on the sidewalk somewhere, clutching that part of my leg where my achilles tendon once was before it snapped and coiled up inside my calf in a burst of blindingly coruscating pain.

Stay tuned. Meanwhile, take a gander at these outtakes from last week:

60th Street

Firehouse on 86th Street

More 60th Street

18 August 2006

Next: Pants that Indicate the Wind Speed

Friday 8/18: Borough Park, Sunset Park, & Bensonhurst

7.88 miles
Time: 1:00
Pace: 7:37
Temp: 74
Dewpoint: 66
Weather: mostly cloudy

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 7.75
Total Unique Miles: 269.66
Percent of Brooklyn Run:

Route: I started at McDonald and ran south on Bay Parkway to 59th, west to 19th Avenue, south a block to 60th, then west all the way to 2nd Avenue, down a block and then back on 61st Street to New Utrecht. I went south on New Utrecht to 71st, east to Avenue O (with a left-right jog on Bay Parkway) which turned into 24th Avenue, which I took to McDonald before finishing up by heading east on Avenue N, and south a few yards on Ocean Parkway before heading back west on Ryder and ending at McDonald.

Notes: It'd been a while since I'd been in Sunset Park or Borough Park, so that's where I went today. The humdity was up noticeably, at least judging by the quickness with which I sweated through my shirt, an indicator nearly as accurate as any hygrometer. Still, it was a pleasant and geographically uncomplicated run consisting mostly of a flattened loop taking me down toward the waterfront and back. And although it doesn't have quite the broad spectrum of varied housing and landscape that I witnessed yesterday in Canarsie, Sunset Park is another part of Brooklyn I really enjoy running in. I know it's a cliché to use the word "vibrant" to describe a neighborhood (a word that can also carry a tinge of ethnological imperialism), but the truth is that in my experience it's a very apt adjective -- whenever I've been there, I'm always impressed just by all the people out shopping, walking to work, buying fruit and vegetables, whatever. It just seems like there's always a lot going on, and I like that.

Anyway, I've been noticing a lot of suspicious looks when I've been taking pictures lately. I'm not sure if I'm simply becoming more self-conscious or if people are more wary given the recent terrorism-related news. I'd love to hear from any other NYC or Brooklyn photogs out there about their experiences in this realm, especially after reading about that one kid's expericence being detained by the NYPD after snapping some pictures on the A train while heading out to Rockaway. A cursory examination of the online evidence indicatess that both sides probably handled themselves pretty well, though the photographer in question seems to have gone a little overboard afterwards (I mean, cops stop people for things all the time, and he was let go after 15 minutes of questioning with his camera and pix intact), but as someone who travels all over the borough (by train and, obviously, on foot), I follow all of this with a certain interest. Opinions and observations welcome.

And speaking of pictures... here's today's installment. Have a great weekend.

Houses on 60th Street in Sunset Park

A vegetarian's dream on 60th...

...and a vegetarian's nightmare on 61st

Side of a house on 71st in Bensonhurst

Stoop on 61st

17 August 2006

And No, I'm Not on the Canarsie Tourism Board

Thursday 8/17: Canarsie & East New York

7.60 miles
Time: 1:00
Pace: 7:54
Temp: 74
Dewpoint: 60
Weather: sunny

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today:
Total Unique Miles:
Percent of Brooklyn Run:

Route: Starting at Livonia and Van Sinderen, I went south on Van Sinderen to Dewitt, east a block to Snediker, south to Stanley, west a block to 108th, south to Seaview, west to 102nd, south to Shore Parkway, west to Rockaway Parkway, and north to Schenk. Then I ran all of that little section west of Rockaway and south of Seaview (including Schenk, Skidmore, St. Jude, Seaview Court, and those couple of blocks of 91st, 92nd, 93rd, 95th, and Canarsie). Then I headed north on 92nd to Matthews, curving around and back onto Schenk, then west to 91st, north to Avenue M, east to 105th, and north to Farragut. I took the L home.

Notes: Canararsie, more than most of the neighborhoods I've seen, really seems to embody the contrasts of people, built environment, and natural landscape that make Brooklyn such a great place to run (and to live, for that matter). There are run-down, poorer areas, to be sure, but there are also very pleasant, tree-lined suburban-looking streets. There are the ubiquitous urban fixtures like bodegas and storefront churches, but you've also got the pier and the nature preserve alongside Fresh Creek (which, though it looked nice enough, didn't smell particularly fresh). A major highway like the Belt Parkway runs only a few blocks from alley-like residential streets barely wide enough to drive a car down (like Matthews and Schenk Places), and I saw folks of any number of various races and ethnicities walking to work or sweeping their sidewalks or just hanging out on their stoops. And the bulldogs all have rubber teeth, and the hens lay hard-boiled eggs... Alright, so it's not quite the Big Rock Candy Mountain. But Canarsie does seem to be a quintessentially Brooklyn place, at least based on my little forays into the various corners of the borough. And that's not so bad.

That said, it wasn't my best day for pictures -- maybe I was too wrapped up in thought to really notice everything. So, my apologies for a weak crop this morning:

Starrett City, from the Canarsie side of Fresh Creek

Rockaway Parkway

96th Street

92nd Street

16 August 2006

Systematic Practicality/Practical Systematicism

Wednesday, 8/16: Gravesend & Bath Beach

9.33 miles
Time: 1:15
Pace: 8:02
Temp: 71
Dewpoint: 58
Weather: sunny

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 7.94
Total Unique Miles:
Percent of Brooklyn Run:

Route: I started at McDonald and 86th, headed west on 86th to Bay 32nd Street, then up and down Bay 32nd, 23rd Ave, Bay 34th, Bay 35th, and 24th Avenue between 86th and Cropsey. Then I headed down to Shore Road, went west to the dead end and then east to Bay 50th, and then headed back west, doing the back and forth between Shore Road and Harway to fill in all the streets back to Bay 37th. Then I ran back east on Harway to Stillwell, up to Avenue X, east to W. 8th Street, north back to 86th, east to 7th (which then turns into Boynton) and then back to Avenue x, before heading south on Shell to Avenue Y.

Notes: Today's run was another in what's becoming a regular, weekly series of very calculated attempts to fill in small but complete swaths of neighborhoods by pursuing routes that are very systematic and ordered. I know they've got to be done -- and as I move forward, they will, by necessity, comprise an increasingly larger portion of my overall mileage -- but the truth is that these runs are kind of boring. Not because I didn't like the neighborhood (it was fine), or that there was nothing to see (there was plenty), but simply because of the inherent tedium involved in going up one street for a few blocks and then down another, over and over and over. Not only that, but it's a real pain to figure out the unique miles. Not hard, of course, but tedious -- these back-and-forth routes inevitably require me to run some of the same stretches more than once, and I've got to separate those out when I'm calculating the mileage.

Yeah, I know. It was a beautiful morning and I'm healthy and I don't even have a job (I'm living off a small fellowship this summer while I work on my research and writing), so I probably shouldn't be complaining too loudly. Maybe it'd be wisest to just quit here, and offer up today's photos:

Amusement ride rental place on 86th Street

At the dead end of Shore Road

Cropsey Avenue

Pedestrian bridge over the Belt Parkway, near 27th Ave

Shell Road

15 August 2006

I Ran 63 Miles in 8 Days and Boy, Does My Brain Hurt

Most of us are familiar with the idea that the human brain is composed of left and right hemispheres, with the former acting as the center of reasoning and logic while the latter is responsible for creativity and non-verbal thought. Sometimes, though, I'm convinced that my own gray matter (perhaps as a result of suspect genetics or a pronounced childhood clumsiness that left me with repeated knocks on the head) is instead divided into one side devoted completely to obsessive behavior, and an opposing lobe ostensibly dedicated to basic self-preservation but more typically given to making me feel guilty when I don't capitulate to the first one. Joining these two halves, of course, is an ineffective and short-circuited corpus callosum, which gamely attempts to negotiate some form of neurological detente between the warring factions before typically caving in and conceding advantage to the obsessive side. But from time to time self-preservation actually wins, and the almost irrepressible urge to engage in things like, say, running every street in Brooklyn is quieted, at least for a day.

And this, it seems, is one of those days. I went to bed last night fully counting on a run this morning, and was up drinking my tea and poring over my big map well before sunrise. But soon -- almost imperceptibly, at first, but then with increasing urgency -- I became aware of the pain in my heels and the aches in my thighs and an overall lack of energy, sure signs that I might be overdoing things a bit. Zombielike, and not fully believing the physiological evidence marshalled by the self-preserving side of my brain, I checked the official Runs Brooklyn spreadsheet and discovered that during the eight-day stretch from August 6 to August 13, I completed six runs for a total of over 63 miles. 63 miles! That number startled even the normally skeptical obsessive hemisphere, since I don't think I've ever run that much in an 8-day period before, not even in the midst of marathon training. After a brief internal negotiation, both sides agreed -- I should take another day off. And so here I am, dolefully gazing out my window at the streets below like a schoolboy forced to do his math homework while the neighbor kids are outside playing kickball.

Hopefully, I'll feel my usual energetic self tomorrow, and will be ready to head out and get in an quick eight or nine miles. But I'll take it easy today -- physically, at least. Because among all my ongoing intra-cranial skirmishes, perhaps the biggest winner this time around is that little cluster of neurons buried deep within my head that impels me to work on my dissertation, and so that's what I'm going to do today. And with an extra couple of hours now, maybe I'll actually make some progress. We'll see.

For your enjoyment, here are some photographic leftovers from those 63 miles:

Top of the old Loew's Pitkin Theater in Brownsville

House on E. 18th Street in Sheepshead Bay

14 August 2006

Special Monday "Musings on Greenpoint and My Own Lost Youth" Edition

Well, we've been in the new apartment for a couple of weeks now, long enough to begin to get a feel for both the place itself and the neighborhood as a whole. I guess I'm pretty content so far, too -- as noted previously the apartment has an appealing view of Manhattan (I took the picture on the left here last night), and the neighbors seem to be pleasant and quiet. Living above a main thoroughfare, however, makes things a bit louder. Street noise -- trucks, car alarms, people hollering -- is a constant (and not, of course, unexpected), though I'd imagine it'll be less noticeable in the cooler weather when we keep the windows closed. In any event, I'm kind of getting used to it. But I like the neighborhood, although because I don't speak Polish I'm not sure what half the signs and storefronts say. I was thinking, though, of picking up a Polish phrasebook (a little one, like a tourist would buy before a trip to Warsaw or something), and maybe trying to learn a few words. You know, so I could impress the nice girls down at the donut shop when I order an iced coffee or whatever.

Speaking of local stuff, we never did get to see the music at McCarren Park last night. After errands and putting away groceries and eating leftover chana masala for dinner, we walked the few blocks down to the park, but apparently just missed the concert. Instead, we were greeted by a tsunami of hipsters, as if some mad scientist with a huge cloning machine tucked away inside the McCarren Park pool was turning loose an unholy army of slim twenty-somethings clad in chunky glasses, ironic t-shirts and artfully tousled hair. Oh well. It was a beautiful evening and the people-watching was great as we circumambulated the outskirts of the park, and I was eventually able to relive my own younger, hipper days once we returned home by popping in the DVD of We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen, which arrived just the other day via Netflix. They were one of my favorite bands when I was younger, and it's a pretty good documentary, but watching it made me feel really old -- especially when I realized that it's been over twenty years now since D. Boon (the band's singer and guitarist) died in an automobile accident. Wow.

Oh well. I'm taking today off from running, but using the extra time to jump back into full-time dissertation-writing mode after goofing off for several weeks. In any event I'll be back on the road tomorrow. Meanwhile, here are some more pictures from last week. Hope you enjoy them.

At a playground on Avenue V

Broadway, Bushwick

Empty lot on Dumont Avenue, Brownsville

13 August 2006

Dead Ends and Water Views

Sunday 8/13: Gravesend, Sheepshead Bay, & Gerritsen Beach

12.03 miles
Time: 1:35
Pace: 7:54
Temp: 68
Dewpoint: 50
Weather: sunny

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 11.49
Total Unique Miles:
Percent of Brooklyn Run:

Route: I began today at McDonald and Avenue U, then east on Avenue U to E. 18th Street, south to Voorhies, east a block to E. 19th, back up to Avenue U, east to Ocean Ave, back down to Voorhies, over a block to E. 21st, north to Avenue U, east to Nostrand, south to Avenue X, east to Bragg, south a block to Avenue Y and then back up to Avenue X on Brigham, east to Knapp, north to Whitney, and east again to Plumb 1st Street. Then I ran a couple of dead end streets (Garland, and a piece of Fane) before heading south on Ebony to Bijou, over a block to Dictum, south to Florence, west to Fane, south to Gotham, west to the dead end and then back east to Gerritsen. Finally I went north back to Florence, west to Celest, north to Bijou, west to Dictum again, and then north, continuing onto Plumb 2nd and heading west on Whitney, then north on Plumb 1st, up a block on Gerritesen to Avenue V, west on Avenue V to E. 15th, north to Avenue S, west to E. 2nd, north to Avenue P, and then west a block to McDonald. Whew.

Notes: Today's venture was another one of those pretty average runs, with neither the pulse-quickening sense of danger that accompanies my forays into the rougher neighborhoods nor the tedium of the completely suburban-style residential ones. I took a pretty circuitous route through an area in the southern reaches of the borough, partly out of boredom and partly to more assiduously approach the task of filling in some of my map in a more systematic manner. This is because, I'm beginning to realize, following more or less random routes will eventually lead to a substantial number of little unran "islands," which will necessitate a lot of non-unique miles (and some pretty accurate record-keeping) to fill in. I'm getting a headache just thinking about it. So from here on out I'll try to mix up the more "exploratory" runs with the more cartographically purposeful ones. Regardless, the weather was nearly perfect for this time of the year, and I was, of course, delighted to be running in a nice, cushy new pair of shoes.

In non-running news I went to see Mozart's opera Zaide last night at the Rose Theater (which is in an upscale shopping mall on Columbus Circle) It was a Peter Sellars production, so the story of a grumpy Muslim imprisoning a sweet young couple was, naturally, updated to take place in a modern-day sweatshop where workers slept under sewing machines. Zaide was one of the composer's unfinished works, so it's rarely performed, and for this reason alone it was great to see it (and the music was mostly wonderful, too). However, it was originally a singspiel (meaning it had spoken lines between the songs) but over the centuries the dialog was lost, meaning that the singers just kind of hammed it up with exaggerated pantomime to move the story along. Whatever. I liked it. And speaking of music, I was thinking of heading down to McCarren Park for the free concert with Deerhoof and Beirut. I am, after all, a man of eclectic tastes.

Blah, blah, blah. I'm going to take a nap. Behold, today's photos:

Not sure what to make of this one (E. 19th Street)

A beach, of sorts, on Shell Bank Creek (Off Knapp Street)

Avenue U

Side of a restaurant on Bijou Avenue

Ominous signage at the foot of Gotham Avenue in Gerritsen Beach