02 September 2006

The Things I Carried

I'm used to running with as few accessories as possible, since I've generally adhered to the maxim "the less you carry, the farther you can go." But with this Brooklyn thing, I've had to incorporate a bag (a waistpack, to be specific) in order to hold my little digital camera. But nature does indeed abhor a vacuum, and the empty spaces of my bag are no exception. I keep a lot more than just a camera with me on my runs now, and I'm kind of getting used to them. So today, as I watch the wind-driven rain pelt my window (and since I'm completely bereft of any deeper insight or thought at the moment), I'm dedicating today's post to, yes, the contents of my bag.

The bag has two compartments, a main one (it rides closer to my body) and a smaller, outer one. I keep the camera in the outer part, since it's smaller and holds the camera more snugly, and because it's easier to gain quick access. In the larger compartment, though, I've been carrying the following:
  • an unlimited-ride MetroCard
  • two dollars (for a post run Gatorade or to placate aggressive panhandlers)
  • my house keys
  • a single, folded paper towel (emergency TP -- the real stuff disintegrates)
  • a hand-made map detailing the day's route
  • articles from the New Yorker or Harper's
  • two AA batteries (spares for the camera)
The articles are for reading on the subway (or waiting for it). These two magazines work well, since they typically have good writing and run long pieces. I'll take one or two articles, rip them out, staple them together, and fold the whole thing into quarters. It then fits perfectly in the larger compartment, but takes up little room and weighs almost nothing.

The map (the picture up top is my map from Friday's run, and on most screens will probably be pretty close to actual size) is about 1.75 x 2.5 inches. I make one each day, using a piece of 5 x 7 note paper, folded into eighths. I include an outline of the route, the street names, the subway stops I'm planning on using, cross streets, any points of interest I want to see, and mile markers, so I can figure my pace. When I'm done writing on it, I wrap it in clear packing tape, which makes it stiffer (and thus easier to hold on to) and water-resistant (an important consideration, given how much I typically perspire). I usually keep it in my hand while I'm running, of course, though it goes in the bag while I'm on the train.

Fascinating, to be sure. I'm hoping the weather improves enough that I can get at least 10 miles in tomorrow, but regardless, here's an extra picture from last week:

Sparkly laundromat, 16th Street

01 September 2006

Quentin Road, Rockin' Ray's Car, and a Rainy Forecast

Friday 9/1: Marine Park, Flatlands, Bergen Beach

9.94 miles
Time: 1:15
Pace: 7:33
Temp: 65
Dewpoint: 56
Weather: mostly cloudy

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 9.53
Total Unique Miles:
Percent of Brooklyn Run:

Route: This one began at E. 16th and Quentin. I went east on Quentin to 32nd, south to Avenue S, east to 33rd, south to Avenue U, east a block to 34th and then north to Avenue R, east another block to 35th and back down to Avenue U, over to 36th and then back up to Quentin, east to Flatbush Avenue and then south to Avenue S, east on Avenue S to E. 55th, down a block to Avenue U, over to E. 56th and up to Avenue T, backtracking just a bit to E. 55th again but then going north to Avenue M, east to E. 59th, then back to E. 58th and north to Avenue L. I then went east again to Bergen Avenue, north to Avenue K, and then back west to Troy, south to Avenue P, and then west to where Avenue P runs into Kings Highway, which I took a few more blocks, ending at E. 13th.

Notes: Like yesterday, the cooler air and breezy conditions made today feel somewhat fall-like, something I'm not particularly averse to. So to finish off the regular running week I opted for a slightly longer (about 10-mile) run today, since I knew I'd be taking tomorrow off. Yes, everything still hurts (especially my heels and hamstrings), but I can ignore aches and pains a little better when there's an off day around the corner. Furthermore, the remnants of tropical storm Ernesto are slated to dampen the weekend considerably, and while I don't much mind running in a light rain, I'll probably take Sunday off, too, if it's really coming down.

Anyway, the run today was fine. Bouncing back to the southeastern reaches of the borough, I made a big loop through mostly residential areas with an abundance of attached brick homes and shady streets. Some of the other areas, though, had a nice variety of visually stimulating businesses and buildings, with Quentin Road in Flatlands offering up an especially rich variety of photographic subjects -- like the door to the boxing club run by someone known as Rockin' Ray, as well as his car, which was parked outside (I have no idea who he is, but I'd imagine he's something of a character). All in all a perfectly fine outing, and one which brings me to just under 20 percent of Brooklyn run. Which is hard to believe, since it seems like I just began this whole thing not that long ago. At this rate, I might be close to 50 percent by year's end! Or, of course, I could be in physical therapy, learning to walk again after major surgery on my legs. Yet another reason to stay tuned and follow my exploits.

As always, a selection of today's photos, for your viewing pleasure:

Avenue P

Houses along E. 32nd Street

Colorful door to Rockin' Ray's boxing school on Quentin Road...

... and his car, which was parked just down the street

Flatbush Avenue, near Avenue P (check out the old phone number)

31 August 2006

A Hint of Autumn on the Last Day of August

Wednesday 8/31: Bay Ridge

Distance: 7.78 miles
Time: 1:00
Pace: 7:43
Temp: 63
Dewpoint: 49
Weather: mostly cloudy, windy

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 7.19
Total Unique Miles: 337.78
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 19.39

Route: I began at 5th Avenue and 95th Street, went west on 95th to Marine, down to 99th (including the dead-end part of 98th), over to Shore Road (with Harbor Court in there too), east to 3rd Avenue, north to 74th, east to 5th Avenue, south back to 96th, west to Marine, down a block and then east on 97th, west on Marine to 3rd Avenue, south a block to 99th, back over to 5th Aveune, south to 100th, west back to 3rd Avenue and south to 101st, east to Fort Hamilton Parkway, north to 92nd, east a block to Gatling, and then north to 86th and west to 6th Avenue. I then ran north on 6th Avenue to Bay Ridge Parkway (including the little dead-end portions of 84th and 85th Streets), went west to 4th Avenue, south a block to 76th, east to 7th Avenue, south one more block to 77th, and then west back to 4th Ave.

Notes: Following my newly-minted Plan to Run the Southern Reaches of Brooklyn, I moved on from Canarsie in the southeast to Bay Ridge in the southwest part of the borough. It was great running weather, too -- it was only 63 when I got up this morning, with low humidity. Moreover, I actually saw the sun today (through some thin clouds), which is probably the first time in a week. (As noted in this space previously, I really don't mind overcast conditions or even running in the rain. My interest in the sun being out is purely in the interest of getting better photographs, of course.)

In any event, Bay Ridge was pretty much how I remembered it from the last time I was down there. Small businesses (including lots of restaurants, bars, delis) line the avenues running north-south, with some very nice houses and apartment buildings on the streets running east-west. And looming over everything (visible from a good swath of the neighborhood) are the towers of the Verazzano-Narrows Bridge. Some of the streets I ran today (including parts of Bay Ridge Parkway and 76th Street) were lined with especially handsome, well-kept limestone rowhouses and beautiful shade trees, and none of it was unpleasant. With the cool, dry breeze pushing a few dried leaves across the sidewalks and the faint, mottled sunlight, it almost felt like fall. I can't wait for the real thing.

Today's photos:

96th Street off of 3rd Avenue

Looking south on 5th Avenue

Under the Gowanus Expressway

3rd Avenue

Looking west on Bay Ridge Parkway

30 August 2006

Different Neighborhood, Same Weather

Wednesday 8/30: Canarsie

7.99 miles
Time: 1:00
Pace: 7:31
Temp: 66
Dewpoint: 62
Weather: cloudy, showers

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 7.55
Total Unique Miles:
Percent of Brooklyn Run:

Route: I started at Glenwood and 98th, went south on 98th to Seaview, east a block to 99th and back up to Flatlands, east another block to 100th, south to Trucklemans, west to Rockaway Parkway, north back to Flatlands, west to 91st, and south to Seaview again, with little one-block jaunts out and back on Avenue N and Seaview itseld (both between 91st and 92nd). Then it was west on Seaview to Paerdegat, north to Flatlands, west a block then doubling back and heading on east to 80th before running north to Foster, east to Remsen, south to Glenwood, west to 89th, south to Church, east to 91st, back a block on 91st to Remsen, and finishing by going north to Conklin and then east to

Notes: Another gloomy start to the day. Over the last several runs, it seems, I've been dodging rain showers and trying to coax halfway useful pictures from my digital camera, which, as mentioned previously, really doesn't like low-light conditions. And with the sun rising later each day and low, dark clouds absorbing much of the natural light, this is pretty much what I'll be dealing with. And, after predictions of a glorious rest of the week as recently as yesterday morning, the forecast now calls for more overcast conditions, wind, and intermittent rain as the remnants of tropical storm Ernesto make their way up the coast.

Today I headed back to Canarsie, a neighborhood I'm on the record as being quite fond of. Moreover, it's one of the areas I'm specifically working on now, and hope to have run all of by the middle of the fall. I know I've talked about my desire to run a lot of the southern reaches of the borough (with their long train rides) while it's still warm out, but I've finally devised something of a real plan. I've arbitrarily drawn a line across Brooklyn, essentially from 65th Street in Bay Ridge over to Avenue P on the Midwood/Sheepshead Bay line and following Flatlands Avenue all the way up through Canarsie to East New York:

My plan is to systematically cover as much of the area below the red line as I can over the next two or three months. Ignoring the rest of the borough might make for some more boring runs now, but I think I'll be thanking myself in the winter, when I'm working on neighborhoods that are much closer (and don't entail waiting for trains on outdoor platforms). Of course, this may be one of these things that sounds great in theory and isn't really practical in real life, but I'm willing to give it a shot.

And as I close in on the 20% of Brooklyn run mark, I feel confident enough to unveil another newly-hatched plan: After I hit the 25% level (which should be around the third week of September or so) and again after reaching the 50% and 75% plateaus, I'm going to take a week off from running, to give my body at least some chance of recuperating. A week! You heard it here first...

As for today's run, it was nothing out of the ordinary -- some residential areas with unattached single-family homes, some with row houses, a good number of typical small businesses, and some industrial areas to the north, up by Foster. One interesting thing, I guess, was the strip of undeveloped land to the west of Paerdegat Avenue, which was thick with trees and lush with other plants. Anyway,I still like Canarsie, but I think I like it better without the puddles, dampness, and steady drizzle.

And regarding photos, here's the best of another mostly poorly-illuminated and somewhat blurry batch:

Flatlands Avenue

Also on Flatlands Ave.

Corner of 80th and Foster

Sebago Canoe Club entrance on Paerdegat Avenue

Church between 91st and 92nd Streets

29 August 2006

Déjà Vu All Over Again

Tuesday 8/29: Gravesend, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights

9.27 miles
Time: 1:10
Pace: 7:33
Temp: 69
Dewpoint: 66
Weather: cloudy, showers

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 8.52
Total Unique Miles:
Percent of Brooklyn Run:

Route: I started at McDonald and Avenue P, went south to Quentin, west to where it dead-ends at the subway tracks, around to the other side (via 7th and 8th), and on to 78th, west a block to Bay Parkway, south to 79th, and west all the way to 7th Avenue, then over the highway to Fort Hamilton Parkway, down a couple of blocks and then back over the highway on 82nd, north to 80th, and then back east on 80th to Bay Parkway. Then I went up a block to 79th, east to Stillwell, south to Highlawn, east to 3rd, north to Kings Highway, east to Van Sicklen, south to Avenue S (with a little side trip out and back on Lloyd), west back to 3rd, north to 65th, west to Bay Parkway, up a block to 64th, east to Dahill, south a block to 65th and then doubling back up to Avenue O. I finished by heading east to McDonald, south to Quentin, and east to E. 4th.

Notes: Today I revisited the same areas I was in on Sunday, for no particular reason other than to maintain my air of mystery and intrigue. Or maybe it was that, when planning my route early this morning, the radar map showed heavy rain a couple of hours away, and so, in my rush to get out the door, I just figured it would be easy to re-run the same neighborhoods (though on different streets, of course). That way I didn't have to figure out which subway to take or do any more elaborate preparation.

Whatever. I beat the rain, though not by much. In terms of where I was and what I saw, it was pretty typical of these neighborhoods, and was (not surprisingly) very similar to Sunday's run. Blah blah blah. Apparently I'm temporarily incapable of any additional insight at the moment, so I'll proceed directly to the photographic segment of today's program:

Yeshiva of Bensonhurst, on 79th Street

New Utrecht High School, off of 79th Street

I'm a sucker for opera-themed businesses (Stillwell Ave)

Obligatory urban decay shot (Bay Parkway)

28 August 2006

Of Dogs and Brushguards and Erratic Pedestrians

So it's Monday, and I'm taking a rest after a longer run on Sunday. And while I'm getting ready to do some dissertating today, I'll still take a moment to compose another of my customary day-off posts. Realizing that I usually write about things that I see that are interesting or unusual, today I want to prove I'm not always given to such a gee-whiz attitude by providing a short list of the things that bother me the most on my runs. I guess I'm feeling a little peevish today -- must be the humidity. Anyway, here are three, in no particular order:

SUVs. I know, with gas prices over three bucks a gallon you'd think that the owners of these things would be due for a little sympathy. Besides, parking's got to be a major pain, too. But in my experience, putting someone behind the wheel of an SUV here in the urban confines of Brooklyn seems to embolden them in regard to traffic laws, making them more liable to run red lights, ignore stop signs, exceed the speed limit, and make illegal turns. Furthermore -- and this is especially frustrating to the perambulating amateur with a digital camera -- half the interesting buildings and storefronts seem to have an SUV parked out front, making it nearly impossible to get a good photograph without the vehicle taking up half the shot (see the picture from Bensonhurst below). And most perplexing to me -- what's up with half the SUVs having those brush guards on the front? Are that many Brooklynites going off-roading on the weekends? Or is it just so the pedestrians and bicyclists they mow down won't chip the paint?

Pedestrian drift Most of the time I feel quite a bit of solidarity with my fellow runners, joggers, strollers, amblers, striders, walkers, shufflers, roamers, and urban wanderers. And I also like to think of myself as particularly respectful of others sharing the sidewalk, since I realize that most of them are going about their daily routines in their own neighborhoods while I'm the interloper. However, negotiating a crowded or narrow sidewalk is much more difficult when others don't follow predictable trajectories. Some folks, of course, just kind of stagger, and others make sharp, unexpected turns or stops. But among the most frustrating is the otherwise straight-line walker who will drift from one side of the sidewalk to the other right in front of me for no apparent reason, usually when I'm trying to pass them and there's an obstacle (mailbox, tree, illegally parked SUV) preventing me from taking an alternate path. Still, the worst of all are those people who are engaged in another task (taking out the trash, sweeping the sidewalk, etc.) and clearly see me coming, then walk directly into my path as if I wasn't there and just stand there squinting as if in disbelief that there is indeed some guy about to crash into them. You know that dream, where you're standing in the street and a car is bearing down on you but you can't move? It's like that, but in reverse.

Temporary or semi-solid obstacles You know, like from dogs. I can usually negotiate telephone poles, mailboxes, trash cans, used-clothes donation boxes, wooden pallets, traffic cones, no-parking signs, fire hydrants, and whatever other items are typically found on or along city sidewalks. But I've already seen my share of people who are out walking their dogs and then let them do their business right in the middle of the sidewalk, with little regard to either fellow pedestrians or the city's laws concerning such things. Granted, this isn't in every neighborhood, and I've so far managed to avoid any direct hits. But the odds aren't in my favor forever, I'm afraid.

Anyway, I suppose I'll qualify these complaints by noting that they're relatively minor, and that the great/interesting/fun/weird/unusual stuff I encounter far outweighs these minor inconveniences. It's just that people often ask things like "aren't you afraid of running in 'bad' neighborhoods?" or whatever, so I just wanted to briefly explain the things I truly do dread on my runs.

Two more pictures from yesterday's damp foray into Bensonhurst and Gravesend:

65th Street

78th Street (note the huge vehicle!)

27 August 2006

Rainy Day in Gravesend (and Pretty Much All of Brooklyn, for that Matter)

Sunday 8/27: Gravesend, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights

11.79 miles
Time: 1:30
Pace: 7:38
Temp: 67
Dewpoint: 60
Weather: cloudy, showers

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 11.50
Total Unique Miles:
Percent of Brooklyn Run:

Route: Today's start was at McDonald and 65th, after which I headed NW on 65th to W. 4th, south to Avenue U, over a block to W. 5th and back up to 65th, west another block to W. 6th and then south to 86th, over to W. 7th and back up to Bay Parkway. Then I headed down a block to 67th, went west to 19th Avenue, down a block to 68th, west all the way to 7th Avenue, south to 78th, back east to Kings Highway, and on to McDonald before heading north to Quentin and west one block to Dahill.

Notes: Despite the lingering soreness in my heels, I figured the day off yesterday (yes, I got quite a bit of reading done) and the cooler temperatures would warrant a longer run today. To play it safe, though, I only planned a 90-minute jaunt, which makes it my shortest "long" run thus far, only ten minutes longer than my run last Wednesday. But that particular run was probably too long for a daily outing anyway, most of which have been creeping up in length even as I am finding myself more given to fatigue, soreness, and other symptoms of overdoing things. I'm really going to try to keep the daily runs at around an hour (which at my current pace would give me between 7.4 and 7.8 miles), and resist the temptation to tack on an extra ten or fifteen minutes to knock out a few extra segments of road.

With today's run I also resisted doing a big multi-neighborhood tour, which I'm sometimes fond of on my longer runs. Maybe it's the weather, but today's route was a pragmatic attempt to fill in some of the map with my orange highlighter in the southwest reaches of the borough. Not the most exciting course, but then again, I picked up over eleven unique miles, taking me over the 18 percent mark (I ought to go over 20 around a week from now).

This gloomy, showery weather is not bad for running (I actually enjoy running in a light rain, usually), but is not so great for photography (especially with an inexpensive camera which doesn't do so well in low lighting conditions). Here are a few shots from today's efforts, nonetheless:

Kings Highway, Gravesend

W. 6th Street

Fancy houses on W. 6th

Barber shop on W. 7th Street

Mosaic in McKinley Park, Dyker Heights