23 September 2006

Gearing Up for the Next 25%

It hardly seems possible, but today makes the sixth straight day I haven't run, making it probably the longest break I've taken since, well, since I started running seriously about seven and a half years ago. I'm taking tomorrow off, too, but I'll be back on the road Monday, it looks like. I'm feeling pretty rested, though my heels and the lower portions of my achilles tendons are still kind of sore and tender. The rational portion of my brain (admittedly, a runty little lobe which is usually easily bullied by the much larger, irrational part) is telling me that I could probably use a few more days off, but come on -- a week is a long time.

And the week off has given me plenty of opportunity to think about ways to facilitate my ongoing attempt to run every street in Brooklyn, mostly by implementing a few changes. Over the last twelve weeks I've more or less run as much as I could, to the detriment of both mind and body. So here are a handful of things I'm going to different over the next 435 miles or so.

  • Running four days a week instead of five. This is probably the single biggest change. Since it's very hard for me to avoid the temptation to head out for at least eight or nine miles (and often more) per run, one easy way to cut my overall mileage (and thus hopefully reduce the chances for injury and/or discouragement) is simply to take an extra day off each week. So the plan for the next 25% is to complete four runs of 60-80 minutes (or roughly 7.5-10.5 miles) each week.
  • Eliminating longer runs on Sundays. Astute readers of the last paragraph will have noticed that no longer runs are included in my plan. This is because I realized there's no real reason for me to do these weekly 11-14 mile runs, which are just a vestige of past marathon training. Since I'm not actively training for any long races right now, I figured it wasn't worth the extra risk of injury to do longer runs on a weekly basis. Now, this doesn't mean that I won't do any longer runs at all -- there are those magical days when everything (weather, stamina, scenery, absence of pain, etc.) just comes together and running comes pretty damned close to being a transcendent spiritual experience. (Other runners, I think, will know what I'm talking about.) And so I reserve the right, when this happens, to tack on a few extra miles. But the point is, I'm not going to specifically plan longer runs for the time being.
  • Running Saturday and Sunday, but only twice during the workweek. Since I'm eliminating the long runs on Sunday, there's also no reason to take Saturdays off to rest up, as I traditionally have. By running both of these days (and limiting myself to only running four times a week), I can enjoy three full days off Monday-Friday, which will allow me to get more of my "real" work done (read: writing my dissertation). All the running and blogging over the last 12 weeks have taken their toll in this department, so a little realignment of priorities is probably in order.
  • Only blogging on days which I've actually run. Confession time: During the summer, when all of this was kind of new and exciting, I fretted that if I took even one day off from blogging, people would stop reading. It's true. And thus there have been any number of posts which document the more quotidian aspects of my non-running life, from what books I've been reading to how much I miss Hawkeye football to what operas I've been listening to. After considerable thought, I now realize that these forms of mundane self-absorbtion might alienate more readers than not posting at all. Moreover, I'm a pretty dull person in the first place, and so it's kind of time-consuming to come up with things to write about at times, much less interesting things. And so I've basically decided to only post when I have a run to write about. Again, this self-imposed rule isn't set in stone, either -- occasionally, there might be things that warrant a non-running-related post here and there, and I'm sure several of these will make their appearance over the next months. But mostly, I'll save the limited number of words in my brain and fingertips for the dissertation.
  • Only posting three pictures per run. Because Blogger is usually sluggish and it often times out when I'm trying to upload photos, the process of adding a lot of pictures to the posts is the most time-consuming element. So I've decided that, from now on, I'll only post those three pictures which I think best represent the neighborhood(s) that I've run that day. Based on comments and emails, I realize that a lot of you actually like looking at some of these pictures, so what I've done is gone ahead and paid the $25 to upgrade to a Flickr "pro" account, which gives me like a zillion times more capacity to store photos (if you haven't yet looked at my "Runs Brooklyn" Flickr photoset, click here to take a gander). So while I'll only post three pictures per run here on the blog, once a week I'll upload all the good pictures from that week onto my Flickr page, meaning there will actually be more pictures available (and with less work for me). Everyone wins!
  • Using the regular Google map instead of the satellite map. Yeah, I know this isn't a big deal, but after experimenting a little I've concluded that, when plotting my route on the excellent g-maps pedometer site, using the standard Google map option instead of the hybrid satellite map makes it easier to read. If you still want to see the satellite view, you can always click on the map, taking you to the stored route on g-maps pedometer where you can toggle to the other view.
What does this all mean? Well, if all goes according to plan, I'll probably be averaging about 32-37 miles most weeks, and if I can keep my unique-mile efficiency between 85-90%, that means I'll be able to rack up between 27 and 33 weekly unique miles. Simple arithmetical calculations then reveal that I'll hit the halfway point for all of Brooklyn in between 13 and 16 weeks, and even allowing for a week off at Christmastime to head out to the west coast (where I'll get to see my sister Mel, who is due in February and will no doubt be as big as a house by then!) and the occasional snow day, I'm figuring middle-to-late January as the most likely time for that. Whenever it does occur, of course, I'll take another week off and reassess how things are going.

One last thing: I continue to be surprised (and humbled) by the amount of encouragement and the number of kind words I've received so far, so many thanks to everybody who's posted comments or sent email. Otherwise, I guess that's about it for now. See you Monday!

And, as I continue to clear out the archives, here are a few more pictures. (BTW, the photo at the top is from a run in Bensonhurst a few weeks ago):

Just off Gerritsen Avenue, Gerritsen Beach

Liberty Avenue, East New York

Columbia Street, Red Hook

21 September 2006

As Promised: The Runs Brooklyn "Quarterly Report"

So I'm about a quarter of the way there. There are various estimates about the total street mileage in Brooklyn -- depending on who you ask, it could be 1599 miles or 1742 -- but I'm playing it conservatively and basing things on the larger number. So maybe I've actually run more than a quarter. Who knows? In any event, I had to pick some point to take a little break before pushing on, and this seemed as good as any.

Over the last few months I've really seen a lot of Brooklyn. I've been through most neighborhoods at least once (though I haven't yet run in some of the micro-neighborhoods near downtown like DUMBO or Vinegar Hill, nor have I been to the gated community of Seagate, which is on the western tip of Coney Island), and there are several -- Gravesend, Bath Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Bensonhurst, Marine Park -- which I'm within a couple of runs of finishing up. I have, thus far, concentrated on the southern third or so of the borough, which explains why I've seen so much of Gravesend and so little of, say, Clinton Hill. As I've noted here before, this is a pretty deliberate move which means a lot of long subway rides now, but which I'm hoping will begin to pay dividends in the winter, when I can start piling on the miles a lot closer to home.

I've enjoyed what I've seen so far, and have gotten to know my way around (including most of the Brooklyn subway lines) remarkably well. And this is despite the fact that I've been running for the most part in pleasant enough if somewhat nondescript residential areas. As I move up toward the central and northern parts of the borough I'll be running in some more industrial areas, as well as some neighborhoods which I'll politely describe, for now, as still mostly pre-gentrified. What this all means, of course, is that I'm hoping there will be a lot more interesting things to see and photograph as I move forward into the next phase of this whole thing.

I'll be making a few changes, in both the ways I'll be approaching the running itself and the ways in which I'll report it here. Nothing too major -- just things that I think will allow me to hold on to my sanity (and maintain the physical integrity of my body) long enough to actually finish all of these 1742 (0r 1599 or however many) miles. I'll post again, probably over the weekend, with an overview of what these changes will be.

In the meantime, I realize that it might be hard to conceptualize what, exactly, running 25% of Brooklyn means (after all, 435.5 and 1742 are just numbers). So, for the further edification and enlightenment of my loyal readers I'm presenting three different ways to think about it.

1. First, I offer the cold, hard, world of statistics. True, these are just numbers, too, but maybe it'll mean something more if I give you a lot of them.

Total Number of Runs:
Total Miles:
Total Unique Miles:
Efficiency (ratio of unique to total miles):
Total Time:
63.0 hours
Average Time Per Run:
70.0 minutes
Average Overall Pace:
7:56 minutes/mile
Number of Weeks So Far:
Average Weekly Mileage:
Average Distance Per Run: 8.83
Average Unique Miles Per Run: 8.08

2. If that wasn't very helpful, let me try the visual approach. Here, for the first time on this blog, is a picture of my "big map," on which I've drawn in my runs with an orange highlighter (click on the map for a slightly bigger image).

3. Finally, some people do better with analogies. For them, I offer up the following table. On the left are a number of commonly-known references to the worlds of science, sports, literature, economics, and religion. Simply find one that you're familiar with, follow over to the right, and you'll see how 25% would translate (click on the table for a larger view).

And, for no particular reason, here are a few archival photographs:

Prospect Heights



17 September 2006

What, 456 Miles Already?

Sunday 9/17: East Flatbush, Marine Park

10.38 miles
Time: 1:20
Pace: 7:42
Temp: 64
Dewpoint: 54
Weather: sunny

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 9.72
Total Unique Miles:
Percent of Brooklyn Run:

Route: Today I started at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Aurelia, went west a block to E. 32nd, south to Avenue I, east back to Flatbush then back just a little to New York Avenue, south to Kings Highway, west to Avenue N, east to where it runs into Flatlands Avenue then continuing east on Flatlands to Hendrickson, south to Avenue V, east a block to Flatbush Avenue, south a block to Hendrickson Place, north back to Avenue V, west to Coleman, north to Flatlands, west to Lotts then down to Kimball, doubling back to Flatlands then south on Kimball to Avenue V, west to Ryder, north back to Flatlands, west to E. 38th, south to Avenue V, east to Flatbush, north to Avenue U, west down to E. 37th and north to Flatlands Avenue again. I finished up by heading north on E. 36th to Avenue I.

Notes: Yeah, this feels pretty good -- I had a pretty straightforward run with a lot of unique miles and went over the "25% of Brooklyn Run" mark. A quarter of the way there. It's kind of like finishing your freshman year of college -- you feel like you've really accomplished something, and that you certainly know your way around campus and everything and how things are done, but you're also keenly aware of how much farther there is to go.

As promised, I'll be taking the next week off from running. I'll also be taking time off from regular blogging, though I'll probably post at least once, with what I'm imagining will be something of a progress report and my reflections on the first quarter of this project. So check back for that. Mostly, I'm just not going to think about running or neighborhoods or subways or cameras for a few days, and take care of a lot of things that I've been putting off (like getting my NY driver's license, for example) and putting in some serious time with my dissertation.

As for today's run, it was certainly a lot better than Friday's in the rain. In fact, it was kind of summery out, with temps up in the mid-60s by the time I hit the road and bright sunshine.

Okay, I should be enjoying my time off. Here's today's batch of photos. Enjoy, and I'll be back in a week or so.

Side of a dance studio on Hendrickson

St. Thomas Aquinas School, also on Hendrickson

Avenue V

Lotts Lane

At a park at Avenue U and E. 38th Street