21 October 2006

Complicated Route? Not a Problem

Saturday 10/21, Run #69: Coney Island, Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach

Distance: 9.82 miles
Time: 1:15
Pace: 7:38
Temp: 48
Dewpoint: 34
Weather: sunny & windy

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 6.52
Total Unique Miles: 546.60
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 31.37

Route: Click here if you really want to see all of it...

Notes: This may be the most complicated route I've done yet, but there's also good news, I promise. In fact, the run was so complex and writing it out took so much space that I've decided to test out something new today -- I've created a separate page with the turn-by-turn description of the route, so readers won't have to scroll through it all just to see the pictures (not being particularly tech-savvy, I just made a new post with the info and back-dated it). Besides, I pretty much only provide these routes as a hedge against my poor memory, and as documentation I can use if I ever get confused about where I've been and where I haven't. No one reads them, I don't think (geez, I hope no one does -- these things could put anyone to sleep). So if you're interested in the route, just click on the link above. Otherwise, read on.

Anyway, there are several reasons why I had to follow such a byzantine path today: For one, this part of Brooklyn is not laid out in the systematic grid that characterizes great swaths of the rest of the borough. Second, the streets are often very close to each other, as much of the housing is in large apartment buildings than townhouses or one- or two-family houses. Third, there are a number of very narrow streets, and even a few pedestrian-only alleys and paths. And finally, two elevated subway lines and the Belt Parkway run right through these parts, with lots of dead ends and access roads and all kinds of things. Add to this the fact that the street-naming system is sometimes confusing -- you've got Brighton 1st Road right next to Brighton 1st Place, for example, with Brighton 1st Street and Brighton 1st Terrarce right nearby -- and it was one of those runs where I felt like I spent as much time squinting at my little map as I did gawking at the buildings and scenery and people out on the sidewalks. Yikes.

But, as mentioned, there were some redeeming features, too. One is that I think I can finish up the whole Coney Island peninsula with just three more runs, so I won't have to worry about these labyrinthine and almost absurdly complex routes much longer. Second, it was a gorgeous morning (for me, at least) -- it was about 45 degrees with bright sunshine when I hit the road, with a crisp and vigorous northwest wind making the awful mugginess of midweek a distant memory. Third, these neighborhoods are simply a lot of fun to run in, and some of the older apartment buildings in Brighton Beach are really beautiful. And last, the G train has been replacing the F on the weekends lately (to accomodate construction or track work somewhere), which essentially means I can pick up the G here in Greenpoint (a block from my apartment), and take the subway clear to Coney Island without transfering or waiting for other trains or anything. Nice.

I'll be heading down that way again tomorrow, probably. The tentative plan is to do most of the rest of Coney Island tomorrow morning, and then next weekend I can do Sea Gate, finish Coney Island, do one last run in Brighton Beach, and be finished, believe it or not, with all of these neighborhoods. At least that's what I'm hoping...

For whatever reason (probably the aforementioned staring at my map), today wasn't a very good picture day, but here are a few anyway:

Palm reader on Sheepshead Bay Road

Apartment buildings on Brighton 5th Street

Under the elevated subway tracks, on Brighton Beach Avenue

Coney Island Avenue

18 October 2006

Neither Thief nor Victim (nor Leprechaun)

Wednesday October 18, Run #68: Bensonhurst, Gravesend

Distance: 9.35 miles
Time: 1:10
Pace: 7:29
Temp: 64
Dewpoint: 62
Weather: cloudy & muggy

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 7.23
Total Unique Miles: 540.08
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 31.00

Route: I began at 14th Avenue and 65th Street, then went east to 15th Avenue, south to 67th, west to 13th Avenue, south to Bay Ridge Avenue, east to 16th Avenue, south to 70th, west to 14th Avenue, south to 71st, east to 15th Avenue, south to 72nd, west to 14th Avenue, south to 73rd, east to 15th Avenue, north back to 71st, east to 16th Avenue, south to 72nd then doubling back and continuing north to 65th, west to 15th Avenue, north to 64th, east to 16th Avenue, south back to 65th, east to 18th Avenue, north to 64th, east to 19th Avenue, south back to 65th, west to 18th Avenue, south to 68th, east to Bay Parkway, north just a bit to W. 8th, south to Avenue P, west to W. 9th, north back to Bay Parkway, down a little to Bay Ridge Avenue, west to 16th Avenue, south to 70th, east back to Bay Parkway, and then across onto W. 10th, south to Avenue P, east to W. 3rd, north to Avenue O, east to W. 2nd, south to Kings Highway, east to W. 1st, north to 65th, east to McDonald Avenue, and south to Avenue S (with a short out and back on Woodside).

Notes: I finished up not one but two neighborhoods today -- all the streets in both Gravesend and Bensonhurst are now all filled in with orange highlighter on the "big map." And this is particularly gratifying since these are sizeable neighborhoods, geographically speaking. (I realize neighborhood boundaries are often imprecise or even disputed, but because I need to draw them somewhere, for my purposes Bensonhurst is bounded by 14th Avenue, 86th Street, Stillwell Avenue, Avenue P, and 65th Street, while the borders of Gravesend are Avenue P, Ocean Parkway, Bay Parkway, and the Belt Parkway to the south.) While it's satisfying to cross these neighborhoods off the list (and have some visual "proof" of my progress), I leave them behind with a sense of sadness, oddly enough, since I truly enjoyed getting to know their streets and buildings and people. I suppose I shouldn't get too sentimental, though -- I still have over 1000 miles to go by anyone's reckoning, with plenty of other neighborhoods to explore.

As for the run itself, it was pretty average. But this is as good a place as any to mention that one perpetually amusing aspect of all this running is the assortment of strange looks I get from folks when I'm making my way up the sidewalk. As I've noted before, one of the most common questions I get from acquaintances and readers is about my safety, and whether I'm concerned enough about street crime. So far, of course, this hasn't been a problem, and I might speculate that may be at least partially due to the fact that people are usually too busy making faces which seem to register somewhere between surprise and vexation, as if I was, say, a leprechaun or something. It doesn't bother me, but it really is true. A possible explanation is found in the following quote by famed Chicagoan and columnist Mike Royko, which I found on the running blog Ready, Set, Gu:

"It's unnatural for people to run around the city streets unless they are thieves or victims. It makes people nervous to see someone running. I know that when I see someone running on my street, my instincts tell me to let the dog go after him."

So there you have it.

And I'd be a very bad brother, indeed, if I didn't at least mention that my little sister turns 34 today. Happy birthday, Grel -- hope it's a great one!

As always, I took some pictures this morning:

Now I know where to go if I get a sudden hankering for spinach (18th Ave)

70th Street

Our Lady of Guadalupe Church on 15th Avenue

Bank at the corner of 65th Street and 18th Avenue

McDonald Avenue, near Kings Highway

17 October 2006

Are You Sure I'm Still in Brooklyn?

Tuesday 10/17, Run #67: East New York, Canarsie

Distance: 9.88 miles
Time: 1:15
Pace: 7:35
Temp: 58
Dewpoint: 46
Weather: overcast

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 8.44
Total Unique Miles: 532.85
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 30.58

Route: I started at E. 105th and Farragut Road, went west a block to E 104th, south to Glenwood Road, east to Schenck Avenue, south across Flatlands and onto Vandalia Avenue, around Vandalia to Gateway Drive, continuing around to Erskine Street, south to the Belt Parkway overpass and doubling back, continuing east on Seaview Avenue to Fountain Avenue, south to the Belt Parkway overpass there then doubling back and continuing north to Vandalia, west to Erskine, south down to Gateway Drive then doubling back to the service road behind the mall, west on the service road back to Gateway Drive, back north to Vandalia, west around to Flatlands Avenue, east to Barbey, north to Cozine, east to Logan, south to Flatlands, east to Fountain, north to Cozine, east to Crescent, south back to Flatlands Ave (with a little out-and-back on Old Mill Road), west to Fountain Ave, south to Vandalia then doubling back to Flatlands Ave, west to E. 107th, south to Avenue J, east to E. 108th, south to Flatlands 1st, west to E. 105th, south to Flatlands 2nd, east to E. 08th, north to Avenue J, west to E. 104th then doubling back to E. 106th, north to Flatlands Ave, west to E. 104th, south back to Avenue J, and then west to Rockaway Parkway.

Notes: Today's route was the product of considerable time spent studying the "big map," during which I realized that Flatlands Avenue -- one of the self-imposed borders that I'm trying to finish up everything south of -- indeed extends well into East New York and almost to the border with Queens. I furthermore realized I hadn't run in East New York for over a month, or Canarsie for at least a couple of weeks. So naturally, I decided to head out that way to remedy that situation. And this area seemed (for a good part of the run, anyway) distinctly un-Brooklyn-like -- there was a very new shopping mall (Gateway Center, complete with Super Target and an Olive Garden out in the parking lot), bike trails, a landfill, and places to observe the wildlife of the local "wetlands." Of course, away from the mall some of the more recognizable aspects of East New York emerged, especially substantial public housing projects and block-sized warehouses. But there was also a lot of new housing construction in the area, and I found another of Brooklyn's dirt roads -- the rutted and bepuddled Old Mill Road, which is basically a block-long alley between Crescent Street and Fountain Avenue. Curiously, there were some discrepancies between the Hagstrom paper map (my "big map"), Google maps, and the satellite images of this area, so the little map I made and carried was more of a guide than a hard-and-fast plan for my route, and I had to adjust a bit on the fly. In fact, I found that a good stretch of Vandalia Avenue was completely blocked off (with fencing and "no trespassing" signs and little guard shacks) for construction, so I couldn't run it (I substituted the service road behind the mall -- I hope no one minds).

It was an oddly solitary run, too. While major roads like Flatlands and Pennsylvania Avenues had their share of automobile traffic, for long stretches I was often the only pedestrian (though this was no doubt due to both the early hour of the run -- I was near the mall around 8:30 -- and the car-friendly, suburban-style layout of the shopping center).

Anyway, it was an interesting diversion from the sameness of many of the residential areas I've been running of late down in the borough's southern reaches. The change of pace was fine with me, and it was an enjoyable run, if for no other reason than the novelty of the surroundings.

Some pictures:

Roadside memorial on the southern end of Fountain Avenue

Where old trucks go to die (Flatlands Avenue)

"Wetland Vegetation" didactic panel, with Belt Parkway beyond

15 October 2006

The Horrible Truth About Endorphins

Sunday 10/15, Run #66: Gravesend, Sheepshead Bay

Distance: 11.87 miles
Time: 1:30
Pace: 7:35
Temp: 54
Dewpoint: 30
Weather: sunny

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 8.45
Total Unique Miles: 524.40
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 30.10

Route: This is another complicated one. I started at Bouck Court and W. 3rd Street, then went west to Shell Road, south to the Belt Parkway overpass then doubling back to Shore Parkway, east to Ocean Parkway (including a jaunt up and back Colby and Bokee Courts), north to Murdoch Court and doubling back to Nixon Court, west to West Street, south to Shore then doubling back and continuing north to Avenue Z, west to W. 2nd, south back to Shore Parkway, west W. 3rd, north back to Avenue Z, west to Shell Road, north to Dank Court, east to W. 3rd, north to Cobeck Court, west to Shell, north to Avenue Y, east to W. 2nd, south to Avenue Z, east to W. 1st, north to Avenue X, west to Stryker Street, north to Village Road South (with out-and-backs on Stryker and Southgate Courts), east to W. 1st, south to Avenue X, east to West Street, south to Murdoch, east to Ocean Parkway, north to Avenue Z, west to E. 1st, north to Avenue X, west back to West Street, north to Gravesend Neck Road, east to E. 1st, south to Avenue X, east to E. 4th, north to Angela Court, east to Ocean Parkway, south to Avenue Z, east to Hubbard Street, north to Avenue X, west to Ocean Parkway, north to Crawford Court, east to Coney Island Avenue, north to Lancaster Court, west to Ocean Parkway again, south to Crawford Court then doubling back and continuing back north to Gravesend Neck Road, east to E. 12th and doubling back to E. 8th, north to Avenue V, west to E. 7th, south back to Gravesend Neck Road, west to Ocean Parkway, north to Avenue V, east to E. 7th, north to Kings Highway, east to E. 13th, north to Avenue P then doubling back to Quentin Avenue, west to E. 10th, north up to Avenue P then doubling back to Quentin, west to Ocean Parkway, south to Kings Highway, east to E. 7th then doubling back and continuing on to Avenue R, east back to Ocean Parkway, north to Kings Highway and then doubling back and continuing south to Avenue V, then west to E. 2nd, north to Avenue U, and west a block to E. 1st.

Notes: I know, some of these routes are becoming ridiculously complex, and today's is one of the worst offenders. Unfortunately, it's the only real way to pick up all the odd little pockets of streets that I've managed to miss so far, so I'll try not to complain too much (though the recordkeeping is getting to be a serious pain, and the little maps that I carry are so dense with information they're next to impossible to read). The good news is that I think I can have the southern third of the borough completely finished by the end of November if I keep plugging away at my current pace. Then it's back to nice, simple runs for a while, in the eastern and middle neighborhoods. Can't wait.

As for the run itself, the weather conditions were just about perfect, and the cool temperatures helped mitigate the length of today's route (I know, I said no more longer runs, but I really wanted to be done with this corner of Gravesend). Despite the nearly 12 miles I covered (my longest outing since September 10), I felt pretty good physically, which is something in which I can't help but see a bitter irony -- thanks to my body's production of endorphins (a physiological byproduct of vigorous exercise), about the only time my heels and parts of my legs aren't in pain is when I'm actually running (and no doubt exacerbating the underlying injury). Thus the title of today's post.

Despite sticking to mostly residential streets, there was a lot to see, all of it especially eye-catching in the brilliant sunshine and under an almost impossibly blue sky. I've included seven pictures today -- I figured that if I'm breaking all my other self-imposed rules I might as well break the one about the number of pictures. See you Tuesday.

Avenue Y and W. 3rd Street

You can tell they're professional by the sign (Avenue X)

Mural on W. 1st Street near Avenue X

E. 7th Street

Building on Kings Highway

Catering place, also on Kings Highway

Just off Avenue U