10 November 2006

An Uneventful Run (with Unexpected Speed)

Friday 11/10, Run #81: Midwood, Marine Park, Flatlands

Distance: 9.38 miles
Time: 1:05
Pace: 6:57
Temp: 58
Dewpoint: 42
Weather: sunny & windy

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 7.84
Total Unique Miles: 637.53
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 36.59

For the complete route, click here

Notes: It's becoming a bit of a pattern. If I have a particularly interesting run on any given day, with much to see and photograph and discuss on these pages, it will more likely than not be followed almost immediately by an outing noteable mostly for its very uneventfulness. This is to be expected, I suppose (some kind of statistical averaging-out principle at work, no doubt), and it's not entirely unwelcome, since visually stimulating and otherwise exciting runs entail more work, more stopping and starting, and often much more complicated routes. So it's with more relief than resignation or regret that after yesterday's run -- replete with dozens of buildings and houses and streetside tableaux just begging to be photographed (not to mention my own appointment with a professionally-wielded lens) -- today's run was much more, well, pedestrian. And that was just fine with me, since I managed to finish up all of Marine Park today. Another neighborhood complete!

That's not to say there was nothing to look at, or that my retinas were somehow rendered useless and inert for sheer want of external stimulation. But I was able to focus more on my running than on taking pictures or whatever. And that's okay with me since this whole project, after all, is ostensibly about running. In fact, without having to stop too often for pictures (and on a morning that was itself picture-perfect, weather-wise), I was able to concentrate a bit on form and efficiency and all that kind of technical thing, and the result was... that I ran a sub-seven minute pace? Yeah, well, I'm not sure I completely believe it, either. I knew I was moving quickly and that I'd turn in a good time, but 6:57? To the best of my ability to figure such things, though, this is what it was, so I'm (ahem) running with it. Whether this was a fluke, a miscalculation somwhere on my part, or real, tangible improvement in my running will probably make itself evident in the next week or so (that is, if I'm able to walk). Stay tuned. I know I will.

I did, of course, stop to snap a quick picture now and then. Here are a few:

window, marine park
E. 31st Street

barber shop, marine park
Barber shop on E. 34th Street

memorial, marine park
United 93 mural on E. 35th Street

gas station, midwood
Gas station off Flatbush Avenue

building, midwood
Kings Highway and E. 34th

09 November 2006

On Both Sides of the Camera

Thursday 11/9, Run #80: Bay Ridge, Sunset Park

Distance: 9.89 miles
Time: 1:15
Pace: 7:35
Temp: 58
Dewpoint: 50
Weather: mostly sunny

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 8.11
Total Unique Miles: 629.69
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 36.14

For the complete route, click here

Notes: After a thorough soaking yesterday, the clouds gave way early this morning to bright sun and a northwest wind swept in drier air, making for pleasant (if still unseasonably warm) conditions. Today I concentrated on filling in some streets on the border between Sunset Park and Bay Ridge, a region dominated more than anything by the enormous elevated stretches of roadway where the Belt Parkway (which follows the shore around the west side of Bay Ridge) merges with the Gowanus Expressway (which cuts straight north from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge). It's an interesting area, with some absolutely beautiful residential blocks of brownstone and limestone townhouses, but also with a lot of auto dealerships, car repair places, and small businesses along the avenues. Parts also have a pronounced Arab-American flavor, with mosques and middle-eastern restaurants in evidence there between the Hispanic and Asian-American populations to the north in Sunset Park and the traditionally Italian and Scandinavian enclaves to the south in Bay Ridge.

Although quite a bit of my run today consisted of dodging the cars speeding along the access roads on their way to or from the highways, one of today's highlights was the Veterans Memorial Pier (at the foot of Bay Ridge Avenue), where people were fishing or conversing and there were terrific views of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, lower Manhattan, and some of the ship traffic moving through the Narrows. And near the end of the run, I met up with a photographer from the Borough President's office (it was arranged ahead of time -- it wasn't like I just ran into her or something) who needed to take pictures to accompany an article running in the next issue of the BP's newsletter. It was a bit embarrassing posing for the camera and running in slow-motion several times along the same block (seriously, I get enough strange looks from passers-by already), but it was also kind of fun, and the photographer was great.

Overall it was a decent run, but I'm still hurting quite a bit (the heels, of course, but my ankles have been a little sore lately, too). I might run tomorrow, but I might take another day off and try running both Saturday and Sunday -- it'll all depend on how I feel when I wake up. Anyway, on to today's photos:

pre-k, bay ridge
Bay Ridge Avenue

clock tower, bay ridge
Bay Ridge Methodist Church, 4th Avenue

boutique, bay ridge
5th Avenue

pier, bay ridge
Veterans Memorial Pier

american legion, bay ridge
Bay Ridge Avenue

gowanus expressway
The merge of the Belt Parkway and the Gowanus Expressway

lowen's, bay ridge
3rd Avenue

08 November 2006

Special "Rainy Days and Wednesdays" Edition

I was hoping to run today, but given the steady precipitation (and the forecast for more to come), I'm taking my second straight day off. And it's for the best, I think. In retrospect, the gleeful description of my Hermes-like fleet-footedness on Monday was probably a little optimistic (blame it on the endorphins again), and the truth is that I was hurting yesterday. A little rest never hurt a runner, I guess. Anyway, before I dive into the day's dissertating I thought I'd compose a short post of random thoughts and observations that have been accumulating, if only as an excuse to waste a few minutes and share a few leftover photographs. But to save time (yours, dear reader, as well as my own), today's edition will be in a sleek, bullet-pointed, and easy-to-digest, uh, digest format.
  • Though I don't have strong feelings one way or the other about Lance Armstrong running his first marathon on Sunday, I was a little peeved by all the media attention. Seriously, this guy is a professional distance athlete -- is it so surprising that he'd finish (and with a solid time)? Still, though, anyone who's ever run a marathon had to feel a certain flush of pride and vindication when Lance called the race the "hardest physical thing" he'd ever done. Damn straight it's hard! But then again, that's part of the fun, I suppose.
  • While perusing Google Maps yesterday, I realized there are substantial areas of Brooklyn -- places like Fort Hamilton and the old Navy Yard -- that have streets but which don't exactly encourage pedestrian interlopers running around and snapping pictures. But I figure I ought to try and run them anyway, so now I've got to get in touch with folks at those places and see what's up. Stay tuned to this blog for further developments.
  • It's no secret that I'm a big music fan, and that I have a bit of an obsessive streak. So not that anyone cares, but the stuff I've (repeatedly) had on "repeat" on my iTunes this week includes the new (and curiously titled) Yo La Tengo album I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass -- the atmospheric instrumental "Daphnia" is proving to be a great rainy day song even as I type this. I've liked them seemingly forever (I used to go up and see them at Maxwell's quite a bit when I lived in pre-gentrified Jersey City during the late 1980s), and overall this is their best work, in my opinion, since 1997's I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One. Also: brilliant (but sadly short-lived) trumpeter Lee Morgan's 1965 album Infinity (with Jackie McLean -- who died earlier this year -- on alto), and Herbert von Karajan's slowly-paced (and maybe a little overwrought) but still powerful recording of Mozart's Requiem. Good stuff.
  • I'm almost finished with Salman Rushdie's truly remarkable 1981 novel Midnight's Children. Now I know what all the fuss is about (it did receive that meta-Booker prize awarded in 1993, after all). And, for no particular reason, this week I've been re-reading Macbeth, which is always fun. I hadn't read any Shakespeare in a long, long time.
  • Finally, I voted last night, and for the first time as a New Yorker. It was cool to use one of those hulking old voting machines -- there is something immensely satisfying (in a low-tech kind of way) about pulling that giant lever when you're done and hearing the mechanism clank deep within. (I'd used lever machines before in New Jersey, but from 1996-2004 I voted in Iowa, which uses optical-scanning devices). In keeping with the non-political nature of this blog I won't say who I voted for, but I can't say I'm unhappy with the overall results this morning.
And there you have it. BTW, the image at the top is from this site, which has all kinds of fun ways to waste time and bandwidth. (And a tip of the hat to the always-interesting Gowanus Lounge for the idea). As promised, a few pictures:

under the elevated, brighton beach
Under the elevated subway tracks at Brighton Beach Avenue & Ocean Parkway

mural, brighton beach
Mural in Brighton Beach

nostrand ave, midwood
Along Nostrand Avenue in Midwood

06 November 2006

Seeing Orange

Monday 11/6, Run #79: Sheepshead Bay, Midwood, Marine Park

Distance: 10.28 miles
Time: 1:15
Pace: 7:18
Temp: 42
Dewpoint: 28
Weather: sunny

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 8.07
Total Unique Miles: 621.59
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 35.67

For the complete route, click here

Notes: Maybe it was the day off yesterday, or the perfect autumnal weather this morning, or perhaps even the lingering excitement from watching the marathon, but I recorded one of my faster runs today (over ten miles in an hour and fifteen minutes). Moreover, it felt great -- sure, my heels are still bothering me, but I felt light and quick, as if running was somehow the most natural activity in the world and I could've kept going indefinitely. I even had enough in reserve that I sprinted the last few blocks. Days like this are rare, of course, so I tried to enjoy it while it lasted.

Most of the route today was in Midwood and the northeast corner of Sheepshead Bay (what some folks refer to as Madison), allowing me to fill in some remaining gaps in the latter neighborhood and move it into the "completed" list. It's pretty encouraging, too, since seeing the "big map" fill up with bright orange ink is gradually (and cautiously) allowing me to think that I might actually pull this whole thing off -- a conceit that I hadn't really indulged until recently. Yeah, I know, I've still got over a thousand miles to go, but still.

Anyway, Midwood has a substantial Jewish population, something that was reflected in many of my photos today. The portions of both Midwood and Sheepshead Bay/Madison I ran today were also mostly residential, with scenic, tree-lined streets (made even more appealing by the touch of fall foliage and the bright sunshine). On a related note (related to Midwood's Jewish community, not the fine weather), I've noticed that a good number of the pictures I take in general on my runs have religious subjects. I certainly don't have any agenda here -- mosques, churches, synagogues, and statuary representing various faiths and sects are all represented (and if I come across a shrine to Ganesh or a Shinto temple or even a fancifully-decorated atheist meeting hall I'd probably take pictures of them, too). It's just that I photograph things that catch my eye (as well as things I'd like to think capture a sense of the place I'm running), and quite often these things have a religious theme or subtext. Brooklyn, as often suggested, is indeed a city of distinct neighborhoods, often comprised of very specific religious or ethnic communities. It's one of the things I like best about the borough (though gentrification is certainly taking its toll in some areas).

Oh, and tomorrow's Election Day, so if you don't do anything else, please go out and vote. In the meantime, however, here are today's photos:

flag man, midwood
In a tiny yard outside a building on Kings Highway

building, midwood
One of the many Art Deco apartment buildings along Kings Highway

shoe repair, midwood
Along Nostrand Avenue in Midwood

private parking, sheepshead bay
Parking lot on Nostrand Avenue

cafe hadar, midwood
Restaurant on Avenue N

temple, midwood
Also on Nostrand Avenue

05 November 2006

Bonus Marathon Spectator Edition

Today was the New York City Marathon, and I'd indeed be a lousy New Yorker (and a worse runner) if I didn't at least try to throw together a quick post in its honor. I've run seven marathons myself (all between 1999 and 2005) but I'd never watched one as a spectator before, and it was really a lot of fun. Kate and I stood outside on Manhattan Avenue for almost two hours, shouting ourselves hoarse (and clapping until our hands were numb) as a seemingly endless tide of runners surged north toward Queens. As it turns out, a good number of participants have their name (and sometimes, nationality) prominently displayed on their shirts, so it was easy enough to single folks out and offer some personalized encouragement. In fact, although I had my camera with me, it stayed in my pocket most of the time as I focused my energies instead on watching and hollering.

Yes, it was pretty cool to watch the elite runners speed by (the women first, since they had an earlier starting time), and yes, we saw Lance Armstrong (and his sizeable entourage of charity runners). Personally, though, the high point for me was actually getting to meet -- if only for a moment, and a half-hour apart -- two individuals who I know through comments or emails related to this blog. Linda (from the Detroit area) and Michael (a fellow Brooklynite) both finished easily, with the former actually coming in among the top 200 women with a time around 3:15. Wow. Congratulations -- it was great meeting both of you, and I look forward to hearing all about your experiences (after a proper recovery, of course). (I was also pleasantly surprised that so many passing runners responded to my Iowa sweatshirt, though after the Hawkeyes' ignominious home loss to Big 10 doormat Northwestern yesterday, I may have felt just a little twinge of self-consciousness). All the excitement made me wish I was running the marathon myself, but then again, I suppose my running-related dance card is full enough without all the additional training. Next year, though, is a different story...

I won't go into any more detail, since I want to warm up a bit and the race enjoys so much media coverage here anyway. But if you really want more information, try these links:

New York Marathon official website
New York Times marathon coverage

Finally, here are a few photos. Keep in mind, though, that most of my photographic experience has been in shooting stationary objects, not moving ones! In any event, I'll probably return to my regularly-scheduled running tomorrow. Hope to see you then.

Two of the elite women (I think that's Claudia Camargo on the right)

Just before the lead male runners emerged onto Manhattan Avenue

Carlos Carballo (who finished 27th) and Kassahun Kabiso (18th)

The view from the Runs Brooklyn headquarters, at about 1:00