06 January 2007

Another Day Off (and Another Record High)

I know, I know, it seems that since I've returned from California I've hardly run at all. It's not for a lack of desire, of course -- the halfway mark is tantalizingly close, and I'd really like to get there soon -- but the truth is that I've been feeling a little run-down of late and don't want to overdo things. (Doesn't much sound like me, does it?). Seriously, though, I haven't had so much as a cold in almost two years, and I certainly don't want to get sick now. Thus another day of taking it easy and working on the dissertation (an activity that I devoted some twelve hours to yesterday, believe it or not). I am, however, planning on hitting the road tomorrow, though I'll probably "cheat" a little and stay close to home instead of taking the subway to distant points. I'm getting really tired of spending so much time on the train, if you want to know the truth.

Besides -- and this is a very weird thing to write on January 6th -- it's too warm out there. I'm not kidding. As of 11:00 this morning it was 69 degrees, with a dewpoint of 61 (and a forecast high of 72). If I was to run right now I'd be drenched in sweat within 20 minutes, and frankly, that prospect isn't all that appealing at the present time. Tomorrow's high is forecast to be a more moderate (though still 12-degrees above normal) 51, meaning it'll be in the 40s in the morning -- pretty close to perfect for running.

Here's a bonus picture from the vaults:

pope, borough park
Habemus papam! (58th Street in Borough Park)

04 January 2007

Looking to the East

Thursday 1/4, Run #104: Canarsie, Flatlands, East Flatbush

Distance: 9.30 miles
Time: 1:10
Pace: 7:32
Temp: 44
Wind Chill: 38
Weather: mostly sunny

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 7.05
Total Unique Miles: 807.95
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 46.37

For the complete route, click here

Notes: Nothing against the nice people of Sunset Park or Midwood or Borough Park, but I've been concentrating on the eastern and east-central parts of the borough lately. I don't know if it counts as an actual strategy, but instead of bouncing around from neighborhood to neighborhood (based largely on my own whims) I've decided to focus my energies on a smaller region. This has the advantage of being somewhat more motivational, in that I'm able to see more immediate results on the "big map" since the streets I'm filling in are confined to a relatively small space and thus seem more impressive than they might otherwise be. Whatever the specifics, I'm going to try and spend a good amount of time in East New York, Cypress Hills, East Flatbush, and maybe Brownsville over the next weeks. I feel like I've been making some progress out that way, and I want to maintain the momentum. An object in motion, and all that.

But oh, those non-unique miles are vexing me. About a quarter of my route today was repeats, mostly because the area I covered was a long way from the nearest subways (the last stop on the L is over a mile away to the east; the Brooklyn College stop on the 2 train is about a mile to the west) and the only way in and out was over a number of streets I'd already ran. Still, I probably shouldn't complain too much, since it was sunny and fifty-something degrees out by the time I got back home. Not bad for January, but if things keep up like this I'm really dreading June and July...

As for the run, it had a bit of everything: various shops and laundromats and groceries and other businesses along Flatlands Avenue, a more industrial area around the railroad tracks near Foster and Glenwood Avenues, plenty of residential streets (with tidy brick rowhouses), and a sizeable public housing project (the Glenwood Houses) in the middle of things. Just your average jaunt through Brooklyn. BTW, the word "skelly" in the second picture from the bottom refers to the local street game by that name (or skully or skelsie, depending on who you ask). I grew up in Jersey, so I'm certainly no expert -- everything I know about it probably came from reading Jonathan Lethem -- but here's the obligatory wikipedia link for the curious.

Today's pictures:

wall, flatlands
E. 56th Street

bicentennial hydrant, east flatbush
A relic from the Bicentennial on Albany Avenue

flags, east flatbush
Restaurant, also on Albany Avenue

skelly, flatlands
In a schoolyard off E. 54th Street

school, flatlands
E. 56th Street

02 January 2007

Starting the New Year in New Lots

Tuesday 1/2, Run #103: East New York

Distance: 8.52 miles
Time: 1:05
Pace: 7:38
Temp: 44
Wind Chill: 36
Weather: sunny & windy

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 6.79
Total Unique Miles: 800.90
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 45.97

For the complete route, click here

Notes: For my first run of the new year I made my way out to East New York once again, part of my ongoing, concerted effort to fill in some more streets both in that neighborhood and Cypress Hills, just to the north. The area in which I ran today is usually called New Lots, a name whose origin lies with the seventeenth-century Dutch farmers who settled out there in order to get away from the, um, old lots to the west. (Actually, according to Kenneth Jackson and John Manbeck's "The Neighborhoods of Brooklyn," the center of Flatbush back then was indeed referred to as Old Lots.) Anyway, the rural nature of New Lots became threatened when John Pitkin built a factory just to the north in the 1830s and, in a fit of absolutely brilliant place-namery, christened his new neighborhood East New York because it was, well, east of New York. New Lots soldiered on, however, incorporating as its own municipality in 1852, and hanging in there until finally swallowed whole by the rapidly expanding city of Brooklyn in 1886. Twelve years later, of course, New Lotsters became New Yorkers, when the five boroughs were finally consolidated. Some remnants of the past still exist, like the Old Dutch Reformed Church (which I saw on a run back in August) and the adjacent cemetery.

So there you have it. The paragraph you've just read is courtesy of a vague New Year's resolution, in which I've decided to try and provide some actual content here alongside the seemingly daily updates on the frailties of my musculoskeletal system. A little history here, perhaps a little personal reflection there, and maybe the occasional rumination on larger themes and issues to round things out. Or something like that. Regardless, I'm trying, so be sure to check back from time to time to see how this pans out. (If I were a betting man, though, my money would be on a reversion to lengthy essays devoted to my aching heels and tight hamstrings.)

As for the run itself -- it was perfectly fine. We're still experiencing above-average temperatures (what is this now, eighteen days in a row?), though a strong northwest wind did its best to make things feel a little more like winter (or at least like early spring). New Lots is largely residential, and while there is an interesting variety of houses -- some older blocks of mostly-intact rowhouses, quite a few apartment buildings, several neglected buildings in pretty bad shape, and a number of recent attempts to build functional, affordable housing -- there weren't too many truly compelling photographic subjects. Sure, houses make nice photos sometimes, but I feel awful self-conscious taking pictures of someone's house when they're watching me from the window. Still, here are a few shots I managed to take:

barber shop, east new york
Just off Riverdale Avenue

linwood street, east new york
Corner of Linden Boulevard and Linwood Street

mastermad, east new york
Snediker Avenue

grocery, east new york
Just north of Livonia Avenue

house, east new york
Berriman Street

31 December 2006

A Quick Run to End the Year

Sunday 12/31, Run #102: Greenpoint and Williamsburg

Distance: 4.73 miles
Time: 0:35
Pace: 7:24
Temp: 42
Wind Chill: 38
Weather: mostly sunny

click on image for interactive map

Unique Miles Today: 3.85
Total Unique Miles: 794.11
Percent of Brooklyn Run: 45.58

For the complete route, click here

Notes: Barely twelve hours after arriving home from the left coast, this morning I hit the road for one last time in 2006. Actually, I wasn't going to run at all, but with tomorrow's forecast calling for rain I figured it wouldn't hurt to get out there and put in a few quick miles, especially since I hadn't run in a week and a half. Being a bit out of practice (and most likely a pound or two heavier), I stayed close to home and took it easy, turning in my second-shortest run of the year on a very pleasant winter day. I don't yet know if the time off has healed any of the damage I've inflicted on myself thus far, but it really did feel awful good just to be out running again.

The route I followed today took me along part of the Greenpoint and Williamsburg waterfronts, a semi-industrial area not entirely unlike the parts of Sunset Park I ran earlier in the month. Many of the streets dead-ended at the East River and provided terrific views of Manhattan, though judging by the air conditioners in the windows and the mailboxes by the entrances a lot more of the old buildings up this way seemed to have been converted to residences. The streets were mostly empty, however, with only the occasional dog-walker or bicylist as evidence that people, indeed, live around there. I don't imagine things will stay this way too long, though, since high-rise condo development is spreading rapidy up the waterfront.

Anyway, I toyed with the idea of putting together a big end-of-the-year Runs Brooklyn 2006 wrap-up extravaganza, but since I'm within ten runs or so of hitting the halfway mark I figured I'd wait until then, since that would be a much better excuse for such self-congratulatory self-indulgence. Keep an eye out for such a post around the third week of January, when I hope to hit that milestone.

Until then, I'm delighted (and quite flattered) that Gowanus Lounge included Runs Brooklyn on its list of the top new Brooklyn blogs of 2006, as part of its extensive "Best and Worst of 2006" year-end post. Alas, GL is too humble to include itself on such a list, although it certainly belongs there -- it's my favorite of the multitudinous local blogs and invariably the first one I check each day.

Happy New Year, everyone. Some pictures from this morning:

water tower, greenpoint
Noble Street

java street view, greenpoint
The view from the end of Java Street

meat prod, williamsburg
Bedford Avenue

6th street, williamsburg
6th Street