Category Archives: New York

Days 119-121- How I Spent my Week

MIrror Mirror 119/365

Or otherwise entitled, The Great Blog Catch Up!

What is there to say in a blog recap of an uneventful week.
Catching up on posts missed during trips, or holidays, is wonderful. Numerous fantastic pictures and great tales of adventures and exploration provide enough material for several independent posts.

But what to do about an uneventful week, where my only excuse for not posting is a lack of inspiration?
The answer, I suppose, is to give up and post a multi-day post, for the first time since starting this blog. (My double day during the Ragnar Relay does not count, since it really was one giant day).

Day 119 Monday– holiday for some, slow, lazy work day for others.
Pictured above are the ducks that nest in our campus fountains. More on these adorable guys later, but I did discover that my eyes were not deceiving me, and there is a bright yellow, fluffy, albino duckling amongst the group. Recently I have mentally grasped the concept that I will not be at this job forever, and this has made me realize how many wonderful perks I take for granted–these fountains and access to their outdoor space chief among them.

Pane of Glass 120/365

Day 120 Tuesday– Not much to report today. My picture, of the view from my grimy apartment window, tells the story. My knee has flared up recently and combined with increasing exhaustion and the heat wave, I have taken it easy this week– not doing much of anything, including exercise. I will tell myself this is a fantastic training strategy. There are training plans with dips as well as peaks in mileage, after all.

Reflections 121/365

Day 121 Wednesday. I did go for a run today, and would love to report that as soon as I got out there, I felt just wonderful. But, I cannot. I realize now I should have been more careful when a subtly boasted about running through the coldest of the winter days, because this is comparatively so much easier for me than running in the heat. So now I am called to task as I grunt, and sweat, and skip my runs as summer heats up. This will have to change. If I run the NYC marathon, and I plan to, I will need to do some very long runs, on some very hot August days. Perhaps I just need to acclimatize. Perhaps. The picture is an iPhone snap taken as I walked back across the bridge from the East river at the conclusion of my run. I wonder if sweat is bad for the iPhone?

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Day 117- Long Island Nights

Party Time 117/365

Long Island Nights are different from NY nights for a few reasons. For one, long beach-style dresses and flip flops are worn by myself and my friends. Tank tops masquerading as dresses are worn by many others.
There is also a lot more hair gel in the room. But there is also good music, and sailors from Fleet Week being entertained by two older veterans, “taking them out on the town.”

Day 111- NY Days: The West Village

Guard Dog 111/365

This weekend there were no NY nights. I remember the days when I thought that a difficult race on Saturday morning would mean that I would give up going out on Friday– and Friday night alone. I am now fully aware that a Saturday race eats into my Saturday night as well. But, I awoke Sunday morning feeling remarkably good for the day after a half marathon and brunch plans led me to one of my favorite New York neighborhoods: the West Village. This area reminds me of home, with houses–even gardens– interspersed amongst city streets. But it also has the feel of the “real” NY, the old world city I had imagined before ever moving here. My image of NY has never been Midtown or Times Square–being unimpressed and uninspired as I am by tall buildings–instead I imagined a world more like Gangs of New York, with skinny brownstones, now inhabited by trendy urbanites in hip clothing. Sunday, I wandered through these brown-stoned streets, sat in a sheltered city garden, shopped for clothing off of Bleecker street and ate brunch with a large over-priced iced coffee. New York City, indeed.

Day 110- The Brooklyn Half Marathon

Nathan's 110/365

Around avenue J and Ocean Parkway, 10-11 miles into running the Brooklyn Half Marathon, I saw two green parrots flying from tree to tree by the side of the road. “Of course,” I said to myself, “the Parrots of Telegraph Hill.”

I was exhausted enough to mix up San Francisco with Brooklyn, but not, thankfully, so delirious that I had imagined the parrots. They are, it turns out, a well known immigrant group adding flavor to the NY borough. Sadly, these birds were some of the lone aspects of Brooklyn culture experienced on the course– except for the Coney Island finish line and the tree lined glades of Prospect Park. I was a bit disappointed in the course, waiting patiently for my two loops of Prospect park to finish, I had pictured myself emerging at mile 7 into the streets of Brooklyn and experiencing the character of this borough I hope to know better. Instead, I climbed up an entrance ramp and found myself on a highway– a moment very reminiscent of my Toronto Half Marathon, when my visions of running through my beloved city were replaced by an endless waterfront thoroughfare.

But I get ahead of myself, as my journey began three and a half hours earlier, at 5.50 am, in Manhattan. Then, I stood at a street corner and waited for three work colleagues to share a cab to the Prospect Park start line. There were a few reasons to be concerned about the start of this race: it was early (7am), in Brooklyn with the most direct subway stops closed for the weekend, with a baggage check that closed early (to be able to ship the bags to the finish), and nightmare tales of port-o-potty lines from the previous year. Yet all of these things went smoothly, and I was able to get into my corral by the 6.50 cut off– which I think was never actually cut off.

And this is where my self doubt began, because I was not at all trained for this race, and had no time goal– a first for me. I should note here that my time goal for my half marathon in January was under two hours, a goal I achieved with a time marginally over 1.59, and that this has remained my half marathon standard. As I started the race I felt like I might need to pee again, and told myself that I might just have to stop, and that would be Ok, since time didn’t matter in this race. Then I wondered at this attitude, since being so unmotivated, even after the start of a race, was such a new experience for me. Likely this was because 6 weeks ago, just when I needed to start training for this race, I had to stop running to rehab my knee. Then, returning to running, I got sick with two separate spring colds, and was only able to manage two strong weeks of training (one with a 10 mile and one with a 12 mile run), before the Ragnar relay the previous weekend. The relay race had been exciting, fun, and doable, but had left my sleeping schedule a mess, and me still somewhat sleep deprived. So perhaps I shouldn’t have been too hard on myself, when I had absolutely no expectations of myself race day morning.

This changed after my first climb of the Prospect Park hill. The hills in Ragnar had all averaged about 200 feet, and so cresting the 100 foot hill in the park I turned the corner thinking I was half way there, and was shocked to see the summit. I whipped through the next turn of the park then, thinking that I had this in the bag. The hills were nothing, and the rest of the park was downhill. But here is where lack of training comes into play, because as I summited the hill for the second time, I was now exhausted. That huge kick I had felt going down the downhill park stretch in the first loop was gone, and I had force myself to swallow my Gu as my stomach (not happy with me since the unrest of Ragnar) seemed displeased once again.

Still, I felt that I must be able to get an under 2 hour pace, and counted on the excitement of the flat and fresh Ocean Parkway stretch. And here is when I came face to face with what was in fact a long, long highway stretch, bringing back memories of my most painful race ever, and with nothing to break up the monotony but an alphabetized stretch of streets, mile markers, and fluid stations. During this long stretch my pace had slowed, imperceptibly, but effectively, with no landmarks, twists, or turns to spur me on but a building at the far far terminus of the road that slowly grew to be a recognizable form, from an original reddish smudge.

I had anticipated the excitement of hitting 12 miles and knowing that I was almost done, with just an ocean stretch to look forward to. But a glance at my watch told me I would need to kick it hard, so hard that I wouldn’t enjoy the entrance to the boardwalk as I had hoped. The tiny climb to reach the boardwalk felt like a mountain, and the bouncing and uneven ground felt like the very floor was out to get me, waiting to snag at my tired, and it turns out heavily blistered, feet. I heard someone cheering for my team from the side, but did not look over. Instead, I stared at my watch as it turned from 1.59 to 2.00. It remained 2.00 as I crossed the finish line, an actual time of 2.00.30.

Truly this is a great time for me considering my approach to the race, which was beyond casual. I had even taken my strength training class this week, knowing that it might leave me with tired legs for the race, but feeling that it was important to my knee rehab to continue it. What was amazing was how I could come so close to a goal, and just not have it in me to shave away a few mere seconds. But, when I came face to face with the reality of these 30 seconds during the last half mile of the race, it was now too late to undo them.

After being momentarily dizzy at the finish, I perked up quickly when I was able to drink properly for the first time since that morning. Even removing my shoes to find a bloody sock and a nasty blistered surprise couldn’t dampen my mood: Although the course was below expectations, the finish was up to them. Truly there is no better way to celebrate an accomplished half marathon, than Nathan’s hot dogs while napping on the beach with friends.

Day 109- Defying Description

Glassware 109/365

Food has not been beyond the purvey of this blog, but I am not usually one at a loss for words. On day 90 I described the Joe Shanghai dumplings as a “steamy, salty, and fatty burst of soupy deliciousness.” On day 4 I celebrated the fact that regular running allows me to indulge in such treats as a Chef’s special consisting of a buffalo chicken egg roll, half an italian sandwich, potato salad and coleslaw. But I feel that words alone cannot, in anyway, describe the desert that I ate on Friday night– as part of my calorie laden binge in preparation for the Brooklyn Half Marathon.

I can describe the restaurant. This was a tiny spot on St. Mark’s Place called, quite naturally, Spot. Down a short flight of stairs from the vibrant but gritty street, the stoop outside was a serene Japanese style garden. Inside it was packed, at 11pm on a Friday night, with groups of what was predominantly (almost 100%) asian NYU students. A perusal of the menu suggested that this place took itself too seriously: the deserts were called tapas and there was an Omakasa. This judgement of mine was before I tasted the offerings: I will be returning for the Omakasa.

I can describe the cupcake I ate– chocolate with Green tea ice cream. The cake was moist, the green tea frosting with the spicy subtlety of green tea– rich, but not too rich, and not at all sweet, and yet not savory. But I feel completely incapable of describing the Zuzu Eskimo, a desert that matched the uniqueness of its name and without a doubt the best sweet dish I have ever eaten. It was cold, and yet not ice cream; lemony, and yet not fruity; with cocoa, and yet without the taste of chocolate. I can only say that after one bite I moaned, When Harry Met Sally style, and then watched as my friend took her first bite, waited for the precise moment when the perfect aftertaste would hit her, knowing she would moan as well– and watched her do so.

Going for this desert meant I ended up getting home a little too late. After packing my running bag I went to bed after 12.30pm, leaving me with considerably less than 5 hours sleep before having to wake up and run 13 miles. But at no point, even during the most exhausted portion of this run, did I regret this decision. Perhaps this is all the description the desert truly needs.

Day 108- Sunset over Brooklyn

Sunset over Brooklyn 108/365

Last night all I wanted to do was run a slow four miles to stretch my legs before the half on Saturday. Instead, I had a quintessential New York night, the kind of evening where you are surrounded by the vibrancy of a city so alive, it is impossible not to join with it.

I ran down the East River, from 63rd to about 6th street, and along the way people sat at tables, with table cloths and open bottles of wine. At 6th street we met up with running team-mates, doing sprint work on the track. No speed work for me, between a relay race one weekend and a half marathon the next. In fact, it was barely a run– instead a tired, short jog, with a few stops for stretching, photography, and meeting up with my friend.

From the track we walked over to the lower east side, to a Himalayan restaurant I have spoken about previously. From there, it was frozen yogurt with the college students in St. Mark’s Place.

And how, on such a night, do you see a sunset over the east-side boroughs? My picture tells the story.

Day 96- Joe Shanghai

Chandelier 96/365

Every New Yorker, and well informed tourist, has been to Joe Shanghai— one of the three locations at least. Here you can purchase an item called the “soup dumpling” said to be the best version of this available outside of Shanghai and, by at least one Shanghai native that I know of, the best version anywhere.

The soup dumpling comes in a bamboo steam pot and sits atop a bed of cabbage (that I learned through my friend, who always eats the garnish, is also edible). From the outside it appears to be merely an innocuous sac, but inside a steamy, salty and fatty burst of soupy deliciousness awaits you– if you eat it correctly.

The correct way to eat a soupy dumpling is not to let any of the soup inside escape. It is to be picked up carefully with the little metal tongs and placed on your spoon. An esoteric trick learned from experts is to carefully bite off just the very tip. This hole cools the soup inside and allows you to spoon in the accompanied gingery soy sauce. Your soup is now ready to be devoured, like a tasty neck to a vampire. The trick that I like to use best is to bite off the side of the dumpling and, quickly placing my mouth near this hole, to drink hungrily– you see now the appropriateness of the vampire metaphor.

Every once in a while, a dumpling sticks to the side of the pot and when you try to pick it up, it tears. You watch as the deliciousness escapes, wasted, out the hole. It is like the death of a beloved pet.

I joke, perhaps, but the soupy dumplings are in fact delicious. Delicious enough that when I woke late on Saturday, with a long list of plans, to a message from my friend that she would like to meet me there– my only possible response could be, “wait for me, I’m throwing on some clothes!” My photo is of the restaurant chandelier. The dumplings were devoured too quickly to be appropriate subject matter.