Day 114-Keepsakes

Painted Garden 114/365

Note- To catch up with my very very behind blog, some of the following posts will be short.
To prevent me from getting this behind again, short, brief comments on my photos will be allowed in the future.

The picture above is of an antique china piece I “inherited” from my parents. Inherited is in quotation marks, because both parents are very much alive. The “very much” connotes the fact that they have a wonderful, and yet often exhausting and occasionally vexing, continued impact on my life.

The piece was one of my favorite little treasures from our antique filled Niagara summer house, that I regularly mourn through the infuriating and uncontrollable venue of recurring dreams. I truly loved this place and memories of it travel with me through all seasons. In spring, a few tulips purchased from the corner store stand in for the 100s of bulbs that my father and I planted one fall (swollen frozen fingers, brought back to life under a hot tap were a small price to pay for the explosion of color we were rewarded with in all subsequent springs). In summer, a whiff of freshly mowed grass and any taste of fresh fruit, brings me back to summers where entire days were spent on blankets on the lawn, eating bags and bags of fresh, local cherries purchased at farm stands on the side of the road. Even the excessive Christmas decorations draped all over my apartment come December are an homage to Niagara–to a place that was once the actual set for a “perfect Christmas town” in a Hollywood movie.

And, on my counters and shelves, amidst the somewhat modern decor I have put together for a NY apartment, and furniture purchased from Target and Ikea, I have placed a few of my favorite pieces from this home.

Below is a picture of Ayla, sleeping by two lamps and a vase also from this collection.



Day 113- Making it up as you go

Liquor Store Guard Dog 113/365

I am now officially introducing new rules to my blog. These rules are entirely for myself, and for those of you curious enough to perhaps follow the craziness that I have set in place in the name of my “daily” blog.

1- Since I often like to post about what I’ve photographed in the evening, and I still need to upload and process these pics, my new standard is to post about the previous day– yesterday.

2- I am allowed to get behind in posts, but not pics. Since the beginning of the blog I had to account for times when I might not have internet access. My rules for these was that I still needed to take a pic on the day in question, and my post should reflect what I did, or was thinking about, this day. But that if I couldn’t actually post each day it wouldn’t be the end of the world. I reiterate this.

3- I am allowed to set up trends and themes as I go. When I started this venture I had no idea what I might be talking about in it, as it’s hard to know what major events will dominate your life for the next year. A project like this also allows one to make sense of the noise and chaos of life, to allow you to find trends and themes as you go along and then incorporate them into the whole– as if you intended such brilliant serendipity from the start.

And so, having stated these three rules, I will now explain how I am in complete and utter compliance with them.

1- Since I am now posting for Tuesday, I am “officially” caught up. Yay.

2- Yes, I am posting three posts at once: Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. But, each picture was absolutely
taken on the day in question and my posts reflect this. So, I’m Ok. Phew! (Making up your own rules is so convenient)

3- I am starting a new theme, with today’s and Sunday’s post. This theme is NYC guard dogs. Enjoy.

Day 112- Watching Running

Running 112/365

I used to watch runners with a sense of wonder and awe, no matter the runner, no matter the speed. Neither made any difference for me, these people were running, something I couldn’t, and so I was impressed. It is humorous to me how much this attitude has changed in the little over a year that I have been running myself. I may have several races–and a chunk over a thousand miles–under my belt now, but I am not so far off from the shuffling run-walker of previous years.

Yet now when a runner passes me, I look them over. What is their form, do they know what they are doing, are they wearing warm clothes because it is a “cold” 40 or 50 degrees, are they–in effect–a “real runner” ? And I watch the “real runners” even more closely: the fast ones, the effortless ones, the ones that seem to be gliding over the pavement as they whip by me. The other day a short (shorter than I) latino man came flying by me on the trail. I hate to make the perhaps racist comparison to the way the Tarahuma were described in Born to Run, but it begged to be made. He had a perfect fore-foot strike, a nice kick back, and most significantly a lightning fast cadence. I matched his cadence for a while, and it felt like it could easily be twice mine–and I have lately been working on developing a high cadence myself.

One thing that has changed the most in my own form and my assessment of others, is the appearance of effort. I used to think that a super fast stride, pumping arms, labored breath, were signs of good running. During my first ever 5K I pointed out to my friend that I had been developing abdominal pains while running. It turns out that instead of moving my arms back and forth, I was twisting my upper body from side to side. I realized I had borrowed this from gym classes, which are not at all about conservation of movement, but instead try to maximize the number of muscles utilized and their level of exhaustion. But good running, at least long distance, is about doing as little as possible–bringing into play as few muscles as you can, and yet moving forward, rapidly and consistently.

I have now developed a fore-foot strike that is starting to irritate me in race pictures. Instead of the nice, spread out legs of the past, with my feet off the ground, I am now always caught with one leg directly below me and the other bent up behind–taken from the front I look like I am standing, without an explanation for my look of utter exhaustion. But, I am also hurting less– much less. I used to have recurring calf pain, that is all but gone now and my fairly serious hip injury has not flared up once since changing my stride. And so, while I might look like I’m standing to my former self (and others like me), I figure I also may be starting to look like a “real runner”. At least to those other “real runners” who slow down long enough to take a look.

This discussion came out of the fact that I can watch the bridge that leads to my running trail from my work office, pictured above (although this specific shot was taken from outside the building). The man pictured appears to have excellent form.

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.