Archive for the ‘Jiggity Jig’ Category

Let’s harken way back. Who remembers how adamant I have been in my anti-biking stance? I scorned cyclists. I stomped my feet and swore I’d never be interested in multi-sport. Well, erm. Even though my plantar fascia aren’t too flexible, it seems my opinion about cycling has become more pliant, since it seems I really enjoy riding my bike.

This woman, who swore up and down that she’d never bike on the city streets because it was a surefire way to get killed, has become a bike commuter. Today marks my first-ever round-trip bicycle commute, and I have one main thing to say about it: I FUCKING LOVE IT!

It’s so much fun to get to work via pedal power. I love being outside. I love using my body and clearing my mind to and from work. It’s like playtime. I love my bike, I love the sweet clicky sound it makes when I coast. I love giving myself pep talks to get up hills, I love switching gears. I really loved the briny smell of the water as I biked along the East River Greenway. Oh, that’s right — we live on an island!

I love the intense vigilance I must practice as I scoot down Second Avenue and up First. I love taking a look around at the city and her angles (when it’s safe to do so). I already knew that New York reveals herself differently to runners than to pedestrians and motorists; now, I am starting to appreciate the city from a cyclist’s point of view. The slopes of my bridge treat me differently as a cyclist; I prefer the eastbound crossing as a cyclist (whereas as a runner I preferred the westbound incline). I like how I can greet the traffic cops face to face as they help me move safely with traffic. I like the anonymous fellowship with the other cyclists on the road; we’re not all the same, but we seem to be a tribe.

Here’s another thing: I like the physical exertion. Kids, it’s been a while! There’s no satisfaction like the one after you’ve panted and sweat in pursuit of a destination. I used to get that satisfaction through running; now it seems like I can find it in biking. I hope that proves true, because I love that happy sweaty feeling so much I want to bite it.

Side note: my butt is decidedly less sore (hardly sore at all, actually) after I ride the bike now. (#notaeuphemism, people.) How does that happen? Do my sit bones develop calluses or something? (?!?) Whatever it is, it’s remarkable!

I need to name my bike. ‘Cause I lurve her. She’s so pretty and sturdy.* I love how her wheels are not too skinny and not too fat. I love how I can pick her up and toss her over my shoulder if we need to get up and down stairs. Should I call her Isabel? Lucia? Bea? I’ll keep thinking on it.

So here’s the recap: I bike commuted today. It was fun; I want to do it again, as soon as possible. Sounds like a successful popping of the cherry to you, right?

*Did I ever tell you that one of the first compliments MM paid me about my appearance was to call me “sturdy?” He denies it, but he said it! I knew he meant that he was glad I wasn’t a twiggy kind of girl; I knew he didn’t mean that I was built like a tree trunk. But I still like to tease him about it.

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Soon, but not soon enough, I will be moved into my new, permanent home on the eastern edge of Sunnyside, Queens. My new apartment is down the block from my favorite cafe, a five minute walk from a wine bar, three blocks west of friend PJ, and five blocks east of my friend BP. Funny how that happened–I was on the cusp of moving to Greenpoint (Brooklyn, gasp!) and I made two new, dear friends in the neighborhood I’d lived in for more than 12 years. Funny how, as I am basebuilding and starting to pile on the mileage again, my running commute just got half a mile longer.

And what a beautiful half-mile it is. Those nine tree-lined blocks of Skillman Avenue will lead me up a hill past Sunnyside Gardens on the left and past some of my favorite places to eat in Sunnyside on the right. In warmer months I’ll run past men playing soccer and girls playing softball in the park. Any time of year I’ll be heading home with the knowledge that if I looked back over my shoulder, the Empire State and Chrysler Buldings would be there, winking at me from across the river. (I have a view of midtown Manhattan from the bedroom windows in my new place. Have I told you that yet?) When I imagine what it will feel like to run home to My Very Own Apartment that first time (or, perhaps even the 100th time), I want to cry: what amazing fortune, what miraculous progression–my life, starting to resemble what the December-me had to believe life would look like.

Monday I ran home from work, to my current home in Astoria, where I’m subletting a furnished second bedroom from a friend of a friend. My training program called for 4 x 1 minute of hill repeats, so I decided to ge them done on the 59th Street Bridge. Doing hill repeats on the Queensboro Bridge feels like have a quarrel with your best friend: you each remain intractable, you recite the same complaints and offenses over and over, no one wins, but yet it ends well because of your undying affection for one another. Or at least, that’s what it felt like to me, because I love this bridge and I believe that her inclines and climates ultimately help me become a better runner, much the same way my best friend helps me become a better person.

It was foggy, and the mist saturated my hair and wrapped itself around my skin. Visibility from the bridge was exceedingly poor; instead of looking around like usual, I focused on form during my multiple climbs up the eastern side (headed back towards Manhattan).

Earlier in the day I had an appointment with my old PT, Danielle. I finally decided to go because Betty had been griping at me long enough; marathon training would start in less than a month;, and I wanted to get this ache sorted now before it turned into an injury. Danielle put me through various tests of mobility and balance, and determined that my issues with Betty (my right adductor brevis, an inner thigh muscle at the upermost part of my leg) is possibly aggravated by the fact that my right foot and hip is highly inflexible. So instead of my foot and hip acting as a shock absorber and balancer, poor Betty has had to do all that work herself. (No WONDER she’s so bitter, I can totally relate.) For this issue Danielle gave me a few flexibility/mobility exercises to do, easy stuff that actually leaves me achy.

The other issue, which I have only recently begun to motice, is that my lower back hurts me when I run hard. In fact, it hurt me for most of my Forest Park race this weekend. That was confusing to me, since the Pilates and all that ab work should have erradicated the strain on my lower back.  Turns out, I have been engaging my abs incorrectly! This is mildly discouraging, but at least I can train myself now to do it properly, and I can get stronger. Danielle also wants me to do Kegels! Sadly, not because I all of a sudden have a sex life, because I don’t. No, the Kegels are to help strengthen my pelvic floor, which apparently running weakens in the ladies. (I am oversharing in the hopes that this might be helfpul to other lady runners out there, not because I actually at comfortable being this frank about my womanly muscles.)

By the time I’d made it back to Astoria, I was warm from the inside out, panting, and grinning. I’d just run up and down my bridge four times, then zipped through central Astoria with the knowledge that things were being handled, and that I’m still moving towards everything being better than just OK

5.21 miles run in 49:17. Average pace 9:27; fastest mile 9:12; slowest mile 9:44. Paces during hill repeats 8:01-7:55-7:53-8:01.

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Patron Saint of Pilates?

Some people–like the Irish, and like those who jump at any excuse for revelry–love St. Patrick’s Day. I am not one of these people. I’m not a killjoy, but I have moments of humbugginess, especially when the revelry hampers my routine. (I am one of those New Yorkers who scowls when film crews take over whole city blocks. I don’t care who the movie star is, I gotta get over there!) How does St. Patrick’s Day hamper my routine? I work a mere two blocks away from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and my office window has a view of Fifth Avenue and 53rd Street. This means I can hear the marching bands, bagpipes and drunken cheers of the parade spectators all day long. St. Patrick’s Day is a day I bring my lunch to the office. The aggro of weaving my way through the inebriated, green-clad masses is so great that I won’t go outside even if struck with a desperate need for caffeine. By 3 PM I had a dull headache from the ceaseless din of happy Irish people. My ancestors immigrated here from Italy and the Ukraine, and I just don’t get the enthusiasm of the Irish. I don’t get excited on Columbus Day (since I can hear that parade through my office window as well, I have equal antipathy for that day too). I mean, I am proud of my Italian heritage but I realize that I’m not actually Italian.

Despite my poopy point of view about St. Patrick’s Day, I do have a tradition that I like to uphold this day every year. In addition to complaining, I also run home from work. This year, however, I would run home from Pilates class, since I had scheduled that after work before I realized it was Erin’s day to go braless. Or something like that.

First, a word or two about Pilates. I started classes in January, going once a week as a service to the other women in the class–I was the pupil who made everyone else look like a ballerina. And while I am still ungainly and not nearly as strong as I’d like, I love Pilates. I like the way I have to focus my entire mind and body on each pose, and the way that even slight corrections make an exercise that much more effective. I like the way my muscles burn, and tremble. I like the way I feel all melty and languid after class. Another thing I really like about Pilates–I can already see a difference in my running form. It’s not huge, but it’s easier for me to hold myself erect, to keep my shoulders down and my arms sliding on their parallel rails along my body instead of crossing in front of me. My pelvis tucks itself without me having to think too much about it, and this reduces stress on my hamstrings and lower back. I don’t have a flat tummy–yet–but if I flex my abs, my fingers can feel them getting ripply and toned beneath my winter pudge.

Tonight’s Pilates class was done on the Bosu ball, so in addition to the regular challenge of teasers, The Hundred, and planks (oh how I dread planks), everything was made harder by being performed on an unstable surface. Hello, that was humbling. By the time class was over, I honestly wondered how I was going to drag my legs over the 5 miles of pavement that stretched between the studio and home.

I decided to take it as a recovery run, and not fret over the pace. Once the pressure of speed was removed, I relaxed (my traps dropped–I have a bad habit of holding my shoulders up around my ears basically every waking moment) and rolled on home. Running past Grand Central Station brought back memories of swaying through the marbled central atrium towards the 7 train, drunk. I used to do that a lot; now, not so much. Even though the sidewalks were packed with people still celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, I enjoyed the run. The peace I’d been hoping for eluded me, but I did feel a sense of well-being, and of reassurance. Yes, TK, things will continue to get better. It’s a bit shopworn, but I’ll let the seasons be a metaphor. Last Autumn, things in my life died off. This Winter, my life lay fallow, regenerating and recouping energy. And now, Spring is definitely going to bring rebirth.

I got to run over the 59th Street Bridge; that was pretty cool. The outward bound hill was tough because my quads were shot, but it sure felt great to crest the hill and ease on down the decline. My bridge, how I miss her so. Then I trucked along Northern Boulevard into Astoria, to the apartment where I am renting out an acquaintance’s furnished extra bedroom until I close on the pad I’m buying in Woodside, Queens.* Even though I was wearing yoga pants, I felt like every cell of my body affirmied, Yes TK you are still a runner. I let my thoughts wander to the Fall marathon I’m planning on this October, and imagined how fast I’ll have to be running home from work if I’m to meet my time goals. I am excited to see how everything develops these next seven months. Aren’t you?

4.95 miles run in 47:26. Average pace 9:35; fastest mile 9:13; slowest mile 10:55 (up the bridge).

*Yes, that’s right! I have found a home to buy! I signed the contract this morning and am so excited, I hope to be in around Memorial Day if everything goes smoothly.


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The original plan was 7 miles in Central Park with EN, except he threw his back out “working in the shop” and had to bail. This left me with the perfect opportunity to jiggity-jig it, and oh how I love my bipedal commutes. Time-savers and stress-releasers all at once, running home from work is the perfect solution to long days at work. It’s 3.5 miles on the nose from my office to my apartment, which meant that I’d have to double the mileage home to meet the demands of my training schedule. It’s always better to add miles at the front end, because it’s a total bummer to arrive at my corner in Sunnyside only to have to run past home. So, the new plan: Run up Fifth Avenue from the office and enter the park at 59th & 5th, run a lower loop, cross town to the 59th Street Bridge, and then finally home as per usual.

I was dying for the alone time. Surely you know what I mean. Even though I’m one of those reluctant extroverts (in theory, people aggravate me but then in practice, when I get in a group I end up having so much fun), I definitely need time to myself on a regular basis. I was also happy to have my iPod along with me on this run; I never bring it with my on my long runs (trying to train the brain so it knows what to expect on race day), but will induldge on shorter runs if it will get me out the door.

I fought my way past the tourists and bicycle rickshaws clogging Fifth Avenue, and jogged onto the lower loop (you know, the 1.72-mile one). There are moments when I would rather not seen any other runners, but when I am in Central Park I welcome their presence. I feel like part of a (not-so) secret society of people who know something the rest of the city doesn’t: running rocks, and running in the park is the quintessenial NYC running experience. These are my people, my community. Whenever those speedy club runners pass me, they leave me in a wake of aspiration and inspiration.

Lower loop completed, I passed the Apple Store and the Plaza Hotel before cutting east, running over on 58th Street in the hopes of avoiding heavy pedestrian traffic. I hate darting around sidewalk amblers. They are a hazard–oblivious on their mobile phones, or waiting to trip me up with their dog’s leash, or letting their child zigzig ahead of them, right in my path. Before I knew it I was ascending the western approach of the bridge, and I was surprised how frisky I felt. The hill barely had me panting, and Little G told me I was moving at a faster clip than I’d have guessed.

Before I knew it I was home, sweaty, panting, and feeling like a million bucks. What work aggro? What time crunch? I was buzzed. 7.14 miles in 1:06. Average pace 9:14; fastest mile 8:50; slowest mile 9:43.

Songs I ran to: “Lyla” by Oasis, “Made Me Hard” by the Whitlams, “The Maestro” by the Beastie Boys, “Maggie May” by Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs, “Magic Carpet Ride” by Bedlam, “Magic Number” by De La Soul, “Make Believe” by Matthew Sweet, “Make Me Believe” by Angel Taylor, “Make Me Smile” by Chicago, “Make Out Alright” by Divinyls, “Make the World Safe” by the Whitlams, “Make You Feel My Love” by Adele, “Make You Feel My Love” by Billy Joel, “Make You Feel My Love” by Bob Dylan, “Make You Teel My Love” by Joan Osborne (**CONTEST! The first person to post a comment correctly guessing why I have the same song four times in a row wins a copy of A Race Like No Other by Liz Robbins**), “Making Out” by No Doubt, “Mama’s Got a Girlfriend” (LIVE) by Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, “Mama’s Got a Girlfriend” (STUDIO) by Ben Harper & the Innocent Criminals, “Mama’s Trippin’” by Ben Harper, “Mama Help Me” by Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians

I ran past Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park

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After perhaps the laziest two days of my entire adult life,* the guilt was more than I could bear. I knew I had to run, to flee the inertia that was threatening to permanently affix me to the couch. I’d read New York City Marathon race reports on some blogs over the weekend which sort of dissed the miles in Queens and on Queensboro Bridge, and I was feeling defensive and protective on behalf of my borough and my bridge. So I was motivated not only to run, but to feel my bridge under my feet. I’d run home from work.

There wasn’t even the hint of a chill in the air when I left my office around 6:30, but even so it was hard for me to muster my enthusiasm for this commute. I just wanted to get into bed and pull the covers over my head hoping someone would miss me enough to come dig me out. Strange. Strange indeed.

I do this–this retreat, this feigning of disinterest–when I’m scared. Twice-injured, twice-forced to defer my marathon plan in one year. It occurred to me as I trotted home that I’m dragging my feet when it comes time to run because I don’t want to feel good, build up mileage, endurance and speed only to get injured and crushed once again. Hell, even Little G is reluctant, as he took nearly 10 minutes to pick a satellite that would watch over us as we headed home.

It was a fine example of NYC serendipity when, on the way to find Brother in the runners’ reunion area after the New York City Marathon, I caught a glimpse of a strong woman dressed in blue tech clothes and a mylar cape. Sarah! Ohmygoodness, there she was, my blogging buddy and Green Mountain Relay teammate.

Tomorrow morning, I’m meeting two other women I know through blogging and Twitter for an early-morning run. Not sure I realize exactly how early I’ll need to get up to arrive on the west side of Central Park before 6:30.

DT, my Ironwoman and marathon girl, emailed me the other day that she needed to train for something, with someone [me], quick, before she “lost her mind.”

I don’t know how I did it, but I averaged 8:33’s for my run home from work. Not sure where my mind was exactly (in the office, in the kitchen, in bed) because I don’t even remember running up the steep western shoulder of the 59th Street Bridge. I wondered, as I peeked at the solitary drivers at the wheel, at the sullen passengers on the bus, Who takes care of you? And to whom to you tend?

Songs I ran to: “Kashmir” by Led Zeppelin, “Keep Coming Back” by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, “Keep Fishin'” by Weezer, “Keep the Car Running” by Arcade Fire, “Keepin’ the Faith” by De La Soul, “Kicked Out the House” by De La Soul (Song I should have run to: “I Kicked a Boy” by The Sundays)

*Husband and I spent the weekend at the Pennsylvania house. I neither ran, nor showered. I set down my Sony eReader only long enough to get a beer or prepare dinner. To understand the depths of my apathy, I tell you this: on Sunday afternoon I watched first “The Prince and Me 2: The Royal Wedding” and then “The Prince and Me 3: Holiday Honeymoon.”

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Who else besides me would need to run a point-to-point that started at my office and ended at my apartment? Nevertheless, it’s more by default than by definition that running home from work is always a solitary occasion. 

Always, except for last night, because TNT friends and faithful readers PS and EN accompanied me. PS is running the New York City Marathon in less than a month, and wanted to run over the Queensboro Bridge to get a sense of its challenges. I was happy to play tour guide, and EN came along because he’s always welcome. PS needed to run 8, but there was no way I was going to do that during my week of rest and recovery from the Baltimore Half-Marathon. So this was the plan–4 miles out (which would take us half a mile past my apt), turn around, drop me at my corner, and PS and EN would continue back into the city. Ideally, they’d have about 6 miles under them when they hit the bridge on the return, so they’d be at least a little fatigued when they hit that long sloped climb back into Manhattan (to best approximate how it would feel on race day). 

PS is looking fit and trim, she’s ready! She ran a 1:56 at the Philly Distance Run, so she’s primed to set a massive PR (her best time for 26.2 is 4:50). I am really excited for her! It was a treat to catch up with PS and EN; we all love to talk running while running. It was a bit surreal to have two friends next to me  on my route home from work. Many times I’ve wished I could run the route with a dear friend so I could show him where I spend all my time training. But this was something else; this was social, and it felt right-in-my-bones to be coming home with two people who have supported me through both success and injury. 

I’m on the Q32 bus now, composing this post on my Blackberry as I commute to work. I can look to my right and see the pedestrian path we used just last night. I remember when we turned around at 52nd Street and Roosevelt Avenue, how I pointed out the Manhattan skyline to PS and EN. Look, there is the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building. Just run towards the city now. Ten blocks later, as I peeled off from them at my home corner, I waved goodbye and pictured the views they were approaching. Yes, they would run through dingy and noisy Queens Plaza, but they would also see twinkly bright buildings on the Upper East Side from both Skillman Avenue and the bridge. Safe home!

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It will be hard for a while more, the 3.5 mile run home from work. You know the course. Mile 1 tends to be zippy as I burn off stress and frustration between my office and the foot of the bridge. Mile 2 can be fast or slow depending on how much the ascent up the 59th Street Bridge takes out of me. And Mile 3 is typically an average pace, with me kicking things into another gear for the final (uphill) half-mile home. By the time I arrive at my door, if I’ve pushed the pace, I’ve had a great workout. I’ve only cracked the 30-minutes mark a few times, primarily due to the inevitable traffic lights that slow me down me. 

Yesterday was an especially stressful day; all week I’ve had this persistent bad feeling that the other shoe is about to drop. So I knew my first mile would be fast, but I had no idea this jiggity jig would end up a pace run. 3.49 miles in 30:29? Yow, no wonder it hurt, I typed to my Tweople. I’m not trained to do that comfortably yet! On the upside, all that effort I expended blew that anxiety cloud right out of the sky. I was home by 7:30 PM, thinking, I get to do this again in a mere 10 hours. Suh-wee! 

The plan ordered up 4 miles from me today, and lest it turn into a snarling animal I fed it–early. Up at 5 AM (I do love the relative tranquility of my Sunnyside Loop at this time of day), I was on the road by 5:20 for a double lap of the ‘hood. With the memories of last night’s hurt (the gasping, the self-persuading) fresh in my mind, I had no problem taking it easy. Can you say recovery run? It was a pleasure to be breathing fully but not panting. The first two miles were each exactly 10:09’s; I wrapped up the run averaging flat 10’s. Aw’ite. It’s been a while since “flat 10’s” was perfectly alright with me; but honestly right now it’s all about getting used to the daily practice again.

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The subject line of his email read “Is it true?” and there were just three words in the body: “Is Pigtails back?” I grinned as I read my friend’s message, understanding he was happy to see me both blogging and running again. He’s right– in so many ways I’m back. Even that god awful short haircut I had has finally grown in enough so that my actual pigtails can now be tied up again in all their adorable glory, too.

pure food and wine, nycI woke up this morning with a red wine hangover; I’d spent last night at a sceney fete for one of our New York City cookbook authors drinking entirely too much organic red wine. It was divine, though, to swan through the crowd with a glass of full-bodied red in my right hand, taking in the living raw food, sarma melngailisrestaurant’s backyard garden under an evening sky that had so recently purged itself of late afternoon humidity.

Despite the hangover, I was excited to start my day because I knew my favorite running route awaited me once I made it through. Today I’d put my jiggity jig into the mix: 3.5 miles home from work, through Midtown East, over my Queensboro Bridge, and finally up Skillman and 43rd Avenues to sneak up on my apartment building from behind. Home again, home again. I haven’t run home from work since March 26th, the final workout before I had to surrender to my injured adductor brevis (my running journal from that day reads, “Rainy–left hamstring very sore”), so this evening’s run felt like a homecoming (if I may once again go for a double meaning).

I loved the whole process. Shutting down my computer, closing my office door, changing into my running gear and packing my waist belt with my four necessities (Blackberry, house keys, MetroCard and office pass), lacing up my sneaks, and finally tying up the ‘tails. My colleague and fellow runner JMK saw me as I headed out the door and said, “Aaah! Look at you!” I grinned once more.

And so I went, relishing every block between 53rd & Madison and 60th & First, noticing every familiar shopfront and apartment building.  I waved at the dogs on their leashes and chuckled as I dashed through a smoke cloud of skunk weed, wondering where it was coming from. And then here it was: my bridge. The hill tuckered me out and required all my concentration to maintain an even effort, so I didn’t gaze out across the river the way I like. But, a few runners passed me heading back into the city, and I was glad to be sharing the pedestrian path with them again. Truly, I don’t think I’d ever been so grateful to be working so hard. It wasn’t a triumphant return to the bridge, for I certainly huffed and puffed and perhaps enjoyed the long slope into Queens a little too much, but it was a return, and I’ll take it.

The final hill up Skillman and 43rd Avenues was harder than I remembered, but then I reached even further back in the memory bank to before I was a marathoner, and I thought, Ah yes. Past the gas station, past the two bridges that cross the Sunnyside Railyards, past the taxi agency lots and factories until finally I pushed into the fringes of Sunnyside and the first apartment buildings. My neighborhood, my turf. Home again, this time in 31:55, at an average pace of 9:14 and a fastest mile of 8:43 (Mile 1–wow).

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