Tag Archives: running

Newport – a 1/2 marathon and a full weekend

I’ve had exceptional Columbus Day weekends over the years – some great, some not so much. This most recent one, I’m happy to report, was pretty fantastic thanks to some good friends and 13.1 miles.

Following an exceptionally fun Friday night out at an event  in Albany, we were on the road before noon on Saturday for the drive to Newport, RI. The road trip was uneventful under an overcast sky, but as we crossed the bridge into Newport the sun welcomed us. We went directly to our beautiful airbandb, got settled in and then hopped on our bikes for a quick ride to the beach to check out what would be our race start early the next morning.

Our ride was less than two miles, yet filled with beautiful homes and aggressive drivers. While the first was pleasing, the latter certainly wasn’t, but it was a good introduction to our general experience with drivers as both cyclists and pedestrians – disappointing. Drivers in Newport were not cyclist friendly at all. For a city that invites exploration, this was really unfortunate.

Following a great dinner at home of Cardona’s takeout brought from Albany, and an early night, we were back at the beach Sunday morning 30 minutes before our 7:30 a.m. start time. We had been warned about large crowds and closed roads, but had no issue getting dropped off in a convenient location – good job, JT. Portapotty lines were long, but we managed a quick bathroom visit prior to lining up at the start, optimistically with the 2:20 wave. My half marathon times range from 2:22 – 2:28, but I was hoping to break 2:20 for my first time.  Goals are good, right?

The race opened with an incline, my favorite start to get my legs stretched, before winding through Newport with its extravagant homes and beautiful scenery. There was water and Gatorade (along with portapotties) every 2 miles or so and I grabbed a drink at every single stop following a bad experience with dehydration after my last long training run. My body felt pretty good the entire race with no problems from my right IT band or glute, and only a mild twinge in my mid-back and my usual foot pain from about 8 miles until the finish. I can’t say I wanted to run any farther than 13.1 miles, but I was feeling strong and even managed to pick up my speed for the last couple of miles with the hope of meeting my goal time.

I crossed the finish line with a somewhat disappointing time of 2:21:27, but was pleased to be able to finish strong. Following the race, I enjoyed biking around town a bit, an afternoon nap and an evening walk along the Cliff Walk and I credit these activities with my surprisingly pain free post-race body. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt as good after a half-marathon before – and that was before I received an email with my official results. My adjusted finish time was 2:17:01, my new PR!

Next up: Syracuse…

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Albany XXX

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Amsterdam

What’s up with that title, right? Is it porn? Extra large? Nope…Roman numerals – thirty, as in thirty years since I first moved to Albany.

In August of 1988 I was 21. I moved here knowing not a single person, other than Mary Panza who I was lucky enough to meet when her roommate tried to seduce me find me an apartment in his role as a real estate agent. The summer of ‘88 was hot, so damn hot. There was a heat wave that was unrelenting. I traveled to England and the Netherlands in July that year and I loved every day of dreary, damp weather we experienced abroad.

That first trip to Europe changed my life. It opened so many doors and windows and made me a traveler in a way I had never imagined. I had met a guy on the ferry on my way back to London and was acutely aware that he was great, but that the timing was not. We did, however, make some lovely memories and everyone should know the excitement of a long distance romance. When a man flys into jfk, hops into a rental car and drives to Albany to spend 2 days with you…well, you feel kind of special. I hope you know that feeling.

Albany charmed me from my very first visit when I found my way to Lark St.and enjoyed a fancy brunch at The Beverwyck. Once I got a handle on the size of the city (it’s always felt small to me, initially a disappointment but ultimately an asset), and began connecting faces and names, history and legend, I settled in with interest and made a life here.

Albany has witnessed my greatest joys. I got married here, right in Washington Park on a picture perfect Sunday afternoon. I own a house and pay taxes in the city and appreciate the privilege of both of those being possible because of the education (and degrees) I received from SUNYA. My children were born here and are students in the city school district and, while the education they receive may not be as immediately impressive as the high test scores and college acceptance rates of the suburbs, I do know my sons have learned a lot about getting along with people who don’t necessarily look or think like they do. Lessons in life count too.

I started running, an activity I never could have imagined I’d love, while a student at UAlbany and have run thousands of miles around this city.  I’ve learned to write and take photos and have been lucky to share some of my passions with an interested audience.  The opportunities here have been limited only by my own level of competence.  It’s been so cool, really.

Albany, though, has also been the setting for some of my saddest days. There are places around this town that are absolutely haunted for me – spots that I do my best to avoid because of the personal ghosts. The news, both domestic and international, that I’ve witnessed while living in Albany, has left an imprint as well. Princess Diana dying, the towers falling, the children murdered in whatever most recent school shooting…I can tell you exactly where I was for each of those breaking stories. I’ve shed a lot of tears in this town. Believe it.

After 30 years, I love Albany more than ever. The happiness I’ve known in this city that receives credit for how easy it is to get to places “to which you really want to go,” has far outweighed the heartaches I’ve experienced. I’m not sure what the future holds, (once I hit my 30 years teaching, who knows?), but these three decades have been the most productive, challenging and exciting times of my life and I wouldn’t have wanted to live them anywhere else.

Thanks, Albany xx

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Sultry

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We’re going with definition 2. Let’s be positive.

You know how tropical places are reputed to have a very ambling sort of pace? People wear clothing that flaps in an island breeze or exposes skin to the sun and there is a glisten to everything your eye finds. It just feels sensual, but in an organic kind of way. Not posey. More passionate.

I like walks when it’s hot – they’re slower and from the hips, not the shoulders as it is in colder temperatures. While I appreciate the sexiness of staccato heels and a fast gait, flats and a sway of the hips are at least equaling appealing, I think. And it feels so much better.

When it’s been 80+ degrees for 42 consecutive days, you’ve just got to learn how to live with it. Maybe it’s air conditioning or a camp on a lake, but there’s probably some method you’ve devised to get through it. For me, it’s become about acceptance and appreciation. Which makes sense since those are really crucial parts of my overall thought process when it comes to emotional things. Having it be consistent with my physical comfort and well-being seems almost crazy sane.

I’ve run when I could, and walked or cycled a bit more than typical, and it’s been great. Some days I shower three times. I’ve heard some describe the weather as “oppressively hot”weather but I’ve decided that my takeaway is that it’s summer. We’re having summer weather and, while it can be destructive and unpredictable, it really is characteristic for July and August. And – next month this hot spell will be a blip in your rear view mirror and you’ll be wearing jeans again. 

It’s obvious the Europeans are more advanced than we are – many of them take  a substantial amount of time off in August. I wish everyone had that same opportunity. It would probably make for a more civilized world, frizzy hair and all.

How are you coping?

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Down by the river

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Salzburg’s riverfront

When I was traveling recently I was really impressed with the integration between city and river that I experienced in Salzburg and Prague. In both places the river was the center of the city rather than a divider and it felt very natural to make your way to the shore for walks, dining, shopping and art. So civilized.

We arrived back in Albany to a week of wet, humid weather. It’s been difficult to motivate myself to be active, but Jeter has gotten a couple of good walks and I remembered how much I enjoy running down by the river when the temperature is high. I’ve gone down to the Corning Trail twice the week and had really good runs, even with the humidity level through the proverbial roof, there’s always a breeze to be caught along the Hudson.

I couldn’t help but compare our Albany riverfront to the ones I really appreciated in Europe. People, we’re falling short…

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Prague’s Charles Bridge

In Salzburg, the river has a terrific running and walking trail, just like we do, but they also had a cool, independent market. It was a series of stalls and trucks offering unique items (most handcrafted), food, wine and coffee, fabrics and jewelry.  We could totally do something like that in Albany. In Prague the UNESCO site, the Charles Bridge, has vendors along its sides selling souvenirs, and art and there are musicians performing. Our Walkway could definitely host similar activities.

I’ve run down by the river for more than 25 years and I can tell you it is greatly improved in ways that the average person might not notice. On Friday, before I ran I had to use the portapotty and I prepared myself with a deep inhale of fresh air prior to opening that plastic door. It was unnecessary – the portapotty was remarkably clean. That’s new.

We’ve had some heavy rains and in previous years, the smell of the river after a storm that turned the water brown, would be downright offensive. There was a metallic, chemical odor that reliably accompanied the higher water levels, particularly, as you might imagine, across the river from the water treatment plant. The past couple of days? No odor at all. That’s better.

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Yesterday at the Corning Preserve

The wildlife down by the Hudson would have to be our greatest advantage over the much older, and better evolved, cities that I recently visited. I’ve had snake, bunny, woodchuck/beaver/mole thing, and deer sightings this year alone. Often they’re not really afraid of me and continue to nibble on the grass or stand at attention watching as I run by. It’s cool.

I spend a lot of my disposable income taking trips. It’s kind of a joke among people who know me. I’m sure I should be more conservative with my money and pour more of it into my house or my retirement, but traveling and seeing new things, even when they’re really old, is such a great investment. Seeing how other people do things is inspiring. 

What have you observed during your travels that you’d love to see replicated in your area?

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Salzburg run

While I’m a big fan of public transport while exploring Europe, my favorite mode of travel when I’m visiting a new place remains my own two feet. Other than having a personal tour guide, I can think of no other way with which to become familiar with a city. I love setting my own pace, having the freedom to impulsively take a turn down a street that beckons and stopping for a drink or bite to eat when the urge hits me. Plus, it’s free!

Visiting four cities in 11 days makes for a lot of walking, but it has also taught me that I need three days in a new city before I feel an undeniable urge to run. It’s something about achieving a level of comfort and sense of where I can get in a few miles with limited risk from cars or other potential dangers, I think. Of course this means that I’ve thus far into my trip only had a single run. I’m trying to not chastise myself touch for my lack of exercise, since I have been walking my ass off. I find a glass of wine or two and a pastry helps with that guilt.

In Salzburg I had a chance to run along the Salzach River. There’s a great path for pedestrians and the view was pretty sweet. I initially ran north on the west side of the water and as the miles passed, the scenery became increasingly less populated. I went with my gut and crossed a bridge to the east side at a point when I felt my opportunities to cross the water were becoming less frequent. It was hard to turn away from the Schloss set high on the hill which had been enticing me to continue north, but I was rewarded by the views from the new to me east bank of the Salzach.

I ran, as I always do in a new place, with the knowledge that I might not ever have this same opportunity. My health and physical strength will gradually (I hope!) decline, the opportunities to travel may diminish, perhaps the weather won’t be as inviting as I’ve often been fortunate to experience…whatever. Lots of things could happen to prevent me from lacing up my Altras and hitting the sidewalks, but not that particular day. That day, I ran and my heart, eyes and legs all appreciated the effort. It was a terrific run and will be a wonderful memory forever.

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Ghosts and cobwebs

Exiting and entering a relationship is never the same twice. I guess that makes sense since I’ve come to learn that the only truly consistent thing I’ve found in my own romantic pairings has been that they all leave a mark.

I ran a race on Wednesday, almost the longest day of the year, that I had also run two years ago. My previous experience had been as close to perfect as I would ever dare hope, the weather, course and company were ideal. I couldn’t imagine it ever being better.

Yet, on Wednesday it was.

Photo: C. Allen

The event was very different this year. We were sans guys, more relaxed (I think) with weather that was kind of misty, rather than sunny, but with fairly delicious air. It was wonderful in a new way. The trails in Minnewaska are lovely, wide with a fairly soft surface, and amazing views. Fantastic.

Photo: C. Allen

As I ran, I felt strong. My feet hurt a little, but my heart felt powerful and I enjoyed the run. Along the course there were parts that were familiar, and others that I didn’t recall from previous races. I started thinking about how the trail was kind of a metaphor for how I’m feeling these days, like there are parts of myself that seem familiar, while others I don’t remember ever encountering before. Ghosts and cobwebs.

Past relationships kind of stick with us in a variety of different ways. At least that’s been my experience. Maybe you wear the color (s)he always liked best and can’t help but to remember how you felt each time (s)he said blue was your color. Like those parts of the trail, that’s a ghost. It stays with you.

The cobwebs, though…those, for me, are the places of which I have no memory at all, because those parts haven’t been used in so very long. Maybe not even ever. It’s like virgin territory. Exploring this new terrain is exciting, but by a certain age, or level of experience, you’ve probably learned to pay close attention to where you step. Keeping one’s feet on the ground and trying to not fall down can be a struggle, but they’re good goals for a trail and a relationship.

A becoming-more-familiar race and a new romance seem to be just about the best way to experience ghosts and cobwebs.  And, like that solstice run, I’ll do it again.

Thoughts to share?

 

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Processing

I’ve been on a Rolling Stones kick recently. Maybe it was that tribute band I went to see a couple of weeks ago at The Hangar. I listened to them all the way on my run today from home to Troy, where I met my neighbor at event and caught a ride home. It wasn’t the easiest run I‘ve ever taken and parts of the route were new and a little unnerving to me, but I don’t regret a step of it. It was a gift to be outdoors with the air on my skin and every scent encountered along the river pleasant.

I ran in South Troy for the first time, which was kind of cool since I had made a brief cameo just yesterday at my friend Mary’s birthday. You know, Mary Panza from South f’n Troy. She’s my oldest upstate friend and I was thrilled to attend her celebration yesterday and to give her a gift. Not just “a gift,” but the most perfect gift – one I had seen at Elissa Halloran’s and immediately knew it she belonged with Mary. 

Giving Mary to Mary was the perfect demonstration of how much more joyous it is to give than to receive. That is a true gift.

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately and it’s caused me to struggle with writing a bit. I’ve been purposefully keeping myself busy – attending events like Champagne on the Park and working extra nights, such as last Wednesday at the annual Troy Arts Center Gala. But, today, there was that run from Albany to Troy which gave me a long time to think things through and I believe I’m getting closer to being unstuck. At least for now.

Life is so unpredictable. Who really knows what’s next? With things in such a state of flux, is it even worthwhile to try to figure it the fuck out? Just keep running…

I’ve been examining how I’ve grown from situations I’ve faced, and have to admit that I just don’t yet have the necessary perspective to understand exactly what happened. I know I’ve changed and learned new things, but haven’t yet determined at what cost.

Taking the time to process stuff is critical. It’s comparable, I think, to pain management. You have to be aware of it, understand that you can’t hide from it and stay on top of it before it has a chance to overwhelm you. Eventually, though, you need to move forward with what comes next. This song just might help you with that.

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