New York City is a great exception to that penchant of mine for driving to races in scenic places. For races, runs and rides in NYC, I leave personal transport behind and navigate the public transit system. This option will be even easier when the bike share program is up and running, pending the ruckus about the appearance of the bike stands.
The train is quick, comfy and easy, rolling into Penn Station where we connected with the metro system and our specific destination. With few exceptions, this group of senior cyclists/runners continued to either use public transportation or to hoof it throughout the stay.
On arrival, we found our way to the Bike Expo on South Street. In addition to picking up packets and ogling nifty cycling products, we walked the pier area, seeing the remains of the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy as well as the progress made in rebuilding.
Having taken care of business for the Sunday ride, we had downtime to do some exploring. To ward off nerves about the upcoming ride, what to see and do?
Brooklyn Flea Market: Our friend Janis led us through
a tree-lined street of brown- stones to the this wonderful market referred to locally as the Flea. It has a sizable selection of vintage products, original art work, and an eclectic blend of food choices.
Battery Park area: As I finished up my Sunday volunteer stint (5 a.m. through mid-morning) at the start of the 40-mile ride, I knew my friends would have hours to go before we would meet. With little familiarity of Battery Park,
I knew a few landmarks and stayed within easy walking distance of the Staten Island Ferry, the finish point for the 5-boro ride.
World Trade Center - Upon my release from volunteer duties on Sunday morning, I simply began walking the area and found myself around the World Trade Center. On this cool damp morning, nothing could have prepared me for the palpable sense of loss. Frozen in place, I stood before the lengthy list of photographs and names of police and firemen lost. A stop in a cozy coffee shop helped me warm up and sift through my thoughts.
National Museum of the American Indian The museum was conveniently located a few blocks from the ferry, allowing me (or so I thought) several hours to browse and learn. Wandering through several exhibits, I was drawn to the sight and sound in a room showing a documentary on American Indian contributions in blues, jazz and rock music. After a 4:30 a.m. trip to my volunteer stint, I was particularly enjoying sitting down in a plush chair in a viewing room with a fantastic sound system. The filmed commentary and the music were wonderful. Then, a quick end to my comfortable lounge chair as the cell vibration alerted me. Three of the five friends out on the course were swept and loaded on a bus somewhere past 20 miles. Details on this are in my earlier post on the 5-boro bike ride.
Museum time was over for now. Reconnaissance and retrieval time began.
- Brooklyn Flea is coming to Philly June 2 (technical.ly)
It all started during a leisurely November breakfast with friends. Glen mentioned he wanted to do the New York City Five Boro Bike Ride. We impetuously agreed to train and join him. A short six months later, six friends gathered in New York for the May 5th event – five riders and one volunteer as this was yet another event quashed by my late winter injury. I drew a 5 a.m. shift at a VIP area set up two blocks from the start. Tasked with keeping tables cleared as one set of riders replaced another, I chatted with charity riders.
Arriving bicycles included a mix of state-of-the-art road bikes, recumbents and ellipticals.
I had a view of 32,000 cyclists off for the 40-mile ride. My team was in the first wave, departing at 7:45, but somehow I missed seeing them.
Several hours later, I received a text that three of our 5-person team had passed the 20-mile mark before they were swept from the course and loaded on a bus. I quickly made my way to the Staten Island Ferry, not knowing I would be waiting three to four hours before they arrived at the finish. My team on the bus showed a great deal of patience. I did not. When I knew they were close, I left the terminal to locate the bike rental drop. The rental bike staff were loading up their trucks, so I alerted them that at least three rental bikes were still out on the course. To no avail. After some vague comment about leaving one truck, they suddenly pulled away with no signs of returning. Minutes later, I spotted my group along with several other riders approaching on their bikes. After a call to Bike ‘n Roll, they instructed that bikes now must be returned to the Battery Park location.
So, rather than drop their rental bikes on Staten Island as prearranged, then warming up in the terminal, riders now had to wait in the cold to load with their bikes on the lower level of the ferry.
And what of the two additional friends in our group? They had a fantastic day finishing the course. Aside from a temporary holdup leaving the festival at mile 36, and the expected period of time waiting in the bike line to board the ferry, they had a smooth and scenic ride. We didn’t say a proper good-bye since they had left their hotel and were having pizza with friends in Connecticut before we returned to Manhattan. Oh, well.
We learned so much through this experience. The 5-Boro Bike Ride raises funds for biking education. Additionally, NYC has a bike share program that is about to begin and the City has been very aggressive in expanding bike lanes.
I also concluded that large rides are likely not for me. As a runner, I can’t imagine being swept on a distance run, then sitting on a bus for hours before arriving at a point where I could get to the finish line or another destination. But then, I don’t run with a bike in tow. I’ll stick with running (for now).
Since this senior runner always incorporates food and exploration in any travel, look for more NYC in a subsequent post.
Is a blog titled Still a Runner still apt? Following a two-month hiatus due to a ski mishap, I’m cleared to swim and to exercise on a stationary bike. It’s keeping me active, but it isn’t running. So, I’m fiendishly plotting my anticipated restart to the running world and thus avoid renaming this blog.
What are the possibilities for a senior runner to return from several months off the roads and trails and become a better, smarter runner? Is this the time – for the first time – to bring on a coach to successfully return this lapsed runner to the running world?
Do coaches exist who specialize in women in their sixties still thriving on a run on the trails, down the road, running distance as well as doing 800′s down the measured-off section of their local road?
Until I find that particular coach, I’m planning to begin my return to running by correcting some habits that may have hindered my running. Those include excessive shoulder movement, poor running posture,
and a Darth Vader-like breathing pattern when I run at tempo pace or faster.
Short of finding that geriatric coach (not necessarily a coach who is geriatric but a coach specializing in runners in the upper age ranges), I’m self diagnosing and treating with the following regimen:
Running Form (Particularly sideway body movement) Sometimes when running in the morning, I have seen my shadow ahead of me. Most noticeable is that while most of my body is reflected moving forward straight as an arrow, I see my shoulders bobbing from side to side.
To change the motion of that shadow, I’ve taken to a device to improve posture by holding the shoulders back. If it works for horsewomen and elite runners, maybe it will work for me. I’m hoping by the time I’m running again my shoulders will have a memory change.
Without actually running, I’m also revisiting Chi Running. I did a 1/2 day session with Danny Dryer a couple of years ago and found it really beneficial. Like any training component or correction, if I don’t remind myself regularly, it goes by the wayside. I’m reacquainting myself with body sensing and some of the body looseners so that I’m ready to incorporate them when I’m ready to get back on the road.
Breathing: In a recent edition of Runner’s World, an article discussed the principles of rhythmic breathing espoused by Budd Coates and Claire Kowalchik. I’ve been practicing this technique to coordinate my breath with foot candence while water running. I’m hoping that work will translate into easier incorporation of their recommended breathing pattern to my footfalls when (not if) I’m cleared to run in the coming weeks.
I’m open to suggestions to prepare myself for a successful return to running. And, if you should spot that illusive coach out there, send them my way.
None of us are exempt from the vagaries of place and time and what brings us to be, or not be, at a specific location at a specific split second. Nor are any of us exempt from the cruelty of those who choose us as “soft targets” and attempt to sap our optimism, our joy, our love of a good challenge, our desire to participate in a long-held athletic tradition.
While friends headed off for the Boston Marathon without me, I continued wrapping up some race director work. I participated vicariously through postings on Facebook, including a photo of my goddaughter and her toddler cheering on runners at the crest of Heartbreak Hill. I tracked several of my training partners via the Marathon’s website, thinking what a great day they were having with perfect running temperatures and little wind. They were running a similar pace and showed results up to the 40K mark, then curiously no final results were posted.
That is when the first phone call came of reports of an explosion at the finish line, followed by texts and emails with similar messages for me: ”So thankful you were injured and couldn’t run.” That injury had stopped my training in its tracks and kept me from the start line and the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Again, the vagaries of place and time.
On what began as an exquisite April 15 race day, early evening came before I got confirmation that all my running friends and their supporters waiting for them at the finish were accounted for. Some had been knocked into barricades, while others were within view of the finish line as they were diverted. They survived.
I did not lose friends. Others did. Lives will not be the same.
I watched the repeatedly televised footage of the man who was knocked to the street by the blast. I later saw a report that he is 78 years old and that after being helped to his feet he took the last few steps to the finish line. Like him, we will, with the help of others, pick ourselves up and move forward through our grief, our sadness, our outrage, our love of community.
Those who suffered the horrific loss of family and friends and those who are suffering with injuries that will change their lives forever will need our support far into the future. We may not know them personally and only hear of them through the media, we may not totally know their pain and grief, but we can be there for them.
Man isn’t just a pattern-seeking animal, he is a goal-setting beast. From breaking the four-minute mile to putting a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth, we have constantly striven to outdo our forefathers. Accordingly, we have seen the standards of excellence mount with an almost linear progression through the course of time.
Today, the marathon performances of the Running Boom champions seem almost quaint by today’s standards, as far from world class as the exploits of their own predecessors seemed during their time in the sun.
If you’re the least bit competitive, the least bit nerdy and the least bit old, you’ll want to take a look at this: an Age Group Grand Prix.
Grand Prix events will include 30 half marathons during 2013, including events held earlier this year. Though there is some nice structuring of prize money and incentives for the really fast folk out there, what really caught my eye is that the age group competition will include age group athletes up through Age 80.
The press release says “The age group rankings offer a simple two-pronged scoring system that every athlete can easily understand.” I’m not sure that it is simple, but here is what I gleaned: Age group rankings will be earned and tracked based on finish time and place, with updating as each event takes place. In each race, runners will be tracked by age-grade – nothing you need to apply for or fill out. Place points are awarded in each 5-year age group for each event, with some events earning double place points. And, if you are one of those talented, disciplined, hard-working athletes, look for the time bonus awarded if you score 85% or higher on the World Masters Athletics (WMA) and USA Track & Field (USATF) age-graded scoring tables.
I don’t currently have any of the Rock ‘n’ Roll events on my race calendar, but I will be watching the standings. As the competitors in my age group have dwindled, it is all the more important to get a sense of what other runners in my age-group are doing. It’s great to look at the list and see the number of women in my age group already on the Leaderboard. It reaffirms what can be done by my gender at my age. Updated standings will continue to be posted at the Competitor website. Don’t let Mo Farah’s
The age-group series is pretty smart marketing for the Rock ‘n’ Roll series and a pretty good way for we age-group runners to be inspired and keep an eye on our competition. With the final snow melting, let’s get out there and train. If a half marathon is on your race plan this year, you may want to consider running a series event and adding your name to the leaderboard.
Several weeks of sedentary living while nursing an injury gave me a few extra minutes to pop in on some reading. The New York Times Magazine hanging around since February featured a canary-yellow cover with a delicious looking chip and a quote that continued to draw me: “I Feel so Sorry for the Public.” The article discusses the science and marketing of addictive junk food and is adapted from Michael Moss’s book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.
This is a tough read and a tough look in the mirror,
with wonderful terminology from the manufactured food world, such as “stomach share,” “pleasing mouth feel,” ”designer sodium,” “bliss point,” (bliss point to me usually kicks in at about mile 5 – apparently there is also a manufactured food bliss point) “vanishing caloric density,” , and “sensory-specific satiety.” As Moss discusses the methods used to develop food products that will keep us eating, not just eating but eating more of the foods high in salt, high in fat, high in sugar, I realize that I and my fellow active boomers are included in the public that is pitied.
Much as we like to believe we who are the senior runners, the track geezers, the aging athletes are above the tricksters of the processed food industry, we (at least me – and those of us I see chomping down chips after a 5K) are also caught in the junk food trap. It seems the industry research shows that baby boomers can continue to be pursued with fatty foods because we don’t regularly eat real meals. We are still busy people, going to meetings, working, working out, doing whatever. So, we are a population group destined to provide growth potential. Lucky us. What will they develop next for a “pleasing mouth feel” for our aging palettes?
Don’t think we’re safe from them by hanging out in the produce aisle. Case in point: next to the avocado bin in my local grocery stands a conveniently placed rack of All-Natural Stacy’s Pita Chips. Nice fresh looking package, 0g trans fat, baked (forms of the word “bake” appear at least 5 times on the package) and it says “delicious.” Well, they are delicious. I should know. The bag is nearly empty. The Stacy name sounded familiar as I read Moss’s article. He explains the product originally developed by a New England couple for their snack cart was acquired by Frito-Lay. I wouldn’t know that from the packaging which tells me it is made in the USA for Stacy’s Pita Chip Company. Moss also reports that the pita chips averaged 270 milligrams of sodium, a big chunk of what I should be taking in during the day. Examining the bag, I see he is right on. One serving (8 chips) – 270 mg sodium.
I admit it. They had me pegged. Does it have to be that way? Is there a food product I can purchase, short of those I pick from a tree or pull directly from the ground, that wasn’t designed to maximize my bliss with fat and salt? I don’t need help in this area, thank you very much.
Let’s just simplify. Bake a sweet potato, season with cinnamon.
Have some apple slices drizzled with honey and call it a day. Keep my shopping eyes on the avocado and diverted from the chips. That’s my plan.