Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for November, 2014

Ghosts of Gray Rocks and Britten’s Music

One of the many benefits for an aging runner is to return to locations you love and see them afresh on foot, explore the new path and revisit the old. There are times when revisiting the old escalates to a sad good-bye. So it was with the Gray Rocks Inn.

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Summer view of Gray Rocks Inn on Lac Quimet. credit: businesstravelnews.com

Located in the Laurentian region of Quebec, the inn closed in 2009 and the property deteriorated for several years. In its time, Gray Rocks was a forerunner of the active lifestyle – golf, tennis, swimming in beautiful Lac Quimet, horseback riding on mountain trails, paths that took a hiker away from any sounds but those of the forest, and of course, skiing, the first ski resort in the Laurentians. After a day outdoors, guests enjoyed a formal but leisurely dinner of regional and French cuisine.

A few days ago, the aging buildings of a shuttered inn burned to the ground. Everyone locally had memories of staying or working at Gray Rocks and my memories of several summer visits decades back came flooding in.

Of the many commentaries and memories posted online, I was most captivated by a CBC post. I learned that composer Benjamin Britten had stayed in one of the Gray Rocks cabins, preceding my family’s visit by some 40 or 50 years.

Included in the CBC post is some wonderful historical information on Britten’s Gray Rocks Stay. Reading through Britten’s letters, his description of this beautiful region remains true. Amid the additional traffic, newer resorts, Ironman events, and endless condos, the underlying beauty and atmosphere of this Laurentian hideaway is unchanged.images-1

I found the perfect antidote to sadness over the passing of a time and loss of a gem in listening to Britten’s composition, a Ceremony of Carols, appropriate for this time of year or anytime. Give a listen through the link at the bottom of the CBC article (Video: A Ceremony of Carols). Simply, it is uplifting. When I hear Britten compositions in the future, wherever I may be, my mind will be traveling to the wonderful Laurentians and the Gray Rocks Inn as he would have seen it.

 

 

 

 

 

NYC Marathon Bookend Days

Destination marathons, and even home town marathons, have a before and after. Taking on 26 miles requires your mental space. That may mean a day-before get together with friends who will patiently listen to you second guess your training plan. It may mean sitting quietly with yourself for even a short time, a moment to focus physical and mental energy. The closing bookend may be a day back at the office where the mind wanders to the previous day’s accomplishment and while your  body reminds you that, yes – you really did do that – again.IMG_0978

With New York, there was a before day to gently roll into that weekend and an after day of soaking up some post-marathon activity before a mid-day departure.

Our threesome took the ever-convient Amtrak in, with a window of time to discuss running, catching up on other miscellany, and more running talk.

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With running friends Carol and Becky. My green bib is a giveaway that they are speedier runners.

With a mid-day Friday arrival, we dropped our bags at the hotel and off to the Expo shuttle bus for the Javits Center. From the start, there is the distinct international feel to this marathon. We had ample time to pick up our registration bags, check out the running gear and with an extra day before the marathon, we dared to taste test the myriad of sample energy products on display.

There are items I know after a brief scent or a bite are not for me. Others I’m willing to try. I brought samples home to experiment with as I begin my next cycle of long training runs. I’ll let you know how they work for me.

Large selections of running gear did not tempt me. I seldom buy gear at an Expo. Well, there was the time in Boston when my luggage took another route, but aside from emergencies I’m more likely to ponder my selections until its too late. It’s a great way to save.

After a few hours of browsing time, the crowd was growing and we exited the Expo for an early dinner at Joe G’s, a Manhattan favorite for me, located below street level with a grotto feel and deliciously seasoned Italian.

Saturday started with an early shake-out run from the Da Vinci Hotel, a boutique place chosen for its proximity to the NYC Marathon finish line. The friendly, helpful staff were a bonus.

2-DSC00768 A cold rain fell and by mid afternoon the wind was picking up. It was a relaxing, do your own thing day. We could easily have fit in a show, but kept things unstructured,  rendezvousing for a few meals. I particularly liked the Bread and Honey market neaby,image where we restocked on snacks and bananas and enjoyed a hot cup of soup. A quick stop at the Westerly Natural Market (more samples in my cache), then a late lunch/early dinner was nearby at the Ivy Bar. It was time to call it a day.

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A gracious Meb signs autographs

Our closing bookend day had a great start, thanks to Terri, my running friend and fellow blogger at  See Jain Run. From her, I learned about a post-marathon day presentation and information session on a product I have yet to try (another sample I’m saving for an upcoming long training run. I’m looking forward to trying the product  – more on this later). IMG_0997There we had the opportunity to hear Olympian and winner of earlier Boston and NYC Marathons Meb Keflezighi  offer comments and insights on running  and competing and life, and some nutrition information from running coach and author Greg McMillan as well.

A brief chat with Greg McMillan. Love his coaching tips.

A brief chat with Greg McMillan. Love his coaching tips.

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Whoever invented the rolling suitcase, thank you.

Off to catch the train with no time to spare, the bookends fold and marathon weekend is complete. Great marathon, great city, nasty weather. We’ll be back. Maybe.

 

Travel Theme: Arches

Let’s do a Travel Tuesday and join the folks over at Where’s my Backpack? as they explore the shape of the arch in all the forms it appears to us.

Photo Credit: Scott D. Welch/Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Scott D. Welch/Wikimedia Commons


On this Veterans Day in the U.S., I will begin with the Pacific Arch at the World War II Memorial.

 

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From the East Coast of the U.S., we move in time to the Middle Ages and across the Atlantic to a Baltic port city and this arch in Old Town Riga, Latvia.

 

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Then north on the Baltic and a bit inland to an arched walkway through a building near the Täby Kyrka in Svenskakyrkan, Sweden.

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Off to Northern Ireland and Belfast’s City Hall. In addition to the beautifully arched stained glass window, at least three other arch shapes appear in the photo.

 

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Continuing east across Asia and into the Pacific Ocean to one of our westernmost states, we found an arch of holiday lights surrounding one of many homes, vehicles and driveways located in this historic Oahu neighborhood at the foothills of the Waianae Mountains. Decorations are ready for the Makakilo Christmas Light Spectacular.

 

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Back to the U.S. mainland and in Niobrara State Park stand a lovely couple centered in an flowered arch overlooking the Missouri River.

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Across the Missouri on the Dakota side, the river forms its own gentle arch.

 

20130720-10kroadrace-tj-001jpg-7c79ed43a5447f89On to Cleveland Ohio during a downpour prior to the 2013 Senior Games 10K where a runner attempts to stay dry employing an arched plastic bag overhead.

 

IMG_0611Finally, we have circled the globe and made our way back home to one of the many bridges with arches spanning our beautiful Susquehanna River.

Thank you Where’s my Backpack for this great suggestion.

 

 

 

 

Windy, Wild NYC Marathon

With more than 50,000 NYC Marathon finishers, there are as many stories. Here is mine. A long and tedious path from a half marathon qualifier in 2012, cancellation of NY 2012, 2013 tumble down a ski hill, defer to 2014. The wait was worth it.

Any marathon the size and reputation of NY has a before and after the main event. That will wait. Today, its the main event. The decision early on was do a tourist run, enjoy the sites and finish time be damned.

View from the Staten Island Ferry. Photo Credit: Carol Varano

View from the Staten Island Ferry. Photo Credit: Carol Varano

Race day we’re off – subway to Staten Island Ferry, buses to athletes villages, most runners carrying bags of throw-away clothing for warmth in the 40mph winds at the start.

Hugs and goodbye, good luck to my faster friends Carol and Becky off to their starts. I keep walking to the green village where my corral will begin the gauntlet of wind on the Verrazano Bridge, first mile uphill – second mile downhill.IMG_0988

High over the Hudson River, I tried my best to stay in the middle of a group of runners. Instead, those runners were being buffeted about while I was blown to the right into the barricades, then bouncing back into the group, hopping across layers of clothing abandoned as runners exit the wind swirls on the bridge and enter Brooklyn.

The relentless wind moves from broadside to a headwind. I search the crowd for a bigger person running my pace, fall in behind a young man clicking along at about a 9:40, slightly taller and wider than me. I give him a couple of feet of space and soon a small woman cuts in at his heels. How unfair, slipping in and stealing my windshield. Off to find a replacement.

And there he is, about 6’6″ with a wide torso, wearing either halloween devil horns or a Viking helmet, not sure which. I draft behind him for a full mile before he stops to talk to his cheerleaders. I take solace and energy in James Brown’s music blasting from the sideline.

IMG_0981I miss the sign coming into Queens (subbing a photo from the Expo, featuring Senior Runners from Queens – my kind of people).

Around Mile 20, we enter the Bronx for a mile or two. An enthusiastic group of live musicians welcomes us. IMG_0990No lip-synching here as they perform on a raw morning. The wind is again straight on as we enter Manhattan. Anything for survival, I see runners scooping down to pick up outerwear abandoned by earlier runners, protecting their chest and thighs. The city skyscrapers have caused my GPS to go wacky. As I pass the Mile 24 sign, my watch is reading Mile 25, a cruel trick. Up the last hill in Central Park and crossing the finish line into a slow, slow craziness, photo ops, bite of the apple from the finisher bag, man with a German accent attempts to chat with me but my mouth is too frozen to respond, move through the barriers to exit the park, and receive the lined marathon cloak. Thank you, NYC Marathon.

Two block walk and the warmth of the subway is welcome.

Walk of the Marathon finisher zombies. Photo credit: Rebecca Cover

Walk of the Marathon finisher zombies. Photo credit: Rebecca Cover

Time? 4:28 and change. What does it say that I do nearly as well goofing my way through a marathon as I do in all-out efforts? I’ll end with a cheer for my fellow senior women runners in F65-69 AG – 121 of us still runners and NYC Marathon finishers.