Saturday, June 23, 2012

Country Mouse

I just started listening to an interesting podcast called “Phedippidations” – which is put on by a self-proclaimed slow runner named Steve (nerdy running fact: Pheidippides is said to have been the first figure to complete the modern-day marathon when he ran from Marathon, Greece to Sparta and back announcing the Greek Victory over Persia – and then collapsed and died… Don’t worry Mom- this is Greek Mythology that has likely been exaggerated over the years). Steve records most of his podcasts while he’s actually running, and discusses inspirational topics to help you keep going as you're likely listening to his podcast while you run.

He said something in his podcast that really stuck with me – how runners develop a deep connection to their surroundings. When you leave your iPod and phone at home on a run, you end up focusing a lot on the sights, sounds, and yes - even the smells around you. Steve talked about how races and memorable long runs stick with you more than other memories because you are completely aware of every sense (he went on further to make a statement about how he believes the hippocampus, the area of our brain that stores long-term memories, is actually stimulated when you're running, which in turn helps us remember races. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here).

It might seem like common sense, but I found it to be rather profound. I know every crack and crevice of Kent Street, which has been my frenemy on so many runs; I know not to be alarmed by the chugging of the JMZ train on the Williamsburg Bridge, even though it sounds like it’s inches away; and I know to cross the street between South 2nd and South 5th Streets because of the foul stench that wafts from the Domino Sugar Factory.

I would never know these things if I were in a car or always listening to my iPod (not criticizing the use of an iPod on a run at all - I like listening to my music just as much as the next person). Even though I sometimes wish that I lived in a more rural area so I didn't have to pass by the same smelly buildings, I do feel a strong connection to my neighborhood.

In the same podcast, Steve talks about how during a recent run, he came across a horse who was running free. I realized I had a similar experience just two weeks ago.

I was taking one of my usual routes, perhaps on one of the only dirt paths in Greenpoint. I was sans-iPod and in tune with my surroundings. I saw a squirrel about 15 feet in front of me, who was hanging out in the middle of the path. He started to do that thing you do on a crowded sidewalk - when you're unsure whether to go right or left, so you do a little floaty dance back and forth with the person in front of you. Except instead of picking a set direction, he ran right into my shoe.

I screamed as loud as a person who has just run into a squirrel might scream, becoming suddenly aware of all the diseases that might now be on my Mizuno. Then I heard someone shout "That girl just kicked a squirrel!" I didn't think it was appropriate to correct her that he ran into me.

I took my inner country mouse up to Vermont last weekend for a family reunion - it felt so good to get some fresh air and quiet.

View from our condo...

It was a big Magrath-Wyman affair in Smuggler's Notch, Vermont, where I used to spend my summers as a kid. 20 of my cousins from as far as Indiana and Colorado all came together for some laughs and beers. 

We all met up at Harpoon Brewery on the way up, of course misbehaving and talking amongst ourselves during the required boring tour about beer-making. By some random coincidence, we were at the very front by the end of the tour, first in line for trying beer.

I will try.... everything.
Aside from carousing, there was a lot of extreme exercising. My dad convinced a few of us to bike ride up to the top of the "Notch" with him on Sunday morning - a ride he's done many times over the years. I have been going to spin class about once a week for the past several weeks, in addition to my normal running and strength training routine. I knew it was going to be hilly, but I figured I was in good enough shape to do it. 

We made it!
Well, we did it, but it was really, really hard. After about 10 minutes, I wheezed to Keith that I wasn't sure if I could do it. He told me I am not a quitter, and encouraged me to keep going. And slowly but surely, I did. Turns out, biking straight up a mountain is not supposed to be easy.

The reward for making it to the top-
We climbed up a big rock. Yay!
Two of my cousins, Sean and Pat, are also big runners. We almost always squeeze in a run when we're all together, and we had the bright idea of running up the mountain the next day to a swimming hole. 

Keith and I went to the information desk with our trusty trail map trying to figure out the best way to get up the mountain. We figured we could take a trail called Meadowlark all the way up - but information told us that the trail was "closed for the bears." Yes. They close the trails off a few times a week so that the bears can roam freely. 

It was the most direct way to the top - so we took a risk of becoming some teddy bear's dinner and went up Meadowlark. 

We climbed about 800 ft in just 1.5 miles. There was a lot of huffing and puffing - but it was awesome. And we jumped in the freezing swimming hole afterwards to cool off and play.

Beautiful Smuggs!
My legs welcomed the break from the usual pavement and sidewalk, and I have a new found jealousy for anyone who lives close to a trail like the ones we were on. But while I still live in the concrete jungle, I will embrace it's every quirk (and smell).


  1. Your posts keep getting better and better! Upward and onward!

  2. Don't people realize squirrels are rodents! Just a step up from rats! And wasn't Smuggs great - extreme cycling and hiking. Glad you joined on the one trip up the Notch. It was special to have you be there.