Menton, Feb 2022

A Pensive Babe Posing with an Invader Piece Near the Border of France and Italy

Menton was our last stop in France, prior to returning to NYC (via Copenhagen). It is about a 30 minute train ride from Nice, and sits on the border of Italy. It could be described as a smaller, older version of Nice. We happened to be there during the Fête du Citron, which is the festival of Lemons. As a result, the whole town was replete with large scale sculptures made from lemons and oranges.Continue reading

Èze and Monaco, Feb 2022

“Exotic Garden” Selfies at the Top of Èze’s Medieval Village

During our stay in Nice last month, Britt and I took a couple of day trips to some nearby spots. One such spot was the small medieval village in Èze. From Nice it is a 15 minute bus ride along a picturesque coastal highway that winds along the coast. The fare is less the the price of a Metrocard swipe. The bus drops you right at the base of Le Jardin Exotique, which is set atop a very, very old little village. We wandered through the stone walled passages for a few hours including the garden itself. We packed some sammies from the boulanger in Nice and enjoyed them in the garden’s sunny main lookout.Continue reading

Nice, Feb 2022

One of the Lookouts on Mont Boron

There comes a time in a pandemic era after getting all of the requisite shots, playing it safer than most, still getting sick twice, and watching everyone else carry on like nothing is the matter that one throws one’s hands in the air and books a trip to the south of France. I actually have to give Britt full credit for being the one to say eff it and book the flights. It was our first real vacation since the outset of all of this virus madness. We flew into Nice via Stockholm. Both airports were really clean and modern. There is a tram line in Nice that goes right to the airport, so we were able to just walk out of the terminal and hop on the tram to our hotel. Continue reading

Year End Thoughts

It is difficult not to wax philosophical at the end of each calendar year. This can be especially true when one suddenly happens upon hours of uninterrupted solitude inside of ones own NyQuil warped head. Not the way that I was hoping to start my holiday getaway, but here we are. Although I’m alone in the physical sense, quarantined in the upstairs section of our Catskills house, I’m not alone in this December 2021 Omicron debacle. It seems like this most recently discovered iteration of our favorite notorious spike protein is currently ripping through NYC like those escaped dogs running through Ralphie’s kitchen in A Christmas Story. I personally know more people than I can count on one hand who also managed pick it up somewhere in NYC over the past week. Britt, who was more diligent than I about getting boosted, to-date, has remained unaffected (knock on wood).

As annoying as it is to be laid up and quarantined, I have to acknowledge the upside. Day one I probably would have told you differently, but this time around was certainly not as severe as the first time I had it back in March of 2020. I didn’t lose sense of smell/taste this time around, for example. With the help of DayQuil I was still able to work on Friday (sort of). The fever was not nearly as bad. Here on day 3, I’m mostly feeling better. There are also so many more tools and data available now, that were not in existence the last time around. The fact that I was able to take a test at home is kind of incredible.

Speaking of the test, I almost want to frame it or something. I know that is kind of weird. But this wouldn’t be the first time that I made a trophy out of something that should actually be locked in a bin with a bright orange “biohazard” logo on it. When I was 17 I had my wisdom teeth removed. As I was regaining consciousness and still high on anesthesia, I asked the oral surgeon if I could keep the teeth, and he gave them to me in a little bag. Not sure if that was legal or not, but it was the 90s in Salt Lake City where people were also wearing JnCo and blasting Limp Bizkit out of their lowered Honda Civics with the rattle can paint jobs and a wing made in HS metal shop bolted to the trunk lid. These teeth that came out of my head were massive, like the size of an acorn. I decided to make matching necklaces out of them for me and my girlfriend at the time (ala Billy Bob/Angelina blood vials, albeit years before they did it). I still remember the smell (similar to burning hair) when I was drilling holes through the roots to string them up for my lady and I. Kerri O. was her name. She wore that thing around her neck on a strand of mint flavored dental floss the whole time we were together. Mr. and Mrs. O. hated the wisdom tooth necklace possibly more than they hated me. But then I moved to Hawaii, Kerri moved to NY and I’m not sure where the teeth ended up. As for the positive coco test, as much as I would love to make it into molar necklace 2.0, I have decided to dispose of it properly like a sane human.

I have been able to spend several hours listening to new music. This is one of my favorite activities. I can binge-listen the same way I have heard many describe consuming endless hours Netflix during quarantine. There are several personal positives I derive from binge listening. For one, music is, and has always been a mood booster for me. If possible, I would soundtrack every moment of my life. Thanks to the modern portability of music, I very nearly do. But these days my schedule rarely allows me to spend time intentionally discovering new music or allowing myself to go down a rabbit hole with a newly discovered artist. Having the opportunity to do both of these activities over the past two days has been euphoric. These hours have resulted in some new playlists that I’m very excited about. One of them is a playlist for winter/spring 2022 running. It is still a work in progress. But I got a solid start.

Speaking of running, I had full intentions of taking a long nice break after the marathon in Nov. It now seems that three weeks was plenty long, haha. I drew entry to the 2022 NYC Half, which is in March. So I’ll spend the winter training up for that (soundtracked by my new playlist, obv). Ancillary to this, I have found the energy to reboot a running club that I started with some friends back in the early aughts when I lived in Washington Heights. Most, if not all, of those friends have left NYC over the past decade. I teamed up on the project with my former PT, who I met while recovering from my core muscle repair. She is also very big into running and agreed to co-captain the team with me. I’m very excited to make it a thing again starting in the coming calendar year.

Here’s hoping that 2022 brings the return to normalcy that we got a taste of last summer, and that it can stick around this time! For now, I’ll get back to making playlists and running schedules.

Number 12

On 59th St. around mile 25.5 [Photo: Anwar Ragep]

Last Sunday I ran my 12th marathon. It was a big deal for me, personally, for a number of reasons. It was my first post-injury race. I had family come into town and run it with me. It was NYC’s first big event like this in the post-covid era. I hadn’t run a marathon in 5 years. For the past 14 weeks I have thought about this race every single day. When I was laying in bed Saturday night before the race, I felt so excited to go run. I really put in the time and effort to train for this thing. Even though I still have some lingering congestion from the super-cold that appears to be going around the city right now, I knew that I was recovered enough that it would not be a factor.

Rounding the corner from West CP Drive onto 59th St. [Photo: Anwar Ragep]

This was 50th iteration of the NYC Marathon. But because of covid related travel restrictions for foreign citizens entering the country, international participants were largely absent this year. In an effort to pad the gap, NYRR offered automatic entry to members of all of the local clubs. As a result, my brother-in-law was able to score a bib. My sister actually also got entry, but ended up having to defer because of a stress fracture that she suffered during training. She made the trip out to NYC anyway and joined the cheering crew, along with Britt and our friend Anwar, who provided most of these great photos!

Post race with Britt, and Britt with the sign she made [Photos: Anwar Ragep]

Race day started out awesome. My brother-in-law Jessie and I arrived in the start village nice and early. It was chilly, but not miserably so, especially once the sun came up. I was super fired up by the time the gun went off. My first few miles were way too fast. But I was able to rein it in by the time I hit mile 10 or so. Ultimately energy was not an issue, but pain sure was. starting around mile 16 I started to get a familiar burning/stabbing sensation where my IT band wraps around the outside of my right knee. It got bad enough that I needed to stop and stretch it out a handful of times. It slowed me down a lot, but honestly I’m glad that I didn’t try to just push through it.

[photo: Anwar Ragep]

My finish time goal was to do 3:45 or better. The last time I did this race was six years ago and I did a 3:43, so it seemed like a reasonable goal. By the time I made it to Central Park I looked at my watch, saw that I was in the low 3:20s and realized that if I really kicked I might be able to get close to 3:35ish. Starting around Mile 25 I gave it all I had, and really kicked hard when I saw the sign saying I was only 800 meters from the finish. I ended up finishing just under 3:36, which I am very pleased about. Not only was it my PR for the course, but it was only about 10 mins off my best marathon time, ever!

With Jessie enjoying some victory beers after the race. [Photo: Brittany Maschal private collection]

One cool thing that the New York Times does after every New York Marathon, is devote an entire section to the marathon, the Monday after the race. It includes the name of each finisher with their finish time and overall place. They also run a handful of photos from the race, including the one below of the runners in the start queue on the Verrazano Bridge in Staten Island. Upon closer inspection, I spotted my brother-in-law (highlighted below right). So cool!

I’m so grateful for all of the people who have supported me during my surgery recovery and training process, especially Britt. Sunday was a very special day for me and I will remember it my whole life.

Running Update – Loud Shoes Edition

First run in Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%

New Gear:

About 15 years ago, a friend turned me onto Mizuno running shoes. They are light, relatively inexpensive, and had the support that I needed for my gait an pronation. They are great shoes. I generally love me some Japanese design. Function-wise, Mizuno was no exception. They have been my faithful go-to running shoe ever since then. For some reason, however, they just keep making them uglier and uglier. From a visual design perspective, the only distinction between my most recent pair of Mizunos and a pair of granny-style mall walkers is the fact that the colorway is not white on white. I know that running is not a fashion show, but I’m running the NY Marathon in a few weeks and I want to wear some good looking kicks for the race. I’m not exactly a young buck anymore, but hey man, I’m certainly not a senior citizen yet either. Until then I’m not trying to give off any grandpa vibes with my footwear. After imagining the horror of opening up the NY Times on Nov. 8th and seeing a photo of myself running down 5th Avenue sporting old-guy kicks, I went on a quest for a non-geriatric looking pair of running shoes to race in.

I had heard good things about the brand ON. I think that they are a pretty good looking shoe and decided to try a pair. They had a nice fit for my foot and seemed okay for running…. except for the fact that the sole design is super prone to rock collecting. Given that I have been running on trails or gravel roads 3-4 times per week, they just weren’t practical. When I wore the ONs, I was forced to stop every half mile or so to remove (some quite sizable) stones lodged in the out sole. They are probably fine for city running, but I’m not going to gamble on wearing them for a marathon without having worn them on at least a few long training runs.

Prevailing public opinion (especially of non-runners) seems to be that Nike is the obvious choice in running shoes. I have had a love/hate relationship with Nike runners since my first pair of Air Pegasus that I wore in high school track. There has always been something not quite right about the way they work on my feet. The past couple of years I have picked up a few pairs of Vapormax, but mostly just for looks. I have never actually run in them. They are not comfortable at all on my feet, even just walking around the city. Summer 2020 I picked up a pair of deeply discounted Nike trail runners that I actually think are great. So when I saw the new Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%, I thought I would give them a shot. The visual design is about as non-octogenarian as it gets. In fact, when I first took them out of the box, I was worried that they might be a little much. After my first run in them, I was hooked. They are insanely comfortable and light. I only wore them for three shortish runs before breaking them out on last week’s 20-miler. Didn’t even get a blister. They are honestly the most comfortable shoe that I have ever worn and they seem to give me a literal bounce in my step. All of that said, there are definitely some drawbacks. First: they are insanely expensive as far as running shoes go (roughly double the price of the Mizunos I was using). Another downside is that they appear to be wearing out much faster than the average running shoe. The front section of the out sole is super soft, almost tacky to the touch. This is awesome for gripping the road, but I’m already seeing significant wear after putting only 50ish miles on them. Based on these facts, I’m not sure that I will be able to justify these as a daily runner. I may have to reserve them for training/racing, only. For now, I will enjoy these kicks to the maximum (as well the fresh still-in-the-box pair that I will race in next month), even if it means my theoretical photo in the Times ends up looking like that middle aged guy who is desperately clinging to youth by wearing loud sneakers! 😉