Monday, April 30, 2012

What's on Your Feet?

Today's post comes via my cousin Amy who shared the comic strip above with me earlier today.  Sadly for her, she was probably witness to a mini-rant on how running shoes have been (at least partially) responsible for a nation of injury-saddled runners.  Nonetheless, as the owner of two pairs of Vibram FiveFingers which, despite their extremely minimal design, cost about the same as a good pair of shoes, I of course loved it.  I wonder what the Tarahumara would have to say about this.

Credit: Luis Escobar, NY Times

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Get Lost!

No, not you; you keep reading. 

With today's modern technology it's become harder and harder to get lost.  Car GPS devices and smartphones with Google Maps mean that we rarely leave the house without the aid of a pocket-sized world map.  Of course there are benefits to not getting lost, but we've also lost the excitement of finding somewhere new as we try to find our way.

Prior to yesterday's long run I experimented with Garmin Connect's course creator.  I mapped out a solid 12+ miles on and off road and transferred it to my watch.  It was my second attempt at using Garmin's courses and like the first time it was a failure once again.  What I've come to realize is that, despite having set a specific course, the Garmin does little to help you stay on track; it only tells you whether you are on or off.  Now, for a person with any sense of direction this shouldn't be a problem; admittedly, I am not that person.  

While I'm great with a map and have a solid understanding of big picture geography I am terrible at local wayfinding.  Despite Miami's regular grid it took me years to get a handle on getting around in my former city.  I always blamed it on the diagonal US1 which interrupted the grid, but really it was me.  In fact, my grandparents rarely miss the chance to remind me about all those times early in my college years (before I had a car in Miami) when they came to take me for dinner (and errands) and I took us on unplanned tours of the greater Miami area.
Things are no different here in my new NY digs.  I grew up on Long Island's south shore where things are fairly grid-ish and the overall road network has some sense of order and structure.  On the contrary, the north shore features many windy roads with a much more chaotic organization of the network.  While I'm starting to get the hang of things I tend to keep my runs and rides to a few roadways to avoid getting myself too crossed up.  

Back to my run: once I left the "course" I stopped caring where I was going and just ran.  I stayed mostly on the roads but dipped into the local trails several times for a change of scenery.  As I approached the midway point of the run I started trying to head home.  It was at this point that I realized I didn't know which way home was.  Avoiding the urge to pull out my iPhone and simply check the map I decided to find home the old-fashioned way; well, sort of.  In place of an analog compass I used the electronic one on my Garmin to find North.   I was a bit uncomfortable for a couple of miles because I wasn't certain I was going the right way, but I trusted the compass and my instincts.  What was the worst that would happen: I'd run a little further than I planned. 

After a couple of unsure miles I eventually made my way back to a familiar road and from there the way home was easy.  Despite the uncertainty of hoping I wasn't taking myself too far in the wrong direction getting "lost" was actually quite liberating.  I don't think I'll be heading out without some form of navigational safety anytime soon, but I'll definitely aim to be less rigid about the routes I run/ride. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Spring is Here?

It's been spring for a little over a month now and I as I sit here writing I know less about what spring in NY is than I did before I moved back.  We were off to a great start a few weeks ago with a nice string of days well above 60°.  Gone were the jackets and long sleeves, replaced by t-shirts and even shorts some days. Apparently that was only a trial run at nice weather as it hasn't been nearly as temperate lately.  I know the good stuff is around the corner so I'm doing my best to brave the last chill or two.

Despite taking a turn back towards the cold (I'm sure I won't consider 40° cold after a couple more winters), I'm glad the changing temp has made it easier for me to get off the trainer and get back outside.  Spin classes and endless hours on my own trainer helped me get some saddle time but they were no substitute for the real road. 

While I may never stop missing Miami, and the life it afforded me as a triathlete, the cycling on Long Island's north shore is definitely a treat.  I'm still working on finding more regular routes but locating the hills hasn't been hard (unlike climbing them).  In Miami our rides were super flat: long rides down in Homestead had virtually no topographic changes and Key Biscayne's flat Rickenbacker Causeway was only twice interrupted by the isle's two bridges (one small, one a bit larger).  My rides on LI feature rolling hills right from the onset.  As soon as I leave my neighborhood and jump onto the nearby service road, the hills begin.  On a typical Miami long ride I barely covered 100 feet of elevation change, whereas now my rides often approach 2,000+ feet.  

I'll admit that at first I was ill-prepared for the rolling hills (I probably shift more on one NY ride than I did in a month's worth in Miami) but as I become more accustomed to the roads (and their curves) I'm really enjoying the extra challenge to my rides.  I know that as I put in more time I'm going to become a stronger rider than I have ever been and that my bike times will steadily improve.  In addition to being a great workout the climbs and subsequent descents really help to break up the monotony of a long ride. I'm looking forward to the weather getting better and my rides getting longer so I can experience more of what Long Island has to offer.  In the coming weeks I plan to try joining some fellow cyclists so I can see where the locals like to ride.