Thursday, August 12, 2010

Someone please remind me this is self-inflicted pain

Two days ago, I did the previously unthinkable: I woke up and thought to myself, "I think I'll run today." That may not be quite so unthinkable if you knew me in high school or even freshman year in college. But now it's a bit different. I haven't run since the last time my bike was out of sight for an extended period of time, that being last December in Paris. That was almost eight months ago.

Why all of the sudden did I feel like picking up my shoes and bobbing up and down on the uneven pavement of my Chinatown neighborhood for 40 minutes? There are a few reasons, but they mostly boil down to the fact that I've been cycling nonstop since I returned from Paris in January. In addition to being just plain tired of cycling, I've also been living downtown, which requires a 20-30 minute, 70 block cruise to Central Park if I want to even think about having a nice ride on my bicycle. I usually go after work, which means I commute to the park through rush-hour traffic. Add in the extra annoyance of the "protected" bike lanes on 1st and 2nd Avenues, which far from making me feel safe actually have me thinking about how a head-on collision with a delivery boy would feel at 15 mph, roughly every three blocks. Not fun.

Being fed up with two months of the slog from here to the Park, not to mention only being able to go to the park to ride, I picked up my running shoes and thought to myself...hmm, no commute to start, better views, able to explore the neighborhood...and 20 minutes later I found myself in Brooklyn. Which was really great, until I started heading back to Manhattan. It's not usually the best idea to test your running shape by setting out on a 40 minute run that doesn't really have an early exit strategy. But I wanted a view, so I headed to the Manhattan bridge, which is about 5 blocks from my apartment. 

The problem is that the Manhattan Bridge is segregated: bikes on one side, pedestrians on the other. But there is no super clear signage about that. So I started running up the ramp closest to where my street dumps out onto Canal St., which I now know is the bike-only lane. I thought something was fishy when I didn't see ANY pedestrians near the ramp, but there was a nice-enough-looking hipster fixing the whole foods backs roped to the back rack of his bike midway up the ramp. I asked him, quite clearly, whether the ramp was for ONLY bikes, or if pedestrians were allowed too. "Oh, both," he said. Okay. Taking his hipster-word as fact, I set off running again, up the bridge.

Yes, up. Being that both Manhattan and Brooklyn are more or less at sea level, bridges over the east river are basically man-made hills. That was my second "Oopsies, maybe not the best idea for my first run in 8 months." But I put one foot in front of the other and continued on. Of course, the hipster was wrong. Once I got onto the bridge I could see quite clearly I was the douche running in the bike lane, and all of the other runners and walkers were having a grand old time across 4 train tracks and 3 lanes of cars on the other side of the bridge. That meant that in order to minimize my self-hatred as a generally cyclist-friendly person, I should stay as close to the rail as possible, and just continue running in a straight line until it was possible to cross over, meaning in Brooklyn, over a mile away over a hill.

In the end it turned out to be worth it. When you are running, unlike when riding, it's generally possible to take in your surroundings without crashing into a pole or another person. So you can appreciate the wonderful sunset over lower Manhattan from mid-East River. 

It was so wonderful, in fact, that I decided to do the same run again last night, taking care to actually go over the correct way this time. I thought it also might help alleviate some of the soreness in my quads from the first run. WRONG. It was a great run. It was beautiful. But as far as helping me be able to walk today, not so much. I woke up this morning feeling like a truck ran me over. I stumbled into the kitchen barely able to stand. I may be forced to skip class today because I'm not totally convinced that I will be able to make it down two flights of stairs in my building plus two more in the crowded subway station. The running gods are punishing me for ignoring them for so long.

But still, I think that photo's worth it. And I'll probably run today.