The blog about what we experience in our everyday runs

Sunday, January 29, 2012

What lies beneath? DC's silos lead to an innovative past

 52 Days — 

Missing from the Tourmobile bus route is a 25 acre plot of land in D.C.'s Bloomingdale neighborhood. The open space with silos, manholes and a lake resembles something closer to Stonehenge than any type of structure that would belong in NW D.C.

The plot on the corner of Michigan Ave NW and North Capitol St NW is what's left of the McMillian Reservoir Sand Filtration system. The Army Corps of Engineers originally constructed the system in 1905 as a means to provide clean drinking water to a burgeoning population.

What was once considered a public health milestone, now stands in a state of disrepair, with the District  and community groups unsure of its future. But during it's near 90 years of service, the facility provided chemical free, clean drinking water to the District.

Beneath the silos and the manhole covers are large cells with sand which filtered water from the Potomac River. Much of the sand came from Michigan, in honor of Sen. James McMillian of Michigan who brought the sanitation system to the area.

While water was purified underground, the open space on the surface contained a park, complete with carriage paths, benches and fountains — certainly something that would rival the National Mall.

Shortly after WWII the area was fenced off and the park closed as the government had concerns with people tampering the entire water system.

In 1986 the Army Corps sold the property to the District and closed the facilities. Since it's sale, there have been numerous attempts to commercialize the land with plans including housing units, a hotel, shopping mall and limited green space. Community groups and other organizations have suggested turning the area into a museum, park, library or some other form of public mixed-use property.

There even has been a recommendation for a dog memorial to all dogs who have died in the district.

The property was designated a DC Historical Landmark in 1991 and has been listed on most endangered lists in 2000 and 2005.

Since the silos and near 5,000 manhole covers caught my attention on today's run, it only seemed proper to give this historical, strange looking and somewhat out-of-place plot of land a little salute in Sights in My Nights.

Sources: | | |

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Can someone say ouchies!

56 Days — 

Running on crowded sidewalks often calls for a little self-defense.

Often I must throw a defensive stiff arm at a car turning into me (yes my Hulk like arms will stop a cabbie in its tracks), hurdle a bush or just come to a complete halt.

Yet, I usually don't have trouble with stationary objects. Shockingly, the trees, monuments, statues and metal barricades don't move; thus making them pretty predictable objects to dodge. Although some of those horses do look real.

It's on the rare occasion, that the objects do move that I somehow find a way to jump in their way. Tonight, I took a tight corner with a wrought iron fence post, and as I was rounding the corner, the fence post gained an inch and whacked me right in the elbow.

Since I often lift my arm up just to the right height when I run by metal poles, the only rational explanation is that the fence gained a few inches as I ran by.

Fortunately for me, my elbow took the brunt of the damage, leaving my legs in tact for future runs.

Just in case those inanimate objects don't move, the next time I take in a Sights in My Nikes, I'll definitely pull that elbow up a higher.

(Aren't you lucky...two posts in one day)

My motorcade is bigger than your motorcade

56 Days --

There are a few things that only Washingtonians have the pleasure of dealing with.

While much of this is covered in "Shit DC People Say," there are still a few realms that even such a comedic masterpiece neglect.

We deal with streets that were designed to confuse people, tourists that aimlessly walk into the middle of the street just so they can get far enough away to fit the Washington Monument in the photo, corrupt city council members, Metro buses that act more like M1-A1 tanks than public transit and a Chinatown that lacks, of all things, Chinese places.

Beyond the headaches that these aforementioned and other daily nuisances cause, there is one distinctly DC regular happening that just doesn't occur elsewhere. Motorcades.

It's fitting that the run on the State of the Union night includes motorcades. But they don't just magically appear on major speech nights. It seems that everyone and their mother needs at least two black unmarked Suburbans, a Metro DC cop car and a posse of burly men and ear pieces.

I don't know what goes into deciding which important official gets the black Lincoln and which deputy gets thrown into the Airport-like shuttle van, but I wonder if there is a competition for who's motorcade is longer. I can only imagine the thoughts that go through these distinguished officials minds when they walk outside and see their fleet of cars.

Unbeknownst to the general public, there is probably some underground running pool. I imagine the points system would run as follows: one point per black unmarked SUV, double points for snipers hanging out the back, triple points for a bus and finally 10x bonus powerup for the helicopter trail, with the searchlight running.

All I hope is that there isn't a reward for taking out runners. But if there were, that would be quite the Sights in My Nikes.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Chef Spike's pre-race fuel

60 Days — 

Good Stuff Eatery on Capitol Hill hits the spot nearly every time.

Let's just say the Canadians giving up Chef Spike is the price they had to pay for that premo embassy real estate.

But just because it's good stuff, doesn't mean it's good stuff to fuel a run.

As a general rule of thumb, downing a cheeseburger and fries a few hours before a run has a negative effect on speed and overall well-being.

Not to mention it produces some serious fartleks (and we're not talking about the Swedish kind).

In the spirit of trying different foods, running techniques, workouts, neighborhoods and truly anything new before the marathon in March, I actively ate a delicious Good Stuff meal only a few short hours before my evening run.

Sometimes runners complain that their legs feel like they are moving through cement—usually this feeling comes after a hard workout from sore legs. Tonight, I literally had the cement stuck in my gut. Beyond the new gastro-intestinal feelings, breathing was slightly more difficult and I'm sure my heart was ready to go into attack mode in protest.

For the future, I'm going to shelve this technique and place it in the category of "I must be getting older because my digestive tract certainly didn't move as fast as I thought."

While I often write about what I see on my runs (there was a beautiful sunset over the Mall tonight), I chose to write about an experience to warn my fellow runners to stick to the traditional methods — or the one's recommended in Runner's World — before heading out for a some Sights in My Nikes. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

You're putting far too much down in that downward dog

64 Days —

New York City may have Central Park, but Washington D.C. has The Mall; a two mile stretch of grass between the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial and a playground for the nation.

The Mall has seen it all: from Civil Rights marches and Occupy encampments to Segway-riding-fanny-pack-wearing-tourists and every diverse slice of humanity this nation could hurl our way.

Tonight's spotting, however, threw my "namaste" out of balance. To the man who dropped down into downward dog while waiting for a 30 second light to change should probably find a Yoga studio, or at least a good set of Yoga blocks before performing those moves on the street again.

As a note to the Yoga master, throwing your rear end in the air at the traffic light on 15th and Madison does not count as a "mixed" workout.

Nevertheless, perhaps I am missing the picture. Perhaps I am being to harsh on my fellow athlete, who can at the very least be called "inventive."

There could be a secret here waiting to be uncovered. I should have stopped to ask, because it could be a new fartlek-esq training regime: each traffic light, stop and hold a Yoga pose, then take off and run again.

Or even better — each Yoga pose can match the neighborhood it is most closely associated with. For example: Downward Dog for Georgetown (the dog-like mascot), Grasshopper for Chinatown, the Full Boat for Navy Yard, Lord of the Fishes for SW Waterfront, Royal Pigeon for Embassy Row (not to be confused with One-Legged King Pigeon for the Mall), Lord of the Dance for U St and Downward Facing Tree for the National Arboretum.

Can't wait for Lululemon take a crack at this new craze — neighborhood based, street corner Yoga.

Until the next run, I am going to practice my Intense Spread Leg Stretch, but just in case I don't nail it let's hope the DC City Council installs some spongey sidewalks or the next Sights in My Nikes may be from the GW Hospital.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Business in front, party in back: The same haircut for both Men and Women

68 Days -- 

There are a few things in American pop-culture that never cease to go away. These vintage pieces of history occasionally reappear in storage units in rural Appalachia, the Iowa State Fair, Steelers games and Def Leppard reunion tour concerts.

I can appreciate those who still break out the old record player and play the vinyls or those who break out the '57 Stingray for a drive.

But "it's making a comeback" does not apply to all items of American history. There are reasons products like the pleather jeans or the cassette Walkman or the calculator watch or the entire 1980's have been shelved into storage units primed for an episode of American Pickers.

There is one specimen of American style that will seemingly never go out of style. The Mullet. Without a doubt it is perhaps the most versatile thing that any human -- male or female -- could get on their head.

Washingtonians are used to seeing all walks of life invade our city. They range in various shapes and sizes, from GQ style to tie-die T-shirts with Eagles ripping through the American flag to fanny packs that are too large to qualify as carry-on luggage.

But the Mullet is one style that never ceases to amaze. At the risk of being judgy mc judgerpants, my only question remains: Who advises someone to get the mullet?

For the rest of humanity (and perhaps recovering Mullet advisers) here's a good rule of thumb to remember at the barber: 1. If the haircut appears on Bevus and Butthead, it's not for you and 2. Clothes and haircuts are something that genders should never share.

Whether the mullets and shemullets truly believe they are on the cutting edge of style or whether they actually do work during the day and then party immediately afterward without having time to go home, I give them my props for having the confidence to never let the 70's die.

I guess by writing about them, I too am letting the 70's live on in Sights in My Nikes. I'll have to Mullet that one over.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Excuse me sir, did you just fartlek?

70 Days — 

While it has yet to be determined if the Swedes are gaseous runners, their term, fartlek, implies otherwise.

Perhaps it was the chipotle mayo on my ham and cheese sandwich today, or the Hershey's Kiss I ate as a mid-afternoon snack, or the insane amount of coffee I drank this morning, but for some reason I could not stop fartleking tonight.

Often I choose to write about others, but tonight, I'm taking the cake. Running down the Mall, I felt I needed to apologize for fartleking past a couple taking a picture as the sun set or to the pretty business lady walking home from work.

I admit, some fartleks were better than others and some lasted longer than others. There's really no determining factor in the intensity or magnitude of the fartlek. I could only feel the fartlek coming and then watch as my legs burned through the extra boost of fuel.

While I only momentarily experienced the aftermath of a fartlek, I feel for the victims of such Swedish torment. As the markets would say — blame it on Europe.

But unlike the fartlek's bathroom humor sounding, pre-school boy chuckling and near association to the popularized American euphemism for passing gas, the term is actually a very technical running word.

Fartlek, Swedish for "speed play," is when a runner will vary the speed of his workout based on time, milage, city blocks or some other form of measurement. Tonight, I chose to do a fartlek workout — I start running a normal pace and would increase my speed for one to two blocks, return to normal pace and repeat throughout the route. While there was a couple enjoying the sunset and business people coming home from work, there was no need to apologize.

I don't often discuss or give running advice on this blog — I leave that to the human-gazelle types. In breaking with tradition, I would strongly recommend a fartlek workout because it specifically trains the body to speed up and slow back to pace — a needed skill in a race. Certainly fartleks can be applied in multiple sports, as long as the principle of boosting speed is preserved.

When my dad introduced me to this term during a middle school cross country practice, I laughed and thought he was full of it. His explanation was: "No no, it's a real thing and it's a funny word to say too."

Well dad, maybe next time I'll yell fartlek as I sprint past a tourist. I'm sure it will be a guaranteed Sights in My Nikes. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

15 reasons your blow-up Santa needs deflated

71 Days — 

The attic, basement, random closet and storage units (or a combination of all four) are getting lonely.

To those who continue to celebrate the holiday season weeks after the season end, please note that the blowup easter bunny, Batman costumes, the blowup turkey and the random pink flamingo miss their friends.

While the wreaths made us go ooohh and the santa wonderlands within in a plastic bubble made us go awwww, it's time to send Santa and Frosty on their 11 month vacation.

To encourage those of you who have not taken advantage of 3-day weekends, days off work, 60 degree weather or 30 degree weather, here's a few thoughts (in no particular order) on your yard junk

1. If your affinity for yard-blow ups is of any note, then one can only imagine what's kept on private display.
2. The reason you wore your parka on a 60 degree day had to do with the very realistic icicle lights hanging in front of your window.
3. The yard gnome and pink flamingo are jealous because you obviously love the candy canes more.
4. Is the stuff is free because if you follow the DC rule of thumb, if it's near the street overnight, it's fair game. And a free decorative reindeer is a whole lot cheaper off Maryland Ave than at Target's after Christmas sale.
5. Squirrels, birds and chipmunks are sick of the tourists and are eying the wreath over the door — especially the one with fruit in it (you know who you are on South Carolina Ave).

6. The yard gnome seeks revenge for further neglect and blocks
7. You get your StreetSense at your doorstep because the homeless man is now shacking it up with Mary and the kings. Sorry baby Jesus, it's time to share.
8. There are no more storage units left, forcing you to kick your eldest from the house for the extra storage space.
9. Your Jewish neighbors report you for a hate crime because Mr. Goldberg can't take the light-up Rudolph staring into his bedroom window anymore.
10. Frosty is losing his frost. In fact he melted and that's why you didn't have to water the lawn last week.
11. The pink flamingo now has two reasons to always move in front of the yard light motion sensor (1. His brother turned into flabongo and 2. He can only stay in the storage shed with the 4th of July Tea Party costumes for so long).
12. Your house will be the number one spot on the February tacky lights tour.
13. You are the first house in the District to be featured on "redneck front yard."
14. The lights burn out in Merry Christmas to display "Me y r mas" and people will start believing there is a new Mexican restaurant in town. Better get the Queso dip ready.
15. You have nothing new to put out for Christmas in July because you never put away Christmas in December.

And I thought of this list on a 25 minute run. Imagine if I had longer.

Don't be tacky, don't be lazy and let people ooh and aww over your house for its true Capitol Hill neighborhood beauty.

On another note, can't wait for Valentine's day decorations to arrive because seeing Cupid marry Santa and Frosty would be quite a Sight in My Nikes.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Protection against the urban wildlife — Rick Perry edition

74 Days — 

Running up the Mall evokes patriotic feelings. Running in SE DC makes the heart race and the feet move a little bit faster.

We all know there are parts of the district that you are warned never to set foot as they are notorious for high crime and a severe lacking of tourist traps.

McFadden's in Foggy Bottom earns a spot on the notorious list, but for reasons completely different altogether.

Nevertheless, I figured a bright and sunny morning run near RFK and other generally populated areas should be a safe-ish time to explore new parts of the district.

Never did I expect the biggest danger to my safety would be the wildlife. Yes, I am starting to think that Anacostia (notice the striking resemblance to anaconda), Benning Road, NE, SE have earned their spots on the avoidance list because urban critters will attack with no notice (only if I had Rick Perry to run with for protection).

I ran upon a cat guarding a sidewalk — Call of Duty lolz cat style. This obviously perturbed cat — probably angry after getting cut from his lolz cats audition — got really low, fur standing up, teeth flashing, ready to pounce at a moments notice.

While I find pictures of cats doing funny things amusing (see previous post), I am not a fan of the real ones. So I did what any 5'11, 200 pound human would do and scampered across the street, hoping this cat didn't possess magical flying powers. It didn't and I escaped unscathed.

Next time I go running in this area, I really should bring Rick Perry with me, or just bring a gun and do what he did. It does take purely superhuman talent to kill a rabid coyote, with one shot while in mid stride and I have yet to master doing three things at once like Perry.

So Governor if you are ever in the District and want to go clean up the most notorious streets of DC with me, I would be more than happy to have you as a critter fighting partner in Sights in My Nikes.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Where's the NYE resolution dedication?

77 Days — 

The days after New Year's Eve. Perfect for watching football, hockey and starting off those New Year's Resolutions.

I completely expected to fight for sidewalk space from those newbie runners who think that just because the clock stuck midnight for the 365th time in a row that they would magically be able to run.

In fact I looked forward to the stories as I fought my way down the sidewalks, ducking and weaving past the non-regulars (i.e the Segway tourists).

To my great disdain, I saw one resolution-esq runner braving the elements tonight. In fact I saw him twice in my loop around the Capitol/Mall area. And for his bravery and dedication to self-improvement, I will save him from any scathing post.

Rather it's those who promised themselves on Saturday night that they would start anew — well as soon as the hangover wore off — and then forgot to actually start anew who are the focus here. Knowing hangovers and the bowl schedule I fully expected you promise breakers to be out in full force tonight, no matter what the conditions.

Yes the excuses ran aplenty: it's freaking cold outside; I'm tall and the wind will blow me over; or it's dark so I'll leave work early tomorrow to do it.

Here's a few notes: It will be cold, dark and windy for a long time and then it will be hot, really hot (Welcome to Washington DC, the former swampland).

So kudos to the brave soul I ran past (twice) tonight as you are at least trying to uphold a promise. For everyone else, get out there and actually go for a light jog. I really want to make a good Sights in My Nikes and throw some elbows and fight someone other than tourists for sidewalk space on tomorrow night's run.

And by the way, the elliptical at the gym does not count. So return your new, 1-month, LivingSocial bought gym membership and let the regulars spin, swim and do fancy Indian dance class in peace. They will thank you for it, because we all know, no matter how many times you go, you will never be a true "regular."