9 Thoughts from My ‘Run-Free’ Vacation

You might immediately be wondering why I chose NINE thoughts? Well, as I started writing this it has been NINE days since my last run. No I am not injured, and no I have not ‘fallen off the wagon’ or ‘lost my running mojo’.

I was on a family vacation in New York City, and didn’t plan to run. Of course, I was prepared just in case – I brought a full running setup in my bag. But for me it was psychologically important that I prepare to NOT run for the entire vacation. So on the 4th I had my great 18+ mile run and assumed that would be it until Monday the 14th.

Of course, if you have read anything I’ve written here or posted on other social media, you know my family isn’t sedentary – so you can believe we were BUSY and moving the whole week!

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1. There are More Important Things Than Running

I have said that I don’t look at building towards a race as ‘training’ any more than I think of it as practice when I pick up my guitar/bass/keyboard or when I grab some random data set and work on data analysis or programming skills. These are things that bring me joy, and therefore when I engage in them it is because I love doing them, not out of obligation.

But you know what is MORE important? Sure you do – family. So while I could have gotten up early and headed out (I woke up between 3-4AM every morning), instead I rolled over and slept more, and was up with Lisa sitting with a cup of coffee watching the sun rise over the city, with the boys joining us slowly as they woke up (ok, Chris joined us and eventually we woke Danny up!). Bottom line – it made every day special and connected and perfect.

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2. College Tours Are Like A Window into a World … and Your Child

There were two main reasons we chose New York City for our vacation: the boys chose it, and it allowed us to do a number of college tours (since we have one going into senior year and one into junior year it is very timely for both). The two colleges of real interest for them were NYU and SUNY Purchase. Both offer great arts programs – and our older son is very interested in film, media and writing as areas of study; and younger son is interested in music.

Do you remember visiting your university for the first time? I do – I actually hopped on a bus and spent the weekend with a friend of my brother who was a sophomore while I was a high school junior. I got a great tour, got to sit in on classes and see labs and so on. I saw other schools … but never recaptured that feeling – so the decision was made.

I saw that look on Danny’s face at NYU – that was totally his jam. As Lisa and I joked in the bookstore after the tour “ok, we can see him here, all that is needed now is $65k a year!” But seriously, every other school now has to compete with that first impression.

SUNY Purchase was almost the polar opposite of NYU – it is small (4,000 vs. 40,000), in the country vs. the heart of Soho, and entirely arts focused. Danny liked it but was concerned he couldn’t get the dual film & business major, but Chris LOVED it and the atrs focus and the ‘studio composition’ major that allows for modern production and traditional composition tied together … and is pretty much what he is already doing in our home studio!

From the college tour perspective, the week was a rousing success!

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3. I Don’t Miss Traffic

General agreement was that the low-point of vacation was sitting for over an hour on the Cross-Bronx Expressway getting back home after SUNY Purchase. We had done lunch in Port Chester and 95S was convenient … but I should have ignored the optimistic GPS traffic assessment and taken myself back to the Hutcherson Parkway. Ugh.

On the way to New York our 4 hour ride became a 5 hour trip due to traffic on I80 in eastern PA. Heading from Jersey City to see my brother in Princeton the hour drive took closer to 2 hours … yeah, traffic.

For nearly 20 years after college I dealt with some type or other of Boston-area traffic, so moving to Corning and hearing people talk about traffic has always been laughable – because, really … there is none.

And you know what? That is just fine with me!

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4. Walking a City Rocks!

My family (I think it was mostly Chris) gave me a nickname a few years ago – The Map Whisperer. As he described it “he sees things on maps … and walks to them!” I would protest … but it is actually fairly accurate. Again, my family is active and we do loads of walking – I am just a tad bit extreme!

Some of the walking gave us flexibility – we walked the mile or so from our building to the ferry for Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. This let us head into the city via Battery Park afterwards instead of worrying about getting our car again.

Other times it allows exploration – going from our play at the Cort Theater on 48th down to Times Square was a great fun walk, with great sites along the way. Similarly, walking all around NYU, Soho and Greenwich Village was a real highlight we would have otherwise missed. And after arriving at Battery Park we wandered all through the financial district, again a great way to see all of the lower Manhatten sights!

Of course, sometimes walking would be a waste of time – we were in Herald Square (34th) and needed to get to 73rd to Alice’s Tea Cup … and walking would have taken a very long time with no real benefit. The time was much better spent as extra time to walk around Central Park after our tea.

On average we were walking between 5 – 10 miles per day … including a couple of times doing the 30 flights of stairs from our room!

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5. Vacations are What You Make of Them

A few times over vacation we got to talking about OTHER vacations – Washington DC, Boston, Cape Cod, Ohio, Toronto, and on and on. And how much FUN we had regardless of whether or not everything was perfect. Our place in Burlington, VT needed to be cleaned before we felt comfortable, and the listing failed to mention the property was shared!

We were afraid when we arrived that this was going to be similar – because of the way the property was operated, nobody knew what we were talking about! Fortunately that was the only downside of the trip – but we talked about how we tend to make our own fun regardless of what else is happening. Sure we do loads of typical things everywhere we go – but we also will find a way to have fun heading late at night to the Duane Reed to get a deck of cards and have the security guard watching us because we were being silly.

There are plenty of people who will tell you what you SHOULD be doing on any given vacation … whatever, plot your own path.

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6. Big Stars Are Never The Whole Story

On Broadway we saw ‘The Cripple of Inishmann’ starring Daniel Radcliffe. It was an excellent story and production, and the Cort Theater is an intimate setting that made it a joy to watch. But as we were eating dinner (Carmine’s in Times Square – great stuff!) and chatting, all of us thought that in spite of being the ‘name’, Daniel Radcliffe didn’t stand out as the singular highlight of the cast.

That isn’t a criticism, but rather high praise for the entire cast, the writing and the interplay. But it is a reminder that life is a team sport – there are always things that get all the attention, whether people, places, events or whatever … but behind all of them there is a team that has made it happen. The recent World Cup showed the value of teamwork in sports, and every song on pop radio is the result of a large team effort.

I always think about that with runners and bloggers – running a race is a solo event, but almost always we depend on others to help us along the way. Maybe it is our family who have supported us through training and given us the time to get out and run, maybe it is the volunteers along the course.

I personally got a pretty big recognition at work just before vacation, and my initial reaction was to discuss the team effort required, but the focus was really on my contributions and accomplishments. I have always found that a bit weird, because early in my career I realized that without everyone working together, very little would get done.

TL;DR – ‘The Cripple of Inishmann’ is a great play you should see if you can. Daniel Radcliffe is excellent, so is the rest of the cast and everyone involved with the production.

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7. Apartment Suites Are Awesome

I mentioned that no one knew about the place we were staying, and that is because it is fairly unique (well, for us, but we are generally cottage renters). The place was Dharma Home Suites, and in a few locations in New York City and Jersey City they have chunks of high rise apartments that they rent out. They don’t own the entire building, so this isn’t a hotel experience with a front desk and so on. You are renting a furnished apartmemt for a week – which in our case was EXACTLY what we wanted. Check out the panorama I took of the main area:

Hotel Panorama

We got a one-bedroom suite, with two beds (twin and futon) in the living room. The full kitchen made cooking easy, and the apartment came with an incredible view, and access to an ‘amenities floor’ with outdoor grills and a pool. Sadly the tennis courts were closed off due to construction on an adjoining tower. But overall it was just an incredible place – it cost no more than a cottage on Cape Cod for a week, yet was a block from the Path train at Grove St. This is definitely something we will check out again in the future.

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8. Tourist-y Things Can Be Fun … or Not

On our first full day of vacation we went on the Ellis Island / Statue of Liberty tour, with the assumption we’d want to spend more time on the Statue and still leave time to head into the City, so we rushed Ellis Island a bit. Turns out we had it backwards – we loved Ellis Island and reading all of the history and stories and details, whereas after a short time after getting time looking at the Statue of Liberty up close we were done … then spent 45 minutes working through crowds of people who seemed either oblivious or unaccomodating to others, just to get off of the island!

In contrast, in Central Park, within 5 minutes of getting past the touristy entrance at Strawberry Fields we saw a couple getting engagement pictures done, a gay wedding finishing up, another wedding getting going, and a commercial for an Israeli jewelry line being shot. And everyone around was incredibly warm and friendly (well, for New York) and willing to work around what was happening.

We did loads of other touristy things – Canal St, shops in Soho, Madison Ave, Times Square, Herald Square, lunch in Washington Square park, and on and on … and in general we had loads of fun doing everything. It is all what you bring into the experience that makes the difference.

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9. It is YOUR Life … YOU Decide What is Most Important

While on vacation, we saw pictures from other people who were in places we had gone on vacation, and even others in New York City where we never quite managed to cross paths. Everyone does things differently, and even two people doing the same thing experience it uniquely. We have honestly never been a ‘shared vacation’ family, in spite of doing a few of them … and yeah, you can probably guess how we rate those experiences!

Doing our vacation, our way, was an incredibly fun experience – Chris wanted Starbucks (multiple times!), Danny wanted food truck food, Lisa wanted to check out the Macy’s in Herald Square (well, she was more excited about Alice’s Tea Cup, but I already used that picture) and I loved having lunch on a park bench listening to jazz in Washington Square Park. We all respected our other’s time, space, and desires … and as a result we had an incredible vacation.

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Bonus #1. Food is Good!

Interestingly I took very few pictures of food. That isn’t due to a lack of food in general or good food in specific – I really have no idea. Apparently I’m a lousy foodie. Our basic strategy is full breakfast at the apartment, late lunch out, snacks or light dinner at the apartment later. But we ate SO MUCH for those dinners that we were seldom very hungry when we got back. So on Thursday after SUNY Purchase we had a big BBQ on the 7th floor and cooked everything we had – two meals worth of burgers and two meals of chicken, and packed the rest in the fridge and carried it home, where it fed us until Sunday.

Highlights included the Maple Lawn Diner in Elmira, NY, which we hit on the way out, Carmine’s in Times Square, Alice’s Tea House on the Upper West Side, Pizza Mercato near NYU … well, and pretty much everything else!

Bonus #2. Oh yeah … RUNNING AGAIN WAS AWESOME!

I never got around to posting this on Instagram this morning, but the natural conclusion to this story is about me getting out on Monday morning and having a great run, right? OF COURSE! And that is exactly what happened! And since it had been 9 days, you can assume I took it slow, ran a shorter distance and … um, no. It was a great foggy, humid, sweaty 9.25 miles, where I at least wore my most comfortable shoes (Kinvara 5s), then home for ab work and just barely getting past 2 minutes on the plank – and every second past 1:40 was a struggle, aided only by our cat stalking around and rubbing against me the whole time.

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I am more than a week behind reading most of your blogs – and since I get most by email subscription that translates to ~150 emails sitting to go through until I am caught up!

So … well, I’ve missed all of you so comment on this or tell me anything you’d like?!?

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36 thoughts on “9 Thoughts from My ‘Run-Free’ Vacation

  1. Being 15 minutes over the GWB in NJ I hear you on traffic! I’ve lived my whole life on the tri-state area and it just sucks and is so frustrating. Between that and parking in the city it just takes the pleasure out of the whole thing for me especially with the kids! But we actually happened to be in the city saturday visiting with my friend and were in central park and the upper east side. Unfortunately my kids aren’t as fond of walking the avenues and blocks as I am and it makes for a challenging day!

    I’m not surprised at all that your son loved NYU, I still love the vibe down there and I am way old for it at this point 🙂

    Glad you got a running break too!

    • I knew you were in northern NJ but not sure how close … yeah, no love lost on crap traffic!

      As for the kids, well – mine are 16 & 17, and 6’2″ and 6’3″ … so they can manage their way around! 🙂 Plus they are at the age when they can appreciate what they are seeing. When they were your kids age and we were always in Boston they would whine to bring something which we would end up carrying for them and then they would still whine about walking 🙂

  2. Apartments suites are totally the best! You save so much money and hassle (and calories!) by buying your own food and cooking your own meals. Plus, having the space to spread out and not be on top of each other is nice (I have three sisters). Looks like you had an amazing trip–welcome back!

    • Thanks Rae! Having 3 beds definitely helped, as well as the huge space! We are so used to either cottages (plenty of room) to hotel suites (too small), so this was just perfect!

  3. I’m a vacation walker too! My New Orleans trip averaged about 10-15 miles a day, really 15-20 factoring in my 6 miles/day running. I LOVE seeing a city from that viewpoint. Jeff and I have scaled down our vacation to Chicago this year, but we are doing a similar rental through AirBnB of an apartment. Cheaper than a hotel room, right off the mass transit, and our own place! That means I can have coffee cheaply every morning and not be as hangry when we leave for the day-pretty vital for Jeff and I to vacation without killing each other!

    • haha – I’m not sure what we would do without at least breakfast supplies, since we both come from families that did loads of camping so you always had stuff right there, and then from the beginning found hotels with at least mini fridges or cottages with full kitchens.

      Your plans sound like a blast … especially with no spousal murder involved!

  4. I LOVE THIS. ALL OF IT. But before I forget–the Map Whisperer??? THAT IS AMAZING. I love the explanation. And excuse me while I swoon about NYC. Goodness, I miss it. I don’t miss the middle of the summer heat, but I do miss it. I wish I could have walked SoHo with you, and told you everything about it. (PS If you want to know more about SoHo, check out my masters thesis. Google Susie Ranney SoHo Beyond Boutiques and Cast Iron. It’s a read, but having just been there, I think you would enjoy it.)
    What I love about NYC is the fact that it gives so much to so many people in so many different ways. Just like running, and vacation–it is what you make it. And you certainly made a lot of yours.
    Welcome back, my friend!

    • Yeah, my creative kids with their names … I fully accept that as I am both the endurance athlete and cartographer of the group … well, guilty as charged.

      I remember you talking about your thesis … will have to check it out!

  5. Could not agree more that there is more to life than running and it’s your life so YOU decide what is awesome (oh and food is good too 😉 ). I know that when I go on vacation, I bring my running stuff, but I typically keep my runs a lot shorter and easier than they are when I’m at home (unless I’m exploring a new place…then they may end up longer since I get curious and don’t want to go back haha), and I’m much more likely to say, “Eh, I’d rather sleep in or get up and hang out with so an so.” It’s nice to have that break. It looks like you guys had a great one, and I’m glad you shared it! I love NYC and haven’t been in a few years, so you just gave me a strong yearning to head there asap haha

    • Thanks Caitlin! It was a blast and I think I definitely do get really focused so taking a break like that is a great thing for me. Sadly now it is behind us and back to reality 🙂

  6. Looks like you guys had a blast, looking at schools can be lots of fun.

    When I was 19, I loved hanging out with friends at NYU, even more so because they had to eat the massive tuition and I got to enjoy the spoils 🙂 Totally got into that type of energy for a year or two. Now…not so much, just setting foot into Manhattan drains the life out of me. I still love the American Museum of Natural History and the Hayden Planetarium though.

    • We really had a great time – but as you say Lisa and I discussed the actual living in the city side, and really it isn’t anything we’d do at this point. Too suburban and domesticated 🙂 But the kids … ?

  7. It looks like you had a great time. Honestly I have found that taking a extended period of time when not injured (normally for me 2 weeks) kept me injury free and craving running again.

    • Thanks Hollie – I know this has to be a really tough time for you now (hopefully Wineglass will happen!), but that is a really good perspective. Naturally I worried that I would gain weight and lose fitness … and while I probably added a few pounds, this morning I headed out running without feeling any negative effects!

  8. So glad you guys had a good trip! I definitely do not miss the NY traffic (although Baltimore traffic is not much better). It sounds like your break from running went well too! While I enjoy running on vacation, sometimes its nice to just take a break and enjoy the time away.

    • haha – city traffic is always a pain 🙂 And yeah, I have talked before about how much I have loved exploring new places through running, and with a North Carolina trip coming up in September I’m sure I’ll be exploring the Raleigh-Durham area that way as well. But I am also glad to have done the vacation this way!

  9. Sounds like a great vacation! It’s refreshing seeing teenagers enjoying a family vacation 🙂 You chose a great location- so much to do and something for everyone’s tastes!

  10. I love how much you love your family. It comes off very strong from every signly post you write. You almost got me teary-eyed on this one. I have no clue why. Or actually maybe you are so much in tune with your boys. It’s awesome! When I travel I walk non-stop to the point when I get back to the room I literally cannot make one more step. Those vacations are the best! I’m glad you had such a wonderful time! xoxo

    • haha – thanks Olena, I really love those ‘so tired and happy we just collapse’ moments as well! Thanks for the kind words, I am glad I touched you with my post … I know I always love reading your stuff because it is full of love and great feelings!

    • Thanks Laura! As I said I am always equipped, but didn’t plan it and didn’t run. I think it is good to do that sometimes even if there is no need.

  11. Sounds like an incredible vacation, I am so glad you guys had a great time and it was really great from a college tour perspective too…,maybe you killed 2 birds with 1 stone? I also had to laugh about the traffic section of your post, especially since it took me 2.5 hours to get home last night! Traffic is so normal in Boston that when I tell my friends how long it takes me to get to and from work (3+ hours a day normally) their eyes bug out!

    Anyways, I am so glad you are back, I hope you are feeling refreshed!!

    • Thanks Sara – I’m exhausted now after a few crazy days! 🙂 It was fantastic … and yeah, after nearly 20 years of Boston traffic I enjoy not worrying about it here. Of all the Boston things I miss … traffic is NOT one.

  12. This was a great catch up post!! What an amazing vacation!! I have only been to the city once and have always wanted to go back! NYU was my dream school when I was a kid! 🙂
    Welcome back, my friend! Glad you had fun and are well rested!
    That apartment rental sounds absolutely perfect!

    • Thanks so much – I really love how we manage to have such great vacations every year! NYU is insanely expensive (~$65k for next year) … who knows how THAT is going to happen!

  13. We missed YOU and what an incredible trip you had! I haven’t been to NYC in many years and I’ve been itching to get back up there…but I’m probably going to wait until Betty is a little older so that it will be fun and memorable for her too.

    • Thanks #mamaSalt! 🙂 It was great – and taking kids on some trips really benefits when they are older. When we were in the Boston area and it was a quick trip it was fun doing limited stuff (like all the cool things you do with Betty in your area) … but for a big trip like this – so glad they are older!

  14. Love NYC! We were there last fall & rented an apartment through VRBO so it was nice to live like a New Yorker for a few days. And even though the food is amazing & we ate a ton, I lost weight because we walked everywhere, all day & all night. So sounds like our visits were similar!

  15. Welcome back to running and the blog (and I know this was a few days ago, but bear with me here). I love your recap, and especially love that you are able to spend such great quality time together AND respect each other’s wishes when you want to do separate things for a moment. I personally think active vacations are the best – when we were touring Asia and Australia a few summers ago, we were even more tired on some days than if we had done a longer run, because we spent so much time walking and sightseeing! Glad each of the boys found a potential school … so exciting to see that moment of them coming into their own adult lives. And I just had to Google TL;DR – haha!

    • haha – worlds collide: I think TL;DR is more of a forum thing 🙂

      Totally agree and I can’t think of a NON-active vacation – lying on the beach all week sounds mind-numbing to me. Sure sitting reading for a few hours is great, but I would rather be biking, hiking, exploring or doing something most of the time.

    • Thanks! Everything turned out better than we planned, and we paid for everything in cash so there was no ‘after-regret’ to deal with! haha The best thing was in spite of being in a really nice place, it was all pretty affordable … probably our only mistake was over-buying groceries – we bought like we were on a Cape Cod vacation, but were home (and cooking) much less!

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