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?!?