Curmudgeon POV: First World Annoyances

A random list of aggravations that spoil the ticking of time in pandemic New York.

1. Noisy, incessant helicopters carrying rich tourists to look at Central Park, spoiling the peace of a quiet weekend.

2. Runners and cyclists in the park blaring music instead of wearing headphones.

3. Dogs off leash on the bridle path, where signs are posted indicating that dogs are to be leashed at all times there (not just after 9 am). I love dogs, and they seem to sense it, so as I run by, I’m a target. I’ve been tripped and tackled by playful dogs. The dogs get a pass. They’re dogs. Their owners, not so much. They’re mostly privileged assholes.

4. Electric bikes going way too fast in the park, cyclists going the wrong way or riding in the pedestrian lanes or on the paths. When nine million people share a park, it helps if people respect the rules.

5. Runners jutting out into the bike lanes – which is every bit as dangerous as cyclists on the paths. Don’t do it.

6. People who reject science – refusing to get the SARS-COV2 vaccine because “it’s my body” – especially while reserving the right to tell women what they can and cannot do with their uteri. You allow yourself to become a biohazard, you should be treated as such.

7. Knowing that I’ve become an old curmudgeon, stressed and angry and stewing in my gorgeous oasis of a garden.

Vaccination Bias

I heard from a colleague that the new area of workplace discrimination will be bias against the unvaccinated. Seriously.

I find the notion absurd and even dangerous, as it sets up the idea that any choice, however foolish, should be socially protected. Should I be able to go to work with Ebola? Would you want to sit next to a colleague with a highly communicable deadly disease? Of course not.

Race, gender, sexual orientation, dis/ability: these are immutable facts. They’re core to our being. The choice to expose yourself and, in turn, your neighbors, to a pandemic, is a public act. You become a biohazard.

It’s hard to be patient with conspiracy theorists. I love the idea that Bill Gates is using the vaccine to put microchips into people. Seriously? Who would want a running account of the stream of idiocy that runs through their minds?

In Memorium

We survived COVID. We kept to our running and biking and friendships. I skipped the Tuesday night Zooms because my days at work are filled up with Zoom calls and I didn’t have the patience for the one-at-a-time report-outs that Zoom requires and the inevitable lags and echos that disrupt the normal banter and cross-talk of our F2F conversations.

Finally, only a few weeks ago, we resumed our in person runs in the park. Our first Saturday run and coffee and the first Tuesday night run and pizza (although this time on a Monday night) since the pandemic began. I rarely stay awake past 8:30 and always run in the morning, but I made an exception to celebrate – and did a couple of miles with my running friends.

Jerry was my anchor. A wise, warm and generous man. We talked of business, books, politics and fitness. He had decades of successful entrepreneurial experience, which he shared freely. I could always count on him for wise advice on a knotty work challenge or client issue.

And although I don’t know them as well, his family is every bit as wise and warm as he is.

Not so long ago, I confided in Jerry that I was afraid to ride my bike outside. I want to. I used to love long bike rides, but now I’m afraid of an accident or a fall. No particular reason. Except maybe my Peleton obsession, which began on October 30, 2020, when my new Peleton bike arrived. I’m so strong and fast on the Peleton, but worry about the clipping and unclipping on a bike outdoors. I’m not graceful. What if my feet get stuck? What if I’m on a hill and a pack of racers comes from behind and swells past me?

Jerry said he’d take me on a ride. We’d go up Riverside Drive, across the GW bridge. We had a planned afternoon ride – just in the park on a weekday. I blocked it out on my calendar. But something came up.

Then, the accident. Jerry fell after a 63-mile bike trip, only blocks from his home. Fell. They put him in an induced coma. The Pizza Runners kept in touch with updates. When he gets out of the coma, I think we may have to wait months before going on that bike ride. He’ll need to recover.

Then, this morning I woke up to the devastating note from Ross. He’s not getting out of the coma. Too much bleeding; too much swelling. The brain is such an amazing organ. His especially. So far ranging, so perceptive. Such a truly good person.

Jerry, you brought joy, camaraderie and wisdom to our band of aging runners. Peace be with you and all those who loved you.


A year of running. 1849.29 miles in 296:06:32. Average pace = 9:36 minute mile. I beat last year’s distance by 38 miles and bested my average pace was 8 seconds per mile.

Still, I worry that the fastest miles may be behind me. I’m not sure. Right now I’m running slightly slower than the year’s average pace and wonder if I’m gradually aging out of my era of frequent PRs. The only way to know for sure, though, is to work like a demon to see how much more is in there. Strength training, focus on efficiency, more speed work – and most of all, more mental toughness.

“It’s supposed to be hard.” That’s the mantra that gets me up tough hills and fast intervals. “It’s supposed to be hard.”

Sometimes that works. Sometimes it’s just the joy of watching the first rays of light spilling across a dark morning sky, catching the red-tailed hawk in flight. That stuff.

Most of all, though, when I think back to this year, I will be grateful. For the joy of running in Central Park and for so many things: my truly wonderful job and my smart, talented, convivial colleagues at Mercer; Harley, my training partner, who has seen me through ups and downs, fast finishes like my 4-minute PR at the NYC Half last March and  maddeningly slow ones, like my disastrous NY Marathon; my friends and neighbors; my nephews and the rest of my crazy family – with all its strange transformations; and my Buddhist practice, which never fails me and constantly reminds me to appreciate every nanosecond of life.

And despite anything I said above, I’m still hoping to shave more of those nanoseconds off my best times. I’d rather spend them on the far side of many finish lines to come.

252690_188337251_XLargeHappy New Year everyone!


I really didn’t feel it yesterday morning when I lined up for the race. I had arrived way too early, excited about my “local competitive” status. I was expecting something more than what I found – an open area, an open tent covering the food. And runners lounging around on the grass. But the bathrooms were clean and the waits weren’t so long. And no lining up in the corrals 50 minutes before the start. Just an escort directly to the line with only 20 minutes to go.

We went to the green start – the lower level of the Verrazano Bridge. Not the place for the awe-inspiring iconic start. Just the pounding of feet and Garmin unable to find a signal. The runners around me were fast. I had to try to keep myself in check. But Garmin wasn’t much help, vacillating between 7:30 and 14:00 pace. I knew I was running steady but with all the runners passing me, it felt as if I was going backwards. I just kept going with my eyes fixed on daylight ahead. Finally out into the open. Some faint superstition was bugging me. The only other time I had a green start, under the bridge, was in 2013. That was also the only time I started but didn’t finish the race. And once again I was feeling the uneasy burbling of stomach problems.

I was determined to keep myself on an even pace – nothing above 9:20. Sadly, unlike last year, when the wind and my months of training seemed to buoy me, keeping to a 9:20 – 9:25 pace wasn’t even easy. I didn’t feel much tendency to speed up. And after about 7 miles, I really needed a pit stop. I ran for the nearest. No line – that was good. But inside I found a truly foul mess of a place, a stopped up urinal almost overflowing, garbage stowed inside, no toilet paper (I had some with me, having learned the hard way). Pooped and ran, hoping no one else would make the mistake of opening that door.

90 seconds lost. I calmed myself, picked it up a little, but felt that I was going to have more stomach problems soon. Gurgling and chugging along. Arms ok, stride ok. Off pace, though and not really feeling it. The first half didn’t fly by, it was a slog. I repeated my mantra, “strong mind, strong heart, strong body.” But I knew my best long runs this year hadn’t been nearly as strong  as my best runs last year. I didn’t go in with the confidence that I was ready.

Still, the sudden appearance of the 59th street bridge caught me by surprise. I must have drifted off. I had done that bridge backwards and forwards and I knew it would be hard. All I had to do was keep going. And find a loo. I really had to find a loo. But that would have to wait until First Avenue.

Too late.

By the time I found a loo, just after the turn onto First, I was a mess. Called Harley, my training partner. I really wanted to drop out, but instead, I did my best to clean myself up. There were people out there cheering for me. My team from work. My friends. People I didn’t want to disappoint. And then the intrinsic motivation kicked in: Even if you’re not going to have a PR, you have a chance to prove to yourself that you have a strong mind, strong determination and – as we Buddhists say – that “never-give-up” spirit.

Another 6 minutes lost. So that was going to be it. I ran up First Avenue. Just needed some Gatorade. I was pretty sure I was seriously dehydrated. I had to take my time. I was getting dizzy. There was my friend and former coach, Susanne, calling to me. Still had the nagging thought that I could drop out and go home. But then the Willis Avenue Bridge was right in front of me. I reminded myself that the only way to make sure I finished was to run as far away from home as possible, so I’d have to run back.

How well I know that part of the course. I always practiced it: up First Avenue and across the Willis Avenue Bridge. I love running in the Bronx, past that old, stately church, the housing projects, car repair shops, taiko drums, and across 135th Street to the Fifth Avenue bridge. But whoa, I was really dizzy. Stopped to walk and almost lost my balance. Another runner saw my wobble and stopped to see if I was alright. She wanted to take me to medical. I didn’t want her to wreck her race. I talked her into running on, but then, when I saw the medical tent, I had to stop. I asked for salt. They checked my pulse. It was ok, they said. I sat for a few moments eating salt and drinking a little water and then said, I’m finishing. No matter what!

Two more minutes lost.

So off I went. Harley would be waiting for me on Fifth Avenue. And there was Elyse and the Merms yelling encouragement at Marcus Garvey Park. Then Mary Wittenberg at a water station. She called out to me, saying I looked great (although I surely didn’t). But no matter. One foot in front of the other. And then there was Harley, as promised, in her pink jacket. She jumped in and ran (and walked) with me, just coaxing me along. I had to walk a lot then. I was just trying to finish. There was no longer any hope of picking up the pace again. My quads were like rocks. Then we were in the park. There was Jon with the the kids. I was so excited to see them, I got a slight burst of energy. Then we just had to make it out of the park and across 59th Street. Harley stayed with me right up to the turn back into the park. I just had to finish. No matter what, I kept telling myself.

People have bad races. Sometimes they drop out. But Meb finishes. I thought about Meb. I thought about the other great runners I knew who had finished bad races. My orthopedist told me he finished a marathon a few weeks ago and was 22 minutes off his PR. Sometimes it’s enough to finish with your head held high.

So I did.

For a few hours I thought, ok that’s it. No Boston for me; I’m done with marathons. But this morning I woke up and had to keep myself from putting on my running shoes and heading out to the park. What is that? Determination. I can do better. And I will.

A Good Year

I did a relaxed 7-miler yesterday. Last run of 2013 and as I scanned my training log, it dawned on me that it was the first year in ages that I didn’t have a major injury. My mileage showed it: I logged 1606.35 miles in 2013, my highest mileage year. In 2012 I only eked out 934 miles, but that was my year of stress fractures (femur, second metatarsal and calcaneus). Much as I’d like to think it was wisdom that kept me from getting injured this year, I’m not ready to make that claim. A couple of things DID help, though: 1) more slow runs on soft surfaces, 2) more strength training, and 3) the parathyroid surgery I had a few years ago.

Women of a “certain age” should know about parathyroid disease because it can go undetected for years. In my case, I had come back to New York after having spent three months working in Zanzibar. The work was stressful, my diet was mostly rice, papaya and octopus. And I was having trouble running. The 100% humidity and incessant heat didn’t help. I had been training for the 2009 New York Marathon (quite an oddity in that part of the world, where daily life is taxing enough without adding extra 20-mile runs). And I seemed to be getting weaker rather than stronger. My legs ached; I was depressed; I didn’t feel great but couldn’t really put my finger on what was wrong.

I went to see my GP. He gave me blood tests and reported back that I had vitamin D deficiency and higher than usual blood calcium. No particular cause for worry, he said. He told me to start taking higher doses of Vitamin D. Seemed odd that I would need extra vitamin D while living and working within a few miles of the equator. I happened to mention the diagnosis to my oldest, dearest friend, Annie, a GYN in Philly. She said to get my parathyroid checked. Of course, I’d never heard of a parathyroid, much less the disease. She said the shorthand for the symptoms was: “bones, stones, moans and groans” – in other words, bone pain, kidney stones, gastrointestinal “groans” and cognitive issues (moans).

My doctor refused; thought it was a waste of time. I fought to get the test, and ended up finding a new doctor. I had the surgery in early 2010, but by then I had lost 14% of my bone density compared to my first scan. The good news is a year after the surgery, my bone density had returned to pre-surgery levels. And now – three years later – I’ve made it through a year of running 5-6 days a week with no serious injuries.

One last credit for a year of healthy – and happy running: the wonderful New York running community. So Happy New Year – and heartfelt thanks to all my running friends, wherever you may be.

Back On My Feet

Done pouting. It’s amazing how quickly one’s attitude changes. One day off and I couldn’t wait to lace up my running shoes. And what a perfect morning. The park was gorgeous – peak autumn colors. Lots of friendly faces. I was so happy to be outside. An easy 4.5 miles and by the end I was planning my training strategy for the next marathon.

Adding to my determination, were a couple of messages. First, from Flotrack, a video interview with one of my heroes, Meb Keflezighi, about his struggles to finish the race on Sunday. And then a message forwarded by a running friend from Mike Cassidy of Greater New York Racing Team  (the first team I joined). Mike was always a fast, courageous runner (at least that’s how he seemed from the sidelines). But on Sunday he showed what a great heart he has. Mike had seen Meb struggling and encouraged him, suggesting that the two run together to the finish line: “It was a deep honor and an inspiration to be able to run the last 3 miles with Meb. He is a class act and a tremendous person who put the good of New Yorkers, Bostonites, and all of his fans before his own well-being. I’ll not soon forget the lesson I learned yesterday: sometimes, what the clock says is the least important measure of running performance.”

Central Park
The cure for a bad race.