Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Great Knickerbocker Storm

I've been planning on running home from my next stop for DAYS now. DAYS, I tell you. But on Friday I ate some questionable seafood, which made for an...interesting...Saturday. Sunday I could pretend was tainted with further food poisoning, but really it was around 12 degrees outside and I had imbibed a few too many litres at the Biergarten Haus the night before. By the time the temperature warmed up to reasonable, it was Tuesday. I decided to wake up yesterday morning and git 'er done, as it were. I woke up to an inch of snow. And sleet coming down out of the sky. For anyone who doesn't live in Washington (and even then, if you haven't watched the news all day), we just had a fairly epic snowstorm. Epic not because we got an insurmountable amount of snow, but because we definitely experienced the phenomenon known as THUNDERSNOW and because the snow (as it usually does) has caused mass chaos in the entire DC metro area.
You can't really see what's going on in this picture, but it's a sort of stalemate between three buses. Two of them are going up the hill, or were trying to, and the third is going down. Really no one's moving anywhere, and the DC DOT trucks are blocking the entire street. This is a really positive situation.
I know from personal experience that all major snowstorms in DC cause some sort of problem, from power outages to Metro being shut down to stranded cars and closed bridges from VA to MD and DC (see: Snowmageddon, Snowpocalypse, etc). What you don't hear much about is the history of storms in our area, and what sort of havoc these storms wreaked in times past. I've been reading a lot of Capital Weather Gang recently, due to the recent snowstorm in all of its glory. (For what it's worth, the CWG guys were right on the money with their forecast of this storm.) It was while reading one of their storm-related blog posts that I saw a reference to something I had never heard of before: the Great Knickerbocker Storm.

The title of the storm alone raises questions. What did the storm have to do with a basketball team from New York? Nothing, of course. In 1922, DC had a storm that for all intents and purposes developed much like the one that hit the region even hit on almost the same days of the year. However, this one ended quite differently: it was the largest single-day snowfall in DC history, at 28 inches. It also did a lot more than snarl up traffic and leave people without electricity (not that those would have been major problems in 1922). It caused one of the worst disasters in Washington history, which I doubt many Washingtonians even know about. The Knickerbocker Theater, then located at 18th St and Columbia Ave (where there is a bank now, across the street from the worst McDonald's in history), was a shiny new movie house with an unfortunately flat roof. During a screening of a movie on January 28, 1922, the roof collapsed, weighed down by the feet of snow that had accumulated during the storm. In all, 133 people were injured and 98 killed, including a congressman. The architect and the owner of the theater both later committed suicide, no doubt blaming themselves in some way for the incident.

This story, while terrible in its own right, has also made me realize the potential shortcomings of my project. Even on a run that crossed 18th and Columbia, I would never have photographed the nondescript bank that stands where the Knickerbocker once stood, and likely wouldn't have discovered this story if it weren't for my obsessive weather-checking habits. DC isn't even a very old city in the world scheme, but there are still so many pieces of its history and character that I may not uncover, even in a decade of exploration. Sad face. But I'm not discouraged...I'm only one person and I just set out to see things I'd never seen before and learn a little along the way, so that will have to be enough.

Friday, January 21, 2011

On peanut butter and sexuality

Anyone who's ever lived with me can attest that when I'm training for something, I eat. A lot. Like, it's kind of sick (but also pretty awesome, don't get me wrong). One day while I was training for my last marathon, I was sitting on the couch with my hand deep in a box of Cheerios, ready to eat my umpteenth handful. My old roommate/best friend (we'll call her Miller Time for these purposes) looked at me and said "Every time I look at you, you're eating." I didn't know if I was being judged, and therefore didn't know how to react. So I said what any normal person would say in that circumstance: "I'm hungry!" And then I continued eating cereal right from the box.

Besides cereal, one thing I eat a lot of is peanut butter (and those of you who paid attention to the Van Ness run probably noted that I have a thing for Taco Bell. Don't judge). Anyway, peanut butter. It's delicious, it goes on a lot of things, and if you buy the kind with lower sugar it's actually fairly healthy. I started eating peanut butter as athletic fuel in college, when we would go to Florida for training trips, and we would pack five girls in a van with like eight jars of peanut butter for the week. I usually buy the organic, natural kind that you have to keep in the fridge so it doesn't separate into peanut paste and oil (or as I like to call it, nut fat). That's really a pain in the ass, but for some reason it makes me feel's probably the lack of saturated fats. Or clever marketing.

But none of this is the point of this post. The point is simply to share with you the childishly disturbing label on my current jar of peanut butter. Maybe I am just too impressed with my own devastating good looks, but I swear the bear on my peanut butter is trying to seduce me (I'm not even going to delve into the fact that my peanut butter has a bear on it. Dear peanut butter: you're not honey!). I've had several people in my office weigh in on this, and the jury's technically hung, but Miller Time agrees with me, for what it's worth. I warn you, if you still love Care Bears (but not in THAT way) or if you still squeeze Teddy Ruxpin in your arms at night, maybe don't look at this.
Hey there, gorgeous

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

4. Van Ness-UDC

Google Maps shortest distance: 0.7
Distance run: 2.56

So, I realize I said that I was going to be tackling Northeast DC this time, but alas I slept through my alarm this morning and consequently didn't have time to get all the way to the other side of the Red Line and back before work :/. Never one to want to be behind schedule, I just settled on something closer to home: Van Ness-UDC. Like Woodley Park, the shortest route is 0.7 miles along Connecticut Ave. Also like Woodley Park, that sounded incredibly boring to me. So I took a longer way. Observe:

I tried to capture the sheer idiocy of this route, which will be explained in due time, but this is an approximation, especially over there in the green part, aka, the "forest of illusion." Please tell me someone besides my brother gets that reference.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ice ruins lives

That MAY be a bit dramatic, but here in DC ice certainly puts a damper on the best-laid plans. I had a glorious plan for this morning that involved the 4th Metro run (from Northeast DC, as promised) and a bagel-and-coffee-celebration upon my triumphant return. Alas, last night DC was hit with a ridiculous ice storm of sorts, so I was relegated to just a bagel-and-coffee celebration of a two-hour delay at work. What can I say? I try to see the positive in everything.

We'll see what the weather (and by weather, I mean the sidewalks of DC, which are my true nemesis in this situation) have in store for tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I will have to use that most ancient and dreaded of torture machines, often used in the Tower of London to force false confessions out of Catholic idolaters, the treadmill.

I know, I know. It's gruesome. It's boring. It's noisy and you can't spit because there's nowhere TO spit, except on the gym floor and really that's not going to win you any fans or blog readers. But if you're going to train through the winter in the majority of the USA, it's a necessary evil (someone needs to explain this to the boyfriend, who is currently training for a marathon but is allergic to both winter AND the treadmill). I have a few little games I play on the treadmill to keep it interesting and keep me from falling asleep out of boredom and rocketing off the back of the belt, like my iPod has been known to do from time to time.

Anyone who has done any internet searching for run training has probably come across the word "fartlek." Swedish for "speed play," all it really means is stick some fast intervals in the run from time to time to mix it up and get the anaerobic system involved. Intervals are great for your running in general, building strength and speed, and burning more fat than a steady aerobic run. In a fartlek, they don't have to be even intervals, but for the sake of keeping my OCD in check, I do them evenly on the treadmill. I usually do a 10-minute warm-up, then 30 seconds fast, 30 seconds regular pace, or maybe one minute of each, or maybe 30 seconds fast one minute all depends on where I am in my training or how tired or unmotivated I am feeling in general about the treadmill. Sometimes I also go by distance, especially if I'm on one of those treadmills that has a little quarter-mile track on it and a blinking light indicates how far you've gone and how many laps you've done. Using the treadmill like this helps the minutes tick by fairly quickly and gives you something to concentrate so your mind can't wander off into space dreaming about not being on the treadmill.

For a longer run, I found an interesting post on one of my favorite women's sports blogs about a little game to keep your mind occupied when speed intervals aren't part of the day's training. Haven't tried it yet, but looks interesting enough and I'll try to put it to use this evening after work.

If anyone has any other ideas for staving off treadmill boredom, I'd love to hear them (and I WILL entertain suggestions like "Don't run." or "Watch TV instead." These are all viable solutions in my book).

Also, if anyone has specific suggestions on things I should see when I hit their neighborhood, I welcome those...this is a daunting project and expertise from those who know an area is certainly appreciated.

Friday, January 14, 2011

3. Clarendon

Google maps distance: 5.4
Distance run: 5.61

I have a confession to make. Yesterday, I didn't actually run HOME from the Metro :/. I know, I know. It's the POINT of the BLOG! But before all four of my readers stop reading in contempt, hear me out. I have a car. A cute little blue jelly bean of a car. And it was sick so I took it to the car doctor. (More correctly, the boyfriend-type person took it to the car doctor, because he is nice like that.) So little blue jelly bean car has been sitting at the car doctor waiting for me. The car doctor is located approximately 1.5 blocks past the Clarendon Metro station, and closes at 5 pm, so my only option was to pick up the little car before work one day. It seemed like a no-brainer to me. So, I ran TO Clarendon, and was immediately reminded why I do not commute to work in my little blue car...rush hour is horrifying.

But about my run. It started like any other: Planned my route, checked the temperature (wind chill 16...oh boy this will be fun), put on some clothes (lest anyone should think I forgot that step) and I was off. Route planning is already starting to get a little difficult, because there are so many things that could be easily repeated, and so many things that I don't want to miss! But in the end I settled on this, the most obvious route (to me) and one that offered lovely scenic views of the sunrise over the Potomac (but more on that later).

Monday, January 10, 2011

2. U Street/African-Amer Civil War Memorial/Cardozo

Google maps walking distance: 2.4
Distance run: 2.6

First of all, this is DC, not the midwest. What is with this weather? There was a wind chill of 14 degrees as I made my way home this morning, on a route that unfortunately is largely uphill, because DC is weird like that.

So today, I explored that most misunderstood of metro lines, the green line. I don't have much to say about the green line yet, because I will be getting very acquainted with it over the next few months and will weigh in later.

I started my little journey at U Street/African-American Civil War Memorial/Cardozo. Yes, that is the official name of the stop...lots of DC's Metro stops are named after lots of points of interest or locations; it's a little city-level lobbying on the part of some of those locations. U Street has two exits, one at 13th and U, and the other on 10th Street below U. I may do this stop twice, because there are some things near the other exit that are worth discussing. Plus, it will give me the opportunity to run through Meridian Hill Park in the summer, but more on that later. So, here's my route, for those interested. (If you're not, then please check out after the jump.)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Has anyone seen my watch?

I have a LOT of watches. Dressy, casual, athletic, non-running...a LOT of watches. It's funny, because the only time I remember wearing a watch when I was younger was in middle school before cell phones were around (yes, in my middle school days they didn't have to ban cell phones because no one had them. But my god the enforcement of the beeper ban was INTENSE. Because obviously everyone who carries a beeper is a drug dealer. Apparently the many respectable positions in the mid-90s that required beepers escaped my school system. But I digress). In 7th grade I had this ridiculously large, black Timex Ironman watch, and I replaced the plastic band with a fabric, velcro dealy that wrapped around my wrist. And, along with several friendship bracelets fashioned during classes or after school while pouring over the latest Seventeen magazine, I never. took. it. off. Never. Showering, swimming, going out to a nice dinner for my birthday, you name it. I loved the awesome, faded, frayed look it adopted, which really complemented the color-coordinated bands on my braces and that spectacular t-shirt with the multicolored Friends logo paired with embroidered denim cut-offs and Timberland hiking boots.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

1. Woodley Park

Shortest distance: 0.7
Distance run: 2.11

I'll say one thing about running from Woodley Park to Cleveland Park: It's easy. Google maps clearly suggests the shortest route in its walking directions, but let's face it - that's not always going to be the most interesting route or the most scenic, and in this case it definitely wouldn't have even counted as a run. Rather than running directly up Connecticut Avenue for three-quarters of a mile (as exciting as that section of the Conn Ave corridor is), I decided to make things a little more interesting.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

How far are we talking?

The question I have been getting asked most often is "What's the farthest stop?" This is usually followed closely by "I bet it's Franconia-Springfield." That's actually correct...although I can't tell if that guess is coming from my friends' prejudice against Virginia or a general lack of knowledge about where all the other stops are... At any rate, I've been to the Franconia stop before, and it takes FOREVER to get down there from my little place in Cleveland Park.

For the sake of illustration, here (in map form) are the distances to the Cleveland Park metro station from all of the other stations. (For what should be obvious, personal safety-related reasons, I am using CP station as my "home" as far as the internet is concerned). I'll put this up somewhere on the blog eventually, and use it like a little checklist of where I've been.

Monday, January 3, 2011

First Post

Clever title, I know.

Today, January 3, 2011, marks the start of a potentially foolish but pretty ambitious endeavor. Before I explain it, let me give a little background. For the past five years, I've lived in the fair city of Washington, DC (My boyfriend will correct me here, so in the spirit of full disclosure, I should point out that for the first year and a half in the region I lived in Arlington, VA.).

In those five years, I've taken the Metro pretty much everywhere I've needed to go. As a kid from the suburbs, I was instantly enamored with the idea of public transportation, taking Metro and Metrobus everywhere, surviving car-less until a new job required it. Every move to a new apartment was influenced by the search for a location closer to a Metro stop. I've since landed within two blocks of the Cleveland Park station on the Red Line, among my finest achievements since I got here (Is that sad? I don't care.).

For the past decade or so, I've also been an endurance athlete. Running and cycling are my weapons of choice. There was a brief period during which I added swimming for extra fun, but a poorly timed fall off my bike while riding home from a happy hour (I no longer advise this as a legitimate means to get home after drinking) injured my shoulder and cut my triathlon career short.

I've run the National Marathon here in DC, and many other races in the area, leading me through neighborhoods in which I don't spend much time or money or attention. I've ridden Metro or Metrobus to locations far and near (the Target in Wheaton, MD; Tyson's Corner, VA; Silver Spring Stage for my local theater debut), not really thinking about the places in between my starting point and my destination.

So, how are these things related? Long ago (really not THAT long ago, but before magazines were widely accessible on the internet..maybe 2000? 2002?), I read a fascinating side item in Runner's World about a guy from Washington, DC, who had run home from EVERY METRO STATION. Eighty-six stations, comprising more than 100 miles of track (it's many more miles when you consider it's often impossible to run or walk along the Metro tracks). He took the Metro to a station on the map, and ran back to his house. It's a startlingly simple idea that has stuck with me for the better part of a decade, despite the fact that I no longer have that issue of Runner's World and I had no idea at the time that I would one day live in DC.

But I DO live here, and I've recently realized that though I've been here for more than five years, and have seen and done a lot of things in that time, I'm still lacking in knowledge about the geography, history and people of the area. I mean, looking at that Metro map, there are stations I've never even heard of (Morgan Boulevard?). Does that automatically mean a station is in an area full of history and scenery? Of course not. But, I've been looking for my newest challenge, (a challenge that doesn't involve watching an entire season of an HBO series from my bed...) my own personal Everest, if you will.

Eighty-six stations, ranging from 0.7 to 15.9 miles from my home station. Fifty-two weeks in one year of calculated madness. And in 362 days, I will hopefully not only gain dozens of miles under my feet, but a greater sense of the landscape and people of the DC metro area. I declare 2011 my year of taking the long way home.