Been busy messing around building software at my new gig for Viacom. It’s been fun so far. Working out of the middle of Times Square has been pretty trippy, but hopefully soon I’ll find some time to do some touristy things.
Prior to that I was messing around with my camera and have I some pictures burning a hole in my hard drive.
These pictures cover a variety of topics and it kind of bothers me that there is no real correlation. But I just want to get them up here.
Spent some time making pierogies for the first time with my sisters and my grams.
Fallen leaves and winter slush.
Swung through MoMA PS1. MoMA PS1 is a decent museum. For those who don’t know, it’s a different museum than the MoMA out on 53rd. One of the big differences is MoMA PS1 is a collection of solely contemporary art.
Here’s a shot of the basement.
James Turrell’s Meeting is an awesome space. It’s a room that has wooden seats set against the wall. You sit down and slightly recline to give yourself a view of the ceiling. The ceiling is an open rectangle which reveals the open sky. The walls and ceiling are lit up in changing colors. The changing colors make the sky look a different color. Sometimes the sky looks bright blue or dark purple or green. The room beautifully incorporates the sounds of the city and the sky to give you a gorgeous sound that couldn’t be created in any other way.
Cathy Wilkes has some great pieces. My favorite was this one.
I also swung through the New Museum but it was in between exhibits. There was one floor open and it was kind of a waste of time. I’ll check it out again at some point.
Swinging home through the World Trade reveals some beautiful architecture.
There’s definitely a series of shots out there related to pictures like the next one. I just don’t think I’m interested in taking them. This next picture is maybe one of the best I’ve taken. There’s a lot of things you can push with a picture like this, but perhaps I’ll present it here to you and allow you to use your mind and think about what it does or doesn’t mean.
I really love The Oculus. It might be my favorite piece of architecture.
It’s just beautiful.
Swung through the Whitney. There were some nice things on display. It was cool to see some older protest/struggle type pieces and how relevant they are to the current time.
William Copley’s painting was a protest to the Vietnam War in 1967. It might be 50 years later but not thinking is still a good option. It’s free and usually beneficial. I think this would make for a reasonable flag if we were to give the old design a reboot. Copley’s red, white, and blue variations might even be more beautiful.
And what is life if it doesn’t contain some time spent in Asbury Park?
It’s pretty much full swing gentrification.
The last time I was down here I was drinking cocktails priced equally with those in Manhattan, talking about gentrification and what options there were for doing it in a way that allowed everyone to enjoy massive infusion of wealth.
The answers to most complicated problems involve community and sacrifice. And at this time most individuals are not willing to embrace people with differences or give away portions of their current wealth away to create a fair solution.
Some stuff, like the murals (affluent approved graffiti), the boardwalk, and the ocean views remain free.
New Year’s is a time to both reflect on the past and look forward to the future.
Lately I have been doing a lot of thinking about photography.
Initially it started with a desire to pick up some new gear.
After looking around I decided I wanted a mirrorless camera. The size and weight savings is important to me compared to the older DSLR technologies. The picture quality is just as good in most situations.
Surprisingly the leader in the mirrorless space is not Cannon or Nikon. It’s Sony. Cannon and Nikon fell asleep (they were arrogant and clueless) and Sony took over the market. I have no doubt that Cannon and Nikon will eventually make good mirrorless cameras, and people will stick around to support them because of the brand names and the amount of lenses available, but at the moment I am not buying any mirrorless bodies from them.
I initially thought I would want a full frame sensor. Bigger sensors generally lead to better pictures. But I decided to go with an APS-C sensor as in my opinion the difference between full frame and APS-C is negligible and the cost is significant.
If I want a bigger sensor I think the right move would be to go up to the medium format, but that’s not something I’m interested in at the moment from a creative perspective.
In the end you can talk about gear and specs forever, but it’s a lot more important to make a decision and get out to shooting.
I went back and forth and eventually picked up a Sony a6300 simply because I think it is going to allow me to take better pictures than any other camera (for myself personally). The lower cost of APS-C lenses and the money saved on the body allow me to pick up a couple lenses like the Sigma 30mm 1.4. I also have the Sony 16-50 kit lens and picked up the 55-210.
Almost everyone hates cheap kit lenses, but they are pretty versatile and useful. I shot many of the pictures on this site with my Pentax kit lens. That lens and the K-30 camera (which people also make fun of) taught me the basics of photography and allowed me to learn and grab some good shots.
Blah blah blah.
I debated selling my old gear but I might keep it around. The body won’t sell for much. And I don’t mind having my old zoom lens and macro lens. Both can be used on my current camera with a cheap adapter that I picked up.
I’ll post some pictures from the new gear later on.
But first, I decided to go through all of the older pictures that I took with my old gear.
I wanted to see what I was doing wrong. What I was doing right. What I overlooked. What I could have done better or worse.
I decided to grab some of these older pictures and edit them and present them here.
In my last post I said I took 10,000 pictures. But I was wrong. That number was somewhere over 20,000. Still not a lot, but closer to the amount that it felt like I took.
These pictures have not been included on this site yet. The intention is not to go through and make small changes or edits. But rather to look through all of the old pictures I had with a new mind and see if there was any interesting stuff that I did not previously post.
There were some pretty cool shots that I saw. Most of the more recent stuff is not included because I naturally feel those shots are shot and edited in a satisfactory way.
The first shot is one of the first that I ever took. It needs more room to breathe but I like the mood that the image portrays.
The next is shot from a plane as I was flying into Alaska. It was shot through a window that was overly blue saturated. I dialed that back a bit. I’m not happy with the colors here (it reminds me of the terrible coloring you see on a lot of instagram pictures), but it’s about as good as I can do.
This next picture is one that I messed around with a while ago but was unable to make it work. It’s not as focused as I wanted it to be, but framing it this way allows it to be successful. I’m often torn with whether to make real life scenes that appear in black and white, to make them actually black and white. Usually it leads to a better image, but I think there is a beauty in keeping the natural colors. This image is a color image, although it portrays itself as a black and white.
Here is an interesting shot of some mountains and a glacier.
This next shot has amazing lighting. It was shot out in Colorado.
This next shot isn’t all that great. It’s of some steps shot out in Rome. It’s just ok.
These next two images are actually really cool looking. I was messing around with ISOs shooting a couple longer exposures one night out amongst the vineyards in Italy. The sun set late so you have this effect of a sunset and a starry night sky. The dandelions in the first picture give the grass a yellow color.
Surprised I missed these, but maybe I thought they were too similar to other pictures I posted.
This next picture is one from Casa Batllo out in Barcelona. I could see myself shooting something like this again current day.
This next shot is a mistake. But I really like it a lot. It looks pretty cool visually. But the cool part is that it’s a picture of the Eiffel Tower. It is common to see the typical pictures of the Eiffel Tower. But if someone showed me this picture I would like it. It’s not a common view of the Eiffel Tower. And I think maybe it’s more interesting than most pictures of it.
Here’s a picture of the Alps out in Switzerland. These things really just shoot themselves.
Redwoods out in Redwood National and State Parks.
A couple pictures from out in Chicago.
Should have posted at least one of these but never did for some reason.
And one from Milwaukee.
I took this out in Cambodia at Angkor Wat waiting for a lady to take a picture. She was taking forever to take her picture. I snapped an image of her out of frustration. To be honest it looked a lot better with her in the picture than with her out of it.
A shot out in Halong Bay in Vietnam of a cruise ship at night. I like to sometimes mess around with moving the camera during longer exposures although sometimes it’s looks cheesy or terrible.
Pancake Rocks out in New Zealand. It’s maybe my best picture of them although at first look through these pictures I didn’t think I really captured it.
And that’s about it. Those are a bunch of pictures from the past that I had initially overlooked. I think some of them came out rather well.
I noticed some patterns with some of the pictures that I had taken. I overexpose in bright light. I take a lot of pictures of oysters.
Overall it’s been a fun ride with my first DSLR. I’m excited for my time with the mirrorless to start. I’ve been messing around taking some pictures. The small size and weight means it’s been on me pretty much every day since I bought it.
Here’s some duck breast I cooked up. Was my first time cooking it and it was amazing. Also duck fat fried potatoes are a delicious side.
Here’s a box of white sage.
This next pic is a shot I shot messing around with connecting the camera to my phone. You can control the camera via your phone with an app. So for this picture I placed the camera down and activated the shutter with my phone. From there the photo is sent via Wi-Fi to my phone. I then edited my image on my phone with Adobe Lightroom. It’s not the best picture (it was probably 4 in the morning when I took this), but that is a very powerful workflow for someone if they have a need to quickly take, edit, and post their pictures to the internet.
And this final picture is a reason why I’m keeping my Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro lens.
So that’s it. Hopefully everyone is spending a bit of time reflecting on their pasts and looking forward to the future.
I hope every has had a great year and has an even better one coming up.
Apologize for random pics captured over the last two years, but I need to put them somewhere.
It was February. The darkness of winter was surrounding me. My annual lease for my vacation home in Ocean Grove was up on April 1st. The two-month deadline weighed on my soul. I had no problem extending my stay at the Jersey shore, but it wasn’t where I was supposed to be. I wasn’t meant to have another year there. Of falling in and out of love. Of late nights contemplating some of the world’s oldest questions. Of walking to the beach every other day to lie out in the summer sun. Of brainstorming potential business ideas and messing around with programming.
Those were a beautiful two years. My Asbury years. I enjoyed them tremendously. But, it was time to go. It was time to start the next part of my life. I had two months to decide what to do. Where I should go. What I should do. Or not do.
I’m moving into a time period of work. Of application of everything that I’ve learned. Of performance. Of building. Creating. I kind of feel like I want to spend the next decade or two in this area, although I’m sure there will be breaks. Opportunities for exploring. Always learning. But for the moment I am moving out of the role of student and into the role of creator. I have learned. Now it is time to do.
I hit the job market up. I extended my location range and the jobs I was willing to do. I was actively applying to New York City for the first time. I sent out applications to Philadelphia. To Jersey. I sent out a few to the DC area. I even sent some out to the west coast. One to Hawaii. A few globally.
As someone with five years experience in Department of Defense Systems Engineering work, knowledge of process improvement work, an MBA, self-taught software skills, and a desire for entrepreneurship the areas I was applying to were rather diverse.
I was having multiple phone interviews every day. I would say 80% were coming from NYC, Brooklyn, Jersey City, Hoboken. I had a few in-person interviews, all coming from the same area.
I was looking for a company and a position that was looking for me. I was looking for a mutual connection. I wanted something that was able to make use of my software, business, and engineering background. I also wanted something that I could grow. Something that I could push towards greatness. Something I could give myself to.
In the end I felt my opportunity would lie in the startup world. AngelList became a great way to connect with a world that I had aspired to be a part of. Sure, I wasn’t going to be working on my own business and my own idea. But while there was a lack of good ideas on my end, I would be able to take something else and push it forward for someone.
February became March. I had taken programming tests in probably ten different languages. Some I even passed. Sure I forgot the most basic of syntax once in a while as I was swimming in a pool of a dozen languages, but I understand enough of when to use what. I understand a bit about the architecture. Of what technologies are most appropriate for a company to be using both currently and in the future as it grows. I understand how lines of code translate into lines of accounting.
Based on the applying and interviewing process it seemed like the city would be my new destination. It’s a place I had avoided for some time. Trying to make things happen externally to it. But there’s just way too much opportunity here. The gravitational force of the city had finally captured me.
I had no idea where to specifically live. Since I didn’t even have a job yet I wanted a place that would allow me to work in a variety of places. I wanted access to the city. But I also wanted to be able to work in Brooklyn, Jersey City, and Hoboken. It seemed like the two options would be Brooklyn or Jersey City. There’s nothing really wrong with Hoboken but I just don’t personally align with it as closely as the other two.
I ended up choosing Jersey City for several different reasons. Brooklyn gave me access to the rest of Long Island, which wasn’t as attractive as access to New Jersey. There are a couple companies out in north New Jersey that I had interviews with. I also had friends and family in New Jersey. Not having to switch states was pretty cool and the ability to keep my car was great. I wanted to be as versatile as possible and so the Grove Street Path stop made the most sense for me. I’m 10 minutes to World Trade. 18 minutes takes me a block away from Penn Station. Hoboken is next door. I’m walkable to a lot of Jersey City. Brooklyn is about 40 minutes, which is reasonable for a commute. Newark is 18 mins, which gives me global access within minutes via the airport. And that’s all without a car. My car lets me squeeze into work in north Jersey. Friends and fam are about 30-40 mins away. Even my old love of Asbury Park is an hour ride for when I need to get down there to see Oh Wonder play Stone Pony.
March became mid-March. And with it an offer that I was happy with. It was essentially a six-week part-time offer with a startup. Kind of a test to see if the company liked me and my work. But realistically it was also a part-time engagement with a startup. And that means things will be changing. You never know what will happen with the company, and thus your livelihood. But it’s exciting stuff. What will the company become? How can I push it forward to something great? How can we harness the beautiful magic of the company? The delicate interplays of an infinite amount of ideas, concepts, boundaries, freedoms, influences, forces. There’s magic here, we just need to capture it.
The scramble for a place was quick, and mostly painless. Commuting from Asbury was going to take over two hours, so I really wanted to get into a place as quickly as possible. In the final week of March I was able to finally lock down a place. A space had opened up in Dixon Mills. Yes, I’m living in a converted space where they used to manufacture Dixon Ticonderoga pencils. You probably have used them before. Sure, my rent may have doubled, but the life experience and location to everything has increased by a massive factor. The world is open to me now.
The plan is to try out the city for a year. Give myself to it and see what it gives back. I have aspirations of success, but if it all ends up a disastrous mess then I can always pack up and head out elsewhere. I think it will be fine.
It’s been about two months since I started work. This is what I’m supposed to be doing. The city is where I’m supposed to be. It’s the coolest thing just doing what I’m supposed to be doing and casually moving through spaces or experiences that people come from around the world to see. Walking through the beautiful Oculus structure at the World Trade Center. Turning a corner and seeing the Flatiron Building. Walking down to the waterfront to check out my new city and seeing views of the New York City skyline. It’s a great place to be. In some ways I’ve been able to incorporate my love for travel into my life.
I love the work too. I’ve been jamming away on some natural language processing type stuff. Working with some new technologies and just loving it. I set an aggressive schedule a month ago and I’ll not only be able to meet that, but I’ll actually be able to deliver a second round of work as well. The goal here is just to jam as much as I can and give the company everything I can. In a startup it’s impossible to put yourself out of work. As soon as one thing is done there’s at least two more to do.
I love the team. I love the people that I’ve met. It’s been a great time. I didn’t really know what would happen because my contract would end after six weeks. Half the fun of working for a small team is not knowing what’s going to happen until it does. And just being open to the experience. I’m just rolling with it. I’m going to continue to throw myself at this beautiful city and see what comes of it.
Six weeks came and went. With it came a full time offer. I couldn’t be any happier to have the opportunity to keep jamming work. The decision to pick up and move without any guarantees has already been paying off.
In some ways I haven’t moved all that far away. And in some ways I have. But open invite to everyone to feel free to stop by if you’re out this way to catch up or hang. Or if you need a place to crash. Or a space to jam some creative work at. Or whatever.
Hopefully it wasn’t too absurd to take some pictures I’ve had lying around from the last two years of the shore and mash them with a story of what I’ve been up to. I guess I didn’t shoot Asbury anywhere near as much as I wanted to, but such is the case for most places I move through. You may have seen some of these pics but I haven’t really posted them in a consolidated area.
Before I left for my last trip, one of my buddies asked me to do one thing for him. He asked me to listen to the sounds around me and use my phone to record anything that sounded different. It was one small thing that opened up an entire channel to my travel experience that I might not have been able to enjoy otherwise. I strongly recommend using your ears more during travel as well as your life. What are all those noises and sounds that are going on around you? What sounds good? What sounds bad? What can you learn about a place from your ears? It’s been a long time since I was dialed into my listening like I was on that trip. The following 11 recordings are what stood out to me on the trip.
Warning: These sound clips are pretty bad quality as they have been recorded on a phone. The purpose of these clips isn’t to show you amazing audio or provide sound clips for your music mixes (sorry J!). Rather, they are here as short examples of things that I heard. Everyone shows people pictures of their trips, but what did those areas sound like?
1. Rap song in taxi leaving hotel for Yangon airport – Aug 07, 2016
This was recorded after my first night on the trip in Yangon, Myanmar. The electricity of the trip was in the air. I was halfway around the world. Immersed in a totally new place and culture. Visions of the golden temples I saw the night before were dancing across my mind. The tastes of my breakfast of mohinga and chicken puff pastries were still making my taste buds fire. I was in the back of a taxi heading to the airport to catch a flight out to the Inle Lake area of Myanmar. It’s not the best song and you can barely hear it on the recording, but it’s a song that probably will stick around in my memory. Bonus points to anyone if you can figure out what the song is. At some point I plan to listen to the entirety of Myanmar hip-hop in hopes of finding out what song this is.
2. Beer and a bite – Aug 07, 2016
This was the second night at a restaurant in the Inle Lake area called One Owl Grill. It was mostly full of backpackers. I rode to this place on a bike that my hotel let me borrow. It was one of the only times I’ve been on a bike in the last 15 years.
This clip is mostly the background noise I was listening to as I had a couple bites to eat and drank a beer. When Forever Young came on it was an extremely cliche moment, but I had to record it. It was as though life was a movie and this was the soundtrack that the director had stupidly chosen for the scene. A couple beers made the bike ride back to the hotel in the dark a bit more difficult, but also a bit faster. And a bunch more fun. I was halfway around the world speeding through the darkness in a country I barely knew existed. I was free and I was alive.
3. Inle Lake Buddhist temple – Aug 08, 2016
This was recorded at a Buddhist temple on Inle Lake. Religion is definitely a big part of culture out in Southeast Asia. It’s not uncommon to hear people chanting over loudspeakers if you’re at a temple. You have to take a boat ride to get out to this temple. The loudspeakers reach all parts of this little temple island.
4. Group of Buddhists, Wat Pho, Bangkok – Aug 11, 2016
This was a whole group of people singing a Buddhist song at Wat Pho in Bangkok. It was a similar sound that you might hear at a church service back in the States. The worshipers would sing a song along with a religious leader who was leading the chant.
5. Buddhist chanting Angkor Wat entrance – Aug 14, 2016
This was a group of three (I think) Buddhists chanting outside of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I liked the way their voices sometimes sung in unison and sometimes dropped out so only one person was singing at a time. This sounded really cool live. It is captured a bit in this sound clip but lacks from the real experience.
6. Band outside Ta Prohm – Aug 14, 2016
This recording comes from a band that was sitting down and playing instruments on the walk to Ta Prohm in Cambodia. I absolutely love the sound of the ching in this song. The ching is that little metal instrument in front of the guy all the way to the right. It’s about the size of half of a baseball. I love when the ching drops out of the song because during that moment the band member is gesturing to the CDs he has for sale so he doesn’t hit the ching every beat he is supposed to.
7. Chant, Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia – Aug 20, 2016
This chant never recorded. Not sure what happened here. It sounded plenty loud enough at the museum and I tried a couple times but I could not capture this sound. I assume it’s just a typical Islamic prayer chant.
8. Sydney contemporary museum singer – Aug 25, 2016
This is from Lee Mingwei’s piece called Sonic Blossom, which is featured at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
I was walking around the museum and I heard this beautiful powerful singing voice. I questioned whether it was a live voice or a recording. It had to be live. The acoustics were too perfect. The voice was gorgeous. It distracted me from what I was looking at and I thought to myself that I had to find that voice. But later. I would search for it after I finished looking at a couple more pieces. After a few minutes the voice was gone. I walked into the room that I thought it came from. But there was no voice to be found. No singer. It was gone. I ventured off to other parts of the museum.
Eventually I returned to the room. Still no singing. I posted up in a room next to it. I needed a break, as my back was hurting from the grind of carrying my pack from the last couple weeks. I hopped on the wifi to get some information about my next location and send some messages out to people back home. After maybe twenty minutes the voice had returned. It was so beautiful. I knew for certain it was coming from the room next to me. I stood up and walked into the room to see an artist singing a song to someone who was seated in a chair.
The entire piece was pretty magical to experience. The artist explains it in the following link.
For those who didn’t feel like clicking the link the piece basically works by offering a guest of the museum the gift of music. If the visitor accepts then the singer walks the visitor to this room and sits them in a chair. The singer then walks several feet away and performs one of five lieders by Franz Schubert directly to the visitor who is sitting in the chair. It’s probably very powerful to be one of the museum guests chosen for this experience, as just being a bystander left a deep impression on me.
9. Australia vs New Zealand rugby outside of Queenstown – Aug 27, 2016
I was driving in my car outside of Queenstown, New Zealand with the radio on. I often like listening to the radio on road trips to see if I can pick up any new sounds. Many times when you are traveling you pick up the same music that we have back in the states. Occasionally you pick up some local sounds that capture your attention.
This is a sound clip of just before halftime in a rugby game between Australia and New Zealand. It was the second of six rounds of the 2016 Rugby Championship. A week earlier New Zealand crushed Australia 42-8 in round 1, but this rematch was a bit closer at 29-9. Although it didn’t fit into my schedule, it sounds like this would have been a great game to go to. New Zealand is the best rugby team in the world and Australia often ranks as the second best team. So if there’s any rugby game you want to see it’s probably something like this.
The passion of the announcers is great. These guys were a blast to listen to. They were so into the game. It reminded me of listening to an important soccer game back home with a Mexican announcer.
10. Auckland museum hill recording #1 – Sep 01, 2016
11. Auckland museum hill recording #2 – Sep 01, 2016
These two recordings come from Auckland Art Gallery in New Zealand. They are from a piece by Shannon Te Ao called “Two shoots that stretch far out”.
He actually won the Walters Prize (New Zealand’s highest contemporary award) for this piece. At the time I saw this piece he was only a finalist for the award.
The audio clip is part of a video. You really need to see the two together. The video contains various farm animals along with Shannon Te Ao. During the video he is shown reciting the poems. You can see a little bit of the video here, but I can’t find the full video anywhere. It’s definitely worth a watch if you can find it.
And here is a second recording. It is similar but different.
So that’s it for sounds that stuck out to me on my trip. There were some other sounds that sounded interesting that I just wasn’t able to capture due to the limitations of my phone (forest sounds, etc.).
I’m not sure if only having eleven clips shows that I wasn’t listening enough or if I didn’t come across many interesting sounds. Regardless, I’m happy that I had this extra channel open to me that I might not have had open to me otherwise. I can’t tell you what Norway or San Francisco sound like because I wasn’t listening to them as intently as I was to the locations on this trip. Using my ears more helped to give me a better understanding into the pulse of some of the places that I visited. I always try to see if I can identify places I’ve been to when I see pictures of them. Maybe now I’ll try doing the same with sound.
This new year starts off on a sad note with the passing of my grams. I’m going to miss her. I used to love listening to her tell stories about her travels around the world. The mystery and allure of a place like Morocco seemed like a million miles away to me as a little boy. Hearing how Israel was a beautiful country with the nicest people. Or about about breakfasts and delicious cups of coffee at outdoor cafes in Rome. Thanks for inspiring me with your travel stories and for the infinite amount of love you’ve given to me and to the world.
I set out to run my first half marathon the other day. It’s something I wanted to do since around April but didn’t try until just a couple days ago. I wanted to make sure I healed up to see how the recovery process was before posting this.
A little back story. In the summer months I get a pretty decent cardio workout in by playing ultimate frisbee two days a week. I would say I probably run somewhere around 4-5 miles per frisbee session. If I don’t make it to frisbee then I generally will try to get a run in the 2 to 3.1 mile range. When ultimate frisbee is not in session I generally will continue cardio with two or three of these runs per week when I’m being diligent.
I’ve tried to keep in shape over the years but I am far from a good runner. I’ve used the Endomondo app to track my running since August of 2011. I generally like the 5k distance and in the last four years my fastest 5k has been 24:15 in November of 2015, where I averaged 7:48 per mile. Using a calculator like this one from Runbayou says that time is right about in the middle of all male runner’s of my age. I’m better than 53.5% of runners. Although I typically don’t try to run the mile, my fastest mile was in December 2013 at 6:42. That mile time puts me in the top 55.7% of mile runners. My point here is that I’m a certified average runner.
In preparation I did some reading on what is necessary to run a half marathon and tried to follow the advice. Increase the mileage over time. Rest as appropriate. Eat well, etc. In June I ran 4 miles. In July I ran 8 miles. Five days after that I ran another 5 miles. I was doing alright at increasing my times and I was playing a bunch of frisbee when I wasn’t running.
Then things got pretty quiet. I didn’t track any running times on Endomondo for about four months. Frisbee games became less frequent as the night came earlier and weather became less optimal. The last day of the frisbee season ended in late October. I still didn’t track anything on Endomondo until November 16, a day when I somehow ran my personal best for the 5k. Over the next forty days I ran only three more 5k’s. My body wasn’t in an ideal shape to run a half marathon.
As the year started to wrap up I started asking people about New Year’s resolutions. I don’t usually make any grand resolutions or plans but I tend to use the New Year as a time to reset and refocus. All of the obvious things are realigned. I had made a comment about some of the good things that happened this year and some of the bad things, and how the half marathon was one of the few failures of the year for me.
Then December 26 came along. I woke up feeling a little down. I had had a couple beers the night before. I was not overly dehydrated but I certainly wasn’t hydrated. I didn’t eat the right meal the night before. I didn’t eat the right food that morning. I messaged someone on Tinder asking what her New Year’s resolution was. She said it was to run a half marathon. She ran six to eight miles before but couldn’t run the half marathon. So here’s the universe being weird, reintroducing the theme of the half marathon to me.
I’m not sure if it was this message but I decide that I’m going to run this half marathon this day. I am not stopping until I finish the 13.1. I drink some water. I have a Kind bar. I give myself time to digest it. I look up advice for running the half marathon. It seems like water is pretty important so I make sure I’ll take a 12-ounce bottle of water with me. I start to think about how this is kind of a serious run. I grab a Chobani. I grab a banana. I drink a little more water. I look up the weather. It’s windy and cold but I could care less. I’m starting to dial in focus. The problem is I don’t know what to wear. Short sleeve? Long sleeve? Shorts? Under armor pants under the shorts? I settle on shorts and a long sleeve under armor. I get to stretching. I take a little more time than usual because the distance is a little more than usual. I blow my nose. Rinse my mouth out. Use the bathroom. I’m as ready as I could possibly be.
I head out of the house and venture off to bridge over Wesley Lake, suspended between Ocean Grove and Asbury Park. The bridge where I start and end most of my runs. I get to it. Normally I like to run on the boardwalk, but the wind is way too strong. It’s fast. It’s cold. I decide to stick to a street about three blocks off of the boardwalk and head south. I want the option to head towards the water if I need to cool down and to head towards the land if I want to warm up. I run down streets close to people’s houses that I know. I think about times that we have had. I swing out to Main Street and notice stores that I have never noticed before. The world looks very different when you are on foot.
I keep running down Main Street, through all of the shore towns. The plan is to run at least 6.5 miles south, so that I have no choice but to finish the half marathon. But I know I’m finishing this run. I keep thinking over and over 13.1, 13.1, 13.1. Do not stop until you hit 13.1. While this half marathon was supposed to be a test of my physical self, it has become a test of my mental self. Can I run this half marathon that I have not been able to run? Is Tinder girl right? Can she really not run this thing? Or have we both chosen not to run it. Have we both chosen to failure?
Further south I run. I started on the border of Asbury Park. I’ve ran across Ocean Grove. I’ve ran across Bradley Beach. Through Avon by the Sea. I ran past Bar A and past Belmar. Bar A looks different and feels different from this perspective. Past Lake Como. Into Spring Lake. Over Spring Lake. I’m checking Endomondo to see if I should turn around. It’s dark and it’s getting colder. I’m only at 5.5 miles. I refuse to turn around. Stick to the plan. 13.1, 13.1, 13.1. I have to get to at least half of it before I spin around.
I cut inward towards land thinking I’ll make a loop to put another mile or two on the run. I swing over to Route 71 and run right up until the edge of Sea Girt. It’s been about 6.75. More than half but I know the return will be more of a straight shot home. It seems like a good point to spin around.
My body feels pretty good. My knee was bothering me on one of the 5k’s I was recently out on. That’s been fine. I’ve only just cracked open my water. Most of it was used to get spit out of my throat. I drank a little but I’m not trying to cramp. I’m not hungry. My muscles aren’t cramping. Everything seems pretty good. Now I just have to retrace my steps and I’ll be done.
This time I want to mostly stick to Main Street. There are more cars but there are also more lights. I’m wearing black on black. Almost nothing reflects. This all black outfit is really stupid, but I kind of forgot how long of a run this was supposed to be. It’s been completely dark out for about a half hour.
I start the run back. I try to retrace my step and mostly do a good job. I thought I took 5th Ave in Spring Lake on the way over, but really I took 3rd. I know I’m running in the general direction but I want to get to streetlights. I don’t want any cars to hit me. And surprisingly some of the worst sidewalks I saw running were in Spring Lake. I don’t want to roll an ankle. I bring up the GPS and throw a route in that will get me back to Main Street. Mile 8 passes. Each step I take now is uncharted land. This is the furthest I have ever run in my life. Kind of cool, but nothing to get too carried away with. Focus. 13.1.
Mile 9 comes around the Lake Como area. I’m back on Main. I’m only about two-thirds of the way done, but I’m still feeling alright. Muscles are starting to burn a little. Ligaments are tendons are starting to feel a little on fire. At this point various pains are starting to be felt and I’m hoping none of them develop into anything serious. This is all to be expected. Another rinsing of my mouth and another couple sips of water.
Mile 10 and I’m back in Belmar. Alright, now all I need to do is run a 5k. I certainly don’t want to but I certainly don’t care about what I think. I’m finishing this race. This isn’t a physical limitation. This is a mental limitation. I know I can do this. I will do this. I have to see 13.1 tonight. I have to.
Back in Avon. At this point I’m starting to notice how smells from restaurants are amplified. I guess I’m hungry. I pass some restaurant and it starts to smell delicious. I pass billboards with terrible looking Quick Chek sandwiches and I think how they look amazing right now. I pass a Chinese food place. It smells actually pretty terrible. I start to think about what I’ll eat for dinner. I didn’t eat anything today and I will have a huge calorie deficit. I can pretty much eat whatever I want. I run past a Pizza Hut billboard and see a special for two or three pies and think I might order that and eat the whole order myself.
Mile 11 is up and I’m back in Bradley. I feel the pace has slowed down more and more over the last several miles and I’m just trying to keep it moving and finish out. My legs are starting to feel pretty worn but I’m not giving up. About halfway through this mile and halfway through Bradley I smell one of the most amazing smells I have ever smelled in my life. Del Ponte’s Bakery. I don’t know if that place normally smells good, but it is insane how delicious the smell of baked goods and sugar smell in the air on this cold and windy night. My sense of smell is heightened to an extremely high level. I don’t even like eating baked goods, but for some reason this smell will probably stick with me for many years as one of the best things I have ever smelled before. I have to visit there one of these days just to try whatever it is that I smelled that night.
Bradley comes to an end and with it mile 12. At this point I know I should be able to finish. I’m back along Main in OG. Water has just finally run out but I’m close enough to finish. When it’s over I’ll drink all that I need. I was planning on finishing at least a half mile or a mile away from home and then walking to keep the legs moving and stretch but I change my plan. I’m thirsty. I’m hungry. My body is really started to tighten up. I want to be close to home in case of some random injury occurring. I make it to Main Ave in OG. I check Endomondo. 12.5. I’m close. I’m also close to home. It’s slightly tempting to just head home but at this point that just seems absurd.
I quickly refocus as I think of 13.1. Back over the Wesley bridge. Past Moonstruck. I turn around. I’m at 12.9. Back to the Wesley bridge. 13.0. I’m so close. I just have to finish this thing. Close it out. I feel fine. I pick up the pace just ever so slightly. 13.05. Yes. 13.07. I’m going to do it. 13.08. 13.09 13.10. 13.11. Just for good measure. I have just finished the first half marathon of my life. I finished what I thought I couldn’t do. And in time for the New Year’s too.
I slow down to a walk. I feel good enough. Nothing hurts too much. Everything is pretty tense and some things are on fire. But nothing out of the ordinary.
And then something happens. I get to the doorstep and I kind of start to feel weird. In addition to the physical cramping and burning and hunger and thirst and heightened senses and the desire to shower I feel a sense of tiredness come over me. My body seems to enter some sort of crisis mode. I feel like my body has had enough and it start prioritizing every individual action. I’ve never felt anything like this before. Everything is ultra focused and precise. There is a priority of actions that my body wants to complete but I can only focus on one at a time. Unlock the first lock. Unlock the second lock. Go inside. Drink a dozen gulps of water. Eat a banana. Eat a Kind bar. Eat a Chobani. Have a couple more sips of water. Send a Snapchat. Eat another banana. Shoes off. Stretch a little. Clothes off. Shower. Dry off. Another sip or two of water. Bottoms on. Hop into bed. Take a nap. Try to keep the legs stretching throughout the nap.
I’ve never felt anything like that before. Where your body goes into this miniature survival mode and it just prioritizes everything and you think about only one thing at a time. It was a pretty cool feeling.
After a couple hours nap I head out for a dinner of steak, potato, and Brussels sprouts with a couple beers to celebrate. It’s probably a good idea to stretch the legs again on the walk over. Sure I ate a little at the house but I’ve burned off about 1,930 calories. I need to fuel back up.
I ended up finishing the half marathon in 2:08:45. Although I wasn’t shooting for time on this day I was aiming for around the 2 hour mark. For not trying for time I’m happy enough with the results. My individual mile times for the run were as follows. I started too fast and faded at the end. Pretty predictable.
A map of the run is as follows.
The 27th and 28th I was predictably a little sore. However I was surprisingly much less sore than I thought I would be. By the 29th I felt pretty much back to normal. Today I feel completely fine as well. During the recovery I tried to get a little extra walking in and ate and drank smartly. But there wasn’t too much to it. There’s probably a million articles and stories and pieces of advice you could read that would be more helpful than what I’ve said here, so I’m not going to list any running advice. I’m far from an expert in this field.
Another surprising thing about completing this half marathon was how unsatisfying it was to complete it. I set out to run a half marathon one time. I had and still have no ambition to run it again or to run a longer distance like a marathon. At a certain point running distances is just detrimental to the health of your legs. It was a one-time challenge that I set out to do, and ended up completing it on a completely unexpected day. I had always planned to run this on my own but can see the argument for running a half marathon as part of an event. You probably want access to water stations and emergency personnel, but a 12-ounce bottle of water probably will be enough to last.
So that’s my experience running a half marathon. 2:08:45 puts me at 46.3%, close to but below the average for the distance. I’m still not a good runner. But on that day I was the best runner that I have ever been.
I set out to do something that I thought I could not do and focused solely on the outcome to achieve what I wanted. Was I really not able to run it? I never got close to running it before. I wasn’t in the shape to run it at all. And I did. I did because I mentally focused and got there. Can Tinder girl really not run it? She has not run it before either. She might be in a similar shape that I’m in. But I think she can. I think if she sets out today or tomorrow that she can certainly finish. I messaged her the next day saying I finished it and she never responded back to me. Fair enough. The half marathon is her New Year’s resolution and I hope she will finish it.
Whether you make resolutions or not, I hope you all have the best of New Year’s. I don’t really think there are many takeaways from this story but if I have to try to find some I’ll present these. You can wake up feeling like a bum and still do something really amazing that day. You can do something very average and still do something that you consider a success. Something may seem very physical, but it may be a lot more mental than you think. Sometimes when you complete something you don’t feel a satisfaction that you thought you would.
I’ve always been interested in listening to people talk about their past. There are lots of good lessons in listening to the advice people might have given to a younger version of themselves.
Someone asked the question “If you could send an anonymous text to yourself 5 years ago, what would you write?” on reddit. Naturally I was interested in the replies. You can see this thread in the following link. Text from the future thread – reddit
The few short words from the responses stuck out as a mixture of real, sad, funny, and crazy. Think about the question for yourself. What would you text the younger you from five years ago. Maybe nothing important. Maybe the only thing that has ever mattered. These few, brief words provide a portal backwards into time. Each word crtitical. A half decade’s worth of knowledge and advice tailored specifically for you. How powerful. How truthful. Maybe painful. Maybe funny. Maybe some other emotion. Or none at all.
I went through about 2,000 of these comments to find which specific individual words had the most meaning for the people who cared to respond to the question. I’ll go over the process for anyone who is interested in doing this with similar data. It’s a pretty inefficient process as it uses Excel and the whole process can be automated but it’s listed here regardless.
Copy and paste the data to Excel.
Manually delete rows of data that are not appropriate. Many of the rows were blanks or included only the username and did not contain the responses so I deleted these.
Use a stopword list to remove the most commonly used words (a, about, above, … , your, yours, z) that likely do not have any impact on the words we are interested in. Stop word list
Manually go through the list of words and remove words that seemed unimportant (Ago, Didn’t, Doesn’t, Doing, Five, He’s, I’d, I’m, Isn’t, It’ll, Lot, Message, Oh, Send, She’s, Tell, Text, Wouldn’t, You’ll, You’re, Yourself, You’ve)
If you are working with larger data then I would advise you to look into some tools specific for the job. There are plenty of online word cloud generators, such as the one linked above, that you can paste an entire text into. This removes the Excel work and makes generating word clouds pretty much instantaneous. For me it was only a couple minutes of extra work and I had complete control over the end result so the trade off seemed worth it.
The end result is the following:
The top 100 words and the number of their occurrences are included here:
A mix of regret, get rich quick schemes, love, financial advice, school, work, feelings, hope, important people, relationships, mixed in with some internet language. Seems about right.
So you may not be on reddit, and you may not feel like answering, but if you could send an anonymous text to yourself 5 years ago, what would you write? Or maybe the better question is, if you received a text message today from the future you, how would you respond?