2016 BAA 5K

A great Saturday. A peculiar but great Saturday…

Headed in to run the BAA 5K. Realized my race bib was still at home, with not enough time to go back and get it. Pissed and despondent. Figured I was SOL given how strict the BAA (rightfully) is regarding bibs, so there went this year’s distance medley. Wonderful friends talked me off the ledge.

Turns out the BAA has a comprehensive replacement bib setup. I mean, many/most races don’t have registration processes as good as the BAA’s replacement process. Got a replacement bib 15 minutes before start time. Ran an intentionally slowish 5K in 33:46 in preparation for next weekend’s Big Sur marathon. Got my unicorn medal.

Had an amazing post-race breakfast torta. Randomly met Australian runner Callum in line for food. (Boston qualifier with a 2:56. Callum is fast.) Randomly met him again on Boylston on the way to the expo. Survived the chaos of the expo.

And afterwards… tater tots. And beer. And appreciation for a peculiar but great Saturday.

On to Plan B

We had a fun day planned on paper for Saturday: We’d start off in Boston at the SoWa Open Market (a weekly event during the summer), then head over to the North End to pick up a couple of things. But while there were a couple of interesting merchants, the market wasn’t quite what we were expecting—we had in our minds something more like the fabulous Portland Saturday Market (Portland, OR), but the SoWa market turned out to be a much, much smaller affair. And for the most part, the North End turned out to be a very unexpected bust, as three out of the four places we were really after were closed (probably a Sunday thing, as we typically visit there on Saturdays)—no Salumeria Italiana, no Polcari’s, no Cirace’s, but we at least managed to score some always-yummy cannoli at Modern Pastry.

So we started to make our way back into town to pick up the T (Boston’s subway) back to our car. As we made our way past the tourist trap of Faneuil Hall and approached Congress St. near City Hall, we saw that the road was barricaded off. So we asked what was going on, and it turned out that a cycling race through the downtown streets was just about to start—the 2010 TD Bank Mayor’s Cup, a professional criterium race, it turned out. We decided to stick around for a few minutes, as neither of us had seen a race like this up close.

Just for fun, I decided to experiment with “panning”—that is, setting a fairly slow shutter speed, then tracking a moving subject (by moving—panning—the camera to follow the subject) while taking the shot. Done well, it’s a cool way to impart a sense of motion to a photo. But as I rarely do this, I still have a lot to learn about it, and in this case, I actually set my shutter speed a little too long (1/10 second, I think… probably should have gone to something a touch faster).

But the results are still pretty cool:

Rider at the TD Bank Mayor’s Cup 2010 in Boston.

Another rider at the TD Bank Mayor’s Cup 2010 in Boston.

Yet another rider at the TD Bank Mayor’s Cup 2010 in Boston.

Then again, shooting the old-fashioned way ain’t too bad either:

One lap to go for the peleton!

And as it turned out, us sticking around for a few minutes turned into us watching the entire race. So in the end, it was a fun way to spend the afternoon, even if it wasn’t what we had planned. Things seems to have a way of working out like that for us… here’s hoping our luck continues.

Missing the point (or not)

This past weekend, we made what has become our annual pilgrimage to Lebanon, NH, for the Five-Colleges Book Sale, where I’m typically surrounded by 30,000 or so of my good friends—that is, used books. Love it, love it, love it.

But for the first time, I really noticed the presence of the book dealers. If you hang out at these kinds of things, you probably know ’em, too—also called book scouts, they’re the ones armed with the PDAs outfitted with bar code scanners, and they typically flit from book to book, not even caring what the book itself is but rather simply interested in how much it could get them on the open market. The scanner allows them to get a fair market price in more-or-less real time… if the price is past some threshold, they scoop up the book, with the intent to resell it later on eBay or Amazon or such.

In this case, they weren’t doing anything wrong—the pre-sale announcements for the sale explicitly stated that dealers were welcome—and they were actually pretty well-behaved, not pushing their way past you to get to a book (for the most part). And because they need to be able to quickly get a row of books quickly, they actually (in many cases) helped to tidy up rows of books that had become strewn all over the place, as they needed to line the books up for themselves to be able to scan a bunch of books quickly. So that was a nice side benefit.

But I kept thinking to myself: Do they even see the books? I mean, see them as books and not just as a quick buck? For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a love affair with used book store and sales, going back to the days when I first discovered Half Price Books growing up. I love just spending hours poring over rows and stacks of them, often alternating between joy upon finding a hidden surprise (“wow, there’s a book for that!”) and amusement (“wow, there’s a book for that?”). They’re not just things, but things to treasure and savor. Yes, I’ve sold my fair share of used books—but only after enjoying them for what they were and then wanting to pass them on to someone else so that they could get the same joy out of them. But to have them simply pass through my hands without ever actually reading them? I can’t even fathom it.

So yeah, I guess I can understand the motivation behind the dealers. But then again, I guess I don’t.

Eating out in NYC

One bit of advice from Frank Bruni from his last article as food critic for the New York Times:

IS THERE ANY BEST, SAFEST WAY TO NAVIGATE A MENU?

Scratch off the appetizers and entrees that are most like dishes you’ve seen in many other restaurants, because they represent this one at its most dutiful, conservative and profit-minded. The chef’s heart isn’t in them.

Scratch off the dishes that look the most aggressively fanciful. The chef’s vanity—possibly too much of it—spawned these.

Then scratch off anything that mentions truffle oil.

Choose among the remaining dishes.

Thanks for the last five years, Frank. Whoever fills your shoes has a lot to live up to.