Why I’ll never be a fast runner

An interesting article in the New York Times yesterday examines Why Joggers Labor and Olympians Fly. Apparently elite atheletes (like we know from cyclist Lance Armstrong) possess physiological traits that "normal" people don't have, such as larger hearts.

Exercise physiologists say there are three components to great running: A high VO2 max, the volume of oxygen an athlete can consume at maximum exertion; great running efficiency, a measurement of the energy used to run at a particular pace; and an ability to keep going at a high level of exertion for a long time, expressed as the percentage of VO2 max that can be sustained during a run.

Some day I'd like to get my VO2 max measured. Meanwhile, my marathon training has been progressing quite well, or it was until yesterday when I was running in the woods, took my mind off the trail, and started thinking about the interval training I was going to do after I warmed up. Then I tripped on a root and went non-Olympian flying through the air, bonking my knee as I skidded along the pine needled floor of the forest. No interval training after that, just a slow jog back home and a day of icing the knee. I guess I'm still in the "Joggers Labor" phase of my running career.

Spies like us

Having been away from New York City for nearly six weeks before I returned, I can't say exactly when the City's train systems — MTA, Amtrak, and LIRR — began their new disturbing announcement campaign exhorting all passengers to keep their eyes open and report suspicious behavior immediately to police. But I heard the announcement over and over again, on every subway I rode and while I waited at Penn Station for an Amtrak train to Boston. It was more than the old "unattended bags" line, and it was more than even a "look out for unattended bags." It sounded like, "watch everyone around you and report them to the police." It gave me a very East German Stasi-esque feeling, and of course, got me thinking about what a New Yorker would actually bother to report as suspicious behavior.

Living in NYC you see a lot of weird things, things that if you just happened to be visiting NYC you might even find "suspicious" but which are just part of living in a big, messy, diverse, crazy city. Would the woman talking to herself walking in circles count? What about people walking between subway cars, speaking a foreign language? Or someone wandering slowly, eyeing each store in Penn Station? That was me of course, not because I was casing the place but because I was trying to kill time and find a sandwich. Is asking the general population of New York City to spy and snoop on each other a good preventative measure, a la The Wisdom of Crowds, or is it an opportunity for mistrust and misunderstanding, like Annie Jacobsen's Northwest flight from Detroit to Los Angeles in June?

The most amazing salad in the world

The other night, as Jason already reported, I had dinner at Craft. One of the highlights of the meal for me was the special heirloom tomato appetizer we ordered. It perfectly accentuated the range of intoxicating sweetness to be found in these delightful vegetables (fruits, whatever).

As a fairly recent victor in Battle Tomato, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and found myself on Friday buying over a pound of heirloom tomatoes at the Greenmarket to attempt an at-home recreation of the dish. I'm happy to report that my Craft's Heirloom Tomato Salad was a huge success (coupled with fresh corn on the cob, it made for an all-Greenmarket-veggie dinner). So delightful was it that Saturday morning on my way home from a run, I stopped again at the Greenmarket to use my last few dollars to buy three more tomatoes. If you enjoy tomatoes and have access to nice ripe heirlooms, you couldn't ask for a better way to enjoy them.

The declining state of diner dining

A rather disheartening article in the week's New York magazine, The Death of the Diner: What's killing the cheeseburger deluxe?

Sad but true: The classic New York coffee shop is fading fast. The recession is part of the problem; according to Pan Gregorian Enterprises, a purchasing co-op for coffee shops and diners that has 475 local members, revenues were down 20 percent last year. But there are other forces at work, from skyrocketing rents to Starbucks hegemony, that are forcing coffee-shop owners…into retirement.

Some of my favorite Manhattan places to eat are diners: in Tribeca I frequently had lunch at the Square Diner (at the intersection of Leonard and West Broadway), closer to my hood I like Joe Jr's on Sixth Avenue and the Bonbonniere on Eighth Avenue. And whenever I go to the movies up on 34th Street, I like to have a pre-theatre meal at the Cheyenne, at Ninth Avenue and 33rd Street.

One of the things I missed most about the east coast during my tenure in San Francisco were diners, and one of the highlights of my first return to New York City after an absence of many years was our trip to the now-demolished Jones Diner. It might have been the final push I needed to move back east. I've never tasted a better grilled cheese, or a worse cup of coffee, or had a nicer time on a cold winter's afternoon with the light fading into a cruddy January grey. There's a lot I could do without in this world, but I can't say that I want to live a life without my diners.

I scream for poutine

In the midst of lively recounting of Canada Day, Maciej enjoys his first dish of the Canadian delight, poutine (cheese curds, brown gravy, and french fries).

The brown gravy was turpid and dark, with a sturdy tannin structure supporting notes of oak, wood smoke, spice, aniseed and musk. There was the faintest hint of chocolate and raspberry in the finish, though that may have reflected a previous use of the serving dish. In the nose, the poutine was beefy and slightly insolent – I detected an almost wanton playfulness, the evanescent flavors frolicking together like young beavers in a GaspŽ pond at dusk – but in the mouth it opened to reveal a velvety (or perhaps Velveeta-like) smoothness that tenaciously clung to every membrane in my mouth, esophagus, and stomach for the next three hours.

Now who wouldn't want to eat that?

Dear Roger “Fatty” Clemens

Today in Slate, an open letter to former Red Sox pitcher (and tonight's starter for the National League in the All-Star Game) Roger Clemens, Roger and Me: Why I hate the greatest pitcher of all time.

But here's the real problem with your behavior: Fans like to think that players are giving it their all. All the time. I like to think that, anyway. But then I'm just a simple, good-hearted man, a man who wants to believe in heroes. How can I believe in heroes, Mr. Clemens, when the world is home to people like you? It's clear that you just try hard when you feel like it.

Sadly that seems to be the general state in sports these days, and why I tend to be a big fan of the hustlers still making names for themselves. I can relate to the author's anger. Also he calls The Rocket, "wicked fat." Ha ha ha. What is it with ballplayers? They're like the fattest professional athletes, with so many guts and bellies. I mean, if you're a nose guard, sure you've got a gut. But you're not supposed to dive and make a catch and run between bases. Wicked fat. Ha.

More of a good Blue Hill thing

New York has a review of the new restaurant, Blue Hill at Stone Barns, located 30 miles north of New York City in Pocantico Hills, New York. I'm a big fan of Blue Hill in Greenwich Village, and when I first heard about the new spot, I added it to my list of restaurants to investigate, it sounds delicious. Also if you're interested in Blue Hill, be sure and check out the article (not available online), "Back on the Farm" in the July 2004 Gourmet by Blue Hill chef Dan Barber. It's all about going to his family farm with his staff to plant and pick veggies. Sounds wonderful. And yummy!