Ah, New York. We meet again. It’s only day four, and our love-hate relationship feels stronger than ever.

I’ve lived in big cities for most of my adult life – including three years in Manhattan – and I’ve visited NYC nearly every year since I left in 2006. However, visiting and living here are two very different things, and acclimatizing to my new surroundings has been a bit harder than I expected. I suppose London is a bit more chilled out, or at least greener and less claustrophobic, and I did spend much of the last four months in small town California. It’s only natural that going from the warmth, solitude, space, quiet and nature of Santa Cruz to NEW YORK INSANITY, living in a shoebox on a major avenue and 18 degree weather would lead to a bit of freaking out! Everything in this city feels very familiar, but just not like home. However, I know that will change with time.

The sublet I decided to take for three months is cute – certainly not new or modern, but a nicely decorated and cozy one bedroom third floor walkup with plenty of storage space in Grammercy. It has its challenges – the kitchenette is very “ette” and I wasn’t able to bring any of my own kitchen things (except for a few essentials – a french press, a silicon baking dish and my salad dressing emulsifier), but I’m trying to be creative and will do my best to keep up my cooking. It should help that I can now actually use appliances in the kitchen, such as the tea kettle I bought (can’t live without a tea kettle). The only plug is across the sink and around the corner, but I solved that by using scotch tape and an extension cord. Voila!

Gotta love New York.

There were a few other things I had to adjust – for instance, there is no chair, just a sofa, so I bought a cheap folding chair which makes the tiny end table somewhat acceptable for studying.

The REAL problem – and this is partly why I’m struggling so much – is that the city that never sleeps is doing so right outside my window. I realize NYC is loud, but this is by far the loudest place I’ve ever lived. The apartment faces first avenue and the noise is relentless. I should’ve expected this but given that everything else was so convenient, I decided to go for it. I’m hoping that I will adjust, but so far it’s been pretty tough. Last night was a slight improvement, after I turned a fan on high, used ear plugs, put my white noise app on full volume and placed a pillow over my head. However, that of course doesn’t help when I’m simply trying to relax or read in the living room. It’s still comfy and it certainly is a luxury having my own space, but I’m used to home being an escape from the outside world. The walls are so thin, I may as well be suspended over the traffic lights. Perhaps after a few weeks the noise will fade into the background? I certainly hope so. If not, I guess it’s temporary, and I can always spend more time in libraries.

On a more positive note, my neighborhood is a wonderful new running home! I’m a mere three minutes from the East river park, including an awesome all weather outdoor 400m track only 1M from my doorstep. It’s nice to keep to my London running roots and live near a river (Central Park isn’t too far away either by bus or train). I’m also SO happy to finally be able to do proper speed workouts! I’ve always had to do intervals and tempo runs on the treadmill because I didn’t have a track nearby that I could use.

So far, I’ve gone running three times. I ran four bitterly cold miles on my first morning in NYC (it was 18 degrees but felt much colder) at marathon pace simply so I could get home faster. I seriously thought I was going to freeze to death – I was also somewhat delirious from sleep deprivation. Monday’s 7M run was slightly warmer – by a few degrees! I ran with a friend at least so that kept me distracted. For once I might actually NEED new running gear. I have some cold weather clothing, but clearly not enough. I bought ten pairs of hand warmers so that should help in the meantime!

Today I tried out the track. It was my first real speed session in months, and my first track workout in who knows how long (I honestly can’t remember). Shameful! Technically I’m in training for the NYC half, which is only 8 weeks away, although I haven’t made a training plan or set any goals quite yet. Through my somewhat aimless training in California, I’m currently farther along in my long runs than I should be, and completely behind in my speedwork. I decided to get back into the game with a ladder/pyramid session – I ran 1M easy to the track, then 400m, 600, 800, 1000, 1200, 1000, 800, 600 and 400, all with 200m jogging breaks in between and then 1M easy back home. The total came to 8 miles.

It was very challenging and I had been dreading it all morning, so I’m pleased I pushed through. I was aiming for 10k perceived effort level rather than a number since I’m not quite sure where I’m at right now race pace wise. My average pace was a bit inconsistent, partially due to the strong winds (which kicked up more towards the end) but mainly from starting too quickly and subsequent fatigue. However, I’m not sure how much I trust my Garmin – when you compare the times of the corresponding distances they’re not THAT different. Either way, it was a start and I’m proud of myself for sticking with it – I can only improve!

I spent the rest of the day hanging out with a friend in Carroll Gardens. It was wonderful to catch up and also take a break from Manhattan for the afternoon! We had a lovely lunch at Frankie’s, wandered up Court Street and hung out in her (relatively peaceful) apartment. It made me wish I lived in Brooklyn too. I’m sure I will sometime soon, but I know that living closer to campus was the right move for my first few months here. The noise REALLY bothers me, but the location is convenient. Union square, including a Trader Joes, is only a ten minute walk away, and campus is a 20-25 minute walk away. My favorite bagel shop in town – Ess-a-Bagel – is a block away, and my other favorite bagel/smoked fish shop – Russ & Daughters – isn’t too far either. Gotta have my bagels (I’ve actually had a bagel every day so far…naughty). It’s awesome to be able to walk everywhere – cheaper and healthier, not to mention liberating after driving around so much in California.

Most importantly, however, I have some wonderful friends in my area or only a short ride away, which is extremely comforting. I was welcomed on my first day by several close friends, who helped me pull through a few (mostly sleep-deprivation induced) meltdowns. My family and E have also been providing tons of support over the phone. NYC can be a very lonely place – I remember from my early years here how easy it is to feel lost at times, even when you’re surrounded by friends – so I really want to make sure I don’t isolate myself once things get really busy and instead take advantage of having so many friends close by.

Tomorrow, my first day of orientation begins, which includes a new grad student networking event. I’m nervous, but excited! My textbooks are beginning to arrive in the mail and I already have some reading assignments to complete. I also just found out that the lab for my Food & Food Science lecture course is actually a full-on cooking class. The syllabus sounds pretty intense – I need to purchase a chef’s uniform and knife and will be tested on things like my knife skills, food safety, and the taste and presentation of what I cook, among other things. I can’t wait! I like to think I am a decent cook, but it’s always good to get back to basics. You can be sure I’ll be blogging all about it!

As for running, I plan to do a 12M run early Saturday morning and create an actual training schedule for myself for the next 8 weeks. Oh, and I’ll also officially announce that I plan to register for the Chicago marathon when it opens on Feb. 1st. I’m still undecided as to whether or not I’ll enter the NYC lottery (the price is outrageous – not good for student budgets!). I don’t plan to run a Spring marathon, but to compensate, E and I MAY run our first ultramarathon in December – TNF Endurance Challenge 50k in SF on December 1st. We’ll see if my body will cooperate!

It’s very late – so much for getting over my jet lag. Hopefully I can get some sleep tonight and enjoy whatever adventures day five has in store for me…

There’s no question that NYC is one of the greatest cities in the world and that a part of me is excited to be back. My inner New Yorker seems to still be in hibernation, but hopefully within a week or two, it will have made a fierce comeback!

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