Dog Days of Summer, or Keeping Your Better Half Cool

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about my own personal health and comfort. Today, let’s shift the spotlight to someone far furrier and less likely to hold a multi-year grudge: my dog.

Lucille, as you’ve probably realized, gets a lot of real estate on this page, and for good reason: she’s photogenic, she works for free and she’s at times larger than life — or at least larger than the back seat of a Kia Forte.

I am a tender, sweet young thing, and I demand all three seats, please. (Name that reference!)

I’m writing about our family bear dog today because many of my readers are dog lovers, too, and as the mercury rises, we don’t always know the best ways to keep them from overheating. If it’s too hot for me to lace up and go for a run, it’s too hot for her, but with dogs unable to sweat or complain or crank up the fan, sometimes us dog mothers (fine, dog landlords) have to take cooling matters into our own human hands.

(Disclaimer: I’m not a veterinarian — just a pet owner whose dependent charge is constantly covered in 65 pounds of what I can only imagine feels like solid black felt.)

Now at our Queens apartment, Lucille does just fine even when the temperature pushes 100 — we keep her water bowl full, the AC blasting, the window coverings drawn, her outdoor walks short and the bathroom door open, so she can nap on the cool tile and lower her body heat/make it really hard for her humans to pee in privacy.

Seriously, can’t even shower without an audience these days.

But every time we head to our upstate house, we start to worry that she won’t be able to cool herself down sufficiently in an 1840s home with no air conditioning and poor circulation and far too many centipedes. (That last bit doesn’t impact the weather so much as my personal wellbeing.) So we’ve devised a whole host of tricks to keep her cool, which — in tandem — have so far kept her from spontaneously combusting.

    • Keep water and ice-cubes within her reach: Dehydration is a major summer concern, so keep your dog’s bowl filled and offer the frozen variety if it doesn’t seem to bother his or her teeth.
  • Limit outdoor time during the middle of the day: Plan big walks for early morning, and make sure there’s ample shade outside if you’re throwing your pup outback.
The real slim shady.
  • Buy a cooling pad: This is a new tool in our toolbox, so not quite sure yet if she’ll warm to it, but she certainly stays on it all night without complaints.
Cool as a cucumber.
  • More unorthodox methods: Cover your dog in a cool wet towel. Take her for a swim. Or, if you’re weirdos like us, line her spine with ziplocks of ice. You know, normal things.
Or what we call country-house AC.
  • Share your popsicle: Again, I may be alone in this camp, but she certainly seemed to like it.

Dog owners — what other tips can you share? Cat owners — I know you want an easy-to-manage pet but AT WHAT COST? (Just kidding. Maybe.)


Faking It

I self-identify as a lot of things, but my level of actual participation in some categories would suggest my membership is tenuous as best. Case in point:

  • I call myself an “avid reader,” but the last book I read before this past weekend was teen filth Divergent.
  • I call myself an “active blogger,” but you know as well as I do that these pages have been quiet for weeks.
  • I call myself a “healthy eater,” but I’ve spent three of the last four weekends dining below the Mason Dixon line. On a completely unrelated note, I also call myself in need of more work clothes with an elastic waistband.
This are the kinds of classy establishments I ate at in the former Confederate states.
This are the kinds of classy establishments I ate at in the former Confederate states.

But one self-classification in particular has grown increasingly shaky: my claim that I’m a runner.

Now don’t get me wrong: I in no way believe distance or speed or competition are mandatory for calling oneself a runner. From Olympic elites to Central Park joggers to everything in between, all you need to call yourself a runner is a pro-running attitude.

Unfortunately, it’s that runner’s mentality specifically that I’m severely lacking. Don’t believe me? My running log since the marathon has fallen faster than Chris Christie’s approval rating.

running graph

There are plenty of reasons my running may have lost momentum these last few months. My spring half marathon was canceled. I’ve been working my way up the East Coast wedding circuit. I’m in the process of moving from one fifth floor walk-up to another. It’s getting hot.

But I know deep down inside the real reason I’ve been pushing workouts to the backburner is that July means for me the onset of fall marathon training, and I’m just not mentally there yet. The prospect of running up to 40 miles a week — when I’m currently lucky to squeeze in 6 — is more than a little daunting for this out-of-shape athlete. Sure, logically it makes sense to build a base now so the first few weeks of training don’t hit me like a brick, but I’m not always a logical being, and ignoring the looming deadline seems like a much safer prospect indeed. I’m nothing if not an ostrich playing in the sand.

Of course, that was also my mindset last summer, and I paid brutally come marathon morning.

When it comes down to it, I guess it’s time I stop lollygagging and get out there. In truth, life is full of things we don’t want to do but do anyways, from small talking at cocktail parties to putting on pants, and maybe running is just going to have to be one of those things for a while. I assume once I get stronger and faster again, I’ll get out of my rut and pride myself in my runner classification once more, but until then, perhaps I just have to fake it.

Much like Keira’s weak attempt at a fake smile when I told her we’d be having company on board the boat this weekend in Baltimore.

You must be joking.
“You must be joking.”

At least our guest did not notice the death stares.

"Can bull terriers swim?"
“Can bull terriers swim? I’m just asking. No particular reason.”

How do you motivate yourself to run when you simply, stubbornly, childishly just don’t wanna?

Running Training

Said No One Ever

There are a handful of phrases in the English language that I’d wager have rarely, if ever, been spoken aloud.

  • No thanks, I’ve had enough cookie dough for one day.
  • Franklin Pierce’s economic policies are worth emulating today.
  • No way, the blue ranger is my favorite, too!
  • Don’t you just love the smell of Manhattan in June?
  • I mean it! Your dog’s new haircut doesn’t look silly at all.
Back Camera
She knows the truth.

Here’s one more to add to the list:

  • I cannot wait until marathon training starts so I can finally have my life back.

Except that the aforementioned sentence has, in fact, been spoken aloud, and the speaker was none other than yours truly, and the whole exchange took place about 15 seconds ago. That’s right, folks. You’re livin’ through history.

As you may recall, I’m shaking up my running routine and spending the first half of the summer training for a beachside sprint triathlon scheduled for July 28 along the Rhode Island coast. For those of you unfamiliar with the sprint distance, we are talking a quarter-mile swim, an 11-mile ride and a 5K run in what I hope will take about one-third the time it takes me to run a marathon. Training should be a walk (/swim/bike) in the park, right?

Wrong. Not having much experience myself training for a multi-sport event, I (SURPRISE!) turned to my homeboy Hal Higdon for advice. There, I found his recommended 8-week workout plan designed for “runners who would like to test their fitness in a triathlon by adding swimming and cycling to their workout routines.” There might as well have been a headshot of me on the intro page. Plan selection = complete.

tri plan

I’m now on week 4 — why yes, I am writing this post from the comfort of a stationary bike — and let me tell you: training for a triathlon is not for the weak of heart. (Actually, your cardiologist probably could have told you that, too.)

Seriously though, I went into this summer thinking tri training would be a good way to ease my way into marathon training by building a base of core muscle groups while also allowing me more free time to enjoy all the perks a Manhattan summer provides.

Boy was I wrong. While it’s true my total weekly running mileage has been dramatically reduced since picking up two extra sports, the same can also be said of my free time. Unlike marathon training, when I tend to take two scheduled rest days a week, Hal now has me working out a full six out of seven. And many of those workouts involve more than one sport — say, swim 30 mins, bike 20 mins. But that’s less than an hour of training! — you say. — How can that be more time consuming than marathon training?

How? I’ll tell you how. My pool is on 92nd St.; my borrowed bike resides in Greenpoint. You do the math.

As a result, I’m breaking up most of my scheduled brick workouts and completing the first half before work in one borough and the second at night in another. I realize the expectation is athletes on tri plans will transition right from one sport to the next during training in order to simulate actual race conditions, but I also realize I don’t have a magic carpet to transport me over the East River during transitions. Pre-genie Aladdin, I feel your pain.

Now I’m not saying I haven’t enjoyed pieces of triathlon training. My Friday night bike ride around Roosevelt Island made me feel like a real, multi-sport athlete, strength training has made me feel strangely stronger, and swimming at the 92Y has taught me to strategically sidestep 90-year-old women in swim caps.

But the constant stream of two-a-day workouts is starting to wreck havoc on both my sleep schedule and my social life. And that’s why I’m about to repeat myself:

  • I cannot wait until marathon training starts so I can finally have my life back.

marathon planThat, and I love the smell of Manhattan in June.

How is your summer training progressing?

Running Training

No Means No

It may only be June 15, but take a look at my photo stream and it’s clear I’ve already squeezed in an entire season’s worth of activities before the summer solstice.

photo 1
I rode an old-timey trolley with my old-timey sister (jokes!) during a whirlwind Dallas birthday weekend.
photo 2
I bet entirely too little money on Oxbow at the Preakness Stakes during a whirlwind Baltimore gambling weekend.
I got intimate with the world's best college mascot during a whirlwind Maine drinking weekend.
I got intimate with the world’s best college mascot during a whirlwind Maine drinking weekend.
I came to appreciate the joy of a hot shower during a whirlwind New York festival weekend.
I came to appreciate the joy of a hot shower during a whirlwind New York festival weekend.
I learned humans make better first mates than goldendoodles during a whirlwind deep sea shipwreck weekend.

And that’s just a few select excursions. Ever since the mercury hit 60+ degrees, my weekends and weekdays alike have been jam-packed with summertime staples, from outdoor concerts and backyard BBQs to boat rides and baseball games, not to mention the steady stream of dinner parties and movie nights that span the entire calendar year regardless of climate.

If you were to follow my facebook feed, you’d think I’m having the best summer of my life. And to a large extent, I am. I’ve been constantly surrounded by good food, good music and good friends since Good Friday, and with a Broadway show, a rooftop party and a dim sum date in Flushing, Queens, still on the agenda before this weekend is up, it looks like I’m in store for yet another summer weekend for the record books.

Has it been fun? Absolutely. But throw in a few 55-hour work weeks, a six-day-a-week triathlon training plan and some silly desire to spend more than a few waking minutes per week with my main squeeze and I’m starting to feel a little like Liz Lemon on sandwich day:

Source: The Internet.

But if I’m honest with myself, when it comes to having it all this summer, the truth is I can’t. It’s hard to turn down a social invitation anywhere, but in New York especially, with so many free and outdoor and artisanal-pop-tart-filled events slated throughout the summer, it feels like a crime to decline a single one. As a result, I find myself saying ‘Yes’ to every RSVP that comes my way from May to September, leaving my calendar filled to the brim — and my mental wellbeing on a gradual downward slope.

It’s time I admit it to myself: I can’t realistically keep going out with friends every evening, sleeping less-than-required by doctors every night and then waking up to swim/bike/run every morning and expect to continue to do everything well. By packing too much into each 24-hour period, I may be filling my iPhone camera roll with the best filter-free snapshots this side of the Mississippi (and on that side, if you count my summer-starting weekend in Dallas), but I fear I’m also starting to wear myself precariously thin. I may be making some killer summer memories, but my sleep schedule is out of synch, my cortisol levels are through the roof and my athletic performance is starting to waver, and that’s just not a sustainable model.

Take, for example, this past week’s JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge in Central Park. Having clocked a finishing time of 26:43 at a pace of 7:38 last year, I had hoped I’d manage a similar finish this year. One year later, one year fitter, right?


Wrong. After taking more than a month off racing in order to clear my social calendar for the aforementioned weekend getaways, sleepless nights and subsequent hangovers, I arrived at Wednesday evening’s starting line tired and relatively out of shape, and my performance showed it: after a speedy first mile, my chest grew tight, my stride wavered and my confidence plummeted, and I ended up tacking on a solid minute and 20 seconds from last year’s time. I know crossing the finish line at 28:02 is nothing to scoff at in the scheme of things, but the pain I felt mid-race and the soreness I felt the entire next day after racing just 3.5 miles was a real wake-up call that — if I’m going to be a (semi) serious athlete — I simply can’t have it all.

Don’t worry friends: I’m not advocating full-out hermitship. But if I’m going to train for another marathon this summer and survive to tell the tale, I’m going to need to better prioritize the hours in each 24-hour period between now and November 3. That means fewer weekday events and late nights, coupled with more hours of sleep and miles on my feet. It also means convincing more friends to socialize with me on a spin bike or around the Central Park loop, rather than over beers at happy hour. Everyone likes a yes-man, but as I get my body back into marathon shape, I think the occasional ‘No’ is the way to go. It’s going to be a change, sure, but I think it’s a worthwhile one.

How do you make social sacrifices for your training schedule? 


Summertime and the Livin’s Freebie

Don’t let my recent expedition to the Hamptons fool you: a born and raised penny-pincher, I’m a sucker for a good deal.

A wine-tasting groupon? No question. NYC Restaurant Week? Twice a year like clockwork. A three-pack of grand pianos? Count me in.

Fortunately, Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs in the summertime are a prime place to put my intrinsic frugality to good use. That’s because – despite what the Kardashian sisters* may lead you to believe – you can fill your social calendar to the brim in this city without spending a dime.

*inserted for SEO purposes.

Any New Yorker worth his weight in cab fare has spent an evening picnicking at the New York Philharmonic’s free summer concert series, but did you know classical music under the stars is just one of hundreds of low- or no-cost events hosted by Bloomberg and friends each year?

Don’t get me wrong: I love Tchaikovsky and condoned outdoor drinking as much as the next kid, but you know what else I love? 1995-era Paul Rudd. That’s right, folks. If you live in the city of New York, you can watch Clueless on the big screen at the Brooklyn Bridge Park tonight for absolutely free. (Unless you publicly tear up when Tai and Travis get together, in which case, it will cost you something: your dignity.)

And that’s just one night at one park in one borough. For a full list of city-sanctioned freebie activities, check out this helpful list compiled by our friends at Or if clicking a link is too challenging, check out my compilation of highlights below:

  • Thursday, August 2: Watch Wet Hot American Summer at Brooklyn Bridge Park at sundown. What’s that? You’re already young-Paul-Rudded out for the summer? Shame on you.
  • Friday, August 3: Watch Jurassic Park on the deck of the Intrepid. Jump out of your seat in terror when the Dilophosaurus has her big scene.
  • Monday, August 20: Watch Raiders of the Lost Ark on the Bryant Park lawn during the HBO Summer Film Festival. In case you’re reading this, Harrison, know that you’ll always have my heart.

But – despite my apparent selection bias – it’s not just outdoor movies that make up the bulk of the city’s free summer events. This summer, my intra-city travels have taken me all over. Two highlights that you should be sure to check out:

Books Beneath the Bridge, an outdoor literature series featuring a New York author reading an excerpt from his book, answering questions and posing for awkward photos with book clubs.

Amor Towles, author of super lovely “Rules Of Civility,” is always cool around the ladies.
  • Smorgasburg, a Saturday afternoon culinary “flea market” on the Williamsburg waterfront.
This look says: “I may be a badass helicopter pilot, but I get angry when some hipster puts fermented fruit peel in my lemonade.”

Alright, New Yorkers: when it comes to must-do free summer activies, what am I missing?


Running Social

If you would have told me two years ago I’d voluntarily leave a rooftop party with an unparalleled skyline view celebrating the most gorgeous birthday girl around at 10:30 p.m. because I had to be up to run nine miles before the sun, I’d have thought you were crazy.

Turns out, I’m the crazy one.

Registering for a fall marathon, I knew I’d have to log some miles in the summer heat, but I don’t think I’d fully appreciated just what, exactly, that would mean for my social life.

Last week, I was out until just before sunup with these heartbreakers, who – judging by the blinding reflection in this photo – may also be Planeteers. (Rachel is totally heart.)

Today, I was dressed, hydrated and making my way to the park at about the same hour in an effort to complete my long run before the New York City heat advisory went into effect.

There are certainly perks to running at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday mornings, like having the park loop to myself and being able to justify a day of sheer slothfulness from 7 a.m. on. But summer marathon training also means learning to turn down social invites and/or another glass of wine in favor of early bedtimes and even earlier wake-up calls, making me just about the lamest Manhattan socialite around.

But all is not lost! I may not be able to fraternize on my usual timeframe during the next four months, but with a little creative scheduling, I think I’ll be able to maintain a semblance of a social life despite running 40+ miles a week. Here’s how you can be a part of it.

  • Step one: Print out a copy of the following training schedule, courtesy of my pal Hal, and hang it on your refrigerator next to my Christmas card photo.
  • Step two: Make plans to hang out with me on days when I’m not waking up to, you know, run 18 miles the following morning. Good times: Sunday nights, Thursday nights, Saturday brunch, etc. Bad times: Tuesday nights, Saturday mornings, October 28, etc. If you’re super into carb loading and other stationary activities, Friday nights are also some prime social real estate. Pencil me in now.

Better yet: Join me on my next long run for a few miles! I know where all the Central Park water fountains are hidden AND I’ll take you out for a 7 a.m. post-run bagel and/or burger (don’t judge). Who’s with me?