Well, here we are in 2015 and for the first time in 5 years, I am not training for a marathon! Except for the St. George Marathon in October of 2011 — which went very well — I had serious problems in each of the other marathons, whether hot weather, leg injuries, foot injuries on in the case of the 2013 Boston, the horendous terrorist attact. In contrast, this winter I've taken it easy and have set my sights on a few shorter races and a couple of summer series 5Ks. Admittedly, I am a bit out of shape, but I feel much more rested and my old nemises, the sore right leg and the numb right foot, are hardly bothering me at all. But 2015 is rolling along and spring is nearly here so I can't just sit at home. It's time to get serious about training — and to start blogging again!
n Saturday, Melissa and I did another run on the Old Croton Aqueduct (aka the "OCA"). We started where we left off a month ago right where the Mosholu Parkway enters Van Cortlandt Park. We took the #4 train to Mosholu Parkway (2nd to last stop) and then it's an easy 10 minute run down along the parkway to the start of the OCA trail. Melissa used the time to fiddle with her Garmin gizmo, a good thing actually, since I want to get some good distance measurements for the sections of the OCA I have been doing.
his section starts on the east side of the Mosholu just as it enters the park past the intersection with Gun Hill Road. There's no sign where the trail starts (although there was one in 2012) just a few boulders — and some blue blazes further along.
NOTE: Yesterday (7/25) I found a little Parks Department sign up about a block on Gun Hill Road. They may be trying to route traffic to that point, perhaps to avoid getting on the OCA from the busy Mosholu Parkway. But that is definately not how the OCA enters the park as any map, both recent or historic will clearly show.
For years we've taken the sidewalk along the west side of the Mosholu and after passing under the Deegan we would go up the crumbling stairs and cross the Mosholu on the Deegan sidewalk and make our way to the OCA, just north of the Deegan. It's also common to get there by starting at the Van Cortlandt Golf Club and heading east along the golf cart path to the stairs up to the Deegan sidewalk. This is how most runners get to the OCA. But that would mean missing the whole section of the OCA which goes up on the east side of the Mosholu.
NOTE: In case you get the urge to go the "old" way, don't. Yesterday (7/25) I went by the stairs that go up to the Deegam and it's all fenced off. No way to use that route. Hopefully they're fixing the stairs. So stick to the Mosholu Golf Course section, aka the east side of the Parkway.
[Update: July, 2017] The old crumbling stairs have now been replaced by a brand spanking new, wheelchair accessible ramp (see ), so you can once again cross the Mosholu on the Deegan sidewalk. As above, you can pick this up by entering the park via the Mosholu west sidewalk or reach the same point from the golf house if you go in from Broadway! Horray!
Now back on the east side of the Mosholu — the parks department calls this section the "Old Croton Aqueduct Trail South" according to some new signs. I call it the "Mosholu Golf Course section" — Whatever!
The treadway shows much less use in this section, but it is lovely and remote from other park users (the Mosholu Golf Course is somewhere off to the right through the woods). After a bit more than half a mile the aqueduct swings slightly to the east and you find yourself next to the Deegan, with cars flying by on your left. This is where the OCA originally followed the coutour north but was cut off by the damn highway in the 1950s (I'm sure it was a Robert Moses idea). So we must now take a detour up to 233rd Street, cross over the Deegan and then work our way back down to the OCA, about 100 yards from where we started the detour. I will say, the parks department did a good job of restoring the old paths and provided good signage for this detour. If you click on the map and zoom in on this area, you'll get the picture.
I just now discovered (almost two weeks since doing this run) that the City and State are finally going to put in a pedestrian bridge over the Deegan to connect the two sections of the OCA in the park and eliminate the "Deegan Detour". I found the information on the "Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct" web site () which contains the details. This is good news, and long overdue.
t this point, those of you who have run on the OCA will recognize where you are. I did a run over this part of the OCA to Yonkers in 2012 with Melissa and Lisa. Check out my report: . That run was quite a bit longer (20 miles), but check sections 3 and 4 of the report which cover this part of the route. It was done in April so there's a lot less foliage and you don't see that lush verdant look shown in the pictures from this run. Click on that 2012 photo on the right and compare it to the photo above (the slideshow cover) of the same spot and you'll see what a difference summer makes.
You'll notice that in 2012 we got onto the OCA the "old" way, so we missed the Mosholu Golf Course section. There was also a lot of construction going on in 2012 to fix several badly eroded features of the OCA, which thankfully are now restored rather well. The slideshow illustrates these improvements. If you haven't looked at the slideshow for this run (above) you might want to do it now. It goes by pretty fast.
The OCA is pretty straight and level all the way through the park and up through Yonkers, so there's no getting lost. But there are 4 places to notice — the slideshow makes this clear. First thing you will come across is a "Waste Weir" which is a square building about 20 feet high right in the middle of the OCA. This was built as an overflow outlet which dumped the aqueduct water out to a nearby stream. You'll note a stream goes right under the aqueduct at this spot. Well, in 2012 the downhill side of the weir was badly eroded and in danger of collapse (click on the picture on the left). Now you'll see (in the slideshow) a nicely restored retaining wall complete with a viewing platform. Further along, just before the Yonkers line, you'll notice a wooden fence on the left (downhill side) with some landscaping covering the down slope. Well, in 2012 this was a spot where the ground had eroded to the extent that the original aqueduct masonry was exposed, bricks, stones, mortar and all. Click on the picture to the right for the 2012 picture.
hen you get to Yonkers, the first thing you'll notice is houses on each side and a couple of cross streets. Many of the houses have paths or steps to get to the OCA and with the recent renovations completed (both on the NY City and the Yonkers side), it's clear that this is a popular walking, running or dog-walking route. In about a half mile, the houses give way to woodland, and you are now in Tibbetts Brook Park. Incidently, once in Westchester County, the route of the OCA is preserved in a long linear state park. Shorly after entering Tibbetts Brook Park, you'll notice some recent reconstruction and a temporary black culvert which takes a stream over the OCA. In 2012 the retaining wall on the left (downhill) side of the aqueduct had collapsed into a bit of a landslide (see picture on left). It's nice to see both the NY City Parks Department and the NY State Parks Department are doing some badly needed restoration work.
The Tibbetts Brook Park section is very pleasant and varied. It's over a mile long and you'll run through woodland and landscaped park and you will go under one road at an old fashioned stone bridge. When you get to the north end of the park you'll pass two old buildings which have something to do with the aqueducts, but I wasn't sure what. I did some Googling around and I found 2 things: 1) the architecture (the windows in particular) would put the buildings in the New Croton Aqueduct (="NCA") time frame and 2) I found a 1929 street map of that part of Yonkers which puts those buildings, plus one north of Yonkers Avenue, within the right of way of the NCA. Take a look at the image (right) of the 1929 map which I've annotated showing the 3 buildings in question. The map also shows how the aqueduct swings around to the west (roughly where the Cross County Parkway interchange is) and meets Yonkers Avenue just west of the railroad underpass.
I also noticed that in 2012, the roof of the first building was in very bad shape
(see photo left) and now it looks like it has a new roof. Way to go Parks Dpartment!
hen you get out of the park, you'll be on a Cross County Parkway exit ramp which leads shortly to Midland Avenue. Go left on Midland, cross the Parkway entrance ramp and go down under the Parkway itself and turn left on Yonkers Avenue.
When the OCA was built, the major impediment was crossing the Saw Mill River and and a minor one was crossing Tibbets Brook. But in the 170+ years since the OCA was built a web of streets and highways plus one rail line (the Putnam line, now a rail-trail called the "South County Trailway") have crossed the area, complicating our job of finding the route. I've put an enlarged section of the map on the right to make clear where the OCA goes in this section. Using the 1929 map as a guide I've put the original path of the OCA on the map in red. But I wouldn't try to "bushwhack" this route as you'll be crossing two major parkways, so we'll stick to Yonkers Ave.
In simple terms our run has two parts: 1) following Yonkers Avenue from the park, under the old rail line and over the Saw Mill River Parkway, and 2) following the Nepperhan section of the original aqueduct across the Saw Mill River valley and on to the point where the route turns north at Broadway.
Following Yonkers Avenue is straightforward and most of the way the OCA lies to the south of the avenue as per the red line on the map. I always stick to the south sidewalk (left hand side) while on Yonkers Ave. The OCA crosses under the Putnam line a bit south of the Yonkers Avenue underpass (see that 1929 map above). Soon after passing under the rail line, we cross the Saw Mill River Parkway on an overpass. The Saw Mill crosses the OCA a bit south of us and it may have been put in pipes if the grade of the parkway was lowered.
It should be noted that the Saw Mill River Parkway does not follow the Saw Mill River in this area. The OCA crosses the actual river about a half mile further west on the Nepperhan Viaduct which, although reconstructed several times to allow a wider underpass for Nepperhan Avenue, is the original crossing on the OCA over the river. Incidentally, "Nepperhan" is the historic name for the Saw Mill River. We enter this section from the north side of Yonkers Avenue at Prescott Street, a few blocks past the Saw Mill River Parkway. The viaduct is about a quarter mile further along in this section. A 2012 picture of the structure taken from the southwest is shown on the left. This was one of the major engineering and construction project of the whole OCA.
The last part after the viaduct is a section that curves around towards the left on the high bank above the Saw Mill River as the river makes its way to the Hudson. This is an impressive section ovelooking parts of Yonkers. However, between Summit Street and Palisade Avenue, there is a portion of the retaining wall that appears to have collapsed and NY State is working on repairs (see photo right). We went through this area with no problem, but you may have to bypass it. To do so, take a right at Summit Street and go 2 blocks to Ashburton Avenue. Go left on Ashburton and in less than a half mile you'll reach Palisdade Avenue where the OCA comes out to the street.
[Update: July, 2017] The area that had been washed out is now completely repaired, so enjoy this section with views down over old Yonkers.
When you have reached Palisade Avenue and Ashburton, the aqueduct crosses Ashburton and one block later, at Broadway, it heads north. And that is the end of this section.
Stay tuned for the next report as we head up through Hastings, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington and beyond. As for Melissa and me, we headed down along Riverdale Avenue for brunch at one of our Bronx favorites, .
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The other big difference was that, unlike Melissa, Ed had not seen any of this route before. He was impressed and we stopped and looked at stuff just about every step of the way. His family was from the Bronx and he has several good friends who live there, but had never travelled the territory on foot — which, as we runners all know, makes all the difference.
Editors note: I added some photos from this run to the slideshow I had put together last week for the run with Melissa. I intend to use that slideshow as a travelogue, so to speak, for an article I will put together giving details and advice for running all the sections of the OCA.
We had done parts of this before, but not the whole thing in one piece. The closest we came was in the run we did with Lisa a few years back () which was quite a bit longer and we crossed the Harlem River on the Washington Bridge, about a quarter mile north of High Bridge.
My goal, now that the High Bridge is open, is to document a series of runs that can be strung together, all following the Old Croton Aqueduct (aka the "OCA"). I won't go into that here, but expect more runs to follow, maybe (just maybe) ultimately all the way to the Croton Reservoir.
I would point out that this section, apart from the piece in High Bridge Park which has been run many times by many (or mabe not so many) of us, is little known but is surprisingly nice. Apart from the bridge which has spectacular views, the sections up through the west Bronx to Vanny are always well tended and well travelled, and often times just gorgeous. And this is in a neighborhood in a not-too-prosperous part of the Bronx. Some of the pictures (like ) are nothing short of stunning! As Dorothy once said "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in The Bronx any more."
f you look at the map at the top you might think that after crossing the High Bridge, the OCA follows virtually a straight line all the way to Van Cortlandt Park. Well, in 1839, it pretty much was a straight line. But in the meantime all the streets were put in plus 2 major bridges across the Harlem River (The Washington Bridge in 1889 and the Alexander Hamilton Bridge in 1963). So the details are worth a few words.
Two things will help 1) the map to the left shows where we have to detour off of the original route and 2) the slideshow shows all the details. The slideshow is important since it show what the text can't easily explain.
The first part is in Manhattan within Highbridge Park. Take the C train (NOT the B train) to 155th Street and when you get out of the station you are standing on the OCA. Then again you could run here, no? This is, after all only a 5 mile run. I've done it many times but for now I'll leave that up to you.
The OCA comes up from downtown and crosses St. Nicholas Avenue diagonally and heads down along the west side of the triangle of green west of Edgecombe Ave. Cross over and you'll be on the sidewalk next to Highbridge Park. After crossing a playground and stairs down to the bottom, get on the OCA opposite 158th Street. It's about a mile to High Bridge and the first half is on dirt. After a little detour around a rocky knoll, you'll get on a paved portion which also serves as a bike path. You'll know it when you get to the bridge since there will be lots of folks looking around checking out the newly reopened bridge. Cross the bridge and enjoy the view. You've never seen the Harlem River from this vantage point. Take a peek back at the High Bridge Water Tower which used to supply water to this portion of Manhattan. The slideshow show this portion as does the slideshow in the post about the reopening the High Bridge.
Once off the bridge in the Bronx, you'll be on University Avenue, originally called Aqueduct Avenue. The OCA follows University, mostly in the center, all the way to West Tremont Avenue. There is one detour around the Alexander Hamilton Bridge, shown on the detour map (left). And from about West 175th Street to West Tremont there is a little park along the center of the avenue which is right over the OCA. A little past Tremont the OCA turns east off of University (at the Morton Playground). This is the start of the Aqueduct Greenway but unfortunately the first section is closed. You'll have to stay on University one more long block to West Burnside where you can get on the Greenway.
The Greenway is marvelous. Sources say it was originally laid out by Frederick Law Olmstead. If you've never been on it, you will love it. There's 6 sections starting at Burnside Avenue (unfortunately we must skip the section between Tremont and Burnside). The last section ends at the Kingsbridge Road and you will see the 1911 Kingsbridge Armory across the street,
When you cross the Kingsbridge Road you will be on Reservoir Avenue for a couple of blocks and then on Goulden Avenue. The OCA is buried along here in a wall that was originally planned to go down the center of the Jerome Park Reservoir but is now simply the east wall (see the post for June 24th for the details). The OCA is under the walkway on your left, which has not one, but two fences to keep you out. The local neighborhood wants to open it up (like the Central Park Reservoir) but so far the officials are resisting. Just run along Goulden Avenue and enjoy. At the north end, you'll come to the intersection of Gun Hill Road and the Mosholu Parkway as it enters Van Cortlandt Park and this is the end of our run. See the slideshow or map to see where the next section begins.
ollowers of my blog will know that no good run ends without brunch. Why else would we run? So after we completed the OCA section (which ends at the southeast part of the park where the Mosholu Parkway enters the park — see the map), we followed a path along the south side of the park down to Broadway, and then down to 238th Street and up to - our Bronx favorite. Two pictures are worth 2000 words:
he day after the High Bridge opening I ran the NYCRuns Riverside Park Series 5Ks #3. I missed number 2, but I hope to be at all the rest (5 more).
David and Melissa were there as well as Sam, a friend from my Wednesday night runs with Melissa. Betsy, whom I have known for years, was working at the registration table, and Jud and Jennifer, other old friends, were there as well. It was (almost) like old home week.
I was 1st in the 70+ age group and Melissa was 4th in hers. You might ask who is the little girl in the picture with me. I had never met her before but she is 11 years old was the youngest awards winner there (2nd, girls 10 - 19), and I was the oldest, so with her dad's permission I took advantage of this photo op. BTW: she beat me by about 5 minutes!
Next week it's back to Van Cortlandt Park for next in my summer of 5Ks.
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oday I did a run I've done a number of times — out the door, down along the East River, around the Battery and up along the Hudson. It's about 8 miles. Often times I'd finish up by running across 20th Street home, adding about a mile, but not today. It was the sun and heat. Going down the East River park and then the section along where the Ferry station is, I was in direct sun almost all the way. I even ran along the highway side of the East River Park instead of the river side hoping to escape the sun, but that didn't help much. I was thinking I'd turn around an the Battery, but decided the Hudson River side would have more shade, so I kept going rather than doing an out-and back. Well, it turns out the sun had gotten high enough so the west side had no sun either. So it was just one of those days.
The route is actually rather nice and it's a tribute to New York City that so much of the shore line consists of parks and promenades. I looped around Pier A, just north of the Battery on the Hudson River. It's been under a reconstruction for some years, and now this, the only surviving 19th century pier in Manhattan (and a City Landmark) looks great. It has some attractive Restaurants in it and of course, a bar — and no, I was not tempted to stop and check out the beer, so there! Originally built in the 1880s for the New York City Department of Docks and Harbor Police, it served a number of city agencies including the fire department (for its fireboats) from 1960 - 1992 after which it was pretty much abandoned. See for more details.
Although this was the only new and improved place on today's route, I must say the west side parks along the Hudson River have never looked better.
When I got to West 20th Street, I decided no way was I going to run across town, so I ran the last 3 blocks north and took the M23 bus home. Although it was
hot and exhausting, I consider it a good run. My legs and feet felt fine the whole way and I didn't actually succumb to the heat. I kept a good
pace the whole way.
his is the last one of these, I promise. Saturday rolled around again and at 8:00 AM my well thought out plan to run with Ed to Northern Manhattan (or beyond) fell apart when Ed got sick and was also working on a problem at his work (a big multinational bank). So, for the 3rd weekend in a row, I was on my own to figure out where go to do my weekend long , um, medium run. And, of course there was the brunch/beer issue.
But with the unsuccess of last week's outing still on my mind, I decided to go back to the tried and true brunch-with-beer-after-the-run plan, like I've been doing for umpteen years. But I still wanted the bridges and I still wanted to have brunch in ever-reliable Brooklyn at a favorite place. But even a great spot like Radegast can get boring if you go too often, so I decided that this time it would be , my favorite spot in Greenpoint and a close second to Radegast in all of Brooklyn.
But what about the Bridges (plural)? I could take any one of 4 bridges to get to Brooklyn from Manhattan (BB, MB, WB and QBB) but the Queensboro Bridge (QBB) was the obvious choice, both from a distance standpoint and because I would have to cross the Pulaski Bridge to get from Queens to Brooklyn. Problem solved — two bridges and then brunch and then figure out how to get home. Thus the Brunch & Bridges Run becomes the Bridges & Brunch Run. To quote Hannibal Smith from the A team: "Don't you love it when a plan comes together!" To the right is the obligatory map.
I left the house about 10 AM and took the bus up to 59th Street. It was pretty chilly (I think in the upper 50°s) but the sky was nothing but beautiful blue. Not having to meet anyone was a relief since I could just take the time it took and not worry about being late (or early). I checked my watch when I got on the bridge walkway — I was off and running at 10:02. The bridge was tough since it's actually a pretty big hill and I was totally not warmed up.
Once on the Queens side I headed down to Vernon Boulevard. Today I would take the scenic route through Long Island City along the series of waterfront parks between the East River and the high-rise condos. It was a great day for Manhattan views. At the south end of the parks, I took 54th Avenue over to the Pulaski Bridge and before you knew it I was in Brooklyn.
Although my destination was in Greenpoint, not much more than a mile away, I took the long way and ran along Franklin Street in Greenpoint and then Kent Avenue in Williamsburg all the way to Grand Street. Then it was up to Bedford Avenue and all the way back to Greenpoint. BTW, this route did not pass by Radegast Biergarten, a good thing, since I might have been tempted to just stop there. This part of Williamsburg was filled with the usual Saturday morning crowds patronizing the multitude of eating and drinking spots.
After a short pit stop at the bathrooms in McCarren Park, I was at Krolewskie Jadlo at about 12:15, just over an hour and a half from the start. The place was filled by a 25 person lunch tour group who came in, sat down, ate their pierogies and left for their next lunch spot (they would hit 4 places). For me it was much more leisurely — I sat down, ordered my beer (a half liter of Zywiec) and slowly savored one of the brunch specials, Chef's pierogies with chanterelle mushroom sauce, one of my favorite dishes.
I got home via two subway trains and a bus. It was actually quicker than I had anticipated, about a half hour.
And what a perfect day, a perfect run and a perfect brunch (with a perfect beer) it was.
ast Thursday evening was the first of the VCTC summer 5Ks held in Van Cortland Park. Since these cross country races are on alternate weeks from the Riverside Park 5Ks, I get to do both series. The cross country races turn out to be slower that the ones on the paved paths of Riverside Park, but doing both series keeps me in shape for the summer. To get there it's the #1 train all the way to the last stop at 242nd Street. I usually take a short cut — the A train from 14th to 168th Street and then switch to the #1. The A train makes 5 stops for this segment; the #1 train takes 20! Big difference.
I got to "Vanny" about 6:40, in good time to pick up my bib and warm up a bit. I met Julie before the race, and just before the start I met Judith and Heidi. The weather was chilly (= good) and I felt good the whole way. Good, but not fast. I finished in 33 minues flat, almost 4 minutes slower than my Riverside Park time the week before. Nevertheless, it was a good race and I'll have plenty of chances to improve over the summer. I won a carrot muffin for an age group award, as did Judith and Heidi. You can see from the picture we're all pretty happy.
Julie and I hit the Irish Bar across the street for a drink (a Guinness for me, hard cider for Julie) and some highly caloric bar food — we earned it.
A long subway ride got me home about 10:00, late but happy after a good race.
aturday it was supposed to rain. This was too bad because Terry and I hoped to go up to Wave Hill. But you go to Wave Hill to see the beautiful flowers, so we'd have to wait for a sunny day. We talked about some alternatives and going to Williamsburg via the Queensboro Bridge was one, but with the L train not running on weekends we'd have to either run back over the Williamsburg Bridge, or go find another subway line. Saturday dawned and it wasn't raining and the forecast just said overcast. Then about 8:45 it started raining. So I talked to Terry and we agreed to meet at 10 and see what the weather was doing and figure something out.
Terry had some errands to do but I still had Williamsburg in mind, so we ran together down the East River Park and at the south end we split up — I headed back towards the bridge and Terry went off to check out a newly opened restaurant downtown. For my part, I decided to do a reprise of last week's Beer & Bridges Run but make it a Brunch & Bridges Run. I'd see how that worked. The route was similar to last week's (compare the maps), except it was about a mile and a half longer (about 8.8 miles) due to the extra running in the East River Park with Terry.
Well, the run was fine and the brunch was great — I once again chose Radegast. I got there a few minutes after 11 and was the first customer of the day. But the run back was not so good. A 20 minute refueling such as I had the previous weekend was one thing. But a 1 hour repast including strawberry pancakes and a half liter of Weihenstephaner Dunkel was something else entirely. Getting going again was hard and keeping a reasonable pace was harder still. The bridge seemed much steeper and I was just slow and bloated the whole way. Not only was the run bad, but the great brunch was overshadowed. With plenty of good food, you need some time to relax, do some digesting and appreciate the good life.
Long story short: I think I need to retire the run-brunch-run concept.
ednesday evening was the first of the NYCRuns summer 5Ks held in Riverside Park for this season. I've been doing just about all of these summer races since 2012 (they held one such race in 2011 which I missed – their 2nd race ever). I was apprehensive going into this race since my last real race was the PPTC Cherry Tree 10 Miler in March. The VCTC Urban Environmental Challenge 10K Trail Race I ran about a month ago really doesn't count, since I was deliberately going slow and taking pictures along the way. The truth is I've been out of shape and had a few "almost-injuries" for most of the spring. But I decided It would give it my best and hoped to break 30 minutes.
I took the subway up and got there about 20 minutes early. It was fairly chilly so I warmed up with some easy jogging and did a few of my "boot camp" exersises. I peeled down to shorts and a singlet when they called us to the starting line, and shortly we were off. I got into a good pace but took the tough first hill easy and then tried to keep a strong pace. I passed a number of runners who started too fast or got zapped on that first hill so I was feeling pretty good.
I was trying to do the math in my head and figured a 30 minute 5K is a bit under a 10 minute pace (it's actually a 9:40 pace), so I was watching my mile splits. I hit the first mile at 9:51 and knew that 1) I had to speed it up, but 2) the first hill would probably make this mile the slowest. The course hits this hill about a half mile in, followed by 2 or 3 not-too-tough rolling hills, and gets to a flat area a bit after mile 1. Then we go around a playground where it dips down and then up again and basically returns to the start on the same course. Mile 2 (mostly flat) came in a 9:25 which was reassuring. But not being an in-the-head math wiz in the middle of a race, I figured my last mile needed to be at least that fast.
I took the rolling hills feeling fairly strong, and then the first hill — the toughest on the course — was now a serious down hill. In fact it's serious enough that I had to be careful I didn't take a tumble. Mile 3, back on the flats, came in a 9:20 and I knew I had made it. When I first saw the clock it said 29 something, so I pushed hard. When I got close enough too read the clock accurately, it was 29 and the seconds were in the teens. In the end I did a 29:17, which surprised and delighted me. Furthermore, my legs felt good the whole way with none of the aches and pains I'd had off and on this spring.
I figured I would win the 70+ age group, mostly because the few 70+ runners I've seen at these races seemed to be absent. As I was chatting with a few Flyers who had come (Jim and Bill) I noticed a new gizmo NYCRuns had set up. It was a huge computer screen (about 3 ft. by 2 ft.) which you could read from 5 or 10 feet away and it was scrolling through the race results. No more elbowing your way to read some barely legible print out. I tell you, this was WAY COOL! In fact the only picture I took the whole time was of this screen and luckily I caught it just as my name scrolled by.
I took the 96th Street crosstown bus over to Park Avenue and finished the evening with a beer and a mac & cheese at Earl's, a favorite venue of ours.
Great race, great evening! Next time, you come too!
was on my own, running-wise, this weekend since all of my running friends were out of town or otherwise busy. Furthermore, Saturday was chilly with sprinkles all day, so I put off running. It was, moreover, my wife's birthday so a run didn't materialize. Finally I got my self motivated to get out and moving on Sunday, but did not make it out the door till noon, not too smart a time-of-day to pick on a sunny, hot and humid day.
I had wanted to run to Williamsburg via the Queensboro Bridge — about 7 or 8 miles — but the L train was out of service, so that would become a longer 2 Bridge run, where I'd have to make it back to Mahattan via the Williamsburg Bridge on foot. That, and being too lazy to take a bus up to the Queensboro Bridge led to the idea of an out-and-back run over the Williamsburg Bridge, and instead of an end-of-run brunch, I would take a middle-of-run beer break.
Thus was born the "Beer & Bridges Run". Why not "Bridge-Beer-Bridge Run"? Well, the beer is more important than the bridge, so it goes first. Well then, why not "Beer & Bridge Run", after all, there was only ones bridge? Yeah, but I ran over it twice. Anyway, "Beer and Bridges Run" sounds good to me, so that's what it is, so there!
As for the run, it was a route I'd taken a zillion times and the map tells you everything you wanted to know (probably more). But I took it very easy and stayed in the shade wherever I could find it. When I got to Radegast (our very, very most favorite Williamsburg establishment), I just sat perspiring at the bar with a half liter of Hoffbräu Maibock. The card-checker / bouncer was not on duty yet, but the bar tender said facetiously, that I could probably have snuck in. And that's even if I do look 10 years younger than my age.
After a 20 minute break, I reluctantly started back, but actually felt pretty good. And as I figured
out later from my mapping app, it was 7.2 miles — just perfect! I shortly arrived at
my doorstep and thought, "Gee, that was not too bad at all — I should do this type of run more often!"
t seemed like I had not run the Palisades since forever, so I looked it up. Well, I had run 5 miles out and 5 miles back on a NY Flyers organized run in September of last year, but it was way back in March of 2012 that I had run with friends on the trails. Here's what I posted then: .
Today, as in 2012, I ran with Susan and it was similar to the 2012 run except it was almost 2 months later in the year. We went out on the trails and back on the road but only went to the Hyler Landing Trail, so it was only about 2/3 the distance. Susan is in marathon shape, so she was the stronger. I'm rather out of shape and my exhaustion was the result. That and the near 70° full sunshine.
But exhaustion or not, 70° or not, the Palisades were as awesome as ever and I loved it.
I've described the route numerous times and I'll leave the details to the 2012 post. We basically went out on the Long Path, a trail along the top of the cliffs, went through Allison Park, past Greenbrook Sanctuary and turned down at the Hyler Landing Trail, at about the 7 mile mark.
The Map shows our route both up and back. The turn-around point is in the wide section of the park where we took the trail down. You'll notice the southbound route back to the GWB splits an little ways south from the turn-around. That's where Susan took the road and I took the Shore Path south, to meet again near the GWB. Read on for an explanation.
Let me say a word about the Hyler Landing Trail. If you've read a few of my Palisades posts, You know it's a trail from the top to the bottom. But it's actually a very old roadway, probably dating to the 19th century. It's wide and well graded. It's one of the easiest trails for running in the park. And today it was particularly beautiful since the foliage on the trees and ground cover was just starting to appear and it was just enough to give the trees and ground a lovely green patina. Click on the picture on the left and you'll see this. In a few weeks it will be all green — beautiful, yes, but the striking view would disappear until the fall.
Upon reaching the road, we started back towards the south, but soon stopped and joined few other passers-by to check out a bald eagle sitting on a nest not 40 feet away. I've seen bald eagles several times over the years but to see one so close, and in our own back yard so-to-speak, was truly awesome. The cover picture for the slideshow below shows the eagle in full breeding plumage. Quite a sight!
After the eagle, Susan went on ahead, but opting for a softer and less hilly route, I took an old road down to the Shore Path and headed south. We would meet at the Ross Dock and take the Carpenter's Trail up the cliff to the GWB.
The Shore Path was very scenic and most of the way had an easy, soft running surface. Trading the proximity to the cliff top for the proximity to the mighty Hudson was like trading silver for gold. Or gold for silver. The beauty of the route, which will be evident in the slideshow, will make clear what I'm getting at. But the Shore Path was not entirely easy going — maybe 10% - 20% was rocky — which made for sections of slow going.
Another thing that may surprise the novitiate, are the numerous stone ruins at points along the shore. These are remnants of an old fishing colony that was located along the shoreline. It's quite unexpected when you first encounter them.
Susan and I had our rendezvous just north of the Ross Dock on the Shore Path. We were both pretty tuckered out, primarily due to the heat (and my low fitness level) and to get back to the GWB, we had to take the Carpenter's Trail — which consists of about a bazillion rock steps up the cliff face (think the stairs of Cirith Ungol in LotR). Susan was exhausted getting up the stairs. I was beyond exhausted, and on the last set of stairs I had to go down to all fours and finally staggered over to a place to sit after reaching the top. We had done this trail numerous times in the past and it's always been tough, but today it was the toughest by far.
We walked back to the bridge and planned to run across at an easy pace, but easy was too fast for me today, so I walked the last mile over the bridge to good old Manhattan. Our total mileage today was in the 14 - 15 mile ballpark, including probably about 2 miles of walking (for me).
Luckily, today's problems have a ready solution which we all know: train, train and train.
aturday I did a run with Terry, someone I've run with for close to 25 years. We took an old favorite route of mine, but a route totally new to her. We took the A-train up to 125th Street and ran up through the parks to the tip of Manhattan. We went through, or at least touched, St. Nicholas, Jackie Robinson, Hghbridge, Fort Tryon, Inwood Hill and Isham parks. Since I knew the route fairly well, but Terry did not, we stopped numerous time to check out points of interest.
The map shows the route, and I must say, everything about the run — the weather, the early spring flora, the historic places we checked out, one unexpected surprise, and not least, the excellent brunch destination — everything, was just the best! It reminded me that one shouldn't take an old favorite for granted. Stop and look around — you might just discover something new and wonderful. So let's just go park by park.
e walked a block north from the subway and went up the hill on 127th Street and took a quick right on St. Nicholas Terrace and in a short block we were at the south entrance to the park. We would be running along the top of the park. Just about all these parks have a steep cliff along their lengths, so you can either run along the top of the cliff or the bottom. On all our parks today we would take the "high road". The paved paths and stairs that characterize this park have seen better days, but they are still safe and serviceable. There are great views over central Harlem to the East, and up to the left, the towers of City College make a nice contrast.
When you get to the north end of the park, the path heads down the slope and in front of you is a large yellow house. This is the Hamilton Grange, built by Alexander Hamilton in 1802 and it has survived a long interesting history. Read the link (), and you'll be amazed. It was moved about 2 blocks in the 1880s to Convent Avenue, and again just 3 years ago to where it now sits. It's actually the oldest man-made artifact we'll encounter today. The image to the right is actually of one of surveyor John Randel's Maps he made in the 1810s when he laid out the streets of Manhattan. Click on it. It actually show's Hamilton's house and I've added the two subsequent locales. It's pretty amazing to see a structure shown on one these maps. I'm not sure any others still exist.
fter leaving St. Nick's Park, we ran down 141st Street 1 block to Edgecombe Avenue. 4 blocks north along Edgecombe brought us to Jackie Robinson Park. Unfortunately there is no park path along the top, so we ran along Edgecombe on the sidewalk. This area is called Sugar Hill and it's quite a lovely area. About halfway along, there is a stately mansion across the street. It's the Benziger House (see: ). It's spoken of as Harlem’s last free-standing mansion. I guess they forgot about Hamilton Grange which is 88 years older. It's currently a shelter run by a non-profit. When you get to the north end of the park at 155th Street, You'll see a curious fountain with a lighted beacon in the middle of a little triangle where the roads come together. It's the 1894 "Hooper Fountain". Read about it, it's another one of those hidden curios that make life in Manhattan interesting:
ross 155th Street and head up the hill, crossing the entrance road going down to the Harlem River Drive (watch the traffic). You are now at the south end of Highbridge Park, at about 2½ miles in length, it is by far the longest park we traversed. Head up along Edgecomb and in about 3 blocks enter the park on a dirt path heading up along the top of the cliff. This is the Old Croton Aqueduct (the "OCA"), and one could go on all day about this. Here's a good summary: . This is a much more secluded run (yes, it's safe) and it has wonderful views, unique in Manhattan. Sometimes when the path turns so the view is briefly out of sight, you could forget you're in Manhattan.
You'll have to briefly swing around a rocky section about a half mile in, and then the path becomes paved and you might meet an occasional cyclist. After abount another half mile the path ends. Highbridge Tower looms overhead and a construction fence blocks access to 1848 High Bridge spanning the Harlem River. This was built to carry the aqueduct across from the Bronx and it's the oldest still standing bridge to Manhattan. Hopefully construction will finish sometime this year and we will be able to cross it after about 60 years of being closed to pedestrians. But for now, turn around and walk (or run) up the million or so stairs, swing out to Amsterdam avenue, go north 3 blocks and then re-enter the park on the sidewalk of a highway exit ramp at 175th Street.
Take the stairs down and hang to the left. This section takes you under the highways that bisect the park. Make your way towards the river and take the spiral stairs down and you'll be right in front of a stone arch that, unless you've run here with me, I suspect you have never seen before (it's shown, complete with grafitti, in the photo). It's all explained in the post I put up last fall; . Scroll down in that post to the section A Few Words About the "Shaft 25 Retaining Wall" and the full story is all there. Saturday I got a surprise here when I saw water gushing into the river right in front of this arch. Someone from the water department was doing some work on the 1890 New Croton Aqueduct, so I went down to check it out. It's a long story and eventually I'll add it to that other post.
Leaving this behind, we headed north through the big archway of the Washington Bridge, headed back up a few stairs to the top of the cliff and continued north on the upper park path. The photo album (below) will help you navigate this entire section.
o what's with two tunnels in northern Manhattan? I discovered them when I wanted to avoid a very steep down hill followed by a very steep uphill. It's very cool running through well lighted tunnels traversed by dozens of local people (with scooters, baby carriages and an occasional bike), you never suspected were there. And the best part is not the tunnels, but the elevators. Elevators? First I talk about tunnels and now elevators? Well, you may have guessed by now that it's all part of the subway system. The subways in this part of Manhattan were built in the early 20th century and both the A train and #1 train have stations so far down that you need an elevator to get to them. And then you need a tunnel to get out to the street. So look at the photos and you'll "get it". And relax, they don't collect a fare to use these tunnels or elevators.
We took the #1 train elevator down from the 191st Street station on St. Nicholas Avenue and then the long tunnel out to Broadway, saving about a half mile and a 200 foot drop down the steep hill. Then two blocks later we took the A train tunnel from the 190th Street Bennett Avenue station and then the elevator up to Fort Tryon Park, saving a similar amount of distance and elevation. Simple! With me, you do cool things and save energy while you're at it. Well, isn't it cheating? Of course it is, but worse is yet to come — in the next park we actually stopped to look at the flowers!
he route through Fort Tryon Park is very simple. Just stay on the path on the left but don't go down the hill till you're past The Cloisters, then go down the hill to Dyckman Street. But if you don't mind cheating () you should partake of the gorgeous views across the Hudson to the Palisades and the conucopaea of flowers, lawns, rock formations, and medieval architecture. And I take back what I said about the Hamilton Grange: the structures and contents of The Cloisters probably predate the Grange by 400 - 500 years. But hey, The Cloisters is a museum. Here's some low-down on the park and The Cloisters:
Seriously, I suggest sometime that you come here, perhaps by bus or subway, and enjoy The Cloisters. It's quite another world. But that was not on our agenda on Saturday; we made it through the rest of this gem of a park and were at Dyckman street a short time later.
hen you get to Dyckman Steet, Inwood Hill Park is right across the street. We skirted the main part of this heavily wooded park and went up along the edge of the park on Payson Avenue. Where Payson turns right, we took the short path into the lower section of the park where all the playing fields are. We headed along the left path and soon arrived at Shorakkopoch Rock, where in 1626 Peter Minuet stole bought Manhattan from the Lenape Indians . We then headed across the grass to our brunch destination at the tip of Manhattan, .
y friend Susan and I discovered this place 2 or 3 years ago, and I would characterize it as "Williamsburg in upper Manhattan aged up about 10 years". Or perhaps "the farm market crowd" would be closer. However you think of it, it's a real gem in gentrified Inwood. And at 218th Street and Indian Road, it's the northernmost eating establishment in Manhattan. We had the usual great brunch (I had super French Toast and Terry had some kind of veggie omelet). And they have maybe 30 kinds of craft beers — all good. They actually served Terry's Bloody Mary with a beer chaser (look at the photo). To make a long story short, the next two pictures are worth, if not a thousand, then at least a couple of hundred words:
wasn't going to count Isham Park (see ) on our run since we visited it after brunch and we walked there on the way to the subway. But there is an active farm market right next to it on Isham Street (same crowd as in the Café), so you might want to stock up on some fresh produce. And then there is the tree — the tree, or I should write TREE, is so spectacular it's worth a trip here just to see it. It's a giant Ginkgo biloba, probably 150 years old, standing up on a bluff at the corner of Isham Street and Broadway. It is featured in "" (this article shows many wonderful trees from around the 5 boroughs). Seeing is believing. Go check it out (1 block north of the 207th Street A-train station). Now!
A great day with perfect weather! And there's lots of pictures, so click on the cover picture below and enjoy the slideshow.
f you read the last two posts, you will know that I had decided not to run this race. But since my friends Susan and Betsy were both running, I decided to go with them and be a volunteer. So at 6:30 AM we met at Susan's place and took off on the nearly traffic-free roads for Rockland Lake State Park, about 10 miles north of Nyack on the west side of the Hudson.
I met Ken, the volunteer organizer and he sent me to the Mile 4 water station. Members of a local motorcycle club were supposed to man the station, but he had not heard from them and he was worried that they might not be there. I got there after a pleasant 20 minute walk and lo and behold, there was a table with a bunch of cups and jugs of water, but NO motorcycle club. And the gate across the road where the runners would be surging through in less than an hour was chained and locked. So I called Ken, told him the news and he said he would get the park guys to open the road and tell the volunteers at the mile 2 station (which was just down the hill) and they would share their services between the two station.
And guess what? It all worked out just fine.
After the last of the runners passed by the 4 mile station, I finished cleaning up the site and walked down the hill (which besides being at mile 2 was also at mile 11). The lead runners had just gotten there and I slowly walked the 2 miles to the finish, taking a few photos as the runners passed me and arriving in plenty of time to see my friends cross the finish line. They reported it was a very tough course, with hills like you've never seen in Central Park.
Are you confused that I could walk to the 4 mile station in 20 minutes? That the 2 mile station was just a short walk down the hill? That the 2 mile station is also the 11 mile station? Well, you need only look at the and it will all be clear.
A great day with perfect weather. Next year I'll run it for sure!
oday Susan, Melissa and I ran to our favorite restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, something I have done many times with various friends. But it was an outstanding run for several good reasons: 1) spring is really here. 2) The 3 of us had not run together for months, 3) the sights of the East River and the Manhattan and Queens shorelines were magnificent, 4) none of my recent aches and pains in my legs bothered me and 5) spring is really here!
So that's it for the post except to say that after the run and brunch, I feel fat, tired and happy!
fter I did the Cherry Tree 10 miler in early March, I had a problem in my left calf. As I mentioned in my Riverside Park post below, this sidelined me for several days followed by a visit from Joe, my massage guy. At that time, it seemed like a transient condition and I felt fine during the Riverside Park run. But that run turned into an easy 4 miler for me instead of a tough 10K, so in retrospect it was not a full test of my wellness.
Unfortunately, it cropped up again in a more serious form during a run to the New York Botanic Garden with Susan on March 15th. I had to abort that run after about 3 miles and was forced to take a good 10 days off from running. I talked to Joe again and he came by on April 3rd. He said the left soleus had been strained just above the ankle and I had to take it really easy and do some soleus stretches.
It turned out I had previously registered for two upcoming races: the Urban Environmental Challenge 10K Trail Race in Van Cortlandt park on April 12th and the Hook Half Marathon, a hilly course in Rockland Lake State Park about a week later. With Joe's advice, I decided not to run the half, and run to 10K very easy. The fact that it was on soft ground (excepting the rocks) was a plus.
So on Sunday the 12th, I arrived early at Van Cortland Park to pick up my number. I decided to take it really easy to favor my left calf, and to further slow me down, I would take my camera along. This entailed many, many stops and forced me into a 13+ mile pace. It turns out I took 70 photos, almost entirely during the first loop of the race (which was 2 loops). That's a lot of photos for 5K's worth of running, about 20 per mile.
The race was easy at my pace and I was near the back of the pack. You'll see if you look closely at the slideshow below, that my cohort was rather small and sometimes I was alone for a stretch. I gave my camera to a volunteer at the start of the 2nd loop and ran camera-free for that loop. I got the camera back about a half mile from the finish and took a few more. It was a nice run on a scenic — but very dry — course as the photos will show.
After finishing, I bumped into Nick O., who was also in the 70+ age group. It turns out he had finished around 1:11, a good 10 minutes before me. So my 1:21:24 would at best be a second place, but still "in the muffins". When the awards were announced, 2 things surprised me: 1) first place in each age group got you a carrot CAKE, a big step up from a carrot muffin, and 2) I was first! It seems that Nick had gone off course and was not sure if he had unintentionally "cut" the course, so he opted to not go through the finish chute. In affect, he had disqualified himself. The officials felt sorry for him and awarded him a muffin anyway.
Cake or muffin, it was a beautiful day. Check out the pictures and you'll agree.
fter running the Cherry Tree 2 weeks ago, I had several weekday runs in which I had some pain or glitches in my left Achilles tendon area. I figured this may be a remnant of the effort I put into the 10 Miler, a distance I had not raced since last year's Boston. I was very cautious since I didn't want to start my 2015 "Racing Season" with an injury, so I scheduled a visit with Joe, my massage guy, and he did a tune up focusing on both lower legs. He said I was "good to go" but 1) watch the cold weather which can cause problems, and 2) I need to increase my weekly mileage if I expect to run 10 milers, and a half marathon I mentioned I was planning to do in about another month. Good advice, and I'll take it to heart.
Riverside Park is one of my favorite places and the 10K would use the 5K cource (twice around) which I'm very familiar with. I've run the 5K summer series put on in Riverside Park by NYC Runs for 3 years now, and I know every up and downhill on the course. But starting around mid week, it looked like we would get some snow on Friday, ironically, the first day of spring. Well sure enough, it did snow and it made the city beautiful for about half a day. Unfortunately the race was right in that half day and the course was quite slippery. So at the last minute I got an email (sent at 6:51 AM from the Park) that they would turn the race into a "Fun Run". That means no clocks, and everyone was cautioned to take it easy. I was disappointed but I knew very well the dangers running on snow and ice so I packed my camera and went up to the park ready to take lots of pictures with a little easy running thrown in.
I started off slowly running on the first mile of the course and positioned myself to take some shots of the lead pack. There's alway's a "lead pack" even in a Fun Run since a lot of runners just want to go hard. Kids! Well, I got lots of shots of the lead pack and the rest of the pack as well as the slideshow will show. I didn't follow the course but went on various side paths to catch the action and a numbert of spots. I probably put in 4+ miles in all, but hey!, I was just taking it easy like I was told.
The the Fun Run, was fun. And looking out the window as I type this, the snow is mostly gone.
he Cherry Tree 10 Miler is an old favorite for me. It's a race I've always loved, not only because of its small size (particularly in comparison with NYRR races) but also the enthusiasm and dedication of the Prospect Park Track Club which runs the race. I wrote an article about this race some 5 years ago () and it's not a bad read if I do say so. Flyer participation has also been strong through the years as the article points out. In fact the title picture of the slide show in that account looks a lot like the group picture in this years race, with but a few faces having changed.
But getting to this years race was quite a problem, primarily due to the weather in January and February. For my part, the intense cold and snow that never melted put a real damper on my training. And as for the race, for the first time in memory it was cancelled on it's original scheduled date in February due to high winds and sub sub freezing wind-chills. And that for a race nick named "For the Hard Core". Their web site says "... regardless of rain, snow, wind, hail, sleet, fog, frost… or even sun – join us ... ". But February 14th was dangerous, even for the Hard Core.
So we were all pleased when it was rescheduled for March 8th. And furthermore, there was no nearby school available to leave our stuff or pick up our bibs so we just went to the park and did what we always do. The weather was perfect, cold and sunny with absolutely clear pavement on the park road. I got there on the F train and met Susan and Betsy on the way, and we took advantage of the to have some coffee, use the bathroom and hang out till the last minute. Don't tell anyone, this strategy is strictly our secret.
The race itself is a tough three loops of Prospect Park. My own race was quite steady, with very even splits. Unfortunately my lack of training showed itself in my finish time, which was 6 minutes slower than last year. But one very good thing was that my chronically sore right leg and sore right forefoot gave me no trouble at all. Hallelujah! On the other hand, Susan, who is training for a marathon in one week (in Barcelona, Spain) did quite well. It was her "Time Trial" she said.
One person I was very happy top see was Mike Ring. For years Mike was the director of this race and, in fact, I interviewed him for the article I wrote for the 2010 Cherry Tree (). Last May he came down with the very serious neurological desease, Guillane-Barre Syndrome, and spent a good part of the last year hospitalized and undergoing re-hab. I saw him cheering us on near the top of the park on the 2nd loop and I went over and gave him a high five. Then, there he was at the finish with his son and he was looking very good. A very good man — great to see him back on his feet.
After the race there were lots of happy faces as the slideshow will show. And what is more, both Susan and I picked up age group awards (plus Flyers Deb and Gary too). Not bad for an undertrained septuagenarian (that's me, not Susan )!