An informal, mostly weekly account of my preparations and training for the Shires of Vermont Marathon () coming up on May 20th.

Those of you who have heard that last October I ran the St. George Marathon (Utah) () at which I qualified for The Boston Marathon in 2013 (as a 70 year old) might wonder why I'm running ANOTHER marathon this year. The answer is simple, I need to keep myself in the marathon training mode — it was hard enough to get back into that mode last year after a hiatus of nearly 8 years.


Note: Since this MiniBlog is closed, I reordered all the posts so they now appear in chronological order. You can still get to any particular post by using the MiniBlog Index which is available at the top of each post. Having them in this order will make it easier for someone interested in looking at the entire training program in the order in which it was done.

January 21st — The Manhattan Half Marathon

The snowy Manhattan Half today was the "official" start of my training for the Shires of Vermont Marathon () that I'm planning to run on May 20th. Since I run 12 months of the year, perhaps there's little point of saying when training for a particular goal starts, but nevertheless it helps to tell myself, "OK, now I'm training for a marathon, no more goofing off". So I'm off and running to the Shires.

Today was snowy. It started around midnight and by 8 AM there were about 3 inches of snow on the Central Park roads. It was still snowing and at certain points around the loop it was quite windy. Temperatues were in the mid 20°s. I got a text from my running friend Susan that she was "feeling terrible" and did not expect to make it. Too bad, it looked like I'd just have to have 5000+ other running friends this particular day.

Papa Bear at the Manhattan Half

I dressed for cold and wind and took the Lex up to 68th Street. Luckily, Nell's Coffee Shop at 70th and Lexington was open so I nursed a cup of coffee till about 20 to 8 so I could avoid standing around in the cold before the start. Then I walked over to the park, found the buggage place, used the porto-san and got to the start about 7:58. I did my warmups (aka "Active Stretches" aka "Boot Camp Drill") and enjoyed the sociability of the pack for about a minute. Folks were all pretty cool () and no one, but no one, seemed obsessed about the coming run. The race had been turned into a "Fun Run" by the NYRR, so there was no timing mats and you didn't need your chip (horray! I didn't have to figure out how to stick that D-tag on my shoe) and the only clock was at the finish line. There were mile marks but it wasn't till about mile 3 that I started to notice them.

We got going at the gun (actually a horn) and we were off. Or rather we started walking slowly. But we did get running eventually and as I passed the start line at I looked up and saw the big red sign on that building on Central Park South — it said said 8:02, 25°. The snow made the road surface slippery and you just had to slow down. Even so, all those little muscles in your lower leg that control balance and posture had to work extra hard, so even at a slower pace you got more tired and sore than you would expect. I checked my watch at the first few mile marks I went by and mentally tried to figure my pace, but I soon gave up. Who cares, I just wanted a good workout.

Centain parts (particularly the upper east side) had a brisk head wind, and with the cold temperatures and blowing snow, I had cold fingers, a really cold face and ice on my beard.

I kept a fairly good pace and passed a lot of folks on the scond loop, but after about 6 or 7 miles, I just tried to enjoy things. Just being out there and putting in the miles was enjoyable. My right outer quads and right groin got a bit sore — which I attributed to the slippery footing — but I hung in there and felt good with one more mile to go. Then my damn cell phone rang. I had visions of some problem at home, or my friend calling that she had made it to the race after all, but it was a wrong number. Bad timing. So I got going again and managed to finish in a not too shabby 10:20 pace and I was done. But not really. I called my friend and she was on the way over. She had hoped to cheer me at the finish, but having not quite made that, we met at the Boat House and enjoyed some hot drinks and the nice winter scene over the lake.

But not having had the workout I had, she suggested we go to the zoo — which we did. It was very nice in spite of the cold. Not least because we practically had the place to ourselves. And many of the exotic animals made appearances. Best of all was the Snow Leopard lounging on a heated rock, and a polar bear snoozing in the snow. All told, a great day.

Bring on the Shires!

Papa Bear


January 24st — The Massage Guy Comes to Visit

I was pretty beat after Saturday's run in the snow. Normally I take Sundays off and go to the gym on Mondays. This time I decided to do a pool workout and save the gym till Wednesday. Oops, the pool was closed, so I took Monday off altogether (hey, what else could I do?)

Today I got up early, did all my stretches, used the "Stick", did various foot drills and got out for an easy 4 miles along the East River. I was a little stiff at first, but warmed up after a mile or so. It was very mild, especially in contrast to Saturday, so it ended up quite a pleasant run. I got the coffee, muffin and The Times so I could read about Romney vs. Gingrich (my very favorite topic ) over coffee. I had a lot to do today so I finished up eating and reading quickly and went out with Joy for a morning full of errands and appointments.

In the afternoon, Joe Yates, my massage therapist, coach and all-around training consultant was due, and sessions with him are an important part of my training. He helped a lot about a year ago to get me over a series of calf problems and got me started on what turned out to be a very successful training plan for the St. George Marathon (). Thanks Joe!

He got here on time as usual, and spent a good hard session plying my musculature. Boy, my left gastrocnemius and hallucis longus really felt it. Seriously, the smaller muscles deep inside my calf have caused numerous problems and Joe always digs deep, finds the problems and works them out. After we were finished, he said everything was in good shape and gave his blessing to start serious marathon training.

Coming up Saturday: 13 - 15 miles. Wish me luck.

Pb

January 28th — Long Run to Greenpoint: 14.8 miles

Saturday mornings I try to check my weight and resting pulse to see how I'm doing by these measures. Generally speaking, the lower these numbers, the better my fitness level, This morning, the numbers were good: 155 and 52. Hopefully my training is actually producing some positive results.

The plan for today was to do up to 15 miles. I had talked to Susan a few days ago and she said she would be happy to run the last 5 or so with me, and could we finish at the Polish Restaurant in Greenpoit (part of Brooklyn, just over the Pularski Bridge from Queens) where we have enjoyed terrific apres-running pirogies and beer.

Then Melissa emailed us both, following up on a conversation at Lloyd's Chinese New Year's dinner earlier in the week where she and Susan discussed a nice run Susan had done last year, where she ran over the Queensboro Bridge to a charming museum (The Fisher-Landau Museum) about a mile north of the bridge. Oh dear, this was getting complicated.

After some discussion, Susan proposed that I do a loop of the park and then meet them on the east side and we would all run over the bridge to the museum. Then while the two of them checked it out, I would run a few extra miles in the area, after which we would all continue on to lunch in Greenpoint. The numbers added up, they would get a break and see the museum and I would get my 15 miles without a big break in the middle. So thanks to Susan's creative thinking (and of course my flexibility ), everybody got what they wanted.

I got to the Park just at 10:00 and did a clockwise loop, mostly on the bridle path. I started and finished around 86th Street, a bit north of the Met. It was partly sunny but a bit chilly (40°) at first, but by the time I got to the Boat House, I took off my jacket and the clouds gradually cleared. It turned out to be a fantastic day for running. The park wasn't too crowded, and once I got on the bridle path at the south end of the park, I was relatively free of the crowds.

Slideshow: Long Run to Greenpoint
(Click Picture for Slideshow)


I took a short-cut at the north end by going down to the pretty lake around 102nd Street ("The Pool"), then down by the waterfall and under the arch, and then along the path through the woods to the north end. This way I avoided the hill and got to see some lovely scenery in this little used section of the park. A few of the photos in the slideshow will illustrate this.

Once out of the park, I zig-zagged over to 78th and York where I met the women at the Webster Branch Library. They both had books to return and I took advantage of the bathroom. Then we all took off down York Avenue, hung a right up the hill next to the bridge and got onto the north walkway.

Those of you who have only gone over this bridge in the NYC Marathon should check out this side of the bridge. Views to the north of Roosevelt Island and the East River are spectacular. I took a few photos (check out the slideshow) but I managed to fall woefully behind the women — I forgot how much a hill that bridge is! We regrouped at the Queens end of the bridge and made our way over some streets to the museum. Luckily, Susan had the directions in her iPhone, so we got there with no trouble, and incidently with little or no street traffic.

The place was totally inauspicious — you could easily mistake it for a small factory or warehouse. But some large bronze sculptures in a small adjoining courtyard told us we had found the right place. There we split up and I countinued north (I think it was north) on 30th Street. The plan was they would spend 20 minutes in the museum while I ran 10 minutes along the street, turn around and return. That way I hopefully would not get lost in this totally unfamiliar neighborhood. I passed by one commercial street (Broadway) and reached my turnaround at a large Ukranian Church. In the space of ths mile or so, I passed through an industrial area, an islamic neighborhood, and finally the Ukranian area. You gotta love New York!

When I got back to the museum, my friends were just finishing up. I asked would they like to return. "Sure, next year." "Was 20 minutes enough?", "No problem." So this is a 20 minutes once a year museum. Hey, why not.

Then with the help of Susan's iPhone, we headed for the Pulaski Bridge and Brooklyn beyond. It was quite easy actually, we backtracked a block to 40th Avenue, hung a left and got onto Northern Boulevard which has an overhead subway line. We ran along this busy thouroughfare to Queens Plaza, where we crossed a million lanes of traffic going in seemigly random directions under a literal maze of overhead train lines and highways. We merged onto Jackson Avenue and eventually got to the Pulaski Bridge. This was the one section where the nity gritty of city traffic was on prominant display.

We crossed about 8 lanes of traffic and got onto the Brooklyn bound walkway of the bridge. This is the side facing the East River (about quarter mile distant), with the mid-town Manhattan skyline beyond. It was a clear, blue sky, breathtaking view. When you ran across this bridge in the marathon, you probably didn't stop to enjoy the view, but we did! Warning: stay over to the right and go single file or you might get wiped out by a bike.

On the Brooklyn side, we took a right on the first cross street and got to Manhattan Avenue, a majow byway through northern Brooklyn. In about a half mile we passed the majestic brick and limestone Saint Anthony's Church. This stands as a veritable icon of Greepoint and its tower is visible from many points on the Manhattan side of the East River. I see it every time I go for a run from my house down along the river. .

Next and last stop, our Polish Restaurant, aka the "Rusty Knights". We could never remember, let alone pronounce the real name. It's Królewskie Jadlo which means "King's Feast". Here's the web site: . But we may have to call it the "Shining Knights" since the knights seem to have recently gotten a new coat of silver paint. Check out the picture.


Now comes the real reason for our run, LUNCH! The pictures below say it all.

After lunch we walked over to McCarren park, checked out the green market, and then walked to Williamsburg and took the "L" train home. It was one GREAT long run. Take the miles, add friends and add a sumptuous lunch at the end and you've got a winning combination.

Now all I need is a really long nap!

Papa Bear

February 1st — Keeping Tabs

January was a transitional month. I officially started my training with the Manhattan Half and the main goal was to achieve a consistant weekly schedule and to increase my long runs to the 15 mile range. I ran 3 days a week, which I'll continue through the month of February. January went well, but my body kept telling me that these longer weekend runs were a pain. This is good. I also managed to get in one gym session and one deep water running session per week. I hope to keep those in my schedule.

My weight was around 157 plus or minus a pound or two, my morning heart rate was in the 52-55 range and my total weekly mileage was 22, 23, 24 and 25. (That progression was accidental).

The main thing to keep very focused on is to go slowly, stay healthy and don't overdo it. February will be tough; my weekly long runs are suppposed to be 13, 15, 17 and 20. That's a pretty daunting progression, so I'll hold all else constant.

Welcome to February!

Pb

February 4th — Long Run to Riverdale: 13.3 miles

A couple of things: although I decided my "official" start of training for "The Shires" was the Manhattan Half on January 21st, my long run schedule (which I got from a from Runners World publication: ), runs for just 16 weeks, and the Manhattan Half was 18 weeeks before the Shires. So today's long run was my first to follow the "Run Less, Run Faster ..." plan. As you may recall in my Feb 1st post, this week's long run was to be 13 miles. Voilà! I managed 13.3.

The other thing is, today's vital signes were weight: 155 lb. and resting heart rate: 50. For this training cycle I chose once a week on Saturday mornings to note these, instead of every-day-of-the-week-overly-obsessive logging. It turns out that Saturday tends to be one of the better days, particularly for heart rate, perhaps because Friday is an "easy" day when I just do a Deep Water Running session, and rest my weary road-running muscles. Whatever!, I'll take the numbers. They look good.

I was fortunate to have my friend Melissa on today's run. She has been building up her milage and she wanted to do 6-8 miles, but the only convenient meeting point was at my 4 mile point. So she upped he aspirations to 9 miles and she did a great job. Thanks Mel.

The route of today's run was almost exactly that of a training run I did last July, namely "From Carl Schurz Park to Wave Hill" (), except I started at the Boat House instead of Karl Schurz Park. I met Melissa at St. Nicholas Park and we followed the route from park to park to park. But we didn't end up at Wave Hill. So where did we end up? Why at a pub, of course. And not just any pub, but the most Irish of Irish pubs in this part of the Bronx: An Béal Bocht at 238th Street between Greystone and Waldo. More on that later. If you're getting the idea that these runs are more about brunch than about running, you would have a good point. Let's just say that the motivation to undertake and complete these runs is vastly improved when there is a good reward waiting at the end.

The route is laid out in detail in the July report which contains several maps and lots of photos, but if you're not up to reading that now, here's the map: . It's all there but just remember the first mile and last mile have been adapted to today's purpose. I was going to include some of the photos from that report here, but since they were taken in July, they give a very lush picture of the route, which today has the bare look of a winter landscape (minus the snow). But although the trees are all sleeping now, the views, if anything, are better.

I met Melissa at the south end of St. Nicholas Park and we had a super time. My legs were in great shape (having gotten over a bit of a twinge in my left foot form last Tuesday morning's run). When we got to Jackie Robinson Park, we took the park trail option instead of just following Edgecomb Avenue, and I would say it was rather easier going than in July, what with much less vegetation. There is one very interesting monument in a little triangle just as you leave Jackie Robinson Park on the south side of 155th Street. Note the picture to the right. This is a water fountain for horses which was established from the estate of one John Hooper in 1894. His bequest was to construct two fountains "whereat man and beast can drink." It was vandalized in 1935 and put into storage but was restored in 1992. The other one was in Brooklyn and was lost long ago. See this: .

High Bridge Park was, as usual, magnificant, especially along the little used park road north of all the highways and bridges. And then I introduced Mel to Gorman Park, that unknown gem of a park in the Fort Washington part of Manhattan.

At this point Melissa said I should consider laying out a hash using parts of this route. Following up on that idea, I took her to the next piece of the route which crosses along 190th Street to Bennett Ave. I said the hashers would love this next part. Upon seeing the massive cliffs in front of us, I'm sure she thought I was actually going to lead her up that rock face. But no, there is a secret way up that does not involve rock climbing — and it would be perfect for a hash. Sorry, you gotta read the July Report for that. But here's a hint.

We ran through Fort Tryon Park and then down the winding park road to Dyckman Street, and thence through Inwood Hill Park and up to the Henry Hudson Bridge. This is a beautiful highway bridge (if you can believe that combination of terms) and after a long rehab that seemed to go on for 2 or 3 years, the sidwalk was reopened about a year ago, giving great views of the Hudaon River and the Palisades beyond. BTW: the too steepest climbs in the run are the path up to this bridge, and a section of the park road in High Bridge Park. These are real huffer-puffers, as I call them, but if you can run 13+ miles, you can manages these two hills.

Having arrived in the Bronx, we passed briefly through Heny Hudson Park and then along Independence Avenue. After about a mile the road disappears at 247th Street, and if you were to go on to Wave Hill, you would need to follow some private roads and paths (detailed in the July report).

But we were headed to our pub and not to Wave Hill, so we went up the hill on 247th, crossed the Parkway on the 246th Street overpass, and headed into Fieldston, that most exclusive of exclusive neighborhoods in all of the city — the entire neighborhood and all the roads are in a private enclave (but open to the public). Two blocks past the Parkway we took a right on Fieldston Avenue passing by unbelievably emmense mansions and soon got to Manhattan College Parkway. We took a left and then a right on Greystone and in 2 more blocks we were at 238th Street and our goal: An Béal Bocht ().

So, last week it was Królewskie Jadlo (Polish for "Kings Feast") and today it's An Béal Bocht, which is Irish for "The Poor Mouth". Poor Mouth — what's with that? It's a long story — read .

We discovered this pub 3 or 4 years ago when Susan and I were finding our way back from Wave Hill and exploring the streets in Fieldston. It looked like such a great place that we stayed for brunch. We realized it was quite a gem and a focal point for local intellectual life with music, readings and other events frequently scheduled. I was actually taken there for my birthday one Friday night several years back when Mary Courtney (), one of our favorite Irish folk singers, was performing. We had discovered Mary the several years before at another Bronx bar after one of the summer cross country races in Van Cortlandt Park.

But today's visit was about brunch, not music. We arrived at around 11:30 (they open at 10 on Saturdays) and by noon the place was crowded, You can see by the picture how I was rehydrating after this run. You'd be surprised how well Guinness goes with French Toast. After a satisfying meal, we made our way down 238th Street to the IRT #1 train station, and in a hour or so I had gotten home, taken my shower and was ready fo my nap. I had to be in good shape for the NY FLyers Annual Awards Gala tonight.

Slideshow: An Béal Bocht
(Click Picture for Slideshow)

Another good run, a very good run!

Papa Bear

February 6th & 8th — A Couple of Interesting Items

I  noticed a couple of interesting posts this week in the .

The first was a post about massage therapy for athletes. I'm a great fan of massage. My coach / massage therapist (Joe) has helped me get through many calf injuries and helped me (among several other important factors) to get back into marathon shape. The blog post tells of a study that actually documents a healing physiological affect massage has on muscles. IFAIK, before this study, its reputation rested primarily on commendations (such as mine). Here's the link: by Nicholas Bakalar.

The other post was about the possible relationship between running form, in particular "foot strike", and injuries. Using the men's and women's cross country teams from Harvard for the data, heel strikers came out more prone to injuries. Note, the issue of "bare foot running" or the use of minimal shoes which mimic bare foot running (a recent craze) was not addressed, since all the kids wore normal running shoes. It also mentions that trying to change your form too fast can lead to injuries. I can vouch for that. Here's that link: by Gretchen Reynolds.

Pb

February 11th — Long run up the West Side and Back: 15 miles

Today was a bit of a dreary day. The overnight forecast was for an inch of snow with more during the day for up to a total of 3 inches. Well, that didn't happen. We got snow flurries off and on in the morning alternating with a very light misting of rain. Temperatures hovered around freezing or slightly above. Not great but it could have been a lot worse.

I met Melissa at the Boat House around 9:30. We were both slightly overdressed. But with the wet clothes and the not too speedy pace, we just left our layers on and put up with the hot and humid coditions inside and the chilly conditions outside our layers of clothes. The photos will attest to the dreary conditions — but we ourselves were not dreary. Just seeing the snow flurries was uplifting and the chance to get out for some good miles was good for the soul. Lots of other runners (plus a few bikers) evidently felt the same way and everyone seemed happy to be out. Our goal today was to head up the west side, primarily in Riverside Park along the Hudson River. For a more detailed description of the route with loads of photos, see which I did about a year ago in sunny conditions.

We headed across the 72nd Street transverse and took a slight detour through Strawberry fields and thence across 72nd Street. The weather kept the Saturday morning crowds to a minimum and we were able to navigate the sidewalks without knocking down too many old ladies . We got across the wide intersection where Amsterdam, Broadway and 72nd all cross each other without mishap, and we were soon at Riverside Drive, across from Riverside Park. There was a bit more snow flurries here — probably the parks were a few degrees colder that the streets — or maybe the snow flakes just like the parks better. We certainly did!

The going up the first section of Riverside Park up to 125th Street (about 3 miles) is almost entirely flat and straight along the river. You could also run up along the top of the park which might be more interesting with playgrounds and dog walkers (with walking dogs) and other assorted folks, but today we took it straight and simple. We soon passed the 79th Street Boat Basin which you can't miss (just look for a lot of boats). On the right side of the path is the Boat Basin restaurant, a great summer destination. This time of year it's just an empty shell — but there are bathrooms inside. I recalled the time my wife and I were eating dinner there last summer when a thunder storm rolled across the river from Jersey. Exciting!

Past the Boat Basin there's a section of the path that is built over the water. This took literally years to build and I'm sure it cost megabucks, but it's nice to be able to get through this section right along the river. As you get close to 125th Street, the highway becomes elevated and the railroad comes out of the ground. We saw one Amtrak train going south and one going north in the short time we were passing by. It's amazing how the park goes right through all this transportation infrastructure. When you get to 125th Street there about 6 blocks of hustle and bustle, including some new piers (the sign says "Harlem Piers Park"), a Safeway mega store, and some docks with lots of pipes going in and out. Hmm, I wonder what's in those pipes?

At the North end of this area, just past the Safeway, the path narrows and turns to the right under the highway. There's a dead end street here and diagonally across this street the path resumes. Be careful you take the right entrance or you might end up on the access road. You are now just below and to the west of Riverbank State Park. What's that? It's a recreational area with a track, swimming pool and other assorted stuff (including bath rooms) built — get this — on top of a sewage treatment plant! All the effluence (is that a word?) from the west side of Manhattan is collected here and treated so that it's fish-clean (clean enough so the fish don't die — and you don't die if you eat them!) I made up that word "fish-clean", but in actuality the Hudson River is cleaner than it's been in probably 40 years — except when there's too much rain. You don't want to know what happens then.

You are now in the northern section of Riverside Park (shown as Fort Washington Park on some maps for the portion above 155th Street). This part of the park is considerably less used than the lower section, not least because it's cut off from the adjoining neighborhoods by the railroad tracks, which, south of 125th Street are underground. There are a few entrances from the streets over pedestrian bridges. The ones I recall are at 155th, 158th, and 175th Streets.

This is not an issue for the runner or biker coming up from the south: for them (us) the dividing line is the George Washington Bridge. Below the bridge there is a reasonable bikway/pathway passing by some playgrounds and tennis courts and ending at the bridge area where there is a fancy stone overpass and bathrooms — and the Little Red Lighthouse. As we ran along this section today, there was some police activity just south of the bridge. When I went over to check it out they shushed me away, saying "No worry, you'll be safe here — for now." Hmm ... I guess that's reassuring — for now.

North of the bridge, access to the river shore all but disappears and you are forced up the hill. There is a paved path going up to the Henry Hudson Parkway where you can run or bike along the promenade on the west (river) side of the northbound lanes with gorgeous views all the way to Dyckman Street. Although there are a few alternatives in getting from the GWB to Dyckman Street explained in the West Side Run report noted above, today we took the simplest and most straightforward.

After stopping for a few minutes at the Little Red Lighthouse we ran up the steep path to the promenade and turned left (north). We passed around the pedestrian bridge (which leads to 181st Street — subway and the GWB bus terminal are a few blocks away). After about a half mile on the promenade we reached the old "Greek Pavilion" which is our turnaround point.

In rough numbers it's about a mile from the Boat House to Riverside Park, 3 more miles to 125th, 3 more to the pedestrian bridge and a half mile to the turnaround point making a total of 7.5 miles. The 7.5 mile point is accurate, the rest are rounded up or down to keep it simple. My advice: don't obsess about mileage. Let your iPhone or Garmin figure it out and enjoy the run. Better still — leave the iPhone and Garmin at home!

The way back is exactly the same as the way out, but I've added a few more photos to make this report longer .

On the way back the police had gone and the area was devoid of any signs save for a little bit of yellow police tape that they left tied to a tree.

When we went along the path which lies west of Riverbank State Park, I couldn't help but remember the hot humid days last summer when I hit this place on a couple of my 20 milers. I always felt like death at this point, especially knowing there were over 4 miles to go. But today I felt fine. It's remarkable what a little cold weather can do. Of course this was only a 15 miler, but you get the point.

At 125th Street, Melissa decided to take pull a "Rosey Ruiz" (huh? Google it.) and take the subway down to 72nd Street. She's still building her base and didn't want to push things. We also noticed a funny scuplture in the little park at this point. Check out the picture at the left — what is that thing?

I was on my own for the lower section of Riverside Park. I did stop to take a few photos and I got a good one of the 79th Street Boat Basin which you can see on the right. In the summer I usually worked my way up along the higher portions of the park (partly for the shade), but today I just moved straight along the river.

When it was finally time to leave the park, the path up is rather steep for a short distance, then you go under the highway and you're just about out of the park. 72nd Street and Riverside Drive is there and you return to busy city life. And it was busier, the snow and drizzle having ceased and the day having gotten later. A few blocks later I was at Broadway, and there was Melissa at the subway station exactly as planned. The day was actually getting chillier and she was happy to see me so she could get moving again.

The last mile or so went by quickly (although not a world record) and soon we were in the park and a bit later, having dodged a few tourists, we arrived at the Boat House. We had decided we would get lunch here if it was 1) warm, 2) not too crowded and 3) had a reasonable lunch menu including burgers. Well, it was a YES, a YES and a YES, so we were done. Time to eat! But sorry, no beer - drat!

Slideshow: West Side 15 Miler
(Click Picture for Slideshow)


Well, we got a little wet, and a little cold but my legs felt strong the whole way, and I sure was happy to eat at the Boat House where it was warm and dry with a beautiful view of the park.

Papa Bear

February 14th — Cross Training: Deep Water Running

I usually do Deep Water Running on Fridays but this week was mixed up so I did it on Tuesday. Deep Water Running, what's that? Well, Deep Water Running ("DWR" for short) is a workout you do in a pool where you do a simulated running motion in the water. You're vertical, so you have to be in deep water (in other words you're not "running" on the bottom like you might do at the ocean shore) and your buoyancy is supplied by a flotation vest. You move your arms and legs, either vigorously or easily, and the friction of the water (technically "viscosity") provides a lot of resistance. You don't move anywhere, at least not very fast, so the swimmers in the pool doing their endless laps think you're just some weirdo.

It's a great strength builder and since there is no pounding whatsoever, it's a good recovery workout and really great cross training — since the muscles used are your running muscles. I went to sessions led by the late Doug Stern (who died about 5 years ago) for over 10 years, and you can take classes if you want some instruction and some one yelling at you "faster" "2 more minutes", etc. In other words it's very much like a coached speed workout. But I like to do it by myself. I typically spend about an hour in the pool — 3 x (15 min, hard, 5 min. easy). It can get very tiring if you push yourself, so you would call my workouts strength workouts. Others may prefer a larger number of shorter intervals in which case it becomes a speed workout.

Here's a good overview by the master himself, Doug Stern: . If you want to try it, I would print that out. You can also take classes given by Robert J. Valentin, a protégé of Doug. Robert runs the NYRR classes which last 7 sessions (), or you can take multi or single session classes directly from Robert (). I always prefer to go to the source, in this case Robert, so no else gets a cut of the fees. As with any pool time in our great, but EXPENSIVE City, these classes can be pricey. But if you're new to the sport, I think it makes sense to take at least a few classes to get started on the right foot (or the right fin). Robert also sells the vests (no, you don't need to buy one if you just take a class) which is what I did a couple of years ago when I decided to do it on my own.

Try it! You might get a lot out of it.

Pb

February 19th — The Cherry Tree 10 Miler Plus 6

The Cherry Tree 10 Miler — held every year about this time in Prospect Park, Brooklyn — holds a special place in my heart this year. The fact is, one year ago I couldn't run — actually I could hardly walk. I remember meeting my friend Susan down near Union Square to pick up our packets at Jack Rabbit. Susan will tell you I could hardly walk back to the subway. The following Sunday I barely made it to Prospect Park to take pictures — there was absolutely no question about running 10 miles. Well, since that day last February, I've come a long way. A very long way! Not only did I overcome my chronic calf problems, I went on to train for, and BQ in the St. George Marathon in October (). Last year's Cherry Tree probably marks the low point in my running. Just going down to Jack Rabbit this year made me feel just soooo good compared to last year when I felt so bad!

But move on I did, and move on shall we.

Before tallking about the race, what's with the "Plus 6" in the heading above? Simple: I was supposed to run 17 miles today so I planned on running an extra 7 miles first to get to the race. Unfortunately I only managed 6 — but 6 plus 10 is 16 and that is not too bad. The best and nicest route I could think of was to take the Lex down to Brooklyn Bridge, run over said bridge and take Flatbush Avenue straight to Prospect Park. For those who like this sort of thing, here's a map of the route: .

Running to the Cherry Tree

Running on busy routes is not fun. And the Brooklyn Bridge is generally overflowing with tourists — every one taking pictures — and Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn is full of traffic and shoppers and all kinds of commercial activity. But at 8:30 on a Sunday morning all those impediments are still in bed and the route was a simple pleasure to run. I've run over the Brooklyn Bridge many times, but I've never run the length of Flatbush Avenue from the bridge to the park. My advice: run the Brooklyn Bridge whenever you can, and run Flatbush Avenue on a Sunday morning. Perhaps you could do it for next year's Cherry Tree — and why not? They are both worth your while.

I got out of the subway and ready to run about 8:35. I wanted to allow about an hour to get there and maybe 10 minutes to use the porto-san and drop my bag, so I was on schedule. It's always nice running over the Brooklyn Bridge and today there were very few of the usual tourists. It was mostly sunny with thin clouds and temperatures in the low 40°s — perfect running weather! The only problem with the sun was that it shone directly into the camera. For many of the shots I had to take refuge behind something to block the sun and so many of them have an eery twilight sort of look.

I took the long off-ramp that veers to the right on the Brooklyn side and it ends where Tillary Steet crosses Adams Street (which the off ramp follows). I took a left on Tillary and in some 2 1/2 blocks I was at Flatbush Avenue. Flatbush Avenue has a succession of major landmarks, from historic bank buildings, to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, to the LIRR Atlantic Terminal to the much unloved Nets Arena, currently under construction. On the way you also cross 4th Avenue, where the route of the New York City Marathon crosses Flatbush Avenue.

The last and most welcome landmark is Grand Army Plaza with its arch marking the entrance to Prospect Park. The race baggage area and porto-sans were at Center Drive just off the West Drive. That's about a mile if you head to the right (west) or about 2 miles if you head left (east). So naturally I took the long way around and got onto the East Drive.

It's nice when you run through this park when you are NOT in a race (the same is true in Central Park). You can enjoy the many lovely features and landmarks that you never see when you're concentrating on racing. I went by the Carousel, the Boat House, the Pergola and the lake front. Unfortunately a large project is underway there so instead of a view I was treated to a long construction fence. It kept saying "The Lakefront is for You", "The Lakefront is for Swimming", "Ther Lakefront is for Roller Blading", "The Lakefront is for Hockey", and finally "The Lakefront is Under Construction". LOL.

Finally I was past that and headed up the West Drive. I found a very soft bridle path inside the road which was covered with wood chips. Great. Finally I was there and was greeted by lots of runners, stowing their bags, using the porto-sans, and generally milling around. I took a bunch of pictures and, it being about 10 minutes before 10:00, headed down to the start, about a quarter mile away. Now I had to switch gears and get psyched for the race. One thing I could say — my legs were well warmed up.

There's a slideshow of the route just below. You'll see some nice sites and get a feeling that folks just aren't out in any numbers on a Sunday morning.

Slideshow: Running to the Cherry Tree
(Click Picture for Slideshow)


The Cherry Tree 10 Miler

I've been running in (and occasionally just taking pictures of) the Cherry Tree 10 Miler for about 6 or 7 years. I've gotten to really love the race, the venue and the folks that put it on (The Prospect Park Track Club), and I've even been known to win an age group award once in a while. I did a story on the race a few years back that's worth reading if you get a chance ().

For today's race I started with a plan to just continue my long run pace and end up with a nice 16 miler. Well, you know what happens when you show up and there's excitement and psyched up friends and guys from Central Park and the Harriers and who knows what team. You start looking at guys who might be in your age group and you're thinking "I could beat him!". So, pretty soon I though maybe I could just hold a steady pace a minute per mile faster than my 6 mile "warm-up". Then the horn goes off and you're off, and you are suddenly RACING! On a morning like today in a place like Prospect Park, I was exhillerated!

The race is basically 3 complete loops of the park, which has one long hill going up the east side and a couple of rolling hills coming down the west side. It's not so bad, but doing it three times starts to grate on you. The no-so-bad long hill gets a bit longer and a bit less not-so-bad each time around. I started with my friend Susan, but she had told me she was racing this and if I ran near her there would be no talking. Obviously, I respect that, but of course if there were a fire or a flood or if say Godzilla should come out of the woods, I would be compelled to say something.

While I was not talking, I got a tune stuck in my head as often happens. Thinking of the three times around this park I was compelled to run, the song was "Then Three Times Around Went Our Gallant Ship" aka "The Mermaid". You know the one you learned in 2nd grade. (Never heard it? Google it.) Well, it wouldn't go away. There was "Then up spoke the cook of our gallant ship and a big fat cook was he". And on with the Captain, and the mate and cabin-boy and whoever else was on that doomed ship. Well, it was annoying but it got me through a couple of loops. Then, for the sake of variety, my shoe lace came untied and I had to stop and tie it à la Bill Rogers. Meanwhile, Susan was knocking off 9 minute miles and breezed by. A quarter mile later I caught up and she said "Equipment malfunction, eh?" I guess this was allowed under the "Godzilla exception".

The third loop was tough, all kidding aside. But when I got up to the Grand Army Arch the third time, I knew it would be over soon. I had been keeping just under 9s, so I pushed my tired muscles a little more. I passed a few more of my cohort, and managed to get in under 1:29 on the clock. It felt very, very good to finish, and to finish well. Later I found my "Chip Time" was 1:27:52, an 8:47 pace. Pretty darn good. And what's more, 2nd in my age group.

Lots of folks were very happy to be finished. Not least was Susan who WON her age group (for the second year in a row). Great Job Sue! Some of the others were going to brunch somewhere, but Susan and I went to Bishop Ford High School, a few blocks away where there would be bagels and hot chocolate and the awards and complementary 10 minute massages. It was a happy crowd and we met Eduardo (who also won his age group) and Ray, an old friend. Susan and I got our massages and we picked up our awards (a nice embossed glass mug) and eventually we headed out to the subway.

Then ensued an amusing little drama. Susan and I were taking the F train which was a few blocks away by the park entrance. Ray and Eduardo had taken the #4 and had jogged down from Grand Army Plaza. The #4 is more convenient for Manhattanites living on the East Side, which we all did, but Susan and I didn't feel liking hiking up an extra mile and a half to get to it. So the others said "OK we'll go with you to the F". When we were about a block from the subway, Eduardo discovered a subway entrance marked "F" and "G" on a side street. It was another entrance to our station. So we all started walking that way. Then Ray and Eduardo, said, "What the hey, let's jog up to the #4". So they turned around and started off. Then we said, "Never mind this back entrance, let's go to the regular entrance." so we also turned around and when we got to the corner we saw the two others jogging off. Then they stopped. Then they went into some place. We kept walking and saw they had found a bar! So much for jogging up to Grand Army Plaza.

But they did point to the one ingredient missing from today's great run — the post race beer! But ultimately I was to get my due when I got home, and to what better use could I put my brand new glass mug. Click here and see.

Enjoy the slideshow.

Papa Bear

Slideshow: The Cherry Tree 10 Miler
(Click Picture for Slideshow)



February 25th — The Palisades 20 Mile Long Run

Today was the first 20 miler of this training season. 20 milers are always scary and tough, especially the first one you've done in a long while — it's the longest I ever run outside of the marathon itself.

Last summer when I was training for the St. George Marathon, the first 20 miler was in early July. The temperatures were between 70° and 80° with humidity up to 93% — it was not pleasant. Here's what I wrote in my log at the time:

... Then things got worse. After 12 miles, I had to take a few walk breaks but by mile 16 it became a death march with frequent and long walk breaks. The pace deteriorated from 10 min/mile to almost 13 min/mile ... Water stops became just pouring it on my head, I couldn't drink any more.

Boy, what a difference a 40° February day makes! Today's run was just awesome. With the cool temperatures, the fantastic scenery and the good friends, I can honestly say this was one of the most pleasurable 20 milers I have ever done. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Here's a few words on running the Palisades and what we did for our 20 miler today.

Running the Palisades

The Palisades have beeen popular with runners and especially with bikers for ages. One of the first organized long runs of the New York Flyers was a 20 miler over the GWB, out along River Road, and back. (It's actually over 21 miles but who's counting.) At the same time, trail runners — rare in those days, but not today — used the Long Path along the top of the cliffs as an easy trail run.

Today we combined the two routes: after crossing the bridge we ran out on the trail along the top to the Park Headquarters in Alpine, NJ, and we came back along River Road.

There are also a number of trails and roads which connect the top to the bottom. Besides the end of River Road which climbs the steep grade from the Alpine Boat Basin to the Park HQ at the top, there's the road down to the Englewood Boat Basin (with the Dyckman Trail along side), there's the Huyler Landing Trail just north of Greenbrook Sanctuary which connects the top to the bottom about 8 miles out and lastly, there's the Carpenter's Trail, a steep route with no less that 320 stone steps, which climbs the cliff face about 1/2 mile north of the bridge.

Over the Bridge and up the Trail

Today we used several of the options to get from the top to the bottom or vice versa. Melissa used the Huyler Landing Trail to River Road and then returned all the way back to the bridge on the road. Susan and I went all the way to Alpine on the trail, then returned via River Road — but cut off the last mile of road by climbing the Carpenter's Trail.

It's pretty easy to stay on the trail. It's marked throughout its length with white paint blazes on trees. There are lots of lookout points and several places where paved roads intrude, allowing muggles of all ages and sizes to intrude on the wilderness. I'll mention a few of these.

Once over the bridge, turn right and go under I-95 on the local Street (Hudson Terrace). The entrance to the trail is at a stairway on the right, just after the underpass. You have to go up, and then cross over an exit road, and then you are in the Palisades Interstate Park and the beginning of the trail. There a good web site for this park which includes some good maps and I recommend you check it out: .

Soon after getting started on the trail, you'll pass a gas station on the Palisades Parkway on your left. The park is sometimes a very narrow strip between this highway and the cliff edge, and so sometimes you are very close to — or even ON — the margin of the highway. The first major interruption comes soon thereafter where you enter Allison Park in the Town of Englewood Cliffs. You used to have to skirt around and go in the front entrance, but a storm last year brought down a section of the park fence, so now you can run right in where the trail first encounters the park. It's a lovely little park with a water fountain, bath rooms and a dramatic lookout. Spend a few minutes enjoying this place — you don't have to run every d*mn inch of the way! . After leaving the park, you come to St. Peter's College and you are forced to run along a very narrow strip between the Highway and a chain link fence. But soon after, you enter a fairly wide section with rather beautiful ponds,

Next up is a brief crossing of the Englewood Boat Basin Road. Runners doing a very short route can go down the hill here and take the road back to the Bridge. After this there is a fairly long trail section with more ups and downs untill you hit the Rockefeller Lookout, one of two such places on today's route. Luckily, today there were no families of fat children eating fried chicken and climbing on the fence by the cliff edge , so this place was a fairly attactive place to take a break.

Greenbrook Sanctuary is the next in-holding and it's the largest such in the entire park (see ). It's run by a non-profit (I'm a member) and consists of 165 acres of bogs, ponds, streams and upland wooded areas whose aim is to preserve and protect native flora and fauna. It's a marvelouss and beautiful place where I have enjoyed many hours exploring and enjoying the area. But not today. Soon after passing the northern end of Greenbrook, we came to the intersection with the Huyler Landing Trail where Melissa left us. It's a short, steep route down to the road (and beyond to the Shore) and takes about 3 miles off the total mileage.

After that there are a few things to mention: 1) the Alpine Lookout, much like the Rockerfeller Lookout, and 2) remnants of several estates which were bought out by the Rockefellers before they donated the land to the State of NJ for the park. But very soon now, our trail portion of the run ended when we arrived at the park headquarters (which also serves as the Palisades Parkway Police station).

Slideshow: Palisades 20 Mile Run — Part I: the Long Path out to Alpine
(Click Picture for Slideshow)


Susan and I took a nice break here and I explored an area behind the building (usually off limits) with some picnic tables and a nice lookout.

Click on the picture above to bring up a complete slideshow for this part of the run. There some beautiful scenes and a couple of very dramatic cliffs along the way. Check it out.

Back along River Road

I thought I would include the elevation profile from my GPS at this point. Note carefully that the vertical scale is in increments of 50 feet whereas the horizontal scale is in miles. The result is it looks probably 20 times steeper than it really was. Nevertheless it illustrates well the RELATIVE topography of the routes. The trail portion (roughly miles 1.5 to 10) has lots of pointy little ups and downs but the road portion has one huge down slope, followed by a few moderate ups and downs. That's just how trails are and that's just how roads are.

The only problem was that my GPS battery ran out at about the 15.5 mile point (the Englewood Boat Basin) — BUT I just happened to have saved a track from May 2010 when Susan and I had run the exact same route from the Englewood Boat Basin and back over the bridge. I stitched the two together and that is what you see. The steep down section around mile 10 is the road down from the park headquarters to the circle just south of the Alpine Boat Basin. And the steep upward section around mile 17 is the Carpenter's Trail which will be described below.

Just as most of the trail looks like most of the rest of the trail, most of the road looked like most of the rest of the road. But I'll mention a few things of interest.

First off, although both Susan and I were tired from the trail when we finally reached the road (trails are more tiring than running on a road), the roads, expecially the down hills felt easy. So instead of getting more tired in the second half, if anything the second half was easier than the first half. Of course that doesn't include the Carpenter's Trail, whose 320 rock steps were agonizing quad killers (interestingly, Susan didn't mind the steps as much as I did). And although we thought we'd catch up with Melissa around mile 15, we never did. She got cold walking on the road, so she just kept going the whole way and we didn't see her till we got back to the Jersey side of the bridge.

The main points of interest were the two Boat Basins — Englewood and Alpine. We skipped past the Alpine Boat Basin since it was north of the road, but the 5 miles to the Englewood Boat Basin was the bulk of the road running. From there, I took the Shore path (which was absolutely flat) and Susan stayed on the road (which had a couple more rolling hills) and met up at the Ross Dock Picnic area. This was in part so we wouldn't miss Melissa (which we did anyway).

Slideshow: Palisades 20 Mile Run — Part II: River Road back to the GWB
(Click Picture for Slideshow)


At the Ross Dock refreshment stand (which was closed) there were a couple of vending machines that worked, and so I got a soda and a candy bar and had a mini break. From there we ran the .4 miles to the bottom of the Carpenter's Trail. This is a wonder of engineering which has to be seen to be believed. It's just step after step zig-zagging up the sheer cliff. Check out a few of the photos. This being New York, we were not surprised to see a fashion shoot about half way up where the trail goes under the road. Then it was up and up to the top. We got Melissa on the phone and arranged to finally meet at the bridge — although we managed to wait for each other at different points till we finally found each other.

Once reunited at the bridge, Susan took off like a bat out of hell and crossed the bridge in what seemed like 6 minute miles. She said it was the tail wind! Finally we were on Manhattan soil again and almost, but not completely done. See the slideshow above for a set of picture of this part of the journey

And on to Coogan's

Because we thought we needed about another half mile to make it to 20, we decided to run the rest of the way to Coogan's Restaurant and Bar at Broadway and 168th street. So help me, that's the only reason we ended up at a bar.

So we zig-zagged along Cabrini Boulevard and then Fort Washington Avenue and finally got over to Broadway at 170th Street and were shortly at Coogan's, the final stop.

I figured the distance using the consolidated GPS track: 18.9 miles from the start and back to Cabrini Boulevard, and the remainder to Coogan's using the USATF mapper program (for which, see ) which was .73 miles for a total of 19.63 miles. Susan's iPhone got 19.6, not bad agreement. And the beer I had (see the last picture in the slideshow) was not bad either.

Note: there are inherent difficulties in measuring mileage from GPS track logs, among them the intrinsic inaccuracy of position data (aound 30 ft.), the sample size, the "corner cutting" problem and the fact that a GPS measures "horizontal" distance, not slope distance. Some of these effects tend to err on the plus side, some on the minus side. Cell phones may be worse since if they don't get a GPS signal, they get a position from triangulating from nearby cell towers. The USATF application also has some of the same problems, particularly the sample size. My best advice is that such tracks are fine to tell you where you were, but not super accurate in overall distance measurements.

But yes, it was a damn fine thing to add that extra mileage to Coogan's — whatever it was! A great and beautiful run!

Enjoy the final slideshow.

Papa Bear

Slideshow: Palisades 20 Mile Run — Part III: On to Coogan's
(Click Picture for Slideshow)


March 1st — So What’s the Plan

I  have been "officially" training for my marathon for close to 6 weeks now and have about 12 weeks more to till M-day. I’ve only hinted at a plan but one time I did mention a plan from Runner's World (). That's actually a fairly detailed plan to train for a marathon on 3 days a week — and a pretty tough 3 days days at that. But I don’t actually follow that plan: I just use it to schedule my long runs. And I don’t run my long runs at the pace recommended. And I don’t do the other workouts on the other two days. So what exactly do I do?

From a general standpoint my plan has 3 phases:

  • Phase 1: build endurance
  • Phase 2: add strength training
  • Phase 3: taper
  • Sprinkle in some cross training and a few races which act as "Time Trials", and you have it.

Getting more specific:

  • Phase 1: Build Endurance.
    • February: This was effectively Phase 1. I increased my long runs from 13 to 20 miles and ran just 2 other days per week. I kept the length and intensity of those 2 days steady with both an easy pace and an easy length.
  • Phase 2: Add (running) strength training
    • March: (which just arrived) will be to gradually add strength training. No, not weight workouts in the gym, but running strength. March and April combined would be Phase 2. I add a 4th day and convert the easy weekday runs to:
      1. Monday morning: a mid distance run, at least half the length of the previous long run. This is called my "Monday Medium Run" (MMR).
      2. Wednesday morning: tempo run.
      3. Thursday evening: hill workout.
      4. Saturday: long run.
    • April: full intensity in all these workouts with the MMR reaching 10-12 miles.
  • Phase 3: Taper
    • May: This is Phase 3 – taper to the marathon.
  • Cross Training and "Time Trial" races
    • Gym: Tuesdays – weight workout in the gym.
    • DWR: Fridays – Deep Water Running.
    • Cherry Tree 10 miler: February 19th.
    • Cherry Blossom 10 miler: April 1st.

Where did I get this plan? I made it up from years of plans, trial and error and coaching, and adapted it to the reality of getting older. Fewer days of more quality running is the key. And everything is done

g-r-a-d-u-a-l-l-y
Can't afford to get injured.

Pb

March 3rd — Central Park 18 Miler

Today's run was a downer. Oh, I did the miles and now after supper I'm feeling pretty good, but I was just not in much of a mood for a long run. None of my friends were available, so I was solo — always a bit more difficult — and it was chilly and rainy in the morning. I decided to just stay in Central Park to make the logistics easier and I put off leaving the house till about 10:45. The weather map showed the rain would have passed out of the area by 11:00.

When I got to the subway, I realized I had forgotten to take my water and Gatorade which I had put in the refrigerator last night, so I had to buy both at a deli on Lexington and 69th Street. I got to the Boat Hose and stashed the bottles in a briar patch just south of the hidden underpass, and I was off for three slow loops.

First I went north for a CCW loop and the fog lefted a little. Lots of runners were in the park but not many others except for the occasional tourist group. I kept to the bridle path as much as possible and made it around in about a 10:50 pace with one pit stop. I drank some water and Gatorade and started on the 2nd loop south (CW). This was a little tougher with some soreness in my right quads, but I got around and was still feeling not too bad.

The third loop was tough. First off I was just tired from running and tired from being out so long in a not too exciting place. Secondly, the fog and drizzle had burned off and the sun started breaking through. This was fine for tourists but not so great for runners. The temperature got into the upper 50°s — not exactly early March weather. I was tired all over, especially my legs, but fortunately I managed to keep a reasonably steady pace. In fact I got about 10 seconds per mile faster each time around.

When I finished it was about 2:40 and I was beat. I drank a bit of water and Gatorade and realized I was probably both a little dehydrated and a little low on blood sugar. But I had some lunch at the Boat House (no beer for this one), got home, showered and took a nap and now I'm feeling pretty good. It was not fun, but it's over with. This week I will be adding a 4th running day so I need a good night's sleep tonight and a real R & R day tomorrow. I'm actually registered for the Coogan's 5K tomorrow, but I've decided to skip that.

How does this compare to last week's 20 miler? Ask me tomorow!

I guess all the long runs aren't going to be fun. Whatever!

Papa Bear


March 10th — Yet Another Palisades 20 Miler

Yet another Palisades 20 miler? What kind of a name is that? Well, let me remind you that the first 20 miler I did in this training season was 2 weeks ago and it was on the Palisades. I said in my February 25th post about that run: "Today's run was just awesome. With the cool temperatures, the fantastic scenery and the good friends, I can honestly say this was one of the most pleasurable 20 milers I have ever done." Well, guess what? This one was even better! Yes, the weather was a little better (except for the horrendous cold wind in crossing the GWB to New Jersey), the route was nicer — we did the tough hills on the road first — and it was even a little longer. No fudging the extra mileage to Coogan's this time.

We had some mass transit problems getting to the GWB Bus Station. A very late crosstown bus followed by very late A trains set us back a bit more than half an hour from our hoped-for 9:00 AM starting time. That and the low temperatures (29° at 8 AM) and stiff winds over the Hudson put a bit of a "dent" in our enthusiasm, but as sooon as we got to the New Jersey side our spirits lifted.

We ran the route the opposite way from what we did 2 weeks ago. We started on the roads and we didn't take the Carpenter's Trail shortcut. That put the total mileage over the 20 mile mark and it also put the sun behind us for the first half which lent itself to better photos. The sky stayed blue the whole day and putting the trail portion as the second half made for easier pounding of our tired legs — even though the rocks and roots made the going a little tougher.

On the way out we saw a group of 4 Flyers (Heather, Bob, Alan and Scott) no less than 3 times: first crossing the bridge and then twice on River Road, first as they went out and then when they came back. We also saw Joe just after we got off the bridge at the start. Joe also did the St. George Marathon last October and also did a BQ. It's a small world!

It's always nice to run a route forwards and backwards. You see different things and you almost think you're on a different route entirely. There's not too much narative to give that wasn't in the first post. I would point out that the traditional NY Flyers Palisades group run, usually run every September, follows exactly the same route we did out to the Park HQ in Alpine. And just for the record, Susan's iPhone claimed the distance for that was 10.01 miles. I got 10.2 using my hiking GPS, probably because I had set the interval between sampling points as small as I could set it. This would minimize the effect of "cutting the corners" on a track. And I had lots of corners, alwasy moving across the road for a photo or a view. If you run in perfectly straight lines with no curves, all the measurements would agree, but that's just not how real runs work.

Some points of interest on the way out were going by Fort Lee Historic Park just after getting off the bridge, (you should visit this some time; I've been there a number of times and it's a unique place), passing under the GWB on the park road, passing by the three large recrational areas (we didn't stop), hitting a couple of fairly steep hills, making a quick jaunt to the beach with lovely views where the road came down practically to the river (see the photo above) and spotting a huge Red Tail Hawk way up in a tree. Check out the following slideshow which is for the first half of the run.

We have always called the park road "River Road", but Google Maps has "Henry Hudson Drive". I'm sticking to "River Road". After all, I've been there many times. I doubt Google has ever been there.

Slideshow: March 10th Palisades 20 Mile Run — Part I: River Road out to Alpine
(Click Picture for Slideshow)


We took a good 15 minute break at the park HQ. We both ate something — I had a Snickers Bar: the best trail food in the whole world and Susan had a bagel: not bad but not up to the Snickers level .

The first thing we saw after getting on the trail, was a pair of deer off to the side. We watched them (and they watched us) for about 5 minutes and I got some good photos. It was a pair of does. Susan thought they might be mother and daughter. A precious moment indeed. Did I ever mention that you should not be overly obsessive about your running: if you see something special (a hawk, a deer) stop and look for god's sake. This is not the olympic trials!

We made brief stops at the Alpine Lookout, the entrance to Greenbrook Sanctuary, The Rockefeller Lookout and Allison Park. All with great views (except the Greenbrook entrance). We also saw a friend Deanna with a group of her friends at the Rockefeller Lookout who were heading out just as we hit our 15 mile point. They looked fresh but by then we were beat (and I'm sure we looked it).

Breaking News: I just found out (on Monday) that Deanna and her friends were doing a celebratory 32 mile birthday run! And here I thought 20 miles was a big deal! Happy birthday Deanna, and congratulations. And I guess I won't be doing my birthday mileage any time soon!

Slideshow: March 10th Palisades 20 Mile Run — Part II: the Long Path back to the GWB
(Click Picture for Slideshow)


When we finally reached the GWB at about mile 18 we were exhausted, but happy to be (almost) done. Somehow the last 2 miles to Coogan's seemed easy.

We had our usual brunch at Coogan's (yes I ended with a beer) and for the record, Susan's iPhone said we had run 20.03 miles and my GPS said it was 20.33. The difference was most likely due to the interval sampling size, especially true along twisty trails.

Bottom line: GREAT RUN!

Postscript: Saturday night I was compleetely tired and a bit sore in every muscle of my body, and sleepy, you wouldn't believe how sleepy I was! I'm sure this had nothing to do with the beer I had at supper (the 2nd of the day). Then on Sunday morning I felt pretty good again. Maybe the stress / recovery cycle we hear about actually works. Now I look forward to the coming week.

Papa Bear



March 17th — 14 Miler to Greenpoint
With a couple of Significant Detours

Originally, I was planning a run from Central Park up to the Bronx for this 14 miler. We would end up at An Béal Bocht, one of our favorite brunch destinations (see for an account of a previous run to this Bronx pub). Then someone pointed out that this would be St. Patrick's Day. Oops! I worried I couldn't get into or out of Central Park on this congested day and never get into An Béal Bocht. So I thought, if not An Béal Bocht, why not Królewskie Jadlo? Now you don't have to be a linguist to know just by the names that the An Béal Bocht is Irish and Królewskie Jadlo ("kru-lev-ska yad-lo") is Polish. So expecting no unusual crowds, our sights turned to Greepoint, and pirogies with Ziwiec ("zy-vich"), that wonderful light amber Polish beer served there.

Melissa was joining me today and we met at the Webster Library at 78th Street and York Avenue. We went straight over to the East River and got on the promenade. But since it was only about 6 miles to Greenpoint, we first ran up along the river, straight through Carl Shurtz Park, as far as the walkway would go, just shy of the Triborough Bridge. On the way we met Ed, who was finishing up a 20 miler. After a few minutes of chatting, we finished the run up to the bridge and then turned around. Upon returning to Carl Shurtz Park, I retrieved the water and Gatorade I had stashed behind some bushes, took off my long sleeve outer shirt, and I was ready to head towards our destination.

We continued down along the river to 60th Street and then took the old ramp (formerly an access road to a long gone heliport) to York Avenue, ran up 60th and got on the bridge. Our route was similar to the Greenpoint run we had done in January (see ), but once in Queens, we took another route by running back down along side of the bridge nearly to the river and got onto Vernon Boulevard. We made one side excursion, hoping to check out the high rise condos that dominate this part of Long Island City, but ended up instead on a dead end road. Giving up on the condos, we took Vernon to 49th Avenue, and then after a few blocks, we were on the Pulaski Bridge.

This bridge, which spans Newtown Creek (a superfund site) connects Brooklyn and Queens and is also the halfway point of the NYC Marathon. Normally we would get onto Manhattan Avenue once we were on the Greenpoint side of the bridge, but since that would mean we would have to run right by our destination restaurant, we avoided it since we had more miles to do first. We needed to go all the way to McCarren Park and make an excursion to Williamsburg, so we got onto Franklin Avenue, which parallels Manhattan and after about a mile, got to the park. At this point Melissa finished her run since she was planning on 11 or 12 miles instead of 14.

At McCarren Park, I got onto Bedford Avenue and headed south to Williamsburg. Unfortunately, some of the St. Patrick's Day crowds we were avoiding had found their way to downtown Williamsburg, especially along Bedford Avenue. But I managed to get through the crowds, and when I reached the Williamsburg Bridge, I swung east up the hill one block to Diggs Avenue and then headed back to Greenpoint. My legs were tired at this point, moreso than at a similar point in last week's 20 miler. This may have been due to the fact that's today's run was entirely on pavement, or perhaps to the fact that my weekday mileage was a bit higher. But it was not a show stopper and I soon got back to the park, changed my shirt and 5 minutes later I was sitting with Melissa in Królewskie Jadlo.

Melissa had some shiskabob, and I had my usual pirogies and beer. It was good to be back here after 6 weeks, and all in all, it was a very enjoyable run.

Papa Bear


March 24th — Manhattan Parks 20 Miler
(actually it was 21.4 miles!)

Today's run was the first long run of spring, which began last Tuesday. And the city is really getting into spring. Callery Pears in bloom lined the streets as I walked to the park from the subway. Central Park's trees finally have green buds — if not real leaves — on all the branches. The Cherry Trees were making a good start (although I'd give them another week) and the Magnolia trees were literally exploding! The parks further north were not quite as far along, but they have definately made progress in the last week. And the weather, which was forecast to be chilly and rainy, was quite nice: temperatures in the 50°s and partly sunny. Just about a perfect day to be out there.

I met Melissa for an 8:00 AM start at the Boat House (Susan was down in Maryland doing "The Hat Run", a 50k trail run). Our agenda for the day was to run to the northern tip of Manhattan via what I call the "Escarpment Parks" (Morningside, St. Nicholas, Jackie Robinson, Gorham, Fort Tryon and Inwood Hill) and return via the west side (Fort Washington and Riverside Parks). Melissa, who had a heavy schedule later in the day (including a pub crawl, poor girl ) had to take the subway back from Dyckman Street, so I did the return half of the run solo. Most of the details for the north bound portion of the run are given in the article (although we neither began in Carl Schurz Park nor finished at Wave Hill) and for the return run in the article . Since I didn't bring my trusty Cannon S95 on this run, I borrowed some photos from other runs done at this time of year. Most of them match pretty closely what was there for this run.

I call this run the "Manhattan Parks 20 Miler" because it goes up to the northernmost point in Manhattan and back, almost exclusively in parks. It's true you could go over to Riverside Park and run up to the top of Manhattan and then turn around and come back (that's in fact, what does), but I like to cover more territory and hit every park just once. If you count all the parks both coming and going (not counting Riverbank State Park, which you go under), I think you get 11. That counts the little stretch along the Hudson at 125th Street as a park, since the sign says "West Harlem Piers Park". And guess what — I ran on one of those piers. And the real point is to minimize the distance run on city streets. In this run, the longest you run on the streets is getting from Riverside Park back to Central Park on 72nd Street. All other connections are just a few blocks. And to run over 20 miles in Manhattan through 11 parks (and not repeat any part of the route) — that's pretty darn good.

The running was made much more enjoyable than say, loops in the park, since almost all of the parks were nearly empty (except for bike riders anong the Hudson portion), and the trees had that in-between look where the green buds were out, but few leaves, so you could still see the "backbone" of the terrain. And on the way up that meant steep drop offs and rocky outcrops. The site of St. John's Cathedral above Morningside Park or City College above St. Nicholas Park or High Bridge Tower above High Bridge Park or the Cloisters above Fort Tryon Park or the George Washington Bridge over the Hudson River — all of them, the next after the next after the next — made the juxtaposition of the natural beauty with the man-made beauty startling. Only in New York!

My legs and my running felt good all the way up. But on the way back I started to feel first a tiredness and then some soreness in my legs, particularly my right. Both the right outer quads and right groin felt a bit sore as I made my way down the bike/running path along the river. After about mile 15, my right foot also felt sore on the bottom under the forefoot, something that has been bothering me off and on for a few weeks. On the long stretch of Riverside Park from 125th Street to about 79th Street, where there is little or no shade, I started to feel the affects of the sun. Fortunately, the sun was often obscured by thin clouds and the tempratures stayed in the 50°s, so this did not get bothersome. But it brought back some unpleasant memories of a few of last summer's death marches along this same stretch. Remind me never to train for a marathon in the summer in New York City again!

One thing that was a pain, literally, was some chafing. This was an unfortunate side affect of the coming of spring, since the winter tights have been stored away for another year, and my upper legs have yet to get toughened up. I used some vaseline, but even so, I had some real stinging in some places when I took my shower later in the day.

When I finally got back to the park, I wasn't sure of the mileage, so I did the lower loop of the park rather that cutting straight across the 72nd Street transverse. It turns out I didn't need to do this since I ended up with over 21 miles. But it was good to know that I felt just as strong that last extra mile as those leading up to it — subject, of course, to the aforementioned aches and pains. When I finally got back to the Boat House I had a nice sit down, drained my hydration pack and then made my way over to 79th and Madison for some French Toast at the Nectar Café. Having lunch solo is no more fun than running solo, but my body appreciated the replenishment.

Now, as I write this on Sunday, I feel fine and feel good about the entire last week and this first 20 miler of spring.

Next weekend — in Washington D.C. — wish me luck!

Papa Bear


April 1st — Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run
Washington D.C.

The was a reunion of sorts for me. I ran it 3 times in the 1990s (1990, 1997 and 1998) and I always loved it. I still have my 1990 shirt and wore it to the Expo. Unfortunately, this year Washington was rather short on cherry blossoms. The early spring and the weekend's chilly weather had dispatched most of them. But there were a few along one section of the race, and those were quite nice. It was a great weekend in D.C. but a so-so training experience. Some aches and pains in my legs caused me to throttle back a bit in the race so that this was hardly a time trial. But first things first ...

My running friend Susan had suggested we do this race back in January, and we had to enter a lottery to get in. Well, we did and we did, and so we hoped for good weather and a fast race. Or more accurately, I hoped for a fast race — Susan wanted to just enjoy the race and save time for the sites and museums which she had not visited since the Reagan Administration. Her last Cherry Blossom was in 1988.

So we made our plans and fit this race into our marathon training schedule, and on Saturday March 31st, got on the 8 AM Bolt Bus and arrived in Washington around 12:45. The weather was overcast with temperatures in the 50°s. We planned to walk everywhere and so off we went to the National Building Museum to pick up our stuff.

This was a grandiose old building with huge columns inside and the usual assortment of running stuff for sale and of course the number and T-shirt pickup. One thing missing (at least we missed it) were details on the start of the race — where to go, when to show up, etc. Thankfully, Susan looked it up on the web using her iPhone. How ever did we used to cope?

Then we walked over to the Washington branch of Hostelling International. I have never before stayed in a hostel, but it was quite close to the concept of the shelters I had used on the Appalachian Trail. No, they had a great kitchen and library and the rooms were quite comfortable, but the idea of sharing your space with strangers, cooking your own meals and being nice to everyone carried over. There were lots of young folks there and many international visitors, particularly Germans. I had a room with 3 other guys and Susan shared with no less then 9 other women. But I'm told she had a perfect little alcove and so it was all good.

Once we were checked in, we headed down to the National Mall to visit the Freer/Sackler Galleries which are hosting a special showing of paintings and drawings of the Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849). He is best know for his series "", and everyone has seen the first one with the mountain seen through the trough of a great wave. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed for that exhibit, but I got a nice shot of the interior of "" by James McNeil Whistler (1756-1829), the American artist who's career was contemporary with Hokusai's.

And the last stop of the day was — you guessed it — dinner at the Capitol City Brewery, whose special brew was "Cherry Blossom Ale". I tasted it, and I would say it was rather fruity with a flowery aroma .

Sunday was race day and I was up at 6:00 AM, did my stretch, ate a wee bit, and was off about 6:55 for the Washington Monument. The race started at 7:30 and we were supposed to be there by 7:15. I was there with time to spare and found my way to the "Blue Wave" corral, the third of 5 such groupings. Susan came a few minutes later and by then it was harder to get in the right place. Evereyone wanted to be first! The waves went off at 5 to 6 minute intervals, and if you were near the front of your wave, as I was, it all flowed very nicely. I'm told further back the flow was crowded and difficult. Hey, just like Central Park.

I wanted to keep a sub 9 minute pace, but right away my right calf started acting up, so I had to cut back and run very cautiously. I DID NOT NEED a calf injury at this point in my training. The course snaked around and doubled back several times and it was very nice that you could see both the stream of runners in front of you and those behind a numerous points. As for Cherry Blossoms? Just one stretch along the Tidal Basin had a nice row of blooming trees. At just about that point, near mile 6, my leg felt more healthy and I could pick it up a little. I was having a really nice run so the important thing was to maintain pace and make sure you don't stress anything. Latter I did some self massage on the calf and it felt fine. Go figure!

I never did see Susan in the race, but I bumped into her walking back to the Hostel. We were both cold and tired and a hot shower and something to eat hit the spot. That afternoon I made the mistake of walking back down to the Mall for some more site seeing, but I would have been better off with a nap.

One of the high points of the weekend was Sunday dinner. Susan has a friend of a friend who was a manager at "", about a half mile from the Hostel. This place had great beers, great food, super ambiance and fine service. Susan's friend came by a couple of times to say hello and we even got some special beer tasters that went with our food on the house. A definate place to go back to.

Monday was our last day but we agreed that it would be nice to take a real easy run and see a few more of the sites. It turned out to be a GORGEOUS day. The weather had finally turned sunny and as the pictures show, everything was just beautiful. I even found a spot near the race course with some cherry trees in bloom. We ran down and checked out the White House, then on down to the Washington Monument, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and the FDR Memorial. But between these impressive and inspiring places, the green of the grass and trees, the flowers, and the dark waters of the Patomic and Tidal Basin were just amazing. The pictures hardly show the real beaauty.

The bus ride back was delayed about an hour by some traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike. Furthermore my phone's battery had run down and it turns out my home phone was off the hook. Yes, it was a proper transition back to good old New York City . But I'm signing up early for next year's Cherry Blossom!

Papa Bear


April 7th — Central Park to Kingsbridge 20 Miler
Via the Old Croton Aqueduct

Last Sunday's Cherry Blossom was not only a bit sub-par in my performance, it also seemed to take a lot out of me. I felt the effects during the week resulting in scaled back Wednesday and Thursday runs. But to be honest, I was happy to do these as easy runs, given the beautiful early spring weather. I guess my body was just saying "let's take a little break and enjoy the scenery". As I approached this 20 miler I just hoped for the best — and I was rewarded with a very satisfying run with no glitches or twinges. Just the normal tiredness from this sort of run.

Susan was up in Massachusetts but Melissa wanted to do part of the run and our mutual friend Lisa wanted to join us. It seems her birthday was this weekend and she wanted to "run her age" which in this case meant 39 miles. She's an ultra runner and I know she does this sort of thing, but I was still very impressed when I had finished, feeling suitably tired and beat, when she said goodby (without joining us for brunch) and was off to do the remaining 19 miles of her run.

For this run I had a yen to get back to An Béal Bocht (), that favorite destination of ours in Kingsbridge, but how to get there? It occured to me when planning another run that there were portions of the Old Croton Aqueduct (aka the OCA) that I had never run. Namely the portion in the Bronx from High Bridge to Van Cortlandt Park, and the portion that goes east-west across Yonkers and connects the portion going through Van Cortlandt and Tibbetts Brook Parks (which I had run numerous times) with the north-south portion from Yonkers up though Hastings, Dobbs Ferry, Irvington and points north (which I had run occasionally). In fact the last time I had been on these two sections was some 40 years ago, when I had hiked the whole aqueduct from Croton to the New York Public Library. So, given I had two willing accomplices, it looked like we had a plan.

Don't know what the Old Croton Aqueduct is? There are lots of web sites out there, you might start with these: , , , and .

Part 1: The Boat House to High Bridge (actually Washington Bridge) — 7 Miles

Slideshow: The OCA in High Bridge Park
(Click Picture for Slideshow)

The first part of today's run was to get from Central Park to High Bridge Park, where the first part of the OCA in Manhattan is an actual trail (as opposed to lying under Fifth Avenue or Amsterdam Avenue). We've run up there numerous times, including two weeks ago (see the blog post for March 24th) so I won't go into the details. Suffice it to say, the beautiful weather and the early Saturday morning hour made these first 7 miles a pleasure. I would also point out that besides running on the aqueduct in High Bridge Park to High Bridge itself (the original crossing of the aqueduct across the Harlem River, now, alas, closed to pedestrians) we continued on to Washington Bridge (no, not the GWB) which affords a route across the river to where we could pick up the OCA in the Bronx.

One slight complication was that the "Scotland 10K" an NYRR sponsored race (= "crowded"), was just going by the Boat House (our starting point) when we got going. To avoid the East Drive and the throngs of runners pouring down it, we detoured slightly up through part of the Ramble, the Great Lawn and around the Reservoir, up over the Dog Track and finally out the northwest corner of the park. Note to self: it's always a good idea to take a different route once in a while. Don't get stuck in a route-rut.

Part 2: Washington Bridge to Van Cortlandt Park — 4 Miles

The Bronx, from High Bridge up to Van Cortlandt Park is the most developed section of the original aqueduct route of all, save for Manhattan itself. But I have found that neighborhoods that were created while the aqueduct was actually in use (up till about the mid 20th century) accomodated the route. They grew up with it, so to speak. In contrast, Manhattan tends to keep rebuilding itself constantly, so old artfacts can be quickly forgotton and obliterated. Additionally, major highways (I-95, The Major Deegan Expressway, etc.) tend to make no accomodation whatsoever and just go barrelling through. I-95 in fact does go barreling through, crossing the Harlem River just north of the old High Bridge. So any hope of finding remnants of the aquaduct in that quarter mile or so north of High Bridge in the Bronx is pretty small. But just above that, the Washington Bridge crossing — which carries street traffic over the river and delivers it to University Avenue — is much more hopeful.

Slideshow: Washington Bridge to Van Cortlandt Park
(Click Picture for Slideshow)

Old maps show the route goes from the Bronx side of High Bridge up between Undercliff and University Avenues till it hits a little park just south of I-95. Then it disappears and reappears just north of the mish-mash of highway entrances and exits and follows along (under) University Avenue to West Tremont Avenue, and turns slightly to the right and goes up practically intact to Van Cortlandt Park. So that is where we ran.

After about 4 long blocks on University Ave. we came to West Tremont Avenue, and there ahead, just beyond a side street was a playground with what looked like the aqueduct heading north from the back. The playground was named "Aqueduct Lands Playground" and a map of the aqueduct was actually set into the pavement of the playground! Wow, what a great way to start on the route. But alas, the back of the playground had a locked gate! There was just no getting onto the aqueduct itself. Now why would they build the playgroud named "Aqueduct Lands" complete with map, and then lock the very thing it's all about? We could only hope this was temporary and turned back and followed University to the north, with a solid phalanx of buildings blocking us from the pathway. Finally after a bit under a half mile, we got to West Burnside Avenue and all was made right. The locked segment was sitting there to the south of Burnside behind a fence, but to the north a broad stone staircase led up to the aqueduct. The level of the aqueduct was about 15 or 20 feet above the street, so we could only assume there was a viaduct (bridge) here originally. Google concurs ( ) and says it was removed sometime in the 1930s and the street was widened. The water was rerouted into what is called an inverted siphon — pipes that go down, under the street, and then back up on the other side. The water pressure pushes the flow down across and up again.

The 4 or 5 segments that followed were delightful. All a little different but all just beautiful with the grass and trees and flowers coming into bloom. And somehow it suited the neighborhood — slightly worn pavement, slightly littered but not trashy. In short it looked "lived in". I can imagine a bit later in the days kids playing hopscotch, and maybe in the evening folks sitting on the benches. Start the slideshow and check out the pictures. You might call it "Bronx Idyllic".

The path ended at Kingsbridge Road with the Kingsbridge Armory across the street. The aqueduct lies under Reservoir Avenue for 2 blocks as we get to the . The reservoirs was built in the 1880s for the New Croton Aqueduct. The old aqueduct travels in the space between Goulden Avenue and reservoir. Once we were past the reservoir, Van Cortlandt Park was in site and so ends this part of our run.

Part 3: Van Cortlandt Park to Yonkers Avenue — 3.5 Miles

The section of the OCA that goes through Van Cortlandt Park and further up through Tibbetts Brook Park in Yonkers was the one section that is totally familiar to me. I have run this section alone or with friends numerous times, often as a loop with the Putnam Rail Trail which parallels the OCA. But to my great surprise, there were things in the works on this section that I never thought I would see. The Parks Department seems to be fixing things that I have noticed many times which I thought would never be fixed — such as the near washout near the city line, or the exposed section of the aqueduct itself (a brick and stone construction) a bit further south. And they seem to be opening out an inaccessible section east of the Mosholu Parkway and southeast of the Major Deegan Expressway, long lost in brambles and cut off by a golf course. Of course, cynics that we are, we

Slideshow: Van Cortlandt Park to Yonkers Ave.
(Click Picture for Slideshow)

assumed they were just going to pave the whole thing, as they plan to do to the Putnam Rail Trail. But after reading the information carefully, I think that no, they don't intend to pave it — but they do plan to repave some of the access paths to get to it. Read the info and check out the map on the left and see what you think. Unfortunately I couldn't find the detailed Parks Department plan on the net, but perhaps it's out there. One thing going for it is that the OCA is a National Historic Landmark, so that may offer some protection. The , a non-profit advocacy group, does not seem alarmed by the project, so let's hope for the best. If you click on the photo above on the right and watch the slideshow, you will see signs of the on-going work. Ironically, the exposed section (shown in the slideshow), which will be covered over for protection from the elements (and vandals) gives an interesting view of the orginal construction. It's stone and brick (and I think there's a layer of concrete inside) and it's absolutely amazing that it appears to be in such good shape after 175 years!

As for the run, it was delightful. Ignoring the construction fences and the truck, this section is the only one of the whole aqueduct that passes through undeveloped woodland, and that includes all the route up through Westchester County to Croton. This section alone gives you the feeling of what the area was like in the 1830s.

After crossing the city line, we said goodbye to Melissa who headed down through Tibbetts Brook Park (in Yonkers). She was heading back along the Putnam Rail Trail and would meet us for brunch.

Lisa and I ran the rest of the way to the end of Tibbetts Brook Park and got onto the streets briefly to get to Yonkers Avenue. Interestingly, just before leaving the park we passed a gatehouse. These were located at strategic points along the route to allow overflow to be discharged in cases where flood conditions might threaten the aqueduct. And you will notice they are located above streams, which would allow the overflow to be safely discharged. There's another one in Van Cortland Park near the city line. But right after ths Tibbetts' gatehouse there is another building, of rather newer construction. This is a structure that controls the New Croton Aqueduct, which was built in the 1880s to supplement the old one. It's largely underground so signs of it are seldom noticed. At this point, the New Croton Aqueduct crosses under the Old Croton Aqueduct. Cool!

Part 4: Yonkers Avenue to Kingsbridge — 5.5 Miles

The last section of our run was a big question mark to me. The section through the neighborhoods of the Bronx was much as I had remembered it from 40 years ago with perhaps some improvement in maintenance. The Parks Department has charge of it and except for that closed section, it was in good shape. But the east-west portion through Yonkers was definately flaky 40 years ago. The route seemed to snake behind run down buildings and was little more than an alley. But the State had just taken over the right-of-way (in1968) so there was hope.

The first portion, along Yonkers Avenue was never a distinct path. It follows along mostly on the south side of the avenue and of course there is a huge gap where the Saw Mill River Parkway cut through. I remember back then just hiking along across the road cuts and across the overpass and just hoping we'd find something on the other side. I'm glad to say it's better now.

After we passed under the Putnam Rail Trail and along side

Slideshow: Yonkers Avenue to Kingsbridge
(Click Picture for Slideshow)

of the Dunwoody Golf Course we came to the Saw Mill. Well, we knew that was there, but on the other side, at Prescott Street, there was a big granite stone monolith with the letters OCA chiselled on the side. The aqueduct had survived years of neglect!

The aqueduct here resembles the Bronx section somewhat but the pavement is more worn and the litter is definately trashy. The state had aparently reclaimed the right-of-way, put in some monuments and signage but forgot to pick up the trash. Instead of "Bronx Idyllic" I would call it "Yonkers Shabby". But one spot stood out 40 years ago and if anything stands out more today, and that's the Nepperhan Viaduct (). Originally constructed to cross the Nepperhan River (now the Saw Mill River) it was over 100' high with two culverts for the river and a 20' wide archway for a country road. The road archway was widened to 50' in the 1880s to accomodate a busy Nepperhan Avenue, and again in 1985 a whole new archway was built on the wast side of the valley for a much more active Nepperhan Avenue, now a 4 lane divided highway. I'm sure if the state had not taken it over in 1968 and the U.S. had not named it a National Historic Landmark, they would have just blasted through the old viaduct to widen the road. But the state did, and the U.S. did, so they didn't. And it's just beautiful. If you do this run for no other reason, do it to see this vaiduct. My picture doesn't do anything like justice to the structure. My, but I do go on, sorry.

After crossing the viaduct, we crossed north of a ball field and eventually came out to Ashburton Avenue where the path ended. A block later, where North Broadway crosses Ashburton, the aqueduct hangs a right and heads north, once again a dedicated pathway. That we will save for another day, but today we had a 20 miler to complete and a brunch date with Melissa in Kingsbridge, so we ran down the hill another block and turned left (south) on Warburton. We were done with the aqueduct (for today).

Warburton is a wide urban street with little traffic but unfortunately little shade. It was very sunny and I was getting wilted. But we soon passed the lovely Philipse Manor Hall and the road changed its name to Riverdale Avenue. Now this is a street I was familiar with, although not quite this far north. This portion had a nice winding sidewalk and some shade, but unfortunately a very long hill up to the New York City line. But eventually we came to Mount St. Vincent College on the right and a K-mart across the street. We were back in the Bronx! I went over and got a cold Gatorade which refreshed me big time. We continued on almost a mile to 250th Street and crossed over the Henry Hudson Parkway and entered the exclusive enclave of Fieldston. The highest point in the Bronx lies a short distance beyond and then it was down hill to Fieldston Avenue. Where Fieldston may be the epitome of Riverdale (which is the epitome of the Bronx), Fieldston Avenue is the epitome of Fieldston, if you get my meaning. If you don't quite follow me, check out some of the "modest" houses in the pictures.

But all good things eventually come to an end and we soon passed out of Fieldston into "ordinary" Riverdale, and thence to Kingsbridge, a place much more my style (and my budget). Around the corner of 238th Street was the An Beal Bocht Cafe where Melissa was waiting for us. It had been a great run with some great discoveries of new places and routes. I can't wait to get back — but first a few days rest. Please.

Papa Bear


April 14th - 16th — A Weekend in Boston
(but NOT to run the Marathon)

I've always loved the Boston Marathon. My father took me and my brother and sister to the race in the 1950s when I was only 10 or 12. I followed the news reports each year and I knew about Johnny Kelley (both of them). When I got to be a serious runner myself in the 1980s, I, like many other runners, aspired to qualify for and to run Boston. See the article "Remembrances of Bostons Past" (), which I wrote a few years ago. When I wasn't running the race, I generally enjoyed coming up to watch. But not always — I failed to qualify for the 1995 race and had a miserable time watching it. This year I had already qualified for the 2013 race, so I told my son — who lives in Natick near the course — that we would like to come up for a visit on "Boston Marathon" weekend and do some family things as well as watch the race. And we did.

But this year I had more things to do this weekend than usual: I had promised to take the whole family to ride the Swan Boats, which they had never done, and my granddaughter was having a horseback riding lesson which I wanted to watch. Furthermore I needed to keep to my trainming schedule so I had to fit in a long run and lastly, it was brutally hot on Marathon Day. When all was said and done, I ended up watching the race for just about an hour from Natick (I usually go down to Newton to watch with the Flyers group) and I never saw any of my teammates in the race. But it was a great weekend anyway. And you can tell by the picture of the Swan Boats in Boston at the top of this post, that the emphasis had shifted from the marathon to family fun.

Saturday: Gotta Do the Long Run

My schedule had a 15 mile long run for Saturday and a medium run of 7 or 8 miles for Monday morning. The Monday run would be no problem, I'd just do it early on Monday and have plenty of time to watch the race later. The long run was more of a problem: I couldn't run early in the day unless we came up Friday, which we couldn't. So we booked the Bolt Bus for 8:00 AM Saturday and I just hoped for the best running mid day. The best was not too great: It was sunny with temperatures in the 70°s and there was no way to avoid the heat short of running late at night, an option which I ruled out due to family obligations.

I had done numerous long runs in Natick and the nearby towns over the years and I decided to go with my favorite: south along Speen Street in Natick and then through Sherborn; up along a country road (Farm Road) through forests and farms; across the Charles River into Dover and then up along another lovely road (Glen Street) over to South Natick. Then along Elliot Street past the Audubon center (which spans Sherborn and Natick) and finally north along Lake Street and South Main Street (aka Route 27) through Natick center and back to the start along Pond Street. I'm used to running in this area, but this time, since I carried my camera and took a few shots along the way, I realized just how beautiful the route is. And when you see the photos in the slideshow, note how few cars were on the roads on a Saturday afternoon. Totally idyllic.

Slideshow: Long Run through Natick, Sherborn and Dover
(Click on the map to start the slideshow)

I measured the route using USA Track and Field's web application and put a screen shot of the route above. If you click on that screen shot, you will start the slideshow — which I highly recommend. If you'd like to see a live map of the route, click here: . The distance came out to 16.22 miles (warning: these measures are always approximate) and when you add in about .3 miles to get to the route (and back) from my son's house, you get about 16.5 miles. Not bad!

The run was a bit hot and tiring, especially the first 5 miles or so. But once I was on Farm Road in Sherborn, it seemed to get better. I met my son in South Natick where I had stashed some water and Gatorade in the town park by the dam and waterfall on the Charles River. The last few miles through Natick center and along Pond Street were tough, as the last miles of any long run are. And Pond Street, although a nice suburban street with views of Dug Pond, was not really idyllic as were the roads I had run earlier. But all in all, a very good run.

Sunday: The Swan Boats

My memory of Boston's famous Swan Boats, like that of the Boston Marathon, goes back to my early childhood. I can remember the fun and excitement for the many times my Uncle Charlie would come and take us to Boston on the bus (to Ashmont) and the subway (to Park Street Under) where we would climb the stairs to the wonders of the Boston Public Gardens and Boston Common. The highlight was always a ride on the Swan Boats. I was astounded to just read that these boats have been around not just since the 1950s, but since 1877! And still run by the same family. And I read that one of the boats in use was built in 1918. See this: .

But unlike the Boston Marathon, I did not have much connection to this childhood pleasure and so I didn't think of them over the years. That is, until last year's Boston Marathon. On Sunday before the 2011 race, I was with a friend who was running the next day (I was still "retired" from marathons) and we had some time to kill before the Flyers pre-race pasta dinner at Papa Razzi's in the Back Bay. I suggested we walk up Commonwealth Avenue and check out the Boston Common. The weather was perfect and the trees were beautiful. Then I saw the Swan Boats and said "Hey, why don't we take a Swan boat ride?" And we did. And we were lucky since our boat was almost the last boat out for the day. It was just wonderful.

At my son's home that night, I asked if they had ever ridden on the Swan Boats. No, never. So I said, "I'll take you all for a ride, next chance we have." Well, the next chance turned out to be this weekend on Sunday, the day before the big race. Unfortunately, my daughter-in-law had to be out of town, but the rest of us were delighted to go — the weather was good (but a little cloudy), the line for tickets was short and the price was cheap. It's hard to believe this 135 year old family run business keeps going in this day and age of high price amusement parks run by big corporations.

After the ride, my wife offered to get the kids t-shirts, but my granddaughter wanted a swan doll, and my grandson was happy with just the ride. Then we checked out the "Make Way for Ducklings" bronzes (see ) and toured the park. But before we headed back to the burbs, we made the obligatory stop at the ice cream truck, passed a Quiddich game (yes, for real) on the way to the parking garage, and another family tradition was continued with pleasure for one and all.

Monday: Everything Else

Monday was the busiest day of all. First off I was due to run my "Monday Medium Run" (MMR) which was supposed to be half or more the length of the long run. Well, today it was a little less than half, so let's call it my "Monday Modest Run". I was up a bit after 6:00 AM and was doing my stretches and "stick" routine when my daughter-in-law came back from here very early (as in 5:00 AM) run with her running friend. It was pleasantly chilly out (probably high 50°s) and I got going by abpout 6:50. The route was like the first 3 and the last 4 of Saturday's run so I won't go into it. Suffice it to say it was a good run of about 7 miles and my legs felt fine after Saturday's 16+ miles and Sunday's recovery.

Next up was the Boston Marathon. I had to juggle the timing of the marathon as it went past Natick (wheelchairs start about 9:40) and my granddaughter's horseback riding lesson (at 11:00). So I walked down and found a shady spot a bit past mile 9.

Slideshow: Boston Marathon
(Wheelchairs, Disabled and Elite Runners)

The first group was the wheelchairs. I missed the lead "pack" but I saw lots of the following chairs as well as a few able bodied runners pushing disabled children and one double amputee. This year we missed the "Team Hoyt", the father and son who have been an inspiration to spectators at Boston for years (see ).

The most unforgetable sight was a barking dog next to my spot who "cheered" on all the chairs going by. But not just a barking dog, but a wheelchair dog. His hind legs were paralized and he was fitted into a harness supported by what looked like a set of doll's carriage wheels. Check the photos — "Shadow" (my son knew him as a neighborhood fixture) was quite the sight.

The men's and women's leaders then passed by with motorcycles, bicycles, official cars, press cars and who knows what else preceding and following them. You wonder that the actual runners had enough room to breathe with such an entourage. But they were beautiful to watch and at this early point in the race the lead packs were quite large.

Unfortunately I had to leave before the non-elite runners started passing — I was due at my next event of the day.

Last up for this busy day was my granddaughter's horseback riding lesson. She had been given a Christmas gift of 3 or 4 lessons and she did so well that my son and his wife continued on with the lessons once a week. The place is a very nice stable in Sherborn, about 3 miles away. My son said this place was highly recommended by the friends and neighbors whom he asked.

When I left the marathon, my son picked me up (he had earlier dropped the others off at the stables) and we got there about 11:10. She was riding around an indoor arena which was mercifully cool on this scorchingly hot day. She was practicing turning, trotting and stepping over obstacles. We were impressed by her posture, her "posting" and general ease on the horse. It was a small chestnut mare named Belle. My wife said it was a Welsh Cob, about mid way in size between a Welsh Pony and a horse.

Part of the routine was preparing the horse (putting on the saddle and tack), and brushing her down and rewarding her at the end. The teacher said she had caught on very quickly to the routine and had done better than many older students. But of course! (And honestly, I'm not biased. )

After the lesson, we stopped for ice cream (it was brutally hot eating the ice cream in the shadeless area outside the ice cream shop) and finally, sometime after 1:00 PM, I got back to see if there was any race left. Alas no, just a few very beat stragglers. So I returned home and vegged out while the kids went swimming. We watched a bit of the marathon coverage on TV. The news was the heat and how last year's winner had dropped out at mile 18, and how both the men's and women's winning times were the slowest in years.

I learned later that all the Flyers who ran did well considering the heat. Thank goodness for that. Next year, I'll be in the race and let's hope for a cooler day.

Papa Bear


April 21st — My Last 20 Miler
(Holy Cow, it was 22.1 miles!)

Hooray! This was my last 20 miler. Of course there is that little matter of a 26 miler coming up, but those are always a lot of fun  . But there were a couple of unanticipated things: it got hot — no, not summer hot, but late spring hot — and I figured my mileage wrong and ended up running over 22 miles. I didn't actually figure it wrong, but I did some extra side trips which added up, and took a different route back from Van Cortlandt Park to avoid the long unshaded route along the Harlem River I had originally planned. But it's done, I feel fine (I'm writing this on Sunday) and what do they say, "No pain, no gain", whatever. Susan and Melissa both joined me but decided to take a different route back and they ended up with 16 miles. We all felt the effects of the warmer weather but I would say everyone was satisfied that it was a good run.

I've kept the number of pictures to a minimum, showing just a few iconic shots that are a bit different from previous pictures in this blog (and I avoided shots of streets.) After all, how many shots of a couple of runners in a park can you publish without getting boring. But what I have put in gives the flavor of the run.

Here's a couple of screen shots of maps generated by the USA Track and Field Route tracking software. If you click on the links under each map you will get the live Google Map from the USA Track and Field web site. This will also give an elevation profile of the route. But the distance calculated (which is the sum of all the little line segments which you clicked in when you made the map) and the elevation data (derived from Google) is subject to errors. I find the distance is usually a bit under since there's no way to click every zig and zag you took. The elevation is OK, but it doesn't know how to do bridges. It assumes you ran at water level!! This is not too bad for these two routes since both the Willis Avenue Bridge and the Broadway Bridge are close to the level of the Harlem River. If you are interested in these routes, email me using the link at the bottom of the page and I'll give you all the details you want.

Northbound and Southbound Routes

First Half: Going North, Mostly in the Bronx

The route was a combination of various other routes we had done with a few new pieces thrown in. Going up, we started up the East River, crossed over the Willis Avenue Bridge and did our South Bronx Route. This involves zig zagging over to the Grand Concourse and running up through Franz Sigel Park and Joyce Kilmer Park . At this point we broke some new ground and made our way up to the Bronx section of the Old Croton Aqueduct (aka the OCA), via the Edward Grant Highway and University Avenue. Then we retraced the route we had taken 2 weeks ago along the OCA (see the post for April 7th below) up to and into Van Cortlandt Park to the Golf Club House. The part of this on the streets was a bit gritty, but hey, this is the South Bronx.

The elevation profile is interesting in that you can spot the relatively flat portion when we were running along the Aqueduct. And that dip just before mile 8 is where the Aqueduct is interrupted at Burnside Avenue. See and for that story. It's also interesting to see how you go down when you enter Van Cortlandt Park, but that makes sense since if you've run on the OCA in the park, you know it's partway up on the side of a hill. And there's barely a dip when we crossed the bridge around mile 3. And the fact that the Aqueduct is at a higher elevation than just about anything else in the South Bronx shows how expertly the surveyors laid out the route in the 1830s. Remember, the water was entirely gravity fed in that era.

One thing that was very noticeable to us was that the trees were much more in leaf than they were just two weeks ago. I didn't take any exact comparison shots, but if you notice the the one captioned "The Fenced off part of the OCA" in the slideshow to the right, and compare it with some of the scenes looking along the Aqueduct in the April 7th post (especially the one showing the the playgound at Tremont Avenue and the next one showing the locked gate, which show the same section of the Aqueduct, although from a different view), you'll see the difference.

Taking a Break in Van Cortlandt Park

We took a break at the Golf Club House in VC Park and after some discussion, the women decided to do around 3 miles on the cross country trails and then head back along the #4 line. Then they would hop on the train when they got the mileage they were looking for. For my part, I would head out to Broadway, fill up on Gatorade from a local deli, and then figure how to get the least exposure to the sun on my way back to Central Park.

Second Half: Going South, Mostly in Manhattan

I  had taken my shirt off when we got to Van Cortlandt Park and when I got back to Broadway I put it on briefly when I went into a deli to get some Gatorade. I ended up carrying the bottle about 2 miles. Meanwhile my shirt was hot a sticky so I took it off again. I was amused by the 3 or 4 comments I got, exclusively from young males. One memorable one was "Put your shirt back on, you're scaring the women". Hmmm .. Some how I doubt that. I crossed into Manhattan and stayed on the shady side of Broadway (the east side) till 190th Street. There I took a little known shortcut: there is a subway entrance for the 190th Street stop on the #1 train, even though that train runs under St. Nicholoas Avenue at this point. Well, there is a long horizontal tunnel that heads east under the steep escarpment, and at the end, an elevator that brings you up the 120 odd feet. It's shown as a dotted line on the Google map. A great saver for a hot tired runner. It also explains the unusually steep climb on the elevation profile (below) around mile 3.5.

Once I was on the top of the hill at St. Nicholas Avenue, I ran the two blocks to High Bridge Park and ran down on the park road and the OCA the length of the park. The very steep down hill, just before mile 5 on the profile, is the stairway down from the tower to the Aqueduct. Each part of this route was chosen to minimize exposure to the sun. This route through High Bridge Park is almost the same (in reverse) to that taken many times, the latest on my March 24th "Manhattan Parks 20 Miler" which you can read below.

Once back on the streets, I stuck to St. Nicholas Avenue, the shady side, all the way to Central Park. But if you look carefully at the southbound map, and zoom in around 154th Street, you'll see I was zig zagging between St. Nicholas and Amsterdam Ave. for 4 blocks (around mile 6 on the route map). What's with that? Well, I was trying to find where the OCA crossed from High Bridge Park to Amsterdam Avenue. And I found it: look closely at the block between 153rd and 152nd Streets about halfway between the two Avenues. Zoom in and switch to "Satellite". There it is, see it?

Once past this diversion, you can see the long lazy downslope along St. Nicholas Avenue from about mile 7 right into Central Park on the profile. I was sure glad there were no hills at this point in my run.

Well, Central Park was a welcome sight and I went down around the Meer and through the Conservatory Garden and finally ended up at the Boat House — 2 miles too far, 10 degrees too hot, and what seemed like hours too late.

I met Melissa for brunch, got home and crashed. But you know what? No more 20s! Yes, life is good.

Papa Bear


April 28th — The Verrazano Half Marathon
Shore Road Park, Brooklyn

Saturday I ran the Verrazano Half Marathon, along Shore Road Park in Brooklyn. It was a beautiful blue sky day on a beautiful course with views of the Narrows, of Staten Island and of the Upper Harbor, including the downtown Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty. My only complaint was the stiff headwind on the westbound and northbound portions of the run. But hey, what you lose in one direction, you gain in the other. And my race was better than I was hoping for. But first a little background ...

Training for a Marathon and Finding out "How am I doing?"

Training for a marathon, at least for me, involves 4 to 5 months of long runs, tempo runs, maybe hill workouts and an emphasis on miles, miles and more miles. For almost all of those miles you are running slower, some times significantly slower, than you hope to run in the marathon. And for a few of those miles (the tempo runs) you are running significantly faster. Races are few and far between and mostly you need to keep the length of a race quite a bit less than a marathon. For me that means a 10 mile race is just about the limit. More than that and you will tax your system too much and basically interrupt your training. So there's just about nothing in that whole cycle that will tell you how you're doing, that will tell you "Is my training working?"

To find that out, I like to do a half marathon about 3 or 4 weeks before the big race. The "Half" is long enough to mimic the endurance plus speed you'll need in a marathon, but not so long — if strategically placed not too close to the marathon — to mess up your training. So Saturday's race, just 3 weeks out, was my "How am I doing?" race.

So, how am I doing?
Short answer: I'm doing great!
Long answer: read on ...

The Verrazano Half

A  couple of months ago I got an email about a new half-marathon in Brooklyn run by a small group called NYCRuns. The regular NY Road Runner Club's Brooklyn Half (which I've run about 20 times) has gotten very crowded of late and besides, this year's Brooklyn Half is the same weekend as my marathon, so having an alternate was "interesting". It turned out this new race went along the Brooklyn shoreline right under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge — a beautiful area — and it was 3 weeks before my marathon. I was in!

So I rearranged my last 20 miler, scheduled for this weekend, and started looking forward to this race. I was a little careless, thinking until last Thursday that it was on Sunday, but thankfully I finally read the information more carefully than I had and realized it was on Saturday. Thank goodness — I once showed up for a race a half hour late, but showing up a day late would have been the end.

I got there almost an hour early and after stripping down, took a warmup jog of about a mile out and back along the race route. There is a combination bike path / running path along the shoreline which goes right under the big bridge to Staten Island and covers about 4 miles of the shore just where Brooklyn bulges out towards the west, and with Staten Island, forms the "Narrows" a channel between the Upper Harbor around the tip of Manhattan and the Lower Harbor between Sandy Hook, NJ and the Rockaway's. Check a map — it's geographically quite a spot. The first set of pictures in the slideshow above show some of the course and some of the views taken during my warmup run. It was cold for late April — around 40° — and there was a cold wind out of the west which would figure in the race later. But for now it was not about the wind; it was about a beautiful course on a beautiful day and my high hopes for a good race.

And They're Off!

When I returned from my warmup, the place was crowded with the 320 plus registrants and I chatted with a few friends and teammates. I was fairly close to the starting line so the delay from the "gun" (actually an air horn) and my crossing the line would be but a few seconds. My strategy was to run about a 9 minute/mile pace so I could comfortably break 2 hours (9 minute pace is about a 1:58 half marathon). My secret desire was to do perhaps 15 seconds per mile faster and come in around 1:55. My ultimate marathon goal is to break 4 hours so these times would put me on the path to that.

At the one mile point I hit my watch and it said 8:14! Wow, I didn't think I was going that fast. I better slow down (I thought). I did relax and try to slow a little but the next couple of miles were 8:21 and 8:23. So I thought "Just relax and go with the flow and see what happens". The course went under the bridge and turned towards the east and just after the 4 mile point was the turnaround point. I said "Hello" to Mike, one of the organizers, and made the turn.

BAM! The stiff headwind hit me like a ton of bricks. Suddenly running was a lot of work. My mile splits fell off to 8:45, 8:47, 8:50. No wonder my fast pace going out was so easy — I was being pushed by the wind. And now the wind was pushing back. As it says somewhere "The Wind giveth and the Wind taketh away" (or something like that.)

But I knew I had to push on and that I'd get another couple of miles of free assistance when I got back to the turnaround near the starting line. The course was one big loop of 8 miles (4 miles out and 4 miles back) followed by a small loop of about 5 miles (2.5 miles out and 2.5 miles back). As I was finishing the 8 mile loop I was also feeling the effects of fatigue, but I concentrated on a steady even effort and kept tabs on my splits to make sure they didn't fall off too much. I passed and was passed by a few fellow travelers and, in a way, we all helped each other push along.

The small loop was a miniature version of the big loop, except I didn't start out with 8:14 or 8:21 miles. No, at this point I was happy to do an 8:30 and an 8:25. At the final turnaround I had just 2.5 miles now to push into the wind till I got to the finish. Well, I did push with a respectable 8:42 and 8:43 for mile 12 and 13. A half marathon is 13.1 miles so there is that little .1 miles after the 13 mile marker and then you are done.

After finishing, my friend Ray finished just a step behind me and complemented me on my steady pace. He was aparently "stalking" me for much of the race but I never noticed him behind me. My final time was 1:52:02 (an 8:33 pace) and this was MUCH BETTER than I expected (and almost exactly the time I did 2 years ago in the Brooklyn Half). And as for looking forward to my marathon in 3 weeks, a 4:00 hour finish was no longer a secret hope, it was a real possiblity. This race was one HUGE confidence booster.

One thing I didn't mention was that for the last 3 miles or so, my right forefoot hurt at each foot strike. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. But I have 3 weeks to figure what to do (Padding in the shoe? Arch supports?) But in a way, if I don't need to worry about how my training is going, I will at least have SOMETHING to worry about.

After the Race

The race organizers had put together a nice spread of bagels, donuts, fresh fruits and drinks for our enjoyment after the race. Just wondering, does anyone else get a tired jaw after eating a bagel after a race?

I found a few frieds to chat with about the race and things, mostly the wind. Paul said he runs along the shore here all the time and it's always windy. Once, he said, the wind was in his face on the way out, then shifted and was in his face on the way back. Mike, one of the organizers, said he's seen it much windier, and a wind at high tide would have soaked everyone with spindrift. Would my time have been better with no wind? Probably not much. Just remember that quote I quoted above about "giveth" and "taketh away".

And speaking of race organizers: THESE GUYS ARE GREAT! On a lot of time and work and little money they manage to put on and publicize many small local races in the New York Area. They are after, in a different way, just what I am after on this web site, namely to find events and places less crowded, less "tried and true" and more "Small Town" right here close to home. Here's their web site . Get on their mailing list. Enter their races. Support the small club races they support. These are GOOD GUYS! Amen.

Papa Bear


May 5th — A "Short" Long Run
11.8 miles, mostly on the OCA

Tapering, Aches & Pains and the Old Croton Aqueduct

So, what's with that heading? Well, it's not as random as you think. Tapering is what you do for a few weeks before a marathon. When you're in full training mode, you are pushing all the time (and you're pretty much tired all the time). But on marathon day, you need to be not only fully trained, but fully rested. You don't want to get to the starting line still feeling the effects of a 20 miler you did the weekend before. So during the tapering period, you gradually decrease the distance and intensity of the workouts. In fact, the last week, if you like, you can do just about nothing — but that would drive you crazy. In my case I cut the long runs back (hence the title of this post, "A Short Long Run") and I cut the weekday runs as well and stop the tempo runs and hill workouts.

And "Aches & Pains"? Yes, Aches & Pains is what you get when you're tapering. It's maybe psychological or maybe just black magic, but since you are not trying to run as much, you tend to notice every little leg muscle twinge, every sore shoulder, every poor night's sleep, and of course you worry that you're not running enough. For a first time marathoner, you even worry about why you're worrying — of course I never do that .

But I did have some "real" aches & pains last week after the Verrazano Half. A sore foot during the race and a calf twinge on Monday. After checking with Joe, my massage guy, he reassured me and connected the dots: 1) Sore foot likely do to expansion of the foot during the race (a normal occurance) and shoes a bit too tight. 2) Calf twinge likely due to sore foot throwing off my stride. Remedy: loosen your shoes (or get wider shoes) and relax and follow you normal stride. Thanks Joe.

So Saturday's run was 1) short, 2) run with looser shoes, and 3) since I was solo, I explored some places I always wanted to check out, namely parts of the Old Croton Aqueduct (aka the "OCA") in the Bronx that I've been meaning to check out. Since the last two 20 milers were also on parts of the OCA, you might get the idea I'm obsessed with that. Nah, not me !

Following "Mostly" the OCA up through the Bronx from High Bridge to Tibbetts Brook Park

On Saturday, I decided to start the run right at High Bridge in the Bronx. In both previous runs we had bypassed the east end of the bridge and the short section section of the OCA that connects to it because in the first run we had crossed the Harlem River about a quarter mile north of High Bridge, and on the second run we had come from the South Bronx and it was easier to skip past this part. So to remedy that, I took the #4 train to 170th Street in the Bronx, and ran straight over on 170th Street to High Bridge. There is a nice park surrounding the end of the bridge but it seems largely overgrown and abandoned. Not disused or littered, just ignored. I checked the bridge from the top through the locked gate and circled around down the steep hill and checked it out from the bottom. I got some nice photos which you can see in the slideshow below. But I really hope the Parks Department comes through with the long awaited plan to reopen the bridge (closed for some 40 years) to pedestrian traffic. The latest forecast calls for this to happen in 2013.

To clarify things, you might want to click the "Show Map" button (it's an embedded Google map and it may take a moment to load). On the map, the part of the run that was directly on the OCA is shown in red and the parts I couldn't run on (since they were closed or interrupted by highways, etc.) are shown in blue. There's also a little green portion which is where I was checking out the bridge.

After checking out the bridge I started up the route of the Aqueduct. For the first mile or so, the OCA is under University Avenue, mostly right down the center under an attractive promenade. At East Tremont Avenue it moves off to the east and follows its own course. Unfortunately, it's closed off by a locked gate for about another half mile. Not till East Burnside Avenue can you actually get on it, and as I've said in previous posts, it's a lovely linear urban park that takes you practically to Van Cortland Park.

I've also added the elevation profile for the run, and you can see how easy it is to run when you stick to the OCA. That long portion from around mile ½ to mile 7½ is all along OCA or near it. The little dip around mile 1¾ is where I had to run on University Avenue to get past the closed section, and the rise just past mile 5 is where I ran up to 233rd Street and back to get around the Deegan Expressway (to be mentioned below). Then there is the long, gradually down-sloping part starting around mile 8½ which is the Putnam Rail-Trail (also to be mentioned below). I'll tell you, that is a great way to end a run.

A note on the photos in the OCA slideshow below: I skipped some of the areas which we ran on in the past since those posts have plenty of photos. So most of the photos are of the two sections we skipped before, namely the part near the bridge, and another section in the southeast corner of Van Cortlandt Park. There is also a separate slideshow for the last 3 miles of the run when I returned to Van Cortlandt Park from Tibbetts Brook Park along the Putnam Rail-Trail.

Slideshow: Mostly along the Old Croton Aqueduct in the Bronx
from High Bridge to Tibbetts Brook Park
(Click Picture for Slideshow)


I've already mentioned the exploration around the Bronx end of High Bridge. When I got up to Van Cortlanndt Park and did a little more exploring, I found a nice surprise. Look at the map (from the Parks Department) on the left. In the past we had always entered the park on the west (left) side of the Mosholu Parkway and followed the bike path up to the underpass under the Major Deegan Expressway and then swung around over the Mosholu and eventually met up with the OCA on the north side of the Deegan. This is shown as a white line on the map (near the bottom left of the map just to the right of the large number "9") and a dotted orange line (top half of map moving up and to the right) after coming down from the sidewalk over the Mosholu.

But the map also shows a dotted green line, which is the actual route of the OCA west of the Mosholu and south of the Deegan. When the OCA gets to the Deegan it just stops and reappears on the other side. I had always thought this section of the OCA was lost or perhaps under the Mosholu Golf Course. But I am happy to say I was wrong: it was always there and it was always open for walking or running. The problem was the entrance to the OCA is from the side of the Mosholu, about fifty yards into the park, and there is no pedestrian path, just a grass embankment, and it's not visible from the street.

I assumed the part of the OCA on the map (the geen dotted line) was going to be opened up as part of the improvement plan. No, it was there all along. Actually, they are just going to make a pedestrian path in so you don't have to walk along the Mosholu. On the map next to the large number "8" it says "New Trail & Entrance". I guess if you know what that means you'll know what it means, Duh!

I've decided to call it the the "Mosholu Park" section of the OCA, since that is what this southeast corner of Van Cortlandt Park is called on the USGS topo map of the area. (Switch the Google map above to "topo" mode and you'll see.) The Parks Department just calls this the place where the Mosholu Golf Course is located, but what do they know?

With the help of the map and the location of some construction equipment, I found it, ran along it and took lots of photos. When I got to the place where it crosses the Deegan, I bushwhacked through some brush and brambles and found the most likely point of crossing. You can see the photo of a sign for exit 13 and exit 14 in the slideshow. That's the place. You can tell because it's the one place where the elevation of the land matches on both sides of the road.

I then ran up the path to the 233rd Street exit from the park, crossed a road at the light, got onto an exit ramp sidewalk and crossed over the Deegan, found a path through the woods and eventually got back to the OCA. This part of the OCA (east of the Mosholu and north of the Deegan) was long familiar to me. But to close the loop, as it were, I bushwhacked again, this time from the other side of the Deegan. There's about a hundred yards of brush and brambles here (shown in blue on the map), but sure enough I could spot that same highway sign from this side and the "lay of the land" was right. The loop had been closed.

I'll say no more of running up the OCA to Tibbetts Brook Park, since I covered that pretty well in my April 7th post.

From Tibbetts Brook Park back to Van Cortlandt Park, "Mostly" on the Putnam Rail Trail

Many runners who have made the trek to Van Cortlandt Park are unaware of a lovely park a few mile north in Yonkers. It's Tibbetts Brook Park and in fact, Tibbetts Brook feeds the lake in Van Cortlandt Park and used to flow all the way to the Harlem River where its mouth was near Spuyten Duyvil (the section south of VanC is now underground). Moreover, there is not one but two running paths between the two parks, the OCA up on the side of the hill and the Putnam Rail-Trail down in the valley along Tibbetts Brook. You can take one up and the other back and get a nice 6 mile loop. That's what I did Saturday.

When the OCA passes out of VanC into Yonkers, you are suddenly in a residential neighborhood with occasional crossing streets. After about a half mile, you will find yourself with park land on both sides again. You are now in Tibbetts Brook Park. In about ¼ mile there is a path leading down to the left. It's a little past a rockslide on the left side of the OCA, so watch for that. The rockslide is pretty obvious.

Slideshow: Down the Putnam Rail-trail
from Tibbetts Brook Park to Van Cortlandt Park
(Click Picture for Slideshow)


When you come out at the bottom of the hill you will pass a rest room and soon you will be overlooking a lake. I like to go up and around the lake, sticking to the path nearest the water. After about a half mile, the lake narrows to a stream and you'll come to a path that cuts across towards the west (left) and crosses over a small dam. On your right is North Tibbetts Lake, and on the left is the stream heading down to the main lake. Head south along the lake. You can either stay on the park road, or get over to the Putnam Rail-Trail on the right, but eventually you will have to move over to the "Put". This follows the old Putnam train line which used to run from New York to Brewster and was decommissioned years ago.

Follow the "Put" south as far as it goes and you'll pass through Yonkers (along the Saw Mill River Parkway) and eventually you'll reenter Van Cortlandt Park (where the pavement ends). The "Put" is lovely throughout its length, passing through beautiful forest land, lakes and meadows. When you finally get to Van Cortlandt Lake the loop is nearly over. The "Put" ends near the golf clubhouse. I went west (right) over to Broadway and the end of my run. The slideshow tells it all. I HIGHLY recommend that you run a loop from VanC up to Tibbetts and back — you'll be glad you did.

Papa Bear


May 12th — The Roosevelt Island 5K
Benefiting the Icla da Silva Foundation

Two weeks ago, after I had finished the Verrazano Half Marathon put on by NYCRuns, I was checking their web site () for the results. I noticed a 5K in their calendar to take place May 12. It was on Roosevelt Island and would be just about a week before my marathon. Now that sounded intriguing. But a race just before the marathon? That would seem to violate the idea behind "Tapering" and maybe defied Common Sense. But being the sort not to follow Common Sense, I sent an email to Joe, my coach and massage guy: "I'm thinking of running a 5K one week before the marathon. Is this crazy? I just want to keep the fast twitch muscles twitching." Joe emailed back: "Running a 5K a week before a marathon can be not only OK, but beneficial. I would say that it would only be appropriate for an experienced runner who knows how to stay within themselves and not overdo things. You definitely fall into that category, so give it a go!" With that kind of advice, how could I not run this race. So I did.

The race was sponsored by the Icla da Silva Foundation (see their ), which raises money to recruit bone marrow donors for children with Leukemia. This group got all the volunteers, got the various licenses required to put on the race, did the publicity, ran the post race party, etc. and they got NYCRuns to do the registration, timing, measure the courses and other assorted nitty-gritty that comprises the technical component of the race. It was a good partnership and almost 400 runners lined up at the starting line on Saturday morning. This should be contrasted with the 7,918 finishers for the NYRR 10K in Central Park that day and the 4,985 for the 4 miler in Central Park the following day. Do those numbers give a clue to why I like to move my running "Beyond Central Park"? But I digress.

I got to Roosevelt Island by subway (the F train stops right at the island) and arrived about an hour early. So I took an easy jog around the Island and took a bunch of photos. It's a beautiful place situated right in the middle of the East River, and as you would expect, has spectacular views of the river and the Manhattan and Queens shorelines, just a stone's throw away on either side. If you've never been there, Go! Better still, run a race there. You can also take the tram, which goes from 59th Street and Second Avenue to the Island. That is a spectacular mode of transit in and of itself, but I was saving that for the return trip.

Slideshow: The Roosevelt Island 5K
(Click Picture for Slideshow)

Did you know? Click on any of the photos in the slideshow for a full resolution version and a full screen slideshow option.

The slideshow gives a small sample of the views from around the Island but hopefully you'll be enticed by looking at them to go there. They also show what a beautiful day we had for the race. Beside the sun and blue sky, we had race time temperatures from the high 50°s to the high 60°s. Not much to complain about there.

After my tour of the island, I got back to the baggage area and changed my top and left my stuff in my bag. But at the last minute I decided to keep my camera with me and take a few photos during the race, which I almost never do. But this race was a tapering race and didn't count anyway, so what the hey! Go for the pictures.

After three tries, I found the starting line (most of the volunteers had no idea where it was) and it was already packed. So I took a few more shots, and slipped into the pack roughly where I belonged. The horn went off and it took me exactly 6 seconds to cross the starting line. Now, how many of the nearly 13,000 runners in the Central Park races can say that? Oops, digressing again.

I wanted to keep close to an 8 minute pace, but except for mile #2 I missed the mile markers, so I really didn't know. But I treated it like a tempo run and recalled the ones I had done during my training, and got into a strong, but not breakneck pace. I stopped 6 or 7 times to get representative photos, which you can see in the slideshow. I could say that cost me almost a minute off my time, but of course we weren't counting this race.

I felt good the whole way — and I'm very glad I did my warm-up run, since I worked out a few muscle glitches during that. I finished strong and figuring all the variables, just about ran my target pace (which, as you recall, we're not counting. )

After the race the volunteers were at their best giving out water, Gatorade, bagels, bananas and assorted other food. The whole crowd just relaxed and enjoyed a picnic on the grass. Interestingly, the crowd was split about 50 / 50 between serious runners looking for this type of "small town" venue and a goodly number of folks evidentially associated with the foundation sponsoring the event. I would give them a thumbs up for their organization, and of course NYCRuns gets two thumbs up for running the technical aspects of the race with a very small staff.

I didn't notice anyone who was likely to be in my age group (= gray hair) so I figured I might win an age group award. While waiting around I also met up with a couple of friends from the Van Cortlandt Track Club: Jim Moloney, who will be directing the and Glen Shane, a strong senior runner from the club who is directing the . (I highly recommend these races.) When they finally came to the 60+ men (which they almost forgot), lo and behold, Glen and I were standing next to each other — he as the winner of the 70+ group and I as winner of the 60-69 group. And much as the race "didn't count", these awards count!

I took the tram back to Manhattan, topping off a great day with a great ride in the sky! And I'll be there next year, sure thing!

Papa Bear

May 17th — Strategy, Risk and Ruminations

It's just 3 days to my marathon and since I'm not running much at all this week, I have plenty of time to think. This is not necessarily a good thing. But it is very important to have a good strategy for running a big race. You can't just go in with the idea "I'll just see how it goes". That would be a recipe for a poor performance. No, you need to have a plan and a backup plan. Your training may have gone well (I would say mine did) but you need to allow for bad weather or other unforeseen circumstances, or for just having a bad day. Usually marathoners are told to have three plans: 1) minimum reasonable outcome, 2) good outcome and 3) great outcome. I'll simplify that to two plans: 1) minimum and 2) great. For me the minimum is to beat my St. George Marathon time and break 4:15. My "great" plan is to go for the full Monte and break 4:00 hours. There's a huge gap there — those 15 minutes represent a pace of more that half a minute per mile faster, which for a long distance runner is a huge difference.

But that brings up the second factor: risk. The BIG plan is to qualify for the 2013 Boston and run that race. OK, I did that in St. George. So I don't have to do any particular time in this race, in fact I don't even need to run it at all. But that also means the price of failure is zip. In short, I can go out like crazy, and crash and burn. I can die like a dog in the later miles, and from the BIG picture, IT WON'T MATTER. Of course I'm a rational person with a good self esteem so I would not pick a strategy that would guarantee failure, but one that MIGHT be possible if all things came together. So I plan to run a 4:00 hour marathon, and do everything I can to make it happen.

Now the ruminations. I felt good about my training, especially the half marathon I did 2½ weeks ago. Based on that and the fact that my long runs went well, I'm in a good place for this race. But you can't help but compare the training that got you to the last race (St. George) with this one. So I spent an hour or two going over my logs for the training for these races. Here is what I got —

The St. George Marathon, October 1, 2011
Week May 30 Jun 06 Jun 13 Jun 20 Jun 27 Jul 04 Jul 11 Jul 18 Jul 25 Aug 01 Aug 08 Aug 15 Aug 22 Aug 29 Sep 05 Sep 12 Sep 19 Sep 26
MMR 7 2.5 7.4 8 10 9.6 10 8 10 10 12 10 12 12 12 10 7.5  
Tempo               Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes      
Hills Yes XC Yes XC Yes XC Yes XC Yes XC Yes XC Yes Yes        
DWR 1 1                                
Long 7 13 14 16.5 17.5 20 18.3 11 20.9 15 21 15 20 18 20.2 12   26.2
Total 24 24.5 27.4 32.5 35.5 35.6 37.9 29 39.9 34 43 36 45.7 43 46.15 29 12.5 32.2
"MMR" = Monday Medium Run; "XC" = Cross Country Race in Van Cortlandt Park; "DWR" = Deep Water Running.

Shires of Vermont Marathon, May 20, 2012
Week Jan 16 Jan 23 Jan 30 Feb 06 Feb 13 Feb 20 Feb 27 Mar 05 Mar 12 Mar 19 Mar 26 Apr 02 Apr 09 Apr 16 Apr 23 Apr 30 May 07 May 14
MMR   4 4 4 5 4 5.5 6 7 8 9.5 5 10 7 8 5.5    
Tempo                 Yes Yes     Yes Yes Yes      
Hills               Yes Yes Yes     Yes Yes        
DWR   2 1 1 1 1   1 1 1 1   1 1 2 2 2 2
Long 13 14.8 13.3 15 16 19.7 18 20 14 21.3 10 20 16.5 22.1 15 11.8 7 26.2
Total 23 24.8 24.5 24 26 29.7 29.5 35 32 38.3 24.5 35 38.5 38.1 29 22.3 16 30.2

Well, what do you see? I see the St. George Training had 3 strong points in the comparison: much stronger Monday Medium Runs, more tempo runs and more hill workouts. The Shires training had equal or better long runs and many more "DWR". What's that? it's "Deep Water Running", a pool workout that closely mimics the running motion but without the pounding. And because of the resistance of the water, it's a big strength builder (I did a post on DWR: check the MiniBlog Index for Feb. 14th). So why didn't I do it more often for the St. George training? Because my pool was closed in the summer and was replaced with a shallow outdoor pool that didn't work for DWR workouts.

Does this tradeoff favor the St. George training, or the Shires training? I guess I'll find out on Sunday, but in the meantime I'll ruminate about it.

Wish me luck,
Pb

May 20th — The Shires of Vermont Marathon

After about 5 months of training, and 23 posts on this miniBlog (this makes 24), I ran the Shires of Vermont Marathon on May 20th. Well, how did it go?

I  won 2nd place in my age group (60 - 69) out of 10 finishers in that group, and being 69, I was the oldest. The winner was over an hour faster then me, so he's just plain fast. I won a delightful little half pint container of 100% pure Vermont Maple Syrup. And ironically, the #3 man in my age group finished right behind me just 11 seconds back.

But it was by far the slowest marathon I had ever run, just under 5 hours. I, like almost everyone there, was defeated by the heat. It was a day of almost unremitting direct sunlight (probably only about 1/3 of the route was shaded) and of temperatures rising to the mid 80s. To put it in perspective, I was a little slower than the median finisher (I was #130 out of 227), which means almost half the crowd finished in over 5 hours.

Am I disappointed? No, not really. I knew I could crash and burn, but I never thought I would actually burn (as in sun burn) and crash (due to heat) rather than due to a risky strategy. And I think even a bad race can be a "teaching moment". Lessons learned: 1) don't stop near the end, the guy behind you might take your award. 2) make sure to tell the race director to order cool weather next year .

After we got back and I had a shower and some time to relax and all seemed good again! The further I get away from the race (it's now 4 days), the better I appreciate that my marathon was (comparitively) quite strong.

Now I need to have an off season and I'll take the mantra "Summer Time, and the Runnin' is Easy". I will not EVEN THINK of marathon training till after Thanksgiving. As for right this minute, I'm gearing up for the 1st in the summer series of cross country races to be held tonight in Van Cortlandt Park.

I've put together a proper race report which gives a fair amout of the gory details. Enjoy: .

And so, I close this miniBlog. Gotta run ....