t's almost March and I'm just getting this thing going. Late last year I was also blogless for a few months. My running was getting stale and I got into some other cool things including the Old Croton Aqueduct and Randel Survey Monuments (which implemented the Manhattan Street grid). I did some stand alone posts about those things but I also I decided I needed to rejuvenate my running and to try to put the interesting parts on this blog. Plus I'm throwing in some very cool one-offs like my observation of the planets on Feb. 6th — I managed to see the planet Mercury (the winged messenger) for the first time in probably 40 years in the pre-dawn sky. Not something most people care about or think about, but I do. So check that post out, you might like it. For this reason I changed my blog title from "Running in 2016" to "Running & Stuff in 2016". That should cover most anything. And it's still Beyond Central Park. The planet Mercury is way beyond Central Park, like 57 million miles, give or take a few.

So to all my friends, this is for you — and for me. Enjoy.

A Year's End Roundup

December 31st: A Year's End Roundup

f you look at the awards I won during 2016 (triptych above), you might think I did nothing but run races. That would be a mistake, since I was actually quite busy with other pursuits. And even though I was happy to win awards, truth be told, there is little competition in the 70+ age group to which I belong. At some races I was the only one. And as you might guess, this sport gets tougher and tougher as the years go by and I am happy to just be out there just giving it my best efforts. The races keep me honest and my goal is to not slow down. And by most measure I was getting about the same times at the end of the year as at the start.

But even when I ran races and won some age group awards, the two pictures here (Dorothy and the Scarecrow left, and me and my daughter in those hoodies, right) mean more to me than all those awards. You can see we were just plain having fun. Yes, racing is hard work, but it's fun when you meet up with friends and family and just enjoy youself. And by the way, both of these photos depict prizes: best costume award for Heidi and me, and a couple of chance lottery prizes for Suzy, my daughrter, and myself.

When I'm just running but not racing I go easy. And many of those "easy" runs are with friends to destinations, sometimes to brunch and sometimes to a park or other lovely place. Among others, this year have I run to the NY Botanical Garden, The historic 1848 High Bridge, the Cloisters, the Morris Jumel Mansion and more.

Bottom line: Yes, I won a number of age group awards, I more-or-less kept my fitness level intact, but most importantly, I had fun with my running in 2016. You can't do much better than that!

But wait! I don't just run (faster or slower) — I do other things to keep me busy. For non-running activities I would say studying and sometimes discovering historic artifacts would be high on my list. And there's no better place to find such things than in the parks, especially Central Park. Outside the parks, several hundred years of developement has certainly obliterated anything "ancient".

The most important of these finds in 2016, and one for which I gained my 15 minutes of fame, was my identifying the first in situ marble street marker set by John Randel (who laid out Manhattan's street grid) in the 1810s ever found in modern times. It was in Central Park in plain sight and it had sat there for over 200 years but was never noticed nor identified. See this article that appeared on the New Yorker web site in January: . If you read through that article, you'll see that I'm given a nice credit in the discovery of this marker. You'll also note that I contacted Lem Morrison, a surveyor I've worked with in the past, who nailed it by showing the stone's position as being within 1 foot of the expected postion of the street intersection — and considering the stone is about 9 inches on a side, that's pretty darn close. To the right is a shot of Lem measuring the position of the newly discovered stone.

For my side of the story, here is a write up on the subject that goes back 10 years and tells of my involvement in this and other discoveries: .

A Cold Run to the Cloisters

December 19th: A Cold Run to the Cloisters

n December 19th, the day before the Winter solstice, Susan and I met at about 10:30 AM to run from Central Park up to the Cloisters, a distance of about 7 miles. It was sunny but the temperatures were in the mid to upper 20°s. Cold, in other words. We fooled with our layers and finally got warm enough for running, but we just couldn't stop, or we'd really feel it.

A note on the pictures: I didn't take any photos till we got to Fort Tryon Park and the Cloisters — it was too cold to take out my camera during the run. But I spread a few of those I took below, even though the text doesn't catch up with the photos till around the 4th paragraph.

We took the straight route, mostly along the long diagonal of St. Nicholas Avenue. No trying to hit all the parks today. We did veer up to Convent Avenue at 141st Street to check out the lovely town houses in Hamilton Heights but got back to St. Nicholas about 152rd where it catches up to Convent. Then when we got to 154th a few minutes later, Susan said "What's that park over there?" I said "Let's check it out" and we soon found ourselves on Amsterdam Avenue, opposite Trinity Cemetary, which was the "Park" we had found.

These zig-zags didn't materially affect our route since we kept heading north and we eventually had to get to the west anyway. By 162nd Street St. Nicholas caught up to us again, so we left Amsterdam and resumed the diagonal route north and westward on St. Nicholas. Finally at 169th we reached Broadway where it exchanges its heading with St. Nicholas so we headed along Broadway which now took up the diagonal. If this sounds confusing, look at the full route map (click the map thumbnail) and you'll "get it".

We knew we had to move one more block west to get on Fort Washington Avenue, but it didn't much matter when we made the switch so we chose 174th because it looked like a nice street. Now we had about one more mile on Fort Washington to get to Fort Tryon Park, and thence through this lovely northern Manhattan oasis to the Cloisters. And here it was when I got out my camera taking shots in the park and inside the Cloisters.

"What's the Cloisters?" you ask? Well, if you have to ask, it means you have never been there, and you should drop everything and go there, like NOW! You'll find an old building made up of pieces of much older structures — mostly parts of churches and assorted artifacts — from medieval Europe, which I believe were mostly stolen collected by John D. Rockefeller. The park land and the Cloisters were later donated to the city. It's actually a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of art and is one of the hidden gems of Manhattan and well worth the run (or bus ride if you like) to get there.

I'll let the pictures tell the tale, so here is a slideshow of the photos starting at the entrance to Fort Tryon Park, going up to the Cloisters and then exploring some of the areas within: .

After spending about an hour at the Cloisters, we braved the cold again and walked as quickly as we could down the park road to Dyckman Street, thence to Broadway, and finding no suitable alternative, made our way to our favorite eating place in this neck of the woods, , the "Last Café on the Only Road" in Manhattan.

Luckily they were open for business even though it was after 3:00 PM on a Tuesday and there were very few other customers. But the food was as good as ever — we both ordered Mac & Cheese with lobster and truffles. Yum! But where were the truffles? Of course, we both ordered cold ones as well — those were better than the missing truffles, for sure!

From the Morris-Jumel Mansion to Indian Road Café

From the Morris-Jumel Mansion to Indian Road Café – The Mansion

he weekend of October 15th and 16th was desigated as sponsored by "Open House New York" (aka OHNY). What's that, you ask? It's when many of New York City's cultural, historical and architectural sites open their doors to the public. As the OHNY website puts it, "Open House New York provides broad audiences with unparalleled access to the extraordinary architecture of New York and to the people who help design, build, and preserve the city. Through its year-round programs and the annual OHNY Weekend."

Although the dates have passed for this year, check out the web site and chances are when next year comes around, you'll be interested in visiting some of these sites.

As you probably know from reading my posts, this is the sort of thing that gets me excited — getting to see the insides of famous historic structures which are normally out of bounds (or which charge you $$ to get in). Melissa had contacted me the week before and asked if I would like to visit some of these with her on Saturday. Well, the answer was yes, but unfortunately I also wanted to do a longish run that day (a "longish" run is not quite a long run but longer than my usual weekday runs). Now Melissa was recovering from an injury and was not up to even a short run so we set up a combibation plan where I would run to one of the sites and we would explore it together and then I would do some more running. We would plan to meet later for brunch after I finished my running. So it would be a run -> meet-up -> run -> meet-up, simple!

We picked the Morris-Jumel Mansion which is between 160th and 162nd Streets just west of Edgecombe Avenue, which happens to be very near the southern end of Highbridge Park, a perfect place to start or end a run, and this run -> meet-up would be the first half of my complete plan. Alas, this proved to be too costly for my schedule, time-wise, and I had to abandon my first run to the mansion. I could only afford to do the post-mansion segment of my run — so my longish run became a short run. But mileage hounds fear not, there are plenty of ways to get to the mansion from just about anywhere, so you can log as many miles as you like if you care to include a visit to this little known gem in the upper, upper west side.

So what is the Morris-Jumel Mansion and what makes it interesting? Well, it was built in 1765 — which makes it the oldest dwelling still standing in Manhattan — as a summer "villa" of one Colonel Roger Morris and it was built on one of the highest points in Manhattan overlooking the Harlem River. It lies between 160th and 162nd Streets east of the Kingsbridge Road (now St. Nicholas Avenue), the only thoroughfare that passed through this northern end of Manhattan in that era. Most structures in this area were farm houses, barns, etc. but this was hardly a simple farm house — it was clearly an outlyer in northern Manhattan. And it should be noted that when it was built there was no 160th or 162nd Steets: the Manhattan street grid would not be laid out for some 48 years after the mansion was built, and even then, the streets north of 155th (except 10th Avenue) were not laid out at all till late in the 19th Century. So you might say, this was way, way uptown. Today the area around the building is a small park and the streets don't cut through. There is no 161st Street (it would have intersected the house) and 162nd Street east of St. Nicholas Avenue was pushed south evidently to align with the estate boundary.

The 1st map below was made by John Randel (who laid out and surveyed the Manhattan street grid) around 1820 and it shows the house (then 55 years old) at that time. The cross streets shown were fictitious, or I should say hypothetical — they were not surveyed and opened untill the late 19th century. The Kingsbridge Road shown became St. Ncholas Avenue (see the 2nd map) and the two cobble stoned narrow streets (Sylvan and Jumel Terrace) were old carriage paths. The row houses along Sylvan Terrace were built in the 1880s, after some of the property had been sold off. The house and what remained of the estate passed to the City of New York in 1905 and is now a public park.

The house served as George Washington's headquarters for 6 weeks in 1776 and was then taken over by the British after Washington evacuated his troops across the Hudson to New Jersey and eventually across the Delaware and on to Valley Forge. It's prominant position with views in all directions made it an ideal HQ. The top floor of the north "octogon" wing of the house served as Washington's "War Room".

I met Melissa there and we spent about an hour checking out all the rooms, most of which have been renovated and restored in recent years by a non-profit conservancy.

Here's a few pictures of both the outside and inside of the mansion:

And here's a slideshow I've put together: Slideshow: The Morris-Jumel Mansion.

From the Morris-Jumel Mansion to Indian Road Café – The Run

he Run, abbreviated as it was, was quite rewarding, combining the incredible views over the Harlem River to the Bronx on the Old Croton Aqueduct (aka the OCA) and the pathways of Highbridge Park, and the crowded full-of-life streets of upper Manhattan. I've run along this route many times but I never tire of these unique scenes which are so rare in our urban home of Manhattan. If you've never run in this area, you owe it to yourself to do it. And for a good report of a run I've done from Central Park to the northern tip of Manhattan (minus a visit to the Morris-Jumel Mansion) a few years ago. Here's the link:

The run starts across Edgecombe Avenue about two blocks south of 160th Street. Go through the opening in the fence and get going along the OCA. In about a half mile you'll skirt to the right around a rocky prominence and soon after the path becomes paved. At around the 1 mile point you'll see the High Bridge water tower up to the left and you'll arrive at the Manhattan end of the High Bridge. Here you must bushwhack on a faint path that starts in the back right corner of the bridge plaza directly under the tower 140 ft. above. If you can't hack this, go back and up the stairs and go along Amsterdam Avenue to 175th Street and rejoin the path which goes right, down the stairs at the end of the access road.

Here's a slideshow of the whole run which should make clear the previous directions.

Slideshow: Run From the Morris-Jumel Mansion to Indian Road Café.

After passing under the maze of highways, bear to the left across a grassy area and go down the two flights of spiral stairs at the north-east corner of the area towards the river. After going down the stairs you'll find yourself in front of a large archway. Good views across the river are available.

Take a left here and follow the path under an archway of the 1895 Washington Bridge which crosses the Harlem and connects to 181st Street. Go all the way north along this path, about a mile, till you get to Dyckman Stree and the end of the park. Cross Dykeman (which is an extension of the Harlem River Drive), and you'll be on 10th Avenue heading north.

Make your way along 10th Avenue. The overhead tracks of the #1 train will join the road. When you reach 207th Street go left under the 207th Street station and go 4 blocks to Broadway. Zigzag right then left onto Isham Street, and if it's a Saturday you'll encounter a green market. Go all the way on Isham to Inwood Hill Park and go along the perimeter of the park (right on Seaman, left on 214th and right on Indian Road). and at the very end, on the corner opposite the park is the , "The Last Café on the Only Road" in Manhattan.

I met Melissa (remember Melissa?) at the Café. She had visited another OHNY site (the Hispanic Society of America) while I was running and then took the subway up to meet me. Later she told me she had visited two more OHNY sites Saturday afternoon plus two more on Sunday! For my part, I went home and took a nap.

If you go, enjoy your brunch — we certainly did. It is best accompanied by a brew.

Looking Back At the Long Hot Summer of 2016

Looking Back At the Long Hot Summer of 2016

f you take a look at the title picture of this post (above) you'll see two happy runners at a race in Van Cortlandt Park. It's me and my daughter Susan after both of us won raffle prizes (those hoodies) after the race. I had never before won a raffle prize although I have run every one of these races for the last 4 or 5 years. And my daughter Susan on the other hand, has only run in one VCTC summer 5K before — after all she lives in Portland Oregon. So it was a pleasant and unexpected happening that we would both win one of these prizes and the picture shows our delight. It was also my fastest race in the Van Cortlandt Park series this summer.

So why a title like "Long Hot Summer"? Well I didn't mean to imply it was not a fun summer or a summer when I didn't enjoy the races. It was and I did. But the problem, if you want to call it that, is that although I revamped my training in the hopes of improving my race times, I had very little success in doing that. And I think a major reason was the hot and humid weather that persisted across June and July and into August.

But it wasn't just the heat and humidity — it was an overloaded schedule of races that pushed my speed work efforts into the background. But first a word about that training schedule: in late May, when the summer series of cross country 5Ks was getting underway, I asked coach Joe, my massage guy, if I could fit two training workouts into the two week period between successive 5Ks (which are held on alternate Thursday evenings), perhaps at 1/3 and 2/3 of the way through the two week period.

  Date Note
VCTC 5K #1 May 26st  
Speed workout June 2nd Day 1: hills, Day 2: intervals
VCTC 5K #2 June 9th  
Speed workout June 16th Day 1: hills, Day 2: intervals
VCTC 5K #3 June 23rd  
Speed workout June 30th Day 1: hills, Day 2: intervals
VCTC 2x2 Relay July 7th  
Speed workout July 14th Day 1: hills, Day 2: intervals
VCTC 5K #5 July 21st  
Speed workout July 28th Day 1: hills, Day 2: intervals
VCTC 5K #6 Aug. 4th  
Speed workout Aug. 11th Day 1: hills, Day 2: intervals
VCTC 5K #7 Aug. 18th  

Double Workouts

He said try something different: the recovery from a tough workout starts primarily on the 2nd day after the workout, not the next day. So do two workouts on two successive days focusing on different types of workout (say hill repeats, and intervals) and then take the next 4 days for recovery. So the double workout should be at least 4 days before the next Thursday 5K, e.g. Thursday/Friday or Friday/Saturday of the week before the race. The table on the left illustrates how this schedule would look.

So I started out doing just that: I would do hill repeats on Cat Hill (at first just 6 but building up by adding 1 or 2 repeats each time) and the next day intervals at the East 6th Street track (at first 200s with the same number of intervals as I did hills).

I was very tired after the 2nd day but I felt it was the "good" tired you get after you do a tough workout.

  Date Note
VCTC 5K #1 May 26st  
NYCRuns 5K May 30th Race: Roosevelt Island
VCTC 5K #2 June 9th  
Speed workout June 16th Day 1: hills, Day 2: intervals
VCTC 5K #3 June 23rd  
Speed workout June 26st Day 1: hills, Day 2: intervals
VCTC 2x2 Relay July 7th  
NYCRuns 5K July 17th Race: Roosevelt Island
VCTC 5K #5 July 21st  
Club Team Race July 30th Race Central Park
VCTC 5K #6 Aug. 4th  
Brooklyn Mile Aug. 14th Race: Brooklyn
VCTC 5K #7 Aug. 18th  
NYCRuns 5K Aug. 20th Race: Governors Island

Oops! more races

But by the 2nd cycle of this routine, I realized that I had registered for a number of NYCRuns 5Ks, which happen usually on one of the weekends between the Van Cortland park 5Ks. See the table on the right. So some weeks I had to squeeze my double workouts in between the races, losing the valuable recovery time, and sometimes I had to do just a single workout, or none at all.

It's clear from the table that I was mostly going from race to hot and humid race without much in the way of training workouts between.

Just go with the flow

By the end of June I realized that I was trying to do too many things at once. And since I had no control over the heat or humidity, I just settled on doing whatever training workouts I could fit in without compromising the needed recovery period, and just wait for Fall to arrive with cooler weather and a much more reasonable race schedule. And that's where we are now, September 22, the first day of Fall.

Summer summary

The table below shows the results of the summer giving finishing times and age group awards. Although the times did not improve over the summer there was lots of fun races and good times.

The first photo shows me with my daughter Susan and my friend Susan at the VCTC 5K #2. This was actually my best finishing time at Van Cortland for the whole summer season and it was certainly a delight to have my daughter run one of these races during her visit to New York. Click for .

  Date Finish
VCTC 5K #1
Van Cortland Park
May 26st 32:22 2nd 70+
NYCRuns 5K
Roosevelt Island
May 30th 28:42 2nd 70+
VCTC 5K #2
Van Cortland Park
June 9th 30:59 2nd 70+
VCTC 5K #3
Van Cortland Park
June 23rd 32:02 3rd 70+
VCTC 2x2 Relay
Van Cortland Park
July 7th Best costume award
NYCRuns 5K
Shore Road, Brooklyn
July 17th 28:49 1st 70+
VCTC 5K #5
Van Cortland Park
July 21st missed start
35:36 2nd 70+
Club Team Race
Central Park
July 30th 51:19
VCTC 5K #6
Van Cortland Park
Aug. 4th 31:57 3rd 70+
Summer Streets Run
Central Park to Brooklyn
Aug. 6th Ice Cream
Brooklyn Mile
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Aug. 14th 8:37 2nd 70+
VCTC 5K #7
Van Cortland Park
Aug. 18th 32:36 3rd 70+
NYCRuns 5K
Governors Island
Aug. 20th 29:56 1st 70+
NYCRuns 5K
Roosevelt Island
Sept. 5th 28:40 2nd 70+

The next photo shows Heidi and me at the 2x2 mile cross country relay. We won the best costume award, and as far as our race time is concerned, you don't want to know.

It was lots of fun throwing those costumes together from odds and ends and thanks to Heidi, we looked pretty darn good. We won the costume contest (based on audience applause) in a landslide.

On July 17th I took the subway out to Bay Ridge Brooklyn for the Shore Road 5K. Unfortunately I got off at the wrong stop and had to walk about ¾ mile to get to the start. Luckily I was in time to get my bib and warm up a little. But cooling off would have been better than warming up – It was bright sunshine, temperatures in the high 80°s and no shade. The 5K and 10K started together but the 10Kers had to do two out-and-backs vs. one for us. I managed a reasonably good race and went home with a 1st in the 70+ age group award. Click for .

Late July was miserable – I missed the start due to slow subways in VCTC 5K #5 and lost about 2 or 3 minutes as I spent the race trying to catch up with the back of the pack and the July 30th Club Team 5 miler in Central Park was a death march in extreme heat and humidity. VCTC 5K #6 was not much better but then came the August 14th Summer Streets Run. This is when they shut down Park Avenue and walkers, runners and bikers go down to the Brooklyn Bridge (or up the other way). I met the Flyers at 23rd Street and when we got to the bridge, we crossed over and ran through the recently built Brooklyn Bridge Park to the Ample Hills ice cream shop. Ice cream is the 2nd best thing (after beer) to enjoy after a long hot run. Click for .

Then came the August 14th Inaugural Brooklyn Mile sponsored by the Brooklyn Running Shop in Williamsburg. I had never run a 1 mile race in all my many, many miles of running so this would be a first.

Coach Joe gave me some hints on this kind of race and it amounted to turnover and pacing. We calculated a target pace based on recent race (it was 8:36), and he laid out how to train with some intervals, how to warm up, etc. Well, the horn went off and I went out too fast by about 10 seconds for the 1st quarter. I slowed down down a bit but it was difficult since I had already "shot my wad" so-to-speak. Luckily the last quarter was slightly down hill so I came in at 8:37 and I was 2nd in the 70+ age group. Click for .

But it was almost an embarrassment to recall that in my 1992 Grandma's Marathon (see and ) where I first qualified for Boston, I RAN THE WHOLE DAMN 26.2 MILES OF THE MARATHON AT UNDER AN 8 MINUTE PACE! I know, I know, that was 24 years ago and age takes it's toll, but, but still ...

Moving right along, the last VCTC 5K of the summer was rather more fun than usual, if not faster. Pei and Luiza from the Thursday night Flyers Group Run came up and ran the 5K. It's always nicer when there are friends and teammates there at a race. They give you encouragement and can join you at a post race get-together and of course join you on the long subway ride back to the city. Click for .

On the other hand, the last two races of the summer, the August 20th "Governors Island 5K" and the September 5th "Labor Day 5K" did get faster, if only slightly.

I took the 7:30 ferry to Governor's Island with an absolute horde of runners. Due to some strategic planning, I was the first to get to the port-o-sans and had a chance to scout out the area. I had been to the island about 6 or 7 years ago when the Coast Guard gave it to the City but a lot had been done since. The race was well organized, as usual, by NYCRuns and went off as planned, if a few minutes late starting. It turns out they had only an hour to set up before the runners arrived.

The route was basically a clockwise circuit of the Island. Views were great in all directions although there was not much shade. But the weather was better than it had been for weeks and I had a credible race, just breaking 30 minutes, and 1st in the 70+ age group. I should note that this race was only 2 days after the last VCTC 5K and just under week after the Brooklyn Mile. Click for .

The September 5th Labor Day 5K on Roosevelt Island had even better weather and I achieved, if ever so slightly, my best time this year on the Roosevelt Island course, a 28:40.

As usual I took a cab at 7:00 to the Roosevelt Island Tramway stop at 59th and Second Avenue and I was at the race site on Roosevelt Island by around 7:40. I felt good in the race but in retrospect I should have pushed the 2nd mile harder. My 28:40 was satisfying, but remembering the 28:42 in late May before the summer weather kicked in, I knew I was back to just about where I started. Of course placing 2nd in the 70+ age group (out of 6) felt good. Click for .

After the race, I took the tram back to Manhattan and the bus uptown to meet up with my friend Susan who had just gotten back from a 6 week visit to Switzerland and France where she did some alpine races in one of the most beautiful spots in the world.

We had a nice walk around Randall's Island and ended at Earl's Beer and Cheese for a couple of cold ones. And what better way to end a long hot summer than that!

Fall Arrives

Fall arrived today and on Sunday I'll be back to Roosevelt Island with hopefully some new faster results. I did a solid interval workout yesterday and a tempo run last week so it's time to move into a productive Fall season.

Run as One 4 Miler – April 24, 2016

April 24th: Run as One 4 Miler – Central Park

n my posts for my last 2 races (the Washington D.C. Cherry Blossom and the VCTC Urban Environmental Challenge) I had to learn how to spell "Disappointment" (it's one "S" and two "P"s). This time there was no disappointment no matter how you spell it! We'll get there shortly.

I haven't run an NYRR race for almost two years. Too crowded was my main complaint although some might say too expensive as well. Luckily the senior price is not so bad but too crowded would be pretty much right on. To make a comparison, my last race on Roosevelt Island (the Spring Fling, see below) had 532 finishers in the 5K and 574 in the 10K that started an hour later (after I had left), for a total of 1106. It took me 7 seconds to get to the starting line. This race in Central Park had 8,074 finishers and it took me about 10 minutes to get to the starting line!

But ... it was very well managed and I have no complaints. The NYRR does a pretty darn good job week after week, given the popularity of their races. And the newly implemented wave starts worked well, and is a case-in-point of where they have improved the manner of putting on a race with a large turnout in a small space. In short, it was a good race. And the weather could not have been more perfect. A sunny but chilly day (the temperature at the start was 47°) in a beautifull Park.

The course — the Central Park inner 4 mile loop — is not easy. Mile one is basically Cat Hill and mile three passes over the rolling hills on the West Drive. Check this out:

  Split Note
Mile 1 9:25 Cat Hill
Mile 2 9:06 A few small bumps
Mile 3 9:28 West Side Hills
Mile 4 8:38 Downhill
Finish 36:379:09 pace
My pace shows this exactly: 9:25 and 9:28 for miles 1 and 3, and 9:06 and 8:38 for miles 2 and 4. Boy, I really pushed the last, mostly down hill mile and I surprised myself with a sub 9:00 pace for that mile. I could not have been more pleased with my time. I was hoping to break 38 minutes (a 9:30 pace) but I actually broke 37 minutes with a time of 36:37 (overall 9:09 pace). And get this: I was 8th out of 32 in my age group (70-74). There was no, repeat no disappointment today. And crowded the course was not, although a little weaving between and around slower runners here and there was needed.

After the race I met up with my running friend Susan and we visited the zoo. I just wanted to stay in and enjoy the park, although my shorts and singlet, with a barely adequate tyvek jacket, were not enough to keep me from getting cold now that I was walking, not running. So I reluctantly hopped on the No. 6 train and here I am, home again after a great day.

A One Day Trip to the 2016 Boston Marathon – April 18, 2016

April 18th: A One Day Trip to the 2016 Boston Marathon

he week before the Boston Marathon was a very busy one for me. On Tuesday I had two doctors appointments, on Wednesday I went to a special opening of an exhibit of the New Yorker's cartoonist Roz Chast at the Museum of the City of New York (see ), Thursday was the long postponed Central Park Conservancy tour of the newly discovered Randel survey markers in Central Park, in which I played a major role (see for my account of that story), Friday I had to frantically finish my taxes by the deadline, and finally on Saturday, I went for a run to the NY Botanical Garden with my friend Terry to see the Orchid Show before it closed the next day (see below, previous post) and Sunday was a day of rest.

I had decided months ago that this year I would not make my annual pilgrtimage to watch — or untill recently run — in that iconic race. But Friday morning I got the impulse to go just for Monday, race day. Luckily I found cheap tickets ($36 round trip) on the first Bolt Bus to Boston on Monday and the first one back on Tuesday, and managed to get a cheap (around $80) last-minute reservation at the HI Boston Hostel in down town Boston. I arrived in Boston around 11:00, checked in to the Hostel, took the "T" out to Newton and joined Ed Altman's Flyers Cheering Section around noon. I missed the elite runners and the very fastest Flyers, but managed to see most of the other Flyers plus about a gazillion other runners, mostly unknown to me. I even got to say hello to my running partner Susan for 3 seconds as she zoomed by. For lots more Flyers Boston Marathon photos see this: .

After the bulk of the Flyers had passed, I walked back to the "T" station and took the trolley back to Boston to Kenmore Square. That's about a mile from the finish and it's where a YUGE throng of marathon spectators meet up with an equally YUGE throng of Red Sox fans exiting from nearby Fenway Park from the marathon day noontime ballgame (they lost to the Blue Jays, 4 to 3).

I fought my way down Commonwealth Avenue to the overpass known as Charles Gate and saw many of the same runners, including Susan, pass by under the overpass (I had leap-frogged them all, ala Rosie Ruiz, on the "T"). Later, exhausted, I met up with Susan who was also staying at the same hostel. She, not surprsingly, was much more exhausted, so I said "Wanna just go next door to the bar we had found the other time" (that was in 2014 when I ran my .) She said "sure".

What can I say — a bar is a bar (but this is a very historic one, see this: ). We had beers and some food, got back to the hostel and both conked. Here we are at Jacob Wirth's:

Then the next morning it was off to South Station to get the 8:30 Bolt Bus to New York. To add a little drama, we stopped mid way along the Mass Pike to pick up some stranded pasengers from another bus that had broken down. We could only fit about half of them in our bus so I hope the rest of them aren't stll there! Then by 12:45, on time, I was back in good old New York City. And that's how you do Boston in a day!

A Run from Highbridge Park to the NY Botanical Garden – April 16, 2016

April 16th: A Run from Highbridge Park to the NY Botanical Garden

ast Saturday I did a short (short as in 4.5 miles) long run with my friend Terry. We both had been very busy lately and wanted to keep it short. For my part I had just decided the day before to go up to Boston the following Monday to watch the Boston Marathon. We both wanted to go to the New York Botanical Garden to take in the Orchid Show which was closing the next day. I also wanted to take Terry over the recently restored and reopened High Bridge (see this: ) which she had not yet been over.

Getting There

 worked out a route as follows: take the C train to 155th Street and run along the Old Croton Aqueduct (aka the "OCA") through Highbridge Park and cross over to the Bronx over the High Bridge. Then get onto the West Bronx OCA which largely follows a long and narrow urban linear park (think High Line at ground level) to Kingsbridge Road. Then go east on Kingsbridge road and 194th Street to Webster Aven, and Webster to Bedford Park Bulevard: cross the tracks and you're there.


The first two photos show the Highbridge Park section of the OCA, largely dirt, and the West Bronx section, paved, and set within the linear park between the streets of the West Bronx. This later section is less well known but I recommend it. You will be delighted and surprised to see this well kept walk and bike way though this urban environment. When you get to Kingsbridge Road you'll see the immense Kingsbridge Armory across the road from the the OCA. Turn right here and head east on Kingsbridge Road.
The next section was along the streets, and although I missed the greenery and the traffic-free quietude of the OCA, this was a very alive part of the Bronx, with lots of store fronts and street vendors selling all the necessities of life. This was much more of a "right here" sense of the street as compared with the "hurry up" sense you get in much of Manhattan.

The route was straight forward: head east on Kingsbridge Road, crossing under the elevated tracks of the #4 train and then head up and across the Grand Concourse. Then keep heading east down the hill, now on 194th Street until you get to Webster Ave. Webster is, if anything, even more alive. Go left (north) on Webster with first the back side of Fordham and then the Metro North tracks across the street till you get to Bedford Park Boulevard. Take a right and cross over the tracks and you will be right across from the Botanical Garden.

For a much more thorough look at the entire route, bring up this slideshow: Route from Highbridge Park to the NY Botanical Garden.

The Botanical Garden: the Orchid Show

he is in the Bronx. That's just the way it is. Some folks call it the Bronx Botanical Garden — after all, it's right next to the Bronx Zoo — and that's OK with me. But whatever you call it, it is one of the most beautiful places in all of New York City, and I think I've seen them all. And inside the Botanical Garden you walk: no running. But walking is better since it gives you more time to look around. I get in free and can take guests since I'm retired from a bank which is a big corporate doner. If you work for some big firm, you may also get in free — just bring your business card.

This is the second visit I've taken this spring, the first was when the Orchid Show opened on February 27th when I ran there via Randals Island with Susan, and this time which was one day before the Orchid Show closed. Not surprisingly, this time it was much more crowded. This show is impossible to describe adequately, it's just beauty incarnate. The two pictures on the right are entirely inadequate. I recommend you check out my slideshow: The Orchid Show at the New York Botanical Garden

You'll also find plenty of other photos on the internet. Do a Google Image search of "ny botanical garden orchid show" — like this: and youi'll be blown away.

But don't wait till next year to plan a trip, go now, go anytime. The Orchid Show is all in one building while the whole park is 250 acres of gardens, trails, streams and forests. You could spend a week there.

When we went last Saturday, we spent about half of our time in the Orchid Show and the rest in exploring the trails and forest lands. We would have spent more time doing that but we had to catch a Metro North train to get back to the city (the station is right across from the Garden entrance). You might want to plan on your return trip by train (3 stops to Grand Central) or subway (the #4 "Lex" Express, about a half mile walk west on Bedrord Park Blvd), so bring your Metro Card or some money.

The VCTC Urban Environmental Challenge 10K Trail Race – April 10, 2016

April 10th: VCTC Urban Environmental Challenge 10K Trail Race – Van Cortlandt Park

  run a bunch of races in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, mostly in the summer when the Van Cortlandt Track Club puts on a 5K cross country race every other Thursday evening. But I consider the Urban Environmental Challenge, a 10K trail race in mid April, to be the opening day of the Van Cortlandt season. How is a trail rcae different fromn a Cross Country race? A cross country race is run on a wide, well graded gravel path, sort of like the bridle path in Central Park. A trail race is run on single track trails which are not graded and have more ups and downs, more rocks and roots to trip on and the occasional downed tree or stream to jump over or bush-whack around. So trails are slower per mile for just about any runner outside of a Gazelle. And being a 10K, normally considered a "short" race, it can be very tiring on the trails. I can attest: I was quite exhausted after this race.

It was a chilly morning when I left the house a bit after 8:00. I took the "L" over to 6th Avenue, walked the tunnel to 7th Avenue. and got on the #1 train. It got me there (242nd Street, the last stop) by about 9:10, just about when I wanted to get there. Sometimes I take the "L" to 8th Avenue and take the "A" train to 168th and intercept the #1 there. It can save about 10-15 minutes. But luckily I didn't try that on this day because for some reason the #1 was skipping 168th so transfer from the "A" train would have been impossible.

After getting my bib, meeting a bunch of friends including lots of VCTCes and lots of Flyers and taking a good number of pictures, we trudged over to the far corner of the Parade Grounds for the 10:00 o'clock start. Many of us, but not all, were wearing tights and long sleeves. It's a double loop over mostly trails with a few stretches on the cross country paths and of course the parts around the Parade Grounds. I had to walk many of the up hills and was disappointed since I though I was in better shape from the Cherry Blossom the week before (which was also a bit of a disappointment). Of course the Cherry Blossom had no hills whatsoever, so that explains a lot.

Disappointed or not, I was first (of 2) in the 70+ age group. I don't think winning an award in a very small group detracts from the honor — we showed up! So where were the other 70+ year olds?

Among those we met before or after the race were Heidi (now a VCTCer) Susan, Scott, Melissa, Dermot, Steve and Kristel (whom I managed to not see there), Both Susan and Heidi also won awards (carrot cakes for 1st, carrot muffins for 2nd or 3rd). The other 70+ year old, Nick, won a muffin for 2nd place PLUS a carrot cake for being the odest runner there! (Maybe I should have also gotten a muffin as the 2nd oldest? ).

After all was said and done, we walked up the hill to an old favorite, for a well deserved brunch. Here's a slideshow of pictures from Dermot, myself and from the Flyers Facebook page: The VCTC Urban Environmental Challenge

The 2016 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler – April 3, 2016

April 3rd: The 2016 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler

he Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in Washington D.C. is possibly the first out of town running event I ever did. I ran it in 1990 when I did the 10 miles at a 7:25 pace! Ha — those were the days. I still have the T-shirt from that race, and yes it still fits, so there! Since then I've run it in 1997, 1998, 2012 and 2013. Hardly a streak, but I keep coming back. It's a great time of year to visit D.C. and if you're lucky the cherry trees will be in full bloom. Unfortunately, this year heavy rain and winds the week before had stripped most of the blossoms away.

For me it's two trips in one: 1) to run a well managed race over a beautiful course around the Tidal Basin which lies along the shore of the Potomac and 2) to do the touristy things in a city where most of the museums are free (our taxes pay for them) and there is a good assortment of restaurants.

I took the Bolt Bus down Friday morning with my running friend Susan. We walked the distance from Union Station, which now accomodates both trains and busses. We first went to our Hostel, the , which gave me a free night since I renewed my membership. We grabbed lunch and then walked over to the National Building Museum which had the race expo and bib pickups. Meb was there speechifying but it was too crowded to get to hear him.

Then it was down to the for a quick look at one of the most beautiful places in D.C. — roughly comparable to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY. We had asked at the Hostel for some advice on restaurants and the suggested , which happened to be up the hill (past Chinatown) from the Gallery. We were very impressed by this restaurant, entirely dedicated to the legacy of Langston Hughes who, it turns out, was both a busboy and a poet during his life. It was founded during the 60s and always attracted an activist clientele. And the food was fantastic!

Saturday was our free day. In the AM we visited the , one of the few for-pay institutions in the city. It is housed in the former mansion of its founder, Duncan Phillips. When his collection got too big to fit in his house, he moved out and it became a museum open to the public. For a small museum, the quality of its collection was astonishing. We took the subway (I think the call it the "Metro") and that was not too bad even though they seem ton be getting a lot of bad press lately.

In the afternoon, we visited the National Zoo and made the obligatory visit to the Giant Pandas. They're OK. What can I say, you've seen one Giant Panda, you've seen 'em all — except the baby is smaller. Then it was the subway back and dinner at A large brewpub with a reasonable menu. Susan had a "Cherry Blossom Ale" and I had a "Prohibition Porter", Not bad.

Here's the slideshow for the touristy things we did in D.C.: Around and About Washington D.C.

Sunday was the race. I went down early (early like 7:00 AM, and it was cold). Now a word on "cold". In Washington, anything under 40° is cold, and speaking of 40°, that's about how munch the temperature dropped from Friday (high of 83°) till Sunday. More importantly it was very windy, as in 30-40 MPH. Since the route is entirely along the Potomac or the Tidal Basin, this was a big factor.

The photo of me in the slideshow shows me looking cold and wind blown. Once we got moving it wasn't so bad. After all, the Cherry Tree 10 Miler in February was more than 80° colder that Washington's Friday temperature. Brooklyn cold is much colder than Washington cold.

Here's the slideshow for the race: The 2016 Cherry Blossom 10 Miler

After the race we still had some energy so we went to the National Air and Space Museum which was quite an exhibit of historic planes from the Spirit of St. Louis to the Apollo Space Capsule. And yes, we touched the moon rock.

In my post on the Cherry Tree 10 Miler (below), I said I wanted to do better in the Cherry Blossom. Well I was about 6 minutes slower so that was a disappointment. Oh well, blame the wind. But it was still a fabulous weekend. I'd do it again.

The Spring Fling 5K – March 19, 2016

March 19th: The Spring Fling 5K

uch as I used the the February 6th Riverside Park 5K as a warm up to the Cherry Tree 10 Miler, I hoped this could be a warm up for the Cherry Blossom in D.C. coming up in 2 weeks. I hope to do a little better than my Riverside Patk 5K, although the courses are rather different and I'm not too sure how precise the distances are which can make a big difference in a short race. But it was good to get out there and although cold (low 30°s) it was no where near as cold as the Cherry Tree (0°). I had on tights and a couple of layers on top. You can see how folks are dressed in the photos and judge from that.

The race start was at 9:30 but I was taking the Tram so just to be sure I got there early. The pictures on the open field ("Firefighters Field") show how empty it was when I got there about 8:30. Much like the Riverside Park Race, I had to figure out what the hell to do for an hour. I walked and I jogged bit and I spent some time in the F train subnway station just to get out of the cold.

Finally it was race time and I bumped into Mike Ring, a long time PPTC member who was the race dierector of the (cold) Cherry Tree 10 miler and Steve Lastoe, the NYCRuns guy who was the race director of this race. The race is basically one loop around the Island and to complicate matters there was a 10K that started an hour later (after I had taken my award and left — so the second race really didn't make things crowded or congested). I kept what seemed lile a good pace, and did beat my Riverside time — but only by a few seconds.

I won the 70+ age group out of 3 runners. And after I finished I got back to Manhattan and went up to Carl Schurz Park and ran another easy 3+ miles with Susan who was recovering from something or other. We could see the 10K still going on as we looked across the river from Carl Schurz Park to Roosevelt Island. We went over to Randall's Island and then had lunch at Earls. So it was a nice low key race and a nice easy morning.

Here's the slideshow for the race, mostly getting there and hanging around (I took no pictures during the race): The Spring Fling 5K Race

The 2016 Cherry Tree 10 Miler – February 14, 2016

Feb 14th: The 2016 Cherry Tree 10 Miler

he PPTC Cherry Tree 10 Miler, a race put on every February by the Prospect Park Track Club, has always had the nickname "The Race for the Hard Core". Well, this year with temperatures between 0° and 4°, it truly was for the hard core. I had been feeling high all week since my good 5K race the weekend before, but this weekend the temperatures were forecast to be record-setting lows. Saturday was the coldest February 13th on record, and Sunday had a Central Park temperature of -1° at 6:00 AM, also a record. By race time the temperature had risen to 0° (what a relief! ) and we had bright sunshine. Several of our friends had decided to skip this one, but Susan and I decided we would soldier on and meet in the subway for the trip to Prospect Park.

The race start had been moved this year to be near the new skating rink, about a half mile further along the park road, and this was just inside the park from the Prospect Park Q train stop. At one point the MTA had scheduled a string of stations on this line for repairs to be replaced by a shuttle bus from Barclays Center. Luckily this was cancelled and the trains made their ususl stops; a shuttle bus would have been a disaster in this weather. So we decided to meet inside the Union Square subway station on the Q line platform for the 9:02 train, but although we were both there, we managed to miss each other and missed our train. We finally found each other and got the next Q, which got us to the park about 9:40. Normally this would have been cutting it close, but in this frigid weather it was fine.

We found our way to the skating rink cafe, literally packed with runners, changed into our running stuff (I had 5 layers) and waited till the very last minute before moving outside to the start. We all quickly got in the corral, but I decided to take some pictures of the start. I took 4 or 5, one of which is below (plus the title picture) but this resulted in freezing my hands since I couldn't manage the camera with my gloves on. My hands, even with fancy Nike gloves on, took me about 2 miles to warm up.

After the "gun" (actually an air horn), I stashed my camera in a pouch, walked back behind the starting line and got into the moving stream of runners. I probably crossed the starting line about 30 seconds after the "gun" (the final results gave my start delay as 35 seconds). So with 5 layers, a face mask, sunglasses and frozen fingers, I was off!
The start: The course was three loops of the park road and the start and finish were at the same point, so somehow they measured the loop to be exactly 3⅓ miles. It was USATF certified, so I'll take their word for this lucky coincidence. Unlike previous years, the start was just at the beginning of the mile long hill to the high point of the park at Grand Army Plaza. I always found this to be a tough stretch, particularly since it comes three times, but this year it seemed relatively easy. Perhaps the enforced slowing down that the temperatures and all my layers had on my pace was the reason. Whatever the reason, I didn't dread coming back to this hill twice more as I had in the past.

1st loop: As I got moving, I made a conscious effort to really ease into my pace. It was easy, easy, easy for the first half mile or so to let my muscles warm up. The last thing I needed was some kind of muscle strain due to cold-induced tightness.

I love the point in the race route where you are almost to the top of the long hill and you can see the runners across the park turning down the other side of the hill. I kept my pace strong but sustainable — but I wasn't clocking the miles. In fact there were no mile markers out at all and I had a feeling that in this weather, no one really cared. The topography on the east side of the park from Grand Army Plaza to Bartel-Prichard Square is a gradual down hill with a few dips along the way. Then we turn left and follow the loop down a slightly steeper hill, past the old finish line and finally reach the lake. I knew the skating rink was on the lake shore about half way around the lake, but still on each loop, it seemed further and further to make that last half mile. When I finished my first loop, the clock said about 33:30, so subtracting my guess of 30 seconds start delay, I was under my goal pace (to break 1:40:00 or 10 minutes per mile). I stopped for water and Gatorade and got moving again.

2nd loop: I did not dread the long hill this time and this probably helped my confidence. And surprised as I was, my hands were now too warm and my gloves were getting wet from perspiration, so I actually took off my gloves, tucked them into my wind breaker pocket, and just kept my hands inside the ends of my sleeves, where I could regulate my hand temperature by moving the tips of my fingers slightly out, or slightly inside the sleeve. I'm sure most of you have done something similar over the years.

This time around I paid more attention to the sights along the loop: the Lichfield Villa, the Picnic House, the view across the Long Meadow, the Band Shell, the Lake with the Parade Grounds across Parkside Avenue and the Peristyle (where did they get that name?). Then came that never ending half mile to the skating rink and the loop was done. This time the clock showed about 1:06:30 (66:30) so I knew I had done another loop in 33 minutes — very good pacing — but now the hard part was to sustain it for one more loop.

3rd loop: The first thing I did after passing through the finish line after the 2nd loop was to take off my wind breaker and tie it around my waist, as well as getting another drink (the only water station was here at the start/finish line). This took maybe 15-20 seconds off my time but probably helped keep my body temperature in balance for the 3rd loop. Without the wind breaker I lost some heat through evaporation, but as long as I kept plugging along I was not cold. There were however a few spots near the top of the park where the wind was fairly chilly. My pace was harder to keep and now those same landmarks became not interesting sights, but rather markers of my progress. Of course, it seemed to take longer than before to get from one to the next, but my pace was still pretty strong.

Finished: 1:39:41
Gun Time: 1:40:16
Pace: 9:58
The finish: I knew that because the start delay, my time on the clock might be a little over 1:40:00, but if it was not more than about 30 seconds over (my start delay) I would break the 10 minutes per mile target. As I crossed the finish line it was about 1:40:15, so I had made it — it was a great feeling of accomplishment. The official time is shown on the left.

But one unwelcome reappearance of and old nemesis of mine showed up in the last mile. This is numbness and eventually pain in my right forefoot that sets in after a certain number of miles in my runs — the exact point may vary from 5 to 10 miles into a run. This time it started to bother me by about mile 9, and by the finish it was actually hurting my foot, but not to the extent of slowing me down. Let's just say this was one more reason to be very glad to cross the finish line. And as is usually the case, the numbness / pain subsided a few minutes after I stopped running.

I spent a few minutes at the finish line and I soon heard a voice "Papa Bear". It was Heidi who had just finished a few minutes after me, and about a minute after Heidi, there was Susan. All of us felt it was a great day and a great race and much (but not all) of the hype about the low temperatures ("Polar Vortex!", "-30° wind chills!") was unwarranted. In fact both Heidi and Susan said they have had worse times out skiing.

I could not stay long out there in the cold so I said I would meet them in the skating rink cafe where we had changed. I stopped at the van on the way and asked the timing guy about our age group places. I found I was first in the 70+ group and Susan was 2nd in the 60-64 group. Good news all around.

I got back inside, picked up my age group award and bumped into a few folks I knew, such as this group enjoying the warmth: But it turns out I was waiting in the wrong spot to meet Heidi and Susan. I had inadvertently gone not to where we had changed before the race, but to another spot one door away. So I had managed to not meet Susan at a rendezvous both before and after the race!

But reunited again, we shivered our way to the Q train and about a half hour later said our good byes at the Union Square station. BUT before parting company, we chose a bench where some folks were sitting next to the stairs down to the Q train, and agreed THAT is where we'll meet next time. Now, if we can just manage to remember that when the next time comes along.

That night I got my final results from the NYCRUNS online site:

  Rank Split Pace
1st Lap 343 32:59 9:54
2nd Lap 334 33:03 9:55
3rd Lap 330 33:38 10:06
Finish 330 1:39:419:58
The splits certainly were pretty even but with a falling off for the 3rd loop. But on each loop I passed a number of other runners. Given the temperatures and other delays, I had certainly met my goal for this race, and then some.

So what's my next target race? The Cherry Blossom 10 Miler in Washington DC on April 3rd. And the target pace? To do better than this one, but of course.

The Riverside Park 5K – Feburary 6, 2016

Feb 6th: The Riverside Park 5K

aturday, February 6th was the date of the NYCRUNS Cocoa Classic Riverside Park 5K, my first race in months and a "warm up" for the PPTC Cherry tree 10 Miler the following Sunday. If the date "February 6th" sounds familiar, it should. It was the day I got up at friggin 5:30 AM, went down to the East River and got those great pictures of Venus, Mercury and the crescent moon in the cold pre-dawn February 6th sky. In fact you may have just read that post. The success of that venture, set me up for a "double" if this race also turned out well. Read on ...

After returning from my astronomic adventure, and quickly looking through the NY Times over coffee, I actually took a nap AND IT WAS ONLY 7:30 IN THE MORNING. But that gave me a little extra energy as down I went for the L train about 8:30, then connected to the #1 train at 14th Street and got off at 103rd Street. After a short walk I got to the race HQ in Riverside Park a little past 9:00. I got my number and visited the facilities and then said to my self "So now what the hell do I do for the next hour?" It was cold, but it was 9:00 AM cold, not 6:00 AM cold. I scouted out the race route and it turned out to be different from the summer Riverside Park 5K route I've done numerous times, but I was not sure what the differences were. Then I bumped into Flyers Jodie and Peter. They said John was also here and was scouting out some icy spots along the route.

I still wasn't sure if we would even run over those spots. The NYCRUN's guy said it was the "long route", but I didn't know what that meant. In the end, it wasn't a big deal: the first mile or so was the same as the summer route (up the big hill and along the top of the park), then it veered down towards the Hudson around 100th Street and went down to about 92nd Street where it turned around and snaked back to rejoin the old route, but skipped the last big hill. And yes there were 2 or 3 icy spots which maybe added a good part of a minute to my time.

We all got a good start and I took it really easy up the big hill and then settled into a good pace. The first icy spot was about a quarter mile past the hill and I had to walk around it. Then when we got to the part along the Hudson, there was another bad spot just after the turn-around and maybe one more spot later. The finish was easier — no repeat of the big hill — and I finished well. I was just a smidgeon over 29 minutes, but that was actually faster than any of my Riverside Park 5Ks I did last summer. The icy spots and the difficulty of running in cold weather means that it was by far the best Riverside 5K I'd done in several years. I got an age group award — and so did the other Flyers (hint: next time you should come out for one of these smaller races).

Final result: 29:05 9:23/mile 1st in the 70+ age group. And what is more I had a "double" for the day! Was I ready for my target race the following Sunday? Bring it on!

A Conjunction of Mercury, Venus and the Crescent Moon – February 6, 2016

Feb 6th: A Conjunction of Mercury, Venus and the Crescent Moon

his story is a pleasant interruption to my training. In late January I saw an article online in the NY Times that one could see the five classical planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) in the pre-dawn sky. So I went out on Monday, the 18th and I could easily see 4 out of 5, using the diagram in the times, but no Mercury. I really had no way to know exactly were to look, and the horizon was getting too light. Here's a couple of shots showing Venus but no Mercury. (BTW: if you study the photos with a magnifying glass you can actually spot Mercury in these shots, particularly the first. But I certainly could not see it with my naked eyes that morning. See this: and even this: .)

I tried again on Friday the 22nd with no more luck and it started snowing that evening and didn't stop till Sunday — it was the January Blizzard of 2016. I tried again the next Monday the 25th, but it was quite a chore to wade through the snow drifts to get to the East River prominade and it was cold so I gave up. The weather was bad most of that week but on Tuesday, February 2nd, it was clear and the snow drifts were gone, so I gave it another try. But still just the 4 regulars (Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and Venus from west to east).

But I did notice that the moon was slowly approaching the sun from the west and getting thinner and thinner every day. So I Googled "Conjunction moon Mercury" and came upon this site: . The New Moon would be Feb. 8th and on Saturday the 6th everything would come together in what is known as a "conjunction". The forecast was for clear skies, and the crescent moon would be right above Mercury, which would be near its "greatest western elongation" (furthest from the sun — check the link). So Feb 6th was my target date. If I couldn't spot Mercury then, I never could.

On that Saturday morning I got up at 5:30 and out there about 5:45 AM; the sky was crystal clear; Jupiter, Mars and Saturn were in their appointed places; the crescent moon complete with "Earthshine" (huh? Google it) and Venus made a beautiful pair — and Paydirt!, there was Mercury, clear as day, under the moon. I got lots of pictures but the four below are probably the best. The sky was really getting bright for the last one but you can still make out Mercury. If you note the times, you will realize how quickly the sky was getting brighter.

Hint: You really need to click on these pictures to get the full size version in order to see Mercury. But I really did see it with my naked eyes for the first time in about 40 years. And as you can see, I was playing tag with the high-rise condos in Williamsburg across the East River as I walked along the promenade in the East River Park and framed these shots. But I must point out it was freezing cold the whole time. Don't you just love it when a plan comes together ?

Training: Getting Back Into Shape

December 2015 - January 2016: Training – Getting Back Into Shape

he summer of 2015 was rather disappointing from the point of view of my running. I did the same two sets of 5Ks in alternate weeks, one set in Van Cortlandt Park on alternate Thursday evenings and the other set in Riverside Park on alternate Wednesdays. But the times were consistently slower than the previous couple of years and I just didn't have the drive. Now you might say "Hey, you're just getting older dude!" Yes, I'm well aware of getting slower with age, especially upon entering the 70+ age group, but it was more than that. The big factor was that 2015 was the first year since 2011 when I did not run a marathon. And I was coasting, as it were, on 3 days a week of training. My mileage base was just not enough. It was time to ratchet things up a notch: add another day, do some cross training and increase my mileage.

So in November just after the NYC marathon, I wrote down a weekly schedule:

Weekly Training Schedule
Day Training  
Monday Medium Run 6 miles
Tuesday Gym Workout  
WednesdayTempo Run 2 + 1 + 2 miles
Thursday Easy Run 4 - 5 miles
Friday Pool Workout  
Saturday Long Run 7 - 10 miles
Sunday – day of rest – 
This gave me 4 days of running and two days of cross training and the mileage ranges from about 20 to 25 miles per week. This is hardly heroic, and is well below the level of marathon training, but it would give me more consistency and with the combination of the tempo run and the long run, would help with both speed and endurance. What's a tempo run? It starts and ends as an easy run, but in the middle you run fast, like at a 10K pace. So "2 + 1 +2" means 2 miles easy, 1 mile fast and 2 miles easy.

So how am I doing? Well, adding the 4th day of running was probably the most important, even if the mileage was low. And I didn't change my Wednesday run to a tempo run till sometime in December. And of course, once in a while I'd skip some planned workout due to weather or a schedule conflict. The Thursday run was originally done in Central Park with Melissa, but that became tougher as the weather got colder and the days grew shorter, so by January, those 5:00 PM evening runs became mid day runs. By and large the schedule was quite doable, and (as I had hoped) it gradually became easier.

And lest I forget, I religiously did an exercise routine EVERY morning after breakfast. This consisted of a thorough workout with the "stick" on my legs, dynamic stretches of the main muscle groups (hamstrings, quads, adductors, hip flexors and both kinds of calf muscles), foot drills and a stair climb to my apartment (elevator down, climb up stairs 8 floors). This took about 30 minutes and I didn't skip it come hell or high water (which did come a few times ).

But in addition to getting my training in good order, I picked a target race in which I hoped to do better than last year. That race was the Cherry Tree 10 miler held in early February in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, and I had just over 2 months to get ready. Last year I did a 1:40:33 (10:03 pace) and that, I would beat!

As most of my runs (3 out of 4) were down along the East River and back, things got a bit boring. So I worked out several alternate routes back, basically veering west from the river and returning through various parts of the East Village. Here's a few maps — if you live near me (Stuyvesant Town) you might try these and add some variety. And you'll discover Tompkins Square Park, a largely ignored gem of a park in just great shape! The maps show routes going along side of it, but in actuality I went through the park whenever I had the chance.