I  ran the on May 20th and so I closed my MiniBlog (aka, my Blog within a Blog) . The next long-term goal was the Boston Marathon that I would be running in April 2013. I decided I would "officially" start my training for Boston on Thanksgiving 2012, which would give me 5 months of training for Boston. This MiniBlog will focus on an off-season, in-between time of my running and training, a time to relax and enjoy things — both running and everything else.

November 4: Not the New York City Marathon

On Marathon Sunday, there was no marathon due to the storm. So our club organized two events: 1) a day spent in hard hit Staten Island and the Rockaways distributing much needed supplies and materials to the hurrican victims (click ) and 2) a "fun run" in Central Park. So I went up to the park with my running partner, who happend to have just sustained a broken arm and would make this a "fun walk". It was a cool (mid to upper 40°s) sunny day — perfect fall running weather.

I expected to find 20 or 30 fellow Flyers there at the meeting spot. Well, there were 20 or 30 Flyers there but there were also 5 or 10 THOUSAND other runners from everywhere from the Bronx to Argentina — all having the greatest time. It was astonishing: no police, no park personell, no fences keeping spectators back — no nothing! Folks on the side were ringing cow bells, they were waving signs and flags, they had set up imprompto water stops and the runners were running every which way: clockwise (down the east side, up the west), counter-clockwise, on the bridle path, everywhere.

There were big and little groups: French runners all dressed in blue, Italians, Spaniards, Argentines, Aftricans, Chileans and thousands wearing their race shirts and numbers. There were wives and husbands and children running with "their" runner. And they all had the same idea — let's do our own version of the marathon. Some called it the "Sandy Marathon", some called it the "Run Anyway Marathon" or the "Peoples Marathon" but most didn't know (or care) what to call it. It was organized, if you can use that word, by word of mouth, notes on hotel room doors, text messages, FaceBook posts, you name it — it was grass roots all the way. And I'm not the only one who felt this was one of the most moving things I've ever seen in Central Park.

I did about 9 miles and I only saw two security guards the whole time. They were at the marathon finish just trying to keep things moving. The finish line was absolute bedlam with folks taking pictures, hanging medals on the Fred Lebow statue and just shouting for Joy. Many of the runners there had started early and done more than 4 loops of the park to cover the full marathon distance. And there was NOT ONE "official" telling anyone what to do or what not to do! I didn't bring my camera — who knew — but I found lots of photos on the web. Just Google "peoples marathon central park" and click on "images" and you'll see.

After running, and racing, and walking, and bird watching, and attending concerts, and doing and seeing just about erything else in Central Park for almost 50 years, this was a first — I was astounded!

October 25: Escape from New York

Several months ago we had planed a trip to Portland Oregon to visit our daughter Susan. September and October were the best months weather-wise and other constraints pushed the date back to the last weekend in October. We would make it a 4 day weekend, arriving late Thursday night and returning late Monday, arriving back in JFK Tuesday morning. When we left Thursday evening, Hurricane Sandy was on the radar but we figured it would be another bust in the city, like last year's Irene.

It turns out that was a very lucky plan, since if we had not left, we would have been in big trouble, with no electricity (or elevators), heat or hot water for much of a week. We escaped, but by luck, not planning.

Although it's the rainy season in Portland — it rained part or all of every day — we had a great 4 days with our daughter. On the outdoor side of things, she and I did a hike on Saturday through Forest Park (click , and ) — the 12 mile long , heavily forested park which sits on the northeast side of the ridge in Portland, west of the Willamette — and I ran a similar route on Monday.

Forest Park: Great Trails through a Beautiful Forest

Forest park is nothing less than a gem. Think of a city park, six times the size of Central Park, laid out on a long steep ridge, covered by a mature forest of Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock and Red Cedar, criss-crossed by tumbling streams, with over 70 miles of trails, and all a short bicycle ride from Portland's down town.

There are two major venues in Forest park: a largely level dirt road known as Leif Ericson Drive which goes up through the park to the northwestern end of Portland. You will see runners, walkers and bikers along this route pretty much any time of day. It was originally built as part of a development which never came to pass. Lots had been laid out and sold, but an the saying goes, landslides and high taxes saved the area from development. It weaves in and out around each ridge and stream along it's whole length. It's actually a marvelious piece of engineering, considering the terrain.

The other venues are the trails. There are just trails and trails and trails. The longest is the Wildwood Trail which parallels the Drive further up the slope. But "parallel" is loosely used since there are so many wiggles and ups and downs that it's just incredible. Bikes are not allowed on most of the trails.

NOTE: some of the photos were taken earlier in the year so the foliage may appear greener than when we did our hike and run.

My route was to go up the Lower MacLeay Trail along Balch Creek to the Stone House (about 2 miles), then follow the Wildwood Trail north to the Wild Cherry Trail (about another 2 miles) then take this short connector down to Leif Ericson Drive, and then take this out of the park and follow the city streets back to my daughter's place. Total: a very pleasurable (but tough) 6 miles.

To add a few details, the Lower MacLeay Trail, which follows the creek upstream, is a fairly easy, gently rising trail which is actually wheelchair accessible in it's lower section. We followed this up to an old stone structure called (which is the ruin of an old restroom) where the Wildwood Trail joined the Lower MacLeay Trail. This is another story. There are plenty of ups and downs and it traverses a very wild and remote section of the park. Bikes are not allowed and it is strenuous enough to keep most Sunday walkers away. It is simply beautiful. The Wild Cherry Trail is a quick downhill juant. Justy be careful you don't do a face plant — it is rather steep. And lastly Leif Ericson Drive, of which I only did about .5 miles on this particular route — it is well travelled and easy. If you want more details start with the web sites linked above. Better still, go there and explore. You won't regret it!

Getting back to the East Coast

Getting back home took some luck and a lot of work. By mid day Sunday it was clear we couldn't get into New York on our Monday night redeye. On Monday I spent a good deal of effort on the computer and phone to rebook our flight, to no avail. Then at my daughter's suggestion, we went out to the airport to work with one of the JetBlue agents. This was a great idea — all fights to New York had been cancelled and there were only a few customers at the airport. We were still optimistic about conditions, so we managed to get a Seattle flight to JFK the following night — the flight from Portland was full. On Tuesday morning, when saw the New York conditions, we knew that flight would also be cancelled. So we went back to the airport and managed to get a Seattle to Boston flight for that night. My son lives in the Boston area and he put out the welcome mat. And thanks to Mike, the JetBlue agent, we got extra leg room seats in the 3rd row at no extra cost. In fact, JetBlue charged no rebooking fees at all during this emergency.

We got picked up Wednesday morning at Logan and sat tight foe 3 days at my son's while we watched the TV as power was slowly turned on in lower Manhattan. Con Edison finally turned our neighborhood's power on late Friday so I reserved a seat on the 8:30 AM Saturday Bolt Bus. Meanwhile the Marathon got cancelled at the last minute. When I got home the power was on in half of our apartment. On Saturday night the rest went on, and on Sunday the elevators started working. Finally, when the heat came on mid day Monday, I called my wife and she got a seat on the 11:30 AM Bolt Bus on Tuesday. I met the Bolt Bus, we made our way home and voted and we had supper at home just 10 days after we left. It's good to be home!

October 20: Running to Brunch in Greenpoint: Reprise (8 Miles)

After last weekend's tough trail half-marathon, I was looking for an easy run, preferably to a nice place for brunch. Melissa was in town and was looking for something similar, so we picked a place and a route and we were off around 8:30. Earlier in this blog (), I related a run where Melissa and I were searching for the ideal bunch spot in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and putting in a few extra miles to find it. Today, we knew just where we wanted to go and enjoyed a great run (although a bit foggy at the start) and a scrumptious brunch at . We highly recommend this spot so put it on your "A" list of running destinations. We also approached it from Williamsburg so we got to go over a different East River Bridge, always a nice thing to do.

We headed over to the river and crossed the FDR on the 78th Street pedestrian overpass (see photo below). It was a bit foggy so that even the Queensboro Bridge, only a mile south, was a bit hard to make out. The promenade along the river here is quite pleasant, with just a few other runners and nary a bike out. We took the off-ramp at 60th Street (not to be confused by the pedestrian overpass at 63rd Street) and headed down Sutton Place and First Avenue since there was no promenade here till past the UN.

The streets were quiet so this was not a bad substitute for the river views. And the UN is always nice to see. At 37th Street we headed back to the river and made our way through and around several parking lots, a heliport and the huge Waterside Plaza condos. Finally at 23rd Street, we got to good old Stuyvesant Cove Park (aka my wife's park), an oasis on the East River. I love the little paths that go through the trees on super soft ground.

Just a bit further south, w saw a fisherman and his young daughter with the biggest fish I had ever seen caught in the river. He said it was a blue fish and he was rather proud. Check the photo.

Next we headed down the East River Park which goes all the way down to the Seaport. We opted for the inside pathway rather than the river pathway since the sun was getting pretty strong and we preferred the shade. The Williamsburg bridge soon loomed up above us and we crossed the FDR and headed up along side the bridge to get to the entrance point for the bridge. This is one of four major bridges across the East River — the Brooklyn Bridge (1883), the Manhattan Bridge (1909), The Williamsburg Bridge (1903) and the Queensboro (aka 59th Street aka Ed Koch) Bridge (1909) — and they are all great to run (or walk, or bike) over and they each have unique and interesting features. Do them all!

But today we were just doing this one. There were nice views of the East River Park as it turns to the west on the Manhattan side, and of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and the two lower bridges (Manhattan and Brooklyn) which were visible from the Brooklyn side (BTW: these are the BEST views of these two bridges, one behind the other, that you will find anywhere! See .)

Once over the bridge, we headed north through Williamsburg, itself a mecca for trendy eating spots, then up through McCarran Park to its northwest corner. And there diagonally across Bedford Avenue was our goal, the Five Leaves Cafe. There is almost always a line waiting for a table here, but today we were lucky to get seated inside (which we preferred) right away. We got there about 10:15. By 11:00, when we were finished, there was a good sized line of people waiting. You have been warned!

Brunch at Five Leaves in Greenpoint

The rest was good food, good drinks, good ambiance, an easy walk back to the subway (the L train at Bedford and North 7th in Williamsburg) and one stop later I was home. You can't beat that for a long run! And for those who just want to know, the run was just about 8 miles.

October 14: The Paine to Pain Trail Half-Marathon

Friday, October 12th, was my 70th birthday. Yes, 70! At one time it was almost scary to say that number, but not anymore. I'm on track, moving along and doing fine — after all, that is what this blog is all about.

My son Peter came down for the weekend and together with my wife Joy, we had a nice quiet celebration at a fine local restaurant. But Sunday had been reserved months before for my birthday race, the first in my new age group. And I made sure it was the kind of race I have grown to love over the last decade or so: a true small town race held in beautiful environs. And even better, it was close by, a mere 35 minutes by car on a traffic-free Sunday Morning. Here's the web page: . This was the fifth running of the race, but if you read through the history of the race on the web site, you'll see establishing the race was a labor of love stretching back over a decade.

I'm especially impressed by a couple of sentences from this history: "On May 18, 2008, 20+ runners met at the Thomas Paine Cottage in New Rochelle and had a “soft opening” of the trail. In a June meeting of local officials, an official dedication date was set for September 28th. Our little running club had three months to put together a half-marathon trail race that no one had ever heard of on a trail system that had not previously existed.

And on September 28th we did just that, with the help of dozens of volunteers and the assistance of the local municipalities. Despite several days of inclement weather, 50 hearty souls toed the start line at the base of Broadview Avenue in New Rochelle. And with a gunshot from a colonial musket, we started down the trail to what we hope will grow into a signature event for the County of Westchester.
" And it did!

The race is a true trail race, mostly on one-track trails and is laid out over town and county parks in New Rochelle (the start and finish), Mamaroneck, Scarsdale and Eastchester. There's a few sections on roads, mainly to get on and off the route and to connect the segments together. Considering these upscale towns, which epitomize suburban living, you might ask "where would you find 12 or 13 miles of trails in that area?" Well, you can. Look at the following map (click for the full size map):

We got to the start area near the Thomas Paine Cottage in New Rochelle a little before 8:00 AM and got a good parking spot in the lower parking lot off of North Avenue. The sky was cloudy with just a hint of sprinkles and with temperatures in the 60°s — perfect running weather! Peter and I walked over and I picked up my stuff at the registration table. As we walked back to the car, I met up with Gabby, an old friend whom I had not seen in years. We both reminisced about the 2000 Vermont City Marathon where she qualified for Boston. I ran the last 5 miles with her to give her encouragement ("Am I going to make it?" "YES", "Can I slow down?" NO!). I ditched my extra clothes in the car and took a brisk walk of about a mile along the park on North Avenue. It never ceases to amaze me how awesome the New Rochelle High School is, seen across that lake. They certainly don't have high schools like that where I come from.

The race start was in waves, which means the runners were divided into groups of a little over 200 runners each. The waves went off at 5 minute intervals, and yes, the starting gun was really a colonial musket! I was in wave 2. Using waves reduces congestion, important at the start and even more so on the trails. Along with me and Gabby, Tim was also in wave 2 so we started together. The other member of the Flyers, Deanna, was in wave 1. I thought she had a shot a winning the race so she belonged in the front.

The starting musket went off at 9:05, exactly on time and we all headed up Broadview Avenue. This is a long hill which rises about 100 feet in a half mile and is ideal for spreading out the pack. The worst thing they could do would be to dump the whole throng onto the trail at the start. Soon after we crested the hill we hit the trail. This first trail section goes through a long linear park (I've read it was destined to become a highway but that plan was scrapped). There's about 3 miles of rocky ups and downs interspersed with boggy areas bridged by long sinewy "cat walks". This is the most technical section of the route. Don't trip!

Next came the steepest section. A short road section with an 8% grade (or so I'm told)! Then, after a water stop, we entered the large Saxon Woods Park, partly in Mamaroneck and partly in Scarsdale. The two sections are separated by a tunnel under the Hutchinson River Parkway. This tunnel was very roughly the mid point of the race. The southern section is not too tough, but the northern section, in Scarsdale, although not as technical, is actually the hilliest section of the race. The section ends as we pass along the outskirts of a golf course.

Next comes the longest and I would say easiest portion of the race — along an overgrown bridle path which follows along the south bound lanes of the "Hutch". This is the least "wild" of any section and occasionally goes along the verge of the highway and crosses a few entrance/exit ramps. Some of the motorists were not amused. Unfortunately for myself, although the going got easier, I didn't pick up much speed as I felt pretty worn down from the prior sections of the race. The occasional walking I did on a few inclines were disheartening (although my friend Susan pointed out that occasionally walking may actually speed up your overall pace).

The last section of the race goes through two parks which contain reservoirs for some of the surrounding towns. In Eastchester it's called Twin Lakes County Park and back in New Rochelle it's called Nature Study Woods. These are quite beautiful with wooded sections and a section that follows a stream. If your legs had some power left, this is where you could really cruise. Well, mine didn't and I couldn't. I barely averted a disaster near mile 12 when I tripped and nearly fell. I staggered for about 6 or 8 steps trying to get my feet under my body, which I just barely managed. I really needed a breather there so I walked and got both my breath and wits back.

Then it was out of the park, along a short section of a city street, onto the high school track and across the finish. I surprised myself that my finish time was actually slightly better than when I ran the race 2 years ago. What with my walking and my near fall, to say nothing of the fact that I was less well trained, I hardly expected that.

My finish time was 2:14:17, which got me 2nd place in the 60+ year old group. 60+ year old group? What happened to 70? Well, most races have few or no 70 year olds, so most just go with 60 and up. But it was an accomplishment that of the 10 men in this group, almost all in their 60s, I was second. Both the number 1 guy and the number 3 were just 60. I got a nice glass mug (and a fancy water bottle that I don't know what to do with). And I got a nice bit of recognition from the crowd when the announcer gave me the award and said "Richard is the oldest runner in the race, 70 years old".

Sure enough, Deanna was first woman overall and demolished the course record by over 7 minutes. Way to go Deanna! Meanwhile, we were all getting cold waiting around so after the final awards we were off to the car.

A word about the race folks: from the race director and the timing crew, down to the myriad volunteers, and to the New Rochelle pep squad which cheered us on, they were spectacular! You would do well to find a race with half this amount of enthusiasm and support.

My son was heading back to Massachusetts, so we had a nice lunch in the diner on North Avenue. And then Joy and I got dropped off at the train station after we said goodbye to Peter. And to complete the picture, the sky had cleared and the sun was warming us up. A great start to my new decade!

At Lunch at the Diner

And for the record books, here's a few links:


September 30: The Narrows Half-Marathon

The , along the Shore Parkway Promenade in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, was a satisfiying but a very tough workout. I had done the same course on April 28th (with the 2 loops reversed) which was near the end of my marathon training (see ). Both of these races were put on by , a local outfit that has put on a number of races in the New York area over the last several years and consistently done a good job.

My time in the April half-marathon was over 6 minutes faster than in this race, but I was happy with my time given the poor summer for training which we had all just endured. One advantage this time is that the head wind on the return legs was much milder and actually was more of a cool breeze than a stiff head wind. My goal for this race was to break 2 hours (about a 9:10 per mile pace), which I did with a 1:58:37, so I was happy with the result.

The morning was chilly (mid 50°s) and cloudy as I was walking to the subway at 7:00 AM. I took the R train from Union Square to Bay Ridge Avenue and arrived at the Bay Ridge Pier around 8:15. It was still chilly but the tempratures were rising. I did an easy 2 mile warmup and by the time I finished, I had to take my jacket off. By the start it was just into the 60°s and most of the clouds had disappeared. In the start throng I bumped into Paul and Cassie and Amy from the Flyers, and then the group of just over 300 runners was ready to roll.

Pace Table
28:48.45mile 2+3 total=17:36.91
89:11.75mile 8+9 total=18:23.49
The race was two out-and-backs. The first was about 5 miles and the second was about 8 miles. The first 2½ miles outbound (to a little past the bridge) were sunny and actually getting hot, but thankfully the return was cooler because of a head wind, (call it a "head breeze"). The 2nd outbound leg (from about mile 5 to mile 9) seemed never to end (although some clouds kept things a little cooler). Miles 8 and 9 were where my pace started to fall off from sub-9 to 9:12, 9:22, 9:35, etc. Those were the worst miles.

Heading back for the final stretch, the last 4 miles were cooler, again from the wind, and I just pushed along trying to hold the pace. I wasn’t sure I would make my 2 hour goal with all the 9+ mile splits. Meanwhile I was chafing and my right fore-foot was hurting for the last 2 miles. I did manage to pick up the pace at the end — mile 13 was 9:05 — making for a strong but very difficult last mile.

I finished in 1:58:37, a 9:03 pace. Ironically I was 25 seconds behind my age group winner, something I never knew. Although he was just before me in the standings, a few other runners were probably between us, but they may have started well behind me so ended up ahead of me (and him) in the standings. Bottom line is I didn't see him or recognize him as being in my age group (= gray hair).

At the end it was a beautiful day (blue ski, a few clouds, high 60°s). Ironically, it sprinkled later in the day — a very variable weather day.

After the race, the chafing hurt and it was tough to walk. The next morning both conditions had improved but it will take a few days, at least, to recover. I will also consider new shoes now since the pain in my foot after mile 10 might be a long term problem.

Post race, we all hung around a bit and finally we all walked up the hill towards the subway. Paul, Cassie and Amy and some of their friends were off to lunch somewhere, but I was beat, so I headed home.

This was undoubtedly the toughest workout since my Shires Marathon in May, but I believe that's a good thing. It means summer is finally over and serious training has started in earnest.

September 23: Pfalz Point Trail Challenge 10 Miler

T he goes back a long way. I first did it in the early 1990s at the suggestion of a fellow Flyer (Anthony) when it was a 15 mile run on the carriage roads and single track of Mohonk Preserve in New Paltz, New York. One of the folks who run the race now (Jason) remembered when it was a 15 miler (until the late 1990s), and I also managed to find it in an old running log book of mine. It was September 25th, 1994 and, according to my log book, it was actually 15.2 miles — don't ask me how I knew that. Trail races then (and now, for that matter) were always approximate distances, and since each one was so unique, no one really worried about it. My time was 1:58:48 (7:49 pace) and I was 10 pounds heavier! Wow, those 18 year old numbers are hard to believe, especially the pace. It was a really special race then, and it still is near the top of my list. Anyone else remember keeping a running log (on paper)?

As of last week, it didn't look good for me to run this race. I had asked around and just could not find a ride to New Paltz. Busses did go there, but there were none that got there early enough for the 9:00 AM start. Then on Wednesday evening at a get-together for the trail running group I belong to, I happened to be sitting next to James, an avid trail runner I had not met before. Well, he just happened to be going to the race and lived on the East Side and was driving (his wife and young son were coming). Wow, was that fate or was it not? It was an early schedule (we would leave Manhattan before 6:30 AM) so I was up before 5:00 AM, did my stretching, had coffee and a bite to eat, was at the subway station by 5:45, met James and picked up the ZipCar, picked up his wife and son and we were off. After about an hour and a half of early-Sunday-morning traffic-free driving, we arrived at New Paltz, made a pit stop and arrived at the starting location by about 8:30 to pick up our stuff and get ready. I bumped into Flyers David and Robert and some friends from the VCTC and we all warmed up and hung loose.

It was colder than Manhattan by 5° or 10°, but it was sunny and beautiful. We could not have asked for a better running day or a more fantastic locale. Registration was capped at 350 runners and the race sold out about a week prior to the race date. Of these there were 313 finishers, so this was truly a small town race. The area is part of the Mohonk Preserve, a large forested area open to the public which is literally covered with trails and carriage roads, many of them over 100 years old. The race itself traversed meadows, fields, and forest and was about 70% on grassy or gravel carriage roads and 30% on single track trails. It's a non-techinical race, ideal for beginner trail runners, but with plenty of hills which would provide a challenge to trail runners of all stripes from beginner to old hand. One of the great things about this race is that all the proceeds go to improving the land and infrastructure of the Mohonk Preserve, which, in part, is how the carriage roads got to be resurfaced.

The race started near a covered pavilion with just about enough parking nearby. The runners were spread out over the crest of a gentle hill and the route started down along a grassy road which alternated between single track and two track. After about a half mile we got onto a trail through a wooded area with some moderate ups and downs. We hit another stretch of carriage road and more trails till around mile 3 where we got onto a series of carriage roads which led up and up inexorably for almost 4 miles, crossing a golf course and circling up around the first major hill which we crested around mile 5. The carriage roads were in great shape, having been resurfaced over the last year, and if you had good hill legs, you could really cruise on this section.

Meanwhile, I was carrying my camera and taking pictures — lots of them. These are the pictures you see above (supplemented by a few taken by the race photographers). If you have sharp eyes, you can spot the camera in my right hand in the pictures above (I'm in three of them). I ended up with 50 shots taken during the race which, assuming I stopped for a minimum of 10 seconds each, added up to a substantial amount of time. No wonder my pace was slower than in 1994!

We then had about a mile and a half of gentle down hill on the carriage roads till we hit a long, mostly up hill trail between about mile 6.5+ to about mile 7.8. Under ordinary circumstances this moderate slope would not have been too bad, but at this point it was tough. Let's just say a lot of us in my part of the pack did a fair amound of walking.

But then came the best part of the race. The last 2+ miles of the race were on carriage roads in excellent condition and it was all down hill, between a gentle and a moderate to steep slope. If your legs had some life left in them, you could really fly in this section. But caution is in order — this was just the sort of running, late in a race, where falls happen. Take my word for it: two years ago, a good friend of mine did a face plant in the last half mile and needed 4 stitches on her chin. But she still won her age group! As for me, there was no age group award this year, but no stitches either!

Now that we had paid the price, came the reward: a truly scrumptious lunch of fresh baked corn bread and home made chili (both vegetarian and meat). We then spent the better part of a hour hanging out in the sun. Good race, good food and good folks, what's not to like? Even the dogs seemed more relaxed and happier than New York City dogs.

I'll be back next year, you come too!

September 16: 10 Miles on the Palisades

The Palisades is one of my favorite places for a run, or for a hike for that matter. It has spectacular scenery, great trail running and road running and hills like you wouldn't believe. If you're training for a race with serious hills, either up hills or down hills, put the Palisades on your list of training routes. And what is more — it's only a subway ride away.

I've run it many times with just a few friends and a goodly number of times with the NY Flyers. In fact it's the oldest training run the Flyers have organized, starting when the club was just a few years old.

Here's a few reports I've written over the last few years about Palisades runs: , , . There's lots of maps and pictures in those reports so you're welcome to take a look at them when you have a few minutes.

Sunday was the annual NY Flyers Palisades Run but I wasn't up for a 20 miler, so I did a hybrid outing — I volunteered at the water stop at mile 9 and I then ran back with a couple of friends when they got there on their return trip.

It's basically and out and back run starting at the Manhattan side of the George Washington Bridge (take the A train to 175th Street) and follows the park road from Fort Lee to Alpine and then you return. So I did the second half of the run (minus the part from mile 9 up the hill to the turn-around point and back).

The elevation profile tells the story: hills, hills and more hills. The chart shows my run which was basically from mile 11 back to the start in Manhattan. I did a little jog down to and back from the Alpine Boat Basin before my friends got there, so mile 1 on the chart corresponmds to about mile 11 of the official run. What it doesn't show is the mile up to the turn-around point at the park headquarters in Alpine. This is one of the longest and steepest of the whole run. But it does show (from just before mile 7 to a bit after mile 8 on the chart) is an equally nasty hill just as you return to the GWB. With the biggest hills at the start and at the turn-around, it has a kind of evil symmetry. I would note that the software I used to generate the chart doesn't know about bridges so you see that funny gap at the end where I drew in a red line approximating the route over the bridge. The software must have thought I ran across the Hudson River on the water.

The run itself was just beautiful, with picture perfect weather. In an earlier post I had complained that it seemed that summer would never end, but Sunday was a was a true-blue early autumn day. Amen to that!

My friends, Susan and Kathy, with whom I was going to run, had of course already run 9 mile when they got to where I was waiting. They opted to skip the last mile up the hill to the turn-around point, so their mileage would come out to abount 18 miles. They were both gearing up for fall marathons but they were not quite ready for 20 yet. I had to remember that I was fresh and they had already done 9 miles. Nevertheless, except for a few steep parts, they had no trouble keeping a strong pace.

I've inserted a few pictures taken by Bob Cowin, the invererate Flyer photographer, who biked back and forth to get evereyone everywhere. For the complete album, click here: .

A word on Greenbrook Falls which is mentioned in one of the captions: this is usually a robust and beautiful waterfall which plummets down from the top of the cliffs, but today it was as dry as a bone. Here's a shot I took last March: Click. The wall where we were standing in Sunday's photo is at the base of the photo taken in March. Mayby it's just been a dry season or maybe it a sign of climate change. Hopefully it will be back in good shape next spring.

When we got to the Englewood Boat Basin, a bit over 4 miles for me (and 13 miles for my friends), I bumped into David, an old friend, and I ran with him for about a mile along the Shore Path to the Ross Dock. He was going to run 22 miles altogether (yikes) so this allowed him a little extra loop. When we got there I said goodbye and ran up the hill to meet my friends who had been paralleling David and me on the park road. David headed back to the Englewood Boat Basin to get his extra miles.

Next came the toughest part of the run — the long hill under the bridge and up and around to Fort Lee to get to the GWB walkway. This is always the worst since it's one of the steepest and longest sections and it comes when you're almost finished. But we did that with a few walk breaks, and as she usually does, Susan pushed along the last mile over the bridge to the end at the GWB Bus Terminal.

When it was all over and Susan and I had cleaned up a bit in the bus terminal, we walked down to Coogans for a great brunch. Naturally I had a Coogan's Ale. But of course!

September 14: 2013 Boston – an Email from the BAA

117th Boston Marathon

Dear Richard,

This is to notify you that your entry into the 117th Boston Marathon on Monday, April 15, 2013 has been accepted, provided that the information you submitted is accurate.

A Confirmation of Acceptance card will soon be mailed to you via US Postal Service mail.

In early April 2013, an official Number Pick-up Card and Welcome Booklet regarding the B.A.A. Boston Marathon and related race week activities will be mailed to you via US Postal Service first class mail. If you do not receive your Number Pick-up Card (required to claim number) and brochure by April 9, please contact our Registration Office at registration@baa.org. Registration related inquiries may also be directed to 508-435-6905.

Note that bib numbers will not be distributed on Race Day. Your travel arrangements should take into account picking up your number at the Hynes Convention Center, 900 Boylston Street, on Friday, April 12 from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., or Saturday, April 13 or Sunday, April 14 from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Get the best hotel rates by using the Official Lodging form from Marathon Tours and Travel. For more information, email info@marathontours.com or call 617-242-7845.

JetBlue is proud to be the Official Airline of the Boston Marathon!

Travel to Boston on JetBlue and save money with a promotional travel code available on our travel and accommodations page.

For additional tourist information, please visit www.bostonusa.com

We look forward to seeing you in April! Best of luck in your training!


Boston Athletic Association
2013 Boston Marathon Sponsors

Labor Day: The End of Summer? We wish!

L abor Day: kids go back to school, no more summer camps or trips, styles change — did you know this is fashion Week in NYC? The World Series is just around the corner. So, summer is over, right? Well if so, the weather gods didn't get the memo!

It's been a hot and humid summer and it's still hot and humid. When I finished my run yesterday it was around 80° with 85% humidity. Yikes, that was brutal!

But I'm hoping, yes I'm hoping this will let up soon! My optimistic training plan was laid to waste this summer, but sometime or other I need to get it going again. After all, I've got a date in Boston next April and I really want to be good and ready for it.

But I wasn't just watching the conventions in front of the TV with a beer in my hand. I did get out there. I ran the last of the summer 5Ks (this one in Riverside Park) on Wednesday before Labor Day and I did a 10K on Roosevelt Island on Labor Day. These both were OK (I was second in my age group in both) but they both fell a little short of my hopes.

Both races are run by , a small group which has come a long way in the last several years. Tired of the NYRR races? Too expensive? Too crowded? No baggage check at the marathon? (I know they changed that back.) These guys are good, the races are cheap and never crowded, and of course there's a place for your baggage. Check the schedule on their web site at the link. There's a nice half marathon coming up the end of September along the Shore Parkway in Brooklyn underneath the Verrazanno Narrows Bridge. I'll be there. Meanwhile, here's the "End of summer" report from me ...

Riverside Park 5K #8 (Aug. 29th)

O riginally this series was to consist of 7 races spaced every 2nd Wednesday evening at 7:00 PM in Riverside Park. I did all but the first one and I mention them earlier in this blog. But the 4th of July knocked their schedule off by a week and the races ended up being just one day before the Van Corttlandt Park 5K races, which I was also doing. So for about 6 weeks I had two races a day apart every other week, instead of one race a week. That, plus the heat and humidity pushed my race times slower and slower.

But this race was an extra added at the end, so there was no race the next day at Vanny, and it was a little bit cooler. I got there early and for once it wasn't raining. There was a big group from some club with a variety of ages and sizes and that was interesting.

I bumped into Flyer David Zuckerman at the race, but that was it for Flyers.

The race starts at 108th Street and it heads north on the flat promenade for about ½ mile. It then climbs a steep little hill and follows some rolling hills down to 96th Street. It circles a playground there and heads back on the same course. It's not a bad course. Not flat but not too hilly. I'm usually 1 to 2 minutes faster on this course than on the Van Cortlandt Cross Country course.

This time I managed a 26:39, better than most of the summer races, but actually a minute and a half slower than my best time run in June. But for comparison, my time at the last Van Cortlandt 5K, 2 weeks prior, was 27:18.

Labor Day 10K, Roosevelt island (Sep. 3rd)

A ny one ever been to Roosevelt Island? Anyone even run a race there? I'm sure a few have. I recall the NYRR used to have a race there some years back. For myself, I visited Roosevelt Island a few times, probably 30 years ago and ran over from Queens once to get the tram to Manhattan. That was it for me.

That is until last May when I ran a 5K there. Wow! What a nice place. The little apartment complex there seems lovely and the views on both the Manhattan and Queens side are fabulous. Here's the link for the 5k: . The weather was perfect that day, which resulted in lots of nice pictures. Since the route is the same as this race (except we went around twice since this was a 10K and that was a 5K) I recommend you take a good look at them, especially if you've never been to Roosevelt Island, since I didn't get many good pictures this time around. Here's the link: . There's a “Slideshow” button at the top left of the window.

I took the tram from Manhattan to get there and arrived pretty early, before most of the 300+ runners (yes, that's 300, not 3,000!). I picked up my stuff and chatted briefly with the race organizers, and then met Priscilla, my running friend, who was also running the 10K. You might recall she volunteered at one of the Riverside Park 5Ks () and so she got into this race free. Pretty good, no 9+1 with this group. When the race started, it was overcast (notice the pictures) with the temperature in the mid 70°s and the humidity also in the mid 70%s. Not great but the clouds and breeze helped.

There were actually two races being held at the same time, a 5K and a 10K. But instead of starting all together and the 5Ks doing one loop and the 10Ks doing 2 loops, they had two separate starts several hundred yards apart. The first ½ mile was cleverly laid out so the 5K group went one way and the 10K group went another, shorter way. This meant that when we got onto the same route, the 10K pack was about a minute ahead of the 5K pack and there was little or no congestion. In fact only the very fast 5K runners caught up with the 10K pack.

Once we circled under the bridge and got on the Manhattan side (which is where the two groups converged) we headed straight up along the water to the north end of the island where we circled around the historic 1872 stone lighthouse. You've all seen this lighthouse since it lies directly across the water from Carl Schurz Park on the Upper East Side. But you may not know it has a very interesting history and deserves a look (See this: ).

We then headed south along the Queens side and got to the finish line, about a quarter mile north of the bridge. The 10K group then just kept going and did another loop. At that point most of the 5K pack was still behind us. But by the time we finished, most of them (except the very, very slowest) had finished. The logistics were well thought out and executed.

The throng hung around and there was a good assortment of drinks and bagels, and spreads. Except for the top three in each race, the other age group winners had to check the internet for their places. When I got home I found I was second in my age group with a time of 53:43, which is slightly more than twice my 5K time from the previous Wednesday.

After the race I bumped into fellow Flyer Meg Blake, and then found Priscilla again. We all had a good day. Meg had come by bike and took off and Priscilla and I went our separate ways via the tram. All in all a good outing at the “End of Summer”.

August 25 – Searching for Brunch in Greenpoint

O n Saturday the 25th I went for a run over the Queensboro Bridge with my friend Melissa. I had wanted to get back to one of my favorite brunch places, namely (an excellent Polish restaurant in Greenpoint) or the (an equally excellent German place in Williamsburg). However, both of these opened at noon, which was problematic from the standpoint of the weather (it would be hotter) and it would throw off both our schedules for the day. Melissa came up with a couple of alternatives, namely "" and “”, which were at opposite ends of Greenpoint

Since the nearer of these two, Brooklyn Label, was only 5 miles from our start point, and Enid's was about a mile further, I suggested, as a way to get more mileage, that we go past Brooklyn Label, check it out and then continue to Enids and check that out. If we decided on Enids, we would circle McCarren Park and then eat, or if Brooklyn Label was the better choice, we would just head back there. Either way we would get about 7 miles, which was the minimum we wanted to book for the day. Along the way, we would check out any other eating establishments we passed for future reference.

We started at 77th and York, headed over to the East River and started south along the promenade. You should click on the button to bring up the map and all should be clear. It was about 8:45 and it was already getting muggy. When we got to 60th Street, we crossed the highway at the old heliport building and headed up to the north pedestrian walkway of the Queensboro Bridge which you enter at 60th Street and Second Avenue. We immediately noticed several groups of runners, perhaps 20 to a group, with a leader in a fluorescent yellow vest leading each group. They were coming towards us from the Queens side and when they got to the end of the walkway, they just turned around and headed back. The walkway is divided between foot traffic and bike traffic. These groups took up nearly the whole of the foot traffic side, and together with bikes coming and going it made the trip over the bridge a bit hazardous.

When we got off the bridge at Queens Plaza, we headed down along the bridge to 21st Street and turned left. We were originally going to follow the NYC Marathon route (backwards) but this was simpler and avoided more heavily trafficked areas. 21st Street runs into Jackson Avenue just before the Pulaski Bridge and is probably the best route if you're heading to Greenpoint or Williamsburg. Except for an exit ramp from the bridge, there was very little traffic on the street, although it's hardly scenic, to say the least.

When you get to the Pulaski Bridge, cross the bridge traffic (wait for the walk light) and stick to the right hand (west) walkway. This put you on the correct side once you get to Brooklyn on the other side. The bridge has nice views of Manhattan, and of Newtown creek below. You would never know this was once the most polluted waterway in New York City and was actually a Superfund site. The sidewalk is rather narrow and bikes are common so stay way over to the right and go single file. Even when you pass other pedestrians, give a look behind so you don't get clipped by a bike.

Once over the bridge, we took a right on Eagle Street and proceeded one block to Manhattan Avenue. We then asked a couple of locals for directions to Franklin Street. The directions were contradictory (hey, this is New York, what do you expect?), but the second set of directions seemed more reasonable. It turned out that Franklin parallels Manhattan just a block further west. So we went right (west) a block on Freeman Street and lo and behold we had found Franklin Street. This is actually a route we had occasionally used to avoid the busy sidewalks of Manhattan Avenue, but I just never bothered to notice it was Franklin Street.

Now to look for "" at #180 Franklin. We were in the 200s, so we went left (south). But there was a slight problem — the numbers on the right side (the odd numbers) were about 30 less that those on the left side (the even numbers). Thus #200 on the left was opposite #171 across the street. This was not a trivial difference — the offset amounted to 2 or 3 blocks! Perhaps this is the way they do it in Brooklyn to confuse Manhattanites!

Well, we grudgingly accepted the situation, and finally found #180 at the corner of Franklin and Java. This place looked pretty good, with a nice brunch menu and a selection of wine and beers. But since we also wanted to check out Enid's Cafe, at the other end of Greenpoint, we didn't stop. We ran along Franklin and worked our way up via Banker to Nassau, and we were soon at Bedford Aveenue, just north of McCarren Park.

First we checked “” (not open till noon), “” (music too loud – empty) and across the street “” (not bad – busy). Then we got to Manhattan Avenue and took a right and headed to “” at #560 Manhattan Avenue. This was our alternate goal and it was at the end of the commercial part of Greenpoint at the corner of Driggs Street. It was not quite open (10 more minutes) but it didn't look too inspiring. So, it looked like we would be heading back to Brooklyn Label.

We headed down to the park and headed back to Bedford Avenue. Then we basically retraced our steps along Banker and Franklin Streets. On the way we saw “” on Franklin between Oak and Noble. That looked nice for the future. We crossed Franklin Street and freshened up at the “American Playground” and finally returned to “Brooklyn Label” for a nice brunch of Salmon Benedict and a beer. Not bad and about 7 miles of running.

But wait, there's more …

We were planning to walk to the L train station in Williamsburg — about a mile and 3/4 (here the route on the map turns from blue to red). But instead of going up to Bedford Avenue and going along McCarren Park — our usual route — we kept on Franklin Street which runs into Kent Street in Williamsburg. Kent is the street nearest the East River and you get occasional views across to Manhattan.

But what do you know, we found the Williamsburg waterfront (from about North 10th to North 4th) has been developed into a park with ferry Service to Manhattan, a couple of new piers and a green market in progress. As best I could tell, this was part state park (the ), part unfinished city park ) and other public space developed by a nearby high-rise condo (). We had probably come within about a block of this area several times on our runs to Williamsburg, and never knew. It was nice (but they need to put in some trees for shade).

Then we just took the L train (at Bedford and North 7th) home, one stop to First Avenue, where Melissa hopped on the M15 Select bus and I walked the few blocks to my apartment. It was a good run for a muggy day and we enjoyed a new brunch spot and took note of a few more for the future.

August 18 – Summer Streets – 8.5 Miles

This weekend all my running friends were out of town. Since it seems like it's hot and humid every day, I was expecting a not-too-pleasant solo run – perhaps 8 or 9 miles. Last night I resolved to start early, hopefully by 8:00 AM, to beat the heat of the day. Then two things happened: first, I got an email from the organizer of a 7:00 AM Saturday running group (which I have never joined) who mentioned that “Summer Streets” would be happening on Saturday morning, and second, when I went out to get the paper and coffee, it was cloudy and cool and looked like it might rain.

Wow! That got my hopes up. I could run down along the river to the Brooklyn Bridge, run up the hill, then follow the Summer Streets route all the way to Central Park. And if I were really lucky, I'd get rained on.

is a New York City thing that's in its fifth year. They close certain streets between the Brooklyn Bridge and Central Park and invite pedestrians and bikes to take over. And they do! Thousands of them! Along the route are bike rentals, flat tire repairs, water stops and extra things for kids of all ages. It's an urban party and it's great.

So at about quarter to 9:00, I got out, bought a Gatorade at Lenz's and I was off. IN THE RAIN! It was soooo good after almost 2 months of sweltering weather to have this constant cooling. The temperatures were in the low 60°s the whole way and the rain got me through the first three miles.

I went down along the East River by my usual route and when I got to the Brooklyn Bridge, I ran up the street next to the Police Headquarters to the Municipal Building and joined the throng. The rain had just stopped but we had blessed clouds. This was looking like a great run.

The route (check the map on the left) is almost a straight shot up Lafayette Street to where it joins 4th Avenue (the original name for Park Avenue) and then continues all the way up to 72nd Street. As I moved along, and the rain had been forgotten, more and more folks joined, It was especially nice to see whole families on bikes, people pushing strollers and of course a good number of runners of all ages and sizes.

Along the route were lots of support stations and every 10 blocks or so, they let the cross town traffic cross. Volunteers kept us from barging into the traffic. This is New York City at its best.

It took me about an hour and a half to get to the park, and I stopped at the Boat House. I took a good rest, finished my Gatorade and then headed home. Great run!

August 12 & 13 – A Weekend Double

OK, in runner-speak, a “double” (or “triple” etc.) generally means running two races (often marathons) over one weekend or perhaps a week apart. My double was much less noteworthy — I ran part of a long run on Saturday and part on Sunday. But … in both runs I explored new and interesting territory and in both cases ended up at a really fine brunch spot that I had never visited before.

Susan, one of my running friends, had a family visit on the docket for Saturday but Melissa was interested in a medium long run (8 to 10 miles) on Saturday, and she suggested going over to Wards/Randalls Island. This sounded good to me since I had not been there for 6 or 7 years (and that was for benchmark hunting).

Saturday: East River – Wards/Randalls Island loop – 9 miles

Wards and Randalls Islands, sitting at the juncture of the East River, the Harlem River and Long Island Sound, have an interesting history stretching back to colonial days. The most important fact for us is that they are now one island, not two. The gap between them (called Little Hell Gate) was filled in in the 1940s after the two islands became city parks. Besides the park lands (including Icahn Stadium and numerous playing fields), there is a psychiatric hospital, a sewage treatment facility and a training area for the New York Fire Department. It is joined to Manhattan by a pedestrian bridge and is also crossed by a railroad (crossing over the Hell Gate Bridge to Astoria Queens) and by the three-pronged Triboro Bridge (aka the R.F.K Bridge). You can get there on foot (or bike) via the pedestrian bridge, and by each of the three prongs of the Triboro Bridge. The pedestrian bridge, which used to be open only during the warmer months, is now open year round (as of June of this year). In the marvelous aerial view to the right, you can see the two Islands circa 1940. The bridges are there as is the sewage plant, but the land fill connecting the two islands and filling the entire northeast corner has yet to be done.

I met Melissa on 77th Street near First Avenue and we headed over to the East River. We got onto the East River Promenade using the 78th Street pedestrian overpass and by the time we got to Carl Schurz Park, just a few blocks later, we realized this was going to be one tough day. Humidity was 85% and temperatures were near 80°. There was a bit of overcast, but not much. I had brought a jug of Gatorade and hoped that would help but I didn't want to lug it the whole way.

For your help, I've included a screen shot of our route which I plotted using the USATF mapping application. Click on the link under the caption for a live Google map of this route.

We headed up the river and just before the 103rd Street bridge to Wards Island I stashed the Gatorade out of sight.

We got over to Wards Island and started on a counter clockwise circuit. The breeze was nice here and the views of Manhattan, Queens and the waterways were spectacular. We circled under the Queens prong of the Triboro Bridge and headed for the railroad bridge, aka the (Hell Gate is named for the very rough tides and currents that pass through this spot). This was built in 1915-16 when the two islands wers separate. I have read that this railroad bridge would be the last surviving bridge in New York City if all the humans disappeared, lasting a thousand years. ()

We followed the long railroad trestle back towards the Bronx, sometimes under it, and at one point we were stranded in a fenced-in meadow. We then circled around the ball fields on the northeast part of Randalls Island (which is mostly land fill — see the old aerial view) and eventually crossed back under the railroad trestle near the Bronx Kill (a pathetic remnant of what was once a wide stream). What should we discover there but that the city is building a low level bike and pedestrian crossing of the Kill. That would allow foot and bike traffic to avoid going up and over the automobile bridge. This will connect up with the South Bronx Greenway, also under development. It was great to see money going into this kind of infrastructure. (Click and scroll down to "Randall's Island".)

After passing under the railroad, we headed for the access ramp to get up onto the Bronx prong of the Triboro. This is a steep concrete ramp that goes up under the highway and then splits in two to provide access to both sides of the bridge. I've heard bikers complain about this steep ramp with its right-hand turns. For us it was no big deal (except it was steep and we were tired). Once up on the bridge it was smooth sailing and we had nice views back over the waterways from the East River to Long Island Sound. On the Bronx side, there are stairs to descend and then you hang a left under the highway and you are on 134th Street. Keep going about a half mile to the Willis Avenue Bridge. Just before that bridge, you must cross the exit ramp for Bronx bound traffic coming over the bridge heading to the Bruckner Expressway. Wait for the light and be careful — this is highway traffic on a city street. A block later you will pass under the bridge and take the stairs up to the walkway. Good views are to be had here. When you get off the bridge on the Manhattan side you will be at 125th Street and First Avenue.

Take a left on Paladino Avenue and bear to the right. In 3 or 4 blocks you will get to the 120th Street pedestrian overpass, which brings you back to the East River Promenade. Except for the fact that we were totally beat, it was now just an easy couple of miles down along the river. At the foot of the Wards Island pedestrian bridge we retrieved the Gatorade (remember the Gatorade?) and that helped a little. But that little ramp up to Carl Schurz Park was tough. We continued though Carl Schurz Park and actually got off the promenade at 82nd Street just to avoid the 78th Street pedestrian overpass.

We finished near Melissa's apartment and had time to shower and change and meet a friend for brunch. We went to the East River Diner (formerly Cafe 79) at 79th and First and were pleasantly surprised (in spite of mixed on-line reviews). I had Salmon Benedict and a Heiniken. Not a bad way to end a tough run on a hot day.

Sunday: Down and over the Williamsburg Bridge to a Beer Garden – 3+ miles

After getting home and taking the obligatory nap on Satursday afternoon, I was surprised by a note from Susan. She had returned to the city a day early and wanted to know if I would join her for the last 5 miles of her long run on Sunday morning. I said "Sure, whatever."

She was planning on starting at 8:15, but I suggested she hold off a bit since the humidity would be dropping. Well, it turns out she had a tough (almost) 10 miles — remeniscent of my Saturday run with Melissa — and so she took a bus down from the park, rather than running, and took a break at my apartment. We were going to run down along the East River and then take the Williamsburg Bridge. But in order to 1) keep in the shade and 2) cut the distance to a minimum, we decided to run down along Avenus A instead of the river.

Given the choice to run on the sidewalks or streets vs. running in a park, 9 times out of 10 I would choose the later, but today the streets were a better choice. There was little traffic and we did have shade since the sun was not quite overhead. Besides it's a nice neighborhood, especially around Tompkins Square Park.

The bridge — one of my favorites with a wide pedestrian walkway above the traffic — was not particularlly shady, but there was a nice breeze. When we got off the bridge and headed north on Bedford Avenue, we stopped so Susan could check her iPhone for a reasonable looking beer garden (Williamsburg has a plethora and we had not picked one in advance). Just then a trendy looking guy walked by and I just knew he would know. "Where's a nice beer garden with good food?". "Easy, just go down to Berry, and up to North 3rd. That's the place for the best food!". He didn't give the place's name, but we figured we'd have no trouble finding it.

We ran to Metropolitan and then walked the block to North 3rd. There on the corner was the , a large place full of happy looking people. One side was covered but with open windows and vents which made it a covered out door garden. The other side was indoors (and air conditioned). After a little discussion, and standing in one part and then the other, we went for the air conditioning. Luckily, we arrived after the kitchen had opened for brunch.

What a great menu! Very nice brunch fare, and lots of beers. We both opted for the Blueberry Lemon Ricotta Pancakes and Susan had a Radler (their house Pilsener +) and I went for a Hofbrau Dunkel. After eating, I got another one, since Susan was still working on hers, but that was just a tinsy bit too much. But I did my best and managed to finish. It was a great discovery of a fine place. Obviously we'll be back.

We hopped on the "L" and in one stop we were at First Avenue back in Manhattan. (Hey! Why didn't we think of the subway on the way over? ). Susan grabbed the M15 Select Bus home and I walked the few blocks to my place. What a great way to end a double – with a double Dunkel! (Or is that doppel Dunkel?)

August 1st, 2nd & 4th — Three Races in a Week

W hat was I thinking? What with the summer heat and humidity and my less-than-stellar training over the last month, what exactly was I thinking?

Well, I had signed up for the entire summer series for both the Riverside Park 5Ks (every other Wednesday at 7:00 PM) and Van Cortlandt Park Cross Country 5Ks (every other Thursday at 7:00 PM), and they were supposed to fall in alternate weeks. Well, they did for the first half of the summer, but the 4th of July was a Wednesday this year, so the Riverside Park races got pushed forward a week and thus the 2 series ended up being a day apart rather than a week apart for the second half of the summer. Since I paid good money for these (actually they are both bare-bones and very cheap) I had to do them, right?

And the third race was the Club Team Championship, a 5 miler in Central Park on Saturday morning, which I have done every year since who-knows-when. Had to get out there for the good old new York Flyers, rah, rah, rah!

And hot and humid they were. The Riverside Park race was 72° with 84% humidity at 7:00 PM, Van Cortlandt was 84° and 53% humidity and the 5 miler was 78° with 85% humidity at 8:00 AM. The Van Cortlandt Park race would seem to be the most favorable, but my tired legs and those hills on the cross country course killed me and that was the toughest one of the three. I walked up hills I had not walked for years. Probably the fact that it was the next day after the Riverside Park 5K was the major cause. With the whole day off Friday, 2 nights of sleep, and the easier Central Park hills, my final race was more tolerable. Here's a brief recap:

Wednesday: Riverside Park 5K

As usual, there was rain earlier and threats of rain during the race. I think almost every one of the Wednesday night race has had rain before, during or after the race. The turnout was on the low side and my time, 27:16, was my slowest this summer. I was the only one in the 60+ age group so I got the award, but that's not much of an accomplishment. But just getting out there was an accomplishment in itself.

Thursday: Van Cortlandt Park Cross Country 5K

There were a number of friends who were there (Tim, Melissa, Susan, Andreas and David Z.) and, as I mentioned, the weather seemed a bit less hot and humid. I started out at a good pace but by the first hill I started to suffer. I walked 3 or 4 of the steepest hills and felt pretty tired the whole way. But somewhere after the point where we start heading back, a guy from the VCTC passed me. I knew he was in my age group so I tried to keep pace with him, about 10 or 20 yards back. When we reached the last incline up to the old rail bed, I pushed and passed him and, with some effort, managed to stay a bit in front. In the end, he finished 5 seconds behind me. But I managed to take 3rd in the 60-69 age group (and won a carrot muffin). After the race, Susan, David and I got together across the street at Gleeson's. A cold Guinness can make any outing a success!

Saturday: The Club Team Championship 5 miler

Central Park races tend to be crowded but this was a little less so since the men and women had separate races and it was just for members of local teams. I was shooting for a sub 9 minute pace and did pretty well. My splits were 8:36, 8:33, 8:47, 9:22, 8:36. That slow 4th mile was the one that goes up cat hill. My overall pace was 8:47/mile, so I was quite satisfied. What Is more, I was 8th in the 65-69 age group, an accomplishment in any of the NYRR races.

After the race, the Flyers had a bagel and Gatorade picnic and the yearly group picture was taken. I enjoyed talking with everyone, especially some old friends from back in the 1990s. No beer, just Gatorade, but, of course, that didn't matter to me.

All in all at week's end I was happy, but exhausted. I did comparatively well, and didn't injure myself, but I would not try this again if I could help it.

June 27th – July 28th — Mostly Hot and Humid

July was when the heat and humidity wreaked havoc with my training. Considering the weekend long runs (actually medium runs), I managed just two 8 milers and 2 days where I just stayed home. In this post I focus on the two ends of this bad period: June 27th, the last not-too-humid 5K race in Riverside Park and July 28th when I did the first real long run in over a month: a 9+ miler with my friend Susan which took us up to a great brunch spot near Inwood Hill Park.

June 27th — Riverside Park 5K

This was my 3rd 5K of the NYCRUNS Riverside Park summer series. It was actually the 4th one they had put on but I missed the first one since it was right before my May 20th marathon in Vermont. The weather was pretty warm (79°), but not terribly humid (31%). I got there early and took my camera, the only time I had it with me for any of the Riverside Park races. At the previous race two weeks before I had a very good finish time (25:07), so I had high expectations for this race.

I got there a little early and was jogging the course backwards from 96th Street to the start. Who should I meet at the top of the last hill (actually the first hill in the race) but Priscilla, a good friend with whom I shared many a run over the years. It turned out she was volunteering for this race. I continued on down to the start area to check in where I also bumped into Melissa and Terry (who was my very first running partner — we first met along the East River training for the 1989 NYC Marathon).

The race went well and I was 1st in my age group but my time was a disappointing 26:05, about a minute slower the previous race. It would turn out that as the heat and humidity of the summer took hold, this time would look very good.

I got some good photos of the crowd at the race and of my friends and this turned out to be a very satisfying race.

July — The Heat and Humidity take Hold

Let's just forget about this period if that's OK

July 28th — Long run to Northern Manhattan, 9+ miles

While I was struggling through tough weather conditions in late June and July, my friend Susan was in the French and German Alps running not one, but two marathons (Mont Blank and Zermatt). After her amazing Double, she got back to New York and we planned an ambitious long run for this weekend. But with temperatures rising through the 70°s and a fair amount of humidity we cut back our ambitions as we went along.

I've added a map to allow you to check the details of the route. We hope you might try this or a variation of it yourself. Click the link under tha caption to bring up a live Google Map. The route was mapped using the USATF application.

We measured our goal by aiming for a particular brunch destination. First we aimed for An Beal Bocht (a favorite brunch destination of ours) via Wave Hill — both in the Riverdale section of the Bronx (about 14 miles). Then as we progressed we agreed to skip Wave Hill and just head for An Beal Bocht (about 11 miles). Finally we agreed to just check out a place in northern Manhattan near Inwood Hill Park at the very northern tip of Manhartan. I beleave this is the northernmost eating establishment in Manhattan! How cool is that?

With a considerable number of walk breaks, we went up through Central Park, up along St. Nicholas Avenue, over to Broadway and then up along Fort Washington Avenue to the Cloisters. Then down the steep path to Riverside drive and along Payson Avenue on the East side of Inwood Hill Park and finally reaching our destination. In spite of the fact that much of the route was along the city streets, this is a fairly nice run. Both St. Nicholas and Fort Washington Avenues are not heavily trafficked and are somewhat runner friendly. At least early on a Saturday morning.

When we got to the restaurant, the , which Susan had suggested, I thought it would be serving East Indian food (about which I was a tad skeptical). But once inside, I saw it had a very good brunch menu (serving of Eggs Benedict and the like) and including selection good beers (which, of course, did not matter to me at all .) It was only when we left the place and I saw that we were at the corner of Indian Road and 218th Street, that I “got” the name of the place. This was a historic name in this area, which was where a major village of the native tribes that inhabited the area when the Dutch first arrived was located

After a great brunch, with all memories of heat and humidity forgotten, we went a few blocks south to Isham Street, where a Saturday green market was in full swing. After doing a bit of “window shopping” here, we walked the short block to the 207th Street station of the A train. A very good run on a tough day!

May 24th - June 24th — Rest, Recovery and Restart

After finishing the Shires Marathon, I decided to gradually work my way into the summer and fall routine and not try to define a detailed plan ab initio. In fact not to define a detailed plan at all!

I knew I wanted to have some fun with shorter races, so I signed up for the VCTC Summer 5K Cross Country Series that I've always enjoyed on alternate Thursday evenings in Van Cortlandt Park (see ). It turns out the first one was but 4 days after Shires — Yikes!

And then there was the Riverdale Ramble (also described in the above article), a hot and hilly 10K held the first Sunday in June. And to complete the summer menu, there was the Riverside Park Summer 5K Series, which are held on Wednesdays evenings on alternate weeks. But I swore to take it easy — don't push too hard while my body was still in recovery mode and respect the heat.

For the rest of my running, I would stick to the 4-days-a-week schedule I had used in training for my marathon, but with everything less: less distance and less intensity. As the song says, "Summer Time, and the Runnin' is Easy".

Van Cortlandt Park 5K XC races: May 24th, June 7th and June 21st

The first of the races was just 4 days after my marathon. It was the first time I had run after the marathon and I was apprehensive about hurting my still-sore legs. It was an off-and-on-again rainy race (which helped) and I took an easy 10 minutes per mile pace. I was pleased to find that this very hilly course, which I had struggled over time after time, was much easier at this slower pace. I actually ran up the hills without panting or walking and everything worked! No breakdowns. These races award delicious carrot muffins to the first three runners in each age group, which I have occasionally won, but this night I was (as expected) well "Out of the Muffins".

Two weeks later, it was once again a rainy night, but this time my daughter was visiting from the left coast and I talked her into running the race with me. I was in much better shape and ran about 1 minute per mile faster, good enough to place 3rd in my age group. My daughter, who hasn't run an organized race for some years, was delighted with the run and I was equally delighted to show her that the old man still has some "stuff" left! Another plus was that Andreas, inveterate photographer, was there at both the 2nd and 3rd races to document our efforts.

Van Cortlandt Park Cross Country Race, June 7th

The 3rd race of the series was just a few days ago on the 21st. It was extremely hot (mid 90°s) with high humidity, and attendance was off quite a bit. I kept a lid on my pace and only pushed it the last half mile or so. I wanted to break 28 minutes and I could see the clock counting down but I missed my goal by a few seconds. But I did move up to 2nd place in my age grop. I stayed a while after the race and enjoyed a Guinness with Tim, a long time teammate, in the bar across the street. A great (but hot) summer race.

(Complete sets of VCTC Cross Country photos taken by Andreas
can be found on the NY Flyers web site: and .)

The Riverdale Ramble, June 3rd

The Riverdale Ramble 10K () is an old favorite of mine. It's put on by the Van Cortlandt Track Club, the same group that puts of the cross country series. It's held on the beautiful streets of Riverdale and is very hilly. This is NOT a PR course, but it is a great course. It takes you through neighborhoods you would never imagine being part of New York City. The race was just 2 weeks after my marathon and I was still a bit tentative. But things worked out all right: my legs were in good shape, and the weather, often hot and humid, was definitely better than it might have been. Susan, my running partner, was there as well as Brett and Robert, fellow Flyers and lastly Andreas, who ran unofficially and took photos of the race from start to finish.

(A complete set of Riverdale Ramble photos taken by Andreas can be found on the NY Flyers web site: .)

As for the race, I felt good at the start. The weather, although sunny, was not too hot and thankfully the humidity was low. I took off somewhat cautiously. There is a long hill up Johnson Avenue at the start, and then the race spends several miles on Palisade Avenue, going under the Henry Hudson Bridge and heading north. But this year there was some construction which caused a short but very steep detour up Independence Avenue and over on 231st Street. Then the race followed Palisade, turned up Spaulding Lane and headed north along Independence Avenue past Wave Hill to the turnaround at 254th Street. Aside from the detour, the big change from last year was by moving the start back, we avoided going down the hill and up again on 254th Street (aka the steepest street in New York City). This made the course easier than last year and possible the easiest of the 5 or 6 Rambles I have done. This change may have been made to keep the race off of 254th Street, which provides access to the Riverdale train station.

Once on Palisade, I kept a strong pace. The biggest hills are on Spaulding and Independence and I managed these reasonably well. I finished strong (about a minute faster than last year) and thought I had a good chance at an award, which in fact materialized. I came in 2nd in the 60-60 age group, and the prize was no carrot muffin — it was an actual trophy (which however, you cannnot eat ).

After the festivities ended, Susan and I walked up to 238th Street and enjoyed a nice brunch at our favorite Bronx pub, . A great ending to a great race.

Riverside Park 5K races: May 30th, and June 13th

The is run by , an outfit out of Brooklyn that runs many small local races. This is the second summer for this series, and the first that I have entered. I missed the first race (it was right before my marathon) but I've done two and have registered for the rest (4 more).

At My first race, on May 30th, I was joined by Flyers Elle and Brett. The course was about 2 minutes faster that the Van Cortlandt Park cross country course, and was entirely on paved walkways. It starts at 108th Street, does a small loop and then heads up the one steep hill of the course around 116th Street, then follows the walkway south over rolling hills to 96th Street. It then loops loops around a playground and returns to the start. I was first in my age group, but that was not much of an honor since I was the only one. They seem to get about half the number of runners as the Van Cortlandt series, but it's a nice group and I highly recommend the series.

My second outing, on June 13th, was slightly faster, but there was more competition and I was 2nd out of 4 in the 60-69 group. The age group winners take home a gold spray-painted Poland Spring bottle. Not as good as a carrot muffin, but perhaps a bit more useful than a trophy . But the night ended up even better since Melissa, one of my running friends, was there and we finished the evening with some mac & cheese and a beer at the on Amsterdam between 96th and 95th, one of our favorite UWS pubs. Now that was even better than a carrot muffin!

Come August, these Wednesday night races will be on the same weeks as the VCTC races, one on Wednesday, the other on Thursday. Now that will be interesting!

Papa Bear