23 July 2017

CITY STRIDES PROGRESS REPORT - BROOKLYN, NY AT 13%

Captain America appears a few times, in the form of a pep talk video, in the movie Spiderman: Homecoming.  One of the topic he talked about is Patience.  Sometimes you need lots of it.

I have an intense interest in seeing my map updated in CityStrides. But I need a lot of patience.  It is nice that syncing happens transparently but there is a big backlog that resulted during the transition period.  I'm now at 13% completed for Brooklyn but I only noticed it today.  While I don't run in Brooklyn as much as I like to, I do try to target not-yet-ran streets and that strategy seems to pay off.  I just have to be patient and wait for syncing to happen with Strava, which seems pretty quick, but with Runkeeper the activities usually show up 24 hours afterward.  I usually use Strava for runs then keep track of walks in Runkeeper.  I don't want to inundate my Strava feed with the short walks that I do during lunch or at places of business that I visit.  Once the activities show up, you have to be patient and wait for the Streets Completed and Streets Progressed to be calculated.  A little more time then the city completion rates will be calculated.  In this case, Patience has its rewards.

There is a forum where questions get answered by James Chevalier himself.  I visit it from times to times to see what's going on.  If someone already asked a question that I have then I'll just wait for it to be answered instead of throwing out more of the same questions.

One interesting tidbit I recently learned is that city percent completion has little to do with street length.  Personally I like to run long, like from one end of town to the other, as far as possible without being late for work or other important aspects of life.  One long line by one long line I would have a grid created.  While the map then looks nice, if those streets I ran are long and I don't have them 90% completed, then they don't contribute to the percent completed.  On the other hand, if I find the many short streets and complete them, my percent completed will shoot up sharply.  It feels like cheating but that's how it's done.


Given enough time, those big zeroes for Streets Completed and Streets Progressed will be resolved to some non-zero numbers.  Unless I ran in some big parking lot just because I like to have lines all over the super-block.

New on the 13% map is "Adam" and his cowbell in Sunnyside, the inaugural Coney Island Creek 5K, which took place inside Kaiser Park, which I already ran many times, but thanks to a short pre-race warm-up and a post-race walk, a few more streets turned purple.

18 July 2017

RUN ART GETTING MORE GRAPHIC

I'm pretty good at spelling out letters and words during my runs, as seen in "Crystal" and "Heather" below, some recent samples.




Naturally, my friends asked if I ever drew actual pictures, not just letters and numbers.  While I did a few, the majority of my run arts have been limited to just letters and numbers.  With my special block-cutting technique, technically anything can be drawn, given enough time and proper planning.  And so I did, recently, advance to the next phase of my run art, with "Jimmy" and "Adam". 




With the "Jimmy" piece, there is this roundabout traffic circle in Glen Oaks, Queens that I have yet covered on my CityStrides map. I have this friend Jimmy who is well-known for his strong appetite. The roundabout made a perfect food item, whether a bagel or a donut.  The fun got better as I tried to include a bite mark in the food item.  Of course, I had to use my virtual trespassing technique to make the bite mark.

Adam is another friend in the run community.  A great runner himself, he loves to cheer fellow runners with his cowbells.  Not just the small cowbells somewhat cube-ish type, but the real, rectangular ones.  Every year, Prospect Park Track Club has a dinner party at which members receive awards as voted by the club.    In past years, the awards came in the form of a plaque or similar form.  In 2016, someone came up with the excellent idea of awarding cowbells!  So useful!  Adam won in two categories and now often carry them to the cheer zone, thus in my run art there's a cowbell after his name.  To achieve the angular shape of the cowbell, I again resorted to cutting through city blocks.

15 July 2017

CONEY ISLAND CREEK 5K

I like pleasant surprises.

My friend Josh was instrumental in helping to bring back the Brooklyn Triple Crown series of footraces.  The series ran for many years but after Hurricane Sandy hit New York the series went away.  I already knew about the Staten Island Triple Crown and even ran two out of the three races.  The same people, Complete Race Solutions and the Staten Island Athletic Club, organize both series.

For some reason I thought the Coney Island Creek 5K (CIC5K) was going to take place on a Sunday.  It's summertime and the family wants to have things to do on Sundays so it appeared I wouldn't be able to participate.  What I love about the CIC5K is it was really close to home.  It is basically within Kaiser Park near Mark Twain Middle School.  I used to run there regularly.  I cannot stand races that require me to travel more than an hour, wait around perhaps another hour, then do the race in 30 minutes or more, then another trek to get home.  With the CIC5K, I would be able to just walk over, 20 minutes maybe, 30 minutes top.

Eventually I realized that the race would be on a Saturday.  Sure I could register but I was going to take advantage of the special discount on Independence Day.  I should have registered during the day because in the evening the family watched the fireworks display on the beach of Coney Island and the exodus from the area was horrible.  I don't know for sure what caused the traffic jam, maybe just too many cars leaving the area at the same, from the fireworks and from the soccer game at MCU Park.  Or maybe it was because of some FDNY truck blocking one of the lane.  Whatever it was, I got home really late and missed the discount deadline.  I was bummed.  But then Thursday night I happened to pass by the packet pickup site, VitaminShoppe at Caesar's Bay.  I figured it's a local race that I want to support so I finally registered that evening.

I did walk to the race site, in 31 minutes according to Strava.  I met friend Sheldon for a warmup run on the nearby streets.  At the NYRR Queens 10K a few weeks ago, I also had a warmup run and I felt better during and after the actual race.  I thought from now on I should always have a warmup run.  Besides, I need to cross off a few streets in the area, for CityStrides.com of course.  I am sure I ran the nearby streets before, somehow the lines don't show in CityStrides.  As more friends show up, I learn that Jimmy is in my age group and I joked that my hope for first-place age group is dashed, I would have to settle for second-place.  With the typical NYRR and NYCRuns races, the number of participants is so large that the chance of a slowpoke like me winning anything is infinitesimally small.  The chance is greater with the smaller races and there are many such races in the City.  I recently turned 50 years old too so there is hope there too.  One popular joke is that if you live long enough, eventually as long as you finish a race you'll win because you'll be the only person in the Age Group.  There weren't that many people at the CIC5K but I didn't know who else were in my Age Group, other than Jimmy.  I would just have to do my best and hope for the best.

There was no start mat.  When the time came, the race director walked the group over to the starting line and, after a few speeches, gave us the signal to go.  I was only a tad behind the starting line, probably at the fifth row, with about five or six people per row.  I jokingly asked "Where is Corral L?"  There was no need for a corral, just a small group of people.  During the warmup run, my left knee felt a bit weird.  The pain seemed to travel down below the calf but it went away afterward.  I did more stretching during the wait for the race to start.  Whatever it was I held back a bit in the beginning.  It was a bit scary to see all the runners in front of me taking off.  I just kept my regular pace.  There was no need to dodge slow runners because there were not that many people and the course was wide enough.  One by one I passed the kids then the women who went into walking mode.  I know, nothing to write home about, but in the running world, lots of time the little kids are pretty fast and so are the women.  Just as I started to pass the front of Mark Twain M.S., some guys started to pass me.  I thought they were such fast runners that they already started to lap me, even though I didn't even hit the first mile yet.  I found out later that they were late-comers, speedy ones, who thought the race was scheduled for 9 A.M.  It was 8:30 A.M. but got delayed a bit.  I kept moving and again passed two more women.  There was a third woman but I couldn't catch up to her in the first mile.  By the second mile, she had to take walking break and it was my chance to pass her but before I did that she resumed running.  A short while later, by the sandy portion of the course, she walked again and this time I actually passed her.  My lead was short-lived as she resumed running shortly after I passed her and she regained the lead.  Unfortunately for her not long after passing me she had to walk again.  I once again passed her and kept going.  I should have studied the course better and only knew vaguely that it was two times around the park, that the third time I hit the entrance to the track I should enter it for about a loop of the track.  I wasn't sure by the time I finished the second loop of the park and had to ask the race director to confirm.  I was so glad it was over.  Hot and humid weather does not work well for me.  I perform better in cold weather.

Award ceremony took place by registration table.  First we had the overall winners then came the Age Group awards.  Many of my teammates from the Prospect Park Track Club won Age Group awards, many in first-place.  For my Age Group, 50-59, when the third-place winner was announced and it wasn't me, my hope was dashed.  Oh well, run faster or find another small race, I thought.  But it turned out I was the second-place winner, with Jimmy in first-place, just as I joked before the race.  Pleasant surprise indeed!

Last month I ran the Harbor Fitness 5K in Bayridge.  There were many raffle prizes given out but I didn't win anything.  In the days leading up to the CIC5K, Josh had many announcements on Facebook about so-and-so sponsors had come on-board and will offer raffle prizes.  In addition to the Chipotle BOGO coupon and $2 (?) Coney Island Brewing Co. that every runner would get, that is.  There were indeed many prizes, ranging from baseball caps to socks then $15 Grimaldi coupon and $25 Brooklyn Running Co. gift card.  There were other very high-valued prizes too that I cannot recall at the moment.  Knowing my luck, I didn't expect much but when the winner for the last $25 BRC gift card was picked, the person wasn't present and my number was picked!  Woohoo!  Second-place Age Group AND a $25 gift card, the day sure started on a good note!


08 May 2017

THE GREAT SAUNTER 2017, PART 2

The Great Saunter, organized by Shorewalkers, is a 32-mile walk (mostly) on the shores of Manhattan Island.  The schedule set forth by Shorewalkers has the walk start at 7:30 AM from Fraunces Tavern near the southern tip of the island.  Walkers would go along the Hudson River up to the northern tip then return to the south (mostly) along the East River.  Most should finish back at the Tavern by 7 PM the same day.

I don't know what I was thinking but I figured that if I can finish a marathon, distance = 26.2 miles, in 5.5 hours, another 6 miles maybe requires one more hour, so I should be able to finish the Saunter in 7 hours, 8 top.  The only trouble is I won't be running, more like a leisurely walk.  Yes, in the beginning I wished to catch up to the front of the group so I walked a bit faster than others, but then I also stopped to remove outer layers or to take photos of the surrounding.  That was part of the reasons for the walk, to enjoy the scenery.  Five hours or so I only finished half the walk, somewhere past the George Washington Bridge.  It was kinda like getting off the last exit of the Long Island Expressway, it was the end of the highway but there is actually lots more road to drive on.  Lately work has me in the southern end of Staten Island and to me it looks countryside.  Houses far apart, no sidewalks in some places.  Except in the Inwood area it felt like walking in a forest.  The big bridges here and there reminded me I wasn't outside of civilization, then there were also the baseball fields as well as buildings in the Bronx just across the water.


Henry Hudson Bridge, it goes on and on.
Before we exit Inwood Hill Park, there was a rest area where Shorewalkers staff provided snacks and drinks.  Some experience walkers brought along sandwiches and such.  I figured we would not be far from civilization and could always stop by a deli to get a sandwich or something to munch.  I was lucky the rest area had a green market just across the street from it.  I was tempted to have a big lunch but with about 16 more miles to go I had just half a sandwich.  And a nice cold apple cider, plus a chocolate chip cookie.

After the break, the route got a little more challenging.  So far, it was a matter of having the water of the Hudson River to our left to stay on course.  After Inwood Hill Park, we were back in the urban jungle with buildings and traffic in all directions.  Unlike those long stretch of shores with few people around, where you can easily spot the walkers far ahead of you, usually with the white Shorewalkers caps, on the crowded city street it wasn't so easy.  The organizer prepared a nice map for us but I figured I could find my way to the East River, or to be exact the Harlem River.  I got toward the correct general direction but to be safe I asked a trio of fellow walkers waiting to cross the street.  It was a fortunate move because even though I was able to walk alone the whole time by then I was getting tired and could use some chit-chat to make the trek more bearable.  The trio turned out to be husband-and-wife team P. and T., the other person being a seasoned Shorewalker, C.  We stayed together for the rest of the walk, down Harlem River Drive, briefly onto the streets of Harlem, passed over part of the Percy Sutton 5K, then finally along 111th Street to get to the East River waterfront.  My favorite part of the walk was in Inwood because I never visited the area before.  Even though I haven't been to the waterfront of the Upper East Side in a while, it was familiar territory so it was a bit boring.  Still nice and there were surprises, like Gracie Mansion, which I thought was some huge complex with fences and guards, far away from the common folks, but it seemed more approachable than I would, and smaller too, but it may be just from one view.

Among the four of us we share stories about travel, food, walking, CityStrides.com, NYC sights, etc.  It helped to pass the time and slowly we whittle down the miles.  We had to take restroom breaks here and there and our pace got slower and slower but we soldiered on.  It didn't help that the sky became overcast and cooler.  At last we saw the Williamsburg Bridge from far away.  The home stretch!  First Williamsburg, then the Manhattan Bridge, and then not that far away, the Brooklyn Bridge.  Unbelievable, all that walking for a paper certificate and bragging right!  But it was a lot of fun, much to see in the city no matter how long you live here.

Just as we arrived back at the Tavern to collect our certificates, it started to rain, not heavily, just enough to get the paper certificates wet if we stayed outside.  Inside the Tavern it was crowded but we managed to find a table, where they only serve drinks.  If I had known ahead I would make some friends, I would make reservations.  We had a celebratory drink, took a group photo or two, then parted ways, with contact info exchanged.  Just as I stepped back outside, the wind was really strong and I shook uncontrollably!  Maybe my body finally reached its limit?  Luckily the shaking went away as I kept walking.  I even recovered enough to find a Chipotle to have dinner.  The subway ride home wasn't so bad, the waiting didn't seem that long.

Oh the agony of the feet!  Unlike a marathon where muscles in different parts of the body ache, for me with the Great Saunter, it's mostly with the feet.  The smalls of the back hurt a little too.  Lucky for me, by Sunday evening, some 24 hours later, I was able to walk normally, mostly.  I actually walked over 3 miles to complete a few more Brooklyn streets for CityStrides.  The Great Saunter got my Manhattan coverage jumped from 10% to 12%, I should focus some more energy on Brooklyn.

Would I do it again?  Probably not, only because I don't like to do things years after years.  Maybe in x years when the East Side becomes more continuous I will re-consider it.  Shore walkers have many other walks throughout the year, some over short distance like 5 miles but others as long as 10 miles, excellent chances to cover more streets for CityStrides.  Should the average, able-bodied New Yorker do it?  Definitely!  It is a great way to see the City, to visit parts of the City you may never visit!  Just be prepared for it, be physically active some time before the big day.

07 May 2017

THE GREAT SAUNTER 2017

A walk on the perimeter of Manhattan Island, 32 miles in more than 12 hours, that was yesterday's The Great Saunter 2017, organized by the good folks at Shorewalkers.  I saw some mention of the event before, on Facebook, but more recently I read that some runners had to drop out of it.  Decent runners, people who finished marathon distance (26.2 miles), people who are faster than me - couldn't finish the walk.  For some it was a nasty blister.  I was curious and decided to finally give it a try.

The day before it rained heavily for most of the day.  On the day of the walk, it was beautiful weather.  Not too hot, but not that cool either.  I was not too worried about the preparation, didn't even pin my bib the night before, like on the eve of a big foot race.  The D train didn't go to Manhattan from my station so I buffered in some extra time for traveling.  It worked out well.  I got to Fraunces Tavern with plenty time to spare.  There was already two lines from the front door, one for registered users and the other for those who wish to register that day.  I didn't recall breakfast being served and asked someone and the answer was no.  Not that surprising, it was only $25 to become a member of Shorewalkers and join the walk, I shouldn't expect more for the day.  There was a Dunkin Donuts nearby, with no seating, but the plaza across the street from the Tavern had plenty of waist-height horizontal surface to be used as table.

After breakfast I felt the need to flush some stuff out of the system and decided to go inside the Tavern.  People were getting inside for buy baseball caps too.  I was tempted but I already have too many caps and resisted the urge even to go inside the Tavern, but nature call and it had to be answered.  By the time I came out it was already time to move - 7:30 AM or thereabout.  People already streamed out what I think of as the backdoor of the Tavern, the one that lead into Water Street.  Off we went, in ones or twos, maybe even three, abreast, filing across the street, past the Staten Island Ferry Station, up Hudson River to the tip of Manhattan Island.

The part of the walk that I looked forward to the most was Inwood Park since I never went that far north on Manhattan Island, but I found other pleasant sights along the way, too.  Battery Park City looked not that different, but Hudson River Park had some parts that I didn't recognized, like the raised wooden walkway below.

Hudson River Park boardwalk.
I did take it easy, stopped here and then to take photos.  I just wished I took action sooner or later.  One building I missed was the "Jenga Building" not far from Borough Manhattan Community College.  Instead of just one rectangular tall building, some of the floors seem to be jutting out of the building, Jenga-style.  I thought I could get a better view of it after turning into the pedestrian path along the West Side Highway, but by then I was too close to BMCC and it was somewhat foggy too.  Lesson learned:  If you like something you see, take photos.  I no longer have limited space or battery life on my phone so there was no excuse.

One year after an NYRR Coogan's 5K I tried to walk down to Hudson River Park but made the mistake thinking that Riverside Park would easily connect to it.  After all, there is the Henry Hudson Parkway between Riverside and the water, so one must cross the highway at some point.  Maybe I didn't have enough sleep that day, but I gave up around 86th Street or thereabout.  With the Great Saunter, I finally walked up along the entire west side of Manhattan.  The best part was the Little Red Lighthouse.

Little Red Lighthouse
I have heard much about the Little Red Lighthouse but the one time I tried to find it while I was in the area, without any software or map program, I failed.  On the Great Saunter, it was not out of the way too, just a few steps off the course.  I took a little break here to check-in on Facebook as well as sip a little water.  It was a cool day, I didn't need much water.

For a while then we were walking way below the Hudson Parkway.  It was time to climb up to its level, at which point Strava said I reached the 16-mile mark so it was time to stop the program just to be safe.  One reason I do the Great Saunter was to improve my Manhattan map on CityStrides.com.  I already had 10% of Manhattan covered, a long walk around the perimeter should increase that number somewhat.  I would hate to lose the phone or run out of battery power before saving the effort.  So at the midway point, I stopped the app and re-started anew.  First 16 miles, second half 16 miles, whatever happened during the second half, I know at least the first half will be safe.  Speaking of half, I better write the other half of this blog post tomorrow, it is time for me to go to sleep.


29 March 2017

EARLY HAPPY BIRTHDAY PROSPECT PARK!

That's right, this coming weekend, April 1 and 2, will be the big 150-year celebration of Prospect Park!  Besides the little, artsy run I will help lead on Sunday, the Prospect Park Alliance has many events planned.  For more info, visit https://www.prospectpark.org/150 .  Many events are free, some have suggested donations, while others offer discounts for members of Prospect Park Alliance.  I wish I can join the History Run hosted by NYRR on Saturday the 1st.  It will be a fun run with many stops at monuments and historical sites throughout the park.  I love running and also love history, what a great combo!  Alas, I already registered to run as a pacer for the Hot Chocolate 15K in Philadelphia.  Don't worry, the 15K won't affect the 3-mile run next day.  I ran the Queens Marathon this past Sunday and today I'm well enough to take the stairs at work on a few occasions.  I even plan to do a little morning run in Staten Island tomorrow.

Speaking of the Prospect Park 150 run, if you are coming, do you feel comfortable enough with the course?  About fifty people signed up via the Google doc so I'll print 25 or so copies of the map.  For your convenience, here is the "course" again.  See you Sunday!


28 March 2017

QDR QUEENS MARATHON 2017

I ran the second annual QDR (Queens Distance Runners) Queens Marathon two days ago.  As usual, that evening I had difficulty lifting the legs and going down stairs was painful.  But here I am, two days later, I can go about 99% normal.  I cannot recall if I "recovered" this quick the last time I ran a marathon.  Maybe my body improved somehow, but I find that hard to believe because I no longer run everyday like I used to.  The only logical conclusion is I didn't push myself hard enough.

The day started early, like 5 A.M.  Packet pickup started at 6:30 A.M. and I was there at that time.  Parking that early in the day was plentiful, mostly under the Van Wyck Expressway.  The shirt-pickup tent just got started, I wanted a Men XL shirt but they didn't have my size so I went back to the car and took a nap, thinking they would sort things out eventually.  They didn't, which is fine by me, I have too many shirts already, I just needed a layer to ward off the cold so I settled for a Women L.  I should have learned the Hollywood Sequel Way, i.e. if something works well just repeat the process.  Having disposable clothes at the NYRR NYC Half exactly a week earlier kept me warm during the long wait in the corral.  I made the mistake thinking Sunday would be just as warm as Saturday and came in shorts and a few thin layers of tech fabrics.  It was cold!  I lucked out and didn't have to deal with rain but IT WAS COLD!

The line for the porta-potty was long as usual.  Luckily, the race took place in a public park, the Flushing Meadows Park, and the public restroom by the subway station was already open, thanks go to some guy who informed the people waiting at the end of the long queue.  I ran there with some other guy and more showed up after us.  Inside the restroom it was so warm I thought about just staying there.

The great thing about races organized/produced by NYCRuns is runners don't have to wait a long time in the corral.  Yes, just one corral.  I simply waited in the back and it wasn't long before the whole thing started.  Here comes four loops of Flushing Meadows Park with many turns!

The race started near the pool, to the east of the Unisphere.  A few turns here and there and runners found themselves heading for the big lake.  A full loop of the lake, with a few spots with rainwater from the previous night blocking the road.  Back to the main part of the park and we made a left to enter the area near Terrace on the Park and Queens Zoo.  One more time back to park center, this time we made more turns here and there and sorta went around the Unisphere then passed by the ramp to the 7 train station.  More turns again and runners pass the back and side of the Aquatic Center, sorta parallel to the Van Wyck Expressway, then turn toward the Pool of Industry, make 300 (?) degrees around the Pool then back to the start.  Loop 1 done!  Of course you can see the course better on the NYCRuns, supposedly the Flushing Meadows Half-Marathon course is the same as this marathon.

With insufficient preparations I had anxiety about the race.  Sure I ran marathons before but I had more preparations then.  I am lucky enough to not have any permanent injuries, so far, and I prefer not to have any after this ill-prepared marathon.  At least for the first loop, what kept me going was the image below.  I came up with a new joke involving the age-old, "Is the glass half-empty or is it half-full?"  For the first time, I ran half-marathon and full-marathon one weekend after the other.  So I came up with the idea of putting both medals in a drinking glass and pose the question, "Is the glass half-marathon or is it full-marathon?"  My jokes are great.  The best.  Period.  (No, just kidding, I'm not that vain.)  Sure I could just use some marathon medal from a few years ago and the joke would still be good, but it's not Throwback Thursday or Flashback Friday right?  It's Sunday!  So on I went for the first loop to earn a new, shiny marathon medal.



For the second loop, I decided to use the public restroom near the turn to Pool of Industry.  I think it's Mile 25 but now I don't know for sure now that the event is not listed on the web any more.  There were other restrooms along the way but I think this one was the closest to the course.  For the NYC Half I held out until the very end but it's unavoidable with a marathon.  Some runners aim to P.R. all the markers along a marathon route, me I just run to finish.  No need to hold it until after the second loop, as the restroom may not be that conveniently located along the race course.  As expected, I didn't P.R. with my half-marathon time, it was 2:35+ when I finally finished Loop #2.

Loops #3 and #4 somehow just passed by.  I am sure many runners do this - identify someone running at a pace near you and try to beat them.  For us back-of-the-pack runners, of course we won't win any top prizes but it's a way to keep going.  I found a few and managed to pass them and also stayed ahead, only to lose my "lead" after the restroom breaks.  Or the walk after each loop to wolf down a pack of Gu.  A friend mentioned some weeks back I may get seriously injured if I'm not careful, so I was careful and took one more walk break after Mile 23.  My "lead" totally evaporated then, as all my competitions sailed past me.  In the end, I managed to surpass a few of those people, after Mile 24.  My finish time of 5:42 or so was a personal worst, not counting the 6+ I spent for the NYC Marathons back in 1994 and 1995, without time chip I think the wait on the Verrazano Bridge was not excluded.  I wish I had my Garmin GPS to confirm the time and distance, as Strava app on my phone said I ran 28 miles.  Sure there were a few big puddles that required going to the side and there were so many turns they may add up, but I am not sure if all that extra distance would really make that big of a difference.

I love inaugural races, new things, but I'm also a non-repeating customer.  I actually registered for last year's Queens Marathon but had couldn't run it because high school spring break overlapped it.  I went on a sea cruise instead.  I'm glad I finally made the run, even with the dismal finish time.  Still, I rarely repeat the same marathon, and the many turns just ensure that I won't repeat the Queens Marathon.  Next year, I plan to run the Suffolk County Marathon, which should be its 4th year, I think, or the Rockapulco Marathon, x loops on the Rockaway Boardwalk.  I cannot afford to fly all over to run marathons so I plan to cover all the local ones instead.  Of course, hopefully I'll run those marathon with more preparation.