26 December 2011
Originally, I thought of taking the really long subway ride to Van Cortlandt and make the 3-mile trek from the Bronx into Yonker. It turned out I had a Christmas party on the same day and if I were to pick up a certain matriarch of the a clan she would be more likely to come. So drove I did.
For a techie person, I have an aversion for car GPS. Maybe it's because they do not work indoor so I cannot play with them at home. Instead, I have to set things up in the car, usually after a long wait for the thing to pick up satellite signal. I do not get it, Garmin makes both the car GPS and the sports watch, but the car thing always have trouble finding signal. So off I went to Tibbetts Brook Park in Yonker, Westchester, after only looking over a map on the iPad. I got onto I-80 then went west on Cross County Expressway and got off at some exit just before the Cross County split into Saw Mill River North and South. There were no sign of Tibbetts Brook Park anywhere but I knew I needed to go south to get to it. I had to stop and ask for directions, twice, and finally made it to the park. Technically, the event was to start at 11 but since it was just a fun run, any time after 9:30, when the course was marked, could serve as start time. I got there at 10 and had plenty of time to drop off a gift for the grab bag and another for the toy drive. Dressed in a full Santa suit, I started running around 10:45.
The last time I ran with the Holiday Marathons group, I totally missed a turn and did not even finish one single loop. Instead, I took a short cut, unintentionally, which made my loop about 4 miles, not the 6.5 miles of the real loop. For the Christmas Marathon, I relied mostly on the chalk marks on the ground and they were very obvious, even for someone like me, near-sighted but cannot run with glasses because they do not stay on unless I run with my head held high.
The course is both challenging and beautiful! A short distance from the start point, the runner is met with a steep hill. At the top of the hill, it's a slight descent that took a turn to the left toward the lake. One loop around the lake and the runner is back to the road that takes him back to the hilltop, including the slight ascent. The course is mostly on paved road. There was just a short distance of muddy road from the main road to the loop around the lake. Here and there there were small brooks and streams that whisper quietly in tempo with the runners' footfall and breathing. I stopped a few times to take photo of the scenery but my cell phone camera ran low on battery. Next time I will take a real camera and take more photos.
I would love to do a half-marathon (4 loops) but only had time to do 2 loops (about 6 miles). I did not think ahead and did not have any gu with me, so even if I had time it would be challenging, unless I make much use of the refreshment available, which includes bananas, oranges, and water. As luck would have it, the gift I got from the grab bag turned out to be all energy packs of various brands. Yippee!
18 December 2011
NYC Parks Department Cancels Christmas Marathon
Luckily, the good folks at the Holiday Marathons group was able to enlist the help of the Westchester Parks Department and a race will be held, after all, in Tibbetts Brook Park, just three miles north of Van Cortlandt Park. What's three miles to us runners, right? Come participate and to show your support. In these days, there are races that cost a lot to sign up for AND fill up quickly. No-frills events like those organized by Holiday Marathons should be treasured. Sure you do not run through some famous tourist hotspot and there is no official T-shirts or trinkets to collect, but you will get a good course to run and much camaraderie, which is what running should be all about, right? Follow this link to join in the fun:
The event is free but registration is recommended and donation will be accepted. For the Christmas run, a toy drive will be held so bring a little something for the needy kids.
17 December 2011
The subway trip to the race, in Central Park, was as messy as the typical New York weekend. I already knew that the D train runs on the N line toward Manhattan, but I forgot to check #4 train, which I would need to take to get to the NYRR office to pick up the bib and time chip. Upon transferring for the #4 at Pacific Street Station, I noticed the stair opposite the elevator had a red tape stretched across it. However, in another nearby stair the red tape was broken and there were people in running clothes heading up it, so I followed them up. As us New Yorkers often do, I and the few runners quickly started up a chat about the lousy weekend subway service. I had a long chat with one particular elderly man, who I shall refer to as Mr. 23. A #4 train heading further into Brooklyn stopped at one side of the middle platform where we were and people got off. On the Manhattan side, a #4 arrived but it stopped on the far side of the platform, where the #2 and #3 usually stops. Shouting the classic "Hold the doors!" we ran down the stair then up again the other side. Someone actually held the door and we all thanked him profusely. It was horrible mismanagement. There was no sign whatsoever to tell the riders that the #4 train would not stop at its usual place right next to the platform. It was a good thing that we were runners - and somehow held the door.
I continued chatting with Mr. 23. I learned that he started running late in life, like 49, and has been running 29 years! He is in his 78! His memory is not so good and his eyesight is bad, but he sure can run, from what he told me, and he looked the part. He ran a total of 23 NYC Marathons. Yup, he's one of those automatic entrants - no need for 9+1, lottery with the non-refundable $11 fee, or qualification time. He told me he qualified for Boston Marathon so he is probably good enough for NYC Marathon, given his age. Very impressive, Mr. 23. I would be happy if I still can walk when I reach 70. There is hope of course. I am not even 45 yet and already have a few years of running under my belt.
At last year's Ted15, I arrived late and just joined the race as people thinned out. As long as you do not arrive so late that the start line got totally dismantled, your race does not start until you and your time chip cross the start mat. Technology at work! For today's race, even with the side trip to the NYRR office to pick up bib and chip, I still had some time to walk to the start line to get the T-shirt, use the john, wolf down one pack of GU, and stretched a bit before the race began. My bib number was in the 7000 but perhaps because fewer people signed up for winter races, the 7000 people were moved up to the 6000s corral and then 5000s, or maybe even further up. Soon someone sang the National Anthem. Is it still general practice to stand still and place one's right hand over the chest during the singing of the "Star-Spangled Banner"? I have the image of that Norman Rockwell painting and still do that. I got my Garmin ready and pressed Start as I crossed the start mat. Off we went!
At the first mile, my pace was more than 10:07, that wonderful minute per mile number which I just achieved at the Jingle Bell Jog. I worried that I would not be able to keep that pace. Silly me! I was comparing a 6K race to a 15K one. Much as I would like to, my body will not be able to maintain the same speed for a longer distance. It helps to be realistic. A few more miles and I came up with another crazy idea. Somehow I thought my P.R. for a 15K race at the time was 1:21 plus some seconds. It was already 21 minutes into the race (net time per my Garmin) and I still had so much to cover, there was no way I would beat the 1:21 time. Again, I was off the mark, as the real time was 1:41:28, at the Cancer Colon Challenge in March 2011. Luckily I corrected my mind and pressed on with a more achievable goal in mind.
I think for the Ted15 in '10 I stopped for water only once. I did the same today, around Mile #5, except this time I also had a pack of GU to take. There was no Gatorade so I took two cups of water. My hands were so cold I could not open the pack of GU and had to bite it open. It seemed like forever while I walked to drink the water and eat the GU. People were passing me left and right, but once I had the GU consumed I ran past many people. When Mile #9 came up, I mistakenly thought the finish line was just a tad beyond. I started to sprint for it but it was still far off, or 0.3 miles (0.52K) to be exact. Luckily, I did not lose too much steam and, thanks to the Garmin, knew very well that I would finish less than 1:41:28. But by how much? As I crossed the finish line, the Garmin said 1:36:20. A day or two earlier, NYRR announced that the office had some upgrade to be done the day before the race and may affect posting of the race result. Thankfully result posting was not affected and I soon learned that officially my time was 1:36:15, which made it an improvement of 5 minutes and 13 second! Woohoo for a new P.R.!!!
In case you wonder, Ted Corbitt was the founding president of the New York Road Runners club. He was also the first African-American to compete in the Olympic Marathon, in Helsinki (1952). According to Wikipedia, he was an active runner into his 80s. Amazing!
11 December 2011
With the upgrade to a smartphone, I am once again trying to retire my Palm-based PDA, a Handspring Deluxe. PDA? Handspring? All quaint words in today's technologically fast-moving world.
Once upon a time, Palm Computing was the king of the hill in the mobile market. Back then, mobile means you can carry around in your shirt pocket an address book, a to-do list, a calendar, a notepad, a bunch of apps, and more. The Personal Digital Assistant, PDA, was in vogue, long before Siri ever utters "Your 2010 jokes are annoying." All we geeks wanted to do was to manage our data and data was limited to the calendar, address book, etc. You could edit the data on the host computer or on the PDA then a sync will get things sorted out.
I started the experience with a bona fide, original Palm. Just Palm, no other number or letter followed its name, just simply Palm. Next I upgraded it with a 512K memory module and lo and behold I had a whole 1 MB to fill up with data! I tried to fill the huge amount of space with apps, some, like Scrabble, were bought in the store (Staples) while others were gotten off the Web. One Tetris clone proved to be a fatal addition, as it somehow killed the Palm. Resetting over and over did not do any good. I actually went back to a paper-based address book for a few months. Eventually, Handspring entered the burgeoning market with the Deluxe series. Not only you had 8 MB of space to use, there was also a SpringBoard slot on the back that opened up a whole world of opportunities. MP3 player, encyclopedia, camera, wow!
For my first Handspring Deluxe, I added apps to do genealogy, Chinese input, database plug-in for FileMaker Pro, spreadsheet, word-processing, and some decent-behaving games. Hardware-wise, I got a Targus foldable keyboard and some screen protectors. Unfortunately for it, one day it fell off my belt and I ran it over with my car. I got a replacement, also a Handspring Deluxe, that survive until today. It was once forced into retirement when I had an iPod touch, but the touch only lasted about two years. First the touch's battery failed then its i/o board went kaput. The Handspring Deluxe made a triumphant return. I never got the MP3 SpringBoard module so it does not do music, but as a PDA it works fine. When I am diligent, I even used its Notepad to write draft version of blog entry or ATPM review.
A few weeks back, I decided it was time again for the Deluxe to retire. The Galaxy S on-screen keyboard leaves much to desire but it is adequate. In the smartphone, I have address book, some note-taking app, calendar, to-do list, plus music and email capability. Today I even paired the Galaxy to Apple's bluetooth keyboard and am writing this blog entry with the keyboard.
Thank you for your years of service, Handspring Deluxe. Have a nice retirement!
Changes can be great sometimes. Years ago, only the military had access to satellite data. Then big corporations got into the fun and now the average Joe, too, can wear a gadget that talks to some satellite out there and gather all kinds of info about where he was etc.
The NYRR Jingle Bell Jog was the first race I participated after I became an owner of a G-watch, to be exact, a Garmin Forerunner 210. As I approached the start line, like many (all?) runners I set my watch to be ready to start record. Unlike a simple stopwatch that only tracks time, these fancy G-watch needs some time to find the satellite. You would have to do that prior to approaching the start line, then when you cross the line you would press Start to, uh, start tracking your work.
The big hill in Prospect Park is formidable, but how does it look graphically? The accompanying picture's top part tells the story. The green line is elevation in meters and the blue line is speed in minutes per kilometer. The use of the word "speed" is misleading because speed to most people probably mean distance per time, like kilometers per hour or kilometers per minute, the opposite of what the graph considers "speed." The X-axis (horizontal) is distance in kilometers. It was a 6K race and the Garmin said I ran 6.22K, maybe it included the distance I crossed when I moved left or right to get past slower runners. The start line in Center Drive was actually on a hill when compared to the East Drive. Leaving Center Drive and turning left toward the lake, it was an easy downhill run. I remember joking aloud during the Brooklyn Marathon that there was all to the big race, all downhill! Just a tad past 3K was where the big hill materialize. Oh, mine, Hill, what big slope you have!!! It was not exactly all downhill after the big one, as there were some ups and downs, all the way back to Center Drive.
Remember my beef about the misleading use of "speed" in the graph? If you think kilometers per minute then the graph makes no sense. I know I sped up to make a strong finish but yet the blue line dropped. If I ran faster, should the line not rise at the end? The thing is the graph really shows pace, as the label on the right Y-axis (vertical) reads "min/km". The less time you spend on covering a km, the faster you ran.
To see a simulation of the race as carried out by me, visit http://connect.garmin.com/player/133810229 and click Play. The wonder of technology!
10 December 2011
The day started, sadly, with the usual switching of subway lines. I live near the D train but on this weekend, like many previous weekends, it runs on the N line out to Manhattan. The N itself runs on the D line to Coney Island, which works for me, but the trip to Prospect Park requires allocating extra time to go to the N station further away. Actually, the F and G trains would supposedly drop me off closer to the race's start line but getting to the F is a bit far for me, too. What's more, there is construction on the F line as well. It is more straightforward to just take the D or N to 4th Avenue and walk to 11th Avenue, to pick up the bib and souvenirs, then onward to the start line. It was a 6K race but with all the extra walking because of lousy weekend subway service I might have covered twice that amount today. Good thing I am a runner and do not mind long walks. Do not get me started about my attempt to get to the NYRR office yesterday evening to pick up the bib etc. Yes, lousy subway service then, too.
It was a long walk to the school where bibs and such were distributed, but there was no line at all. Just in and out. A volunteer helpfully directed me to the entrance. In one side, pick up your stuff, and out the other side of the building. No two-way traffic, no collisions. I wish life is always that simple. In addition to the long-sleeve tech shirt there was also a pair of silver bells and strings (?) to tie them to sneakers. Tech shirt, woohoo! First pleasant surprise of the day! I thought we got tech shirt for the NYRR Brooklyn Half Mary because there were many sponsors. The back of the shirt for that race was filled with sponsor names, typical of an NYRR race, which is a good thing, a win-win situation. But the Jingle Bell Jog shirt's back has only the new NYRR logo and that for NYC Parks Department.
A year ago I would be somewhat clueless about what's where in Prospect Park. I do not go there that often, being so far south of it near Coney Island. Today, having run the Brooklyn Marathon, with six big loops and more within the park, I knew exactly where I needed to go. Even without the runners before me leading the way, I knew that to get to Center Drive I would go north, or left, of the lake. I now recall that for the Brooklyn Half Mary, just this year in May, I actually made a whole loop of the lake, from an entrance on the West Drive, to get to the beginning corrals, but only to squeeze in the back in my higher corral, almost back on West Drive again. Knowledge is power, really, knowing where you are and where to go, it is a good feeling.
I had much free time before the 9 A.M. race. I looked around a bit for anyone I know from DailyMile.com but could not find any. After taking a GU energy gel, which I considered my breakfast for the day, I decided to explore Prospect Park, the off-the-trail part. There is much more to Prospect Park besides the big loop and the lower loop. On Center Drive, I discovered some big yellow fruits that from far away I thought were rocks that were painted on. Close-up they have patterns on them that look like brain lobes. Interesting. A bit north of Center Drive I discovered a smaller lake. Half of the lake had dead/brown algae that some passerby told me is unusual. Normally they should be gone by this time of the year and something must be wrong. Too bad the battery on my cell phone almost drained so I could not take a photo of the lake. From far away I thought the algae-covered part was part of the shore.
Eventually, it was time to get into the corral. It suddenly occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, I can use today's race to beat my own pace. Up to today, each time I sign up for an NYRR race, my pace is listed as 10:22 minutes per mile. It is from the shortest NYRR race I ever had, the 5K Coogan in March. It was somewhat cold then and rainy and the distance was short so that was when I ran the fastest. Jingle Bell Jog was supposed to be a 4-mile race but because of some construction work in the park, got shortened to a 6K, or 3.75-mile, race. A tad longer than a 5K (3.1-mile) race, but with the training I have gone through, plus the power of the GU, maybe I can pull it off? At Mile #1, my Garmin said it was 10 minutes into the race, for me. At Mile #2, 20+ . The race course was not even a full big loop but just around the lake, from Center Drive, up West Drive and the dreaded hill, past Grand Army Arch, then down East Drive and back into Center Drive. Again, with the knowledge of what to expect along the course of the race, I took things slow in the beginning. There were many people anyway, better to go slow and let the crowd thin out. At the intersection of Center Drive and West Drive was the first water station. I had no plan to stop for water, as I can survive perfectly fine without any water on these short races. From my almost-daily runs, I can tell at some point that I have had enough of the warm-up and can speed up. It could have been after the water station but the big hill came soon so I decided to climb the hill slowly. After Grand Army Plaza, it was time to kick into high gear. I started to try pass slower runners. Not far from the turn to Center Drive I could not help notice a big guy in front of me, with visible love handles. Fit or not, he was still ahead of me and I could not keep up. But then once we entered Center Drive, I called up some reserve energy somehow and made for the sprint to the finish line. I finally passed the big guy and used the mostly empty left side of the finish chute to complete the race. The Garmin said my time was 37:43 but I am not good at mental division so I still did not know if I outdid myself or not. On the subway ride home, even with a calculator I was not that sure how I fared, since it is kinda hard to divide things into .75 . Even after NYRR posted the result online, I could not view the result page on my Android phone. Trying to view the result page, after finding myself, would only take me back to the NYRR home page. Weird. Only much later in the afternoon, when I finally had a quiet moment to check out the result on the iPad, that I knew my time was 37:41 minutes, or 10:07 minutes per mile. Yippee, P.R. (personal record), baby! Next record to outdo myself - 2:23:40 for a Half Marathon.
03 December 2011
I never own an iPhone but I had an iPod touch and still have a first-gen iPad. iOS is not perfect but then the experience with Android is even more imperfect. When I got the Galaxy it already had many apps so I do not what apps are standard. I listen to music and such a lot so Music Player is my most used apps. I send files from the Mac to the Galaxy via Bluetooth then manually create playlists. I have not tried hard enough to find an app that would sync playlists, files, etc so it is a pain to manage music. Per Leo Laporte on TWIT, Winamp for Android may be just what I need.
A smartphone is not much use if you do not have a data plan. I think a typical plan with an iPhone is $30 a month. My plan is $10 a month, but for only, you better sit down in case this makes you laugh too hard, a whopping 200 MB. I only do email and Facebook so, hard to believe, but 200 MB is really more than enough. At this moment, I have about seven more days to go before the new month rolls in and I only used 27% of that 200 MB. I did blow that 200 MB once when I tested the tethering feature on the Galaxy and my son watched some YouTube video. Dumb mistake! Still, it is nice that the feature is built-in and can be used as long as your data plan can handle it. Not like how with Apple you have to play the game of cat-and-mouse with jail-breaking.
I can live with the measly data plan, but I wish the apps would behave more like iOS apps. They just don't work right. First time I launched the Facebook app, the one that has the UI more like the latest iPad app, it asks me to "Download Browser. Download my new app: fast and save power Browser!", I clicked "Download", it downloaded something and installed it. Next time again, it offered the same choices of "Download" and "Ignore Forever". I clicked "Ignore Forever" and guess what the next time I launched the app? "Forever" already came and went so it asked me to download again! One time, after being sick of telling the app to ignore forever, I clicked Download and it tried to download from the MarketPlace but lo and behold there was nothing to download. Likewise, trying to post to the Plurk social network is a pain. There's a Plurk app but it somehow needs Maxthon app, which turns out to be an alternative web browser!? Wait, there's more! Each time you want to use the Plurk app, it will just tell you to download the Plurk app. No, to use Plurk, you would launch Maxthon. It is a lousy experience, like how I often envision those people who buy the cheapest netbook running Windoze only to put up with Windoze errors and problems. Maybe my next smartphone will be an iPhone after all. Help me reach that dream by clicking on them Google Ads liberally sprinkled around the blog!
01 December 2011
I ran fine without a Garmin, whether it be an NYRR event or out training on my own. NYRR races are usually in Central Park and consist of at most 2 big loops, perhaps a turn somewhere to add a little distance to cover the length of the race. DailyMile's map function works for me and I had a good idea how many Ks I cover during my runs, even if I always have to measure the distance afterward.
It was at the end of the (Inaugural) Brooklyn Marathon (BM) that I decided it was time to get a Garmin. For the BM, I misinterpreted the direction for the course and was going to run a full third loop of the lower loop in Prospect Park. I did not have a Garmin and thought I would need to run two full lower loops, six big loops, finally one more lower loop, in full, through Center Drive, then re-enter Center Drive one last time for the finish line. Good thing I was told not to do another full lower loop and just walked through the finish line. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my undramatic finish was captured on camera. (www.backprint.com , Event = Brooklyn Marathon 11/20/2011, Runner # 207).
I took Monday off to recuperate from the BM. On Tuesday, back to work, in Jersey City, I made a trip to the local running store, Runner's High. There were few choices of GPS watch and they certainly did not have the $130 model, with squarish face, that a few runner friends told me about. I settled for the $200 watch that was recommended. I was a bit disappointed that the watch does not use a micro-USB cable so that I would not have to worry about losing a specialized cable. I was afraid the watch would only measure distance in miles but luckily it can do both miles and kilometers. Of course I went with km, as well as centimeter for my height and kilogram for my weight. I unreasonably expected it to be able to pick up satellite signal, like how a cell phone appears to be able to, but like I hinted at, it was unreasonable expectation on my part.
Assuming the G-watch is correct all the time, it is great to be able to run almost anywhere. So far I have not experienced losing satellite signal. My running routine up to recently was x km out and back. DailyMile's map tool has such a function, Out And Back. I would click along the route to some point of return, then click the icon and my route is complete, double of what I already measured up until then. With a G-watch, I am no longer limited to the few routes I stick to but I can turn wherever I fancy. I just have to make sure I cover at least 8 km (5 miles) during the weekday runs, perhaps more on the weekends.
On Sunday I initially planned to run the Astoria Waterfront, taking the same route when I dropped off TOTA at LaGuardia during her last visit. After parking the car, I decided to give the Triboro Bridge a try. Armed with the G-watch, I was able to just run and not worry if I will run too far or too short. The only factor I had to consider was the approaching sunset. If it was not getting dark so soon on Randalls Island, I would venture about the island some more, especially its waterfront, but there was no time so I only ran from Queens to Randalls Island and then back. I wanted to do 8 km but the trip to and from Randalls Island covered less than that so I simply went to the track at Astoria Park to run some more. I ended up with 8.88 km, a number I am sure many superstitious Chinese think is a good sign.
Today, I thought about running to Kaiser Park but my feet had a mind of their own and took me toward the Aquarium instead. On the Boardwalk, normally I would turn east to get to Bright Playground. Not today, as I went west instead, at first with the former spot of Shoot the Freak as the goal. When I got there, the G-watch said it was less than 4 km so I went further and turned around after I passed the Parachute Jump. Even after I got back near home the total distance was not 8 km so I went a block or two more to reach the distance I wanted.
By the way, "L.S.D." means "Long, Slow Distance" in running lingo. Runners do not do drugs!