29 May 2012


As declared in The Other Halves, I signed up for NYRR Grete's Great Gallop.  Since the length of the race course is set at 13.1 miles, it is a half-marathon even if the name does not mention it.  Two big loops within Central Park makes it technically a Manhattan Half.  Do not confuse the GGG with the NYRR Five-Borough Series' Manhattan Half, which also occurs entirely in CP, only counterclockwise.  Also not to be confused with is the NYRR NYC Half-Marathon, which runs through touristy Times Square and costs an arm and a leg.

The thing I like about the GGG is that it is relatively easy to get in.  It occurs in September so it is not hot.  Some people are so upset with NYRR's recent changes, like raising prices, that they really want a 5-boro half series to compete with NYRR's.  I compiled a list of non-NYRR half-marathons and called it The Other Halves.  I concluded then, and also now, that there is no non-NYRR half-mary for Manhattan.  But there is a unique half-marathon debuting at the end of May 2012.

Hosted by the Orchard Street Running Club, the inaugural Midnight Half is scheduled for May 31, 2012, midnight to perhaps 3 a.m.  The 13.1-mile course starts at 141 Chrystie Street, over the Manhattan Bridge, along the DUMBO waterfront to Red Hook for the first checkpoint, 70 Van Dyke.  Runners would then trace their way back toward the Manhattan Bridge, but not to get back on it.  Instead, they would head for the intersection of Kent Avenue and North 8th, checkpoint #2.  Finally, runners would take the Williamsburg Bridge to get back to 141 Chrystie.  All along there are no route marshals to tell you where to turn!  It is an unsanctioned race, for crying out loud!  Definitely not for the faint of heart.  A slow runner like me can easily find himself all alone, separated from the other runners.  Not that Red Hook or Williamsburg is particularly unsafe, the race spans from midnight to 3 a.m. or so.  It is unsafe anywhere in New York during those wee hours!

The idea of having a race late at night is not entirely new.  The NYRR has the Emerald Nut Midnight Run on New Year's Day.  I ran that race to usher in 2011.  Central Park was packed with runners during the wee hours of the New Year's Day.  The subway ride home was uneventful.  There was a drunk woman with a male companion.  She could hardly stay conscious and did not cause any troubles.  Not like some wolf pack of youngsters I had the misfortune of sharing a subway ride with one late night coming home from a concert.

I started writing this blog entry some weeks ago.  By now the inaugural Midnight Half is already sold out so officially you cannot sign up for it.  If you happen to be out on the street at that time, how about cheering the runners? More info about the unique event at http://midnighthalf.eventbrite.com/

23 May 2012


And now for something completely different... a musical concert featuring classical Chinese music!

The maestro is Changyuan Wang.  Her students will also perform, among which will be my wife doing a solo.  My son and niece will be in the audience.  I will play chauffeur transporting the bulky instruments in their cases.  I will also play porter with the instruments during setup and take-down.

If you are in the area on Saturday, come by and say hello.  Look for a Chinese man with eyeglasses.  How hard can it be to find such a person in Flushing, New York?

20 May 2012


NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon (BMH) 2012.  Another half-marathon completed, no Personal Record (PR) broken, but there are a few nice things to write about.

Below photo is my preparation for the big event.  15,000 spots and all was sold out in about 10 hours!  I happened to be near a computer at the 9th hour and got in just in time.  The picture is somewhat misleading as I did not run in the race shirt.  Instead, I debuted the team singlet I just got in the mail mere days before the event.

Weekend races are usually made more challenging thanks to the MTA's ongoing subway repair schedule.  There was no work done on the D line so I took it from home to Pacific Street.  I should have taken another subway to get to the starting area, Washington Avenue and Eastern Parkway, near the Brooklyn Museum.  I knew very well that my corral, the 18000, won't be anywhere near the start.  I incorrectly assumed that the corrals would stretch along Washington Avenue so a walk from Pacific Street may actually get me to my corral faster.  It turned out the corrals stretched along Eastern Parkway.  No problem, us long-distance runners don't mind a few miles of walking to get to our corrals.

I envy those people who have a running partner.  My life schedule only allows me to run real early in the morning, like 5 a.m. or 7 a.m., and no one I know can accommodate that schedule.  I made some good friends on DailyMile.com, social media for runners, and have great interactions with others on Facebook.  Still, I think to advance to the next level I need to run in a group, somehow.  The group I decided to become a paid member was the Prospect Park Track Club (PPTC).  I've seen their banner and table at some races then joined their FB group and learned more about them.  I should be able to join one of their weekend group runs one of these days.  For the Brooklyn Half, I debuted the PPTC team singlet.

I knew that there would be a PPTC cheering squad at the entrance to the park where Coney Island Avenue meets Prospect Park West etc.  The new course for the BHM went down Washington Avenue, up Flatbush Avenue and around the Grand Army Plaza, back down Flatbush again and along Prospect Park's perimeter to enter the park Coney Island Avenue.  One big loop of the park then exit at the same place to get to Ocean Parkway then all the way down to Coney Island.  I think even before I got to the PPTC cheering squad I already got some cheering from those who recognized the PPTC shirt.  At the park entrance I thought I recognize Michael from PPTC but without glasses I was not that sure.  I waved at the group and Michael gave me some words/sounds of encouragement.  I worried that by the time I got back to that spot, to exit the park, the cheering squad would not be there any more, as I understood they had to rush to Coney Island to cheer the team leading runners.  Luckily, they were still there when I exited the park and I even got a few photos taken of me.  What a perk for being a member!  Thank you Patty and PPTC!

One thing I remember from the 2011 BHM was that there was little cheering along the way on Ocean Parkway.  The 2012 race, from my perspective, had more spectator support along the Parkway.  Maybe it was a result of better publicity, or the earlier start time of the race somehow fitted better with spectators' schedules.

I was hoping for a new PR but it did not happen.  I avoided the mistake I made with the Verrazano Half and did not run any extra, sweat-laden pieces of clothes.  Just the shorts and singlet, but it did not help.  The finish time of 2:26:21 is actually worse than the Verrazano Half's 2:25:30, but of course the course for the BHM was hillier.  It was also a hotter day, that's for sure.  I did experience the onset of cramping during the BHM, but it happened at almost the very end, with about 200 meters to go.  Again I could not sprint for the finish line but then I did not walk either.  The finish line was just around the corner and then within sight, it would look really bad to walk to it, so I just kept running and hoped for the best.

PPTC cheers and photos made the BHM extra nice.  The other nice thing with the race was medal award.  With NYRR, as far as I know, runners get medals only for THE Marathon in November and the NYC Half Marathon in March.  Both cost an arm and a leg these days.  The Brooklyn Half is the only other race that offer medals.  From the list of available volunteer positions, runners learned about "medal distributors" and much excitement was generated before the race.  I don't recall seeing any official confirmation from NYRR about medals for the BHM, so as I saw finishers walking in the opposite direction on Ocean Parkway, I tried to see that they had medals around their necks.  No one I saw seemed to have a medal, but a finisher answered in the affirmative when I asked about the medal as I ran past him.  I only have a few sports awards so medals are great mementos for me.

18 May 2012


A day late and a dollar short?  I am pessimistic and think that is often the case with me.  I got back into the sports of running and so looked forward to actually doing all half-marathons of the NYRR Five-borough Series.  Alas, in 2011 I couldn't do the Bronx Half because of Hurricane Irene, then for 2012 there is no more Queens Half and Bronx Half.  In another situation, after years of not being connected to my high school, I helped organize a silver reunion, joined the official alumni association, made many new friends and re-connected with others.  Unfortunately, soon there will no more Newtown High School (of Elmhurst, Queens, that is) thanks to Mayor Bloomberg's politicking.  And then there's ATPM, the independent, free online Mac magazine.

For many years I helped put out the newsletter for the New York Amiga Users Group (which through magic was shortened to Amuse).  I mostly wrote the product news so it was somewhat easy.  Wade through the many paper mail the group received at its mailbox then write a few sentences about the product to be released or upgraded.  At some point the newsletter no longer came out and not too long afterward I stopped going to the meetings altogether.  Some more time passed and I discovered the MetroMac, the Metropolitan New York Mac Alliance.  Ugh, it's been so long I had to Google for that group name.  I contributed a few cartoons and at least one software review but then the newsletter was dying.  One day while googling for something I stumbled upon ATPM, short for About This Particular Macintosh.

One major difference with the ATPM experience was that there was no physical contact involved.  The entire magazine staff is spread all over the world and so is the audience.  Some staff members developed friendship and arranged to get together for special occasions or when business travel put them into close vicinity of others, but  it is not necessary to have physical interactions.  Email plays a big role as articles were sent for editing and returned.  Reviewers get registration code through email, too, then downloaded the software, usually in demo or limited version, and finally activated the full version with the registration code.  When a draft version of the mag became available, the staff got notified and many more pair of eyes would go over the articles.  Near the end of the month or the first few days of the month, the new issue came out, thanks to our dedicated editor, and we all breathed easy for a few days...  until when the cycle started again.

I started with ATPM as a copy editor, i.e. proofreader.  One day I took a shot at writing a review and even drew a cartoon appearing separately but referred to the reviewed product.  I had a good run with being a reviewer, but then other things in life got in the way.  Writing is a lengthy process, especially for a high-quality magazine like ATPM, and I was not the only one not able to keep up with the monthly process.  In recent months there were fewer and fewer articles submitted.  The May 2012 issue, http://www.atpm.com/18.05 , is the final one in the monthly, magazine format.  Discussion about a new format for ATPM is ongoing so stay tuned!

It is a special joy for me to have a review and a cartoon in the same issue of ATPM.  For the May 2012 issue, I have a review of Draw Something and already came up with a cartoon related to the product.  Something along the line of the latest iOS upgrade having extra features specifically made for Draw Something to help decipher lousy stick drawings.  When I learned that the issue would be the final one, I thought hard for something else to draw.  Luckily, the cartoon still involves Draw Something and makes much use of puns.  The first three puns are pretty obvious.  The last one may be tricky if you are not fond of fonts or don't work with typography.

12 May 2012


I don't usually write about subjects covered by the media or things happening.  It is good enough that I write at all, never mind keeping current with current events.  This post is an exception, as I made a sonobe ball just in time for Mother's Day 2012.  It is really just a segue for me to introduce other sonobe balls I created recently...

When I first made a 12-unit sonobe ball, I thought that was too time-consuming already.  Before that I only made 6-unit pieces, which inevitably were just cubes.  Eventually I got bored with the 12-unit pieces and made the leap to the 30-unit design.  In case you are interested, the paper came from an ad insert for Nikon, found in some issue of AM New York this week.  Many people simply took the insert out and threw it back into the distro box.  Eventually, the discarded inserts would be thrown out as garbage.  I gave them a new life.

For comparison purpose, three sizes of sonobe balls side-by-side, with a U.S. quarter for further comparison.  The Mother's Day ball was made from 12 pieces of 8.5"x8.5" paper.  The "bumble bee" in the middle was made from 30 4.5"x4.5" squares, but note how it is almost the same size as the 12-unit piece.  Rightmost is the 12-unit sonobe made from 4.25"x4.25" squares.

"Erotica, She Wrote", made for a friend whose web site is mywritingden.net.  Check it out, but be warned that it is NSFW (Not Safe For Work).  I have yet found the time to pack it up and mail to her. 

"Frank Heart Apple", made for a colleague named Frank who likes Apple products, especially iPhone and iPad.  It is heart-warming to know that many IT pros these days gladly use Apple devices, including MacBook Pro to access corporate VPN.

A whole lotta sonobe!  Those with sharp eyes maybe able to see two Happy Birthday balls, one to Laura and the other to Nicholas.  The one in the back says "Do No Harm", very zen-like.  The one on the left with arrows is my template.  I unfolded it then scanned it in then used the scan image as a background so I would know where to place words and images, with proper orientation, so when folded the words and images come out properly aligned.  How about that L-shaped thing?  One day years ago I came across a whole stack of postcard-sized advertisement.  They made very sturdy origami objects but I could only make the L.

03 May 2012


Why should runners work on their upper body?  Especially the arms?  So that if and when their legs are too tired they can use their arms to push themselves off from chairs, floor, etc.  Seriously, I really did that occasionally the hours after I ran the Verrazano Half Marathon.

Pre-race bib and shirt pickup did not work for me.  The one day that I was in Manhattan the pickup location was in Brooklyn.  I had a car with me and it acted like a leash on me.  I could not go anywhere too far lest I find a free parking spot, which is a rare thing in Manhattan's Chinatown.  I actually entered the subway at the R train's Whitehall Street but had to get out because the wait was too long.

On race day I got up early to catch the B64 bus to get to Owls Head Pier.  I rarely take the bus but the alternatives include riding the subway in a roundabout loop or driving, which would mean putting up with looking for a parking spot AND burning gasoline, which I try to avoid at all cost.

I got there too early and there was only a beardless Steve Lastoe setting up the mat, perhaps other race officials nearby too, but there was hardly any runners yet.  It was cold and windy with no place to hide so I headed off the pier to the side of the nearby deli.  It was really the driveway for the parking lot of the adjacent building.  It was sunny and warm there, there was a place to seat, and the wind did not whip around the corner.  What a big difference!

Eventually I got my bib and singlet and got back to the warm spot to put them on.  I thought I saw my ex-DailyMile friend Heather.  Good thing I did not approach the person as the real Heather found me later on.

There wers just 400 runners so when the time came there was just a short announcement about the course.  Four miles toward Ceasar's Bay, loop back before the baseball field, back to the pier and you have 8 miles down.  Out again toward the bridge and pass it just a little bit, 2.5 miles or so.  Turn around for the pier then about 2.5 miles.  The fast runners were told to start first and the rest began their run shortly afterward.  Thus began the inaugural Verrazano Half Marathon by NYCRUNS.  Not much of a corral to separate the runners according to their paces.  For a slow runner like me, that mean I did not have to walk some extra distance to get to my corral.  Small is beautiful and simple.

The course was advertised as "flattest and fastest" and I knew that was true.  At least the "flat" part.  I live not far from Caesar's Bay and use the Belt Parkway waterfront as one of my regular route.  For hill training, I usually include the few footbridges that go over the Belt.  In theory, I should P.R. easily.  Flat terrain and familiarity, what more can I ask?

I started out a few steps behind Heather but she soon disappeared from view.  I never join group runs so the only time I compete against others is during the races I registered for.  My first competitor for the Verrazano Half was a Woman in Bright Red.  I passed her somewhere during the first 4 miles but after Mile #8 she passed me.  Likewise there was a Woman in Light Brown, who I think also took over me after Mile 8.  I suspect I lost my lead of Light Brown and Bright Red because I had to drop the hoodie that I had on at the start of the race.  Apology goes to the person at Mile 8 who I handed the sweaty hoodie to.  I automatically thought it was a volunteer, who would gladly help out the runners.  I meant for her to throw it to the bag-check people but I found out afterward that she pretty much dropped it where she was standing.  I cannot blame her.

Without the sweat-drenched hoodie, I think I ran a little faster.  I managed to pass both women but soon found two other people who ran roughly at my pace.  I shall name them Neon Green and Neon Red.  They were walk-runners, i.e. they would run some distance then walk, then ran again, resumed walking.  In my book, during a race, you should walk only when you need to drink or take GU.  Much to my frustration, the two walk-runners would run past me, got overtaken when they walked, but then resumed the lead when they ran again.  At Mile 10.5, I had the lead and joked with the race official there about moving the cone closer to me to save me a few yards.  He moved the cone a few inches instead.  With just about 2.5 miles left to go, I took a short break and let out a loud whoop.  I do not how that work but it felt good whooping when tired.

Ms. Neon Red was probably a pacer for Ms. Neon Green.  Around the time of my whoop, Neon Red decided she had enough of me and ran ahead.  I told Neon Green that she and her pacer were killing me.  "Don't you ever give up?", I jokingly asked.  As I passed Neon Green, I told her that when I catch up to her friend, I would tell her that Neon Green said hello.  Wishful thinking.

With about 2 more miles to go, I started to feel something twitching or pulling in my left calf.  Soon the right calf had the same sensation, too.  Probably the onset of cramps.  I had to "go to work" after the race so I feared that if I pushed too hard, my legs will totally give out and I will have to work the 9 hours in extreme pain.  So I alternated between walking and running.  As she passed me, Ms. Light Brown was kind enough to nudge me with a "Come on" but I could not run at the time.  Neon Green passed me as well and I had zero chance of catching up to Neon Red.  I am sure Bright Red went past me as well.  It was just me against my uncooperative calves.  Maybe it was insufficient training, perhaps it was because I did not stretch enough before the race.  The pain eventually subsided and I was able to run over the finish mat, i.e. not limping to the finish.  Definitely not the usual sprint I enjoy so much, but at least I ran. At the finish line, to a person standing nearby I asked, in a conspiratorial tone, if there were anyone behind me.  I know I am slow but I would really hate to finish dead last.

I had a drink of water and took a bagel.  Congratulated the two Neon ladies.  Someone, perhaps Bright Red, told me that she liked my "roar".  It is fun to act silly sometimes.  I found my hoodie on the ground, near where I handed it off, a bit beyond the finish mat.  I totally forgot to stop my Garmin.  When I did, the time was 2:26.  I learned a few hours later that my time was 2:25. I did wonder, when I went over the mat to get my hoodie, then over the mat again to get back to the pier, did my time get recorded a second time then my finish time the average of the two?  I don’t think it would matter that much.  I am just glad that with cramps and all I still finished below 2:30. Next chance to P.R., NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon!