14 October 2017


I love it when two of my areas of interest intermix.  The title of this blog post refers to the phrase SIT ON A POTATO PAN, OTIS.  I don't know anyone named Otis or why he was told to sit on the pan.  It's just that the phrase is a palindrome – it spells the same from left to right and from right to left.  You'll have to ignore the comma and move the spaces around, of course.  I first learned about palindromes in a computer class for the BASIC language.  Recently I found a new love in CityStrides.com.

CityStrides.com let runners and walkers overlay a map of places they visited.  It seems like an impossible task – literally travel along all the streets in your town or places you visited.  In my case, that would be primarily New York City.  For some reason, out of the five boroughs, Brooklyn and Manhattan are also considered their own individual city.

Work and family constrains do not allow me to cover as much of my hometown Brooklyn as I want to so for now I try to maximize my coverage of NYC instead, as I regularly get sent to Staten Island and also travel through the Bronx.  The way CityStrides calculate percent completed has nothing to do with a street's length.  For example, let's say a city has a Main Street that goes for miles and miles.  Then there are also many streets that only stretch for a few hundred feet.  If someone were to focus primarily on completing Main Street while someone else covers all the shorter streets, guess who will have a better completion rate?  Yup, not the Main Street guy because by the end of the day, he may have just one out of the total streets completed.  Fair enough, really.

In trying to take advantage of this seemingly erroneous percent complete (which really is not erroneous), I try to cover all the short streets whenever possible.  Streets that are identified as Place or Lane are usually very short, one- or two-block long.  Then I came across Otis Avenue in the Bronx, in the Schuylerville area.  Imagine my surprise after walking along it and not finding it considered completed per CityStrides.  I searched for it in CityStrides and lo and behold there actually are three different Otis Avenues in New York City.  One in the Bronx, another in Queens, not far from Flushing Meadows Park, and yet a third one in Staten Island, just north of Miller Field.  The three locations are shown as series of green hexagons in the picture below.  Personally I think it is a mistake to consider the three Otis Avenues as three parts of one thing.  They just happen to share the name Otis and then also happen to be avenues.  New York City was not composed of the five boroughs – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island, and Queens.  So at some point before the merger, streets were named independently and Otis Avenue happen to appear three times in the three different boroughs.  Just my semi-educated guess, of course.  CityStrides gets its data from OpenStreetMap, so if anything is to change it would have to come from OpenStreetMap.  Maybe I'll study OpenStreetMap and somehow I.D. the three Otis Avenues with suffix to make them unique to the borough and not considered part of "one street".  Highly unlikely I'll mess around with OpenStreetMap, as it seems to be a lot more involved than editing a page in Wikipedia.

Lucky for me, I happened to start participating in NYRR Open Run at Flushing Meadow Park.  I usually get there early and have time to walk around.  Otis Avenue of Queens was knocked out during my first run at FMP.  Next came Otis Avenue in Staten Island, where my son attends high school and I also work there regularly.  Easy for me, but I am sure the typical runner who have a job with a fixed office will find it hard to complete these erroneously longer streets.  Take that, Otis Avenue, go sit on a pot for all I care!

08 October 2017


I love my "job" with the Prospect Park Track Club.  The Club has a program whereby members are encouraged to run with local races, i.e. those that are based in Brooklyn.  The program, Run Brooklyn, dictates that participants should run in six Brooklyn races that are professionally-timed then get a chance to win money prizes at the Club's annual award dinner.  "Brooklyn races" means the run course must start and end in Brooklyn, such that events like the Tunnel To Tower, which starts on the Brooklyn side of the Battery Park Tunnel but ends in the old World Trade Center site, does not count.  The "professionally-timed" condition eliminates fun runs like the Color Run series, whereby participants' time isn't recorded.

By way of suggestions, announcement of the Run Brooklyn program would list a handful of Brooklyn races, just the names.  I volunteered to maintain a spreadsheet containing the race names, dates, URL for registration purposes, and additional tidbits like whether the race coincides with a popular event.  After a few years of maintaining the spreadsheet, I also maintain a calendar that is embedded into the PPTC.org site.  The info in the spreadsheet and the calendar is mostly the same but the calendar has the advantage of also listing NYRR races, the big gorilla in the market, so that when events happen on the same day, participants can make an informed decision which race to register for.

I made such an informed decision today when I forwent the NYRR Staten Island Half and ran in the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration 10K.  Staten Island used to be a mysterious place that I drive through along I278 from the Verrazano Bridge to the Goethal Bridge, or some other bridge, but after spending a large amount time working there, along with running in a few races there as well, the novelty is not there any more for me.  I like to run in different locations and this year the Bed-Stuy 10K fits the bill.

The Bed-Stuy 10K had its staging area in Restoration Plaza, which is near the corner of Fulton Street and New York Avenue.  All under one big white tent on the Plaza were a stage, DJ stand, registration table, refreshment tables, and some vendor tables.  Refreshment included coffee, bananas, half-cut bagels, small apples, and orange juices, which I believe was all donated from the nearby Super Foodtown supermarket.  In a nearby building, runners were treated to indoor plumbing for their sanitary needs, as well as a bag check area.  Maybe I was not too aware of my surrounding but I found out about the bag check purely by accident.  I think there should be more signs to point out the restroom and bag-check service.

The first event this year was the Kiddie Run.  Some five little kids, two as young as four years of age, ran a few yards to the Finish Line on Herkimer Street behind the Restoration Plaza.  Next we had a workout session led by an instructor on the floor of the big tent and three leaders on the stage.  It was a good workout, plenty enough to loosen all your muscles for the upcoming race.

There was no music along the race course but if there was "Turn! Turn! Turn!" by The Byrds should be played.  Look at the course map!  I was afraid that I would run the wrong way because there were so many turns.  At the start, I asked a few runners near me if they were familiar with the course but they either were running the untimed 5K or not know the course.  Luckily the corners were well-staffed, either by event personnel or by NYPD.  A safety cone with the proper directional arrow also helped in case you missed the instruction from the staff.  Something else I could use along the course was more water.  There was a station at Mile 2 and again at Mile 4, but by the time slowpoke me got to Mile 4 there was no more cups.  I think there was some water left in the water cooler, yes, the sort used in your typical cubicle office, but I didn't want to stop completely to drink from the faucet.  Luckily, it was rainy for most of the race and I cooled down enough to not need water that much.  I don't know the history of the race course so it might be that way all these years, with the many turns, so maybe not much can be done about it.  During the last two miles, I so looked forward to seeing the finish arch from a distance to get me going stronger.  It never came as the arch was just down the road after the final turn.

For every run turn turn turn / There is a reason turn turn turn
Bed-Stuy 10K, now in its 36th year, was well-organized despite all its turns.  A few weeks back I ran an inaugural race that had some teething pain.  From the elitefeats mailing list I discovered the inaugural Imagine Academy For Autism 5K in Marine Park, the actual park, not just the neighborhood.  The race course was just the outer loop of the park, which I ran many times already with NYRR Open Run, so the novelty attraction wasn't there for me.  Open Run covers 3 loops, for a total of about 2.5 miles, the Imagine 5K went for a little over 3.5 to reach about 5K.

The race was supposed to start at 10 AM but there was a speech or two and the race didn't really until 10:30.  It was a hot day so the extra half-hour made a little difference.  Although the course was just a few loops of the park, there was no water station anywhere.  After I did my 3.5 loops, the finish line was totally blocked by finishers.  People were just milling about in front of the finish mat, chatting, taking photos, snacking etc.  Perhaps because it was the first time for these people to participate in a race but the situation could be helped by having the refreshment table a few yards AFTER the finish line, not mere feet in front of it.  Lastly, there was no trash container anywhere to collect all the wrappers, fruit peels, etc.  Responsible runners had to go a few yards away to squeeze the trash into already-packed receptacles.  Hopefully next year these issues won't be present.