Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bridge of the Week #41: E. Gun Hill Road Bridge

Not surprisingly, this week's bridge is another over the Bronx River, in close proximity to the last two bridges on this blog. In fact, it is adjacent and perpendicular to the Bronx Blvd. Bridge 2 (as I call it). The E. Gun Hill Road Bridge carries E. Gun Hill Road over the Bronx River between Olinville Ave. and Webster Ave. It is a concrete arch bridge, built in 1918 and has a total length of 93.8 feet. It carries vehicular traffic and has sidewalks on both sides.

This bridge is a nice way to get to or from the pathways in Bronx Park. Van Cortlandt Park is about a mile to the northwest on Gun Hill Road, there is a Metro North station, Williamsbridge, just to the west of the bridge, and the 2 and 5 lines stop at White Plains Road, a couple blocks to the east.

Gun Hill Road is one of the main thoroughfares in the northern Bronx. In the revolutionary war, the American army would use the road to push (or pull) their cannons up to the top of the hill, to a spot currently located in Woodlawn Cemetery, hence Gun Hill. The road itself was called Kingsbridge Road, and was part of the original Boston Post Road. In 1875 it was renamed Gun Hill Road. In the 1940's a highway "upgrade", called Gun Hill Crosstown Highway, was proposed for the corridor, but never came to fruition.

I don't promise a big, exciting bridge for next week's bridge (in fact, I know it won't be), but I do promise it will be in another borough at least.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bridge of the Week #40: Bronx Blvd. Bridge 2

This week's second bridge is another bridge on Bronx Blvd. over the Bronx River, this one located immediately north of Gun Hill Road just south of 211th St. I could also find no name for this bridge or any information on it at all, really. But it is, like the Bronx Blvd. Bridge 1 (see last post) a pair of concrete arch bridges, very likely built about the same time as the Bronx Blvd. Bridge 1 or the adjacent Gun Hill Road Bridge, 1918-1920. Very charming and attractive, and a nice area to run.

Bridge of the Week #39: Bronx Blvd. Bridge 1

Still in the Bronx, over the Bronx River, this week's bridge is actually a pair of bridges, one for each direction of traffic, on Bronx Blvd. just north of Duncomb Ave., itself just north of Magenta St. I've had trouble finding an official name for the bridge, so I just call it the Bronx Blvd. Bridge 1, leaving room for another bridge on Bronx Blvd. just a little farther north.

This is a pair of concrete arch bridges with a total length of 75 feet, and was built in 1920. There is a sidewalk on each side. It lies within Bronx Park, just south of Gun Hill Road, where there are plenty of nice paths to run on. Not much else to mention, but a very nice area of the city.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Bridge of the Week #37: Burke Bridge

When I started this bridge series, I intended to do only the bigger bridges over major waterways. I certainly wouldn't waste my time with little bridges that you barely even know you cross over, like the 9th St. Bridge over the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn (Bridge #21). But then I decided some of those little bridges have some interest, either in terms of history, engineering, geography, neighborhood, etc. Plus I realized that in some cases I can run across a handful of those little bridges in one run and be good for several weeks. So I decided to do them all. But only the ones over water - no overpasses, viaducts (except one which I'll do later as a bonus) - since this is a city of waterways. And no little footbridges in the parks. Except this one. I chose to do this one, and not ones like Bow Bridge in Central Park, because this at least crosses a river, and upriver and downriver are larger roadway bridges, drawbridges even. Plus, it does connect paths that are good for running, as opposed to the footpaths in Central Park.

The Burke Bridge is a footbridge in Bronx Park over the Bronx River. It's a few blocks north of the Kazimiroff Boulevard Bridge and is even with Burke Ave. to the east, to which it connects by a footpath and stairway. I don't have any specs on it, but it's a stone and concrete arch bridge. The current bridge on the site is fairly new or at least newly renovated. I has a wide, smooth path and nice benches on both sides. It's a very pleasant little spot on the tranquil Bronx River. It also features an informational plaque telling about restoration of the Bronx River floodplain. Much of the area around the Bronx River, especially this section, had been abandoned for decades, used as a dumping ground, but is now cleaned up and a new haven for wildlife, not to mention a nice park area.

Bridge of the Week #38: Hutchinson River Parkway Bridge

I'd heard that it existed, but I didn't know if it was true or just a legend, a myth. There was a cyclists' web site that mentioned it, and the New York City Department of Transportation web site mentioned it. But was it really there, and how did one get to it?

The Hutchinson River Parkway Bridge certainly did, and does, exist. It's clearly on all the maps, and it carries the Hutchinson River Parkway over the Hutchinson River from the Co-Op City area to the undeveloped northwestern regions of Pelham Bay Park before heading on up to Westchester County. But was there a walkway, was it open, and how could I get to it?
The DOT web site just says there's an eight-foot sidewalk. A cyclists' web site says it's a rough ride and gives some vague or cryptic directions to approach it. I had optimism, though, since even a rough ride for cyclists is certainly runnable. But my first two journeys to try to catch a glimpse of the beast were unfruitful. From Co-Op City, a sidewalk on Bartow Ave. goes directly underneath the bridge, and would surely have an entrance to the walkway. But it doesn't. Staring up at the bridge from different angles, it looked possible that there was a sidewalk on the west side, but I couldn't be sure. Maybe the entrance was a little further back, so I ran alongside the line of trees and bushes that separate the parkway from the sprawling parking lot of the Bay Plaza shopping center. But the parking lot ended with no entrance to the walkway, and I didn't see any sign of a sidwalk along the parkway.

After re-checking the cyclist web site, I took a second trip to the bridge, but still could find no entrance. I saw a worn path that went into the bushes, and possibly to the bridge, but that couldn't be it. No one would take a bike through there at least. And with a police car parked right there I didn't want to have them see me wander off into the bushes. There must be a real entrance. The web site's instructions on entering from the northern side were even more confusing, and sounded much more treacherous. I'd been in the general area where such a path must originate, and I saw nothing, and no pedestrian access along the roads.

But before I continue on my adventure, here are the specs. It's a twin-leaf bascule drawbridge, 673 feet long, carries six lanes of traffic (three in each direction) plus the possibly mythical eight-foot sidewalk. It opened in 1941 and was reconstructed in 1985. The river, the parkway and the bridge all bear the name of Anne Hutchinson, who settled in the area in the early 17th century proclaiming religious freedom.

After my second unfulfilling journey, I went back home and looked for more information on the internet, and studied Google maps carefully, and then I found it! What surely had to be the entrance to the bridge walkway began all the way back about a half mile south of the bridge, just south of the I-95 interchange, at the intersection of Gun Hill Road and Stillwell Ave., across the street from a nursing home.

So back I went, trotting down Gun Hill Road all the way to its southeasternmost point to the nursing home, and there was the sidewalk as on the map. It crossed under I-95 but I had to be careful of traffic on the access ramps. The pavement was buckled and unmaintained, it appeared. And as it continued alongside the parkway, it was even more overgrown to the point where it disappeared altogether in spots and I was forced onto rough grass dangerously close to the traffic whizzing by. But it must come out to the bridge. Every once in a while I'd see a patch of pavement reassuring me that someone was meant to walk here at one time. So on I pressed until the bridge came within sight. Sure enough, that dirt path through the bushes from Bartow Ave. does give quick and easy access to the sidewalk. Live and learn. I'm glad I found the "official" entrance, though, terrifying as it was. But now I wsa on the bridge and all was well, although the roadway shook with every car that passed. I never felt so much like a bridge was about to fall. And the tires on the steel grating roadway of the draw span made a ghostly moaning or howling sound.
So now on the northern side of the bridge I'd discover the fabled north entrance. First I descended to a rough paved path. There was a worn grass pathway that led under the bridge, but that was a little too scary even for this adventurer. I didn't want to interrupt any murder, body drop or pagan rituals. Sticking to the paved pathway in what looked like the logically correct direction, it followed an onramp to the parkway, including an overpass, but soon became a dirt pathway, then an overgrown dirt pathway, then an area where the leaves looked only slightly more trampled than surrounding areas. Doing a little bushwhacking (and who among us hasn't done a little bushwhacking?) what remained of the path seemed to come to an end onto a roadway, but at least a famliar roadway. It was just west of where Orchard Beach Road meets Shore Road, and there's a bridge over the rail lines on which construction is being done. There is a nice bike path along Shore Road there, but from Shore Road, it certainly looks like there is no pedestrian or bike access to this access road. But I only had to run on the roadway for about 100 yards or so. So the third journey was a success! I had found the fabled pathway onto the Hutcinson River Bridge.
So to make a long story short, it's totally not worth it at all. You see what I go through for you guys?
Pics: 1. Entering the bridge; 2. View of the river, part of Co-Op City and surrounding wetlands on the west; 3. Steel grating surface and landscape to the east; 4. Looking back from the north.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Race Report: Thanksgiving Marathon

I got an email a few days ago from Mike Arnstein telling me about a trail marathon he and Mike Oliva were putting on in Van Cortlandt Park on Thanksgiving morning. I rejected the idea at the outset, having just run a 60K on Saturday and needing a recovery week. But I felt good on runs during the week, so I decided to go for it.

The marathon consisted of four 6.5-mile loops incorporating parts of the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail, the South County Trail (Old Put), the flats and the back hills. There were also a 10K (one loop) and a half marathon option (two loops). The trails were beautiful, leaf-covered and in good shape. It was generally flat, but did have a few fairly steep ups and downs, and some rocky sections.

This race was firmly in the fatass tradition - no entry fee, no aid stations, no t-shirt, just run. There were, however, finishers "medals" in the form of forks, which could be used for Thanksgiving dinner. There was a standard table fork for 10K runners, a medium fork for half marathoners and a large serving fork for marathon finishers. This no doubt was part of the appeal for the runners, and the reason about 200 people showed up for the three races, despite it having only been planned two weeks ago and making its way around by email and Facebook. About 100 of them were doing the 10K, an estimated 20-25 running the full marathon.

The weather was cool and cloudy, but good running weather. Without pushing too hard, I was happy to run consistently about 53 minutes per loop, and finished in 3:33:33, good for fourth place. Oz Pearlman, who had trouble at JFK on Saturday and DNF'd after 31 miles, won in under three hours. Mike Arnstein, who finished JFK, got third in 3:08. (Second place I don't remember the name.)

Frank C. and Emmy S. showed up for the 10K before going on to family events. Grant M. also ran, for the first time in about six months. Sal, Lucimar, Elaine were there, too. A lot of fun and a great way to justify overeating and watching football later in the day!

Race Report: Knickerbocker 60K

The 33rd annual Knickerbocker 60K was held on Saturday, Nov. 20, on a beautiful day in Central Park. I like this race partly for its historical significance, but also because it brings a lot of first-time ultra runners to the sport.

The race was first held in March 1978. It was the brainchild of Nick Marshall, and was planned for Forest Park in Queens, where it would've been called the Queens 60K, but snow and ice on the road required a move to Central Park. Richie Innammorato, who was helping Nick, wasn't crazy about the idea of having it in Central Park, since "everything was in Central Park". So he at least made it go clockwise, against regular traffic. It also required a name change, with Richie calling it the Knickerbocker 60K, for a New York name. Back then it used the full six-mile loop, including the Great Hill.

It was a pure coincidence that the first winner was Terry Knickerbocker in 3:51. There were four finishers under four hours that first year. Terry went on to set a still-standing course record in 1981 of 3:40:42, also setting an unofficial American record (official records aren't recognized for 60K).

Today, this is the only ultra still on the New York Road Runners calendar, and the only ultra still in Central Park. But with that kind of exposure, it brings a large field, many of whom are new to ultrarunning. (The race is also an introduction to ultrarunning for a lot of bewildered park-goers.) This make is very exciting, as you never know who might show up, like a fast marathoner doing his first ultra.

As for me, having won last year in 4:22, I was hoping for a similar result this year. I started out on pace, just under 7:00/mile, and shortly found five runners ahead of me, including Dennis Ball, who ran really strong at the Queens 50K in the spring. But I was running my pace and let them go, hoping they'd fade at the marathon point, allowing me to catch them. Well, one faded enough for me to catch him, but the others remained strong. The race was won in 4:08:36 by Gerardo Avila, a perfect example of a fast marathoner (in the 2:20's) running his first ultra. Second was Sebastien Baret, who finished second last year, but improved his time considerably with a 4:09:10 finish. Third was Michael Coveney, just edging out Dennis. My 4:24:01, only a couple minutes slower than last year, but good enough for fifth this year.

The top three women were Deanna Culbreath, 9th overall with 4:42:11, Elena Makovskaya and Jessica Purcell.

Although there were a lot of new faces there, there were plenty of old friends as well - Tony P., Wayne B., Dave O., Frank D., Al P., Lydia R., Sal C., Andrei A., Al T., Chris S., with Grant M. acting as a course marshall, and Admas stopped by on her training run.

Thanks to John Garlepp and Richie Innammorato for their work with the Road Runners in staging this race. It was another great race all around.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Bridge of the Week #36: Kazimiroff Boulevard Bridge

This week's bridge is the Dr. Theodore Kazimiroff Boulevard Bridge over the Bronx River in the Bronx. The Dr. Theodore Kazimiroff Boulevard runs along the western and northern borders of the New York Botanical Garden. The bridge is on the northern border of the garden, east of the southern terminus of the Mosholu Parkway, west of the Bronx River Parkway, before the boulevard continues east onto Allerton Ave.

I can find no information on the stats of the bridge, when it was built, etc. It is a stone arch bridge that carries auto traffic, and a rather narrow sidewalk on the north side. Fortunately, there is a wide shoulder area on the roadway next to the sidewalk, so cars don't go whizzing by right next to you, and if you need to step down to pass someone, it can be done safely. It does connect a nice bike path and greenway from Mosholu Parkway to paths northward through Bronx Park, and on the west side of the Bronx River Parkway one can run south to the Pelham Parkway. Also, the New York Botanical Garden is right across the street.
The bridge (I'm not even sure if that's its official name) and the Boulevard are named after Dr. Theodore Kazimiroff (1914-1980), a dentist who was a strong advocate for protection of ecosystems and natural features in the Bronx, especially in Pelham Bay Park. This portion of road north of Fordham Road, formerly a part of Southern Boulevard, was named after the doctor in 1981.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

College Football Playoffs

I hope we can all agree that the BCS is a disaster and an embarrassment. If you're reading this, I probably don't need to tell you the history. But the BCS is its own entity comprising authorities from six conferences, which at the time of its creation were considered the strongest and most significant conferences in college football. The fact that that is clearly no longer the case (Big East, ACC - really?), and yet the BCS continues to serve those conferences while blatantly discriminating against teams from other, stronger conferences (MWC, WAC) is reason enough, and probably the main reason to do away with the BCS. The fact that it claims to want to settle the dispute over which team is the best "on the field" while ignoring results that took place on the field (i.e., overlooking undefeated teams in favor of one-loss teams) is only further evidencce of its hypocrisy and incompetence.

Since everyone knows the BCS is a joke, here is my solution, in the form of a 16-team playoff. The teams would include all of the 11 conference champions plus five at-large teams. The at-large teams would be the five highest-ranked teams that are not conference champions, combining the point totals from the AP and Coaches' polls. The teams would be seeded by ranking also by combining the points from those two polls. (There would have to be some set rule or procedure to avoid rematches, which I'll try to come up with.) No computer polls or other polls would have any part in the process. The BCS would be eliminated.

The playoff games would be played on successive weekends following the end of the regular season, all games being played at the higher-seeded school's home stadium, with the possible exception of a predetermined site for the championship game, as with the Super Bowl. This would help reduce traveling expenses, would provide income to schools hosting games, and would be a greater convenience to players and ticket-buying fans. The bowls would be eliminated for these top teams, but bowl games could still take place for teams not in the playoffs. These 16 schools, then, would play 15 games rather than eight, giving more opportunity for revenue generating, for those interested in money.

So, for example, this year's regular season ends December 4. The first round of the playoffs would take place Dec. 11, quarterfinals Dec. 18, semifinals Dec. 25, championship game Jan. 1. (There could be some adjustment possibly if the NCAA wanted to avoid Christmas.) In most years the championship game would take place near New Year's Day.

As a further example, I've compiled a list of the 16 teams who would play and where they would be seeded if the season ended today. In other words, the teams currently leading the conferences (ties being broken by the AP and Coaches' polls) and the other five highest-ranked teams. They would be as follows, with seedings in parentheses:

ACC: Virginia Tech (12)
Big East: Pittsburgh* (15)
Big Ten: Wisconsin (6)
Big 12: Nebraska (9)
Conference USA: Central Florida (14)
Mid-American Conference: Northern Illinois (13)
Mountain West: TCU (4)
Pac-10: Oregon (1)
Southeastern Conference: Auburn (2)
Sun Belt: Florida International* (16)
Western Athletic Conference: Boise State (3)

At-large teams:
LSU (5)
Stanford (7)
Ohio State (8)
Michigan State (10)
Oklahoma State (11)

*Currently, Pittsburgh is 5-4 and FIU is 4-5. If a conference champion would happen to not be bowl eligible, that conference would lose its automatic spot and a sixth at-large team would be chosen.

So by standard seeding procedures, the first-round games would be:
(16) FIU @ (1) Oregon
(9) Nebraska @ (8) Ohio St.

(12) Virginia Tech @ (5) LSU
(13) Northern Illinois @ (4) TCU
(15) Pittsburgh @ (2) Auburn
(10) Michigan St. @ (7) Stanford

(11) Oklahoma State @ (6) Wisconsin
(14) CFU @ (3) Boise St.

On Dec. 5, I'll put my plan to the test against the real end of regular season results. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Bridge of the Week #35: Madison Ave. Bridge

Just in time for the New York Marathon, here's the last of the five bridges that the runners cross - the Madison Ave. Bridge. I've already covered (in order, and yes I planned it that way) the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, the Pulaski Bridge, teh Queensboro Bridge, the Willis Ave. Bridge and now the Madison Ave. Bridge. It comes at the 21 mile mark when runners cross the Harlem River from the Bronx back into Manhattan.
This bridge is a swing bridge with a 300-foot swing span and a total length of 1,892 feet. It carries four lanes of traffic, two in each direction, and has sidewalks on both sides. The Bronx entrance is at E. 138 St. and the Major Deegan Expressway ramps, just west of the Grand Concourse. (Here the numbered streets of the two boroughs line up, although by the time you get up to the Jerome Reservoir, they're about 30 blocks off. While the street planning and layout of Manhattan and the Bronx is a fascinating subject, it is beyond the scope of this blog.) On the Manhattan side, the bridge splits, with Bronx-bound traffic, one lane of Manhattan-bound traffic and the south sidewalk entering (or exiting as the case may be) at 135 St. and Madison Ave. But one lane of Manhattan-bound traffic, which the marathon runners use, and the north sidewalk exits at 138 St. and 5th Ave. It was opened on July 18, 1910 and replaced a swing bridge on the same site that was opened in 1884 after New York City annexed three Westchester County towns on the west side of the Bronx River in 1874. Both the old and new bridges were designed by Alfred Boller, who also designed the original 145 St. Bridge, Macombs Dam and University Heights Bridges.
So that concludes the series of New York Marathon bridges. But don't worry, many more bridges to come, including ----- another retractable bridge; the only bridge to connect three boroughs (any guesses?); not one, not two, but THREE bridges to New Jersey(!); and a special bonus feature on a very special viaduct that we all know and love. So remember, keep your feet on the ground (but no more than one at a time) and keep reaching for the stars.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bridge of the Week #34: E. Fordham Road Bridge

So having completed the pedestrian-access bridges across the Bronx River south of the Bronx Zoo, now I'm moving to north of the zoo. This bridge is on E. Fordham Road, just north of the zoo, and runs right between the zoo and the New York Botanical Garden. It's one of those bridges you could drive across, even walk across, without even realizing you're crossing a bridge.

The E. Fordham Road Bridge carries the full four lanes of E. Fordham Road and two sidewalks across the bridge, between Southern Boulevard to the west and the Bronx River Parkway to the east. It is a concrete arch bridge 92.9 feet long, built in 1907.
There is a lot in the area for runners to enjoy, such as the Pelham Parkway to the east, once you get across the Bronx River Parkway, Boston Road and Willett Ave. (where the subway stop is for the 2 and 5 lines). The Mosholu Parkway path is also nearby, north of the Botanical Garden, but I'll describe that further with other bridges. To the west on E. Fordham Road is Fordham University and beyond that a busy commercial district that is hell to run on with the crowded sidewalks. One must run slowly and carefully and sometimes stop to walk in congested areas. And expect giggles and comments if wearing running shorts.

Pic: View south from E. Fordham Road Bridge

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bridge of the Week #33: East 174 St. Bridge

Staying with the Bronx River, this bridge is the East 174 St. Bridge in the Bronx. It is a steel truss bridge that carries E. 174 St. over the river between Bronx River Ave. on the east to Boone Ave. on the west, with staircase access to West Farms Road. The bridge approaches also cover Amtrak's rail lines on the east bank of the river and Sheridan Expressway on the west.

The truss span has a length of 190 feet, with 30 feet of clearance over the river, and the total bridge length is 589 feet. It opened on June 15, 1928. It carries one lane of traffic in each direction and a sidewalk on each side.

There is also a staircase, currently closed off, that leads down to the west bank of the river, between it and Sheridan Expressway. Currently, this is a field of dirt that looks like some kind of construction site, but it will eventually become Starlight Park to te south of the bridge. I think it was to have been completed by now, but additional cleaning was necessary due to contamination on the site. Don't hold me to this, but I think plans are for a Bronx River Greenway along the length of the river south of the Bronx Zoo.

This, then is the last reviewed bridge over the Bronx River south of the zoo. In order, from north to south, they are the E. 180 St. Bridge, E. Tremont Ave. Bridge, E. 174 St. Bridge, Westchester Ave. Bridge, and the Eastern Boulevard Bridge. It's also the most colorful of the five, being a nice shade of sky blue.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bridge of the Week #32: E. Tremont Ave. Bridge

This will be a quick one. The E. Tremont Ave. Bridge in the Bronx, once again over the Bronx River. This is a fixed street-level steel bridge on E. Tremont Ave. between the West Farms Rd./Boston Rd. intersection on the west and Devoe Ave. on the east. It's not very long, not very big, not very noticeable, not very pretty, not very interesting, but it does the job. It's just a few blocks south of the 180 St. Bridge, from my last post, not far south of the Bronx Zoo, and carries regular street traffic and pedestrians.
Pic: View north from the E. Tremont St. Bridge

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bridge of the Week #31: 180 St. Bridge

Sticking with the Bronx River, the next bridge is the 180 St. Bridge. This bridge carries 180 St. over the Bronx River between Devoe Ave. on the east and Boston Road on the west. It is the first bridge over the Bronx River south of the Bronx Zoo.

This is a concrete arch bridge, 64 feet long, built in 1925, and carries the road and sidewalks at street level.

Going over the bridge is no life-changing experience, but it is nice to look at from the micropark on the south side of the street (which a stray cat was doing when I visited) or from River Park on the north at Boston Road. River Park is not very big, but it does have a nice riverside walkway, and features a manmade waterfall to provide soothing water sounds. The river here looks very bucolic, and is shallow, although, sadly, a child drowned here this summer. It is also in close proximity to the Bronx Zoo, so it can be a little side trip.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bridge of the Week #30: Eastern Boulevard Bridge

This week's bridge (and again, I'm about three weeks behind) is the Eastern Boulevard Bridge in the Bronx. This is a dual double-leaf bascule drawbridge that carries the Bruckner Expressway and Bruckner Boulevard over the Bronx River, one bridge for east-bound and one for west-bound traffic. The bridge connects Bronx River Ave. in the Sound View neighborhood on the east side of the river to the Hunt's Point area on the west. The bridge can be accessed on foot directly from Edgewater Ave. on the west, although there is an additional, fixed, span westward over Amtrak's rail lines.

For the stats, the bridge has a total length of 634 feet. Each side, east-bound and west-bound, carries three lanes of expressway traffic (Bruckner Expressway), two lanes of local traffic (Bruckner Boulevard) and one sidewalk.

The history of the bridge is tied to the history of the espressway, and explains its name. Eastern Boulevard was a major artery in the first half of the 20th century that ran along the eastern and southern edge of the Bronx. In the 1940's Robert Moses and other city officials decided to convert it into an expressway, mainly for the purpose of connecting Westchester County and Connecticut with the Triboro Bridge. So they did, and much of it they elevated over the boulevard, keeping the boulevard available for local traffic. Both were renamed after former Bronx borough president Henry Bruckner, who died in 1942. The original drawbridge, which opened in 1930, is still used for west-bound traffic. The second bridge, for east-bound traffic, was opened on October 27, 1953. The entire expressway, however, wasn't completed until 1972.

Most of my internet sources list the bridge as Eastern Boulevard Bridge, its original name. A New York Times article and another reliable Web site, however, call it the Bruckner Drawbridge ("formerly the EAstern Boulevard Bridge"). But the NYC Dept. of Transportation Web site calls it Eastern Boulevard Bridge, so that's what I'm going with, even though Eastern Boulevard is just a memory.

As I mentioned with the Westchester Ave. Bridge, there is a new riverside park between the two bridges (about half a mile) on the west side, which is a nice antidote to the otherwise visually unappealing surroundings. But on the east, it's a short run southeastward to Soundview Park, which has a lot to offer for running and all types of recreation. For public transportation, the Whitlock Ave. station on the 6 train is closest to the bridge on the west side, just to the north, near the Westchester Ave. Bridge.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Race Report: 6-Hour Birthday Run

Sunday, October 17 was the 11th annual 6-Hour 60th Birthday Run. It's not just a 6-hour race, but it gives special honor to runners who turn 60 this year. The weather was absolutely beautiful, sunny, light breeze, temps in the 60's. Much better than the Arctic monsoon from last year! It's also the last race of the year in the New York Ultrarunning Grand Prix. It's always a good time, and a good chance to chat with runner friends and to make new ones.

A lot of the New York area ultra regulars were there, including Rudy Afanador, who'd been out for a while after knee surgery. And it was a reunion of Tim Henderson and his crew at Vermont - John Rosa, Jim Morris and me. And there were some runners I didn't know who looked fast. Last year's winner Byron Lane showed up, but said that he wasn't feeling well, and he ended up not starting the race. And Ray Krolewicz made another New York appearance.

I often say this is my favorite race, mostly for the social aspect, but while running I have other thoughts. It is a nice 2.1-mile course, mostly on trails, but in the second half of the race I really come to dread those little hills and sandy patches.

At the start of the race I went out in front, running alongside Aaron Heath, who I met at Caumsett, and who ran very well there. After the first lap, I pulled ahead of Aaron, but by the end of the 2nd lap I heard footsteps coming up behind me again. But these footsteps belonged to Rudy, and he soon sped away. I was also spending some time early on running near Beak Cosenza, who was running his first ultra, but who was preparing for JFK next month. Soon enough came Mike Petrina, a member of the Sayville running club, and a newcomer to ultrarunning I was told, but who had been putting in a lot of miles, and was looking really good. Another runner I didn't know joined the lead pack, which shifted somewhat, but by the end of the fourth lap, there were five of us within a few seconds of each other - Rudy, Mike, Beak, me and the unidientified runner. The pace was pretty fast, but I felt good and was hoping to be able to keep it up.

Eventually Mike and Rudy pulled ahead of me and the others fell back. Rudy has the course record, and Mike looked strong, so I just tried to stay patient and hope I could catch up. Somewhere after the halfway point I managed to catch up to Rudy. All the time I knew that I could finish in the top five and still win the 2010 Grand Prix, but I was hoping I'd be able to catch up to Mike. After about four hours, I caught up to Mike, who was walking and looking spent. Unfortunately, he'd been throwing up and had to call it a day. But I hope to see him in future ultras.

So the rest of the race I was trying to keep up the pace I could, and hoping that Rudy wouldn't be able to catch me. The last hour I was seriously bonking, probably since I was living on just water, Gatorade and Coke. That'll teach me to not eat. But I figured I could tough it out the last hour. As I came in after 20 laps with about 20 minutes to go, I was relieved to see that Rudy was already on the short loop. Thinking that he wouldn't be able to make up the difference, I took my short loops at an easier pace, and even tossed in some walking. With just a few minutes left, I decided to push a little to get back to the start/finish mat before the clock ran out, and I just barely did.

So I finished with 20 large laps and 4 small. Meanwhile, I was so worried about Rudy, I wasn't paying attention to Aaron, who I hadn't seen since the first lap. It ends up that he was really pushing at the end, and even though I had one more large lap than him, he racked up the small laps and ended up beating Rudy and coming to within .07 mile of me! I didn't know it, and I don't think he knew it. So it goes to show, never let up! I finished with 43.56 miles, Aaron had 43.49, and Rudy had 43.09. Tim was not far behind with 41 and change and Beak was 5th with 39+. For the women, Jodi Kartes-Heino defended her title with over 39 miles, Concetta Acunzo was 2nd with 37 and Alicja Barahona third with 36. For the 60-year-olds, the winners were Peter Martin and Natalia Service.

For me, this was my third win at this race, after 2005 and 2007. And with my wins at the Queens 50K in March and the Joe Kleinerman 12-Hour in June, and being the top local finisher at Caumsett, I lock up the Grand Prix win for the second time, after 2007.

The post-race food and beer were very welcome, and everyone had a good time in the beautiful afternoon. It was a good occasion to chat with old friends and make new ones. Thanks to Lydia for the ride, and to the RD's Fred von der Heydt and Myron Bellovin and the Greater Long Island Running Club for again putting on a great race!

Pics: 1. Top men - me, Aaron, Rudy - with RD's Fred and Myron; 2. Top 3 women - Alicja, Concetta, Jodi - with Fred and Myron; 3. Lydia and Alicja post-race; 4. Lanny, Admas and Harry post-race; 5. Happy runner

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Race Report: Staten Island Half Marathon

This was an absolutely beautiful day to run in New York City, and perfect conditions for the Staten Island Half Marathon. This is the first time I've run this race since 2003 I think. This is the first year I've ever run all five of the half marathons in the five-borough series, and it was a nice finale.

Getting up and out the door a little after 6:00 a.m., I caught the 7:30 boat, and the waiting room was packed with runners, as full as I've ever seen it. That left not a lot of time to spare on the other side, from waiting for the porta-potty to checking my bag and getting to my corral. But we were off at 8:30 sharp.

The course is a good one, starting on the access road to the ferry/Richmond County Bank Ballpark, to its entrance on Richmond Terrace, back towards the ferry and on to Bay St., eventually coming to a turnaround on Father Cappodano Blvd. at about 6.5 miles, then back, with a deviation through Ft. Wadsworth, along the same route to the finish in the parking lot near the ferry. The out-and-back layout really makes the race feel like it goes by fast, because before you know it you're at mile 6.5 and on your way back. There are some gentle hills, but nothing worth mentioning. (I'm always a little disappointed that the course avoids the tough hills.)

I haven't been feeling very speedy lately, so I wasn't expecting a PR, but was hoping for sub-1:25. I started out at about 6:25 pace and tried to settle into a comfortable, sustainable pace. Some miles were a little faster, some a little slower, but I kept on pace pretty well and finished in 1:24:12, in 90th place, 86 male, 13th in the 40-44 age group.

I was also a little disappointed that aside from a few West Side Runners who I don't know very well, I didn't see anyone there I knew! If they were there, I didn't see them. But this is a big race day everywhere, so I guess people were off doing something else. Still, it was a very nice race and a very nice day.

As I said, it was the first year I've run all five of the five-borough half marathons, a couple of which came soon after some very big ultras, but the series went well for me:

Manhattan, Jan. 24: 1:22:21
Brooklyn, May 22: 1:26:29
Queens, July 24: 1:28:13 (2nd in age group)
Bronx, August 15: 1:24:46
Staten Island, October 10: 1:24:12

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Bridge of the Week #29: Westchester Ave. Bridge

For our next bridge we head to one of the lesser-known, at least for runners - the Westchester Ave. Bridge in the Bronx. This carries Westchester Ave. over the Bronx River, Amtrak lines and the Sheridan Expressway, between Whitlock Ave. on the west and Bronx River Ave. on the east.

I don't have much for stats on this one, but it is a fixed bridge that carries two-way vehicular traffic, pedestrian traffic with sidewalks on both sides of the street, and the elevated 6 train. I'm not completely sure which neighborhoods in the Bronx this connects, on the east it would be either Parkchester or Soundview, and on the east I've seen the name Foxhurst, but for the first time in my life. The Bronx Zoo is about a mile to the north along the river, Crotona Park is about 1/2 mile to the northwest and Sound View Park is about 1/2 mile to the southeast.

Regular sidewalk access can be had at Bronx River Ave. and Whitlock Ave., but there is also a pathway directly on the west side of the river, before crossing the Amtrak tracks or the Sheridan Parkway, that leads south to what looks like a new riverside park. It's a nice little park with enough room to fly a kite, get some sun or generally hang out, and it leads along the west bank of the Bronx River for about a half a mile south to Bruckner Boulevard and the Eastern Blvd. Bridge (guess which bridge is next). Otherwise, a lot of the immediate area is largely industrial, particularly on the west.
When I ran across the bridge a few months ago, I forgot to bring my camera, and the only picture I could find on the internet was the one above, taken from the Estern Blvd. Bridge, which must be at least a little old and somewhat misleading, since the rusted-out industrial area on the left side is now the riverside park.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bridge of the Week #28: Willis Ave. Bridge

New bridge floating up the East River

Old bridge (left) and new bridge (right) on July 26, view from Triboro Bridge

New bridge (in front) on openeing day, Oct. 2

Metal grating of old bridge, new bridge right next door

New bridge (left) on opening day, old bridge on right

I'm going to try to do two bridges a week for the enxt few weeks to get caught up. The Willis Ave. Bridge is a special one, because it is a brand new bridge that just opened to traffic yesterday! It crosses the Harlem River between Manhattan and The Bronx, and is the first bridge to the north of the Triboro Bridge.

First, a little about the old bridge. It connected Willis Ave. in the Bronx at E. 135th St. and Bruckner Blvd. with 1st Ave. in Manhattan at 125th St., and had a direct on-ramp from the northbound FDR Drive, and carried traffic north-bound only. (The nearby Third Ave. Bridge carries south-bound traffic to the same area.) It was a swing bridge with a 304-foot main (swing) span, with a total length of 3,212 feet.

The new bridge was constructed just to the south of the old one. The main swing span, 350 feet long, was constructed near Albany and floated down the Hudson River, first to Bayonne, NJ, then on July 26 this year was floated up the East River and put into place. All roadways, approaches, etc. were completed and the bridge was opened to vehicular traffic yesterday, October 2. It has the same street connections as the old bridge, ans traffic never had to be shut down for any significant period of time during construction. Pretty clever, I say, to pull all that off!

The old bridge had a walkway on the west side of the bridge from 125th/1st in Manhattan to Willis Ave. at 135th St., and a stairway at Bruckner Blvd., but that stairway has been the only Bronx entrance available for some time as construction was going on. Recently also, the main Manhattan entrance was closed and a stairway entrance constructed at 127th St. near 1st Ave. Currently, while the old bridge is still standing, this is still the only pedestrian walkway available. It looks like the new bridge will also have a walkway on the west side with pedestrian access at the same spots. But there might be a period of time when the old bridge is demolished before the new walkway is opened. I'll keep you updated.

The Willis Ave. Bridge is well-known among runners, of course, as being the fourth bridge crossing during the New York Marathon, occurring at the 20-mile point, going into The Bronx. So the bridge opened just in time, although the course might have to be adjusted by a few meters one way or another. (Since the marathon is run on the roadway, the status of the pedestrian walkway doesn't matter.) I didn't get a real close look at the new road surface, but I won't miss the metal grating of the old surface, even with the rug on top.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Race Report: North Coast 24 Hour Run

Annette Racaniello and Frank Pellegrino, fellow New Yorkers in Cleveland

Serge Arbona (1M), Anne Riddle-Lundblad (2F), Anna Piskorska (3F), Me (2M)

Tent City, in the direction of traffic (Photo courtesy of Michael Henze)

Connie Gardner, women's winner, 2nd overall (photo courtesy of Lisa Bliss and Tim Englund)

Serge Arbona, with me behind, early in the race (Photo courtesy of Michael Henze)

The North Coast 24 Hour Race held its second running on September 18, 2010, and for the second year in a row, it served as the 24 hour national championship, this year under the supervision of USA Track and Field. Race Director Dan Horvath once again put on a phenomenal event. The course was a .90075-mile loop in Edgewater Park in Cleveland, on the shore of Lake Erie, with an excellent running surface and very little vertical undulation.

With three automatic qualifying spots for next year's US team on the line, a lot of runners were hoping for top performances, and the competition looked fierce. The men's side featured returning world championship team members Serge Arbona, John Geesler, Matt Chaffin, the ageless Roy Pirrung, and myself, along with recent record holder Mark Godale, 100-mile wonder Dave James, fellow New Yorker Mike Arnstein, and co-RD of Across the Years, Nick Coury. The women's competition looked especially tough, with names that need no introduction: Jill Perry (defending champ), Connie Gardner, Amy Palmiero-Winters, Anna Piskorska, Deb Horn, Anne Riddle Lundbald, Lisa Bliss, Bonnie Busch, as well as up-and-comers like Jen Aradi, Kim Martin and Angela Radosevich.

My own goals were to defend my championship from last year and to get a personal record, which is still 154.48 miles. It wouldn't be easy of course, but all of my preparations seemed to go well and I was ready for good things.

On Friday I took the short flight to Cleveland, made my way to the Travelodge in Lakewood, where a number of the runners would be staying. There I also met up with New York ultra friends Frank Pellegrino and Annette Racaniello, who would be my companions (and chauffeurs) for the rest of the trip. That evening we went to dinner with a number of other runners, friends and spouses, which totaled about 20. So it was great to catch up with some old friends and make some new ones there.

Saturday morning at the park before the race I set up my things, sharing some table/tent space with John Geesler and Roy Pirrung. Tent City was coming together again, with many of the runners and crews setting up along the course after the start area. Besides the regular pre-race nervousness, I was doubly nervous because I was about to sing the national anthem. About a week before, Dan had put out an email to entrants asking for a volunteer, and I guess I was the only sucker. In any case, about 15 minutes before the start, as I came back from the bathroom I saw people gathered at the start and I walked over there just in time to get up and sing. It was my first time singing the national anthem solo for an event, but it went well enough, I didn't embarrass myself at least. And some people had some nice comments for me during the race, so part one done. Now all I had to do was run for 24 hours.
The race itself was quite a roller coaster for me. The first six hours and the last six hours went very well. In between, it was another story. Early in the race, Dave James moved out in front, and at a pace slower than last year, so I was thinking he'd be out there the whole 24 this time. Mark Godale also ran at a slower pace than last year, and we were pretty much neck-and-neck for quite a while for second place. Serge Arbona also took a slower pace than last year and allowed me to lap him. I was a little surprised by the slower starts, although they seemed very smart. I tried to keep on about the same pace as last year.
The afternoon sun came out, and the humidity and temperatures went up, although it didn't feel like it ever got terribly warm. This race for me was a lesson in negative thoughts. It's certainly common to get them and to wonder why you're out there, and to want to just quit, especially in a 24 hour. The mind can really take you to desperate places. So after about 9:15 race time, 70 laps - 63 miles (I hit my watch lap counter every five laps), when I started getting shallow breath that made me take the first of my rest breaks, I can't say that it was entirely a physical break that I needed. But I laid on the grass for a few minutes, walked a full lap and then some, and had the medical team do some checks and manipulation to get me good to go. And even though it was still early in the evening, I had gotten chills and resorted to my long-sleeved shirt, which stayed on for the duration. This all took quite a bit of time and was my first meltdown that almost drove me to quit.
Meanwhile, in the women's race, it was hard for me to keep track of who was where, but Connie, Anna, Amy, Anne, Jill , Deb and Jennifer all looked good and strong, and Angela Radosevich also was in the top three at one point I think. It was very interesting to watch all of the runners, and particularly the walkers. There were a couple of heavier men walking (not together) who never seemed to take a break, and there was a man and woman (very much together) who I took to be husband and wife who walked side by side, and also never seemed to take a break. The man with the tall back brace with the American flag and signs supporting out troops was back again this year, amazing to be carrying all that weight - in support of our soldiers.
Anyway I did get up and running again, at a decent pace. Seeing that I'd been passed by a few more runners, I tried to reevaluate my goals, and to reevaluate my motivation. But a couple hours later, after 90 laps, about 13 hours, the shallow breathing hit me again. I again had to take an extended walking break, and sat in a chair for a few minutes again. It was then that I happened to see Amy's handler Erik pull her from the race with kidney problems. She had barely urinated the entire race, she told me, and by this time she was becoming dizzy and disoriented. I hated to see that happen, of course for her own well-being, but also because she was running so well.
Anyway, my desire to quit now was just a little less than before, and I got up again and got running again, at a decent pace again, although by now I was just waiting for the next meldown. Safe to say, I was not in a good place mentally. But I was closing in on 100 miles (111 laps is just short of 100 miles) and wanted to push it at least to that point. I was calculating how long it would take me to get there, comparing it to past races, and trying to figure out what kind of mileage I might still be able to end up with. I was in 6th place by this time I think, behind Serge, who was really moving fast, Dave, who I was told was struggling, a surprising Chris Peverada, a young cross country star and fast marathoner I was told, who was running in his first ultra (!), Mark Godale and Nick Coury. Figuring that if Dave was struggling I might be able to get past him, that if Mark were struggling I might be able to get past him, and that my experience might help me outlast the young Chris and Nick, I saw that I could still possibly finish up second behind Serge. Still, part of me just didn't want to run. But I got another chance to rest in meltdown #3 at about 15 hours, when I had my vomit break. I'd been eating very little, and the fluids and gels weren't getting along in my stomach, so I had to step off into the grass. Vomiting is not uncommon either, although I usually manage to avoid it during most races, but this one sent me to the grass with dizzyness. Usually I feel better afterwards, but I didn't this time. I got up and walking, feeling just a little weak. I tried to eat more as well as drink more.
As I was walking, I came in contact with the amazingness of Bonnie Busch. We were walking and chatting, and I had almost resigned myself to walking or lightly jogging the rest of the race. She had been giving me encouragement the entire race, but here she said just the right things for me to kick myself in the ass and get running again. I also came into contact with the coolness of Jimmy Dean Freeman, who I'd met for the first time at Badwater this year. He wasn't running, but showed up in the night in a really cool suit, which looked very out-of -place in Tent City, and was giving me lots of encouragement. Actually, I didn't recognize him at first, until after a couple of laps I saw his Badwater buckle, which just goes to show that a Badwater belt buckle goes with anything. In fact, Jimmy Dean and Dave James (who by that time had called it quits) told me that Mark had also quit, and Chris was struggling, so I could still get a top finish.
I hit 99.8 miles in about 17:30, quite a bit slower than I have done in the past, but still good enough for a good showing if I kept running the last 6 1/2 hours. I hadn't seen Nick in quite a while, but when I did see him he was running strong, so I didn't know if I'd be able to catch him or not. And there was another runner, Matthew Shaheen, who I didn't know, close behind me. I was also trying to do the math to see if I'd be able to get to 135 miles, necessary (along with a top 3 placement) for automatic qualification to the US team, and generally a milestone to aim for. But I would have to push for that 35 miles. So this was a critical moment in motivation vs. negative thoughts. Negative: there was still a part of me that just didn't want to run, although at least the desire to quit had left the building. Motivation for a top-three, 135-mile finish: 1. Automatic qualification to the team. (Although my 151 miles from last year's race would more than likely get me on the team, my pride wanted me to re-qualify with a different race this year.) 2. Prize money - not an insignificant issue, but not always at the top of the list when you're actually running. 3. A lot of people were very encouraging to me throughout the race, and I felt like I didn't want to let them down, not to mention my New York ultrarunning friends, my family, and all those who are so supportive.
So doing the math, 39 more laps, 150 total, would be needed for 135 miles, that's an average of 10 minutes per lap for the last 6 1/2 hours. It would be close, but now, finally, I was determined. My legs still felt good. The mental letdowns were in the past. In addition, I was only a couple of laps behind Nick, and I might still be able to take second. The last six hours went by fast. Weather-wise, there were a few drops of rain, the wind picked up from the east, but I still felt good and comfortable. I did eventually pass Nick in the last two hours, and he was very sportsmanlike in encouraging me. Rather than counting down the time, I had been counting down the laps to 150, converting that to miles, and relating that to my training courses. (Five more miles, that's my run out-and-back on the Harlem River Speedway.) I was actually a little disappointed that I was moving faster than I'd expected, because that meant I'd have to run more miles! Strange, how the mind acts up.
But I did finish with 139 miles, second place, which I was very pleased with, a spot on the team, some good prize money, and despite some mental letdowns I can hold my head high. Serge blew us all away with 156 miles. Nick was third with 136, and got his spot on the team! For the women, Connie had 141 miles in one of the best American women's performances ever. Anne was second and Anna was very happy with third. Deb got fourth with another solid performance, but it didn't get her an automatic spot on the team. I'll take this moment to mention what a great runner Deb is, an extremely solid and consistent runner who has never had a bad race that I've seen, a good friend, irreplaceable asset to the team - she has scored for the women's team every year since 2007. I look forward to running the 48-hour race with her at Across the Years. But we've had just the absolute best women running 24 hours here in the US lately. Getting on the team is now extremely competitive, and I know they'll do great things in Switzerland next year. We men will too, of course, but the women are just especially strong right now.
So like I said, this race was for me a lesson in negative thoughts. They brought me to the brink a few times, but I did learn from the experience, and hopefully I can keep them in the background, and keep the motivating factors in the foreground. But I owe a big thanks to so many people - too many to name here (I feel like an Oscar winner), but very special thanks to Frank Pellegrino and Annette Racaniello, Bonnie Busch, Jimmy Dean Freeman, Mike Henze, and Doctor Andy, Tyler, and the medical team. And of course to Dan Horvath and all the volunteers for the race for doing an incredible job again!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Bridge of the Week #27: Queensboro Bridge

Yippee, we get a big one this week! The Queensboro Bridge, aka the 59th St. Bridge is one of the major bridges in New York City, crossing the East River between 59th/60th Streets in Manhattan and Long Island City in Queens. After the Brooklyn Bridge, it is the second oldest East River crossing, opening in March 1909 (after eight years of construction), only nine months before the Manhattan Bridge.

The Queensboro Bridge is a double cantilever bridge centered on Roosevelt Island, meaning it has one cantilever span over each channel, east and west of the island. The total length of the bridge and approaches is 7449 feet. It has 130 feet of clearance above the river. It has two roadway decks, the top carries four lanes of traffic (two in each direction) and the lower carries five: three Queens-bound lanes and two Manhattan-bound, with the outermost lane on the north permanently closed to traffic in 2000, and used for pedestrians and bicycles. The pedestrian lane can be accessed on the Queens side at Queens Plaza N. and Crescent St., and on the Manhattan side entering at 60th St. and 1st Ave. The bridge also carries the N, Q and R lines between Manhattan and Queens.

Plans for a bridge between Manhattan and Long Island City were conceived as early as 1838, but early organizers ran into financial problems. One potential designer in the 1850's was John Roebling. He proposed two suspension spans connected in the middle by a cantilever span. But it did not come to pass, so he went on to design the Brooklyn Bridge. The Queensboro Bridge had its own difficulties and loss of life during construction, but was finally opened on March 30, 1909, as Blackwell's Island Bridge, Blackwell's Island being an earlier name of Roosevelt Island.

The bridge had a number of different traffic/rail/trolley configurations over the years. There was even a trolley stop in the middle, over Roosevelt Island, where people could take an elevator or staircase down to the island. There was a similar station over Vernon Boulevard on the Queens shoreline. These stations were eventually demolished. Access to Roosevelt Island now can be had by a tram from Manhattan just to the north of the bridge, by subway on the F line, or by the Roosevelt Island Bridge to Queens (to be covered in a later post).

By the late 1970's it became clear that the bridge was deteriorating and needed major repair work. Restoration began in the 1980's and was scheduled to be completed in 2009. I'm actually not sure if it has been or not. But I'm sure it's close at least.

This bridge has been immortalized in a song by Simon and Garfunkel, and it is the third bridge on the New York Marathon route, taking place in the lower deck Queens-bound lanes. The 15-mile mark comes as you climb the bridge, and the 16-mile mark near the end of the bridge. The climb alsways seems endless, especially when you're exhausted and you look over and see that you're still over the land of Queens. And when you descend onto the streets of Manhattan, the runners supposedly hit the "wall of sound" from all the spectators. It can be loud and fun, but personally, I've never been that impreessed by it. I've always just been glad to be off the bridge.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Bridge of the Week #26: Third Avenue Bridge

OK, I'm falling further behind, I'll try to get caught up. This week's bridge is the Third Avenue Bridge over the Harlem River between The Bronx and The Manhattan.

The bridge is a swing drawbridge with a 300-foot span that swings open to allow two 102-foot wide channels. When closed, it gives 25 feet of clearance above the water. It has a 52-foot wide roadway that carries four lanes of southbound traffic into Manhattan and a 9-foot wide sidewalk on each side, although the sidewalk on the southwest side is currently closed. The total length is 2,800 feet.

A bridge on the site was proposed as far back as 1770 to carry the new Boston Post Road (which in the Southern Bronx is now Third Avenue), which would be a major link between New York and New England. A dam/bridge, the Coles Bridge, was finally built by John B. Coles in 1797. A new cast-and-wrought iron swing bridge was opened on the site in 1868. Construction on the third and current bridge began in 1893 in conjunction with the dredging and engineering of the Harlem River Ship Canal. The bridge opened in 1898 to vehicular and trolley traffic, and the sidewalks were opened in 1901. Trolley service was discontinued in 1953 when the bridge underwent rehabilitation and the Third Avenue Elevated in the Bronx was torn down. A new span was placed on the existing foundation structures in 2004-2005.

As near as I can tell, Third Avenue (not 3rd Avenue) in the Bronx is a continuation of 3rd Ave. in Manhattan (Manhattan street signs read "3 Ave", in Bronx, "Third Ave"). There is no north-south numbered avenue system in the Bronx. In Manhattan it conforms to the street grid and runs in a straight line, but in the Bronx it meanders around quite a bit before ending at Fordham Road. As I said, the southern portion was originally part of Boston Post Road. What is now named Boston Road (and eventually Boston Post Road) begins by branching off Third Ave. to the northeast just north of E. 163rd St. in Morrisania.

The sidewalk across the bridge can be reached in Manhattan from Harlem River Park in Harlem, most directly from a pedestrian bridge over an offramp (stairs to climb and descend) at E. 129th St. and Lexington Ave. In the Bronx, the sidewalk begins in the Mott Haven neighborhood on Third Ave. just south of 135th St. and the elevated Major Deegan Expressway, but there is also a staircase with access a couple of blocks south on Third Ave. at the western end of Bruckner Boulevard. There are no major specific attractions in the immediate area on either side of the bridge, although you are in the middle of "Bridge Row", a series of six bridges (plus a railroad bridge) over the Harlem River from the Triboro Bridge to the Macombs Dam Bridge (from 125th St. to 155th St. in Manhattan).

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bridge of the Week #25: Hamilton Ave. Bridge

This week's bridge (actually last week's, since I'm a week behind again), the Hamilton Ave. Bridge, is the final bridge over the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, or rather, the first if you're traveling from the Gowanus Bay. The bridge runs northeast-southwest between Smith St. and 2nd Ave. and sits directly underneath the Gowanus Expressway.

This bridge is unique among other bascule drawbridges in that it has two parallel leafs, one carrying the four northbound lanes and a sidewalk and one carrying the four southbound lanes and a sidewalk. I'm not aware of another bridge in New York City with this feature, but then again I'm not done yet! The bridge was built in 1942 and recently had some major reconstruction work done. I'm only assuming that it was named indirectly after Alexander Hamilton, as there are a number of place names in Brooklyn that include Hamilton, beginning with Fort Hamilton in the Bay Ridge neighborhood.

Like the other Gowanus Canal bridges, this sits in a largely industrial area between the residential neighborhoods of Red Hook and Park Slope. Just to the west is Red Hook Park, a nice enough neighborhood park, but not much of a destination, and of course Prospect Park is nearly a mile to the west. The bridge does see heavy auto traffic, and the intersections on either side are not particularly pedestrian-friendly.

To recap, then, the Gowanus Canal bridges from south to north, traveling inland: Hamilton Ave. Bridge, 9th St. Bridge, 3rd Ave. Bridge on the side, 3rd St. Bridge, Carroll St. Bridge, Union St. Bridge. If running in this area, I recommend seeing the Carroll St. Bridge as it is the most unique and has an old-time charm.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bridge of the Week #24: 3rd St. Bridge, 3rd. Ave. Bridge (Brooklyn)

Going back to the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn for this weeks bridges. So sue me, but at least you get two for one - the 3rd St. Bridge and the 3rd Ave. Bridge (not to be confused with the 3rd Ave. Bridge over the Harlem River between Manhattan and the Bronx, whixh I'll cover in an upcoming post).

The 3rd St. Bridge runs generally east-west, between 3rd Ave. and Bond St., parallel to the 9th St. Bridge, Carroll St. Bridge and Union St. Bridge, all profiled earlier. It carries a lane of traffic in each direction and has sidewalks on both sides. It is a bascule drawbridge. I'm sorry I don't have much more information than that. As with the other Gowanus Canal bridges it connects the Red Hook and Park Slope neighborhoods, and has mainly industrial areas in the immediate vicinity.
The 3rd Ave. Bridge, just around the corner, is even less interesting. In fact, my guess is that most people crossing it on foot, by bike or car, don't even know they're crossing a bridge. It is a momentary blip on Third Ave. for a short time between 3rd St. and 6th St. It actually crosses the5th St. Basin, an eastern branch of the Gowanus Canal. Looking over the railing on the western si de you can get a view of the industrial waterway, but it apparently ends just under the bridge, as all you can see over the eastern railing is a few reeds at best. This is a fixed bridge, not a drawbridge. I can't find the length but it's not long, and is at street grade.

That's all for this week. I'll try to do a bigger bridge for the upcoming week. Either that or the last Gowanus Canal bridge.
Pics: 1. On 3rd St. Bridge, looking south; 2. On 3rd Ave. Bridge, looking west

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Bridge of the Week #23: Union Street Bridge

OK, this is another little Gowanus Canal bridge that doesn't have much of interest, but it's a bridge nonetheless. The Union Street Bridge is a twin bascule drawbridge on Union Street between Bond St. and Nevins St. It carries two lanes of eastbound traffic and has sidewalks on both sides.

See my posts about the 9th St. Bridge and Carroll St. Bridge for information about this part of Brooklyn. I couldn't find much technical information about the bridge, but it was opened in 1905 and has a main span of 56 feet. It is the northernmost bridge over the Gowanus Canal, which terminates just a couple of blocks north.

I am a little behind, so I'll try to get two more in by the end of this week, and I'll try not to make them too boring.
Pics: 1. Union St. Bridge; 2. Gownus Canal north to terminus from Union St. Bridge

Race Report: Bronx Half Marathon

Today was the Bronx Half Marathon, the fourth in the series of half marathons in each borough of the city. This will be the first year I'll be able to run all five. The last, on Staten Island, will be in October.

I've run this race several times before, when it was in summer and in winter. It's an odd and somewhat convoluted series of out-and-backs, centered around the Jerome Reservoir, using Sedgewick Ave., Moshulu Parkway and the Grand Concourse. It's actually a fairly fast course, and I've run well there in the past.

It's also a course that's close to my home, only about three miles on bike. So a little after 6 a.m. I was on my bike across the University Heights Bridge. After locking my bike, dropping my bag and finding my corral, we were off at the 7 a.m. start. Weather was good, relatively cool and with cloud cover. After the first mile I was into a comfortable pace and surrounded by many runners I would be surrounded by throughout the race. In fact, there was one runner from New York Flyers who I was going back and forth with the whole time. I was confident a number of times that I'd be able to drop him, but he kept coming back, and approaching mile 12, he passed me for good. Still, I kept a decent and fairly consistent pace, if not as fast as I've run in the past, and finished in 1:24:46. in 82nd place, 80th place among men.

I didn't actually see to many runners I knew here. After the race I saw Emmy Stocker, who was using the race as a fun run, after a race the day before. Also I saw Ralph Yozzo, a West Side teammate, and chatted with him briefly after the race.

But it was a good race, and even hanging out a while after the race I was back on my bike and home by 9:15, with plenty of time for a good nap!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Race Report: NYRR Team Championships

Today was a beautiful day for the NYRR Team Championships, 5 miles in Central Park, with separate races for men (8:00 am) and women (9:00 am). It was open only to runners who are members of a running team, and I was proud to run for the West Side Runners (WSX).

I personally didn't have high expectations for the race itself, since I'm still not 100% after Badwater and the Queens Half Marathon. And with this being the most competitive race on the calendar, I wouldn't be likely to score for my team or get any age group awards. Plus, it seems like the shorter, faster races lately have aggravated my tight left hamstring, so I'm a little cautious, but it still works as a good speed workout. And it was good weather with lower humidity and a temperature of 70 degrees. Normally I'd be able to run under 30 minutes, but today I was happy with 30:49, which put me at 209th place. But the WSX men's team took the team title, along with the top five places, led by overall winner Kumsa Adugna Megersa.

But the main attraction of this race is the post-race picnic, and general socialization. It was good to chat with team leader Bill Staab and the other West Siders, including ultrarunners Admas Belilgne, Chip Tilden and Ralph Yozzo. Admas and Chip didn't run today but stopped by for support, and Chip took lots of pictures too. It was also nice to meet friends from other teams. Not surprisingly, right as I walked into the park and up to the port-a-potties near the start, who was there but Frank Colella, of the Taconic Runners. I'd see his teammate Emmy Stocker after the women's race, as she came through looking strong. Also after the race I chatted a bit with my Van Cortlandt friends Mike Oliva, Kevin Shelton-Smith and Mike Arnstein.

So a good day for a run and early enough to get home and take a nap!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bridge of the Week #22: Henry Hudson Bridge

This week's bridge is one of the really good ones - the Henry Hudson Bridge. This bridge carries the Henry Hudson Parkway over Sputen Duyvil Creek (the proper name for that westernmost section of what most people call the Harlem River) between the Inwood neighborhood and Inwood Hill Park of Manhattan and Spuyten Duyvil (rhymes with Titan Rival - it just does, accept it) in the Bronx. It is situated at the very northern tip of Manhattan Island just east of where the Hudson River meets tke Spuyten Duyvil Creek (or Harlem River if you prefer).

The bridge had been discussed and planned since 1904. It was to have been completed in time for the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson's 1609 exploration of the currently-named Hudson River. But all that was built was a 100-foot tall marble column in the Riverdale section of the Bronx that was to have been topped by a statue of Hudson and was to stand at the northern end of the Henry Hudson Bridge. It took Robert Moses in 1934 to finally bring the project to fruition. He conceived the bridge along with a parkway to connect upper Manhattan with Westchester County's Saw Mill River Parkway, via the Bronx.

Most planners favored the parkway to follow a route east of Fort Tryon Park and Inwood Hill Park, in order to avoid damaging precious parkland in Manhattan and the Bronx. But by going through the parks, with "park access roads," Moses' project actually qualified for federal money from the Civil Works Administration. Plus, he avoided costly eminent domain issues. Construction began in June 1935 and the bridge opened on December 12, 1936.

The bridge, designed by David Steinman, is a steel arch bridge that features an 840-foot main span, the longest such steel arch span in the world at the time it was built. The total length of the bridge is 2,209 feet. At its center it has a clearance of 143 feet above the river. Its lower deck carries four lanes of traffic southbound, and the upper deck, completed in 1938, carries three lanes of traffic northbound. The single pedestrian walkway is on the west side of the bridge alongside the lower deck. It is a toll bridge, with a $3 toll being collected each way. I've just heard that the MTA plans to implement a boothless-toll pilot program that deducts the fare from the driver's EZ Pass reader, or sends a bill to the owner's home.

The pedestrian walkway had been closed since June 2007 to facilitate repairs and other work on the bridge, but it just repoened a few weeks ago, so hurray! It is not very wide, about six feet, that must be shared with cyclists, who are supposed to walk their bikes across. I've never seen much traffic on the walkway. It is accessible in the Bronx on Henry Hudson Parkway West (an access road to the parkway) near its southern end, just east of its intersection with Independence Ave. In Manhattan, the walkway is accessible only by park pathways in the hilly forested sections of Inwood Hill Park. The correct path can be tough to find at first, so if anyone wants specific directions, let me know.

The bridge gives great views of the Hudson River, and the Palisades of New Jersey. You can also look down on the Spuyten Duyvil Bridge, a low-lying drawbridge just to the west that carries Amtrak's rail lines over the river. On the Manhattan side, runners can enjoy the hilly, forested paths of Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan's last remaining undisturbed forestland. The park also has nice open areas and ballfields on its eastern side, alongside Indian Road, and has the Dyckman Fields on the west, right along the Hudson River. The nearest subway station would be the 215th St. station on the 1 line, on 10th Ave., just east of Broadway.

In the Bronx, runners can enjoy even more hillwork in Spuyten Duyvil and Riverdale. Of particular note is Palisade Ave., a low-traffic street which runs parallel to the Hudson River, and passes in front of some of the most interesting homes in New York City, and continues northward alongside Riverdale Park, where you can step off-road for some easy trail running. But just to the west of the walkway entrance, at Independence Ave., is Henry Hudson Park. Here stands the marble column built in 30-year anticipation of the bridge, complete with its statue of Henry Hudson on top. The nearest subway station is the 225th St. station on the 1 train at Broadway, a ways to the east of the bridge, but directly under the bridge at water's edge lies the Spuyten Duyvil station on Metro North's Hudson Line.

Pics: 1. Henry Hudson Bridge from Inwood Hill Park; 2. The bridge from the Spuyten Duyvil Metro North station in the Bronx; . Henry Hudson's column and statue in the Bronx