Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bridge of the Week #15: Pulaski Bridge

My apologies for the two-week hiatus on the bridge of the week. We return to the Pulaski Bridge, which crosses over Newtown Creek and connects the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn and Long Island City, Queens. Its ramp entrances, for both cars and pedestrians/bikes, are at 49th Ave. and Jackson Ave. in Queens and in Brooklyn at McGuinness Blvd. and Eagle St. The sidewalk, on the west side of the bridge, also has stairway access at McGuinness Blvd. and Ash St. in Brooklyn and at 11th St. and 53rd Ave. in Queens.

The Pulaski Bridge opened on September 10, 1954, and replaced the nearby Vernon Ave. Bridge. It is a double-leaf bascule drawbridge, with a main span of 177 feet, and a total length of 2,810 feet, and when closed has a clearance of 39 feet above the water. It carries three lanes of traffic in each direction and the sidewalk. It was named after Kazimierz (Casimir) Pulaski, a Polish military commander who fought in the American Revolution. It honors the large Polish population in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

The bridge is probably best known as being the second bridge crossing in the New York Marathon, after the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at the start, and in fact the halfway point of the marathon, 13.1 miles, is located on the ascent of the bridge.

Besides the Newtown Creek, the bridge also crosses over the entrance to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel. It provides a nice view of the Manhattan skyline as well. The sidwalk, however, is not very wide, only about nine feet. So pedestrians, runners and bikers must be sure to use courtesy for fellow travelers. The nearest subway stations are the Vernon Ave./Jackson Blvd. stop on the 7 train in Queens, and teh Greenpoint Ave. stop on the G train in Brooklyn. The Greenpoint neighborhood is interesting and still retains its Polish culture, but from a running standpoint, the streets on both sides of the bridge can be tricky to deal with, and not the most pleasant. Long Island City, in particular, doesn't have a lot to look at, although the Queensboro Bridge is only about a mile to the north-northeast.
Pics: 1. Brooklyn entrance; 2. View of Manhattan skyline

Monday, May 24, 2010

Race Report: Brooklyn Half Marathon

Saturday May 22nd was the Brooklyn Half Marathon, running from Prospect Park to Coney Island. This is a race I've run a few times, although only in the opposite direction, and it's my half marathon PR course in 2008, of 1:19:55. But I knew this would not be a PR day, mostly because I'd just finished the World Championship 24-hour race eight days prior. Also, I was in the middle of a weekend of performances of Grease at the Staten Island Academy of Performing Arts, so I got to bed late the night before, and with a 7:00 a.m. start, I had to get up at 4:00 a.m. to get to the start on time, so I only got a few hours sleep. But I'd signed up because it's a fun race in my old stomping grounds (I lived in Brooklyn for a number of years and did a lot of running in Prospect Park and on Ocean Parkway), I love the half marathon distance and I love the 5-borough half marathon series, and it's a nice way to enjoy the day before my birthday.

I had a good day even before getting to the start, seeing my friend Eliot on the Q train and his friend Ilana. We arrived at the start with time to spare. I got the my corral, not feeling too sore, but a little weak from the 24 hour. I was hoping to keep under seven-minute miles and finish with a sub-1:30 time. The start was on one of the side roads in the park and quickly turned on to the main road moving counterclockwise. We did two full loops of the park, and I was feeling pretty good, keeping under 7:00 pace. And by the second loop I was closer to 6:30 pace. There were plenty of runners in close quarters, but when we exited the park after 7 miles, the field really thinned out, which was especially apparent on the wide expanse of Ocean Parkway. About five miles of straight, essentially flat road was interrupted only by the mile markers and fluid stations, but the time seemed to fly by quickly. Most of the time I was able to keep 6:30 miles, and I was confident that my sub-1:30 race was safe. I prefer this direction actually, since we follow the alphabet in order all the way to Avenue Z, and then you know you're close. After turning onto the boardwalk, the last mile, roughly, is on the boardwalk. It's tough to pick up the pace here, with occasional loose boards. But we could keep our eyes on the parachute jump, knowing the finish was close. I crossed the finish line in 1:26:29, good for 140th place, 135th man, and 10th in the 40-44 age group. It's a finish that I'm very happy with.

Fellow West Sider Belay Kassa won the race in 1:08:02, and many West Siders did very well, including Javier Rodriguez, Felipe Vergara, Eric Delcros and Cristian Abad, who gave the team title to the West Side Runners.

I wasn't able to stick around after the race very long, but I did get to see a few friends, including Al Prawda (who didn't run the race, but who I saw a couple of times on the course giving encouragement), Kevin Shelton-Smith, who seems to have my number at the half marathons, and Ralph Yozzo, who also didn't run the race, but was hanging around. Overall, a very nice day, and I'm looking forward to the next race in the series, the BRonx Hal Marathon in August.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Race Report: Brive 24-Hour World Championship

Thursday, May 13 was the start of the 2010 24-hour World Championship in Brive, France. 10:00 a.m. was the start time. After breakfast at the hotel the athletes were bussed into the race location in the city center. The countries' tents/aid stations were set up in rows in a covered pavilion that provided crews with ample light and shelter from the rain, if there were any. After preparing individual supplies, greeting athletes from other countries, and making portajohn breaks, the athletes were walked to the start line near city hall. This is the first fixed-time race I've been in that had a separate staring line before joining the course proper. But it served to thin out the pack a bit on the wider streets of Brive for about half a mile.

The course itself was about 1,250 meters. The timing mat was in a large enclosed area that served well for the timing, official aid station and other officials and was even heated at night. Exiting the building we snaked around a parking lot (bound by barricades) for about 300 meters, takes a straightaway on a street for 200, winds on a dirt path through a park for another 400, then on asphalt again the last 350 and through the pavilion before reaching the timing mat. Upon crossing the timing mat, an electronic board showed each runner's lap time, cumulative distance and place.

For the first several hours of the race, Scott Jurek led the men's race and Jill Perry led the women's. All U.S. runners were looking strong. Serge Arbona and I were also in the men's top 10, and at one point the three of us were in the top 5! Scott was eventually passed by Japanese runner Shingo Inoue and Jill also gave up her lead eventually, but all were still looking strong. For teh bulk of the first 12 hours, Scott, Serge and I were 2nd, 4th and 6th or 7th overall and seemed destined for a gold medal team finish. Of course, you can never count your chickens before they're hatched, but spirits were high. Myself, I was moving well, but not feeling particularly strong. I backed off a little to try to save a top 10 finish, but I wanted to give as much support to Scott and Serge as I could. At one point Scott saw me slowing and forced me to run a lap with him to give me a pick-me-up. It worked for a while, but soon my pace continued to slow again.

Meanwhile, as much as I could tell from my vantage point, Jill had fallen off pace a bit but Suzanna Bon was in the top 10. In fact at one point we crossed the mat together and we were both in 7th place. Anna Piskorska was looking strong, as was Amy Palmiero-Winters. Amy had to stop every once in a while to make adjustments to her prosthesis, and I didn't know it at the time but she had also been ill for about four hours. Deb Horn was moving well, as was Jamie Donaldson, but talking to Jamie, she said she wasn't feeling that this was her race. Back to the men, John Geesler was suffering from foot problems that were starting to cause him great pain, but Dan Rose and Mike Henze were looking good and moving well.

Besides friends, significant others and family members that served as crew in our tent, some of our runners had supporters cheering us on along the course. Dan had family stationed at the same point in the park for most of the race, giving encouragement every time I came by. Anna's brother Vortek (sorry if I got that name wrong) and her 7-year-old daughter Thea were sitting at a restaurant along the course, and Thea would enthusiastically cheer my name every time I went by. Team assistant manager Mike Spinnler spent much of his time encouraging the US runners from the course as well. I was also getting encouragement from friends running for other coutries, especially Torill Fonn Hartikainen of Sweden and Julia Alter of Germany, both of whom I'd originally met in Surgeres two years ago, and are both about the nicest people out there.

As the race went on, and the night moved on into the wee hours, I was feeling less optimistic about my own prospects. I hit the 100 mile mark in about 14 1/2 hours (with my rough calculations), but my quads were burning up, much earlier than they ever have before. In fact I've never had any real problems with my quads before. After about 15 hours as it felt like my pace was slowing by the lap, I stopped for a "quick 5-minute" rubdown of my legs from medical assistant Tyler. Unfortunately, once I stopped I got cold and had to put on a long-sleeved shirt and pants. I had hoped to stay in shorts and singlet even as temperatures dropped. I continued on, but the pain in my quads was causing me to incorporate quite a bit more walking. While being worked on, I also learned that Jill was having medical issues, which would eventually cause her to withdraw from the race. Some of our other runners were struggling as well. Dan had to withdraw for medical reasons, Jamie had been getting sick, as had Suzanna. Serge also was having intestinal issues and his pace was slowing. Amy had been sick, but when I saw her she would be running strong. On the bright side, Scott was still in 2nd and on track for the American record and not showing any sign of slowing, Mike seemed to be getting faster by the hour, Deb kept moving at ther consistent pace and was looking good, and Anna was also doing very well.

The sun came up in the morning, which we hadn't seen much of the whole trip. In the final hours, it seemed clear that Scott would break Mark Godale's 24-hour road record of 162.4 miles, and possibly even surpass Rae Clark's track record of 165 miles. But the pain was evident on his face. Some time ago Japan had surpassed the men's team total, but the US was still second, although the Italians were closing fast. Besides Scott, our scorers would be Mike, who was moving like a madman and picking up speed, and Serge, who was holding on as best as he could despite his illness. Anna was our top woman, being in the top 10, Deb was going strong, Suzanna was holding on well despite her illness, Amy was running well towards the end, Jamie was suffering but still out there, John was also suffering with his feet but was still out there. Everyone suffers in a race like this, and I'm so proud of my teammates for performing so brilliantly and for showing such toughness.

In the end, Shingo Inoue won the race with 273.708 km, Scott won silver with 266.677 km (165.69 miles), a new American 24-hour road record. Mike finished in 12th place with 248.615 km (154.48 miles), and Serge 21st with 242.176 km (150.48 miles). I was 32nd with 230.522 km (143.24 miles), John had 174.938 km (108.7 miles) and Dan 146.893 km (91.27 miles). The men's team finished in third behind Japan and Italy, about 1.5 km out of 2nd place.

The women's race was won by Anne Cecile Fontaine of France with 239.797 km (149 miles). Anna finished in 10th place with 214.417 km (133.23 miles), Deb 14th with 207.825 km (129.13 miles), and Suzanna 17th with 203.287 km (126.31 miles). The women's team placed 4th behind France, Italy and Australia. Amy finished 19th with 199.554 km (123.99 miles), Jamie had 194.106 km (120.61 miles), and Jill had 129.339 km (80.36 miles) in under 13 hours.

A couple other informational notes: web site hits for the sites giving regular updates, including the AUA site ( and the USATF site were through the roof and hit new records. Interest in this race was unprecedented for an ultra, and especially for a 24-hour race, so thank you to all who went to check it out! Hopefully this will be a sign of things to come. It was also the first time that three American men surpassed 150 miles in the same race.

Like I said, I am extremely proud of all my teammates. Scott's new record will likely stand for some time, and I've no doubt he will receive all the accolades he is due. But I'd like to point out two teammates who particularly impressed me. Mike Henze really poured it on in the end and was running faster than anyone out there. He was lookinh very strong throughout the race and even seemed to have energy to spare at the finish of the race. I might point out that his mileage was just a bit more than my PR from the World Challenge in Canada three years ago. But the competition was so tough this year that where I finished 4th, Mike finished 12th, so Iwant to be sure he doesn't go unnoticed. And Deb Horn has always impressed me with her consistency and tenacity. She came through again with a PR performance and has been the backbone of the women's team since 2007.

For myself, I'm disappointed that I slowed down so much the last nine hours. Some races are better than others, and a runner has to accept that. And we all suffer from various physical weaknesses, some of which may be beyond our control, whether it's overtaxed muscles, digestive problems, blisters, or something else. But it's tough to think that I might have succumbed to mental weakness. But with the good and the bad, we try to figure out what we can do better next time. In the meantime, a big thanks not only to my teammates, but to the official staff - Roy, Mike and Dr. Andy and his assistants Tyler and Ashley, and to those who crewed the team - Deb M., Jill H., Bill, David, Roger, Eric, Sam, and Jenny.

Epilogue: On Saturday Jill, Deb M., and I hitched a ride to Paris with the medical team - Dr. Andy and his students Tyler, who also assisted at the North Coast 24, and Tyler's girlfriend Ashley, and we all stayed in the same hotel Saturday night. Upon arriving in Paris we strolled up and down the Seine from the Galleria to Notre Dame and eventually by nightfall to the Eiffel Tower. Jill, Deb, Andy and I slinked over to a nearby cafe, allowing Tyler and Ashley to go up into the tower. Sure enough, he popeed the question to her up there, and the two are now engaged to be married! A happy ending for them, and many many happy years to come!!!
Pics: 1. Mike and Jill Henze; 2. U.S. team at the parade of nations; 3. Jill and Deb M.; 4. Scott and Jenny; 5. Bill, Anna and Thea; 6. Serge and family post-race; 7. Relaxing before the race; 8. The pavilion; 9. Soon-to-be fiancees Ashley and Tyler; 10. Me in uniform before the race

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Day before the race in Brive, and working on final preparations. All the team and crew are here and ready to go. Today was the opening ceremony, which was rather somber due to the passing of the race director five days ago. But the race will go on as planned. We've got six men, six women, a team manager and assistant, team doctor and two assistants, and I think nine crew members. Plenty of help. It's a good team and we're all excited. Some of us walked the course today and it's about 1200 meters and has sections of asphalt and hard-packed dirt. A lot of twists and turns, too, but hopefully nothing too tricky. Time to get stuff together and get some sleep. Post-race report to follow Friday evening. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

France, Day 2

Not a lot of time to give a day 2 update but here goes. Roy, Jill, Deb and I took the morning train from Paris to Brive, and met up with Mike Henze and his wife Jill (from here on out we'll say Jill H.), and saw Anna and Bill at the station taking an earlier train. Mike and Jill H. had quite a time of it with bad weather in Detroit, a missed connection and a lost bag, which was eventually found. Then they had a ticket for a later train that didn't exist, but managed to get on the train with the four of us. We checked into the hotel in Brive, had some lunch and settled in. Scott Jurek and his girlfriend Jenny had arrived the day before, so the team is growing! Mike and I took an easy 4-mile (roughly) jog in the afternoon, the weather is cool and spotty, spitty rain, but not bad.

While eating dinner at a nearby restaurant we saw the arrival of Suzanna Bon and Sam, and Amy Palmiero-Winters and her crew member Eric. Because of a botched reservation, Amy and Eric didn't get a room, so they took mine and John Geesler's room (who just arrived with the Irish team about a half hour ago), and John and I will each triple up with others. Not giving any more details about the tripling up in the tiny rooms! ;-)

Although most of the people reading this are runners, I also have to mention the passing of my friend and former work colleague John Forbes, one of the best music engravers and editors ever to be in the business. I just saw the email notification, and time doesn't allow me to properly mention what a great man he was, but he will be missed by many, both personally and professionally. And he will be in my thoughts this week.

Monday, May 10, 2010

France - Monday

Howdy, here's my first day report from France. First of all, I got to the airport (Newark) way early for yesterday's 6:15 flight. Continental online it said it would only be delayed 24 minutes, and when I got to the airport it even said departure time 6:30, so things were looking good. I was planning to meet up with Roy Pirrung at the airport, at his baggage are since his flight would be delayed and was to come in after me, and we would room together the first night in Paris. Well, somehow my flight didn't get boarded so quick, and what with flying over Greenland to avoid the volcano in Iceland, my flight that was supposed to arrive at 7:45 am Monday arrived at almost 10:00. To make things worse, there was apparently a baggage handler's strike and I had to wait over an hour for my checked bag! On the bright side, I recognized an identical USA Track and Field bag at the carousel that belonged to teammate Anna Piskorska. I'd only briefly met her (I think) at North Coast last year, so it was nice to meet her and her boyfriend Bill and her little girl. Since Roy had already made his way to the hotel, I traveled solo into Paris to the hotel.

Roy and I strolled around a bit to stretch our legs and get a look at the Eiffel Tower and the Arc d'Triomphe. Back at the hotel we met up with co-champion Jill Perry and her crew Deb Mimargolu, who had arrived the day before. The four of us went to dinner at a nearby bistro, and here I am, exhausted and ready for bed.

Tomorrow we take a morning train to Brive. I'll post another report and hopefully have pictures!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Bridge of the Week #14: Pelham Bridge

This week's bridge is the Pelham Bridge, along the Pelham Parkway in the Bronx as it crosses the Hutchinson River's mouth into Eastchester Bay. It is a twin-leaf bascule drawbridge that carries two lanes of traffic in each direction and a sidewalk on the east-southeast side. It's total length is 891 feet with a main span of 80 feet. Construction began in 1906 and it was opened to traffic in 1908 before it was completed with its towers and lift mechanisms, which didn't happen until 1909. The city's DOT web site says that it's by far the city's busiest drawbridge, but I think that's referring to water traffic, and the number of times it's opened, rather than road traffic.

The bridge connects two areas of Pelham Bay Park and is a nice area to run, or bike, although the sidewalk can be narrow to share with bikes. The south end leads to the main part of the Bronx, and the Pelham Parkway has a nice paved path to run on. The north end joins with a pathway that goes on to City Island and Orchard Beach, and another that follows Shore Road towards Pelham Manor and New Rochelle in Westchester County.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Bridge of the Week #13: Unionport Bridge

Sorry this week's bridge is late. This is for last week, I'll try to get this week's up early. But this week's bridge is the Unionport Bridge in the Bronx, over the Westchester Creek, and carries Bruckner Blvd. between Zerega Ave. and Brush Ave, between the Unionport and Schuylerville sections of the Bronx. It is a street-level double-leaf drawbridge that has room for two westbound and three eastbound lanes of traffic and a sidewalk on the south side, and has a length of 601 feet. It was opened in 1953, and I believe has some extensive renovations scheduled to begin soon. But last week when I was there it was open for business. It sits hidden underneath the junction of the elevated Cross Bronx Expressway, Bruckner Boulevard and Hutchinson River Parkway. I believe drivers call this the Bruckner Interchange.

For all that, it's not too hard to maneuver for runners. On the east side is the intersection of Bruckner Blvd, and Brush Ave., and some onramps to the expressways, but follow the pedestrian signals to get through the traffic. Just to the north is the Whitestone Cinemas, a 14-theater multiplex. Continue south on Brush for about a mile to get to the spacious Ferry Point Park, which sits at the foot of the Bronx Whitestone Bridge (which doesn't have a walkway). Follow the bike route signs east of the bridge to get to the Hutchinson River Parkway Greenway, a bike/pedestrian path which follows the Hutch north up to Pelham Parkway. Continue west from the bridge to get to the Soundview neighborhood, and eventually Soundview Park, which has some nice bike/pedestrian pathways.

If you wish to get there by subway, the 6 train is not too far north, on Westchester Rd. - Zerega Ave. probably being the closest station. It's a bit out of the way, and not a monumental bridge by any means, but does lead to some interesting parts of the Bronx.