Thursday, July 29, 2010

Bridge of the Week #21: 9th Street Bridge

Going back to the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn for this week's bridge, the 9th Street Bridge. This carries 9th St. over the canal between Smith St. and 2nd Ave. On the west (Smith St.) side is a somewhat battered-looking residential neighborhood on the outskirts of Carroll Gardens and Red Hook, but one that is gaining in popluarity, as affordable but unsightly neighborhoods in New York seem to do. On the east is an area that is still highly industrial, at least as far east as 3rd Ave., when residential areas take over. There are not specific running or bike pathways, and no major parks in the immediate vicinity, but it can be an enjoyable area to run and explore different parts of the city, especially if you want to explore the Brooklyn waterfront areas, which are not far away.

The bridge itself is one of the newest bridges in the city, having been rebuilt in 2000, the original I believe having been built in 1905. It is a bascule drawbridge, but I've had trouble finding the specs. But it's not a big bridge, and it's at street level. It does, however, sit underneath the Smith-9th St. station for the F and G train. This station is the highest in the entire system, at 87 feet above the Gowanus Canal.
Breaking bridge news: This week's bridge isn't terribly interesting, but there is some interesting goings-on with the Willis Ave. Bridge. This bridge, which I'll cover in a later installment is being rebuilt, and in fact the span which was recently built in Albany, has been floated on a barge down the Hudson, around the southern tip of Manhattan, and just this week was floated upthe East River, under the Brooklyn and other major bridges near it's final destination on the Harlem River between Manhattan and the Bronx. It is expected to be set into place in August, finally opening in the fall, hopefully in time for the New York Marathon, since the 20-mile point is set on the bridge. As of now you can probably go and see the span sitting on a barge just north of the Triboro Bridge. I plan to go take a look sometime this weekend.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Race Report: Queens Half Marathon

I enjoy running the New York Road Runners' 5-borough half marathon series. I'd already run the Manhattan and Brooklyn races this year, and looking at the schedule, I'd be able to run all five for the first time in a single year. I thought about running Queens, which this year was moved from September in College Point to July in Flushing Meadows, but with my feet feeling as bad as they did after Badwater, I gave up the idea. But then... I'd done a few short runs the past week since getting back from Vermont, and my feet were feeling better, and my legs were never feeling too bad at all. By Friday, I decided to register to run the race Saturday morning.

With a 7 am start and two subway rides, I was up at 4 and out the door at 4:30. I saw some of my friends there, Ruth, Eliot, Ilana, Mike A. (less than a week after his incredible Vermont 100 mile run) and Kevin S-S from Van Cortlandt TC, Cristian and Elmustafa from West Side. The course description and map on NYRR's web site looked quite complicated, but mostly took place in the park, with a 4-mile or so out-and-back on College Point Boulevard. By the first half mile I was rethinking the wisdom of the race. My legs were already screaming, and the heat, even that early, combined with the high humidity made it difficult to get a good breath. But on we went.

The early stretch on College Point Boulevard was not fun. It was out in the sun, and it took us past an asphalt plant that nearly choked the life out of me. It was about here that I met Chris Solarz, and we chatted for a short time before he went on ahead of me. After about 6 miles I passed Mike A., who might have needed a little more rest after Vermont. I soon saw his Vermont crew member and fellow Van Cortlandt runner, Mike O., pass me.

Approaching the 7-mile point near CitiField I could feel the blisters on my left foot heating up again. I was really questioning the wisdom of this race. Still, I was hoping to finish under 1:30, and although slowing, it was still looking good. But the next adventure was a trip around the Meadow Lake. I have bad memories of this from the super-hot Unisphere 50K/50 mile in the summer of 2008. The loop for that race was around the lake, and I couldn't even finish the 50 miles then, and here I was running another race around the lake. But at least this was only once around. And hitting the 10 mile mark, you know it's only a 5k left, and the end is near, even if you can't see it. After some detours on park roads I'd never been on before, we were back near the start area, but had to turn back for another lap around the Unisphere before reaching the finish line. I made it in 1:28 and change, very happy to get under 1:30. I've never run a harder half marathon in my life! My feet were definitely not happy with me.

I thought my hobbling was done after Badwater, but here I was, hobbling again on my way back to the subway. But as I came across the tent with the age-group awards, I was pleasantly surprised to learn I was second in the 40-44 age group! So I got to take home a nice piece of lucite! But I was sure hurting when I got home.
Pic: Ilana and I looking fresh before the race, pic by Eliot

Race Report: Vermont 100

The Vermont 100 is not a race that I ran, but one that I crewed for, for my running buddy and 2009 Badwater crew member/pacer Tim Henderson. With his having helped pull me to a good finish at Badwater in 2009, and with his having dropped out of his two previous attempts in Vermont, I really wanted to do what I could to help him get a good finish this year. With my 2010 Badwater race just five days before, I wouldn't be able to pace him, but he had a pacer lined up, John Rosa, and an additional crew member, Jim Morris. After my difficulties at Badwater, particularly by blisters, I was only hoping that I'd be able to be an actual help and not just a hobbling tag-along.

After the flight from Las Vegas to Newark, which landed after 10pm on Thursday, July 15, I took the monorail then the NJ Transit train to Penn Station, where I caught the 12:30 am LIRR train out to Sayville, Long Island, arriving about 2:15 am. Tim told me to call him when I got in and he'd pick me up at the station for the short drive to his house, but I still felt terrible waking him up when we had to drive up to Vermont just a few hours later. But we got to his house, I crashed on his couch for a few hours, then we were up and at 'em. Tim, Jim, John and I were on the road by 6:30, taking the ferry from Port Jefferson to Bridgeport, CT (a very cool ride) and in our hotel around midday. I had a chance to soak my feet in the tub and catch a catnap before we went to the prerace check-in. Besides my blisters still making it hard to walk, which was a major source of entertainment for the guys, especially John, my feet were swollen well beyond the limits of my size 7 1/2 Mizunos. But the soaking helped a little.

At check-in as Tim weighed in and collected his goodies, I met several of my New York area running friends - Nick Palazzo, Admas Belilgne, Lucimar Araujo, Frank Colella, Bob Falk, Jay Masten, Mike Tobin, Chip Tilden, all of whom were either running the 100-mile or 100K, crewing, pacing or volunteering. Chip took lots of pictures as well. Also on hand were recent 24-hour team members Jill Perry and Scott Eppelman. I also spied, sitting in a chair looking like he needed a rest, a man with a Badwater 2010 shirt on, who turned out to be Ray Sanchez. Not only did Ray finish Badwater with me less than a week prior, but he ran Western States 100 two weeks before that, as he was going for the Grand Slam. He'd also run the Brazil 135 in February and the Arrowhead 135 in Minnesota a week later, earning special recognition at the Badwater awards ceremony. Keith Straw was another back-to-back Badwater/Vermont runner, and I wished him luck as well. They are definitely stronger men than me!

As we gathered in the pre-dawn Saturday morning for the 4 am start of the race, I met a couple more friends, Emmy Stocker and perennial Vermont runner John Geesler. Tim was primed and ready to go and definitely ready to get underway. He was looking good and sounding good and I knew there was no way he was not finishing this race. Off they went, just as the first light was starting to peek out over the mountains. Since our first crew encounter with Tim wouldn't be until mile 21, an estimated four hours later, Jim, John and I stuck around for the 5 am start of the horse race. It was maybe not as dramatic as we were hoping, but it was beautiful to watch the horses trot off down the dirt road.

We had a good system in place for crewing Tim, which I take no credit in creating, but was happy to follow. We would use a wagon to carry an orange box which contained lotions, lubricants, painkillers, and other non-food items, a bag with food and nutritional items, and a bag with clothing items he might need, plus a gray plastic pan in which we put his drinks and ice. We also brought two chairs, for Tim if he needed one and/or the crew while we waited, and a beach umbrella for shade. Some of the crew stations required pulling the wagon a ways, so thanks to Jim for taking that job! At the Pretty House aid station at mile 21, Tim came in right on expected pace in four hours. I admit I was hoping to see him early, but that's my impatience showing. Tim had found a few runners to run with to help the pacing and was looking good, but at 8 am, the temperatures were already rising. Here we had arrived early enough to see the lead runners come through, some of whom I wasn't familiar with, but some of whom I was. Mike Arnstein was one of the first to come through, looking fast and solid. We were chatting with Mike Oliva, his crew member (and a 2009 24-hour team crew member), who looked like he had an entire cantaloupe ready to hand off to Mike A. Also among the leaders was Ray Sanchez! I knew he's an incredible runner, but didn't expect to see him so close to the front so soon after Badwater. Kami Semick was unsurprisingly the first woman through, and Jill Perry was second and looking good. Unfortunately, her foot problems caused her to drop out soon after.

By the Stage Road aid station, mile 30, Tim was still going well and on pace for his sub-24 hour finish, and looking good, if a bit warm. We went through a lot of ice in the race, both in his bottles and his sleeves. And by this time we were making friends with other crew members. Here we met Frances (my apologies for forgetting her last name), fiancee and crew member for Connecticut runner Seth Ambruso. I haven't yet met Seth.

We had a little time to get to Camp Ten Bear, the aid station at mile 47 (and later again at mile 70), so we stocked up on more ice, and got a little food for ourselves. We got to the station early enough to see most of the runners come through, but just missed the first couple. We saw Mike A. again, and Jill, who was now third woman. She stopped to get her foot taped, complaining about her plantar fasciitis, but was soon bounding up the road with a smile on her face. Before long, along came former 24-hour team member Daniel Larson looking good, and John Geesler. Then Tim came by, still a little ahead of schedule. The day was really heating up now and we made sure he had everything he needed, including ice and ice-cold bottles. Still Tim looked good and didn't sit down or spend too long in the station. We also got to see Leigh Schmitt come by as the first 100k runner, and he would eventually win that race, no surprise.

The next station, Tracer Brook, mile 57, would be an important one, as it was just after this station that Tim's quads seized up in both his previous attempts, forcing him out of the race. And I remember from running the race in 2008 that this section was the hottest, for me at least. We arrived at the station early again, which was good for me because it gave me a chance to dip my feet in the cold shallow water of the brook itself. Amid the kids playing in the water, I took off my shoes, sat down on a rock and soaked the feet, and what relief it was! I could see the swelling go down right before my eyes! When the horses came down for a drink, I thought it would be a good idea to get out of the water and give them room. I thought it an even better idea when the horses did other business in the water as well. As I sat on the grass letting my feet dry, I saw John Geesler come down the raod, not looking good at all. I got my socks and shoes on and asked if I could help him with anything, since he didn't have a crew, and Tim hadn't arrived yet. He declined my help, saying that he just couldn't eat anything. About then, w saw Tim approach, well ahead of the expected time. I actually ran to the wagon to help get things ready. Other than being hot, he was feeling good and after refilling his bottles, getting him his food (I think we had a turkey sandwich for him here), he was ready to forge ahead to face his demons, and off he went. After a last offer to help John, we left him in the supervision of the aid station crew, sitting in a chair, looking completely spent.

Next stop, Margaritaville. This aid station, at mile 62, is a tribute to Jimmy Buffett. We knew that when Tim got here, he would be on his way to a finish. After watching the usual parade of runners who had preceded him in the other stations, we saw him come in, looking good as he had all day, and ahead of schedule. Besides his usual fare, we had a bottle of Heineken ready for him, and he downed about half in a few seconds. We were all happy that he'd gotten past his previous dropout point, which was a huge mental boost, but we didn't do too much celebrating, since there was still a long way to go. Still, our confidence in Tim and his own confidence I think, left little doubt in the outcome.

Next stop was Camp Ten Bear, the second time, at mile 70. As we waited, and as John got ready to start his pacing duties, we saw Admas and Bob come through in the 100K course. Mike Tobin, who was also running the 100k was also there, sitting on a cot. He looked ok and said he felt ok but he was waiting for his wife, who was crewing him. She was uncharacteristically late in meeting him there, and he didn't want to leave until he saw her, and there was no cell phone service there to contact her. He was looking more and more worried, but eventually found her. She had been sitting in the car the whole time rather than at the aid station. That all resoved just as Tim came by, gaining even more time on his expected pace, and still looking good, but compaining about the heat. Then he and John went off down the road in the early evening light.

At mile 77, The "Spirit of 76" aid station, Jim had to pull the wagon quite a ways down a rough gravel road from the parking area. I should mention that a fair amount of the course, and crew parking areas, are on private land, and a big shoutout to the landowners who allow the racers and their crews on their land! Soon after Jim and I got the wagon in place, a blonde woman who was crewing for a bald man (I forgot their names, sorry!) set up next to us. We first met her at a general store getting supplies, and had seen her at most of the aid stations, since our runners came in near to each other. She was one of the very nice crew members we met during the day. And by this time Tim had passed her runner, which we were happy about because we thought he was being to tough on her. There was another crew member we saw a lot of who was quite pregnant, like ready to drop, and the man she was crewing, presumably her husband, was running strong, and ahead of Tim until the end, but I thought that guy owed her big time! Back to the race, I remember this stretch being a lot of tough uphill, so it would be a long seven miles for Tim and John. But they came in, looking tired but ready to go on. Tim asked me what the next part of the course was like, but I honestly couldn't remember, except that one part of it was a long road downhill.

Our next crew stop was Bill's, mile 88, and from here it's a manageable 12 miles to go. By this time it was fully dark. Jim and I had some time to get here, so we made a detour to try to find Jim some coffee (I don't drink the stuff). We got to Bill's with not too long to wait for Tim and John to come by. All went well, and in fact Tim had passed a number of runners by this time and was still more ahead of schedule. He complained how tough it was and was still hot, but he didn't look any worse for the wear. And off they went again into the darkness. I also warned him to prevent the wrong turn I took in 2008 shortly after leaving this station.

The last crew stop was Polly's at 95.5 miles. We were waiting here a while, watching other runners come in, most of whom we'd seen many times during the race. We had gotten used to recognizing Tim from a distance by his gait, but Jim and I were proud to say we recognized him and his gait by the bouncing of the light of his headlamp! I was cold here, but Tim was still hot, and in fact running with his shirt off. He and John were running well here and had passed even more runners. We were happy to see them off, knowing there would soon be a celebration.

At about the 77 mile point Jim and I had predicted a 22:30 finish time for Tim. We had gotten to the finish line, and were happy to see Tim cross the line in 22:13!!! Not only did he beat his demons and finish the race, but he ran a very smart race and finished strong, well ahead of his 24-hour goal.

So Tim had a very successful race. Frank Collela had dropped out, however. Emmy finished but in pain. Mike Arnstein finished 4th man. John Geesler finished, but in a much slower time than usual - I've seen John struggle, but have never seen him quit. Daniel finished in the top 10 men, Scott finished well. Ray Sanchez finished in the top 10! I really don't know how he does it! Tim got his buckle and we were on the road. We all just wanted to get back home. I was definitely ready to get home! And after a subway ride, a train, a shuttle bus, a plane to Vegas, another shuttle bus, a rental car, a 135-mile footrace, rental car again, shuttle bus, plane to Newark, monorail, train, another train, car, ferry, more car to Vermont, crewing a 100-mile race, car back, ferry, more car, train and a final subway ride in ten days' time, I was home again!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Race Report: Badwater

Well, another Badwater Ultra and at least three toenails are in the history books! This being my second time in the race and my third time at the race, I was hoping to learn from past experiences and improve on last year's time of 29:12 and 8th place. But you never know what the race, the desert or the mountains, or even your self, are going to throw at you.

Pre-Race: I arrived in Las Vegas on Thursday, July 8 without any trouble and picked up my rental van and drove to the Flamingo Hotel, where I'd be meeting my brother Ted, his wife Becky, and their kids April (age 25), Andrew (24), Garret (15) and Riley (13), who had been on a mini Vegas vacation for a few days. Ted and Becky crewed for me last year, but the race and Death Valley would be new for the boys. April was flying back to Nebraska instead of going to Death Valley. When I arrived they were actually at New York, New York, so I walked down there to meet them. On the walk back I was pointing out to the boys what all of the New York landmarks and buildings were supposed to be, looking up like a tourist, when WHAM! I walked right into a fire hydrant! I don't know why they put them in the middle of the sidewalk, but I was at least walking slow, and I was just hoping there'd be no bruises. Of course, Riley seemed to find it as funny as the men standing nearby did. That's a good crew member for ya! ;-) But I think they were all a little jealous of my 28th-floor penthouse room (unrequested) with a view of the Strip and Caesar's Palace across the street, and the big Flamingo neon sign right outside my window.

So on Friday Ted and Becky dropped off April at the airport and we all met at Wal-Mart to get the supplies and food we'd need for the race. Then we drove out to Death Valley. We stopped at Zabriskie Point for the views, and detoured over to Badwater to get to look at it before the hoopla of race day. Then we drove over to Stovepipe Wells and checked in. The first person I saw outsude the motel office was my friend Reza Baluchi, the first Iranian runner at Badwater (living in California). I first met him in 2003 as he was finishing a run across the country and have met up with him occasionally since then. He had high hopes for his Badwater race and had been spending a lot of time in Death Valley training.

Saturday I went on a short run with Andrew, who was a very good cross-country runner in high school, and had been training so that he'd be ready to run with me for short stretches, as Ted and all the boys had been. Later we all hiked around Mosaic Canyon, one of my favorite places in Death Valley. In the evening my sixth crew member, Carilyn Johnson, arrived with her husband, Tim, and sons Grant and Spencer. They'd all be staying the night and the men would drive back to LA on Sunday, where the boys were in a school program.

Sunday at the check-in and pre-race meeting it was good to catch up with friends, some of whom like Connie Gardner, Tony Portera and Amy Palmiero-Winters were running the race, some of whom like Suzanna Bon and Dennis Ball were crewing. Back at the hotel it was time to get all my clothes, food and supplies organized. Then a night of worrisome, fitful sleep.

Mile 0-42: The race started well. I saw a few men running way up hront early, but it was way too early for me to worry about competition. I had time splits I was aiming for that I thought were reasonable, but still a significant time improvement over last year. Shooting for 2:40 to Furnace Creek, I arrived in 2:35, over last year's 2:43. A little fast, but feeling good. I had been doing a lot of back-and-forth with #29, Gregg Geerdes, a runner who I'd never heard of before, but who was running well. At one point between Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells I cam across Reza, who was being tended to behind his crew's van. I thought maybe he'd gone out too fast. I kept running well, walking very little, thanks to the efficient working of my crew. I ran mostly alone, although Carilyn ran with me a stretch as we got closer to Stovepipe Wells, and Ted and the boys I believe each ran a short stretch with me, my apologies for not remembering completely. I do remember that last seven miles to Stovepipe never ending, just like every time I've been out there. I was hoping to get to Stovepipe Wells in 6:30 and actually took 6:36. I was running strong but I knew I was overheating and needed to take five minutes in the van to cool down. Five minutes turned to about 20 but then I was on my way up the first hill.

Mile 42-72: After a couple of miles gradually uphill, Carilyn joined me for the tough slog up the bulk of the hill. The early evening temperatures were still hot, and the steep climb combined with the strong headwinds made most of the hill a power walk. I did throw up at one point and nearly stumbled back in standing upright, but Carilyn kept me from falling. She was a little worried after that, particularly since it looked like I wasn't processing the food properly, but we kept on up the hill. Reaching the peak at Towne's Pass was a definite milestone, and I was ready and primed to book it on down the hill. Carilyn and Becky went ahead in the secondary van to Panamint Springs to gas up and get some rest. This part I took solo and took most of my crew stops without slowing down. Nearer the bottom I was joined in the running by Garret, then Riley, Andrew and Ted. I believe they each ran with me a couple miles at this point. And by this time it was dark and I could see the shooting stars. I was starting to feel some hot spots on my feet and was considering having the medical team at Panamint Springs take a look at them, but I was running well and wanted to continue on. I got to Panamint Springs (mile 72) in 13:58, slower than I was hoping but still about ten minutes faster than last year. And I was hoping my big surge would still come between Darwin Turnoff and Lone Pine.

Mile 72-90 (not for the squeamish): Aside from the bugs buzzing around my headlamp, this stretch started off well. Carilyn joined me on this hill again after a couple miles. For quite a while I felt good and was running some of the flatter or less steep sections. But getting closer to Father Crowley Point (mile 80) I felt the circulation in my body go a little off. This is difficult to describe, and was difficult to describe to my crew, but my arms were a bit numb, and the numbness had gone up to my sinuses, causing a strange sensation in my head, although I didn't feel dizzy specifically. Still, I though it would be good to sit in the van a few minutes again until I felt more like normal. Becky took my pulse, which was normal for the running I'd been doing. I threw up out the van door again, mostly water this time, but after a few minutes felt good enough to get moving again, mostly walking but a little jogging mixed in. Oddly enough, starting at this point, something in my kidneys must have kicked in because I was going to the bathroom very often, very clear, and very voluminous. I took this as a good sign, even if the stops took some time.

This section of road has many sloped surfaces because of the tight turns, which was wreaking havoc on my feet, and I could feel blisters developing everywhere, my toes, the back of my heels, the bottom of my feet. They were hurting bad enough to make me get back to the van. After painfully taking off my shoes, the blisters were everywhere, loose skin on the back of the heels, grape-size blisters on the toes, and pockets of fluid beneath the thick skin on the bottom of the foot. Becky and Ted lanced, drained and wrapped what they could, but I honestly didn't think I'd be able to get back on my feet again, they hurt so bad. Certainly not when I had about 55 miles to go. I was considering the possibility of simply not being able to finish, of finishing in so much time that I would be an unexpected burden on my crew, especially when Carilyn had to leave right after the race, or when I was expecting to finish on Tuesday during the day. Could I ask my crew, including two teenagers, to continue into Tuesday night or Wednesday? But I thought about Project Hospitality, the charity I was raising money for, my New York ultrarunning friends and everyone else rooting for me, and I knew I had to give it a shot. I got back up on my feet and decided to walk a little and see how it felt. Of course, it was excrutiating! But after a bit I got into a walking stride, and soon was able to jog a few steps. Then I could jog a few more steps. It was still taking forever to get to Darwin Turnoff (mile 90), and I was falling further behind last year's time as the sun started to rise, but I was gradually able to put the pain out of my head, or at least in the back of my head, and I thought I would be able to finish in daylight in the afternoon. I got to Darwin in 19:44, the section from Panamint Springs taking almost six hours when I was hoping for about four.

Mile 90-122: By the time I got to Darwin, I felt good enough to run at a good clip again, just in time for the extended downhill the first few miles after leaving the time station. From this point on, I was feeling more like myself, my legs were still feeling good, the pain in my feet was in the background, and the road was mostly flat. Most of the race from Stovepipe Wells on, I was running near Connie, and we'd be going back and forth, I was seeing her crew a lot also. I was enjoying their company, and one of her crew members in particular, I'm told he was McGinty, was being very encouraging, being a fellow Irishman! I was somewhat surpsrised to have come up to Connie here again, thinking she would have been too far ahead to catch. But being otherwise somewhat isolated, it was good to see them again. I passed the 100-mile point, marked on the pavement, at 7:34 am, 21:34 into the race. Soon after I passed Dan Jansen, a South Dakotan with a prosthetic leg who was running very well. I believe it was the foul-smelling stretch near the sulfur mines that I passed Connie for the last time. And as I got within a few miles of Lone Pine I could see my next nearest competitor, Eric Deshaies from Canada, as well as 8:00 starter Dominick Grossman. I thought for sure that if I was catching up to Eric this late that I'd be able to pass him, but he must've seen my and gotten moving. Both Eric and Dominick got to Lone Pine a few minutes before me, but I was just so happy to be running and moving well and to finally get to Lone Pine that I wasn't too concerned with catching them. It was nice that Ted and the boys were able to run a couple of miles each with me here again. I was especially happy that it looked like I'd be able to get to Lone Pine by noon, and still be able to pull out a sub-30 hour finish - unthinkable 40 miles ago! I did hit the time station at noon on the dot, 26 hours into the race. 32 miles in 6:16, not bad all things considered.

Mile 122-135: As my crew organized themselves, splitting up as one van would have to go straight to the finish, I began the journey up Portal Road. I covered this last 13 steep uphill miles, 5000 feet elevation gain, last year in about 3:45, and I was hoping to do a little better this year. But honestly, knowing that I'd have to walk virtually all of it, although I would power walk as fast as I could, took pressure off. It was kind of an equalizer among the runners. In fact, in my mind I thought of Lone Pine as the finish line and the climb to the Whitney Portal as a sort of voctory lap. Certainly things can go wrong and I was careful not to tempt fate, at the very least it was possible to be passed, but I just kept moving and enjoyed the day. Carilyn walked with me here again, poor woman had to do all the hills with me! But she was good company and kept me focused on eating and drinking properly to finish the race strong. I could never remember where exactly the 131 mile checkpoint was, but eventually we came upon it, and every step was bringing me closer to the finish. The steep switchback brought me closer to the turn into the wooded campground area. Then Carilyn got in the van and Ted walked with me the last couple miles, as he did last year. We were passed by Connie's crew van, and McGinty(?) said she was about three miles behind, but in my paranoid state and knowing Connie's drive I was ever worried that she'd come up right behind and pass me at any moment. I didn't dare look back but I had Ted look back. Eric had gone up the hill too fast for me to catch, as had Dominick. Most of my time with Ted was speculating on how far the finish was. I kept thinking it was just around that corner or just past that sign. But the road kept going up, and I was getting paranoid about taking a wrong turn! We would shout, "Hello, anybody there?" when we thought the finish must be right up ahead. But eventually we saw our teammates in their Team McCarthy shirts that Ted and Becky had made up, joined them, and jogged in to the finish line, crossing the tape in 29:44:52. I have never felt to relieved to get to a finish line, and have never finished a race that was so much in doubt. And I still got a sub-30 hour finish, and finished 8th place for the second year in a row. Finishing ahead of me were Zac Gingerich, Oswaldo Lopez, Jamie Donaldson (breaking her own course record), Marco Farinozzo, Gregg Geerdes, Jorge Pacheco and Eric Deshaies. 8 is my lucky number after all.

Post-Race: From the finish line, Becky took Carilyn back down to Lone Pine, where Tim would meet her to drive her back to LA. I stayed for a while hoping to see Connie finish, but I needed to get to the motel and take care of myself, so down we went, and we passed Connie near the top, as she would finish in 30:35. The rest of the time in Lone Pine I could barely walk, the blisters hurt so bad, especially on the bottom of my right heel. I had to take pictures of my feet when I got my shoes and socks off, for documentation. I won't share them with you here, but there was al kinds of stuff everywhere, and a couple of toenails were floating on a wing and a prayer. It hurt to put pressure on, it hurt to take pressure off. Tuesday evening, Becky and I did see Marshall Ulrich as he checkined into the time station before heading up to the portals, so it was good to see him moving well on his way to his 16th finish. On Wednesday, we all drove up to Movie Flat Road to look at the scenery and climb on the rocks. The awards ceremony was in the evening, and it was good to talk to Connie again, and Reza, and share war stories. As I told people, I was hobbling but happy. My crew was awesome, Andrew, Garret and Riley in particular really stepped up and got me going. And I think they even enjoyed themselves! My feet were swollen as I drove back to Vegas and limped through the airport. But my journey wasn't over yet... Part 2 to come!
Pics: 1. Garret, Riley, Becky, Ted, Andrew at Zabriskie Point; 2. Carilyn, Garret, Ted on the road; 3. View from my room in Vegas; 4. Me, Ted, Garret at the start; 5. Running in the desert; 6. Carilyn, Riley, Garret, Becky, Andrew, me, Ted at check-in in team shirts; 7. The McCarthys at Movie Flat Road; 8. Andrew, Reza and me at check-in; 9. Relived to be done; 10. Getting my medal

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Bridge of the Week #20: Carroll St. Bridge

This week's bridge is a small bridge, but one of the oldest still standing, and one of the most unusual in the country. It is the Carroll St. Bridge, which carries Carroll St. over the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, between Bond St. and Nevins St.

This bridge was built from 1888-1889 and was designed by Robert Van Buren and George Ingram. It is a retractile drawbridge, one of two in New York City (the Borden Ave. Bridge in Queens, currently under reconstruction, being the other) and only one of four in the U.S., and it is the oldest of them all. The trapezoidal bridge sits on rails and by means of pulleys is pulled back horizontally, diagonally, to the west until the bridge section sits on land parallel to the street, leaving a 36-foot wide passageway. Approaching the bridge, it looks like a rickety old thing, so it's fascinating to then look down and see the pulley mechanisms and rails. The bridge is narrower than the street, and carries only one lane of traffic on the one-way street, to the southeast. It has a sidewalk on each side. The length of the entire bridge is 107 feet.

In 1986 the bridge was closed (in the open position) because the rails were so badly out of alignment. But it was also deignated a historic landmark in 1987, so restoration took place. It was reopened (or reclosed) in time for its 100th birthday in 1989. It still carries a sign on the truss above the roadway that threatens a five dollar fine for any vehicle that drives across the bridge faster than a walking pace. It also still has wooden gates to close the roadway and sidewalks.

The bridge, and the canal, are in the middle of an area that is largely industrial, but you don't have to walk far to reach the popular neighborhoods of Carroll Gardens to the west and Park Slope to the east. I will discuss the Gowanus Canal and environs more in a subsequent week when I discuss one of the Gowanus Canal bridges that is less interesting on its own.