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.