Monday, March 28, 2011

Bridge of the Week #54: Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge

This week's bridge is the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge that joins Broad Channel and the Rockaways in Queens.

The bridge is 3,000 feet long with a main span of 275 feet. It is a fixed bridge with a maximum height above the water of 55 feet. Construction began in 1967 and it was opened on May 28, 1970. The roadway on the bridge is Cross Bay Boulevard, which comes from Howard Beach, Queens across the Congressman Joseph P. Addabbo Bridge (previously covered) to Rulers Bar Hassock, including the Broad Channel neighborhood in Jamaica Bay, where the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge takes it to the Rockaways. This bridge replaces a bascule drawbridge built in 1939. The lifting of the bridge caused bad traffic backups, so the fixed bridge was constructed.

There is one sidewalk on the east side of the bridge, not very wide, and bikes are supposed to be walked across. The south entrance to the bridge is at Beach 92 St. and Beach Channel Drive, and the north entrance is pretty tough to find from the Broad Channel neighborhood. From E. 21st Road, take Van Brunt Rd. to its end, and the path entrance is around the dumpsters of a restaurant, and is very poorly marked. Still, the bridge can be part of a good long loop around the Rockaways and the Belt Parkway which can give you a lot of miles of nearly traffic-free, waterfront and bridge running.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Bridge of the Week #53: Randall's Island Footbridge

This week's bridge is another rare footbridge that I'm covering. As I've said more than once, I'm generally not worrying about footbridges within parks unless they cross a notable waterway or otherwise have some historical or running significance. This one meets my criteria for interest, although it doesn't have a name that I'm aware of, so I've just called it the Randall's Island Footbridge. This is not to be confused with the Ward's Island Footbridge (previously discussed) which crosses the East River from Manhattan onto Ward's Island.

This is a small footbridge that crosses a marshy inlet between Ward's Island and Randall's Island, the last remnants of the Little Hell Gate, which separated the two islands before it was filled in with construction debris in the years following the completion of the Triborough Bridge (yet to be covered) in 1936. When the Triborough was completed, the two islands were developed as parkland (as well as the psychiatric center, a water treatment plant and a Fire Department Academy), and eventually joined by landfill. There had been a 1,000-foot vehicular bridge between the two islands, which was made obsolete by the landfill, but was only demolished in the 1990's. This bridge was located just east of and parallel to the current road that runs west of Icahn Stadium, and just west of the Hell Gate (railroad) Bridge viaduct.

If you cross the Ward's Island Footbridge from Manhattan (which is currently undergoing work and won't reopen until summer) and turn left, you'll run along a nice new bike/pedestrian path along the west side of the island. This path leads to the footbridge across the inlet to a boardwalk across the marshlands, which leads to the southern end of Icahn Stadium. You can then continue on a road along the western edge of Randall's Island or enter the stadium at the northeast corner. I thought the parkland on the two islands, including the pathway, the presence of Icahn Stadium, and the historical aspect of the joining of the two islands (which are still referred to by separate names) merits inclusion of this bridge on my list.

Icahn Stadium definitely deserves a special mention here. Previously on the site was built the 22,000-seat Triborough Stadium in 1936, the same year the Triborough Bridge was opened. Its opening even on July 11 was the Olympic Trials, which of course was a triumph for Jesse Owens on his way to Berlin. Besides track and field, it was also used for professional football and baseball, as well as music concerts. It had been renamed Randall's Island Stadium, and then in the 1950's Downing Stadium after John J. Downing, a director of New York Parks and Recreation. Downing Stadium was torn down in 2002, replaced by Icahn Stadium, named after donor Carl Icahn, which opened in April 2005. It is one of only four Class 1 internationally-certified (IAAF) tracks in the U.S., and hosts many amateur and professional track meets, including the Adidas Grand Prix, where Usain Bolt broke the 100-meter world record in 2008 (which he broke again a few months later at the Beijing Olympics).

Randall's Island itself was named after Jonathan Randel (or Randal), who bought the island in 1784. His heirs sold it to the city in 1835.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Manhattan Island Bridge Run

Today was a beautiful day for a long run, and I was lucky to be joined for my run across the bridges of Manhattan Island by a very good group of friends, new and old. Mike Oliva inspired me to lead a group run and put it up on Meetup, on his New York Trail and Ultrarunning group. Check it out!

I did this a few years ago, but back then some bridges were under construction or reconstruction, so this would be a 30+ mile run across all of the bridges of Manhattan Island currently open for pedestrians (and then some), 17 total:

1. George Washington Bridge (out and back)
2. Henry Hudson Bridge (to the Bronx)
3. Broadway Bridge (to Manhattan)
4. University Heights Bridge (to the Bronx)
5. Washington Bridge (to Manhattan)
6. Macombs Dam Bridge (to the Bronx)
7. 145th St. Bridge (to Manhattan)
8. Madison Ave. Bridge (to the Bronx)
9. Third Ave. Bridge (to Manhattan)
10. Willis Ave. Bridge (to the Bronx)
11. Triboro Bridge (to Randall's Island)
12. Triboro Bridge (to Manhattan)
13. Queensboro Bridge (to Queens)
14. Pulaski Bridge (to Brooklyn)
15. Williamsburg Bridge (to Manhattan)
16. Manhattan Bridge (to Brooklyn)
17. Brooklyn Bridge (to Manhattan)

I met Mike, Brian, Prue and Lewis at the GWB Bus Terminal and off we went. Brian, Prue and Lewis I met for the first time, and they were excellent running companions. We had a great time running past various sites and neighborhoods of northern Manhattan and western Bronx. After entering Manhattan on the Triboro Bridge, about 20 miles, Lewis and Prue ended their run and went about their day. Brian decided to go his own way at the East River walk a little ways later. But Mike and I finished the run, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan. I had estimated a 30-mile distance, but Mike's GPS read about 35 miles, so a little more than expected, but earning a good rest afterward. Thanks to Mike, Brian, Prue and Lewis! A great bunch of people, who I hope to see at the races or at another Meetup event soon!
Pics: 1. Prue, Brian, Mike and Lewis overlooking the High Bridge Aqueduct (closed to pedestrians); 2. Lewis and Brian on Randall's Island; 3. Prue and Mike on Randall's Island; 4. Mike and I on the final bridge crossing

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bridge of the Week #52: E. 233 St. Bridge

Another bridge since I'm a little behind, and hopefully another one by the end of the week. This one is a close neighbor to last week's (yesterday's) bridge, the E. 233 St. Bridge in the Bronx over the Bronx River.

This bridge consists of a pair of concrete and stone masonry arches, and runs on E. 233 St. between Bronx Boulevard and Webster Ave. It not only crosses the Bronx River, but also the Bronx River Parkway and the Metro North Harlem Line tracks. In fact, the Woodlawn station is just to the north of the bridge on the west side of the river, with access from Webster Ave. The bridge was built in 1931. It carries three lanes of traffic in each direction, with one lane in each direction being a left turn lane, and has sidwalks on both sides. The street and sidewalks are at grade, meaning no climbing involved, and actually the terrain rises to both the east and the west. I don't have a total length, but it is fairly long for Bronx River bridges, and also rises roughly 20-30 feet (really rough guess) above the river.
There is a pathway under the bridge on the west side of the river, but it doesn't look like it links in any way to the path from the E. 231 St. Bridge (see last post) or any other path in the park, and maybe it's just because I went there in the winter when there was a lot of snow on the ground, but the path looked unmaintained, trashed but barely trod, and just a little bit scary. It just seems to be one of those obsolete dead-end paths that has fascinated me lately. But it did allow me the first picture above. There is a staircase on the west side of the river on the south side of the bridge that leads down to the riverbank there, but the stairs are blocked off. Access to this path can be had from the Woodlawn station. It is possible to continue north from Woodlawn station about 3/4 of a mile on a nice new path underneath a couple of other bridges and ending at the Muskrat Cove Footbridge (previously discussed).
Other than continuing south along Bronx Boulevard and through Bronx River Park, it is also nice to run west on 233 St. along the north edge of Woodlawn Cemetery and eventually meet up with Van Cortlandt Park. Most of my own crossings of this bridge have been coming from Pelham Manor just to the north of the city line along Boston (Post) Road to E. 233 St., but that's a ways to run, and on streets. But just about a mile to the east on 233 St. is little Seton Falls Park, which looks fascinating but I haven't yet expored it. It does appear to have a little stream running through it (and the namesake falls presumably), but I don't think it would have a bridge that I would cover.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Bridge of the Week #51: E. 231 St. Bridge

This week's bridge is one of those that could be easily overlooked, the E. 231 St. Bridge over the Bronx River in the Bronx. As with some of the other bridges, I don't know if this is the official name, but somewhere I saw this name given, and the bridge is located between E. 230 and E. 231 St., so it works for me. The other option would be Bronx River Parkway Onramp Bridge, which doesn't sound as nice.

This bridge does indeed carry an onramp to the northbound Bronx River Parkway from Bronx Boulevard. The Parkway of course has no sidewalk and pedestrians are not allowed, and yet there are sidewalks on both sides of this small bridge, hence its placement on this list. The north sidewalk appears to just dead-end at the west end of the bridge, but the south sidewalk (in the foreground of the second picture above) leads to an unmaintained pathway that curves around to head under the bridge. By unmaintained, I not only mean that snow and ice are not removed, but neither are weeds and other plant and trash life and it looks like no one's walked on it in decades (except to throw trash), and once under the bridge it appears to be unpassable due to overgrowth. So not much to run on, but it's there, and it's how I got that neat first picture. I've recently been fascinated by abandoned pathways, dead-end stairways and such, that usually are the mark of some later intrusive highway or other development. There's a lot of it along Riverside Drive and Henry Hudson Parkway in northern Manhattan, but I digress.
I don't know the date of construction of the bridge, but apparently this section of the Bronx River Parkway (from about E. 233 St. to Westchester County) was constructed starting in the early 1920's, so I think it dates from that period. Sections further south weren't completed until the 1950's, but this seems to have features of bridges as originally intended for the Parkway. The Westchester sections of the Parkway were completed by 1925 and it was the first parkway in North America, meaning a high-traffic, limited-access road that shows off the natural features of its environment. The bridges were to be covered in rough-cut stone to appear more natural and blend in with the landscape. By the post-war era, styles had changed. This certainly is a neat little bridge.

Race Report: The St. Patrick's Day Marathon

This race came only a week after the Caumsett Park 50K, but how could I pass up the opportunity to run a local marathon in honor of St. Patrick! This was the latest in the Holiday Marathon series, started by Mikes Arnstein and Oliva, the first being The Thanksgiving Marathon last fall. For me, it was my second marathon in the series, having also done The Thanksgiving Marathon, as well as The Valentine's Day Half Marathon a month ago.
The course is an excellent and enjoyable 6.55-mile loop, run four times for the marathon, twice for the half and once for the 5K+. On Valentine's Day the trails were all covered with snow and ice and made for treacherous running, but all signs of winter were gone now. But there were a number of muddy stretches, and one area where the trail was a stream for runoff. Nothing like getting a little dirty!
I met up with some friends before the race, as expected, including Mat Gerowitz, who ran to the start from his upper west side home, Andrei Aroneanu from New Jersey, who was my ride to Caumsett, and Dennis Ball, a very fast runner who I've run a couple of ultras with last year. With the national anthem again being sung beautifully by Vicki Arnstein, and a sound of the gong, we were off.
I ran the first lap and a half with Dennis, hitting the first lap in 50 minutes. I let him go ahead while I made a pit stop - I'd have to let him go ahead of me sooner or later anyway. I got the second lap also in 50 minutes, the third and fourth in 52 and 56 for a gong time of 3:28:29, better than my Thanksgiving time! Mike Oliva, who whupped me at Caumsett, won the race in 3:06, Dennis got third (I think) in 3:15. I finished two or three spots behind him.
It was also good to see Lucimar Araujo helping, handing out bibs (everyone got number 777) and finishers "medals" (a bag of gold coin chocolates), Emmy Stocker helping out as well, and regular pals Frank Colella, Sal Coretta, Ruth Liebowitz (a surprise since she hates running on trails, but these were "very mild"), and the rest.
Mike A. couldn't be there this time, but again a HUGE thanks to Mike and Mike and Vicki and Hiroshi and friends for putting on this fun, free, event!!! Besides the gold coins they also had the most delicious green apples I've ever had, bananas and green caps (not the one I'm wearing in the pics, that's my own).
Pics: 1. Mike O., me, and Dennis B. after the race; 2. My gong moment; 3. Mike's gong moment; 4. Lucimar handing out chocolate money with a smile

Monday, March 7, 2011

Race Report: Caumsett Park 50K

The Caumsett Park 50K was held March 6, and this was my seventh time in a row running it, my longest streak of any race. And for the sixth year in a row it has been the USATF road 50K National Championship. That meant that there would again be strong competition and some exciting performances.

The weather forecast called for mild temperatures but heavy rain on Sunday, although some reports said the rain would hold off until the afternoon, which I was hoping. At the start, temperatures were in the low 50's with cloudy, threatening skies and plenty of wind. We didn't have use of the Winter Cottage this year, but a large heated tent was set up, and it was well-heated and worked well, as long as you didn't mind the goose droppings on the ground.

The course would be the same as last year, with an extra out-and-back section to make an even 5K course. The organizers warned the runners of some potholes on the out-and-back, which were definitely unpleasant, especially when they became large puddles later on in the race. It is easier mentally to run 10 5K loops, and it's nice to not have to walk nearly a half mile to the starting line, but that out-and-back is not fun with the potholes, puddles and the sharp turnaround. My PR is still from the race two years ago when we started on the opposite side of the course and didn't do have either the out-and-back or the Winter Cottage turnaround.

I knew this wouldn't be a PR (3:25) day for me, particularly since I haven't put in a lot of speedwork. But I was hoping for something similar to last year (3:28). I also was hoping to finish in the top 10 and first local runner, and maybe place in the masters category. But I saw two masters runners, Mark Godale and Dan Verrington, who I was certain would beat me, as they had in previous years, so I wasn't counting on a masters place. After the first quarter mile or so I counted the runners ahead of me, and I was in 10th place, until Mike Oliva pulled up next to me, and while I was running and chatting with him another runner pulled ahead of us. Mike continued on ahead, and after two laps, the first place woman passed me, putting me in 13th place, with Byron Lane right on my tail.

At one point in the midpoint of the race I passed Dan Verrington, who was struggling and obviously having an off day. But that gave me hope for a masters prize if I could hold off Byron. I held on to the pace I wanted to keep for five laps, but then felt myelf tensing up, and Byron was still right behind me. The rain was a minor inconvenience, but the wind was fairly strong at times. It always is at Caumsett, but it was blowing from another direction than usual, so we had the strongest winds in our faces on the second half of the loop, rather than the first. Byron and I were going back and forth the last half of the race, but he was cramping up on the last lap and I was able to finish ahead of him.

The winner, for the fourth year in a row, was Michael Wardian, who came within a few seconds of his own course record. Joshua Ferenc and Jim Johnson, both from New Hampshire, finished second and third. Jodie Schoppmann, from Levittown, broke the women's course record in 3:20:12, quite an impressive performance in what I'm told was her first ultra. Shanna Ailes Istni from Ohio was second and last year's winner, Yolanda Flamino from New Hampshire was third.

I finished 12th overall, 11th male and third master behind Mark Godale and George Adams, another New Hapshire runner! So I didn't get the time I wanted, but I did get a masters award. And I didn't finish in the top ten, overall or men, but if you want to stretch it I did get the USATF 10th place medal, since Mike Oliva, who I've done some training runs with, and who helps put on the Holidays Marathons in Van Cortlandt Park, and who rode up in Andrei Aroneanu's car (thanks Andrei!!!) along with Mat Gerowitz, finished 10th man eight minutes ahead of me but is not a member of USATF, making him ineligble for any of their awards. So after mistakenly being given the medal he had to turn it over to me, which he gamely did. That'll learn ya Mike!

So although I've seen many of my ultra friends over the winter, the Caumsett Park 50K is always a good way to see them again and to start the racing season.