Women’s Half Marathon

Because my wife kicks ass, she went out to Central Park on Sunday and ran a half-marathon and then came home and told me about it like it was no big deal.

This is the awesome medal she got:

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She’s working on building herself up to doing a full marathon. I’m sure she’ll have a medal for that soon as well.

Congrats sweetie!

The High Bridge Trail

The High Bridge, as seen from the High Bridge path in High Bridge Park
The High Bridge, as seen from the High Bridge path in High Bridge Park

The High Bridge, officially known as the Aqueduct Bridge, was originally used to bring water onto Manhattan Island from the Croton River. Construction began in 1837 and was completed in 1848. The bridge had the appearance of a Roman stone, arched aqueduct. In 1928, the bridge was rebuilt using steel construction that worked well for quite a few years, but since the 1970s, the bridge has been closed to all traffic. New York City is working on changing that as part of an effort to create a network of trails and paths for biking, jogging and walking.

So far, the renovation looks good. It’s not done yet, by a long shot. My wife and I went down the long flight of steps from High Bridge Park in Washington Heights to take a look around. The trail is closed and all we could see was the very entrance to the bridge. We decided to check out the trail, which is well done. It’s wide, new, offers some interesting views, and opens onto either Amsterdam or Edgecombe Avenue.

The remnants of a party that looks to have gone terribly wrong.
The remnants of a party that looks to have gone terribly wrong.

There is also a dirt trail that you can walk on. At first, it narrows down to little more than a well-worn deer path, but then it opens up into something that looks like the city is maintaining it. There were a lot of people walking through there, mostly with dogs and their kids, but it looks like it could be a pretty spooky and dangerous place at night. We saw remnants of wild parties, and there was a kid just hanging around by the entrance of the path (where it opens onto Edgecombe near 155th) with a mobile phone in his hand. He had a I’m-the-lookout-for-my-robber-friends kind of vibe, so I kept my eyes open.

I wonder if the city is planning on paving that section and extending it through the deer-trail portion so it connects with the rest of the paved High Bridge trail that will lead over the bridge into the Bronx? I’m also curious as to how this section of bike/jogging/walking paths will hook up to the rest of the path system in Manhattan, because at the bottom end of Edgecombe, the only sign I saw that might be part of the paths seemed to double back to the north along Harlem River Driveway towards Harlem River Drive. Maybe one day I’ll go down there and see if there’s a way to double back again and head south along the river.

I really need to get a bike. It would make exploration faster. There’s so much to see in New York City that I doubt I could ever see it all just by walking.

The Hudson River Greenway

The Hudson River Greenway
The Hudson River Greenway

I’ve started taking long walks for exercise purposes. While I’m out, I usually listen to the news using a new app I found called Umano (which is pretty cool, by the way), but still, looking at the same scenery over and over gets old, so I’m always looking for new places to go. Normally, I walk down Riverside Drive and head south along the river, past Riverbank State Park. Saturday, my wife and I took a detour and discovered the Hudson River Greenway.

My wife and I had seen the Greenway before, from Riverbank State Park, which is completely elevated, but we didn’t know how to actually access the area. The Greenway is a route that follows the edge of Manhattan island and caters to cyclists, joggers and walkers. There are plenty of places to picnic and barbecue along the way, as well.

So, Saturday, my wife and I were walking down Riverside Drive when I saw a woman walking up a set of steps that led down towards the highway. We’d always wondered where those stairs go, but the area looks a little creepy, so we never went down to check. The woman told us the stairs lead down towards a park, so we decided to take a chance and headed down the steps. The path led to a set of metal stairs at the on-ramp for the Hudson River Parkway at 158th Street and at the bottom of the steps, we found the Greenway.

We went right, only because we were hoping for good views of the George Washington Bridge. We didn’t realize how long the path is, or how much stuff there is down there. There are parks, camp areas, tennis courts, basketball courts, and there are areas under construction that look like they’re going to be really nice sitting areas.

We didn’t leave for our walk until late. We didn’t expect to find an interesting trail to follow, and while we were down there, it started to get dark. It’s a little spooky down there when the sun starts to go down. There are places along the trail where the brush is hollowed out like people (or animals) are living there. I was really surprised at how many people there are using the trail, though, and how even after dark women were walking through there alone. I don’t think I’d want to walk there alone at night.

We followed the trail under the George Washington Bridge, where it doubled back on itself and headed up to street level, and then we headed back home through the city. The walk was really fun and not too tiring at all. And, we discovered that the neighborhood around the George Washington Bridge is really, really nice. We saw a few new restaurants we’d like to try. I suppose that’s one of the great things about going out for walks. It helps you discover cool stuff in and around your neighborhood.

Burning Out Stress on the Running Track

East River Park Running Track
East River Park Running Track

When I was living in Singapore, my wife and I would go jogging 3 times a week or more.  Even though it was hot over there all the time, even at night, it was exhilarating.  Besides being in good shape, every time we would run and hit our target, it gave us a sense of accomplishment.  Participating in the first Run350 event on Pulau Ubin Island and finishing the 5k in 31 minutes, despite the god-awful big hills on the course, was amazing!

Something I probably didn’t think too much about at the time but realize more now is that jogging is also a great way to burn stress.  Last semester was hell for me.  I took on way too many classes and had way too many assignments due.  I’m still sleeping almost 11 hours a day recovering from the lack of rest, especially over the last few weeks.

Despite the time crunch I was under, I still took time to jog.  Why?  Because it gave me an opportunity to stop thinking about due dates and complicated research questions for just an hour or two and gave me a sense of achievement and accomplishment when I met my running goal.  Every successfully completed run was a pat on the back that motivated me to not only keep running, but to get back to my classwork as well.

The bonus on top of it all?  It’s an opportunity for my wife and I to bond.  She runs too and we almost always run together.  This month is going to be a little different.  She’s working full time and I’m busting my ass to get my master’s degree as soon as possible, so I’m taking summer classes.  The summer class I have this month is at night so on Wednesdays we’ll have to run solo like I did yesterday.  It wasn’t as much fun, because I enjoy the competitiveness of running with my wife.  She’s almost as fast as I am, so she keeps me moving when I start to get lazy.

Weekend Outing to Times Square

Times Square, New York City
Times Square, New York City, June 3, 2012

This past weekend was the only weekend in my one and a half week break between the end of Spring Semester and the beginning of Summer classes.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.  My wife was encouraging me to relax and have a good time.  I was thinking about doing some heavy reading and trying to get ahead on the books assigned on the syllabus for my first summer class.

I never did get around to that, mostly because I decided to migrate my blog from Blogger to WordPress.  It’s taking a lot more time to complete than I thought.  The import was a little complicated.  I had to export from Blogger, import to WordPress.com, export from WordPress.com, and then import to my WordPress installation.  Needless to say, there are tons of formatting errors, not the least of which is that images are either really blurry or not loading at all, depending on the browser.  I have to fix that.  I’ve been working on getting the categories and tags set up first though.  Maybe I’ll be done by next weekend!

Anyway, I didn’t want to spend all weekend in front of my computer screen.  Luckily, one of my wife’s teachers from med school was in town so we went out to meet up with him at Times Square.  After chatting and walking around with him a bit, he left to meet up with other friends, so my wife and I did the tourist thing.  I pulled out my camera and started taking photos.  We did some shopping and window shopping and wound up eating out.  It wasn’t a spectacular day but it was a great day and a good weekend outing.

East River Park Running Track
East River Park Running Track. One of these ladies tried to steal our water bottle.

Sunday, we hit the track and ordered pizza.

Now, the time for fun and games are over.  I have to get ready for the first day of my first summer class: Islam in the West.  It should be exciting!

Pulau Ubin and Young NTUC’s Run350

A few weeks ago, my wife told me she’d signed us up for a running event called Run350.  It was encouraged among NTUC employees, since it was a Young NTUC sponsored event.  The purpose of the run was to gain attention for climate change.  The atmospheric carbon dioxide for February 2010 was 389.91 parts per million, which is far above the safe upper limit of 350, which is where the run got its name.

The event was fairly well organized.  The only real problem was that on-site storage of goods wasn’t available, so if you didn’t have someone along to just hold your stuff while you ran, you had to go light, which is what we did.  Even though we could bring everything that was completely necessary in our pockets it was annoying, because it didn’t even afford us the convenience of a towel to dry our faces with after the event.  Thankfully we don’t live that far from Pulau Ubin anyway, so the trip home was pretty short.

Pulau Ubin itself is an island off the coast of Singapore’s mainland.  To get to it we had to take a ferry from Changi Point Jetty.  That was pretty cool and almost made the whole trip worth it on its own.  I hadn’t been on a boat of any kind in a long, long time.

The ferries each carry a group of 12, which still leaves plenty of space on the benches.  As you can see, the sky was overcast.  There was a steady drizzle up until about 15 minutes before the 5k run started.  That helped keep it cool but it also made it incredibly humid.

Approximately 1000 people attended this event, and at 12 per ferry it took quite a few trips to get everyone to the island.  You can see the ferries lined up to dock at Pulau Ubin above.  To the right of the photo, in the background, you can see a ferry heading back to the mainland to get more people.

The boarding of the ferries was really well organized, with staff and volunteers directing one group at a time down through the departure area and out onto the pier.  It would’ve been madness to have a huge group of people pushing and shoving on the pier and someone would’ve wound up in the water.

That’s me, standing by the welcome sign by the jetty on the island.  The shirts aren’t too bad and the print actually matched my regular running shorts. Double win.

Pulau Ubin itself is like another country when you compare it to the regular, sterile areas of Singapore.  When I first saw it, I was reminded of Malaysia, or even Patong Beach in Phuket, Thailand.  There were a lot of stray dogs wandering around, which added to the liveliness of the area, just like at Patong Beach.

The whole atmosphere is very relaxing and we’re going to make plans to go back on another weekend.  Getting there from our place only costs about 1.50 in fare, not counting the ferry price of course.  On the island you can rent a bicycle for about 2 dollars for the whole day and there are cheap places to eat if you’re not bringing your own food.

The Run350 event was divided into a 10k and 5k run with 500 people each.  We took the 5k.  We briefly thought about doing the 10k, but I’m glad we changed our minds.

I had my wife’s waterproof camera out while we were running, thinking I would get some good photos, but I only managed to take one before I realized I needed to focus.  I run 5k regularly, but dodging people and a bunch of hills really wore me out.  There was one hill in particular that was pretty steep.  Almost every in front of me was stopping to walk to the top after going about halfway up.  It gave me flashbacks to what was called “Canyon Runs” when I was in the Army at Ft. Bliss.  Ft. Bliss is situated at the southern tip of the Rocky Mountains and there’s a road that runs up the side of it that company commanders think is a great PT challenge to undertake about once every two or three months.

In the end, we still finished the 5k in about 33 minutes, despite the heat, humidity, hills, and navigating around the other runners.  It wasn’t a race and there were no prizes, but I wanted to do my best anyway.

I found out later that I’m in the photo that goes with the ChannelNewsAsia story about the event.  I’m also in their video, which is linked to from the article:

I wanted to embed the video, but ChannelNewsAsia’s site doesn’t allow it for some reason. Too bad… can’t even save a copy.

Anyhow, it was my first organized run (outside of the Army), an opportunity to see a new part of Singapore and an overall great experience!

Update: The event organizers managed to get a copy of the ChannelNewsAsia video up on YouTube so I’m embedding it here. I’m in it at 37 seconds on the left, in the tan and black hat.

Update (September 11, 2013): While editing bad formatting after importing this post from Blogger to WordPress, I noticed that Channel News Asia has removed the original article and the link is dead. As a safety precaution, I uploaded a copy of the video to my blog, in case the YouTube video eventually goes down as well.