Monday, November 30, 2009

Zion Traverse 50 miles - FKT

I have a lot to be thankful for this last weekend, including an incredible family and new niece to start with.  On the running side of life I had the great fortune of joining Jay and Jared Campbell on a 50 mile trek across Zion National Park.  I'm not going to post a detailed report about our adventure because Jared has a great post over on his blog about our run.  I will share a few details from my point of view though.

  • Zion National Park is much more diverse than I had imagined.  The main road through the park only gives visitors a glimpse of what is out there, wander off the beaten path and you will be rewarded.
  • The weather couldn't have been better.  Even though it was a little cold to start with the temperature for much of the day hovered around the mid 50's with just a slight breeze.  Perfect running weather.
  • 50 miles is still a long way to run.  I suppose that the distance just doesn't seem as formidable to me as it once did but I was reminded that it still deserves respect.
  • Getting the FKT (fastest known time) was just icing on the cake.  Spending the day running with friends through one of the most amazing places in the world was the real treat.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

MRC in Manhattan - Day 2

Authored by Jay:

Frankly – I’m conflicted.

I love living in the Wasatch. In particular, I enjoy running and skiing in these beautiful and accessible mountains. Yet, there is a part of me that thrives on the big city life. I crave the diversity, energy and exposure to new ideas and perspectives that comes from life in a city like New York.

So for the last four years I’ve been living the dream – or perhaps more honestly stated – managing my conflict by living in Salt Lake City and working in New York City. But bouncing back and forth every week between Zion and Gotham has taken its toll – and I knew it was time for me to make a choice - the mountains or the City. For many reasons and considerations – the mountains had greater mass, and have prevailed. Farewell New York City

So how does a trail runner say good bye to the city they love? They honor and respect it by experiencing it in the most raw and intimate manner possible – they run around it with people they enjoy.

Running across the Brooklyn Bridge to start day 2

On Day 2 of MRCFarewell to New York run Christian, Erik, Greg, Peter and set out to circumnavigate the island of ManhattanOur run around the island of Manhattan started by crossing into Manhattan over the historical Brooklyn Bridge, the world’s first steel-wire suspension bridge built in 1883. Running over the Brooklyn Bridge has special meaning for me in that I commute to work by bike or foot over this bridge most every day of the year. Every time I cross the bridge I feel a surge of energy and inspiration as New York City welcomes me. This day, the lyrics to New York, New York got stuck in my head

Start spreading the news
I’m leaving today
I want to be a part of it
New YorkNew York

These vagabond shoes
They are longing to stray
Right through the very heart of it
New YorkNew York 

We then ran to South Street Seaport where our circumnavigation would begin. We chose to run in a clockwise direction. Almost immediately we passed the Staten Island Ferry. Next was Battery Park where the ferries to visit Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty embark.

Staten Island Ferry and Lady Liberty in the distance

As we headed up the Hudson River we enjoyed stunning vistas of HobokenUnion CityWeehawken and the Hudson Shores of New Jersey. We passed through the residential neighborhood of Battery Park City and through the fabulous neighborhoods of Tribeca and the West Village towards Midtown. The bulk of the aircraft carrier Intrepid loomed over uas we ran past it. At an adjacent pier, the USS New York was being christened. Steel from the World Trade Center towers was used in the construction of this amphibious transport ship. 

Running on the Greenway and the USS New York

As we continued Uptown, we marveled at how waste disposal facilities had been turned into parks, abandoned railways converted into soccer fields, and trails carved into the cliffs along the Hudson. Several times we pretended we were home in the Wasatch as we ran on trails in Riverside Park. New York City truly abounds in recreational facilities and opportunities.

Standing in front of the Cloisters monastery 

We stopped to visit the Cloisters, a branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art featuring medieval art. After a quick visit, it was time to refuel. Along a thorough way in Spanish Harlem we found a Dominican bakery where we feasted on guava popovers – the perfect ultra food. Next we ran along the Harlem River in High Bridge Park. Then through Harlem, savoring the spacious boulevards and beautiful brownstones.

Harlem brownstones and the U.N.

Following the East River back towards the tip of Manhattan, we briefly stopped at the United Nations so we could make claim to having run outside of the United StatesMRC goes international! From here we could see the Brooklyn Bridge, and knew that South Street Seaport was just a few hundred yards beyond. We picked up the pace for the final few miles and began to contemplate if we had just achieved the FKT for running around Manhattan sightseeing while eating guava popovers.

Smiles abound at the finish

As we rode back to the apartment on the subway we shared what had delighted and surprised us about our two days – and 62 miles of running through New York City; the friendliness of the people, the size and scale of the city, the cleanliness of the streetswhy no one manufactures guava flavored gels, the ease of running through a city of 8.2 million people, and, that we had been able to share such a remarkable experience.

As for me – what a wonderful way to say farewell to New York City

More pictures and video clips here, and a map of our run (34 miles in 5hrs 40mins):

View Manhattan Day 2 in a larger map

Friday, November 13, 2009

The MRC invades NYC - Day 1

The MRC is all about running in the mountains, getting dirty and having a good time.  It isn't often that you'll see a post about running on the pavement on this blog, but if there were ever an exception this is it.  You see, fellow MRC'er Jay is going to be leaving his post in New York fairly soon and invited the rest of us out for a farewell tour in and through Manhattan.  We did what any good friends would and said YES, we're in!

On Thursday, November 5th, Erik, Peter, Greg and myself boarded a 727 in SLC bound for one of the biggest greatest cities in the world.  To say I was excited would be an understatement, besides Peter and Jay the rest of us had never been to New York City and we really had no idea what we were in for.  Arriving at JFK rather late we were a little tired, but there would be "no sleep till Brooklyn" (sorry I couldn't resist) where Jay shares an apartment with two incredibly gracious and stylish roommates, David and Stevan.

Friday morning started with fresh espressos before we hit the subway for a ride over to Manhattan.  After arriving at our stop we climbed the stairs from the subway to daylight and found ourselves standing in the middle of Times Square.  I have to admit, it was a bit overwhelming at first with the lights, video screens and cabs streaming through the streets but once we started running we just flowed along with everything else.
Peter took a lot of video along the way and put together this great compilation of day 1 you can see below.

Just getting started in Times Square

From Times Square we ran up 8th Ave. to the southwest corner of Central Park then worked our way over to Broadway.  I tried to get the guys to stop for Shrek the Musical but they weren't having it.  Somewhere through here my stomach started reminding me that I had skipped breakfast so we kept our eye out for something good to eat.  Just a few blocks up we found the world famous, Zagat rated H and H Bagels.  I was pretty excited since we're unable to get a "real" bagels in Salt Lake, all we have are the kind that are steamed, but I digress.  Sufficed to say the bagel hit the spot and made for good running fuel.

As we kept heading uptown on Broadway the temperature started to rise to a comfortable 50 with blue skies above.  We were cruising along quite nicely up around 114th street when all the sudden Jay made a quick right in between some buildings, of course we followed and soon found ourselves standing in the middle of the Columbia University campus (or part of the main campus).  It really seemed quite odd to be running through a college campus in the middle of the skyscrapers in the city.

Erik, Peter, Greg and Jay getting ready to dodge traffic and a Columbia University building.

Next, we ran a few blocks north before hanging a left on 120th street and looming over us was the Riverside Church.  Built in 1841 the Baptist Church is both massive and beautiful.  So naturally we couldn't resist a quick peek inside, simply incredible.

Riverside Church, outside and inside.

After our quick stop we were still headed north and looked over in the direction of the Hudson River giving a quick shout out to our 18th President, Ulysses S. Grant (currently hanging out in Grant's Tomb).  At 125th street we took a right, before running through Harlem and past the legendary Apollo theater.

Most people might think that running through Manhattan would be hard with all the people and street crossings, but really it was quite smooth.  I found myself playing catch-up with the rest of the group on more than one occasion when I would stop to look at something then sprint back up.  Kind of like doing intervals.

After Harlem we turned right again so we were heading back downtown on Malcolm X Blvd and directly into the north side of Central Park.  What an amazing place.  Within a matter of minutes we were cruising some dirt trails in the North Woods, hopping logs and trying to find our trail legs.

Trail Running in Central Park

The trail dumped us back out on the road where we cut across the grass to the Central Park Reservoir (Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir).

Again we were awestruck, standing there for a minute taking in the spectacular view before we decided to do a lap around and take in the view from all angles.

Views from the Central Park Reservoir

Once the loop of the reservoir was complete we ran down 5th avenue passing The Guggenheim and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  We made a brief stop inside the Met where Peter had me run a quick lap in an attempt to have me thrown out.  It didn't work but someone nearly went down on the long set of steps as we were leaving, perhaps karma coming into play a bit.

Greg in front of the Guggenheim and the front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Moving on from the museums we stopped at Rockefeller Plaza and the highlight of the day for me, Grand Central Station.  I was in complete awe as I stood there looking at the magnificent interior of the station.  I suppose I was expecting something a lot less spectacular and I was unaware of the massive restoration effort that was finished in 1998.

Picture Credit: Diliff, for full resolution go here.

Moving on from there we went inside the Empire State building in an attempt to run to the top, but sadly we were denied.  By this time everyone was getting a little hungry so Jay suggested we run through "the village" on Bleeker street to make our way over to China Town where we could grab some noodles from a street vendor.  Once we were in the Chinese district we ran up and down a few different streets looking for some vendors but there were none to be found.  Jay thought this was a bit strange and as we found out later they were all somewhere else...  With no street vendors in sight we ducked in to a little cafe for some hot tea, noodles and dumplings.

Consulting the itinerary - Greg enjoying some noodles and dumplings

Completely fueled but a little stiff from sitting down for so long we ran down towards City Hall.  The closer we got the more people we encountered and before we long we found it impossible to run.  It seems we had kind of forgot that the Yankees had just won the World Series on Wednesday and the ticker tape parade was going on right then.  This obviously threw a little wrinkle in our plans but despite the mayhem we were still able to get over to the financial district, see ground zero and marvel at the amount of paper on the ground.  It also became clear where all the street vendors had gone.

Downtown during the ticker tape parade.  The next morning it was spotless, really.

The only part of the plan we were unable to complete on day 1 was to run across the Brooklyn bridge back to Brooklyn.  For some odd reason we weren't allowed to the leave the city on the bridge but people could come into the controlled chaos.  So we ended up crossing the East River on the less than spectacular Manhattan Bridge and saved the Brooklyn Bridge for day 2.  We ended the 28 mile journey on day 1 by weaving our way through Brooklyn and Prospect Park on the way back to the apartment, where we enjoyed a warm shower and a few refreshments before dinner.

Later that night we met up with Peter's brother and fiance for some scrumptious Italian food at Noodle Pudding that really hit the spot.

Just when I thought I was done seeing everything I could handle, Peter's brother suggested a short walk around the corner to the Promenade to end the night with this incredible view of Manhattan.  Does it get any better?  Watch for Day 2 and find out...

You can see all of these photos and more in my Picasa Album, and here's a map of the run:

View Manhattan Day 1 in a larger map

Fresh Tracks up Burch Hollow

Looking cross-canyon to Mt Raymond

There is something magical about being the first one on the trail after a fresh snowfall. I headed up Burch Hollow just as the sun was coming up Fri morning. The trail up Burch Hollow is lightly used, especially near the ridge where you are more likely to find deer and elk tracks on the trail than human footprints. This morning it lived up to my expectations. A fresh skiff of snow, silence, and deer and coyote tracks on the trail were all that I needed. What a change from one week ago dodging the morning rush hour mayhem of Manhatten. What an incredible experience that was! (more to follow) But, I'll take the solitude any day, hands down.
Just me and the coyotes