New York marathon 2014

My brother and I in Staten Island, Verrazano bridge in the back.

My brother and I in Staten Island, Verrazano bridge in the back.

… and November 2nd came and we got to run the New York City marathon.

In a previous post I explained what makes this specific marathon so special, an overview of the course and how I came to it regarding my training. In this post I will focus on my experience (1), a hell of a experience!

This marathon is a huge event. We were over 50,000 runners. This means a very serious logistics operation. So everything that you experience can be put into perspective in relation to that. The marathon expo at the convention center, the queues, the volunteers, the supplies, the transportation, the distances to cover, the goodies provided pre and post race, the medical staff, the mobile toilets, the music bands… everything.

The day of the race started with waking up in Manhattan at 4am. I had booked a place into a bus departing from the public Library to bring me to Staten Island, but in the end Jaime got me into one of the buses of the International Travel Partner he got his trip organized with, so that we did not have to look for each other at the island. The bus dropped us at the island at around 6am, and from then on we had some 4 hours until the departing time of our wave.

To me this was the worst part of the event. There are things that could be improved: from providing more covered space to not explicitly forbidding runners to bring blankets, to providing blankets, simply allowing to drop off clothes later or even just honestly communicating the real times at which the starting corrals would be opened.

IMG_3980One could argue that the size of the event makes that part difficult to organize. Fair enough. On the other hand, Berlin marathon also hosts about 40,000 runners and has none of the nonsense of New York marathon. Its start area, finish area and timetables are neatly organized.

The good thing of that waiting time is that I spent it with my brother, talking, joking, getting into the mood of the race. Until we had to leave each one to his corral.

  • Tip one: forget about your assigned corral, if you have friends, arrange to depart from the same corral (apparently there is some grading, orange being more demanding and blue more accessible).
  • Tip two: bring 2 sets of warm clothes. One to be put into the bag that will be transported to the finish line. The other to wear it until you are in Verrazano bridge, then throw it away.

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Verrazano bridge is huge; over 2 miles long. At the mid-point you are at the highest point of the race, with great views of Manhattan. Even greater winds if you have the luck to run in a day like the day we ran in. Temperatures were about 6C and winds of over 40km/h. In that conditions, one could only run trying not to fall and forget about best times or anything like that (2).

I had read a post about how to plan the race. It warned about not starting too fast in the bridge (honestly, it almost cautioned not to run too fast until kilometre 42). I found myself running 30″ faster per km on the second half of the bridge. At that point I lost the 3h45′ pacer, and with her the chance of meeting my brother Jaime later on, as we had agreed to follow that pacer to ensure we would meet each other (3).

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Once we left the bridge, we entered in Brooklyn and with it came the crowded streets, the music bands, the contrasts, the cheering crowds (“Vamos España”, “Allez la France” (4), “You’re looking good”… looking good at km. 35, really? :-)). This makes this race apart.

There are parts of the race that are not especially beautiful. You don’t get to run through lower Manhattan, or Broadway. You do not cross Brooklyn bridge. But the streets you run in, with very few exceptions, are packed with cheering crowds, volunteers, music bands, runners… you feel surrounded by a great atmosphere along the complete 42km. Some moments which I especially cherished:

  • Running with a head band with a Spanish flag, receiving lots of dedicated support at different points (especially in one of the last turns in Columbus Circle, mile 26). Thanking that support with some gestures (thumbs up, smiles, waving hands…).
  • Giving some support words each time I overtook an identifiable fellow Spanish.
  • Running along Lafayette avenue surrounded by French runners and a crowd cheering with “Allez la France”.
  • Climbing Queensboro bridge. No spectators, just runners. 2 km long. A good climb at mile 15. Enjoying good views of Manhattan skyline just about to enter it. Time to focus on your pace, notice that there are only 17km to go, overtaking plenty of runners, owning your race.
  • Landing on First avenue. Not seeing the end of a 2.5-mile stretch. Seeing thousands of different flags though. Planning to keep a fast pace thinking these are going to be my 10km like in Rotterdam. Failing to do so.
  • A white woman thanking runners for visiting the Bronx (mile 21).
  • Sustaining a decent pace on a surprising 1.5km-long climb in the 5th Avenue, just before entering Central Park, starting from km 36.5. Tough, very tough. (“that’s a beautiful pace!”, really?)
  • Being overtaken at km 38 by the 3h45′ pacer, the same girl I lost in Verrazano bridge. Thinking for a moment: “they’re going too fast for me now” (5’20″/km pace vs. the over 6′ I did in the previous climb). Thinking in the next moment: “what the hell! I am following them!”. Doing so, and clocking the best 4 kilometres of the second half of the race, allowing me to finish in 3h44’32”, my second best time in the distance!
Pace per km.

Pace per km.

This marathon is not easy, though not that tough (Athens was harder). The trip is expensive. The chances of getting a place into it are few… but if you have the chance to do it, at least once, I would recommend it (5).

  • Tip three: train well, series and long runs, and do start softly, you will need some reserves to go to the Bronx and return and climb up to Central Park.

After the race, I felt so much pain in my back due to the cold suffered in the early morning that I needed a massage to relax my back, remove the cramps and dry my clothes. Afterwards, I met my brother and together we went back to the hotel, savouring the achievement. Our 6th marathon together. 12th marathon (including Millau ultramarathon, for which a 42km time was given), 2nd in the USA (after San Diego).

There will come a day in which I won’t be able to run marathons, then, I’ll be able to look back and relish the day I ran New York City marathon back in November 2nd, 2014. Thanks, Jaime, for suggesting and pushing for it!

(1) Find in my brother’s blog a post about his experience in the same event.

(2) Take the case of the winner, Wilson Kipsang, who in previous days had announced the intention to break the course record (around 2h5′) and he finally finished in almost 2h11′.

(3) I later learned, that he indeed followed the pacer up until km. 25… had I not run faster at the beginning and we would have experienced it together. I owe him one. There will be more marathons, possibly Madrid is the place to enjoy running 42km together.

(4) You can see in the stats of the race that up to over 3,000 French (the 2nd most represented country) were running, over 800 Spanish.

(5) Sins of omission are the ones which hurt the most at the end of the game, don’t they?

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Shopping in Soviet times

I have been to Moscow about 5 times, all of them in the 2000s, long after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. I have not been in Cuba or any other communist country. I however remember the stories that a former boss I had, now retired, used to tell about when he indeed often visited Moscow in the Soviet era.

One of those anecdotes involved the shops of the GUM market in the Red Square (Glavnyi Universalnyi Magazin; “main universal store”), then a department store and now a private shopping mall hosting all the Western luxury brands.

In his experiences, he used to describe the full employment, low labour productivity and poor service received in those shops. He said something along the line:

“… to make the most simple purchase you would have to deal with a dozen attendants. The one who opened the door for you, the one to whom you asked about the product, the one to whom you said you wanted to buy it, the one who would pack it, the one who put it in the bag, the one who checked you out, the one… It took a long time and dozens of interactions to purchase the simplest thing. One thing is for sure, that way full employment was assured”

In a recent viPad miniisit to the US, in Philadelphia, it occurred to us that we could buy an iPad mini and thus we approached the local Apple store on a Tuesday evening.

“You need to wait 30 minutes to be attended”

We left the shop and decided to come back the morning after. We did.

“We will be able to attend you in 15 minutes”

More than 15 minutes passed by, but in the end we succeeded in buying the product. Not without seeing flocks of Apple employees wandering around:

The guards at the entrance (outside and inside the entry door), the ones who just noted down your name (though later on nobody addressed you by your name), the “trainers” (who came in pairs, “no, we cannot take your order, we’re just making customers familiar with the products”), the ones at the “genius bar” (answering specific questions – do not bother them with the purchasing process), the one who brought the iPad from the back of the shop to the cashier, the one who cashed you out…

“Do you want it packed for a gift?” “No, please!” (at that point we only wanted to get out as soon as possible, who knows how many Apple middle men are necessary to wrap colourful paper around a box!)

I think that in 2014, an Apple store is the closest I have found to the communist era of shopping (1).

(1) No wonder that the products themselves are made in China.

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Lincoln and U. S. Grant on the preservation of the Union

Yesterday I read an article about president Abraham Lincoln (here, in Spanish, by Mario Muchnik) that reminded me the words you can hear in the Lincoln Memorial at the Mall in DC where he stresses that is objective was not to end slavery but to preserve the Union. I went to look for the exact words (source here):

I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be “the Union as it was.” If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

[Excerpt from a response letter from Lincoln to Horace Greeley]

These words reminded me of a passage by Ulysses S. Grant, the Union general (commanding general at the end of the civil war) and later 18th President, which I had read in his Personal Memoirs. I wanted to share it here:

Up to the Mexican war there were a few out and out abolitionists, men who carried their hostility to slavery into all elections, from those for a justice of the peace up to the Presidency of the United States. They were noisy but not numerous. But the great majority of people at the North, where slavery did not exist, were opposed to the institution, and looked upon its existence in any part of the country as unfortunate. They did not hold the States where slavery existed responsible for it; and believed that protection should be given to the right of property in slaves until some satisfactory way could be reached to be rid of the institution. Opposition to slavery was not a creed of either political party. In some sections more anti-slavery men belonged to the Democratic party, and in others to the Whigs. But with the inauguration of the Mexican war, in fact with the annexation of Texas, “the inevitable conflict” commenced.

As the time for the Presidential election of 1856—the first at which I had the opportunity of voting—approached, party feeling began to run high. The Republican party was regarded in the South and the border States not only as opposed to the extension of slavery, but as favoring the compulsory abolition of the institution without compensation to the owners. The most horrible visions seemed to present themselves to the minds of people who, one would suppose, ought to have known better. Many educated and, otherwise, sensible persons appeared to believe that emancipation meant social equality. Treason to the Government was openly advocated and was not rebuked. It was evident to my mind that the election of a Republican President in 1856 meant the secession of all the Slave States, and rebellion. Under these circumstances I preferred the success of a candidate whose election would prevent or postpone secession, to seeing the country plunged into a war the end of which no man could foretell. With a Democrat elected by the unanimous vote of the Slave States, there could be no pretext for secession for four years. I very much hoped that the passions of the people would subside in that time, and the catastrophe be averted altogether; if it was not, I believed the country would be better prepared to receive the shock and to resist it. I therefore voted for James Buchanan for President. Four years later the Republican party was successful in electing its candidate to the Presidency. The civilized world has learned the consequence. Four millions of human beings held as chattels have been liberated; the ballot has been given to them; the free schools of the country have been opened to their children. The nation still lives, and the people are just as free to avoid social intimacy with the blacks as ever they were, or as they are with white people.

[…]

During the eleven months that I lived in Galena prior to the first call for volunteers, I had been strictly attentive to my business, and had made but few acquaintances other than customers and people engaged in the same line with myself. When the election took place in November, 1860, I had not been a resident of Illinois long enough to gain citizenship and could not, therefore, vote. I was really glad of this at the time, for my pledges would have compelled me to vote for Stephen A. Douglas, who had no possible chance of election. The contest was really between Mr. Breckinridge and Mr. Lincoln; between minority rule and rule by the majority. I wanted, as between these candidates, to see Mr. Lincoln elected. Excitement ran high during the canvass, and torch-light processions enlivened the scene in the generally quiet streets of Galena many nights during the campaign. I did not parade with either party, but occasionally met with the “wide awakes” —Republicans—in their rooms, and superintended their drill. It was evident, from the time of the Chicago nomination to the close of the canvass, that the election of the Republican candidate would be the signal for some of the Southern States to secede. I still had hopes that the four years which had elapsed since the first nomination of a Presidential candidate by a party distinctly opposed to slavery extension, had given time for the extreme pro-slavery sentiment to cool down; for the Southerners to think well before they took the awful leap which they had so vehemently threatened. But I was mistaken.

The Republican candidate was elected, and solid substantial people of the North-west, and I presume the same order of people throughout the entire North, felt very serious, but determined, after this event. It was very much discussed whether the South would carry out its threat to secede and set up a separate government, the corner-stone of which should be, protection to the “Divine” institution of slavery. For there were people who believed in the “divinity” of human slavery, as there are now people who believe Mormonism and Polygamy to be ordained by the Most High. We forgive them for entertaining such notions, but forbid their practice. It was generally believed that there would be a flurry; that some of the extreme Southern States would go so far as to pass ordinances of secession. But the common impression was that this step was so plainly suicidal for the South, that the movement would not spread over much of the territory and would not last long.

Doubtless the founders of our government, the majority of them at least, regarded the confederation of the colonies as an experiment. Each colony considered itself a separate government; that the confederation was for mutual protection against a foreign foe, and the prevention of strife and war among themselves. If there had been a desire on the part of any single State to withdraw from the compact at any time while the number of States was limited to the original thirteen, I do not suppose there would have been any to contest the right, no matter how much the determination might have been regretted. The problem changed on the ratification of the Constitution by all the colonies; it changed still more when amendments were added; and if the right of any one State to withdraw continued to exist at all after the ratification of the Constitution, it certainly ceased on the formation of new States, at least so far as the new States themselves were concerned. It was never possessed at all by Florida or the States west of the Mississippi, all of which were purchased by the treasury of the entire nation. Texas and the territory brought into the Union in consequence of annexation, were purchased with both blood and treasure; and Texas, with a domain greater than that of any European state except Russia, was permitted to retain as state property all the public lands within its borders. It would have been ingratitude and injustice of the most flagrant sort for this State to withdraw from the Union after all that had been spent and done to introduce her; yet, if separation had actually occurred, Texas must necessarily have gone with the South, both on account of her institutions and her geographical position. Secession was illogical as well as impracticable; it was revolution.

Now, the right of revolution is an inherent one. When people are oppressed by their government, it is a natural right they enjoy to relieve themselves of the oppression, if they are strong enough, either by withdrawal from it, or by overthrowing it and substituting a government more acceptable. But any people or part of a people who resort to this remedy, stake their lives, their property, and every claim for protection given by citizenship—on the issue. Victory, or the conditions imposed by the conqueror—must be the result.

In the case of the war between the States it would have been the exact truth if the South had said,—”We do not want to live with you Northern people any longer; we know our institution of slavery is obnoxious to you, and, as you are growing numerically stronger than we, it may at some time in the future be endangered. So long as you permitted us to control the government, and with the aid of a few friends at the North to enact laws constituting your section a guard against the escape of our property, we were willing to live with you. You have been submissive to our rule heretofore; but it looks now as if you did not intend to continue so, and we will remain in the Union no longer.” Instead of this the seceding States cried lustily,—“Let us alone; you have no constitutional power to interfere with us.” Newspapers and people at the North reiterated the cry. Individuals might ignore the constitution; but the Nation itself must not only obey it, but must enforce the strictest construction of that instrument; the construction put upon it by the Southerners themselves. The fact is the constitution did not apply to any such contingency as the one existing from 1861 to 1865. Its framers never dreamed of such a contingency occurring. If they had foreseen it, the probabilities are they would have sanctioned the right of a State or States to withdraw rather than that there should be war between brothers.

The framers were wise in their generation and wanted to do the very best possible to secure their own liberty and independence, and that also of their descendants to the latest days. It is preposterous to suppose that the people of one generation can lay down the best and only rules of government for all who are to come after them, and under unforeseen contingencies. At the time of the framing of our constitution the only physical forces that had been subdued and made to serve man and do his labor, were the currents in the streams and in the air we breathe. Rude machinery, propelled by water power, had been invented; sails to propel ships upon the waters had been set to catch the passing breeze—but the application of stream to propel vessels against both wind and current, and machinery to do all manner of work had not been thought of. The instantaneous transmission of messages around the world by means of electricity would probably at that day have been attributed to witchcraft or a league with the Devil. Immaterial circumstances had changed as greatly as material ones. We could not and ought not to be rigidly bound by the rules laid down under circumstances so different for emergencies so utterly unanticipated. The fathers themselves would have been the first to declare that their prerogatives were not irrevocable. They would surely have resisted secession could they have lived to see the shape it assumed.

I travelled through the Northwest considerably during the winter of 1860-1. We had customers in all the little towns in south-west Wisconsin, south-east Minnesota and north-east Iowa. These generally knew I had been a captain in the regular army and had served through the Mexican war. Consequently wherever I stopped at night, some of the people would come to the public-house where I was, and sit till a late hour discussing the probabilities of the future. My own views at that time were like those officially expressed by Mr. Seward at a later day, that “the war would be over in ninety days.” I continued to entertain these views until after the battle of Shiloh. I believe now that there would have been no more battles at the West after the capture of Fort Donelson if all the troops in that region had been under a single commander who would have followed up that victory.

There is little doubt in my mind now that the prevailing sentiment of the South would have been opposed to secession in 1860 and 1861, if there had been a fair and calm expression of opinion, unbiased by threats, and if the ballot of one legal voter had counted for as much as that of any other. But there was no calm discussion of the question. Demagogues who were too old to enter the army if there should be a war, others who entertained so high an opinion of their own ability that they did not believe they could be spared from the direction of the affairs of state in such an event, declaimed vehemently and unceasingly against the North; against its aggressions upon the South; its interference with Southern rights, etc., etc. They denounced the Northerners as cowards, poltroons, negro-worshippers; claimed that one Southern man was equal to five Northern men in battle; that if the South would stand up for its rights the North would back down. Mr. Jefferson Davis said in a speech, delivered at La Grange, Mississippi, before the secession of that State, that he would agree to drink all the blood spilled south of Mason and Dixon’s line if there should be a war. The young men who would have the fighting to do in case of war, believed all these statements, both in regard to the aggressiveness of the North and its cowardice. They, too, cried out for a separation from such people. The great bulk of the legal voters of the South were men who owned no slaves; their homes were generally in the hills and poor country; their facilities for educating their children, even up to the point of reading and writing, were very limited; their interest in the contest was very meagre—what there was, if they had been capable of seeing it, was with the North; they too needed emancipation. Under the old regime they were looked down upon by those who controlled all the affairs in the interest of slave-owners, as poor white trash who were allowed the ballot so long as they cast it according to direction.

I am aware that this last statement may be disputed and individual testimony perhaps adduced to show that in antebellum days the ballot was as untrammelled in the south as in any section of the country; but in the face of any such contradiction I reassert the statement. The shot-gun was not resorted to. Masked men did not ride over the country at night intimidating voters; but there was a firm feeling that a class existed in every State with a sort of divine right to control public affairs. If they could not get this control by one means they must by another. The end justified the means. The coercion, if mild, was complete.

There were two political parties, it is true, in all the States, both strong in numbers and respectability, but both equally loyal to the institution which stood paramount in Southern eyes to all other institutions in state or nation. The slaveowners were the minority, but governed both parties. Had politics ever divided the slave-holders and the non-slave-holders, the majority would have been obliged to yield, or internecine war would have been the consequence. I do not know that the Southern people were to blame for this condition of affairs. There was a time when slavery was not profitable, and the discussion of the merits of the institution was confined almost exclusively to the territory where it existed. The States of Virginia and Kentucky came near abolishing slavery by their own acts, one State defeating the measure by a tie vote and the other only lacking one. But when the institution became profitable, all talk of its abolition ceased where it existed; and naturally, as human nature is constituted, arguments were adduced in its support. The cotton-gin probably had much to do with the justification of slavery.

The winter of 1860-1 will be remembered by middle-aged people of today as one of great excitement. South Carolina promptly seceded after the result of the Presidential election was known. Other Southern States proposed to follow. In some of them the Union sentiment was so strong that it had to be suppressed by force. Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky and Missouri, all Slave States, failed to pass ordinances of secession; but they were all represented in the so-called congress of the so-called Confederate States. The Governor and Lieutenant-Governor of Missouri, in 1861, Jackson and Reynolds, were both supporters of the rebellion and took refuge with the enemy. The governor soon died, and the lieutenant-governor assumed his office; issued proclamations as governor of the State; was recognized as such by the Confederate Government, and continued his pretensions until the collapse of the rebellion. The South claimed the sovereignty of States, but claimed the right to coerce into their confederation such States as they wanted, that is, all the States where slavery existed. They did not seem to think this course inconsistent. The fact is, the Southern slave-owners believed that, in some way, the ownership of slaves conferred a sort of patent of nobility—a right to govern independent of the interest or wishes of those who did not hold such property. They convinced themselves, first, of the divine origin of the institution and, next, that that particular institution was not safe in the hands of any body of legislators but themselves. Meanwhile the Administration of President Buchanan looked helplessly on and proclaimed that the general government had no power to interfere; that the Nation had no power to save its own life. Mr. Buchanan had in his cabinet two members at least, who were as earnest—to use a mild term—in the cause of secession as Mr. Davis or any Southern statesman. One of them, Floyd, the Secretary of War, scattered the army so that much of it could be captured when hostilities should commence, and distributed the cannon and small arms from Northern arsenals throughout the South so as to be on hand when treason wanted them. The navy was scattered in like manner. The President did not prevent his cabinet preparing for war upon their government, either by destroying its resources or storing them in the South until a de facto government was established with Jefferson Davis as its President, and Montgomery, Alabama, as the Capital. The secessionists had then to leave the cabinet. In their own estimation they were aliens in the country which had given them birth. Loyal men were put into their places. Treason in the executive branch of the government was estopped. But the harm had already been done. The stable door was locked after the horse had been stolen.

During all of the trying winter of 1860-1, when the Southerners were so defiant that they would not allow within their borders the expression of a sentiment hostile to their views, it was a brave man indeed who could stand up and proclaim his loyalty to the Union. On the other hand men at the North—prominent men—proclaimed that the government had no power to coerce the South into submission to the laws of the land; that if the North undertook to raise armies to go south, these armies would have to march over the dead bodies of the speakers. A portion of the press of the North was constantly proclaiming similar views. When the time arrived for the President-elect to go to the capital of the Nation to be sworn into office, it was deemed unsafe for him to travel, not only as a President-elect, but as any private citizen should be allowed to do. Instead of going in a special car, receiving the good wishes of his constituents at all the stations along the road, he was obliged to stop on the way and to be smuggled into the capital. He disappeared from public view on his journey, and the next the country knew, his arrival was announced at the capital. There is little doubt that he would have been assassinated if he had attempted to travel openly throughout his journey.

[Excerpt from U. S. Grant “Personal Memoirs”, CHAPTER XVI: RESIGNATION—PRIVATE LIFE—LIFE AT GALENA—THE COMING CRISIS]

Needless to say that I encourage the reading of U.S. Grant Personal Memoirs.

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Good morning, New York!

At the time this post is being published, two friends (Carlos and Lorenzo), my brother and I are about to start the New York City marathon; the most popular marathon in the world, with over 50,300 finishers in 2013 and a similar amount expected this year (hopefully the four of us included).

The race was organized for the first time in 1970 and has been run every year since then with the exception of 2012 due to the aftermath of the hurricane Sandy. This race, no doubt, has played a big role in promoting marathoning. In 1970 there were only 127 participants, out of them only 55 men finished. Just six years later there were over 2,000 runners taking part in it. Now the number exceeds that by 25 times.

The popularity, together with the iconic flavour of the city of New York plus the importance of the race (one of the 6 World Marathon Majors) make it a race that every marathoner would like to run at least once in a lifetime. Thus, my brother already mentioned last year “hey, Javier, nowadays that we are still fit enough we should consider giving it a try”, and so we did earlier this year. We entered the draw with some friends and I was fortunate enough to get a place. My brother got his through an international travel partner of the organization and off we went.

I started the 16-week training plan for the marathon on July 14th. Up until the time I prepared this post, 14 weeks had passed. Along them I had run over 675km, an average of 48 weekly kilometres (I exceeded 50km in 8 of those weeks). I did about 20 sessions of series training, I ran 8 long runs over 20km (3 of them over 30km) and took part in 4 races (10k, half marathon, 25km trail and 33km trail). I am not in the fastest shape that I have been in the last year but I feel comfortable with the training I have followed.

Weekly mileage completed along the training plan for NY.

Weekly mileage completed along the training plan for NY.

NY marathon course map.

NY marathon course map.

Back to the race. We will cover the 42.195km by running through all the 5 neighbourhoods of New York, departing from Staten Island. We will take there the Verrazano bridge to Brooklyn, where we will run for miles along the long avenues (4th, Lafayette, Bedford…) until reaching the half marathon then Pulaski bridge to enter in Queens. There, a few turns, reaching the km. 25 and ascending the Queensboro bridge listening nothing but footsteps, sensing the feeling of entering into Manhattan with 16 more km to go. We will turn right left at to take 1st avenue and head north for 4 miles all the way to the Bronx and from there we will head south by the 5th avenue, entering in the Central Park to complete there the last miles of the race.

I guess that with Geoffrey Mutai in the roster of participants I will not get much time in the tv live. In any case, if you want to follow it, the running bib to pay attention to is the 25451.

 

 

 

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Ronde des Foies Gras 2014

Mauvezin is small commune at the west of Toulouse, in France. It is located in one of the many small hills of the department of Gers. In the village a fortress was built, which apparently was dreaded elsewhere in the surroundings, and that gave the name to the village “Mauvais voisin” (bad neighbour or “mau vesin” in Occitan).

The village counts with about 2,000 inhabitants, who every second Sunday of October organize the race Ronde des Foies Gras. Today, it has been the 3rd time I have run this race. Simply great. It is a moderate (just almost 300m of positive elevation) trail along 25km around the village. It counts with several supply posts and that is what takes this trail apart.

Route of the race as recorded by my Garmin GPS.

Route of the race as recorded by my Garmin GPS.

Even if the race is in October, every year thousands of runners rush to fill in the papers in June in order to book a place in it. Only 2,000 are accepted and get to eat the foie gras made at each of the 7 farms that the race crosses. This year I decided to run dressed up in a costume of a prisoner as there was a gift for those completing the race in disguise. I also decided to take a photo camera with me and take some pictures along the race, so you can get a glimpse of the experience.

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The experience itself was terrific. Lots of fun and delicious foie gras, plus a great meal afterwards. It was however too hot to be running in costume (the gift at the end was a t-shirt, so the next year I’ll leave the costume in the drawer).

See this other video of the music band playing at the 5th farm:

I finished in 2h21′, 5 minutes more than it took last year but taking into consideration the costume and time employed in taking the pictures I am happy with the run (especially the first 12km), as a training for the coming NY marathon.

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Trail du Cassoulet 2014

Verfeil is a small commune at the North-East of Toulouse. It is difficult to date its origins though Celtics were living there some centuries B.C. It was built at the top of a small hill, with fortified entrances and a castle from the VIII century at the top. Today about 3,000 inhabitants live in Verfeil and they do their best to make the Trail du Cassoulet a great running event.

This year was the first time that I took part in this race, together with other 2,000 participants: 300 of us would run the 32km trail, about 1,400 the 15km trail and the rest walking routes, races for children, etc. The organization was superb.

Every runner got a can of cassoulet. If got to the finish line we received as well an apron (plus a bottle of wine if the runner arrived disguised with a costume). After the trail, we all gathered to enjoy a delicious and energizing bowl of warm cassoulet.

The trail departed at 9am. I took it as a training session for the New York marathon, which I would run 4 weeks later. My training plan indicated that the day of the race I should train 3 hours, 1 of them at marathon pace. Thus a 32km trail would be perfect.

Route of the race as recorded by my Garmin.

Route of the race as recorded by my Garmin.

The trail had just over 500m of elevation gains, spread along many ascensions, none of them very long. In the last ones I had to walk parts of them. The race ran along 2 lakes, crossed small rivers over tree trunks, went through lots of arable fields, some dense forests and the stables of a castle (not in use anymore). I include here some pictures I took during the race:

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In the it took 3 hours and 21 minutes to complete the trail (my Garmin measured 33.4km instead of the announced 32). I finished the 131st out of the 277 runners who completed the long trail (that is 47% percentile, not bad). As mentioned above, to recover from the trail, Luca and I enjoyed a very tasty cassoulet. And just before that I got to donate my running shoes to a NGO so they can have a “second life” in Morocco; a good destination for a pair of snickers with which I made some 3 personal records, 2 in 10km and 1 in marathon. :-)

Donating my old running shoes.

Donating my old running shoes.

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Swiftair MD-83 EC-LTV, BEA interim report

Some weeks ago I read the first interim report from the “Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses” (BEA) on the accident suffered by the Swiftair MD-83 matriculated EC-LTV on July 24th in Mali (find the report here, PDF 5.2MB). The last 1’30” of that flight must have been scary.

Take a look at the records of altitude, attitude, bank angle:

EC-LTV parametres

MD-83 EC-LTV parameters (2014, Mali).

Probably you are familiar with this other graphic that has appeared in the press:

EC-LTV trajectory worked out by BEA from FDR.

EC-LTV trajectory worked out by BEA from FDR.

Today, at lunch while on a training course, I had the chance to discuss about the accident with the course instructor (a retired former Airbus senior vice president in customer services) who pointed me at a similar accident undergone by a MD-82 HK-4374X in Venezuela in August 2005.

I went to the BEA website to check for the report of that other accident (here, PDF 20MB, in Spanish). While the investigation of the EC-LTV will most probably reach to the conclusions of the root causes of the accident, the are many similarities between the cases:

  • Hot weather conditions (ISA+10 or above, that is temperatures not below -30 degrees at FL31),
  • proximity of thunderstorms,
  • use of anti ice (inducing a penalty measured in about 3,000ft penalty for available engine thrust),
  • autopilot engaged in “Speed on Thrust” mode in “Altitude Hold” (making the aircraft pitch upwards when losing speed due to the lack of available power at FL310 due to hot weather and use of anti ice),
  • engine EPR close to maximum values for both engines (followed by a oscillations when the airplane starts to lose speed),
HK-4374X parametres.

MD-82 HK-4374X parameters (2005, Venezuela).

The report of the 2005 accident included a study from NASA and a presentation by Boeing then chief pilot covering similar incidents and showing a 2002 Boeing Flight Operations Bulletin warning flight crews of this kind of situations.

Boeing Flight Operations Bulletin MD-82-02-02A.

Boeing Flight Operations Bulletin MD-82-02-02A.

I’m looking forward for future reports from the BEA to see what are the findings they reach.

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