Tag Archives: New York

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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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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Hudson Miracle Approach

Most of you probably heard about the US Airways flight 1549 which on January 15th, 2009, had to land on the river Hudson (New York, USA) due to the loss of engine thrust right after bird strikes in the climb path.

Despite of the recognized initial denial reported by the Captain in the interview below, crucial decisions were taken within the 1st minute after the event. See the captain’s explanations [10 minutes]:

If you want to “re-live” what happened, see the 3-D animation of the flight with the real recorded voices of the conversation between the airplane and air traffic controllers:

This accident had a happy ending thanks to the several layers of safety that exist today in commercial aviation, just to name a few: contained engine failure, pilot training, clear communication protocols and phraseology, etc.

Today we can remember that episode with the following chart I found in Twitter via a work colleague:

Jeppesen KLGA/LGA chart, or "Hudson Miracle Approach".

Jeppesen KLGA/LGA chart, or “Hudson Miracle Approach”.

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Bits of the World in Brazil

While in Brazil last Easter, I read in my guide that in the city of Sao Paulo lived the largest Japanese ethnic group outside Japan. My first thought was: that’s not surprising; by heart I made the following reasoning “if Sao Paulo is among the six or seven biggest cities in the World and we exclude Tokyo and Chinese cities… there is a chance of 15-20% of it being Sao Paulo”.

Later on I was told that in Sao Paulo also lived the biggest communities of several other nationalities… yes, the same rationale could apply (I guess it would come a point where not every nationality could have their largest community abroad in Sao Paulo… but I found no way to prove that).

This may give us an idea of the diversity of the city as well as the country, Brazil… and that is something you keep feeling when you visit it… you suddenly see something and tell yourself “I have seen that somewhere else…”. Like if there were wormholes connecting different parts of the World… Be it music, food, architecture, clothing, traditions…

Let me focus on some examples:

The first two examples are related to Japan.

  • See the Japanese traditional gates (or Torii), both in Japan (this case in the island Miyajima) and in the Japanese neighbourhood in Sao Paulo.
  • Note the striking similarities of procedures used to push people into the subway coaches both in Sao Paulo and Tokyo (in this case I was later told by my sister that in a TV programme about Spanish living abroad it was commented that the metro of Sao Paulo was inspired by the one in Tokyo).

Japanese gates, Torii, in Sao Paulo and Miyajima.

People queueing in Sao Paulo and Tokyo subways.

The next striking example is one that I already posted about: the Banespa tower in Sao Paulo compared to the Empire State Building in New York (you almost wouldn’t notice the difference if it wasn’t for the height of ESB).

Banespa Building (photo by Felipe Mostarda) and Empire State Building (photo by David Shankbone).

Other very similar example is found between two elevators: the Lacerda elevator in Salvador de Bahia and the elevator of Santa Justa in Lisbon… here the main difference is the queue and pricing… in Lisboa you may wait 30 minutes and pay over 1 euro, while in Salvador you wait less than a minute and pay 0,15 R$ (this is 6 euro cents!)…

Elevators of Santa Justa (Lisbon) and Lacerda (Salvador).

Similar experiences can be found as well inside two different markets: the Sao Paulo Municipal Market and Mercado de San Miguel in Madrid, the first one offering a wider variety of products (including good Spanish jamón in the “Emporio Arabe”?!?) and the latter a more upscale atmosphere. (If at the market in Sao Paulo, do not miss the codfish pastel and mortadella sandwich at Hocca bar!!).

Municipal markets in Sao Paulo and Madrid.

Lastly you all know the Cristo Redentor in Corcovado Mountain, Rio de Janeiro… there is a similar Christ in Lisbon, just at the opposite riverside from Praça do Comerço (though I admit that in this case it is in Lisbon where you think “oh, I’ve seen this somewhere else”).

Christs in Rio de Janeiro (being overhauled) and Lisbon.

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Sao Paulo from the top of Banespa building

Banespa building is an important skyscraper in the financial center of Sao Paulo. Banespa stands for Banco do Estado de Sao Paulo, which now is owned by Banco Santander. The building was designed by a Brazilian architect, Plínio Botelho do Amaral, who was inspired by the Empire State Building. It was for 20 years the highest building in Sao Paulo, until surpassed by Edificio Itália.

Banespa Building (photo by Felipe Mostarda) and Empire State Building (photo by David Shankbone).

At the top of the building there is an observation deck from which you can see stunning views of Sao Paulo, with hundreds of skyscrapers in whichever direction you look at for kilometers and kilometers. Then you realize that you are in Sao Paulo, the 6th or 7th most populated city in the world (depending whether you look at the city limits or metropolitan area).

Sao Paulo skyline from Banespa observation deck.

Other famous observation decks that I visited recently were the one in the ESB and the Top of the Rock at the GE Building Rockefeller Center, there are some differences though:

  • Height: Banespa, 161 m; Rockefeller, 259 m; ESB, 443 m.
  • Number of floors: Banespa, 35; Rockefeller, 70; ESB, 102.
  • Construction finished in the year: Banespa, 1947; Rockefeller, 1939; ESB, 1931.
  • Observation deck ticket price: Banespa, free; Rockefeller, 20$; ESB, 20$ + 20$.

Race in New York. Let me share here with you a story about a race to build the tallest building that took place in the late 1920’s. I found this story in the book, “Tales of New York”, which I commented in a previous post.

Three buildings were being built at the same time, the 40 Wall Street, the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. Competition among them was fierce at the time, with names of big industrialists behind them. Plans were revised once and again. The first one in being finished was the 40 Wall Street in April 1930 which claimed the title of world’s tallest building at the time. Originally it was to be 840 ft but along the race the plan was revised to make it just 2 feet taller than the Chrysler building plan at the time 925 ft, at completion the 40 Wall Street height was increased to 927 ft.

During the last weeks of its construction loads of iron and steel were brought to the interior of the Chrysler building. People thought that it was part of the interior decoration, filled with metallic details and motives of the automotive industry. But once its rival building was finished, on a clear day in the morning a needle-like metallic structure was raised from the center of the top of the Chrysler building to the surprise of the population of New York. On May 27th 1927, the Chrysler building was finished, in the end measuring 1,046 ft, taking the title of tallest building from 40 Wall Street merely a month after.

Walter Chrysler had worked in the past together with the man behind the Empire State Building, John J. Raskob, then CFO of General Motors, one of the main competitors in the automotive industry. He wanted him to either fail in the pursuit of building the tallest skyscraper or becoming bankrupt if he made it. With 1,046 ft height the Chrysler was to be tallest than the Empire State Building when it would be finished, however in the year that took the ESB to be finished the design was subsequently changed measuring 1,454 ft when it was finally finished in 1931, taking the title of tallest building from the Chrysler just a year later.

Just to close the post…

  • nowadays the tallest building is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai with 828m (160 floors),
  • the tallest building in Europe is Commerzbank Tower in Frankfurt with 259m (65 floors) and very close to it is the Main Tower (200m) that hosts a very nice restaurant which is the only observation deck in the skyscrapers of the city,
  • the tallest in Spain is the Caja Madrid Tower with 250m (45 floors) which holds the 148th position in the list of highest skyscrapers.
  • another interesting point is to see the evolution of the title of “tallest skyscraper in the world”.

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The real comfort starts from 300 kg seats

In a previous post we introduced some comparisons of aircraft by its price per kilogram. There, we could see a trend in bigger aircraft being cheaper in this per kg basis. This raises the question: do bigger aircraft require less weight per seat? Are they lighter in a kg per seat basis?      

This is what intuition seems to tell us; after all, once you have put in place the engines, wing, tail… what can be the difference between a larger or smaller fuselage…     

Let’s use the same sources we used in the previous post and take the typical seat configuration that the OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer) indicate for each aircraft model. We get the following table:     

Aircraft OEW (kg) per seat.

 

Our intuition wasn’t very successful again. In the upper part of the table we find the A320 family and 737s aircraft (those used by e.g. Easyjet and Ryanair in short-haul routes). In the bottom of the list we find the A380, A340, A330, 787, 777…, the biggest aircraft.     

We see that the average is about 400 kg per seat. Let’s compare this figure again with cars, with the same cars as we did in the previous post. We now get following table:     

Cars empty weight (kg) per seat.

 

It turns out that cars also need around 300-500 kg of structure per seat (an average for these ones of 360 kg). Since most cars carry 5 passengers, here it’s easy to see the trend: bigger cars employ more kilograms per seat.     

Let’s go for a closer comparison:     

  • Small for small: take the A321 with 253 kg/seat, it is quite similar to the Renault Megane with 230 kg/seat.
  • Large for large: take the A380 with 527 kg/seat, it is almost identical to the Audi Q7 with 527 kg/seat.

One step further: The A380 used so far is the 3-class configuration with 525 passengers, but wasn’t there a high density configuration with 853 passengers in a single class? (This matches well with the jargon: cattle-class…). This configuration gives us 325 kg/seat… this is again almost identical to the 329 kg/seat given for the Audi Q7 in “high density” configuration, obtained with the optional 3rd row of seats, which only adds 35 kg to the weight of the car. Aren’t these remarkable coincidences? Is it a constant of the universe? 🙂     

Let’s compare these results with buses, city buses and minibuses:     

Buses empty weight (kg) per passenger.

 

When we compare the figures of touring and city buses in an all-seated configuration we get again similar figures than planes and cars (~290 kg/seat ~ A320 family). If we take a fully loaded city bus we descend to the crude reality of mass transportation and complete lack of comfort (100 kg/seat; that is cattle-class…). We may notice as well that a minibus weighs less than a Q7 and carries twice or three times as many people.     

Let’s now see the train and subway. For this purpose, we’ll check the coaches R-142A and B of the subway of New York which are built by Kawasaki Heavy Industries (which a supplier for the Boeing787 as well). The train we’ll use is the AVE Series 100 of RENFE, built by Alstom, which was the first high-speed train ever used in Spain in 1992. See them in the following table:       

Subway and high-speed train weight (kg) per passenger.

 

The subway is below the levels of aircraft, but not that low as city buses. As far as the train is concerned: that’s another story, a luxurious experience (achieved with ~1,200 kg/seat) that can only be improved by Singapore Airlines Suites.     

Below we can see again a graphic with all modes of transportation compared, there we may spot some trends.     

Modes of transportation weight (kg) per passenger/seat.

 

We could say that comfort starts above 300 kg/seat… How heavy is your car?     

Different modes of transportation.

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Paper birds in NY

I guess all of us have many vivid images from the terrorist attacks on 9-11 in New York and of the days after. I guess some of them are of the hundreds of candles and pictures of the missing ones. Images such as the ones below:      

Images from Ground Zero.

 

That fence in the picture is at Saint Paul’s Chapel, just across from where the World Trade Center once stood. That chapel was as well the place where many of the people working in the site in those days found relief.     

Last December, Luca and I went to New York, and this chapel was among the places we wanted to visit. It was a very moving experience. Let me focus on one thing I found inside. In the following picture you see strings of colourful folded paper birds inside the chapel…     

Paper birds in Saint Paul's Chapel.

 

I didn’t know I would find this, so it immediately rang a bell, as it was something I had learnt not so long before.     

Japanese call to the tradition of folding papers origami. There, the most famous design is that of the Japanese crane, a long-necked bird.     

The first time I saw such paper birds was in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial park, in the summer of 2008.    

Hiroshima Peace Memorial park paper cranes.

 

Let me paste here the explanation given by Wikipedia on the legend of these paper crane birds:    

Legend says that anyone who folds one thousand paper cranes will have their heart’s desire come true. The origami crane has become a symbol of peace because of this legend, and because of a young Japanese girl named Sadako Sasaki. Sadako was exposed to the radiation of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima as an infant, and it took its inevitable toll on her health. She was then a hibakusha — an atom bomb survivor. By the time she was twelve in 1955, she was dying of leukemia. Hearing the legend, she decided to fold one thousand origami cranes so that she could live. However, when she saw that the other children in her ward were dying, she realized that she would not survive and wished instead for world peace and an end to suffering.     

A popular version of the tale is that Sadako folded 644 cranes before she died; her classmates then continued folding cranes in honor of their friend. She was buried with a wreath of 1,000 cranes to honor her dream. While her effort could not extend her life, it moved her friends to make a granite statue of Sadako in the Hiroshima Peace Park: a young girl standing with her hand outstretched, a paper crane flying from her fingertips. Every year the statue is adorned with thousands of wreaths of a thousand origami cranes.     

The tale of Sadako has been dramatized in many books and movies. In one version, Sadako wrote a haiku that translates into English as:     

I shall write peace upon your wings, and you shall fly around the world so that children will no longer have to die this way.  

This is how the cranes flew from Hiroshima to New York; unfortunately peace hasn’t reached that far.

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