Tag Archives: westchester

Unicycle ride from City Hall to Coney Island

I am sorry I haven’t posted in a long time. Certain life issues made regular blogging difficult. Now that these have been mostly resolved I am back to updating you on my latest athletic adventures, tips on vegan living, and occasional random stuff.

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Last Friday, I completed my first ever group unicycle ride, riding 12 miles from City Hall to Coney Island for the Brooklyn portion of the NYC Unicycle Fest. This involved unicycling across the crowded Brooklyn Bridge, my first time ever unicycling across it. It was an amazing experience, and wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. Though this wasn’t a race, my training over the past several months paid off and I didn’t feel wasted at the end. It helped that we took several big breaks. Thank you Bindlestiff Family Cirkus for organizing this event and for your volunteers who made sure we went in the right direction.

This event was scheduled for 3:00 PM, and so I arrived at City Hall at 2:30, having unicycled part of the way down there along the East river from Grand Central Station. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect that day — though still technically summer, it went up to only 70 F with low humidity. It felt both strange and wonderful approaching City Hall and seeing so many unicyclists, about 47 of them, getting ready to take on Brooklyn. I’m always unicycling alone, but here was my tribe, so many different ages and ability levels and wildly different personalities. But here we are all united by our love of riding unicycles.

I brought my 29″ road unicycle for this ride, and so did a bunch of other unicyclists. I was expecting to see mostly 36″ inch unicycles considering the distance, but was surprised by all the 24″ unicycles. I made small talk with a few of the riders and before I knew it it was time to start our quest for to Coney Island. I was a little nervous at first because of how crowded it was, and kept thinking I would bump into someone or someone would bump into me. Fortunately, this didn’t happen.

So we all mounted our unicycles and started to climb the Brooklyn Bridge bike path. Since I ride on hilly terrain almost every day, this was like nothing to me, but it was challenging for some of the other riders. I was more concerned about bumping into some careless tourists than getting wiped out by the ascent. We basked in the lovely sea breeze while unicycling across the historic bridge and many tourists and pedestrians were excited by the seemingly endless parade of unicyclists. A few bicyclists on the other hand seemed annoyed.

Going across, it felt less and less like Manhattan and more and more like Brooklyn. Hello Brooklyn! I felt elated making it to the Brooklyn side without a hitch(it reminded me of the time I flawlessly joggled across many years ago), and so did the sub-group of unicyclists I was with. Once on the other side and across the street we had our first break. I talked some more with Jeff about his unicycling experiences, then had a conversation with Chris, who I ran into nearly 2 months ago up in the wilds of Yorktown in northern Westchester on the North County Trail when we were unicycling in opposite directions(he was doing his first century ride, wow!). He told me he hasn’t been riding much these days, and that he still has trouble mounting the 36″ he had with him. I admit to being a little envious of his 36″ because of how much faster it is than my 29″, but I think I would also have serious trouble mounting such a large wheel.

After waiting for the slower unicyclists to catch up, we were off. It was a little scary unicycling through the streets of downtown Brooklyn, but I soon got used to it. Since a lot of people were on vacation that weekend, the traffic isn’t as heavy as it usually is. Amazingly, I found that I could idle(staying in place on the unicycle by quickly pedaling back and forth) at some of the traffic stops. I can idle proficiently on my 24 inch unicycle but usually have trouble doing it on my 29 inch. We soon found ourselves cycling through the streets of Parkslope, an upscale area full of trendy restaurants, boutiques, cafes and lots of onlookers who were delighted by the unicycle parade. Even in New York, a large group of unicyclists cruising through the streets isn’t something you see every day.

At Grand Army Plaza(mile 4) at the northern end of Prospect Park we had our next break and first group photo at the memorial arch. I talked a little more with Chris and drank some of the juice I had with me.21314811_1594702827216762_8372208298688654356_n

After the break we rode south through Prospect Park, by far the easiest part of this journey since there were no cars or traffic lights to worry about. I even took a video during this section, it was that easy. And it seems many people in the park were taking pictures or videos of us. I easily could have juggled while riding at this point, but I didn’t bring my balls with me. Another short break at the southern end of the park, and then we were back on the streets of Brooklyn heading south toward the Atlantic ocean.

We made our way to Ocean Parkway which takes us straight to Coney Island and has a wide bike path that’s separate from the walking path and used this for most of the rest of our southward ride.

The ethnic and religious diversity along this route was amazing. This is what makes NYC and the U.S in general such a wonderful and dynamic place. Russians, Chinese, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, Indians, Caribbean islanders and Middle Easterners were all happy to see us and very supportive of our unicycle parade. The further south we went, the more Russian it got(a lot of these Russian-speakers aren’t ethnically Russian but they speak Russian because they’re from a former Soviet republic).

We didn’t have to worry about traffic except at the cross streets, and although this wasn’t a race it sure felt like one when we would frantically try to beat the light before the traffic blocked us. I was still able to idle when I had to stop, sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully, but it started causing soreness in my upper thigh because I’m not used to idling on such a large wheel.

A few miles from completion and we could feel the sea breeze again and the sweet smell of the mighty ocean. Or was that the sweet smell of success? In my mind I was thinking how I had yet again nearly accomplished something that not too long ago I would have thought impossible. Though this wasn’t my longest ride(I unicycled for 20 miles a few months ago on a rural bike path), it was the most challenging long unicycle ride.

Finally, we made it to Coney Island in front of Nathan’s. What an incredible journey it was! I felt like I could have unicycled for another 10 miles, my legs were certainly up to it. It was such a festive atmosphere on Coney Island with all the revelers, the lights, the rides and games, the perfect place to celebrate this achievement. All in all, was very happy with my City Hall to Coney Island ride experience. I think unicycling through Brooklyn is the best way to experience it.

Like last year, I’m joggling and unicycling for Team Humane, any support is appreciated.

 

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Vegan whole wheat blueberry muffins recipe

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One silver lining of all the nasty weather we’ve been experiencing lately is that I have more time to bake. Everyone who knows me knows I love blueberries, so what could be better than baking my own whole grain blueberry muffins that are not only perfect for breakfast but also a great snack? The combination of blueberries and a little maple syrup makes these just sweet enough to be enjoyable by most, though probably not sweet enough to be a dessert treat. A good source of protein, fiber and so fruity and spicy, they’re a great way to start the day.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds(egg replacer/thickener)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil(I used canola)
  • 1 and 1/8 cups soy milk
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon clove
  • 1 and 1/2 cups blueberries(fresh or frozen)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  1. Preheat over to 375F
  2. Combine all wet ingredients into 1 bowl and mix thoroughly, adding blueberries last(for this recipe I made a puree of about half the blueberries with my blender and the rest were whole, but this is optional).
  3. Combine dry ingredients into 1 bowl and mix
  4. Now combine all dry and wet ingredients and mix thoroughly
  5. Scoop the batter into muffin cups in muffin tray, about 3 tablespoons each, or enough to fill 1/2 to 2/3 of the muffin cups
  6. Put in oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 375F until muffins are golden brown or you can smoothly stick a toothpick in and out of the muffins without any difficulty
  7. Cool for 10 minutes before serving

This should be enough to make 10 large muffins. Feel free to add a little more spice if you like muffins extra spicy. To make them even tastier, you can add vanilla if you want. Similar recipes I’ve seen also include lemon or orange zest(or even orange juice or apple juice), or even apple cider vinegar, all of which I see as optional.

The batter consistency should be thick, but if you find it a little too thick and hard to work with, add a little more soy milk. If it’s too liquidy, add more flour. These came out better than expected though I think I’ll add more spice next time. Enjoy!

I’ll be joggling the Brooklyn Marathon to raise money for the Humane League

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As I’m sure many of you already know, on November 20th I’ll be joggling the Brooklyn Marathon. It’s been a few years since I’ve last joggled the Brooklyn Marathon, and a little over a year since my last marathon, which was the one in Yonkers. This time I will be joggling as part of Team Humane to help raise money for the Humane League, one of the most effective animal rights organizations in the U.S. To contribute: Help me raise money for Team Humane League

I considered many options when it came to which animal rights group to raise money for, and went with the Humane League because they really know how to get things done.

I’m beyond excited to be part of this. There are so many incredible athletes and activists who are part of this group, I can’t help but think I am part of something big and wonderful. The Humane League’s current focus is on confronting Aramark and their abuse of chickens. To get involved, you can join their Fast Action Network, and/or you can join Team Humane.

It feels great joggling to help alleviate animal suffering. Yes, we can’t end all animal cruelty overnight, but if those of us who care all play our part we can slowly help bring an end to it. As for race specifics, I’m just aiming for under 4 hours, not aiming for a PR this time. Thank you everyone for your support and encouragement. I’m definitely looking forward to race day!

Heavy ball juggling and joggling

IMG_1266If you want to make juggling or joggling even more challenging(assuming you’re a proficient juggler), you can add a strength training element to it by juggling heavy balls. This can help build stamina even better than if you are using lighter juggling balls or bean bags, to prepare you for joggling marathons or if you want to build strength to juggle for hours on end. It is one of the best ways to target the muscles used for juggling.

In the above photo, the 3 red balls I am joggling with are 2.25 lb(1.02 kg) ExerBalls by Dube(they come in different weights and these are the heaviest). This may not seem like much, but after several minutes of juggling these babies while standing still you will feel exhausted, unless you’re a bodybuilder. If I try to joggle with them, I can’t go for more than a few minutes with these. Very tiring, but what a rush! You really can get a nice high from joggling with these heavy balls. It’s cardio, strength-training, and coordination training all in one!

They probably help build explosiveness; think of it sort of like juggling mini medicine balls. They are made of rubber and stuffed with lead or steel balls to add weight to them. They are kind of pricey, a set of 3 going for $60. I got mine as a gift(not from the company).

You can always try making your own from tennis balls like I have, though they are much lighter. The juggling balls I am joggling with in the photo below are tennis balls stuffed with pennies. Just cut a small slit on the side with a knife to push the pennies in, put glue or epoxy over the slit, let it dry, and then cover liberally with duct tape. These weigh about 1 lb(0.45 kg) each. I made these 2.5 years ago and have had no problems with them.

IMG_1269They are not as challenging to juggle as the heavier Exerballs, but they can still help build endurance in your arms. Since they are 1 lb each, I can joggle with these for miles and miles, but I have to be careful no one is around since if these hit someone they can hurt(the Exerballs are even more dangerous in this regard). On days when I don’t joggle, I juggle these homemade juggling balls as an upper body cardio exercise, since juggling with regular, light-weight balls isn’t much of a cardio exercise to me. So they are helpful cross-trainers, good for maintaining aerobic fitness on days I don’t run or joggle. Either of these balls are good for quick warm-up exercises before joggling with regular balls, though I usually prefer the lighter, penny-stuffed balls for warm ups.

Joggling with either of these types of heavy balls is one of the ultimate calorie-burning exercises(especially if you are running up a hill), so it’s good to try this out if you are trying to lose weight.

Just make sure you are proficient in juggling lighter balls before trying either of these. You don’t want to drop them on your feet, trust me.

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Joggling 18 miles through central Westchester county

Screenshot from 2013-06-05 17:56:29I hope my fellow jogglers, runners, and outdoor enthusiasts are having as much fun as I am having this time of year.

This run took place on Wednesday, June 5th. The magenta line in the middle, from south to north and then back south to Mount Vernon was my journey. I joggled about 98% of the time, except when I had a water break and a very short bathroom break in the woods. It took me 3.5 hours to complete this 18 mile run, and the last hour was pretty rough. The juggling was so much easier than the running. There were many hills along the trail and it was a sunny day, in the low 70s, so I didn’t sweat that much. I did some juggling tricks much of the way.

I followed the Bronx river for much of the run, but then the trail that runs along it terminates in Scarsdale, amidst a lot of construction, so I had to use route 22 to get to White Plains. I’ve been drinking more cherry juice during and after long runs, and this may have helped me recover to the point that I was able to run 3 miles the day after this 18 miler, and 7.75 miles today.

Ordinarily, I just take a day off the day after very long runs. The soreness the day after this was pretty bad, but it is almost completely gone now. Remember, I don’t stretch before or after runs(scientific studies show it is useless, although I do a little back stretching and nothing else), and this may also be a factor in speedier recovery.

Joggling 15 miles in a thunderstorm

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I hope everyone is is having a wonderful spring so far, and that you all have a terrific Memorial day weekend.

Today I managed to joggle for nearly 15 miles, much of the time in a thunderstorm. The above map of western Westchester county, New York, shows my crazy journey from the “start” at the bottom, following the magenta line(the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail) 7.6 miles north to Tarrytown, then back to Yonkers(I started and ended at the Lenoir Preserve). The first 45 minutes or so were pleasant enough since the weather was still mostly dry. It got worse a lot later. It eventually got so bad that I had to go inside a pharmacy for nearly an hour because of the frequency of the lightning, with one lightning bolt striking about 50 feet in front of me. It was really scary! Besides this, I was completely soaked, so my return journey took me a lot longer. The rain also made my smart-phone malfunction, so I don’t even know what my exact timing was.

Not only was I soaked due to the extremely heavy rain, but I slipped on some mud in a hilly area and scrapped my hand. It got a little bloody, but there were no vampires around so I had little to worry about. This didn’t compromise my juggling ability though. The mud, huge puddles, and rushing water(there was a flash flood alert for the area) made me stop juggling in some areas so I ended up running or skipping briefly. Still, I managed to joggle about 85% to 90% of the time. I did drop the balls a few times, ironically near the beginning of the run when conditions were still mostly dry. It’s funny how the lightning bolts, thunder, and heavy rain later on didn’t make me drop for the most part.

Why do I do these crazy kinds of things? I guess I just love the challenge. I love to experiment. I like having nature as an adversary. Some of my best ideas come to me in difficult situations like this, so it is hard to resist. But just because I do it, doesn’t mean I am recommending it. You don’t need to do crazy things like me to stay fit. There is nothing “heroic” about what I do. I am under no illusion that I am some kind of “hero” – the coming Memorial Day is for remembering the real America heroes who risk their lives to keep us safe.

I mostly had a spectacular time, though at times I did regret being out there during the worst of it. Sure, I am crazy, but don’t worry, you won’t be seeing any “Joggling 12 miles in Syria” posts any time soon.

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The big river that the trail runs mostly parallel with is the Hudson river. The run started in the lower right hand side of the map in Yonkers and went north to Tarrytown, then I turned around and ran back to north Yonkers.

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Showing the trail from even higher up. The red line in the middle was the trail run. This shows that the trail is just a little north of New York City.

Vegan pizza with Daiya vegan cheese

It was pizza night last night, and I wanted to try something new. This is the first time I have ever used Daiya vegan cheese.

I used some pizza dough I got from the local Stew Leonard’s supermarket.

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I got the Daiya from the local health food store for $5.99, which is pricey so I won’t be getting this very often. The sauce I got was from the Stop and Shop supermarket, and I got the Stop and Shop brand(roasted garlic tomato sauce) which tastes very similar to the gourmet Rao’s brand pasta sauce, but less expensive than Rao’s.

IMG_1012I added a dash of cayenne pepper since I love it spicy and put it in the oven for 20 minutes. Here is how it turned out.

IMG_1014It was better than expected. Very yummy and filling. Vegan cheeses have come a long way over the years. Still, even some soy cheese alternatives often have added casein, a milk protein, which makes no sense. Daiya is 100% vegan, as well as soy and gluten free.

Visit to Mary Knoll Seminary on Easter

IMG_0996I am not a Catholic, or a religious person, but I thought it would be fun to visit the Mary Knoll Seminary/Museum in Ossining, New York on Easter, to see what was going on. I didn’t intend to take part in Easter mass or anything(it was over by the time I got there), but this place also has a museum and the building itself is an architectural marvel.

It is 38 miles north of New York City, located in picturesque countryside on a large hill overlooking the Hudson river. It’s built like a giant Chinese pagoda since this particular seminary’s original focus was on training priests to be missionaries in east Asia.

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Even the Biblical figures in their stained glass icons often have east Asian features.

IMG_0988The walls along this long corridor commemorates the many Catholic priests who died in the various wars and conflicts in east Asia in the early 20th century. It was interesting reading about all the Christian missionary activity in Pyongyang, which is now in North Korea. North Korea has one of the most atheistic and repressive governments in the world right now. All the efforts of Catholic and other Christian missionaries in North Korea have been effectively erased by the communist government. Its government is once again making threats; technically, North and South Korea are still at war, but it’s been a while since there’s been any violent flareups between the two. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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A belated Happy Easter! (Unless you happen to be Eastern Orthodox).

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Hiking at Sylvan Glen

IMG_0911Spring is in the air! I had a fantastic time hiking at the Sylvan Glen preserve yesterday. This interesting little preserve is in Westchester county near the Putnam county border. It’s close to Yorktown. I hiked about 4 miles with the hiking group I was with, which didn’t include any joggling since I did that earlier in the day and I didn’t want to distract anyone.

IMG_0941You can get fantastic views in some spots within the park, but be careful. The trails in this park can get very steep in some spots, so you need to be in good shape to make your way through.

IMG_0942The area near the gorge was once an important quarry. It has been abandoned for several decades, but there are still big piles of rock all over the place.

IMG_0961Sylvan Glen also has one of the oldest trees for miles around. This tree is several centuries old. It is probably a white oak, judging by the leaf litter around the tree. It’s been said by some arborists that oaks specialize in not specializing – hence, they grow almost everywhere. I hope this tree survives for another thousand years.

IMG_0974You know its spring when skunk cabbage(Symplocarpus foetidus) starts peaking through the ground. In the north-eastern U.S, it is very often the first green you will see in early spring/late winter. And yes, the plant does live up to its name.

It is an amazing plant due to its ability to produce a lot of heat. According to Craig Holdrege at the Nature Institute:

A couple of times I’ve been lucky enough to see spathes growing up through a thin layer of ice, the ice melted around the spathe in a circular form. This is an indication of skunk cabbage’s remarkable capacity to produce heat when flowering. If you catch the right time, you can put your finger into the cavity formed by the spathe and when you touch the flower head, your finger tip warms up noticeably. Biologist Roger Knutson found that skunk cabbage flowers produce warmth over a period of 12-14 days, remaining on average 20° C (36° F) above the outside air temperature, whether during the day or night. During this time they regulate their warmth, as a warm-blooded animal might!

Skunk cabbage is at best marginally edible if you boil it in 10 changes of water and leave it to dry for a few days. In other words, don’t bother. Native Americans would only eat it when nothing else was available.

If you try to eat it raw or with only a little cooking, the oxalic acid(partially responsible for the plant’s smell) crystals in the leaves will make you feel like you are having holes burned in your tongue.

What is oxalic acid? Oxalic acid is a powerful anti-nutrient that can block the absorption of calcium, iron and other important minerals. Although spinach(and some other vegetables) doesn’t have as much oxalic acid as skunk cabbage, it still has a significant amount. This is one of the reasons I don’t eat much spinach(I prefer kale and cabbage), and strongly advice others to avoid juicing spinach. Cooking spinach can reduce its oxalic acid content, but it won’t eliminate it.

IMG_0955The hike ended just after sunset. I had a great time with some very fun people, although we didn’t get to see much wildlife.

Joggling after the blizzard

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