Curly Icenberg

I updated my DigitalOcean droplet and consequently, this website with intention of working on a new project related to the Housing Works NYC non-profit. The organization supports the fight against AIDs and homelessness. And one of their funding sources is via an auction. The auction often has incredible items, including unique artwork, but unfortunately, there's no means of staying updated about the items unless you visit the page every day. Consequently, I wrote a scraper that emails me all the items available in the next auction. It's not a bidding bot, just an alert system. But it's fun to see what random assortment of items is available. And our empty white apartment walls could use some personality.

So, 8 months later, I've finally bid in my first auction and actually won! It is a print signed and dated from 1968 by the artist John Ulbricht. For those who know, the artwork is painfully on brand. I've named it Curly Icenberg, who is a fictional head of lettuce that I created in a deck to explain the Blend Ratio Solver project I worked on at Bowery. It's an impressive work of art, much larger and vibrant than the images led me to believe. And the little dopamine hit of winning an auction was icing on the cake.

Curly Icenberg

NYC Half Marathon, BQ Fitness Test

NYC Half Marathon


I started training for the NYC Half Marathon in early December, giving myself about a 14 week block. I took about two and a half weeks easy after the Staten Island Half to let my plantar issues subside. I decided to go with Hansons Advanced Half Marathon as my training plan. It has a good variety of workouts across 6 days a week including 1 interval workout, 1 tempo workout, and 1 long run. It peaks at about 55 mi/week. A nice thing about the plan is that you don't need to worry about going too fast on recovery days because you'll need them. I found the 3x2mi workouts at 10K were probably the hardest to pace out correctly. The long tempos (7-8mi) at slightly faster than target HMP (6:30) seemed to translate best to the race. I was always concerned with my cutdown long runs because I never quite managed to go fast enough, but I always did them late in my long runs to train running on tired legs.

Race Day

The conditions for the race weren't the best, roughly 28F at start with a 12-14 mph west to east wind. But overall, I'll take the cold over the heat any day. There's a picture of me wearing throwaway khakis and a hoodie to the start line. Unclear if I was racing or going to work... The course had quite a bit of elevation across the Manhattan Bridge and the segment from the UN building to Times Square. Central Park also has rolling hill segments, especially right before the finish line. The beginning of the race was a bit chaotic having to pass alot of folks who were going a bit slower. My heart rate and pace were all over the place as I worked to keep the 1:25 pace group in sight. I banked up some time on the downhill towards the Manhattan Bridge, kept my heart rate under control over the bridge, and then banked up some more time on the downhill. I tried to make up some time on the flat portions of the FDR knowing the uphills towards the end. The FDR section was probably the hardest as there was no wind protection, and it was dead silent.

The turn on to Times Square was such a unique New York moment: the roar of the crowd, the flashing lights, and all the buildings enveloping you. Even while gasping for air, I took some moments to appreciate running over the Manhattan Bridge, the FDR sightlines to the UN and Brooklyn, and then through a closed off Times Square. For this race, I didn't take any water and barely managed to get a quarter of the UCAN out of its packaging. The cold numbed the need for water, and I would've probably choked on water and miss my goal.

My goal coming into the race was sub 1:25, and I started having my doubts with the headwind and cold. But after checking my pace band at around mile 7, I was on pace for the time! I really had to clamp down on the austere FDR segment and double down on the goal. Flip the mentality to really get after it. I locked in to chasing the pace group ahead of me and passed them with about 800m left. I managed to finish in 1:24:48. I positive split the race, but I'm happy with the time considering that I felt like I was barely hanging on starting at mile 9. This was also my first half-marathon with the Alphaflys, and I must say that I am a believer, placebo or not. Legs just turnover, and I actually think they helped leave my legs intact after the race.

What's Next:

I told myself that I would only try to BQ this year if I managed to get sub 1:25, and I was actually really nervous that I would have to deliberate if I fell short. Thankfully, there's no discussion necessary! So now I'm excited to begin the Pftiz 18/70 plan for my next training block leading to the Tunnel Vision Marathon in August. The course in Washington is a steady downhill so I should have a bit of help hitting sub-3. Looking forward to the next block but will miss the days of running in cooler weather. Until next time!

Starting the BQ Journey

Running was never something I considered my thing, but it’s always been something I’ve done for a reason.

Middle school: never did organized sports but cross country had a low enough barrier of entry. And after school sports accommodated a better pick up time for the fam.

High school: needed to fill out that resume and ended up making some really great friends along the way. We spent a ton of time together running cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track. We were a bunch of lanky guys goofing off who happened to have moderate success on the track.

College: took a hiatus, got tired of being a twig, lifted heavy instead.

Post-collegiate: I continued hitting the weights for all the years after school but the pandemic happened in 2019. I finally was able to cancel my New York Sports Club and dusted off the old running shoes. I was pretty careless with my training (too much volume, too soon), and injuries derailed any consistency.

9 + 1

So late 2021, I decided that I wanted to run the 2023 NYC marathon by qualifying for 9+1 in 2022. As I ticked off the races throughout the year, I came to regain enjoyment for not only the grind but also competing. The early morning nervous energy, the warm up songs, the pre-race strides. Unlike in years past where I was competing for place or for points, now I can solely focus on beating my own goals. I didn’t want to declare any BQ (Boston Qualifying) ambitions until I had some evidence that I was physically capable of it.

I set breaking 1:30 in the half marathon as my first proof point. BQ times in the 18-34 age bracket are 3 hours or faster for a full marathon. I needed to be able to run at least the half marathon split time. My first attempt was at the NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon, and my effort fizzled on what was a tragically humid and sweltering day. I finished with a 1:33:54 (7:10 split). It’s easy for me to blame the heat, but I actually think I might’ve been close or short on the goal.

Staten Island Half Marathon

I put down another solid training block through the summer interspersed with some incredible destination runs (the Tiber River in Rome, the Arno River in Florence, the walls of Lucca). I peaked at roughly 50 miles per week mixed with doing 2 quality runs per week (intervals and tempo runs) along with a weekend long run (16 miles peak). It was hot and humid during most of my training, and so it was difficult for me to gauge my workouts on time so I trusted the heart rate monitor. My last hard workout before taper was a 45 minute tempo at roughly 6:35 pace. I felt a bit better after this, but my split times on workouts were wildly erratic. I was nervous headed to race day not knowing my fitness level.

Race day came around on a perfect October Sunday, roughly 50 degrees at race time with a light breeze. We had a nice ride on the Staten Island Ferry, and I stepped foot on SI for the first time in my 8 years of living in New York. I knew the course had two major hill sections roughly at miles 4 and 8. People warned of the mile 8 hill as making or breaking their race. There was also a punishing uphill section with about 800 meters before the finish line.

My race strategy was to start a bit behind the 1:30 pacers and keep them in striking distance for most of the race. Starting behind and then eventually catching or passing the pacers would almost certainly guarantee a 1:30 finish. The strategy worked, and I completed the race in 1:28:37 (6:46 split). I will admit the strategy was shaky early in the race where it felt like I was not making up any distance. I typically run better with rabbits to chase, but it was important to not make up the stagger too soon. I’m really proud of my pacing through 10 miles — I really ran within myself, well controlled efforts, and not responding to being passed. Heart rate was in target and breathing felt good. The race was mostly quiet because most extended segments were not fan friendly. There were highway underpasses, parking lot loops, and industrial centers.

With about 5k left, I dropped the hammer and drained whatever I had left in the tank. Unfortunately, this only got me to 12 miles. The last mile, uphill, was hellish and I definitely paid for it. I cross the line and looked at my watch. I saw 1:2x:xx and was just thrilled with the effort. Mission accomplished.

BQ Next:

With a sub 1:30 in my pocket, I feel a little bit more comfortable committing to BQ-ing. There’s a ton of of work left to do and progress to be made, but I’m looking forward to grinding the axe. The NYC marathon is in November 2023 but am hoping to take a swing at BQ-ing on a flatter course before this. I’ll continue to ponder my training and racing plan but continuing to cross my fingers for healthy running.

Krispy Kreme is Never Hot

Desserts have never been a calling for me, but I've always had a soft spot for donuts (along with strawberry ice cream, carrot cake, and cheesecake). NYC has some great donuts (shout-out to the tres leche donut at Doughnut Plant), but I'm a sucker for the familiarity of a classic, warm glazed Krispy Kreme donut. When I heard they were giving away free donuts every time their iconic Hot Now signs turned on, I was ready to load up. I had recently moved nearby the Flatiron location.

The donut lover in me was inspired to create my own alert that would check to see when the Hot Now sign would turn on at the Flatiron location. Krispy Kreme's store locator website has an indicator that shows when the Hot Now sign is turned on. So I created a service that would run every 8 mins, check the Hot Now status, and send me a text message saying "HOT NOW!". To my dismay, I had received no salacious text messages for a Hot encounter -- it turns out that the Flatiron location never turned on their light even though they claim it happens twice a day.

Hot Now Claim

I would know because I logged every attempt to check (except when the VPS went offline for a month when it ran out of memory oops)

Hot Now Chart

So it turns out there are many locations in Manhattan that never turn on except for Times Square which, upon further review of the data, never turns off. Every single run says Times Square is Hot Now. I like donuts, but I'm not taking myself to Times Square. I also thought it might've been them purposely avoiding the promotional period (06/08 - 09/05), but this pattern persists well after 09/05. Perhaps there's a strong asterisk on participating locations, but this felt downright deceptive!

Blog Updates

In hopes of finding art to cover my barren apartment walls, I created a web crawler for an auction site that sends an email alert right before final bidding. Eager to have a weekend project, I was almost too quick to fork over 💰 to AWS, but then remembered I had a Digital Ocean droplet serving the 5 annual visits to my blog.

That original blog was made 8 years ago when I was still learning how to program. I ended up with a bloated Django site by mostly copy and pasting code from YouTube. And I wrote custom HTML/CSS as proof of myspace skills. Now with an appreciation for simplicity, I'm using a static site generator. I also wanted to take this opportunity to start with new content. Hoping to win some art to have something to talk about.

Cheers to kicking off this new edition!