Hell’s Kitchen Man Has No Fear of Tribeca Pier Challenge
BY SCOTT STIFFLER | The shortest distance between two points is a straight line — but it rarely seems that way when the clock is ticking on an obstacle course. A serene waterfront setting, though, along with the knowledge that it’s all for a good cause, might remove some of the sting, and even motivate you to have another go-around.
Hell’s Kitchenite Ryan White, 32, will be keeping all of this in mind on May 21, when he competes in the Hudson River Park Games’ inaugural Fear the Pier fitness challenge — a short but dense timed obstacle course designed for elite athletes, urban adventurers, and fierce competitors, whose registration fee ($25 for one attempt, $40 for two) will help nonprofit event sponsor Friends of Hudson River Park fund upkeep and programming along the park’s 550 acres, between W. 59th and Chambers Sts. on the west side.
White knows one particular stretch of Hudson River Park very well, having made a habit of fast-footing it on a nearby route ever since moving to W. 48th St. two years ago. Weather permitting, White currently runs “at least once a week, from the upper [northernmost] part of the park, down past the Intrepid [Sea, Air & Space Museum; Pier 86, at W. 46th St. & 12th Ave.]. I’ve also done it in the cold and the snow,” he says of the 45-minute run. “It’s actually really pretty, if you can take the cold wind.”
The very act of being able to break a sweat outside the confines of four walls is still a novel concept for White, who works as a Senior Project Manager at the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Before moving to the city nearly six years ago, he was employed by the private sector in China’s shipping and freighting industry.
“I could not work out outside, because of the poor air quality,” he recalls. “So it’s nice to be able to exercise outdoors now and enjoy the [park’s] amenities. It’s a great way to de-stress, because you have this amazing view of the water. You get to see the city skyline, and I like seeing so many trees along the way. That’s one of its greatest assets, that they’ve made it so green.”
White’s rhapsodizing about the meditative effects of a cardio workout within splashing distance of the Hudson is typical of those who regularly exercise in the park. Minutes from the concrete pen effect of Manhattan’s grid, the park’s design does a remarkably effective job of creating the perception of great distance from all manner of urban noise and congestion.
“It’s peaceful,” says White. “It can really relax you.” That sense of calm is about to be shattered.
Fit, determined, and able to stick to a training schedule (he lifts weights at Crunch and takes classes at Barry’s Boot Camp), White recently saw a posting about Fear the Pier on his friend’s Facebook feed, and decided to take the plunge.
“I was looking for physical activities for the spring that would be outside, so this was a perfect fit,” he says, noting that the past three years have taken him to New Hampshire and the Poconos in pursuit of a seasonal adrenaline rush. “I’ve done the Tough Mudder [a hardcore, 10-12 mile obstacle race] before, which is pretty difficult. The best thing about Mudder is that you’re doing it with a group of friends. You can go out and be physical and have fun. You’re helping each other on various obstacles, so the teamwork makes the pain of the event easier. But this year, I didn’t have time to travel too far.”
Hopefully, some of his Mudder buddies will show up at Tribeca’s Pier 26 for moral support — but there will be no one to help him navigate the Fear course, which White has not previewed online in order to strategize. The event’s location, he says, is reason enough to lace up and face the music.
“It’s just the idea of doing something physical next to the water. I don’t know what to expect in terms of the obstacles, but I love its [the event and the park’s] proximity to where I live.”
Spoiler Alert: Pier 26’s fear-inducing course confronts its participants with, among other things: a jump over police barrier hurdles, a climb up and over a NYC School Bus, the scaling of a “Monster Climbing Wall,” a body crawl, a walk off the plank, and a capper that’s ominously, if appropriately, titled the “Man Overboard Finish.” Those who repeat the course are in the running to be crowned “2016 Masters of the Pier.”
To learn more about the Hudson River Park Games and each of Fear the Pier’s potentially humbling, possibly empowering, obstacles, and to register for the event, visit hudsonriverparkgames.org.