Monday, March 24, 2014

Number 47 - 2014 Georgia Marathon

For race number 47 I completed the Georgia Marathon.  The significance of this marathon for me, it was the first marathon since hurting my knee in Soldier Marathon.  So with knee brace strapped on I headed out about 4:30 AM to catch a Marta train (Atlanta's subway system) down to Centennial Olympic Park.

Upon exiting the train at the Peachtree Center Station I pretty much followed the crowd to get to the park.  Still dark but it didn't matter - much activity going on.  Actually it seemed quite festive.


Not a typical pre-race

Lots of people, the guy on the P.A. said there were over 13,000 people signed up for the marathon, half marathon , and 5K.  I think he also said 42 states and 22 countries were represented.  Big crowd.  They had 14 corrals (A-N) and since these are in finish time increasing estimate order, me, being a walker, was assigned to corral M.  When I got to corral M, noticed a sign that said "1/4 Mile" which meant a quarter of a mile worth of people would start this race before me : )


It took about 12 minutes for my corral to get to the starting line once the race started.  And we were off.  It was crazy crowded at first but after a mile or so was just crowded.   At mile 7 the marathon route split from the half marathon and it really thinned out for the duration of the race.

I really did like this course in regards to what you see on it - it was a great tour of the City of Atlanta.  Sure, I had driven many of these roads before but there is so much missed from a car.  The finisher's medal ribbon included many of the major spots the course went through:


The Carter Center
Centennial Olympic Park
CNN
The King Center - Ebenzer Baptist Church
Little Five Points
The house from "Driving Miss Daisy"
Piedmont Park
Inman Park
City of Decatur
Agnes Scott College
Emory University
Georgia Tech
Bobby Dodd Stadium
Old Fourth Ward
...

Really enjoyed this course!

The marathon had a 6:30 time limit so it was my goal to walk the entire course under that and I did.  I was happy with the outcome.  At this point I'm not sure I'll do it again though (never say never).   I much prefer the half marathon distance so maybe next time I'll do the 13.1 mile instead.  We'll see - have plenty of time to decide.

As usual the last few miles were the toughest - thighs screaming, feet screaming,...  Yeah, I was ready for it to be over!  So after about 108,000 steps I crossed the finish line, got a bottle of water, chocolate milk, post race food bag and stretched for awhile.  After that was the anti-climatic walk back to the Marta station.  Made it to Marta waited a few minutes and caught a train.  Luckily the train was not too crowded - was able to find a seat and relax.  So I'm on the train, not sleeping but eyes more or less shut and we go a few stations - people getting off, coming on.  When I opened my eyes, thought I was hallucinating...

marathon induced hallucinations!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Urban 20 Miler & OU Baseball

Yesterday's 20 miler was a bit different, instead of doing it on the greenway, decided to walk downtown Atlanta.  The route was very straight forward - park at Oglethorpe University and head south on Peachtree Street for 10 miles, turn around and come back.

It did not take long to figure out that cars and noise (engines, horns) would be the order of the day.  I lost count at 27 the number of times I had to look over my shoulder for cars turning, in the first mile!  One must be on high alert urban walking.

There was a lot of waiting in this walk - waiting to cross the street.  At every major intersection (and most were major) you needed to press the button and wait for the "walk" sign.


Of course this is obvious, if you actually think about it.  But I did not prior to starting the Urban 20 Miler.  However, what was not obvious, was "Push Button to Cross" signs that talked to you.  After pressing the arrow button, it said "wait...wait...wait...".  And when it was okay to cross, it would tell you what side of the street it was okay to cross.  This was new and unexpected.


About a half mile or so down the road, the talking sign made sense:

Braille bus stop sign
There must be residents who are blind living in the area.  To me, this was most impressive.  The uniqueness of an urban walk was coming into focus, seeing things that are there but you never really see driving.

For me, it was now interesting seeing things, that are in plain sight, that I typically do not see.  The next thing, we've all seen these before, but I have not actually looked at this in a very long time:

98 Billion Served!
Ray Kroc really had something!  I wonder if even he could have imagined this?

Next, as I mentioned, my route today was simple, head south on Peachtree for 10 miles and head back.  I had forgotten how many Peachtrees there are in Atlanta!

Peachtree Ave

Peachtree Way

Peachtree Battle

Peachtree Memorial

Peachtree Park

Peachtree Valley

Peachtree Place

Peachtree Hills
So if you are ever in Atlanta and get directions with "Peachtree" in it, be sure to ask which one.

Atlanta's Population Now
Traffic was not too bad as I crossed over I-75/85


But what I saw and heard above was definitely different, a B-17 Bomber!  Actually saw this many times throughout the 20 miles.  It appears that they were selling rides in over the Atlanta area.

http://www.libertyfoundation.org/schedule.html
Traffic in Midtown was very light as compared to a weekday so walking around was easy.

Midtown Atlanta on a Saturday afternoon
So I finally had the time (plus it really helps no being in a car!) to see and read about the Margaret Mitchell House.



Headed south for a bit more, maybe a half mile or so past the Fox Theatre and decided it was time to turn around and head back.  I was just about at 10 miles.  Truth be told, I was sure tempted to take a Marta train back to Oglethorpe.  You see it is very rare when doing an out & back to even have an option of not having to do the back portion, so I was very tempted.  But, this being my last really long walk prior to the Georgia Marathon coming up in a few weeks - decided I really did need to stay on my feet for another 2.5 hours and walk back.

The walk back was quite uneventful.  The one thing that really stood out though, I really liked when I would just miss the "walk sign" to cross the street and I'd have to wait for the traffic lights to cycle through.  When this happened, I found something to lean up against and enjoyed the break until the walk signal appeared again.

I made it back to Oglethorpe University during the 8th inning of the baseball game.  The Stormy Petrels were ahead of Berry College.

Oglethorpe vs Berry
The game went right down to the wire in 9th with Berry threatening with the go ahead run at the plate.  However Patrick Kulick was brought in in the 9th and earned his first save of the year.

Patrick Kulick throwing the heat
Final score: Oglethorpe 8, Berry 7.

They did have the 2nd game of the double header after this game, but I was way too tired to stay for it.  Hopefully I'll get back down for another game this season.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Number 46 - 2014 Thrill in the Hills 21K

This morning, for number 46, I walked the Thrill in the Hills 21K (half marathon) trail race.  Fourth year in a row doing this race - it doesn't get easier - if anything it gets harder, or at least seems that way.  The good news though, knee still holding up fine since switching to walking exclusively - no pain at all.  I was a bit concerned about this as the knee was stiff all week - not sure why.

The venue for the race is Fort Yargo State Park in Winder, GA.  This year they capped the race (21K & 42K) at 575.  With parking close by at a premium and with the amount of cars required to get 575 people there, thought it would be best to get there early so I was out the door just before 6:00 AM.

Once again I was treated to some nice sunrise views/reflections upon arrival:

Sunrise at Fort Yargo
This was just behind where race check-in took place so after taking this headed over to pick my race bib & shirt.  Was pleased to receive a long sleeve technical shirt this year - have way too many short sleeve from doing these races.  Looks like they came up with a new slogan on the shirt:


"More chills, spills, thrills, hills.  I live for this!"  I'm not so sure I live for this but I suspect some who do these type races do - I'm just happy to have another long sleeve technical shirt  : )

The 42Kers started at 8:00 and the 21Kers at 8:30.  This did make sense as getting 575 people into the woods on a single track at the same exact time would be a real mess. So just prior to 8:30 made my way to the back of the pack of the 21Kers and waited for the start.  Temperature was in the low 40s.

They thinned us out on the road prior to hitting the woods so by the time I got to the woods, not many others around.  As far as trail races go, this one is not too bad, in regards to rocks, roots, and such.  Don't get me wrong , those elements did exist but relative to other trail races I've done, this one is not too bad.  This next picture is probably pretty typical for the rock/root sections:


 However, there was a lot of pine straw (pine straw can = slippery for footing) on the trail.  I lost my footing once but luckily arms went out quick enough prior to doing a face plant.

I am pretty sore right now from the race in general, suspect even more so tomorrow morning.  It's to be expected though - a little stretching and in a few days it'll be fine.  I think trail races are tougher on the body because unlike a road race where for the most part you are go in a straight line on (mostly) even terrain on trails almost every step has to be somewhat calculated.  The rocks, roots, gullies, pine straw, puddles, leaves all have to be considered before you put your next step down.  The by-product of this, you are hardly ever going in a straight line on an even surface.  So you do find your body contorting almost constantly - using muscles maybe not used so much.  But, this is actually part of the allure of doing trail races.  It is fun.

The one thing that stood out more than anything on the trail was the size of this burl around mile 5:

Burl!!!
Now I have gotten away from turning wood on my lathe, but if I could get some of this burl wood...  I'm sure it must have incredible wood grain patterns.  Maybe someday...

It was a good race I'm glad I got to do it again.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

First 2014 Baseball Game & Two 20 Milers

Baseball

Yes - baseball season has officially started!  It started January 31st on a bright, sunny, 55 degree day with the Georgia Gwinnett College Grizzlies hosting the Shawnee State University Bears in an NAIA collegiate season opener.  I was able to catch a few innings after work that day - but - baseball in January?

When I got there, I thought it was going to be one of those classic moments as Zach Alvord was at the plate with bases loaded.


Would have loved for this guy to hit a dinger and clear the bases, but the pitcher did not serve him up much and walked him on a 3-1 count.  It'll be fun watching this guy through the season - he was an 18th round pick by the Altanta Braves in 2010 but went the college route instead of going pro.  I'm sure he's on the scouts radar though.

The field was in great shape considering it had been covered in snow two days prior.  There were only a few hints of snow, this one was of Shawnee State's Blake Maines in the on deck circle with the snow where the sun don't shine...


GGC secured the 11-6 win with a seven run 7th inning.  Still hard to believe that baseball started in January.


Two more 20 Milers

This is odd for me, four 20 milers so far this year with the last two on back to back Saturdays.  This has never happened for me before.  This was not a New Year's resolution; it is sort of just happening.  I do not think I can explain why.  These walks are taking just shy of five hours to complete, roughly 15 minute miles.  The one thing that I am learning from these walks though, the mental aspect is really hard, probably harder than the physical.  During these, in my brain, there is is a battle going on.  One side wants to continue and the other side wants to stop.

In yesterday's 20 miler the idea came up of trying to somehow incorporate a 20 miler with a baseball game.  This would be an urban 20 miles instead of on the Suwanee Greenway.  I'll have to look at the baseball schedules for Oglethorpe, Georgia Tech, and Emory.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Danger Thin Ice

I do remember the dangers of thin ice from growing up in New Jersey - every winter my buddies and I would wait with great anticipation for the Shore Hills pond to freeze so we could play hockey.  We were lucky, nothing bad ever happened to us during our early season "testing the ice", but I always respected the danger.  It's been many years since recalling those times but on yesterday's walk, they all came back.


At about mile 5 I looked up and noticed this sign.  I've been in Georgia for 20+ years now and do not recall ever seeing signs like this here before.  This month must be one of the coldest around here for quite awhile with a significant amount of time below freezing.

Walked out onto the pier a bit curious if I'd see the ducks and geese - they were all gone except for these two.


It seemed odd, where did they all go (usually see 50-60 of them) and why were these two the only ones there?  I had one Nutra-Grain bar on me and decided they probably needed it more than I did so I started breaking it up in pieces and throwing on the ice.  They came over quickly and scarfed down each piece they could get.  I guess the ice hinders their food source so the must have been hungry?

I did notice on one of them that its wing looked like something was wrong with it.


Maybe that is why these two were still here?  Maybe they were injured and could no longer fly?  Don't know.  Hopefully it warms up soon so they can feed from their natural sources.

Continued on with the walk and could hear a pinging noise in the distance.  As I got closer, I knew exactly what what it was - just could not believe it actually was that - the sound of a baseball coming off an aluminum bat!


Little League tryouts on a freezing January Saturday!   Brrrrr...

11 miles was enough for me this day, too cold and too windy.  However, I know I will have to refer back to this post come summer, when we are going through a 90 degree heat wave.



Sunday, January 19, 2014

Be at the Bridge at 19

Another 20 mile walk in prep for the Great Saunter.  Unlike the previous, this one was on a picture perfect clear blue sky sunny January Saturday afternoon.


It was a great day for a long walk and others were out on the Suwanee Greenway doing the same.


As a proponent of slowing down and looking and taking in surroundings, today I learned you miss things if you never stop.  As I stopped to take this picture, in my peripheral vision, something different was spotted to the right:


Nature.

Maybe I should stop more often.

The walk continued.  The walk lasted just shy of five hours, roughly about a 15 minute per mile pace.  I'm always intrigued with the amount of thoughts that go through my mind during these long walks, so many and so varied.  I'm not so sure a long walk "clears" my head.

One of the challenges I have on these long walks is estimating getting back to my truck at the 20 mile mark.  The walk is not a go 10 miles in a direction then turn around and go back, it's much more of a zig-zag, up & back, and go around until it's 20 miles (I do have Garmin w/footpod for measuring mileage).  So at about mile 13 or so, I just kept telling myself to "be at the bridge at 19", at mile 19 that is as the truck was parked a mile from the other side of the bridge.

be at the bridge at 19

Sunday, January 5, 2014

20 Miler on a Cold Dreary Saturday

This 20 miler was for prep for the Great Saunter.  I do need to condition my head and body for walking 32 miles.  It was a cold (in the 30s) dreary winter day.  Mary had to work and I really was not motivated to do any DIY projects, so this really long walk  sort of made sense.


Not too many others out on Suwanee Greenway this day.  There were a few, but nothing like it is in warmer weather.  












mostly frozen - rarely see this in Georgia


In hind sight I guess this was a good workout - I wanted to stop and go home, a lot.  It was cold, wind in my face, headache - this was not an enjoyable walk.   I kept on battling the thoughts of just do 8 miles, just do 10 miles, just do 13 miles, and finally I got to the point where I could see the end (20 miles).  So this was much more of a mental workout - the push to continue did win.  

My Garmin read 4 hours, 58 minutes, 55 seconds at the end and I anxiously looked forward to food & warmth.