Saturday, June 18, 2016

Number 65 - Manna Fund Popcorn 5K

Saturday June 18, 2016

Besides recently deciding to do more 5Ks, I've also noticed that I am much more inclined to doing a 5K if I do not have to travel too far to get to it.  Heck the last 5K I did, was so close, didn't even have to drive to get there.  So when I noticed the Manna Fund Popcorn 5K was in my town, it was a slam dunk deciding to do it.

The proceeds from the race support the Manna Fund, I had no idea what that was.  So of course with the magic of Google and a few clicks, it's a 501c(3) non-profit organization dedicated to providing hope and financial assistance to individuals who need treatment for eating disorders.

Other than a pollen alert, it was in the low 70s with a 10-15 mph breeze at the beginning of the race.  This was really nice considering it has been in the 90s for about the last 10 days.  It felt good.

I estimated about a hundred participants in the race, give or take.  The race brochure indicated that medals would be given to the top three male and female finishers in five year increment age categories from 10 and under all the way up to 65 and over.  If it was an even distribution, age wise, of participants, that would be 72 medals.  So in a field of about a hundred, chances were pretty good that a lot of folks would go home with some hardware!

Just before the race started they brought us all in together to explain the course and the guy says "it's confusing but it really isn't".  It's never a good sign when they have to explain the course using the word confusing.   The normal trail at the park was 1.25 miles, so twice around would be .6 miles short of a 5K.  So at a certain point in the course there was a football field (with a track around it) and we needed to do two laps around that track but only on the first lap of the 1.25 mile course.   Being a really low key race, this was no big deal,  Plus it occupies your mind a little which is actually nice during a race.

We were off.  The park was opened for anyone  so there were quite a few others on the course doing their normal Saturday morning stroll/jog.  I'm sure they typically did not see a hundred or so extra people out on 'their' course on a quiet Saturday morning, but no one seemed to mind.

I ended up doing the course in 37:40 so I was happy with that, just over 12 minute miles.  It was a good workout.  And as mentioned earlier, with all of those medal categories, I place 2nd in my age group.  Although, there were only two of us in that age group!!!  :)

Friday, June 17, 2016

Number 64 - Fast Track 5K

Fast Track 5K - Memorial Day Weekend - May 28, 2016

About a month ago, while heading home on the Amtrak Crescent after the Great Saunter, I was thinking about the goals I have for myself on this blog - 100 races/events & 10,000 miles and I can retire from full time work.  Currently at about 8,300 miles and with the fitbit tracking, the 10,000 mile goal should be met in just over a year.  However, for races/events, I'm at 63, a little behind.  There is no way I'm going to do 37 races in a year!  But it looks like I need to focus a bit more on races/events.

So there I was on the train (NYC - Atlanta) thinking I needed to start looking for more races.  Luckily the train did have wifi so a few clicks and I'm on the race calendar on  I am at the point where I really don't like doing marathons so I don't even bother looking at them.  I still enjoy doing half marathons, but not 37 of them!  So I'm going to concentrate more on doing 5K & 10Ks.  And as luck would have it, there are plenty of those to pick from.  Plus, as it turns out many of the 5Ks are basically fundraisers for some type of cause.  This really adds a nice dimension to do these races.

About this time, my mind shifted to where I was on this 18 hour journey so I switched over to the Amtrak tracker app and found we were 17 minutes from Trenton, NJ travelling at 107 MPH!

I was surprised, didn't think U.S. trains traveled that fast.  Okay back to finding some 5Ks.  It didn't take long before spotting a 5K near where I live coming up in a few weeks - the Fast Track 5k.  It just seemed to fit with being on a train going 107 MPH!

Proceeds from race support the Southeastern Railway Museum.  So being on a train (finding I prefer train travel over flying when I have the time) and finding this race just came together, it made sense to do this race.

It was a small race, think it had about 130 participants.  None the less, enjoyed it.

Need to find more races like this one.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Number 63 - The 2016 Great Saunter

Crazy amount of steps on the fitbit for this day...

75,027 steps
My daughter and I had a great time doing the 2016 Great Saunter, a 32 mile walk around the rim of Manhattan.

Years ago a guy named Cy Adler wondered if it was even possible to walk around the rim of Manhattan in a day, so he and some of his friends tried and did it.  I guess they enjoyed it so much, they started doing it every year.  As the years passed more and more people became interested and decided to join in what they ended up naming "The Great Saunter".  On Saturday May 7, it was the 31st annual Great Saunter and ~1500 people signed up to do it.

Being a walker I stumbled across the Great Saunter a few years back and it quickly became a "bucket list" thing.  Little did I know it would end being a repeating bucket list thing  :)

Since I’d already written two chronological blogposts and created a video on the previous Great Saunters I did, I thought I’d play back the 32 miles and come up with a list of 10 things that stood out to me about the experience of doing it.

 1.  What an absolute, wonderful, great, great, great time I had with my daughter.  My daughter is a mother of three rambunctious boys and she and her husband live in New Hampshire - so I do not get to see her much.  The Great Saunter took us about 10 and half hours, time that we could talk, reminisce, walk, be silent, laugh, be sad, and just simply share time and an experience together.  I do not think I have had 10 alone hours with her since she was in middle school!  So very special this was!

2.  Although I worked in NYC at the beginning of my career and I have visited the city many many times over the last few decades, the sights you see during a 32 mile walk around New York City cannot be matched by seeing the city any other way.
  To me, the Great Saunter is not about walking 32 miles in a day, it is much more about seeing NYC in a very unique way.

3.  The Great Saunter, although it is six miles longer than a marathon, is nothing like a marathon.  Having done a few marathons, my daughter asked me which was harder.  First off they are both hard.  Anytime you get your legs to take that many steps, regardless of running, jogging, walking fast, walking slow, it is hard.  Our bodies are not used to doing that many repetitions, of anything.  So when you do, your body will let you know, at times it will let you know by “screaming” at you. 

  Second, one of the things we did during the saunter that would never happen during a marathon - stop for a coffee.  At mile four there was a coffee shop and we both had the same idea :)  So we stopped and went into  and ordered two large lattes.  Now we didn’t sit down in the coffee shop to drink our coffees, we got back out onto the Great Saunter “course” and continued on.  Third, we stopped for lunch at about mile 16 - which included a bathroom break, sitting on a park bench in Inwood Park, a change of socks, and some socializing with other saunterers.  You see, there is no clock in the Great Saunter whereas in a marathon, you are constantly looking at your time and pace.  I did tell Jen that this was so much more fun than a marathon though!

4.  A funny thing happened at about mile 17 or 18.  One of the things that you pick up on real quick during the Great Saunter is the other saunterers  (most) have their “race” bib attached to the back of their backpack.  This actually becomes a comforting sight as there are times in the 32 miles that you wonder if you you are still on the right path.  There are times when you are clumped together with many others and there are times when you do not see any other Great Saunterer.  So anyway, we were starting our way down the Eastside, near the Harlem River and all of a sudden  we start seeing Great Saunterers passing us going in the other direction!   There were two groups and after the first group passed us, the thoughts of something is wrong here.  Then a minute later another group passes going the other way too.  We are starting to think something is really wrong.  But there really is a Great Saunterer code where you help each other out because we are all in this together and we would sort of expect them to inform us of any upcoming issues.   Well as it turned out, they had opted to do the Great Saunter backwards!  Instead of going up the Westside and down the Eastside, they decided to do just the opposite  :)  I guess if a person has already done the Great Saunter one way it would be fun to see Manhattan from the other direction.  Who knows, maybe we will try that some day.

5.  A really nice thing happened during our “lunch break” in Inwood Park.  It was roughly the half way point, ~16 miles and the Shorewalkers volunteers were set up giving out free gatorade and many different kinds of potato chips (much appreciated).  They also were handing out Mole Skin to any who needed it.  But besides that they were also selling Great Saunter T-shirts.  While picking up some chips & Gatorade, I started to think it would be nice for us to get a T-shirt.  But for whatever reason, I did not.  So we sat down on one of the park benches, changed into a clean pair of socks, drank, and ate.  Just before leaving, decided to go back to the table and get two t-shirts.  Just as I got back to the tables, the volunteers were informing all that one of the Great Saunterers made a very generous donation and basically paid for the rest of the t-shirts so they were free at that point.  Jen and I got t-shirts!  That was a very nice thing.

6.  There really is no good reason, at least in my mind, to walk 32 miles.  Well unless it is the Great Saunter!

7.  Give me a dollar…

This was funny - we were on the Eastside crossing over one of the pedestrian bridges and it was a bit on the seedy side.  There were a lot of empty wine & whiskey bottles and such.  But the one thing that really caught our attention was a piece of cardboard, maybe about 18 or 20 inches square with some writing on that read “Give me a dollar or I'll vote for Trump”!  Suspect it was a panhandlers sign with a new approach to getting a few bucks.  We heard the guy behind us say “I’ll give him two bucks to vote for Hillary”!  

8.  Bathrooms and NIML. 

To walk 32 miles and stay hydrated along the way means, yep, you guessed it.  Well it really was not as big of a problem as I thought it would be as there are many bathrooms along the way.  It was during my first Great Saunter where I met  another saunterer and he told me two things that I will not forget.  First, whenever you see kids playing sports in any city park (and there were many) there will always be a bathroom.  So it was never really a big issue in finding one.  One suggestion though and this is especially true with ~1500 saunterers on the same path - toilet paper.  You might want to have some in you pack.

The other thing that he taught me - NIML.  Not in my lifetime.  I walked with him on previous Great Saunters (I ran into him on the first two that I did and was hoping to see him again on this one) and as we talked about things he said “NIML”  I said “What?”  He was retired and a few years back he came to the realization that a lot of things he worried about in the world would not, could not, be resolved in his lifetime - so he began to categorize certain things as NIML which relieved him from having to worry about them.  Since that time I have come to see the wisdom of NIML.

9.  Shorakkopoch -

 Okay, most have heard the story at some point or other or at least some variation of it.  In 1626 the island of Manhattan was purchased from Native Americans for trinkets and beads worth about 60 guilders.  Guilders are a Dutch currency, currently one Dutch Guilder is worth about 52 cents!  So do the math and see what the purchase price was for Manhattan.  Anyway in Inwood Park, just before lunch, we came across the Shorakkopoch Rock


What an interesting tidbit of history to come across.

10.  Fraunces Tavern
  -  Prior to hurricane Sandee, the Great Saunter started and ended at Heartland Brewery in South Street Seaport.  However, Sandee destroyed a lot of the area including the tavern where it use to start & end.  So now the Great Saunter begins and ends at Fraunces Tavern.  There is some significant history at Fraunces Tavern, the biggest thing, this is where George Washington bade his troops farewell and thanked them after war!  My sister and brother-in-law, Laura & Ted were once again very gracious to us, not only did they drive us into the city for the start of the saunter, they were there also at the end to pick us up, including dinner reservations!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Japan Badge

Once again, to my surprise, an email came from fitbit "Congrats on earning your Japan Badge!".  The distance badges are a tracking of how many miles one has gone since first strapping on the fitbit.  They are not in increments of hundreds or thousands of miles, they are an actual mileage of something physical.  In this case, it is 1869 miles, the full length of Japan.

What made this unique was the timing of it.  Less than 24 hours earlier I had finished the book "The Railway Man".  It is a nonfiction account of Eric Lomax, a British Army officer, who was taken prisoner by the Japanese during World War II.  The book went into great detail about what it was like for him as a POW, to be tortured mentally and physically, to be starved, to be waterboarded, to be treated inhumanely...

It is an incredible account.  What made this a very good read, after suffering for many years after the war with nightmares and wanting revenge, was able able to meet one of his tormentors, 50 years later, and forgive him!

If you are looking for a really good read, I recommend this book.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Number 62 - 2016 Georgia Half Marathon

2016 Publix Georgia Half Marathon, Atlanta, GA  March 20, 2016

The sign up & prep

I decided right after the first of the year that I wanted to do this race.  It's a hometown, well sort of hometown, local race.  As usual, once paid for and on the calendar, the training schedule gets created and I do get more serious about following that training plan.  What I did not anticipate was getting the flu earlier this month (and I did get a flu shot!).  Unlike a cold or an upper respiratory infection, the flu throws a major curve ball to the training plan.  So for this race, definitely not 100% prepared, but close enough - just super glad that I did have a few weeks to get strength back.


Think I read somewhere that they needed over 2000 volunteers to help out with putting the race on, so I volunteered to help out at the Expo handing race packets.  The shift I had was on the Friday before the race from 2:30-7:00 PM at the Georgia World Congress Center.  It was fun interacting with participants picking up the race bibs & shirts, and such.  The odd thing about handing out shirts, you sort of become a pseudo expert about the shirt and many actually expect you to be an expert on the shirt:

"What's it made of?"

"Is it unisex?"

"How come they don't have male/female sizing"?

"Will it shrink?"

"Can I try it on?"

"How does it look on me?"

"Should I get a different size?"

"Can I get a different size?"

"Do you have to wear this for the race"?

But I only signed up to hand them out!  :)

The Race  

I was up at 4:15 AM.  Being an early bird anyway, this really was no big deal.  One last check of the hourly forecast showed temps in the 40s meant an extra layer and gloves were in order.  A stop at Quiktrip for a blueberry muffin & another coffee and I headed towards Marta.  For me, it is just easier to take to subway down to the race.  Virtually everyone on Marta was heading down for the race, we exited at the Peachtree Center Station and just followed the crowd to Centennial Olympic Park.  It was still dark but the park was already packed with folks just waiting around for the race to begin.

Of course it was not too much later before the normal pre-race lines began to form.  When you have upwards of 10,000 people who were hydrating for the race...  The good thing about this race, plenty of porta potties.

As 7:00 AM approached everyone was getting to their corral for the start.  They had five corrals - A, B, C, D, E with the fastest runners in corral A and the slowest in E.  I took my usual starting spot in corral E.

At 7:00 AM on the dot corral A was off.  Each of the remaining corrals made their way closer to the starting line.  By the time corral E was at the starting line, it was 7:12.  No worries though as each race bib had a chip in it and an individual's race time did not start until you crossed over the (electronic chip reading) starting line.

We weaved our way through downtown Atlanta, through various neighborhoods, and parks.  I always enjoy seeing the city this way as you miss many things if you happen to drive through.  My favorite vista on this course came in between mile 3 & 4, a great view of Freedom Parkway.

Freedom Parkway

Success for me in any of these races is to simply finish the race.  I do have a secret goal for half marathons though, it is to finish under 3 hours and for this race I did.  It was a good race.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

A 5k, a 10K, and a 747 Badge

A long overdue post from the end of December...

I really did have good intentions - signed up for the Winter Blast virtual race series to do a 5K, 10K, 10 miler, and a half marathon in between December 19 and 31.  But with over 12 inches of rain, the 2nd wettest December on record in these parts, it simply was not meant to be.  It was just a crazy amount of rain.  I did feel lucky to get a 5K and a 10K in though.


Back in August I got a Fitbit to track daily mileage.  It works great.  One of the things that I noticed about it after signing up, from time to time you earn badges for various things like Daily Steps, Daily Climb, Lifetime Climb, and Lifetime Distance.  They are quite creative with some of their badges:

Daily Steps
  • 5,000 steps: Boat Shoe
  • 10,000 steps: Sneakers
  • 15,000 steps: Urban Boot
  • 20,000 steps: High Tops
  • 25,000 steps: Classics
  • 30,000 steps: Trail Shoe
  • 35,000 steps: Hiking Boot
  • 40,000 steps: Cleats
  • 45,000 steps: Snow Boots
  • 50,000 steps: Cowboy Boots
  • 55,000 steps: Platform Shoe
  • 60,000 steps: Blue Suede Shoes
  • 65,000 steps: Ruby Slippers
  • 70,000 steps: Spring Loaders
  • 75,000 steps: Genie Shoes
  • 80,000 steps: Futuristic Kicks
  • 90,000 steps: Rocket Boot
  • 100,000 steps: Olympian Sandals
Daily Climb
  • 10 Floors: Happy Hill
  • 25 Floors: Redwood Forest
  • 50 Floors: Lighthouse
  • 75 Floors: Ferris Wheel
  • 100 Floors: Skyscraper
  • 125 Floors: Rollercoaster
  • 150 Floors: Stadium
  • 175 Floors: Bridge
  • 200 Floors: Castle
  • 300 Floors: Waterfall
  • 400 Floors: Canyon
  • 500 Floors: Volcano
  • 600 Floors: Mountain
  • 700 Floors: Rainbow
Lifetime Climb
  • 500 Floors: Helicopter
  • 1,000 Floors: Skydiver
  • 2,000 Floors: Hot Air Balloon
  • 4,000 Floors: 747
  • 8,000 Floors: Cloud
  • 14,000 Floors: Spaceship
  • 20,000 Floors: Shooting Star
  • 28,000 Floors: Astronaut
  • 35,000 Floors: Satellite
Lifetime Distance
  • 26 mi (42 km): Marathon
  • 70 mi (112 km): Penguin March
  • 250 mi (402 km): London Underground
  • 350 mi (563 km): Hawaii
  • 500 mi (804 km): Serengeti
  • 736 mi (1,184 km): Italy
  • 990 mi (1,593 km): New Zealand
  • 1600 mi (2,574 km): Great Barrier Reef
  • 1869 mi (3,007 km): Japan
  • 1997 mi (3,213 km): India
  • 2500 mi (4,023 km): Monarch Migration
  • 2983 mi (4,802 km): Sahara
  • 4132 mi (6,650 km): Nile
  • 5000 mi (8,046 km): Africa
  • 5500 mi (8,851 km): Great Wall
  • 5772 mi (9,289 km): Russian Railway
  • 7900 mi (12,713 km): Earth
  • 12430 mi (20,004 km): Pole to Pole

I'm not sure that this type of thing actually motivates me, but I must admit, it's kind of fun getting the badges.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Number 59 - WOTT

WOTT - Walk Off The Turkey

12 mile walk on the west side of Manhattan from Battery Park to the George Washington Bridge the Saturday after Thanksgiving

It all started months ago with the idea of a huge family get together in northern New Jersey for Thanksgiving.  With the standard overload of holiday indulging calories, the WOTT seemed like a great way burn some of them off.  So on Saturday after Thanksgiving, Ted, Jen, Raney, and I headed into New York City.  We decided to drive into the city, park at Port Authority, and take the #1 train down to South Ferry.

A few minutes later we were at the Staten Island Ferry station ready to begin the WOTT.  We were a bit early, there were a few other WOTT-ers wondering were all of this started (exact location wise).  We really did not know and just decided to start our journey up the West Side at that point.

If you've ever been to New York City and walked around Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Greenwich Village, Soho, or any area towards the center of the city you might be thinking that we had a lot of waiting time to cross busy city streets.  That was not the case at all.  There were only a few times where we had to stop for cars in the 12 miles.  They really did a great job designing and connecting walkways.  Navigating up the West Side of Manhattan was easy.  There are many parks, areas with artwork on display, benches, walkers, dog walkers, joggers, cyclists,...  And since the Hudson River is on your left, you just basically follow the river north.

The first six miles or so were similar to the picture above - city buildings and traffic fairly close by.  But as we approached the Upper Westside, the views started to change.

The one illusion that we could not avoid was the George Washington Bridge, at least the illusion of it appearing closer than it actually was.  In the picture below, it is about six miles away.  So if you ever do this walk, do not be fooled think that you are almost there :)

GW Bridge still miles away!

As we got closer to the bridge, we were farther from traffic and saw things that would make you think you were not in a city at all.

Hawk on the Hudson

So about four hours after we started we finally made it to the little red lighthouse under the great gray bridge.

Thanks Jen, Raney, & Ted!