Sunday, November 9, 2014

Number 50 - In Honor of Sgt. 1st Class Samuel C. Hairston

In connection to Veterans Day, one of the things they do at Soldier Marathon & Half Marathon is the Fallen Hero Program.   When you pick up your race bib you have the opportunity to do the race in honor of a service member who has paid the ultimate price, the giving of their life, in service to our country.

This year I did the Soldier Half Marathon in honor of Army Sgt. 1st Class Samuel C. Hairston.

SFC Samuel C. Hairston died August 12, 2014 serving during Operation Enduring Freedom in Ghanzi, Afghanistan.

Besides being a decorated military veteran of 11 years, he also played NCAA Division I football for four years for the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelors Degree in Economics.

It was a privilege to do this race in honor of him

The day of the race started at 3:00 AM for me as I needed to be on the road before 4:00 AM for the 140 mile drive to Ft. Benning, GA.  I just could not justify the hotel expense since I'm typically awake by 4:00 AM anyway.  It was an easy, with not many others on roads, drive.  Arrived at the National Infantry Museum (where the race started/finished) for check in right around 6:30 just as the sun was rising.

Although the entire race course is not on Ft. Benning, 6-7 miles, is.  One can sense the pride, the precision, the honor while being on the Post.  I really enjoyed the section on Ft. Benning.

This first thing you see as you approach Ft. Benning, that really lets you know this race is really not like most others, is Patton's Park.  Named after WWII General George S. Patton.

Patton's Park
Once on the post, you just know you are somewhere that is really different than the places you go in every day normal life.  Check out the signage:

Next, and I really appreciated this, the aid stations.  These soldiers were well trained in how to give water to the participants.  Now this might sound trivial, maybe even odd, but with the numbers of races I've done, it is amazing how many people want to give you water - holding the cup with their fingers in it.  Note how these soldiers do it:

Thank you!  Not only am I overwhelmed in their commitment to serving us in the defending of our nation, but they also come out early on a cold Saturday morning to serve us during the race.  These people are great.

Okay, we've all seen it in movies or read about it in a book - Drill Instructors are known for chewing people's asses out.  It's what they do.  The Army had a little surprise for us at about mile 3.  We were "greeted" by some of Ft. Benning's Drill Instructors to provide a little motivation:

Encouragement on the course :)
One of the Drill Instructors, in a deep, from the belly voice, barked out at me as I was attempting to take a picture  "you don't have time to take pictures, now move it!".  These guys were great!  But not something one typically sees during a half marathon/marathon!

Up the avenue a bit we saw living quarters for soldiers and their families.  Note the flags flying.

You could definitely detect order and pride just going around the post.  As we neared the exit, one sign in particular grabbed my attention:

Deployed - Operation New Dawn, Operation Enduring Freedom

This is a serious business, people agree to go into harm's way, for us and our country.  And for this I am very appreciative and thankful!
The rest of the half marathon was anti-climatic for me.  Sure it was nice, mainly on the Chattahoochee Riverwalk in Columbus, GA, but I would have preferred more on Ft. Benning.  Relative to where we had been, there was really not much to see, take pictures of, or write about.

Post race food was excellent - water, soda, beer, bagels, oranges, bananas, candy, chips, McDonald's hamburgers & sausage burritos, fruit popsicles,...  And plenty of them all.  They offered post race massages too.

Definitely recommend this race to anyone who likes the marathon or half marathon distance.

The 140 mile ride home wasn't too bad either.  Especially since I was able to listen to the Georgia Bulldogs have their way against the University of Kentucky Wildcats.  Georgia won 63-31.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Walk on the High Line - NYC

During our quick visit to Montclair, NJ, my sister Laura suggested we walk the High Line in Manhattan.    Not knowing much about the High Line, I googled it.  What a great concept, re-purposing an old, no longer used elevated railroad platform from 12th Street to 34th Street on the Lower Westside of Manhattan.

Train station Upper Montclair, NJ

Super convenient was the NJ Transit train from Upper Montclair to Penn Station (33rd Street).  We caught the 8:12 AM train and that put us in Penn Station at 8:59.  One of the things I noticed on the train, quite a few commuters had bicycle helmet attached to their backpack, briefcase, purse,...  It was just an observation while on the train.

Perfect weather for a walk in the city.  A short walk from Penn Station which sits directly below Madison Square Garden and we were on the High Line.  The very first observation on the High Line was the design:

According to Laura, the section we were on is the newest section called the High Line at the Rail Yards.  Well a bit ahead that name made sense:

High Line at the Rail Yards
So if you ever wondered where those commuter subway trains went after the morning rush hour, now you know. Yes, that is the Empire State Building in the background.

Next we headed south on the High Line. The Fall foliage was impressive.

Fall foliage on the High Line
And the way the designers planted things in the old rail lines was interesting:

Plants, trees in the old High Line railroad tracks
Continuing south the views off the High Line were just as interesting.  Remember when I mentioned I noticed a number of people on the commuter train with helmets, well now it made sense:

Citi Bike has thousand of bikes for rent all over the city 24/7/365. In recent years NYC has converted many street lanes to bike lanes.

There was no shortage of artwork on the High Line, large and small.  Here are a few of the bigger ones:

Rendition of famous World War II-era sailor kissing a woman in Times Square

This is such a great place to take a walk. Just incredible amounts of different foliage.  My sister has walked the High Line in all the seasons - it's a different walk each season.  I hope I get chance walk this in all seasons someday.

Laura & Mary
Hard to believe we were in the middle of the city.  Next for those who cannot parallel park, which is sort of required for parking in NYC, the city has you covered.  I noticed this sign down below.

Look where they keep your car.

NYC real estate is expensive, suspect this parking is too
Talking about NYC real estate, you could buy an apartment right on the High Line.

Starting at only $2,000,000  :)
And if you do get thirsty, no problem, plenty of places along the way...

Once again, it really did not seem like we were in the city at times

A walk well worth it
We exited the High Line in the Meatpacking District where it ends and headed over to Chelsea Market.  The High Line is just shy of 1.5 miles.  Laura treated us to a matinee show on Broadway so we needed to head north to the Theater District. Instead of going back up the High Line we decided to walk on city blocks as a contrast and what a contrast it was!

Stores, vendors, traffic,...
and people!!!
We made out way back up to 47th Street - the Brooks Atkinson Theatre for a performance of Love Letters starring Carol Burnett and Brian Dennehy. Excellent show and wonderful performances by both.

A great day in New York City!

Thank you Laura!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Number 49 - White Mountain Milers Half Marathon

Second time doing this New Hampshire race.  What a difference a year makes.  Last year Jen (my daughter) and I did this race and Jen did the race running for two - grandson number three came along for the ride :) well sort of and a few months later was born.  This year, grandson number three came as a spectator.

In the 40s for the beginning of the race
One of the things that I really like about this race - they have a 'walking' division.  So the walker I am signed up to walk this half marathon.  And new this year, since they did want all off the course by 12:00 noon (on a 9:00 AM start), they offered an early start at 8:30 for anyone who wanted the extra time.  So for the first time in all these races I've done so far, I got to take part in a race with an early start.  

There were 15-20 early starters, some walkers, some runners.  They wrote down our bibb numbers, blew the horn and we were off.  It was a bit weird for a few blocks.  People were on the race course/side walks not having any idea that we were participants in the race.  But time & distance did resolve that.  It was nice getting the early start.  At about mile 4 the runners started passing.  The passing did not cease until the end of the race.  That was really the major difference as typically few people pass me in a race and towards the end there are times I see no one else on the course.  

My goal this year was to finish the race under 3:00 hours.  Last year I was in better shape and completed the race with a pretty good walking time - good enough to place 2nd in the Walking division.    But this year, finishing under three hours would be fine with me.  Ironically my watch battery went dead as soon as I started it for this race.  Oh well.  So I had no idea of my timing during the race and in hindsight think that I enjoyed it more.

I had my camera with me and got a couple of pics from the backside of the race:

I met my goal and finished under 3:00 hours, actually it was just under at 2:59:25, a 13:42 mile pace.

Jen post race before body temperature started coming down

Jen & me post race with me scarfing down an everything bagel with cream cheese!   That is one of the benefits of doing these races  :)
It was a good race; it was a good day.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

2014 Great Saunter - The Video

It was a natural fit.  After discovering iMovie on my new MacBook Air recently, I was trying to come up with ideas for a video, just to learn how to use iMovie.  Just so happened I had a couple hundred pictures and some video from doing the Great Saunter in May.  So I just dove in, got frustrated, made some headway, got frustrated,...  you get the picture.

It was harder than anticipated, not so much the technology, but trying to fit the sights & such of a 10+ hour walk into less than 10 minutes.  So if you are curious on the sights & such of a saunter around the entire island of Manhattan, take a look at the video below.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Number 48 - The Great Saunter, up the Westside

Last Saturday I did the 2014 Great Saunter, a 32 mile walk around the perimeter of Manhattan.  My most favorite walk.

This was the 29th annual Great Saunter  around the island of Manhattan.    It is hosted by a group called Shorewalkers.  1187 people signed up and started the Great Saunter this year.

The Great Saunter Map

5:04 AM
Alarm goes off, I’m on the third floor of Laura &Ted’s (sister, brother-in-law) 1890’s Victorian Farmhouse in Upper Montclair, NJ.  It is no doubt one of my favorite places to sleep in the entire world!  But, sleep is not the order of the day at this point.  As I lay in bed a few more minutes, from the bottom of the stars I hear my sister “Scotty, are you up”?  I am such a lucky guy – for her and Ted to wake up at a ridiculous hour on a Saturday morning, for me – to make sure I’m awake, to drive me into New York City, to make sure I have everything I need,...  I am overwhelmed at their hospitality.
Downstairs, some juice, couple espressos, water, some homemade lekvar roll, chit-chat, and just before 6:00 AM, out the door to Fraunces Tavern, on the lower East Side of Manhattan, the starting/ending point for the 2014 Great Saunter.

Very lucky for me as Ted & Laura are naturals in New York City, they know their way around.   And of course, Saturday morning, 6:00 AM, there should not be any traffic – HA! 

Road work/traffic at 6:10 AM Saturday going into NYC

Good thing Ted knows more ways to get into the city than I ever knew existed, so before long, we’re entering the Lincoln Tunnel.

7:00 AM
Arrive at Fraunces Tavern.  The line, for those who signed up beyond the mail out date, or were just signing up that day, was already around the block.

Fraunces Tavern
Now this Fraunces Tavern has some significant history to it.  The plaque on the side of the tavern explains how George Washington, after the American Revolutionary War, in 1783,  bade an emotional farewell to his officers on the 2nd floor of this tavern!  (Fraunces Tavern, a must see if you are ever in the Wall Street district of Manhattan – it will be worth the trip).

Luckily I did not have to stand in line as I signed up earlier enough to have everything I need mailed to me in advance.

Me & Laura
Laura & Ted wished me luck and headed back to NJ with the promise that they’d be there waiting for me when I finished! 

Next I was on the outlook for a guy I use to work with in Georgia who now lives in Brooklyn and his girlfriend.  Right around 7:30 or so we found each other.  Mason & Jen were not sure if they were going to do the entire 32 miles that day but decided to go as far as they could.

7:38 AM

We were off.  One of the great things about the Great Saunter - it is not a race, it is a saunter.  And since it is not a race, there is official start time.  Start when you want, start when you can.  Some started early and some got off to a late start.  It did not matter.  This is a low key, healthy, social event.  They actually have a late start up near 42nd Street if you just cannot make it downtown at 7:30 AM.

We started in the lower Eastside of Manhattan and went in a clockwise direction.  So it was not too long before we made out way through Battery Park and could see the Statue of Liberty.

Statue of Liberty
Making our way through Battery Park, some really nice parks, kids playing Little League baseball, this day turned out out to be a great day for the Saunter.

Battery Park, Lower Westside

Making our way up the Westside - just enjoying the the Saunter, the day, and New York City.

Mason & Jen with Freedom Tower in the background
Over 1,100 sauntering!
It was not super crowded at the start but on the Westside there were always plenty of other Saunterers around.  This is quite a contrast from the Eastside later in the day.

Ballerina on a Beam - a lot of  unique artwork on the Westside
Not sure what the bite out of the apple signifies?
George Washington Bridge ~ 5 miles ahead...

A lot of sharing pathways with cyclists, a lot pf people in NYC
Just a fun shot of FDNY - no fire...
Pleasant walk, things blooming...
Fishing in the Hudson River just south of the George Washington Bridge
Saunterers taking a break & stretching
The Little Red Light Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge
First hill :) at about mile 13
Manhattan just north of the George Washington Bridge

Almost at the half way point and a break for lunch.

Lunch break just around the corner at Inwood Hill Park

Part Two of the Great Saunter - Zig-zagging through Harlem

Part Three of the Great Saunter - Down the Eastside