Thursday, March 26, 2015

Number 53 - 2015 Georgia Half Marathon

This past Sunday for race number 53 I did the Georgia Half Marathon.  For me, except for getting soaking wet from the rain during the race, it was pretty much uneventful.  This was the fourth or fifth time doing this race, so there was really nothing new about the course.  I'm glad I did the race, glad I took advantage of the discount price of ~$47 (paid a very long time ago) compared to what they were charging during normal signup for the half $85/$105/$120.  But to me, there is just really nothing significant about completing number 53.

However, I do know of two people out of the 7000+ people who did either the full or half marathon on this rainy, soggy Sunday morning, whose race was very significant - Antonio and Marsha.  You see for Antonio, this was his first marathon and for Marsha, it was her 200th marathon.  For them, this race was very significant.

Antonio's First

It's a small world.  In my previous post I wrote about getting a special pizza in celebration of our 39th wedding anniversary from Gordo's Pizza.  Well it was Antonio who made it!  When I was there getting the pizza I found out Antonio was doing the Georgia Marathon for his first full marathon.   Marathons are hard and when I hear of someone doing one for the first time, it gets my attention.

So in between Antonio making pizzas, we talked about the race and his prep for it.  I could tell he was ready and he was psyched for it!

Although it was still dark and raining our paths crossed in Centennial Olympic Park before the race started and I wished him good luck.

Congratulation Marathon Man Antonio!

Marsha's 200th

I first met Marsha when I did my first marathon - 2011 Soldier Marathon.  She is also a walker and as it typically goes with walkers, we're back of the pack type folks.   That was her 99th marathon.  Well get ready to do the math, this race, the 2015 Georgia Marathon, was her 200th marathon!   Incredible!

I had no idea that Marsha was doing the Georgia Marathon for her 200th.  But having a similar pace, I thought I saw her just ahead of me around mile 7 where the half marathon splits off from the full.  I actually had to speed up to see if it was her - it was.  I shouted out her name and wished her luck.

The picture above is actually from a different race where we crossed paths.  Marsha blogs about her races on bookladywalker.  I also saw a comment she made on FB regarding this mile marker "At least number 200 is in the record book - now on to that 300 mark"!

One other thing, yes she does have much more time to do these races now that she is retired, but did I tell you - she didn't start doing marathon walking until the age of 59!

Congratulations Marsha and good luck with the next 100!!!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

39 Years

It was 39 years ago yesterday that Mary and said "I do".  Holy cow!  Where did the time go?  Honestly it seems like maybe 10-12 years ago.

Anniversaries are different at this stage.  The celebratory aspect is nothing like it was on the first, fifth, tenth anniversary.   I wanted to do something, something different but struggled with what.  And then it hit me - one of the things we use to do back in our dating days to celebrate something was to simply get a garbage pie from Umberto's (amazing! they are still in business) and a couple of root beers.  So although we did go out last Sunday for a joint birthday/anniversary dinner, last night we celebrated with a garbage pie and some root beers!

Unfortunately Umberto's is about 500 miles away so instead we got our garbage pie from a local pizzeria - Gordos Pizza.   It was really good!

Really, it couldn't be more than 10-12 years ago!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Re-Purpose That Old Cabinet Door

About two years ago I did a home improvement DIY project - a butcher block kitchen island.  Well, like with most projects there are always parts and pieces leftover.  The pack rat in me could not throw them away.

Glad I did not throw this stuff away, came up with an idea for what to do with the leftover cabinet door and drawer.

A coat rack with re-purposed railroad spikes and a little artwork.

About 99% of the materials used for this were re-purposed.  As always my projects seem to take much more effort & time than first anticipated and this one was no different.  If you're curious, here are the steps:

Step 1:   Sanding the old door and drawer front.  Since I wanted to paint it the surface had to be sanded.  Luckily I had a belt sander and a hand sander - what a difference they made.

Step 2:  Cut all the pieces of wood needed to glue to backside square of the door.  The was by far the hardest part of the project.  I did not purchase any new wood for this, all wood was in my garage leftover from previous projects.  The idea was to have different lengths and heights and to paint them various colors.  A total of 41 pieces of wood were used.  It was a lot of cutting.

Step 3:  Paint the cabinet door and drawer black.  I had to remove all of the pieces of wood for this step.  I did number the back of each piece as it was getting to be like a jigsaw puzzle and it would have been really hard to put everything back together exactly as it was.

Step 4:  Paint the 41 pieces of wood.  I had a hard time determining what colors to use - how many, bright, gloss, matte,...  I don't have much experience with this.  Ended up buying 19 different colors at Michael's and basically gave up on deciding and used all of them.  This part took a bit longer than anticipated also as each piece had to be painted twice and a few of them three times.

Step 5:  The railroad spikes.  I had some old railroad spikes in the garage, don't even remember how or when they got there but they seemed like a good re-purpose thing.  So I decided to use them for coat hangers.  After getting all the rust off of them, there was another challenge - cutting & securing to the wood - how would I do this?  Ended up cutting them with a hack saw, drilling a hole in it, tapping it to make threads, and get screws to match the threads.  Luckily this all worked.

Step 6:  Putting everything together and gluing the 41 pieces of wood.

Already decided - we're not keeping this (in the mode of getting rid of stuff in the house, not adding to it : )  Who knows, maybe I'll open an Etsy shop as I have more ideas for the rest of the kitchen island leftovers.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Frustration with 100 Race Goal

Back in 2011 I made the goal of walking 10,000 miles and completing 100 races.  Until recently things more or less kept on track with 52 races completed and 5403 miles walked.  The majority of those races, 33, were half marathons.  That is my favorite distance race.  But I've noticed a sharp, steady decline of half marathons on my calendar.  The reason - price.

The price for half marathons, and I'm sure this applies to full marathons, has skyrocketed over the last year or so.

Here's my theory on all of this, it's just a theory.  Races, such as these, have become commodities that are bought and sold as products by for-profit companies.  And with any product in a business, pricing strategies are developed to increase the bottom line - profit.  Somebody, somewhere is making decisions regarding how much they think people will pay for their product.

Granted, there are expenses to put on a race.  But with these prices they are not just concerned with covering those expenses, they are concerned with profit.

There are still some half marathons that are reasonably priced and I will search those out.  Maybe I'll switch to doing more 5K races as they tend to be not for profit and in many cases, support a charitable cause.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Number 52 - Atlanta Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon

Windy.  W I N D Y and cold, hovered around 40 degrees for the entire race with winds 10-20 MPH maybe more at times.

For race #52, did the 2014 Atlanta Half Marathon Thanksgiving morning.  What was so very special about this race, my new daughter-in-law, Raney, did it with me and it was her first half marathon!

Raney & me before the race

Up crazy early that morning as I volunteered to help out with crowd control which meant arriving 5:15ish in the Green Lot at Turner Field (Atlanta Brave stadium).  I was a coraller (actually not sure if that is a word) for Wave "E".  With so many doing the race, think just under 8,000 signed up, they needed folks to "coral" them into groups/waves as they would start corrals one at a time.

The best part about getting there at that time - no traffic and plenty of parking spaces.  The other nice things about helping out, they gave volunteers a full length zipper fleece (thanks Atlanta Track Club!) and, this was the best part, they had Krispy Kreme donuts & coffee!  Yes I indulged.

I am always amazed at all of these folks who volunteer to help out with the race.  They needed and got 1500 people to volunteer for this race.  My volunteer job was one of the few that you could help out and do the race so it was no big deal for me to get there a bit earlier.  But I am very appreciative of all the others who were willing to come out on this cold, windy morning and help out.

Because I was also doing the race, the team leader assigned me to the front of the corral to be a rope holder.  Yes we actually controlled, corralled, people with ropes.  Although the race actually started at 7:30 with Corral "A", we in Corral "E" were slated for a 7:50 start.  So we made our way behind Corral "D" keeping our distance.

So at 7:50 we were off.  It was great to get moving to generate body heat.  From the starting line for about a mile or so, top layer clothes were thrown over the fences.  One of the things that this race did not have was gear check.  It is not uncommon for races to have gear check so the participants can "check" their top layer and such (for trying to stay warm before the start of the race) and then retrieve it after the race.  Instead this year the Atlanta Track Club was holding a clothing drive so people could discard their additional clothing and the ATC would collect, wash and donate to local shelters.  I liked this idea.

After standing around in the cold for 2+ hours it really did feel good to get moving.  It wasn't too long into mile 1 when I felt a tap on my shoulder.  It was Raney and that was the last I saw of her for the race.

This was my 5th year in a row doing this race since they changed the course.  I do enjoy the course, it's a great way to actually see the City of Atlanta.

As usual with a half marathon, at least for me, miles 1-8 are not so bad, even in cold windy weather.  But once I hit mile 8, mile 9, my attitude about doing the race really changes and not for the good.  It is no longer fun.  It is no longer enjoyable.  It hurts.  I want to stop moving.  I just want it to be over.  Of course the best thing to think about in a race, when it really starts to hurt, especially on Thanksgiving morning is: mash potatoes & gravy, turkey, stuffing, pie,...  Oh I thought about these a lot during those last 4 miles.  That was my real prize and I couldn't wait to get it!

One of the other things I thought about during that last 4 miles, this was my 60th Thanksgiving celebration.  That's a lot of Thanksgiving memories.  That made me feel lucky.  Sometime things just sort of happen, not sure why.  Take a look at what I saw right around the time when I realized this was my 60th Thanksgiving:

Senior Zone
Really?  I guess I'm in the Senior Zone now?  Gee, I wonder if others could see the sign  :)

I was really happy to cross over that finish line, really happy.  Each received a finisher's medal, a top layer (to help keep warm during cool down), water, Powerade, and a box of goodies to eat.  Shortly thereafter Dan & Raney found me.  I was anxious to hear from Raney.  She did great.  She completed her first half marathon!

Post race with Raney donning our finisher medals and freezing!
Oh yeah, later that day, the turkey, mash potatoes, gravy, stuffing,... were fantastic!

Number 51 - Purplestride 5K, for Dad

Got a text from my son Daniel a few days before the race "Interested in doing a 5K in Atlanta on Saturday".  It was late in the evening, well for me anyway, told him to send me the link and I'd check it out in  the morning.

Little did I know the link  would take me down a road with so many thoughts about my Dad.  The Atlanta PurpleStride 5K was a fundraising race hosted by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network which is a network of people dedicated to working together to advance research, support patients and create hope for those affected by pancreatic cancer.  You see,  in 2007 my Dad died, he had pancreatic cancer.

What a great cause.

We gathered early on a cold Saturday morning in Centennial Olympic Park to a sea of purple  ~ PurpleStride 5K ~  11/15/2014.

Daniel listening to the PCAN speakers

Pancreatic cancer is such a tough disease.  The stats on it are scary.  We heard from survivors and from relatives of those who were taken by pancreatic cancer.  The emcee was Carol Sbarge, a local WSB-TV News Anchor.  She told a personal story how her father lost his battle with pancreatic cancer and her mother from another type of cancer all within a year just as they were getting very close to retirement.  It's just sad.  It's unfair.  Her words really hit pretty hard.  We just never really know what is going to happen, or when.

Again, this race and fundraising was a way to fight back at this disease.

The 5K was a low key event much more about fighting the disease than about racing.  We started near Centennial Olympic Park and made our way north near Georgia Tech.  We could tell there was a big game that day (vs. Clemson I think) as many were already tailgating as we made our way through the area.

It was a good race.  For me, I did something in this race that I had not done in a long time, I mixed in some running with my walking.  It's been two years since hurting my knee and giving up running.  It felt good to run again.  I had no negative effects with the knee afterwards.  Who knows, maybe I'll do more of these 5Ks and interject some running.  We'll see.

This was a good cause.  At last count the amount raised from this event -  $303,828.  That's great!

Afterwards, Daniel, Raney, and I headed over to Goldberg's Bagel for a little post race celebration breakfast.  Great bagels there.  Daniel mentioned something about possibly making this an annual event in memory of his Grandpa, my Dad.

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.