Sunday, December 9, 2012

Race 30 One Epic Run - Trail Half Marathon

I did a half marathon distance in the "One Epic Run" event in Spartanburg, SC on Saturday.  This event was a 24 hour trail race that allowed participants to accumulate as many miles as they could during that time period.  Or, as advertised, you could do any distance you'd like.  Originally my plan was to make it a 50K.  But with my recent knee issue, I thought it would be more prudent to cut that distance down.  So I opted to do it as a half marathon.

Disclaimer:  The name of this race "One Epic Run" really does not describe what I did for this event.  The word epic extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope ) may describe what some participants did during the 24 hour race, but it really does not apply to what I did!

The day started out very early for me as I opted to drive up to Spartanburg (~170 miles) that morning instead of the night before.  If I do this race in the future, I think I would take them up on the offer to camp out the night before as the race sign up fee ($35) included a campsite :) at Croft State Park where the event took place.  

Croft State Park
The race had 98 people registered and that was pleasant in comparison to the Atlanta Half Marathon that I did a few weeks earlier with 10,000+ people!  This is definitely more my speed.  Upon arrival (with about 15 minutes to spare) I needed to find where we check in - was told camp site #11...

Race check-in at the trailer on camp site #11
So check in was a breeze.  With only a few minutes before the start, the race director hopped into the back of a pickup truck, gathered everyone and explained a bit about the course.  The trail was shaped like a lollipop and just over 3 miles.  The trail head was just on the back side of the trailer on camp site #11 and after each loop be sure the volunteer who is keeping track marks you down.  And we were off.

This was actually a non competitive race, sure there were personal competitions going on, but the RD opted to not have a leader board.

The course for the most part was not too technical - not many rocks, roots, or climbs.  It was pretty though:

The Bridges of Croft State Park

We had to cross over water a few times on the trail and I noticed the farther out we got, the more primitive the bridge:

Bridge #1
Bridge #2
Bridge #3  :)
I'm just glad we didn't have to go into the water!

Although my original intention was do make this a 50K (10 loops), because of this knee issue that is still not resolved, I did it as a half marathon (4 loops) instead.  I am glad I switched this.  The knee started tightening up towards the end of loop 3 and at the end of loop 4, it was hurting.  However, I think I would like to do this as a longer race/event in the future.  Maybe next year the knee will fine.

Oh yeah, in case you are not familiar with trail race aid stations (we had one aid station where we checked in after each loop) and it was stocked!!!

This was a fun race, I highly recommend it!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Race 29 - Atlanta Half Marathon

1400 Volunteers Needed:

For this 10,000+ person Thanksgiving Day event (Half Marathon, 5K, Mash Potato Mile, Gravy Gallop) they needed 1400 volunteers.  What caught me off guard on this, they actually got the 1400 volunteers before any of the races filled up so they shut down volunteer registration!  I just would not have expected that to happen.  I don't know for sure if this had any impact on this or not, but they gave each volunteer a fleece pullover for their volunteer shift.  And if you volunteered for two shifts, they gave you two.  Yep, I volunteered for two.  One of my 2012 goals was to volunteer five times.  Well up until this race, I only had three, so I needed two more.  So the fleece pullovers were a nice incentive.  

Shift 1:  2:00-6:00PM Wednesday at the Expo giving out shirts to the race participants.  I was assigned to the "Medium" table, the sizes were unisex.   Things went pretty smooth for the first few hours.  But that last hour brought a number of unhappy "customers".  You see, they ran out of of size "Small" and so they all came over to the "Medium" area instead.  Some, let me say most, took this in stride.  Even if they were upset that they did not get their shirt size, the fully realized that we were just volunteers and that we had nothing to do with whatever created this problem - they treated us appropriately.  However, for those who thought it was okay to dump on us, the volunteers, about this, I have one simple suggestion for you:  you need to be a volunteer.  

Shift 2:  5:30AM until the beginning of the race, "corraller" for start wave "E".  They allowed people who were doing the race to volunteer for this job on race day.  It was fun, basically just a little bit of crowd control for 7000-8000 people.

Back of the pack at the start of the race

The Race

I was a bit unsure of even doing this race after the knee "thing" 12 days before this at Soldier Marathon.  At that time I said there is no way I would do this race (I'd already paid for it months ago).  But between the knee brace, ice, rest, elevation, the x-ray coming back okay, and no pain at all in the last five days, I began to think, well maybe.  So on Sunday I did 5 miles.  It went fine, no pain, no issues, so I decided to go ahead and do this race as planned.  The only caveat, I'd wear the knee brace just in case the knee flared up again.

And we were off.  So many people, crazy crowded, but that is to be expected in any mega-race event.  

Heading for downtown and the State Capital
One of the things that they do as a by-product  from the race proceeds is to donate money to the 17 churches that are passed on the Half Marathon course for their feed the hungry programs during the holidays.  This year they donated $25,500 for this cause.  This is a good thing.  

The knee was feeling fine as we headed over the first bridge.  I suspect the knee brace altered my gait and that can cause other areas that don't usually hurt to complain a bit.  I started thinking about the knee bone is connected to thigh bone..., they all have to work together and when something is wrong, other parts will attempt to compensate.

The knee and the hip hurt a little bit during the race, more so towards the end, but nowhere as bad as at Soldier.  What ever I had/have still might need some time heal.  I know during this race I was super glad it was not a full marathon!  

I slowed down for this race and took in more of the sites along the way.  This was the fifth time doing this race, twice as a runner years ago, and third time since doing the walking.  As part of each participant's fees, all finishers get a medal:

I seem to recall years ago (2002, 2003) when I did the Atlanta Thanksgiving Day Half, they did not give out medals for the Half.  Something changed during that time, the prices went up and now finishers get medals  ;)

The other thing that I noticed, these races are getting bigger sponsors, sponsors not necessarily connected in any way to the sport.  Volkswagen was the official sponsor of this event, they provided pace cars, and had booths set up at the expo and at the finish line.  They were handing out gloves and reflective flashers with their logo and "Das Auto" on them:

Perfect for those early morning or night walks!

So, although I prefer the smaller low key races, there is something to be said for these larger mega race events - I was able to get a new pair of Brooks Ghost 4 running shoes at the Expo for $55, half price, a long sleeve technical shirt, two fleece pullovers, reflective flasher, and a free parking pass (this was the first year the venue (Turner Field where the Atlanta Braves play) charged $5 for parking).

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Race 28 - Soldier Marathon

The Day Before

It was a great Fall day, took a half day off work and Mary & I headed down towards the Ft. Benning/Columbus, Ga. area.  Besides the standard stuff (hotel check in, race packet pick up,...) our thoughts were on our grandsons participating in the Soldier Marathon Kids Marathon later that evening.  The Kids Marathon is a great way to get kids interested in exercise, racing, experiencing crossing the finish line, and having a medal put around their neck.

The kids race was to start at 5:30 and was a one mile run.  You see, each child actually started back in August where they would run many shorter distances, keeping track (well actually mom or dad did this) of each time until they reached either 25.2 miles (for the full Kids Marathon) or 12.1 miles (for the Kids Half Marathon).  This also taught setting a goal and working towards that goal.  Kudos to the folks at Soldier Marathon who came up with this idea.

Race Check In - Fallen Hero Program

As I made my way through race check in, I came across the the Fallen Hero table.  The Fallen Hero Program provides information on men/woman who have lost their life in service to our Country.  All participants have the opportunity do the race in honor of one of these Fallen Heroes.  As I read through the information my eyes began to tear.  So young, so brave.  I selected Marine Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Jeschke.  He was assigned to the 1st Marine Special Operations Battalion, Camp Pendleton, Calif.  He died on August 10, 2012 in Sangin district, Afghanistan, after being shot by an Afghan policeman.  

What hit me the most was the date he was killed.  My biggest concern around that time was trying to decide if I wanted to sign up for the half marathon or the full marathon.  I am guilty of not being aware of the sacrifices that are still being made by these brave men and women.

In honor of Marine Gunnery Sgt. Ryan Jeschke

Kids Marathon

My grandsons arrived and during their check in process they also had the opportunity to run their race in honor of a Fallen Hero.  The two soldiers they selected were Army Sgt. Robert J. Billings and Army Sgt. 1st Class Ryan J. Savard.  Both of these men died in service to our country on October 13, 2012, less than a month ago.  Each of my grandsons had these soldier's names pinned on their backs.

The kids one mile run began and they took off.  These kids were flying by!

JB in the blue shirt!

It was a good race and each participant received their race medal and finisher coin as they crossed over the finish line.

First race!

Race Day

My daughter joined me for this race so we met up at the National Infantry Museum at about 6:00 AM.  This was nice as they opened it up for us prior to the race.  The temperature outside was in the mid 40s so quite a few of us went in where it was warm!  Weather wise, there was to be a huge temperature change this day, even though the day started out with a nice, Fall, crisp, cool morning, by the end of the race (for me), it was going to be in the 70s!  Jen was doing the half and even though her pace is much faster than mine, she made her way with me towards the back of the pack.  As we were getting ready for the start we ran into Mellody "Smiling Walker" from the Walking Site.  We chatted with her for a bit, she was doing her 45th marathon/ultra this day!

At the start with The National Infantry Museum in the background
We were off.  My goal for this race, being at the tail end of a cold, was simply to finish.  They had a 7 hour time limit, so I was not too concerned with being able to to this.  When it's cold like it was, I usually run the first mile or so just to warm up.  At the one mile mark, felt good, switched to a walk/run routine.  Mile two, still felt good, enjoying the course.  We were on Fort Benning at this point and we came to the first hill.  They actually had Army Drill Instructors on that hill, barking out commands and various other motivational "things" to us!  

We were on Fort Benning for about 6 miles.  The Fort Benning portion was my favorite part of the course.  After we headed to the River Walk were we would do an out and back to complete the marathon.  

At the half way point, I was still feeling pretty good, had a pace of just over 13 minute miles, which for me is a good pace.  But somewhere around mile 15, something happened.  I don't recall any specific point where anything happened but my left knee really started hurting.  Every step I took, it hurt.  Well this impacted pace.  The race website had the following information on all the racers:

My pace by mile 20 was a lot slower than I do my long slow distances in preparation for the marathon.  So by this point, all I wanted to do was finish.  I came really close to flagging down one of the race official golf carts - each time they happened to go by.  I've never had a DNF (did not finish) and for some reason I did not want this to be my first.  I was never so glad to be done with a race!  Still not sure what I did to my knee, it's not swollen but I am stilling limping around the day after.  I'll give it a few days and see what happens.  Oh well, just glad I got to finish race number 28.

They put on a highly organized, good race!  Highly recommend.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Race 27 - Battle at Big Creek

Their website said "rolling hills, climbs, single track, double track, roots, rocks (did we say rocks)".  Should have paid more attention to that "did we say rocks" part:

did we say rocks?
So with the marathon a week away, I needed to get 10 miles in today and months ago when I put this schedule together, this 10 mile trail race made so much sense.  Right...  It was a 5 mile course that we did twice.  Paranoia was actually setting in, the fear of twisting an ankle or worse and only a week away from the marathon, I was debating not doing the second loop.

The race started out on the concrete path for a half mile or so.  This allowed natural spacing to take place.  At first, after hitting the trail, it was still a little bit crowded, folks jockeying for position.  But that did not last too long.  For the majority of the race there was plenty of room and that was good because passing with the rocks/roots was not easy.

It was at about mile 3 where I saw a woman trip, fall, go down face first.  Not good.  She could not stand up.  There were a few others around, ended up noting the mileage at that point and getting to the next aid station so they could send someone up.  On my second loop, asked the volunteer at the aid station about her.  He wasn't sure which person I was asking about because there were a bunch he said.

To be fair though, the entire course was not as rocky as the picture above, it was a pretty nice trail and the perfect time of year to be on it.

The two things that I enjoyed the most about this trail, it was only about 20 minutes away and there was a lot of shade on the course.  What I did not enjoy, and this does conflict with one of the things I did like and you can't have it both ways, it was an urban trail.  Cars/traffic could be heard the entire time as we were close to roads.  But it was sure nice with only a 20 minute drive!

I'm glad I did this trail.  I did learn to pay more attention to detail about the course when doing things like this a week before a marathon.  : )

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Race 26 - AthHalf

Had a really good workout this morning, did the AthHalf (Athens Half Marathon).  The course started in downtown Athens and finished on campus of the University of Georgia.  

One again up at a crazy early hour for the 55 mile drive to Athens.  Found parking easily in the County Courthouse Parking Garage - free on Sunday mornings - that was good.  Temperature was in the upper 40s as folks started gathering for the 7:30 AM start, about 15 minutes before sun up.

Downtown Athens, GA just before AthHalf start

We got started on time and that was good for me as the battery in my Garmin died and a 7:30 start vs. a 7:37 start was a lot easier.  This of course meant I would have to estimate pace and such the old fashion way, doing the math in my head.  All I can say about that is, the earlier miles, no problem.  The later miles, it's like the brain was stealing energy from the body to do these calculations - and they body was not willing to give it up!  (note to self - replace battery this week)

The cap was 3000 for the race and I think they reached it or at least came really close.  As usual after the first mile or so, things were pretty much sorted out as people were in their pace by then.  From downtown we headed into various off campus locations.  A few miles in we were in an area with the sorority and fraternity houses.  Check out the photos below, notice anything?

sign says - Parents Weekend
furniture & beer bottles on the front lawn :)
College towns!  So which one would you join?

My daughter is a UGA alum and the course today brought back memories of her time here.  Of course 100% of the time in those memories, I was driving these roads.  But once again, from doing the races, you never really know a place until you walk (or run) it.  You see so much that you never see from a car.  It's fun.

Although there were some nice downhill stretches, I seem to recall going up hill more than down,  especially towards the end.  The last 4 miles were on the UGA campus and it was my favorite part of the course because there is so much to see.  I think the university has 30,000+ students so the campus is huge.

The end of the course was the best.  As advertised, we would finish by taking a lap around the hedges in Sanford Stadium where the Bulldogs play.  As I entered the stadium, I noticed the letters "G.A.T.A." overhead:


I believe this is where the Georgia Bulldogs are prior to going out on to the football field for a game, the G.A.T.A is an acronym for "Get After Them Aggressively" or the more PG-13 version "Get After Their Asses".

It was fun going around the field.  They even put us up on the Jumbotron:

Me on the Jumbotron...
I still do not know what my time is, guesstimate in the 2:45 range.  It was a really good workout and I did have fun!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Race 25 - Duluth Fall Festival 5K

Today's race was a 5K (3.1 miles), the Duluth Fall Festival 5K.  This was the 6th time doing this race for me, four times as a runner years ago and twice now as more of a walker/jogger.  However, this race will be the one I remember the most as it was my grandson's first race!  

2012 Duluth Fall Festival 5K
This race was a family affair with a bunch of us doing it. 

I think about 500-600 people signed up for the race.  With the festival going on it was a nice atmosphere.  It was nice seeing folks who I have not seen in awhile - just a nice, fun time!  And of course having family there at the same time just really added to it.  

They grouped us together behind the start line and at 8:00 we were off.  This was a road race and traffic control was handled by the local police department and they did a great job.  The first mile or so was downhill.  But unfortunately, that meant the end of the race was going to be uphill.  Dan and Raney took off ahead of us and I watched the back of Daniel's head (Atlanta Braves hat on backwards) disappear into the crowd.  For the first mile or so, I was with Jen and JB.  A few hundred yards beyond the first mile I told Jen that I was going to run ahead and get set up to take a few pictures of them as the went by.

So there I was, on sidewalk, squatting down to take this pic, and all of a sudden I get this huge pain in butt - BEES!!!  Now this is not the first time this has happened, a few months back during the  Rope Mill Trail Race I was stung multiple times.  This time I was stung four times.  I am beginning to think it is me.  As I sit here and write this, these suckers hurt.  However, super thankful I am not allergic.  

Anyway, moving on  in the race, once again I went ahead to get a few more pics.  However, I refused to go on the sidewalk at this point!  So a different angle for this pic:

And as expected, mile three was pretty much all uphill :(  All of us finished the race and had a good time doing it, well except for me and the bee stings...

Afterwards, waters, bananas, apples, cookies,...  a nice post race spread.  We hung out awhile as they announced the age bracket winners and such.  Again, with the festival going on, it was just a nice atmosphere!  We did manage to get a few more pics (of course) with various poses - this one below was the best silly pose:

goofing around after the race...
I am a lucky Grandpa!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Race 24 Race for the Fallen Half Marathon

Now I do not know if this is cause/effect, luck, both, neither, but for the first in the two years since I started  walking/jogging/hiking, I have not had a cold  - until last weekend.  It was one of the those with flu like symptoms - it couched me for a few days and I did not get out and exercise for three days.  Again, it's been two years since the last one!  Lucky I guess...  Anyway, through the week I was back and forth on doing this  race (that I had already signed up for) or not.  I decided to do it.

This morning I did the Race for the Fallen Half Marathon at Red Top Mountain.  It is a trail race that benefits the Police Benevolent Foundation.

So I was up pretty early for the 50 mile trip to Red Top Mountain State Park.  Luckily traffic at 5:30 AM Saturday in the Atlanta area is not too bad.  It is a huge park and it is way off the beaten path.  I actually enjoyed the peacefulness of the park after checking in, it was still dark and for the most part all I heard was crickets.  It was nice.

It was a small race, probably less than 200 people so all the logistics were pretty simple and easy.  We all gathered as the sun was rising over the trees and we were off!

This was a trail race.  We had all kinds of surfaces: started on the road for a mile or so and once in the woods, dirt, roots, gravel, and hills.  There were plenty of hills to make this a challenging course.  For the most part, woods are woods.  And within a certain geographic  area in the country, they all look pretty much the same when you are in them.  

As the race progressed, I could tell more and more that I was still not 100% since getting the cold.  It was just harder.  They had 5-6 aid stations with water gatorade, orange slices, and bananas.  A few of them were out of gatorade by the time I go to them but that is pretty typical for smaller races especially for back of the pack folks.

I did a little research about the the name of this park "Red Top Mountain", the "red" comes from the iron ore content.  At one point during the race, we were going around a lake and I noticed the "red" across the lake - I guess that is what they meant?

Also, I did come across a very unique tree.  I have never seen this on a tree before so I thought it was worth a picture.

The only odd thing that happened during this race was the mile markers they had out on the course.  I recalled at mile 1 and mile 2, my Garmin was spot on.  I don't think I checked every mile after that but at mile marker 6, my Garmin had 6.75 miles.  Hmmm...  And then at mile marker 7, Garmin had 7.8 miles.  This actually plays mind games on you when this happens on the course.  Which is right?  Is my Garmin broken?  Then, somebody had a whoops when laying the course and mile marker 10 was before mile marker 9 (they swapped them).  By that point I had no clue what was what.  However, in the end, when I crossed the finish line, my Garmin read right around 13 miles :)  I guess the lesson here is to not trust mile markers!