Sunday, January 29, 2012

Race 13 Callaway Gardens Half Marathon

The Day Before

Since the Callaway Half was on Sunday, we decided to head down on Saturday to visit FDR’s Little White House in Warms Springs, Georgia.  It was only a few miles away from Callaway.  Not only did we see the museum, watch a film, walk the grounds, we also got to go inside the Little White House.  I learned a lot from this visit. 

This is the portrait that was being painted when FDR had his stroke. 

After leaving there we drove through FDR State Park.  It’s about 9,000 acres with more than 40 miles of trails – must come back and hike this someday!

Hotel Check In

Callaway Gardens is about 13,000 acres and they have multiple places to stay – and they are not close to each other.  I was na├»ve about being able to find our place once we arrived on the grounds.  It took 10-15 (and that was with directions) miles to finally get to our place.  In checking in I had to sign this document acknowledging rate, check out day,…  pretty standard stuff.  However, I notice this little blurb at the bottom:  Fees if you are late checking out:  15 minutes late - $75.00, 30 minutes late - $100.00…  What!?  So I ask for a late checkout, hoping to come back to the room and shower after the half.  The guy tells me he can’t do that because he does not know their schedule in the morning.  Um, okay, how do I go about requesting a late checkout?  Told me "call in the morning and they’ll be able to tell me".  I told him, “I’ll be up really early, like 4:30 AM”.  He said "no problem, just give them a call".  Hmmm, okay.

Also, although their website advertised that you can get the "Fitness Series" room rate, it was exactly the same rate that anyone could get online.  Hmmm...

Pasta Dinner

We were underwhelmed with the local dining options in Pine Mountain, so we just decided to have the pasta dinner on the grounds at Callaway.  I had received a one line email a few days earlier from them, it simply said:

Callaway Gardens will host a pasta dinner Saturday evening at the Mountain Creek Inn.  Pay at the door

Little did we know that we would enjoy this incredibly under-planned, no one seems to have a clue, what else could go wrong,… pasta dinner!  Honest, the comedy value of what we witnessed was great.  It almost like what a pasta bar might be if it was planned by the Three Stooges, George Costanza, and Kramer!   They could not do anything right.  I do not know if they just did not plan properly, if they did not schedule enough people, if they’ve never done this before,…  People were leaving left & right, they would have everything on the pasta bar except plates, someone would bring it to their attention, they’d smile and say, "they’re bringing plates out right now".  But they didn’t.  So folks who already had plates (prior servings) would come up to the line and get more pasta.  By the time the plates got put out, the pasta was gone for the people who were waiting for plates!  And it would be 15-20 minutes for more pasta to come out – and then something else, like sauce would be out.  This went on for an hour and a half!  We were beginning to think that this was for the TV show Punk’d or something like it.  Don’t get me wrong – the staff folks were great – polite, respectful – this was not their fault.  My wife and I both agreed watching this happen was funnier than anything we could have watched on the TV back in the room!

Morning of the Race

Woke up around 4:00 AM to a super clear sky and 33 degrees.  Made coffee in the room, ate my race day morning bagel and decided take advantage of the Pine Mountain (very little light pollution) clear sky.  The other day I posted about the Star Walk app – and I did have my iPad with me.  It was fantastic!  Located Mars and saw & identified all the stars in the Big Dipper.  Although at 33 degrees, did not stay outside too long doing this.  But it was a good clear sky. 

So it’s about 5:00 AM by this point, so instead of calling down to the front desk about that late checkout, I just decided to walk over.  The woman at the front desk tells me, “oh I can’t do that for you, I’m from the night shift, you have to wait to 7:00 when the morning shift comes in”.   I told her that the guy at check-in said this would be no problem at 4:30 AM for you to do this.  So now I’m thinking, after the Three Stooges, George Costanza, and Kramer designed the Pasta Bar, they must have moved on to develop the "Avoid giving the customer a late checkout" procedure!  

The Race

They had the start set up right next to this very large tent structure where we picked up our bib, ankle bracelet, shirt the day before.  It was warmer inside than the 33 degrees outside, so most folks made their way into the tent.  It was nice in there.  Some guy, probably the RD, started making some announcements inside the tent.  The one that got my attention – “Callaway does not allow portalets on the property”.  Their instructions went on to tells that we will be passing some buildings while going through  the 13,000 acres, and it is possible that they might have a bathroom in it.  They will not be marked .  So, pretty much we have to search around and/or look inside buildings to see if there might be a bathroom.  The absolute first thought that came into my head – after the Three Stooges, George Costanza, and Kramer designed the other two things mentioned earlier, they designed the porta-potty strategy for the races!!!

And we were off!  My guess, there were maybe 400-500 people doing the race.  So except for the very beginning, it was never crowded.   Oh yeah, I did find one of those bathrooms the guy mentioned, but when I got to the door, it had a note on it:

As far as the actual course, it was a magnificently beautiful!  For me, it had the perfect amount of rolling hills.  I am glad I had the opportunity to do this half marathon. 

The Medal

I was just looking at the medal we got after finishing the race.  I noticed that it was peeling a little bit, so I peeled it back a bit more.  These are recycled medals.  Wow – is it ever cheap!  I guess after the Three Stooges, George Costanza, and Kramer designed all of those other things, they worked on the race medals.  My medal had four round stick-on stickers on it: 

click to enlarge

1st layer:  Callaway Gardens 5K  3rd Place   Age Group Winner
2nd layer:  Carrollton Triathlon  3rd Place  Age Group Winner
3rd layer:  Callaway Gardens Sprint Triathlon 3rd Place Age Group Winner
4th layer:  Callaway Gardens Half-Marathon  

Garmin Stats:

Average Heart Rate: 132, 80% of max for ~3 hours
Average Speed:  4.6 mph;  Pace: 13:07
Time: 2:52

Edit 2/7/2012:  For another perspective on this race, you can also read Drew's race report over on

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Follow up - Museum of Aviation Marathon

A quick follow up from the Museum of Aviation Marathon I did last Saturday.  After the race I had to quickly make my way back over to the hangar where we picked up our race bibs earlier.  Each of us had to give our drivers license to them before we got our bib.  This is how they managed to make sure all of us civilians actually left Robins Air Force Base that day.   The awards ceremony had already ended, they were putting things away, guys were sweeping the floor…  I got my license back and I was starving.  They always have a wide arrangement of food for after the race, but as it was a 6 hour time limit and me finishing in 5:56, well there wasn’t much left.  Basically it was a box with slices of bread in it.  So I grabbed a few slices of bread and we were heading for the door.  A man approached us and asked if he could ask us a few questions about the race.  He was pretty funny, told me he knew that I was really hungry and that it was okay to continue chewing while answering his questions! 

Well come to find out, this man’s name is Michael Pannell and he is a reporter for the paper in Macon: 

: )

Thank you Michael!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Race #12 - Museum of Aviation Marathon

Museum of Aviation Foundation Marathon - January 14, 2012

I was thinking about this during miles 22-26: if anyone tells you doing a marathon does not hurt – they are lying - plain and simple, that would be a flat out lie.  I do not think it matters how you get your body to move 26.2 miles – whether it is a fast ‘Kenyan guy’ sprint (which I am sure would hurt much more), a fast run, a slow run, a jog, a walk, or any combination of those methods – it hurts.   With that being said, I really enjoyed this marathon!  I cannot explain this contradiction.  

The course was on Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. Being an ex-Air Force guy, just being on base brought back so many great memories.  Although I landed there 20-30 times while serving, I never got out of the aircraft.  So having the opportunity to actually set foot on the base was fun.  The course included going around the flight line/runway - twice.  It was a pretty cool course and a very flat course. 

Another aspect of this race that made it special, my daughter signed up to do the 5K that day.  Having her with me was so good!  She is currently training to do her first half marathon in March; we will be at that race together again for her first half.  She had a great race and got a PR of 28:36, placing 6th out of 44 in her age group!

We were told we had to wear our race bibs sideways because they put the disposable chips on the wrong way on the back side :)

Also, with the temperature outside around 30 degrees, it was a pleasant treat as they opened the museum hangar (which was heated!) for pre-race activities. 

Nice, warm hangar before the race!

The marathon had a 6 hour time limit.  This was only my 2nd marathon and my time in the first one was 5:56.  My goal was to respect their time limit and this thought was in the back of my head the entire race.  My race plan was to jog the first mile.  This accomplished two things – warmed me up quicker and provided a really good first mile time (which is a good cushion for meeting a time goal because it is impossible to make time up at the end of the race).  After that I’d switch to jog 2 minutes, walk 3 minutes and repeat that as many times as my body allowed me.

Somewhere around mile 5-6 I heard someone calling out my name – it was Marsha (from the walkers discussion forum we belong to).  She said she recognized me from the brimmed hat I wear (I always wear this UPF 50 brim hat for sun protection).  This was Marsha’s 105th marathon!   She writes about her races on her blog - bookladywalker (link is on sidebar).  We walked quite a few miles together.  Around mile 21 we saw something that you do not usually see out on a marathon course – a guy with a chicken mask, cheering everybody on!  

Marsha (bookladywalker) and the chicken head man around mile 21

About 1,500 people signed up for this 26.2/13.1/5k event with ~175 doing the full marathon.   Except for the very beginning, it was never crowded.   Being a double loop course, that 2nd loop, back of the pack, did not have too many people.  There were times towards the end when I could not see anyone ahead of me or behind me. 

They had water/powerade every two miles.  On the 2nd loop for the full marathoners, they added orange quarters (loved these during the race!!!), bananas, and pickles (yes – pickles).   This next part and picture is not a complaint, it is just a description of what it is like to be a back of the pack type person at these distance races - just in case you ever find yourself in this situation – you’ll know what to expect : )   Early in the race, aid stations have volunteers handing out water, Powerade, and such - they are always very encouraging.  They are greatly appreciated for this!  However, during these smaller races when it gets thinned out at the end, the volunteers get relieved (and I am in total agreement with this) and this is what the aid stations tend to look like:

Aid stations towards the end of the race

The end of race was very special for me – my daughter, wife, son-in-law, and grandsons were there to see me finish.  For me – this was awesome!  My time for this marathon was 5:56:33.  So both of my marathons were completed in 5:56!  

Garmin stats: 
Average heart rate: 138, 84% of max (for 6 hours)
Calories spent: 2283
Average speed: 4.5 mph, pace 13:37
Steps: 107,316

Edit:  Made the newspaper after this race.