Saturday, February 25, 2012

Race 15 Thrill in the Hills Half Marathon

After a lot of back and forth on should I do the full marathon (26.2 miles) or do the half marathon (13.1 miles), I finally decided to do the half at Fort Yargo State Park today.  The race is known as "Thrill in the Hills" and it is put on by a company called Dirty Spokes.  Side note - if you ever happen to have the opportunity to participate in a race put on by these guys - do it!  They are great at doing these races.  

Anyway, I had originally signed up for the full.  But about a month ago, I noticed that they were doing a split start.  The full marathon was to start at 8:00 AM and the half at 8:30.  So as I am a back of the pack person (meaning slow), that meant if I did the full, I would be passed on the trail by many of the half marathoners.  I calculated that I would be passed by more than 300 runners during miles 4 through 7.  And this would have been mostly on a single path in the woods!  

The morning of the race I was up early, 4:30ish, eating my race morning PBJ sandwich and coffee.  Checked the weather one more time, figured out what to wear, dressed and headed out the door.  Fort Yargo is only about a 30 minute drive.  Arrived there as the sun was rising.

Enjoyed the serenity of the sunrise for a bit and then headed over to picnic shelter #5 for race packet pickup.

What a great day for a race in the woods!  It was a bit chilly at 38 degrees, but once you get moving on the course, it's pretty nice!    Folks started gathering for the start and shortly after that we were on our way.

After a half mile or so on the road (for thinning out) we hit the trail in the woods.  My guess, there were about 400 doing the half marathon.  By the time I got to the woods we were single file queued but it didn't take too long to get going on the trail.

Given a choice of road race or trail race - for me, trail race!  It's just so great being out in the woods.

By about mile 2, spacing was pretty good.  From that point on, it was never crowded.  And actually at times I could not see anyone in front or behind me.

Once again, 13.1 miles in the woods - there is potential to get off course (lost).  The race director had a link on their website for turn-by-turn directions for the entire course so I printed it out and put a copy in with my race day gear.  You know, this only helps if you actually bring the directions on the course - which I did not!  :)  This was not a big deal though, they had enough yellow squares marked on trees on the trail.  So there were only a few short periods of time when I thought I might be off trail - but I never was.

A few people passed me early on in the race and a few was no big deal.  But as I went on through miles 4, 5, 6, and 7, I was pleased with my decision to switch to the half.  It would have been crazy having 300 or so people pass me during that time.  :)

On the course they had great volunteers at miles 3.4, 6.2, and 10 with plenty of water/gatorade.   Although they did have actual porta-potties at the race check in, while on the course they had thousands of virtual porta-potties, aka trees :) you just have to remember to bring your own TP!

This is the 2nd year in a row for me doing this half marathon.  Last year I finished in 3:07, this year I finished in 2:54.  I guess I am in better shape this year?  Hopefully I can do it again next year and see what happens.

Post race they had pizza, bananas, gatorade, and water.  The pizza was great!

Garmin Stats:

Time: 2:54
Average Heart Rate: 139, 85% of max
Calories Spent: 1244
Distance: 13.1 miles

Steps: 51,100

About Fort Yargo:

After the race, on the way out I stopped and took these pictures.

Preserved from 1793

Also, as a tie in to retirement, met some folks there who are from New York (retired) and stay at Fort Yargo (and work there for free rent) each winter.  This is another line of thought that will be fun thinking about during long walks.  

The possibilities...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Appalachian Trail - Woody Gap to Gooch Gap

Last month I joined the ‘Walking Club of Georgia’.  One of the things that attracted me to this group was that they are hiking the 80 mile Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail.  Each month they do a different part of the trail.  I am a bit late to this as they started this series last November (I’ll have to figure out how to make those up…).  Last month’s hike was canceled because of thunder & lightning storms so the schedule is a bit off.  Today’s hike was also somewhat of an anomaly as it was an out and back from Woody Gap to Gooch Gap and back to WoodyGap.   None of this mattered to me because I was simply excited to be out on the Appalachian Trail! 

We met up at the REI store at 8:00 AM and carpooled up to the trail head for Woody Gap, about a 65 mile drive.  Including me there was a total of six of us doing hike.  There was a threat of rain later in the day but when we arrived at the trail head, the weather was perfect.

We were at about a 3150 foot elevation here and with the 'Woody Gap' sign to our back looking to the west, this was our vista!

We geared up and headed out towards Gooch Gap.  

The terrain was very rocky and it was good that we all had walking poles or stick.  You definitely needed that extra support going up and down on the trail.  We went for a ways and eventually found a clearing for a quick break.

During our hike we came across quite a few other hikers (~20).  It was great talking with each of them.  Some were day hikers just like us and others were headed to Mt. Katahdin, Maine (the other end of the Appalachian Trail, ~2100 miles away)!

About 3.5 miles in we arrived at Gooch Gap and this was the perfect time for lunch.  Each of us packed a lunch.  For me – PBJ sandwich, banana, granola bar, and water. 

After lunch, turned around and headed back to Woody Gap.

One of the things that I’m always on the lookout for in the woods - burls.  I am a burl hunter.  There were plenty of burls out there today!  Take a look at these pictures of some of the burls I saw on this hike and  I will explain…

One of my other hobbies is turning wooden bowls on a lathe.  Some of the most incredible wood grain patterns are from burls.  A burl is a deformity in a tree.  These deformities create some of the most beautiful wood grain patterns I have ever seen.  However, I did not harvest any of the burls I saw today. 

We made our way back and again had to be careful as we were going up and down and to our right most of the way was a pretty steep downhill.  Yes, those walking poles, sticks absolutely served their purpose today.

As we approached Woody Gap, we could see in a distance, the mountain that we will have to climb on next month’s hike.

Edit:  In response to Volksvegan's comment below, here are few pics (did not have anything picture worthy from a burl - but did have one bowl I made from spalted Monkey Pod)

Maple Bowl

Spalted Monkey Pod

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Race 14 Chattahoochee Challenge 10K

It has been a while since my last road 10K, 10 years to be exact and that was way before I switched from running to walking.  I do not think that I am anti-10K, I just need a reason to do one.  Once I found out that the proceeds from the Chattahoochee Challenge 10K benefited the Chattahoochee Nature Center, I had my reason. 

The race was in Roswell, GA, two towns over, and it started at 8:00 AM.  As usual, I got there early and scoped things out.   They had a nice heated gym at the Nature Center and that meant nice heated bathrooms!  The first thing I noticed outside, they even had portalets (unlike the Callaway Gardens Half Marathon I just did two weeks earlier – funny how even a low key $27 entrance fee race can afford portalets).

I was able to walk around the Nature Center a bit. I saw two bald eagles!   Wow, this is a great place, must make plans to come back and spend some time here exploring, hiking, and take some of the classes on bird identification (I have multiple bird feeders in the back yard and really enjoy those birds – just wish I knew more about each species).

The temperature and wind where going to be a factor in this race as an artic front was making its way into Georgia.  However, the weather seemed okay just prior to the race.  There was virtually no wind blowing and the sun was peeking through the clouds, it was actually quite nice.  Since I’d only be out there for a bit more than an hour, I decided to shed my top layer.

An odd thing about this race that I really liked, we had to walk about ¾ of mile to get to the start.  This solves a huge problem that I think exists with a lot of races – most folks are not warmed up and loose for that start and they end up just starting the race that way.  Not this race – it was an excellent warm up just prior to the race!

Just prior to the start

We were very close to Chattahoochee River for the entire course – the road pretty much followed it.  One of the things I saw during this race that just made me feel good, I saw a policeman blocking, not allowing a car to get out of a subdivision onto the road we were on.  As I passed by, I noticed the driver of the car, out of his car, on his cell phone complaining to someone how he could not get out of his subdivision (right now).  Mr. Policeman and the Roswell, GA Police Department – Thank You!!!

Remember earlier when I told you I shed that top layer?  Well that was a wrong move : )  That artic blast started making its way in, quickly.  Before the race was over, we had a little rain, some sleet, a few snow flurries, and some gusting wind!  The wind was blowing so hard, there were white caps on the river! 

One other thing that I noticed while getting along on the course, they have rowing clubs here (I did not know that).  I will need to find out when they have regattas and come over and watch.

All in all this was a good race, it supported the Chattahoochee Nature Center, and it was a pretty good workout.

Garmin Stats:
Time: 1:16
Average Heart Rate: 133, 81% of max for one hour and 16 minutes
Calories Spent:  655
Average Speed:  4.9 mph;  Pace: 12:15
Distance:  6.2 miles
Steps:  24,620

Thursday, February 9, 2012

How old is your brain?

While out on a walk tonight, I thought about this game.  I usually use this during the first week of any online course I teach.  It is a fun brain exercise.

How old is your brain?

See if your brain is as old as your body
~ or ~
(perish the thought) ~ OLDER !!

Read the following instructions since the game is in Japanese and
then click on the link below:

1. Touch 'start'
2. Wait for 3, 2, 1.
3. Memorize the number's position on the screen, then click the circle from the SMALLEST number to the BIGGEST number.
4. At the end of game, the computer will tell you the age of your brain.

Good luck !!