Saturday, May 26, 2012

Race 21 - Sutallee Trace Trail Challenge

I had a pretty good workout this morning, did the Sutallee Trace 10 Mile Trail Challenge in Canton, GA (by Mountain Goat Adventures).  I think about 300 people showed up.  They had a 4 mile and a 10 mile.  I was on the fence about doing this race as their website said hikers and walkers were welcomed but they suggested strongly considering doing the 4 mile instead of the 10, as the 10 was more difficult and had a 3 hour time limit (with an average runner completion time of 2 hours).  So a few days ago I just went ahead and signed up for the 10.

It was about an hour drive, but 6:00 AM on a Saturday morning - the traffic around Atlanta is a piece of cake!    Wish it was always the case...  Arrived with plenty of time, checked in, got all the race day stuff.  And once again, samples for a trail race included Tecnu Poison Ivy Scrub.  I had also read on their website that we'd be going through some areas where there was a lot of it.

At 8:15 the RD called us all together for some pre-race instructions about the course so we circled around and listened:

I have learned that it is important to listen to the RD in these sessions for trail races and even more so the smaller ones because I do find myself in the back of the pack and sometimes that pack basically consists of me!

They did a wave start, 10 milers first and 4 milers a few minutes later.  And since the two courses were the same for a bit, this meant that the really fast 4 milers would probably be passing some of us slower 10 milers.

We came upon a bridge in the first mile or so and it was a potential bottleneck as it was single file - no way to pass:

Of course by the time I got there, there was no bottleneck!  

It was not too long after the bridge when the 4 milers started passing me.  They were all great about it.  Heard quite a few "on your left".  However, it did not take me long to figure out that "on your left", on a narrow single path, trying to get over to the right as much as possible, with patches of poison ivy all over the place, pretty much meant "in the poison ivy".

It was a good thing that I followed their advice and brought a gallon container of tap water for doing the poison ivy scrub after the race!  I was going to need it.

It was a nice trail.  What I liked the most about it - you were in the deep woods: no roads, no man made noises, just nature, and for me, once the 4 milers split off from the 10 milers, only an occasional other racer.  

I finished with a time of around 2:32.  After getting something to eat & drink (the watermelon really hit the spot!), a scrub down on my legs for the poison ivy was in order:

I hope this works!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Race 20 Twisted Ankle Half Marathon

At 6:00 AM my daughter Jen and I headed out for I-75 heading north to the Chattahoochee National Forest.  Our destination was Sloppy Floyd State Park to do the Twisted Ankle Trail Half Marathon.  This was Jen's first trail half marathon and it was a tough first one to do!  We arrived with plenty of time, got race bibs, goody bags and hung out for awhile.  The race was capped at 350 but I do not think that many had signed up.  It didn't take too long for Jen to mention to me that she had already noticed that this was a totally different atmosphere compared to a road race.  She liked it already.

Jen & Marsha pre-race
We had read on the website a week or so ago that some issue had come up and they were not going to be able to use the same course that they had been using for the last few years.  This was no big deal for us neither of us had done this particular course before.  As we approached the starting time the RD called us all together to explain the new course lay out - one for the half and one for the full.

She told us we'd be running

...on an interesting one mile long fire break complete with steep climbs and descents. There will be more climbing than usual due to this.

But don't fret...You still get to experience Becky's Bluff! 

Okay, I've read about Becky's Bluff but it sounded like we might be getting a bit more with this new route.  More on this in a bit...

And we were off.  Spent some time on pavement, thinned out a bit and started heading around one of the lakes.  Being a slow guy, walker/jogger, I have no problems stopping and taking pictures during a race - and I stopped and got a shot of the runners across the lake (Jen was one of them):

As I was putting my camera back in the pouch, turned around and noticed Marsha (bookladywalker - check out her blog listed on the right) behind  me, although she has done 100+ marathons/ultra marathons, today she was just doing the half:

Not long after that on an out & back section, I saw Andrew (friend from work, gray shirt), he was doing the full:

That meant he had to do Becky's Bluff twice!!!  Oh man - better him than me, once is more than enough!

It wasn't too long before we hit the new section, the mile long fire break with ups, downs, ups,... 

At the time, I really did think this was hard.  I had not done Becky's Bluff yet.  Finally completed the new section and it was hard.  Next came just 'normal' trail and it was good.  

Trail races are different.  Trail runners are different.  When given a choice I will always select a trail race over a road race.  I had also told Jen earlier that aid stations in trail races are really different compared to road races and that she would know exactly what I meant as soon as she saw the first aid station.  

They had plenty of aid stations in this race - with gummi bears, pretzels, water, gatorade, gels, trail mix, peanut butter & jelly sandwich sections -  they fed us well and with a smile - Thank You!

Alas, the only thing left on the course was Becky's Bluff.  The original course had us doing it in the first few miles.  However, the revised course had us doing it towards the end.  There was no good way (that I could find) to capture Becky's Bluff in pictures, but I can put it into perspective with this - my normal half marathon race pace is in the 12-13 minutes per mile range, the mile where I did Becky's Bluff, took 32 minutes to do!  IT WAS HARD!!!  
At one point, as I stopped to catch my breath and get my heart rate down to a reasonable number, I looked around and noticed an incredible vista:

The other cool thing as I approached the top of Becky's Bluff, they had a 4 foot blow-up monkey next to the trail.  There was a sign on top of it that said "Eat Bananas" and they had bananas there for us down by its feet!  : )

I was so glad I did not sign up to do the full marathon as they had to do this twice!  I felt sorry for those who had to do it two times.

Going down from Becky's Bluff was a different path and with the help of gravity and more of a winding path, I jogged for the most part. 

Fnished with a time around 3:31.  This is my slowest half marathon, ever.  It is also the hardest.  Jen also thought this was crazy hard - but loved it.  I think she is a trail convert now!

Jen & me after Twisted Ankle Half Marathon

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Event 19 - The Great Saunter (around Manhattan)

On Saturday May 5th, 2012, I had the opportunity to participate in an incredible event, The Great Saunter.  This 32 mile walk around Manhattan started at the Heartland Brewery on the lower East Side, crossed over to the West Side, up to 208th street, crossed back over the East Side and back down to Heartland Brewery at the South Street Seaport.  It was a wonderful 32 mile walk!

Their slogan "see Manhattan at 3 miles per hour".  What a great way to see Manhattan!

The day of the event:

I am very fortunate to have a sister and brother-in-law who are so willing to go way out of their way for me.  They, Laura & Ted, were up with me way before the crack of dawn to drive me in from NJ to the South Street Seaport; we were on the road at 6:00 AM.  It would have been a tough commute on buses/subway into the city at such an early hour.  We got there about 7:00ish and quite a few folks were already there getting ready:

Heartland Brewery @ Seaport

As this was a saunter (not a race) there wasn't an actual start.  Basically at 7:30ish, each of us took off towards the westside of Manhattan.  It was a foggy morning with temperatures in the high 50s.  Perfect weather for a 32 mile walk!

Downtown Manhattan
The first landmark we came across was the Statue of Liberty.  It was foggy but we were still able to see it:

Statue of Liberty 
It wasn't too long before I noticed quite a few people fishing, this guy had some luck!

As we made our way up the westside the first thing I noticed were these huge building, right on the water (except for our pathway), and many of them:

Lower Manhattan
The concept of this event is much more of a social event, it was not a race.  So it was fun meeting and talking with many of the other saunterers over the next 10+ hours.  I met at least 15-20 people on the walk and had a great time getting to know about them.  Some were locals who lived in Manhattan, some lived in surrounding areas, some from other states, and some from other countries.   For a few of them, this was not their first Great Saunter - I learned much from what they had to share.

At this point, the guy I was walking with knew a lot about the city.  He pointed out the following building in the fog (I would have missed this so I am really glad he brought it to my attention), the new World Trade Center:

Building the new World Trade Center

As we headed north, the next thing I noticed was a Little League game in progress:

Lower Westside Little League :)

This was turning out to be such a great walk - everything I thought it would be.   I was amazed how many parks there were.  The folks I met up with next lived in Manhattan and they were told that one of Mayor Bloomberg's initiatives is to have a park within 10 minutes of everyone who lives in the city.  

There was a lot of traffic on the some of the paths.  In some cases they had multiple paths side by side, one for bikes, one for walkers, and they actually had street lights with the image of a bicycle:

At this hour of the morning, the paths were not crowded.  But as the day progressed, there were so many more walkers, runners, and bikers.  It did not occur to me before the saunter that this would be an issue.  When the path was wide and/or very organized like this above, it was not an issue.  But in some of the very narrow pathways it got a bit hectic at times, especially on the Eastside.

Next we made our way to Midtown on the West Side and saw the Intrepid.  I've never been to it, but one of these trips I do have to make my way to see it.

This next picture is the bottom side of the West Side Drive.  I was intrigued by the round, green things coming down from the highway above - basically they are down spouts for water drainage from the highway:

An indicator of whether or not a person was pre-registered or just decided to do this at the last minute (if you can believe that!) was their bib number.  The higher the bib number the greater the chance of a registration that morning.  One woman told me she and two other friends decided the day before to do the Great Saunter - but she was the only one who showed up!  

As we were making out way towards the Upper West Side, I noticed another Little League games going on (note to self: if I do the Great Saunter again, keep a count of Little League Baseball fields - I bet the number would be close to a 100!).  The following field intrigued me because of where the field was with the bridge structure, massive towering buildings, and this Little League field :)

It was fun walking with groups when we came to a point where you could actually go different routes/paths/streets and still meet up at a certain point.  So as we approached the George Washington Bridge, a few of us decided to take the trail toward the GW bridge.  For a time, it seemed as if we were nowhere near a city:

The George Washington Bridge
As we passed under the GW Bridge and made our way north, once again, you would not think we were anywhere near a city:

As we made our way out of this wooded (well maybe a few more blocks than that : ) area we were at the half way point on 208th Street and there was a local Farmer's Market in progress.  This was good as it was lunch (and change of socks!) time.

I didn't stay too long, had a quick bite to eat, changed socks and headed east for our cross town over to the East Side of Manhattan.  This was different as the entire time so far, we were very close to the water - not for this segment though.  It was much more of "city":

We made our way cross town and down through Spanish Harlem.  There was a lot of zig zagging, times where we needed to check the map, and times when we had to guess which way to go.  I was quite fortunate to be walking with folks who had done the Great Saunter before and knew their way around.  On my own, there would have a really good chance I would have gotten lost in this area.

On the East Side, there are quite a few bridges.  Also on the East Side, it is a totally different experience as I'll show in the pictures.

As we made our way down, the pathway ended, started, ended, started again,... So we were spending more time on the city streets.  I liked this aspect of the Saunter.  We were under Harlem River Drive at one point when we noticed Yankee Stadium in the distance (it was actually across East River, in the Bronx):

You'll have to click on this pic to actually see Yankee Stadium

Once again, at this point in the walk, pretty much as long as you are heading south, you will eventually get to the finish.  This next part was not on the actual Great Saunter route, but the people I was walking with had done it before this way, so I followed them.

More city block trekking

Back to a path by the water (59th Street Bridge in the distance):

And when we did reach the 59th Street Bridge, it was the 26.2 mile mark, that was the marathon point - only six more miles to go!

59th Street Bridge over the East River

Once again, no waterway path, had to go back to city blocks:

1st Avenue
Heading downtown on the East Side
As we made our way back, we spent much more time under overpasses and we had three more bridges to go under:  Williamsburg Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, and the Brooklyn Bridge.  On a map they look fairly close together.  However, they were not when you walk them!

Brooklyn Bridge
With exhaustion setting in over the last few miles and such a desire to finish and feet hurting and legs hurting, as you can see, fewer pictures were taken : )

I started the Great Saunter at 7:34 AM and finished at 5:48 PM.  Of all the Garmin stats I captured, the one that speaks the most about The Great Saunter is the amount of steps: 139,616.  That is just over 1/8 of a million steps!

It was time for a beer (or two) at the Heartland Brewery!   Laura & Ted were already there and lucky enough to score a table (yeah it was crowded!).  It was fun as a woman was there waiting for her son & daughter to finish and was happy for us to join here.  She was in town from Ottawa, CA just for the Great Saunter.  As it turned out, she had attempted the Saunter but decided to pack it in at mile 22 and take a cab back.  Prior to this event, the longest distance she had ever walked at one time was 12 miles.  So doing 22 this day was a huge accomplishment!  However, she was very determined to be more prepared and do it again next year.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

891 walkers participated this year with 592 finishing!

The organizers and volunteers did a great job before, during, and afterwards.  They were located at various spots in the 32 miles to handout water, apples, granola bars, and my favorite of the day - clementines!!!

Thank you Shorewalkers!!!

Link to slide shows of the things I saw going clockwise around Manhattan while doing the  2012 Great Saunter, information on Shorewalkers, ...