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.  : )