Friday, November 28, 2014

2014 Atlanta Thanksgiving Day Half Marathon

Windy.  W I N D Y and cold, hovered around 40 degrees for the entire race with winds 10-20 MPH maybe more at times.

Did the 2014 Atlanta Half Marathon Thanksgiving morning.  What was so very special about this race, my new daughter-in-law, Raney, did it with me and it was her first half marathon!

Raney & me before the race

Up crazy early that morning as I volunteered to help out with crowd control which meant arriving 5:15ish in the Green Lot at Turner Field (Atlanta Brave stadium).  I was a coraller (actually not sure if that is a word) for Wave "E".  With so many doing the race, think just under 8,000 signed up, they needed folks to "coral" them into groups/waves as they would start corrals one at a time.

The best part about getting there at that time - no traffic and plenty of parking spaces.  The other nice things about helping out, they gave volunteers a full-length zipper fleece (thanks Atlanta Track Club!) and, this was the best part, they had Krispy Kreme donuts & coffee!  Yes, I indulged.

I am always amazed at all of these folks who volunteer to help out with the race.  They needed and got 1500 people to volunteer for this race.  My volunteer job was one of the few that you could help out and do the race so it was no big deal for me to get there a bit earlier.  But I am very appreciative of all the others who were willing to come out on this cold, windy morning and help out.

Because I was also doing the race, the team leader assigned me to the front of the corral to be a rope holder.  Yes we actually controlled, corralled, people with ropes.  Although the race actually started at 7:30 with Corral "A", we in Corral "E" were slated for a 7:50 start.  So we made our way behind Corral "D" keeping our distance.

So at 7:50 we were off.  It was great to get moving to generate body heat.  From the starting line for about a mile or so, top layer clothes were thrown over the fences.  One of the things that this race did not have was gear check.  It is not uncommon for races to have gear check so the participants can "check" their top layer and such (for trying to stay warm before the start of the race) and then retrieve it after the race.  Instead this year the Atlanta Track Club was holding a clothing drive so people could discard their additional clothing and the ATC would collect, wash and donate to local shelters.  I liked this idea.

After standing around in the cold for 2+ hours it really did feel good to get moving.  It wasn't too long into mile 1 when I felt a tap on my shoulder.  It was Raney and that was the last I saw of her for the race.

This was my 5th year in a row doing this race since they changed the course.  I do enjoy the course, it's a great way to actually see the City of Atlanta.

As usual with a half marathon, at least for me, miles 1-8 are not so bad, even in cold windy weather.  But once I hit mile 8, mile 9, my attitude about doing the race really changes and not for the good.  It is no longer fun.  It is no longer enjoyable.  It hurts.  I want to stop moving.  I just want it to be over.  Of course the best thing to think about in a race, when it really starts to hurt, especially on Thanksgiving morning is: mash potatoes & gravy, turkey, stuffing, pie,...  Oh I thought about these a lot during those last 4 miles.  That was my real prize and I couldn't wait to get it!

One of the other things I thought about during that last 4 miles, this was my 60th Thanksgiving celebration.  That's a lot of Thanksgiving memories.  That made me feel lucky.  Sometime things just sort of happen, not sure why.  Take a look at what I saw right around the time when I realized this was my 60th Thanksgiving:

Senior Zone
Really?  I guess I'm in the Senior Zone now?  Gee, I wonder if others could see the sign  :)

I was really happy to cross over that finish line, really happy.  Each received a finisher's medal, a top layer (to help keep warm during cool down), water, Powerade, and a box of goodies to eat.  Shortly thereafter Dan & Raney found me.  I was anxious to hear from Raney.  She did great.  She completed her first half marathon!

Post race with Raney donning our finisher medals and freezing!
Oh yeah, later that day, the turkey, mash potatoes, gravy, stuffing,... were fantastic!

2014 Purplestride 5K, for Dad

Got a text from my son Daniel a few days before the race "Interested in doing a 5K in Atlanta on Saturday".  It was late in the evening, well for me anyway, told him to send me the link and I'd check it out in  the morning.

Little did I know the link  would take me down a road with so many thoughts about my Dad.  The Atlanta PurpleStride 5K was a fundraising race hosted by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network which is a network of people dedicated to working together to advance research, support patients and create hope for those affected by pancreatic cancer.  You see,  in 2007 my Dad died, he had pancreatic cancer.

What a great cause.

We gathered early on a cold Saturday morning in Centennial Olympic Park to a sea of purple  ~ PurpleStride 5K ~  11/15/2014.

Daniel listening to the PCAN speakers

Pancreatic cancer is such a tough disease.  The stats on it are scary.  We heard from survivors and from relatives of those who were taken by pancreatic cancer.  The emcee was Carol Sbarge, a local WSB-TV News Anchor.  She told a personal story how her father lost his battle with pancreatic cancer and her mother from another type of cancer all within a year just as they were getting very close to retirement.  It's just sad.  It's unfair.  Her words really hit pretty hard.  We just never really know what is going to happen, or when.

Again, this race and fundraising was a way to fight back at this disease.

The 5K was a low key event much more about fighting the disease than about racing.  We started near Centennial Olympic Park and made our way north near Georgia Tech.  We could tell there was a big game that day (vs. Clemson I think) as many were already tailgating as we made our way through the area.

It was a good race.  For me, I did something in this race that I had not done in a long time, I mixed in some running with my walking.  It's been two years since hurting my knee and giving up running.  It felt good to run again.  I had no negative effects with the knee afterwards.  Who knows, maybe I'll do more of these 5Ks and interject some running.  We'll see.

This was a good cause.  At last count the amount raised from this event -  $303,828.  That's great!

Afterwards, Daniel, Raney, and I headed over to Goldberg's Bagel for a little post race celebration breakfast.  Great bagels there.  Daniel mentioned something about possibly making this an annual event in memory of his Grandpa, my Dad.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

2014 Soldier Half Marathon - In Honor of Sgt. 1st Class Samuel C. Hairston

In connection to Veterans Day, one of the things they do at Soldier Marathon & Half Marathon is the Fallen Hero Program.   When you pick up your race bib you have the opportunity to do the race in honor of a service member who has paid the ultimate price, the giving of their life, in service to our country.

This year I did the Soldier Half Marathon in honor of Army Sgt. 1st Class Samuel C. Hairston.

SFC Samuel C. Hairston died August 12, 2014 serving during Operation Enduring Freedom in Ghanzi, Afghanistan.

Besides being a decorated military veteran of 11 years, he also played NCAA Division I football for four years for the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelors Degree in Economics.

It was a privilege to do this race in honor of him

The day of the race started at 3:00 AM for me as I needed to be on the road before 4:00 AM for the 140 mile drive to Ft. Benning, GA.  I just could not justify the hotel expense since I'm typically awake by 4:00 AM anyway.  It was an easy, with not many others on roads, drive.  Arrived at the National Infantry Museum (where the race started/finished) for check in right around 6:30 just as the sun was rising.

Although the entire race course is not on Ft. Benning, 6-7 miles, is.  One can sense the pride, the precision, the honor while being on the Post.  I really enjoyed the section on Ft. Benning.

This first thing you see as you approach Ft. Benning, that really lets you know this race is really not like most others, is Patton's Park.  Named after WWII General George S. Patton.

Patton's Park
Once on the post, you just know you are somewhere that is really different than the places you go in every day normal life.  Check out the signage:

Next, and I really appreciated this, the aid stations.  These soldiers were well trained in how to give water to the participants.  Now this might sound trivial, maybe even odd, but with the numbers of races I've done, it is amazing how many people want to give you water - holding the cup with their fingers in it.  Note how these soldiers do it:

Thank you!  Not only am I overwhelmed in their commitment to serving us in the defending of our nation, but they also come out early on a cold Saturday morning to serve us during the race.  These people are great.

Okay, we've all seen it in movies or read about it in a book - Drill Instructors are known for chewing people's asses out.  It's what they do.  The Army had a little surprise for us at about mile 3.  We were "greeted" by some of Ft. Benning's Drill Instructors to provide a little motivation:

Encouragement on the course :)
One of the Drill Instructors, in a deep, from the belly voice, barked out at me as I was attempting to take a picture  "you don't have time to take pictures, now move it!".  These guys were great!  But not something one typically sees during a half marathon/marathon!

Up the avenue a bit we saw living quarters for soldiers and their families.  Note the flags flying.

You could definitely detect order and pride just going around the post.  As we neared the exit, one sign in particular grabbed my attention:

Deployed - Operation New Dawn, Operation Enduring Freedom

This is a serious business, people agree to go into harm's way, for us and our country.  And for this I am very appreciative and thankful!
The rest of the half marathon was anti-climatic for me.  Sure it was nice, mainly on the Chattahoochee Riverwalk in Columbus, GA, but I would have preferred more on Ft. Benning.  Relative to where we had been, there was really not much to see, take pictures of, or write about.

Post race food was excellent - water, soda, beer, bagels, oranges, bananas, candy, chips, McDonald's hamburgers & sausage burritos, fruit popsicles,...  And plenty of them all.  They offered post race massages too.

Definitely recommend this race to anyone who likes the marathon or half marathon distance.

The 140 mile ride home wasn't too bad either.  Especially since I was able to listen to the Georgia Bulldogs have their way against the University of Kentucky Wildcats.  Georgia won 63-31.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Walk on the High Line - NYC

During our quick visit to Montclair, NJ, my sister Laura suggested we walk the High Line in Manhattan.    Not knowing much about the High Line, I googled it.  What a great concept, re-purposing an old, no longer used elevated railroad platform from 12th Street to 34th Street on the Lower Westside of Manhattan.

Train station Upper Montclair, NJ

Super convenient was the NJ Transit train from Upper Montclair to Penn Station (33rd Street).  We caught the 8:12 AM train and that put us in Penn Station at 8:59.  One of the things I noticed on the train, quite a few commuters had bicycle helmet attached to their backpack, briefcase, purse,...  It was just an observation while on the train.

Perfect weather for a walk in the city.  A short walk from Penn Station which sits directly below Madison Square Garden and we were on the High Line.  The very first observation on the High Line was the design:

According to Laura, the section we were on is the newest section called the High Line at the Rail Yards.  Well a bit ahead that name made sense:

High Line at the Rail Yards
So if you ever wondered where those commuter subway trains went after the morning rush hour, now you know. Yes, that is the Empire State Building in the background.

Next we headed south on the High Line. The Fall foliage was impressive.

Fall foliage on the High Line
And the way the designers planted things in the old rail lines was interesting:

Plants, trees in the old High Line railroad tracks
Continuing south the views off the High Line were just as interesting.  Remember when I mentioned I noticed a number of people on the commuter train with helmets, well now it made sense:

Citi Bike has thousand of bikes for rent all over the city 24/7/365. In recent years NYC has converted many street lanes to bike lanes.

There was no shortage of artwork on the High Line, large and small.  Here are a few of the bigger ones:

Rendition of famous World War II-era sailor kissing a woman in Times Square

This is such a great place to take a walk. Just incredible amounts of different foliage.  My sister has walked the High Line in all the seasons - it's a different walk each season.  I hope I get chance walk this in all seasons someday.

Laura & Mary
Hard to believe we were in the middle of the city.  Next for those who cannot parallel park, which is sort of required for parking in NYC, the city has you covered.  I noticed this sign down below.

Look where they keep your car.

NYC real estate is expensive, suspect this parking is too
Talking about NYC real estate, you could buy an apartment right on the High Line.

Starting at only $2,000,000  :)
And if you do get thirsty, no problem, plenty of places along the way...

Once again, it really did not seem like we were in the city at times

A walk well worth it
We exited the High Line in the Meatpacking District where it ends and headed over to Chelsea Market.  The High Line is just shy of 1.5 miles.  Laura treated us to a matinee show on Broadway so we needed to head north to the Theater District. Instead of going back up the High Line we decided to walk on city blocks as a contrast and what a contrast it was!

Stores, vendors, traffic,...
and people!!!
We made out way back up to 47th Street - the Brooks Atkinson Theatre for a performance of Love Letters starring Carol Burnett and Brian Dennehy. Excellent show and wonderful performances by both.

A great day in New York City!

Thank you Laura!