Monday, December 13, 2021

Helen Holiday 10K Trail Race (Race Recap)


Helen, GA
Saturday, December 11, 2021
Race/Event #98  
Weather - Very foggy, about 50 degrees, significant chance of rain

Up early and on the road at 4:15 AM. It was a long ride to Unicoi State Park in the North Georgia Mountains. The fog was thick. It was the kind where people say you could cut it with a knife. With a stop for coffee, it was a two-hour trip. Parked in a wet, muddy field and made my way to the check-in table. It was still dark, regretted not bringing my headlamp. Note to self - always have a spare headlamp in the car.

Bears! Okay, we're in the woods in the North Georgia mountains. Of course, it's bear country. Somehow, I just tend to forget about that though. Good to be reminded.

It was a 10K and a half marathon. After the race director gave the pre-race instructions, I was thankful I didn't sign up for the half. The half included a thousand-foot elevation gain. And as hard as that would have been, probably would've been more dangerous on the way back down. The course was very wet from the previous day's rain. Glad I signed up for the 10K.

We were off. It was very crowded at first. At about a mile or so, people (fast vs. slow) had found their place in the race. Not crowded at all after that. I switched between walking and running, mainly running on flat areas.

This was the first race since getting a new Fitbit watch, a Charge 5. It worked great. It notifies me with vibrations as my heartrate increases/decreases. I am very heartrate focused when I do these races. When it gets too high, I immediately slow down. 

Finished with a time of 1:25:23. The best part though, it didn't rain!

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Lovely Rita, Meter Maid


As a volunteer gig I get to be a gallery interpreter in an aquarium. We recently got a new octopus, Rita.

She's almost a year old. For the first few weeks she hid most of the time. When guests asked where the octopus was, had to point to where she was hiding. The trainers told me her hiding places. This week was different though. Rita must be getting more comfortable with her new home - she was out and about for my entire shift.

She's even socializing a bit with some of the sea stars. Not really sure who was checking out who though. What's interesting, and this happens pretty consistently, when I tell guests that her name is Rita, if one of them is from the generation I'm from, inevitably they say, "Lovely Rita, Meter Maid."


Saturday, November 27, 2021

Five Star Turkey Trot 10K (Race Recap)


Johns Creek, GA
Thursday, November 25, 2021
Race/Event #97   
Weather - low 30s at the start

This year, instead of doing the Atlanta Half Marathon on Thanksgiving morning, decided to switch to this race, a 10K, closer to home. I'm enjoying the 10K distance for now. Maybe I'll just stay around that distance, not sure, we'll see. The other thing, kudos to the folks at Five Star, this race was only $21. And, it's that price regardless of the distance (5K, 10K, 15K, half marathon), $21. Can't beat that. Maybe in the future I'll consider the Atlanta Half again. But the $21 is hard to beat!

This was a road race through a few business parks in Johns Creek. Over 1200 people signed up for it. It was a 5K course: 5K-ers did it one time; 10K, two times; 15K, three times; half - four times plus a bit more to make 13.1 miles. Most participants did the 5K. This simply meant the first time through the course was crazy crowded. I enjoyed the second time through the course much more than the first - a lot less people. 

For most of the race had the earbuds in listening to The Piano Guys - A Family Christmas. I suppose the season has officially started. It was a good race. Finished with a time of 1:15:57, once again, with so few in the category, placed 1st in the Male 65-69 group.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

Chateau Elan Muscadine Vineyard Trail 5.5 Miler (Race Recap)

Braselton, GA
Saturday, November 20, 2021
Race/Event #96   
5-ish Miler
Weather -  clear, cold, 37 degrees when I arrived...brrrrrr

The main reason I wanted to do this race - it went through the vineyard at Chateau Elan. Specifically it was a muscadine grape vineyard. There really are a lot of races to pick from. More and more I'm always looking for something unique in a race. The vineyard surely qualified this one as being unique.

As usual, got there early. Picked up my bib and t-shirt. And because I was early, was able to cycle through the porta potty lines twice - always an important thing to do before any race. Once the sun was up the temperature maybe rose a few degrees, but not much.

People were milling around, getting their bib/t-shirt, hanging out by the space heaters, pretty standard pre-race stuff. I noticed something that I'm sure I've never seen prior to a race starting - a statue of a woman stomping grapes. Had to get a picture of it. 

The Dirty Spokes race finish shoot in the background - yes this really was a unique race venue.

The race was capped at 325 people. There was a 3.0 mile and a 5.5 mile option. I signed up for 5.5 miler. We all started out together through the vineyards. It was nice and very unique. Eventually we made our way onto one of the trails around the Chateau. It was a bit crowded with a single track narrow trail for a bit. Not a big problem for me - I'm not trying to pass too many people :) Once we split from the 3.0 mile folks there was plenty of room. It was a good race, glad I did it.

I finished with a time of 1:12:36. 

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Covington YMCA Cheerios 10K (Race Recap)


Covington, GA
Saturday, November 6, 2021
Race/Event #95
10K #8
Weather - Low 40s, still dark at 7:15 AM start

I thought my next race was going to be a trail race through a vineyard in North Georgia. However, as soon as I saw this, I wanted to do this race. 

"Running in the Covington Y Cheerios Challenge helps ensure that every child can participate in Y programs like youth sports, swim lessons, and summer day camp. Your race registration fee supports the YMCA's WHY IT MATTERS Annual Campaign.

With so many races available, I don't think I would have signed up for any old race 50 miles away. This was a good cause though.

The race was both a 10K and 5K. What was different, the 10K started at 7:15, the 5K at 8:30. 70 people did the 10K so there was no problem getting a parking place or using the bathroom. The 5K had 250-300 people, most of them were not there when the 10K started. It was low-key and I like that. 

The race course took an interesting route through a town that many people have seen on TV. The show "In the Heat of the Night" was filmed there from 1989-1995. It is a very nice little town. The course was well marked - no chance of getting lost or off course. 

Ended up with a time of 1:17:09, a 12:25/mile pace. 2nd place in the male 65-69 category. It was a good race, glad I signed up for it.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Boulder Dash 10K (Race Recap)

Cumming, GA
Saturday, October 16, 2021
Race/Event #94
10K #7
Weather - cloudy, drizzle at times, upper 60s, 90% humidity

How often do people get to go into an active rock quarry? It was the main reason for signing up for this race. It was a fun race! We spent about two miles in the quarry area. Apparently they only open it up to the public once a year - for this race. The sights were very different compared to most of the races I get to do. 

DANGER - Open Pit Area

We never really got close to the open pit area. They had those areas blocked off with heavy equipment and plenty of quarry employees watching us. They made sure we didn't deviate off the road areas. 

Just over 500 people signed up for the race. About 400 for the 5K and 100 or so for the 10K. We were together through the quarry. After the we split ways. The rest of the 10K was a series of hills. The only good part about hills is when you get to come down them. 

Finished with a time of 1:20:41, 12:59 per mile average. And, just like the Alien Half Marathon, once again was the only one in the male 65-69 category which put me in 1st place.

Next up, a trail race in a vineyard. That should also be another interesting venue.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Duluth Donut Dash 5K (Race Recap)


Duluth, GA
Sunday, September 26, 2021
Race/Event #93
5K #31
Weather - perfect Fall morning, clear mid 50s

This race used to be called the Duluth Fall Festival 5K. It's always been the same route, same day (the Sunday of the Duluth Fall Festival weekend), just has a new name/sponsor now. I've done it seven times before. The race was uneventful, finished with a time of 39:21. The donut and coffee afterwards were very good! :)

One of the things I really like about this race, some of the financial proceeds go for a good cause.  Their website had:

"We are happy to continue our support of Wellroot Family Services’ (formerly the United Methodist Children’s Home) vision of a world where every child is raised in a loving, compassionate, and nurturing home. Their Foster Care Program provides hope and healing to children who have been neglected or abused by providing loving foster homes, as well as helping children find permanent homes through reunification with their birth parents or through adoption. Wellroot Family Services serves the North Georgia community."

Here's my prediction - this may be the very last 5K I do. It's not that it was a bad race, it was a nice race. A very festive atmosphere as it was part of the annual Fall Festival. Friendly people all around, easy going activity going on, and of course free donuts and coffee after the race. The problem, it was only a 5K, 3.1 miles. I just like longer distances. It felt like just as I was getting warmed up and in a rhythm, it was over. I know the saying, "Never say never." We'll see.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Area 13.1 Half Marathon (Race Recap)

Roswell, GA
Saturday, September 11, 2021
Race/Event #92
Half Marathon #40
Weather - warm, mid 70s, night race 7:00 PM start

It's been a long time since the last time I did race. Two and a half years to be exact. Retirement from work, Covid, and such. Anyway, glad to be back at it. I joined just over 1,000 people who also signed up to do the half-marathon or 5K. It was a nighttime race, my first. They strongly recommended bringing a headlamp.

There was one other really odd thing about this race for me. After looking at the race participant list on their website I noticed that there were only two guys in the male 65-69 category. With the assumption that the other guy was going to run the race, all I had to was keep my walking pace fast enough to meet their cutoff times (6.5 miles by 9:00 PM (2 hours) and 10 miles by 10:00 PM (3 hours)). If I was successful, I'd place second in the category. This became my goal for the race. I don't typically place 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in any of the races I do, especially half marathons.

As race time was getting near, I took my normal starting position near the back. During the national anthem, took my hat off and stood at attention. It means so much more to me to pay deep respect not only in general but specifically because this was the 20th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks.  Shortly after that, we were off.

Being overly aware of the cutoff times, I decided to do a little running in the first few miles. I had "fresh" legs, no knee pain. The back of the pack thinned out pretty quickly and for the majority of the race it was never crowded. Sunset was about 7:45 so darkness came quickly. At about 8:30, while on a trail in the woods, with no one else around I was extremely thankful I had a headlamp. I shut it off once just to see what it was like without light. It would have been impossible to do this section without light. A few times I thought I was lost. Didn't see anyone ahead or behind. It was a good feeling every time I came across a sign with an arrow on it (and the race logo). 

As the race progressed, I was really feeling the difference from doing my 12-13 mile walks during the week. Those weekly walks were easy. This was hard, races are different. I was able to make the cutoff times at mile 6.5 and 10. That was good. I would have been disappointed if I got a DNF (did not finish) on this race. 

At the finish in the dark, exhausted

Three hours and seven minutes after starting, I crossed the finish line. I was exhausted. My 3:07:07 time got me 1st place in the M65-69 age group. I was the only person in that category!  :)  It was still nice coming in first though. They gave me Alien 13.1 pint glass and a $15 gift card to the Big Peach Running Store. 

It was a good race.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Building a Fence With Branches

During the fall I trimmed a lot of trees in the backyard. While on a long walk one day, I came up with the idea to build a small fence with them. A fence that would help keep the leaves from blowing into the porch area.

It worked!  :)

In case you were wondering and want to build one yourself, it's pretty easy to build a fence like this.

The Frame

The first thing to decide, what material to use for the structure. I decided to use red pine fence pickets. I got them at Home Depot, 5/8" x 5.5" x 6'. They were $1.97 each. For each fence section (36" x 36"), I needed two pickets. Not too bad, $3.94 in wood cost per section, with a little bit leftover to use for the next section. Fortunately I have both a miter saw and a table saw so I was able to cut these to the sizes I needed. 

First, on the miter saw, cut each picket in half, roughly 36 inches.

Next, each 36 inch piece had to be ripped in half on the table saw.

Painting is optional. I decided to paint these a dark brown.

About the saws, at a minimum you will need a miter saw or at least some way to cut your wood into 36 inch pieces. If you do not have a table saw, you do have another option. Instead of using the 6 foot pickets that need a lot of cuts, you could use 3 inch wide cedar planks. You would not have to do any ripping, thus no need for a table saw. The only downside to this approach is material cost. The cedar planks at Home Depot, 3/4" x 3" x 8' cost $8.64. For each fence section you would need three planks, $25.92. Big difference compared to the $3.94 per fence section cost with the red pine fence pickets. There are many types of wood to choose from. The main thing to keep in mind when selecting is picking one that will hold up to the weather.

Next, put these together in squares and screw them together. Be sure to make sure they are square. Also, it's best to use exterior screws.

A tip my dad taught me to make sure something is square, measure the distance of opposite corners. If they're the same, it's square.

You may need to add spacers (like I did on this section) in all four corners. You will need to do this if your branches are thicker. 

Final step for the frame, screw in the two side pieces. You can now see the gap where you put the branches.

The Branches

Working with the branches is the most fun. It's sort of like a puzzle figuring out the order in which to put them in. They all have to be cut to size. The one piece of equipment that helped significantly with this process was a vice.

The vice made the cutting so much easier being able to secure each branch. Once cut, you insert into the frame. There is no need to secure them.

One final step. Since it will be outside, in all sorts of weather, it needs to have some type of protection. I opted to put a few coats of spar urethane on them.

A Final Note

I was surprised how many branches I needed to build this fence. It was just over 200 individual pieces. I found myself picking up fallen branches while walking on some local trails.