Sunday, May 29, 2011

2011 All American 5K - Race Report

Jim, Mary Ann, Susan and I headed to Peachtree City on Saturday, May 28th, 2011 for the 2nd annual All American 5K foot race.  This year’s race honored Ashley Kurpiel and raised $6,000 to $7,000 for the International Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP) Association.  The race was hosted by the Peachtree City Running Club.  Although this is a low-key event, you knew it was well done because that’s just the way they seem to do it in PTC.  The race started at 8am at The Fred.  There was plenty of parking and volunteers to direct traffic.  Jim and I both pre-registered.  I was offered a cotton hat or a cotton t-shirt at registration.  Jim was offered both.  He accepted the offer and later gave the shirt to my wife.

2011 All American 5K cotton hat
2011 All American 5K cotton t-shirt
The club had coffee and an over-abundance of breakfast treats all laid out on tables before and after the race.  They also had bananas, but I elected to overlook them for sweeter fare.

Breakfast Treats
Ashley Kurpiel, who suffers from FOP, speaking to the runners
The race director speaking to the runners
The race started on time with bicyclists leading the way for the front runners.  Police officers blocked the roads, where needed, before the runners entered the famous Peachtree City cart paths.  The course below is correct except the start is in the parking lot with a right turn onto McIntosh Trail and the finish is on the cart path just before McIntosh Trail.

The Start
Me at the Finish
Jim at the Finish
Always the rabbit and never the turtle, I had the lead for a short time but soon gave it up to some young buck.  He was followed by two others.  It's important to know that I wasn't "chicked".  My co-workers use this as a gauge for my performance.  I finished in 4th place overall with a finish time of 19:19.  Timing was done with time cards.  Awards were given to the first 3 overall winners and age-group winners in 10 year increments.  I was first in the 40-49 age-group. There was no master’s award category.  Jim placed 2nd in the 70-79 age-group 33:09.

Me "Bringin' Home the Bacon"
Jim with another medal to add to his extensive collection
The age-group awards
I met one of my co-workers, Sean, his wife Julie and daughter Vivian at the race.  Sean and his family walked the course.

Julie, Sean and daughter Vivian
After the race, volunteers handed out American flags.

Mary Ann and Susan were official photographers of the Neil & Jim Running Team.

Mary Ann and Susan
We went to Ted’s Montana Grill in Peachtree City for an early lunch.  After that we stopped at Adams Farm for fresh fruit and veggies.

See more images from the 2011 All American 5K here. 
2011 All American 5K

Thursday, May 19, 2011

2011 Ironman Florida Participant Stats

I re-watched the 2010 Ironman Florida video on Universal Sports yesterday.  I had recorded the television broadcast on my DVR last year and watched it once or twice with my wife.  I had since deleted it from my recorder but Chip was kind enough to find it online for me.  I think he likes the fact that I have a little consternation about the swim.  Seeing the mass swim start again was something to behold and, for me, to be wary of.  I consider myself a good swimmer.  I’m not fast but I think I could swim in a washing machine.  The problem arises when I’m in the washing machine and someone or several people kick me in the head.

With the thoughts of getting hit in the head alive and well in my brain I thought I’d investigate just how many athletes might be in the water on November 5th.  I took the latest participants list on the Ironman Florida website and copied to Excel where I extracted the following numbers.

The 2011 Ironman Florida race has 3037 registered participants, 682 (22%) are female and 2355 (78%) are male.  Over 200 of them are fellow Georgians.

The chart below includes most of the female age groupers.

2011 Ironman Florida Female Age Group Registered Participants
The chart below includes most of the male age groupers.

2011 Ironman Florida Male Age Group Registered Participants
I don't know where I'll end up out of the estimated 226 male competitors in my age group, but I hope I do well. 

If you don't get Universal Sports from your satellite or cable tv provide, like me, you might want to install an over the air digital tv antenna like I did. 

These two blogs might help.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Know The Course

After reading several race reports from this past weekend’s triathlons, one thing seems to ring clear.  Knowing the race course is very important.  This holds true for pros and age-groupers alike.  Age-groupers are hopefully less likely to go off course than would say, a pro averaging 25 mph on a bike course.  Everyone knows that it’s the responsibility of the athlete to know the course however, race directors should take some responsibility as well.  It seems to me that it’s the minutia that can make or break a race. The extra turn sign or a volunteer with healthy lungs who's not afraid to use them can make all the difference.
Often times a race director is working with volunteers and municipalities that are unfamiliar with an event or even the sport they are charged to support.  Most Americans have owned a bicycle at some time in their lives.  How many Americans have competed in a bike race or even watched one on TV?  I would guess the answer is very few.  Take that point a little further and ask the question, how may volunteers know what it’s like to ride a bike at 35+ mph?  Again, I would guess the answer is very few.

My point is that race directors have to make sure that their volunteers are knowledgeable about the course.  In many cases, volunteers are locals and more familiar with the specifics of a course than the race director.  Conversely, the athletes are often not locals and only familiar with the course as represented in race literature.  Volunteers should also be educated as to what riders might be experiencing and might expect as guidance during a race. I must say that most volunteers are awesome.  I couldn’t be more appreciative of the sacrifices that they make on and often before race day to help ensure that the athletes are safe and happy.

Taking from my own experience, I ran a 10K race this past weekend.  The front runner and I were neck and neck for the first 10 minutes of the race.  We were about 50 yards behind a police officer on a motorcycle.  As the motorcycle stopped to block an intersection we both hesitated for a second before we saw an orange course marker about 150 yards in the distance straight ahead.  That was the right turn we were both looking for.  I had reviewed the course and even created my own MapMyRun course map prior to the race. In the middle of a competition it’s easy to make a mistake.  We were on foot and not on bikes.  Had I been on my bike, that first intersection turn might have been it for me.

So, what can be done?  1) Design the course(s) accordingly.  2) Mark the course well and make sure those markers remain intact and are correct.  3) Educate the volunteers and police.  4) Provide the volunteers with the tools they need.  I like to see volunteers in identical race t-shirts.  5) Educate the athletes.  6) Educate area residents and business owners.

Mistakes will still happen and athletes will still go off course but hopefully that won’t happen often or with any dire consequences.

In keeping with the theme of this blog, I've included a map that I created for my next 5K foot race on May 28th. 

After I registered for the race I was unsure of the course and unable to find a map on the organizer's website, MapMyRun, or the USATF website.  I e-mailed the organizers, the Peachtree City Running Club, and within 48 hours I had a jpg map of the course in my inbox.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Peachtree Road Race Training

There are only 7 weeks left to literally the biggest race of my life, the Atlanta Track Club's 2011 Peachtree Road Race 10K on July 4th.  Sixty-thousand runners are expected in this year’s PRR.  That’s a lot of folks!  I’ve adjusted the focus of my training from triathlon specific swimming, cycling and running to be more running centric.  My 20 week training plan for Ironman Florida scheduled for November 5th will start on June 19th.  The PRR is just 2 weeks after that training starts.

Like many avid Atlanta runners, I’ve done my homework in preparation for this year's race.  To give me the best opportunity to do well I’ve run several races trying to get the best wave start position.  I think my preparation has worked.  Last year I started in the “A” group behind the invited stars of the sport, the seeded runners, and behind the sub-seeded runners.  This year I expect to start with the sub-seeded wave.

I recently read an article about the American marathon phenom, Ryan Hall.  In that article, Hall’s coach recommended that he train for and enter 1 mile distance races.  That’s considerably less than the 26.2 mile races he must be used to.  The article stated that the coach’s reasoning was that it would improve Hall’s speed.

As race day approaches I plan to introduce more speed work into my training.  Speed work is something I typically don’t do.  I’ll have to make a conscious effort to change that.  A part of that effort is to run some local 5K races.  I’ve signed up for the Peachtree City Running Club All American 5K on May 28th and the Virginia-Highlands Summerfest 5K on June 4th.

I don't yet know the All American 5K course.  An unofficial map of the Summerfest 5K course is below.

I’m hopeful that improving my 5K speed will also improve my 10K speed, and my marathon speed.  Ultimately I want to improve the finish time in my next really big race in November, Ironman Florida.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

2011 TriCities 10K Run - Race Report

The 2011 TriCities 10K Run on May 14th benefited The Main Street Academy.  The course goes through College Park, East Point, and Hapeville, hence the name.  The 10K course is USAT certified, # GA10028WC.  There is also a 5K Run/Walk.

Jim and I headed north from Lake Spivey to College Park for the 2nd annual TriCities 10K.  We left my house at 6:50am to give ourselves plenty of time to park, pick up our race numbers, and get to the starting line by the scheduled 8:00am start time.

The race had a joint 5K and 10K start at about 8:10am. There was a light mist in the air at the time but it wasn’t cold. The rain that had threatened never materialized.  I started the race drafting behind another runner.  He was about 25 years my junior so I didn’t press the matter.  I stayed close behind him for about 1.5 miles.  At that point he was in 1st place and I was in 2nd. Our first mile was sub-6 minutes.  At around the 2 mile point we were both passed.  Now I was in 3rd place. My temporary running partner soon put some distance between he and I as well.  At the 3 mile point there is a turn-around, and water station.  I took the opportunity to check my position in the race.  A group of several runners were a few hundred yards behind me.  I tried to keep up the pace as the runners in 1st and 2nd place continued to add distance between me and them.  I was running positive split (getting slower each mile).  At what I believe was the second water station somewhere passed the 5 mile point I could see the 5K’ers re-entering the course.  They had taken a shortcut soon after the start.  All the 10K and 5K runners and walkers went south on College Street to Badgett Stadium.  At the stadium we proceeded counter-clockwise on the track to the finish line in front of the bleachers with 10K’ers on the right and 5K’ers on the left.  A volunteer pulled the tab off the race bibs.  I lowered my head trying to collect myself.  I had given all I had and ended up with 3rd place overall with a time of 41:57. The 10K race overall winner was the returning 2010 winner and finished in 38-something, I believe.

I got a bottle of water and waited in the bleachers for Jim to finish the race.  Jim soon arrived with a finish time of 78 minutes.  After he had a chance to rest and drank some water we walked back to the registration area to pickup our t-shirts and wait for the awards to be presented.

2011 Tricities 10K and 5K T-Shirt
The awards were plaques for the first 3 male and female finishers in each race and ribbons for the age groupers.  Since the race was organized as a school fund-raiser there were lots of kids.  The kids got really excited when one of them won a ribbon.  I got a plaque and Jim got nothing.  He really wanted one of the ribbons.  I think they reminded him of the awards from a 4-H cattle show.

3rd Place Male Overall Plaque for the 10K
Keeping in mind that this is only the 2nd annual TriCities Run, the pros and cons of the race are as follows.

The pros were the; enthusiastic volunteers, excellent police support, USATF certified 10K course, stadium finish, and course signage.  I had the opportunity to meet and talk with several people that I’ve raced with in the past, especially some fellow triathletes.

The cons were the; awards didn’t include a masters division or age groups beyond 60 and older, registration was a bit slow but organized, and the final finish line shoots were not marked.  A volunteer was there to direct runners to the correct shoot.  If they were marking it would have been clearer to the runners as they made their final sprint to the finish. The Styrofoam and plastic cups at the water stations don’t work well.  The water station cups should be paper so runners can fold them at the rim to drink and continue to run.  There was no Gatorade.

There are a few other points that may be of interest.  One, is that the course is in an urban area.  I thought it was much like the Atlanta Spring has Sprung 15K course.  Two, is that the race t-shirt was cotton.  I always like to know this when I pre-register so I can select the correct size.  My cotton shirt size is a large and my technical shirt is a medium.  Three, the post-race goodies included bagels with fixins and some bananas.

Overall, I think the folks at The Main Street Academy did a good job.

Later, I reviewed the 2010 results and found that the 1st place winner, Jason Hamlin (2010 stats: 36yo - 38:02) and 2nd place winner Jose Mendoza (2010 stats: 17yo - 38:06) were the same two runners that came in 1st and 2nd in 2011.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Maritza & Frank's Restaurant Review

On Tuesday night Susan and I went to dinner with our friends Jim and Mary Ann.  They had a Groupon from Thai Heaven which is located on N. Central Avenue in Hapeville, Georgia.  We hadn't seen them in several weeks so this was an opportunity for us to catch up.  Jim is an avid runner so, before we left their house for the restaurant, he showed me the new additions to his race awards and t-shirt collection.  Jim doesn't usually go home empty handed after a race.  In this case, he had seven new awards including a Cinco de mayo bowl, bobble head doll, coffee mug, two plaques, and two medals.  Mary Ann said that if it's not a first place age group award than it goes into the basement along with the bags of race t-shirts that Jim's acquired over the years.

When we arrived at the restaurant we found that it was closed for dinner.  That was odd because Mary Ann had called ahead and asked if reservations were required.  The folks at Thai Heaven said no.  Mary Ann also asked if Jim could bring his own wine to the restaurant.  They said yes.  Jim is a fine wine enthusiast.  So, there we were, on the sidewalk in Hapeville with two bottles of chilled fine wine and no place to eat. 

A few doors down from Thai Heaven we noticed Maritza & Frank's Southern Cooking restaurant.  Jim, Mary Ann and Susan went inside to see if we might want to eat there instead.  I waited in the car.  The decision was made try it so, I went inside too.  Maritza & Frank's is set up like an old style restaurant with brick interior walls, booths and tables.  The menu is, as the name implies, southern food.  Our pleasant server, Ann made a few suggestions before we ordered.  Susan and I had the beef tips and rice.  Mary Ann had the chopped steak, and Jim had the fried pork chop.  The vegetables; collard greens, black-eyed peas, and green beans were farm fresh and delicious.  The corn muffins were also excellent.  All of us, with the exception of myself, are foodies. 

Our meals arrived within a few minutes.  We were all pleasantly surprised with the freshness and flavor of the food.  I, for one, do not consider myself a southern cooking aficionado but Susan and Mary Ann are and they were both very happy.

So, if you're ever in Hapeville and are looking for a good place to eat I'd recommend that you checkout Maritza & Frank's Southern Cooking restaurant on N. Central Avenue.

I don't know when Jim and Mary Ann will ever use their Groupon.

Sorry, no food pictures!

Monday, May 9, 2011

2011 Gulf Coast Triathlon - Race Report

I will separate my race report for the 2011 Gulf Coast Triathlon into three parts.  The first part will be a review of the restaurants where we ate during our four days in Panama City Beach.  The second part will review the venue, The Boardwalk Beach Resort hotel.  The last part will review the triathlon, including pre and post-race festivities.

A free pancake breakfast was offered to the athletes and their families on Friday morning.

Chip, Richard and I decided to get through the race registration process before lunch on Friday.  While the girls wandered through the expo we got our race numbers, chips, shirts, and schwag.  The volunteers were plentiful, efficient, knowledgeable, helpful and stern, and not only during registration.  The organizers and volunteers had their plan, it seemed to work well for them and the racers, and they stuck to it.  They did an awesome job!  As we stood in line I had to get a picture of this guy's haircut. 

A Cool Haircut
Chip patiently waiting in line
Volunteers at registration
The Race Expo
Another view of the Race Expo with the GCT gear booth on the right
The transition area just after it opened
My bike was located on the left in the transition area beyond the Boardwalk sign near the run exit.

Chip and Ken after putting their bikes in the transition area
I was the first one to put my QR bike on the rack in my row
I think I had the best transition spot in the whole race.  My T2 time was 1:20.  I had the 42nd fastest T2 and would have been even faster if I had not dropped my bike at a full run 20 feet from the rack.  I replaced the lumpy laces on my New Balance 758 running shoes with elastic laces I had picked up on Friday at the expo to help my transition.

The pre-race pasta dinner
Athletes eating the pasta dinner before the pre-race briefing
We elected to forego the free (for the athletes) pasta dinner on Friday evening so we could take the girls out somewhere nice.  The pasta dinner was $15 for guests.  I broke a cardinal rule of endurance racing.  In lieu of pasta I had fish on Friday night.

Before bed Susan shaved her legs, just kidding.  I'm sure the hotel maintenance crew appreciated the fact that the hair wasn't washed down the drain.  I learned from the 2010 Augusta 70.3 that you can't shave a furry leg and wash the remnants away without seriously clogging the drain.

Someone who shall remain nameless preparing to shave their legs
Unfortunately, in addition to not eating correctly, I didn't sleep one second Friday night.  I was tired as hell by 4:30am when the transition area re-opened.

Race morning with the buoys in place and calm seas
Ken setting up his transition area
A wider view of the transition area
Another view of the transition area
Richard, Chip and I just before the swim waves started
Shortly after the image above was taken I was all zipped up in my wetsuit and ready to go.  Then I noticed something was scratching my lower back.  I unzipped my wetsuit and asked Susan to check it out.  She said "it's the drawstring for your shorts".  Yes, my tri-shorts were on backwards.  I was so tired and concerned about non-existent GI issues that I almost really screwed up.  Before the laughter started (well, not long after) and my swim wave start, I ran as fast as I could back to the room and corrected the problem asap.  That was almost a serious wardrobe malfunction on my part.  I think my nickname is now "Ass Backwards".  Thanks Jonna!

Me running back to the beach after correcting a slight wardrobe malfunction
Me exiting the swim
Melissa, Susan and Jonna as they wait for the men folk to come through the transition area
The bike course was great.  The only issues were related to the few miles where sand, traffic, some road hazards and crosswinds could be a problem.  Once the riders got onto Hwy 79 it was clear sailing. 

After averaging 20.6 mph on the bike leg I headed into the transition area for a quick T2.

Me finishing the bike leg
Richard finishing the bike leg
The half marathon course was flat and very well supported.  The volunteers were numerous and energetic.  They offered cold sponges, orange slices, pretzels, Gatorade, Coke, ice, ice water, GU, and plenty of encouragement.  I can't express in words how well they supported the runners and cyclists on the bike leg.

Me finishing the race
A quick trip to the medical tent for me
An ounce of prevention
Richard finishing the race
Chip finishing the race
The boys draped in cool wet towels
The boys having some pizza after the race

Special thanks to our adoring fans (spouses) for all the support during our training and for being there for the race.  We know you got sunburned and swollen feet standing for hours in the hot sun waiting for a brief glimpse of your personal hunk of man-flesh to arrive.

The girls happy that it's over
The post-race awards presentation sponsored by Dragon Sports offered free beer and dinner for the athletes.  A ticket for family members was only $20 each.

Spinnaker was the location of the awards presentation
Our results were as follows: Ken - 6:39:09, Chip - 6:01:01, Richard - 5:58:41, Neil - 5:25:04

Race technical shirt given to participants
Finisher's medal
A few lessons learned are, get some sleep before the race, eat pasta for dinner the evening before the race, put sunscreen on your head if you're going to wear a visor, and Nutri-grain bars are a crumbly mess and impossible to eat on the bike.

In summary, this is a great race that is very well supported.  Even the MC was very good.  The event is tailored to provide a good experience for the athletes and it does.  I'm really looking forward to Ironman Florida in November.

See more images from our trip on Picasa.