Monday, July 20, 2015

Kayaking the Hooch - Part 2

Back in June of 2014 Susan and I completed the first of three segments of the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper (CRK) - River Discover Series.  That tour of the Hooch took us from Buford Dam to McGinnis Ferry.  I wrote about that trip in my blog - Kayaking the Hooch.  It was Susan and my first paddling excursion beyond the comforts of Lake Spivey.

This year our kayaking adventures started where we left off with the second segment of the series from Jones Bridge to Island Ford.  Similar to the first trip, this was a 9 mile, or so, downstream paddling trek with CRK volunteers and Ranger Jerry Hightower as our guide.

The trips cost $35 per participant which is paid to the Chattahoochee Riverkeepers.  Last year's trip included about 35 paddlers.  Most of the paddlers, this year and last, were in boats designed for use on the river but there were other boats as well, including one 17' long ocean kayak.  It was long, thin and probably very fast on the open water.  Ranger Jerry paddled a canoe.  

The paddling group for the Jones Bridge Park to Island Ford Park trip consisted of 37+/- paddlers several of which were CRK employees and volunteers.  We also had along with us CRK Operations Manager Bonnie Jackson, Staff Attorney Kevin Jeselnik, Communications Director Celia Lismore, and leading the group was Outings Manager Tammy Bates.

This segment of the Chattahoochee is smooth and easy going.  We had two tiny little areas where we had to shoot the Hooch.

The group met at the put-in location at around 9 a.m. at Jones Bridge Park.  Susan and I unloaded our gear there.  While Susan stayed with our gear, I followed the CRK vehicle to the take-out location at Island Ford Park.  Me and others from our group left our vehicles there and took a trolley, that had been pre-arranged by CRK, back to the put-in point.  Logistics is a major factor whenever kayaking the Hooch.  Parking at Island Ford Park was $3.

The trolley
The trip from Buford Dam to McGinnis Ferry didn't have a trolley so the participants coordinated the put-in/take-out caravan of vehicles and people sort of haphazardly, but it worked out.  The trolley on this trip is by far a better option.

The trolley ride back to Jones Bridge Park
When we arrived back at Jones Bridge Park Susan was waiting for me.

Susan is ready to go
Before we left on our adventure Tammy, the CRK Outings Director, gave us a safety briefing.  Wear your PFD (personal flotation device) and watch-out for strainers!  

Safety Briefing

The ramp at Jones Bridge Park

My Garmin 910XT watch and Virb Elite camera in place

CRK sweeper keeping the group together


Ranger Jerry stopped the group to point out the abundant wildlife like Kingfisher birds, Great Blue Heron, Red Tail Hawks, Osprey, and the local flora and fauna.  

We stopped for about 30 minutes for lunch about 2 hours after we started paddling.  Paddlers provide their own food and refreshments.  Last year someone brought home made ice-cream and peach cobbler for everyone, our expectations were set from the first year, but unfortunately the bringer of that little piece of heaven on a hot day was not there.  Susan baked some oatmeal cookies for us to snack on and to offer to our travel companions.  We also had sandwiches, pickles, and chips for lunch.  Start to finish we spent 3 1/2 hours on the river.

Lunch time!
The sandbar, located adjacent to Houseshoe Bend Country Club, was not quite as inviting as the rocky outcrop where we dined last year but it was about the best place to stop on this stretch of the river.

Lunch on the sandbar

Fellow paddlers

Whitewater... or not

Susan catching up to me!!

Susan says - Go get the truck, it's hot!

The ramp at Island Ford Park
One advantage of having a park ranger as part of your group is that you get full access to the locked/gated loading and unloading area of the park nearest the ramp.  It sure beat having to haul two 50 lb. kayaks and gear 200 yards uphill to your vehicle.

Kayaks lined up for loading
The trip to Jones Bridge from our home in Jonesboro was about 44 miles or 50 minutes.  It was well worth the trip.  Susan and I enjoyed the whole group dynamic.  There's a lot to see as well.  I saw a muskrat swim under my kayak as I bumped up against the river bank near Holcomb Bridge Road.  I saw one turtle sunning on a log.  There were lots of geese, ducks, and baby ducks, and other birds. The homes along the river are also beautiful to see especially those in  the communities which line Spalding Drive.

I took a few videos during the trip down the river.  The first two video, both about 15 minutes in length were taken with the Garmin Virb.  My Virb video doesn't include the available metrics like speed, elevation, etc.  That data were captured with my Garmin 910XT and posted earlier in this blog.  The third, last, and much shorter video was taken with my Samsung S5 cellphone.

Overall, this is a fun event for folks new to kayaking and the Chattahoochee.  The Discovery Series helps promote the river and CRK membership is included with the registration fee.  I would recommend one or all of these outings for anyone interesting in paddling.  The water is cold so I wouldn't recommend swimming.  The water is clean but I wouldn't drink it.  Lastly, registration is limited and the trips usually sell out so register early.

Thanks for reading.

See more pictures here.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

2015 Avalon 5 Miler Race Report

Saturday, July 11th was the date of my first foot race in 3 months, the 35th annual Avalon 5 Miler. Back on April 10th - 11th I ran the Atlanta Ragnar Trail Run. The following month, on Sunday, May 3rd I swam the 1 mile distance in the Swim Across America (SAA) charity event in Lake Spivey. The swim event wasn't really a race for me since I hadn't trained, but I did do my best and it was timed. The Ragnar trail run was also timed and I had trained albeit halfheartedly. Before the April and May events my only race in recent history was the Lake Spivey Road Race 15K way back in November 2014. Since May my time has been divided among honey-do's, work and our new puppy Luke. Luke has helped fill the void left after our dog Max died from cancer.


Now it's time to start thinking about my fitness again. My running buddy Scott from Salt Lake City, Utah and I registered on race day for the Avalon 5 Miler in Avalon, New Jersey. The race was only 30 miles from our hotel in Egg Harbor where we are staying while attending a training class for work. Scott and I arrived in Avalon at around 7:20 a.m., just prior to the scheduled race start time of 8 a.m. We missed the online registration deadline but the race-day registration was quick and easy. Registration was located inside a gym next to a large free parking lot. Both were along the beach just off of the boardwalk.

Me and Scott with our new cotton race t-shirts
A course map which was printed on an 8.5" by 11" piece of paper was posted on the door to the gym. Inside the gym volunteers performed all the tasks involved with race registration. The race accommodations were perfect. There was plenty of room to stretch and warm-up. The out and back course itself was paved, except for the last 1/2 of a mile on the wooden boardwalk, which was wide, easy to follow, and fast. There were a few vehicles on the open course but nothing to worry about. A police car led the way for the winner and there were plenty of water-only stations on the route.  I got a cup of water from one of three little girl volunteers at one of the stations.  She was probably 3 years old and a real cutie.

The gym/community center


T-shirts and day-of-race registration


Course map

Avalon Avenue where the race started

Some homes along the course 

The boardwalk where the race finished

I suppose my results were good considering that I didn't train, didn't taper, and had only ran 11.2 miles in the 3 months prior to the race and those miles were accomplished on the Thursday and Friday before this race. My race day preparation was nil. I got little sleep, about 6 hours, and had no breakfast or gels. I did stretch a bit. That has to count for something.
After two training runs on Thursday and Friday and being seriously destroyed on both occasions by Scott, I was able to pull out a win on Saturday, sort of. I started out fast, about a 7:00 minute/mile pace, and proceeded to successfully complete a full compliment of positive splits. Of course, this is less desirable to the preferred negative split yet, in this case, it was effective enough to finish in 44th place overall - right in front of Scott. He had me in his sights and, if the course had been a little longer he might have passed me. Alas, Scott finished in 45th place. Age-groups were in 10 year increments.  Neither of us placed in our division. I placed 8th in the 50 to 59 age-group and Scott placed 8th in the 40 to 49 age-group. Timing was done with pull tabs. There were no chips or timing mats.  

Results board - 1 through 87

Results board - 88 through 174

Overall, this was a fun race and a good distraction for the weekend. The weather was perfect though the humidity at the shore is higher than I'm used to. The field was good for a local race. There were a couple more than the 174 runners listed on the results board, but not many.

The best place on-line to find out about the race is on the Avalon Five Miler Facebook page or the website for the charity for which the race proceeds benefit, Contact Cape-Atlantic .

I had an epiphany while I was running. I realize that I haven't been training much recently and that's okay. However, if I plan to qualify for Kona, and I do, then my future races will have to result in me dominating the field. I'll need to constantly place in the top 5% or higher. This race put me in the top 25% range of finishers. Losing a little weight wouldn't hurt either. I should probably lose about 15 lbs to be really competitive. I've got lots of work to do.

I had to include two pictures of a cool looking V10 Audi R8 parked near the race start/finish and a picture of a skull dongle where one might typically find something else dangling.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Mezza Lebanese Bistro & Bar

The Hoochee Map Dancers had another dinner last weekend on Sunday, June 28th.  This time we met at Mezza Lebanese Bistro & Bar in the LaVista/Oak Grove area of Decatur, Georgia.  I have to mention that this is Susan and my old stomping grounds.  We moved from the area about 12 years ago.  Susan's former real estate broker, Holly Realty even had an office in the same retail space.  She moved there about a year after Johnny Isakson's Northside Realty was sold.

You may recall, the Hoochee Map Dancers is a group of friends and foodies who meet on occasion at restaurants around Atlanta.  The restaurants are typically internationally themed.  This day it was Lebanese.  Other dinners have been Russian, Korean, Chinese, Bulgarian, Moroccan, etc.

We were fortunate on this occasion to have as our guests Barbara and Vince Dooley.  The group's ring leader, Jim Macie is a University of Georgia School of Law graduate and former Catholic Priest who baptized the Dooley's son Derek long ago.  Jim and his wife Mary Ann have remained friends of the Dooley's all these years.

Mezza Lebanese Bistro & Bar
We were also fortunate to have long time group member and friend Mike Washington with us.  Mike was recovering from a recent surgery where he spent several months in the hospital and a similar amount of time recovering.

Mike, Susan, Jim, and Mary Ann
The choice of restaurants was made on the recommendation of Map Dancers member and food writer Jane Garvey.  Mezza also met the country requirement as Jim wanted to celebrate Mrs. Dooley's heritage.  Barbara was raised in Birmingham, Alabama the granddaughter of immigrants to the U.S. from Lebanon.

The restaurant which is typically closed on Sunday opened especially for our group of 30+ diners.  As is standard for our dinners, many of our members bought their own bottles of wine to pair with the dinner.

The meal courses started with pita bread, hummus and  baba ghannouge (not shown).  That was followed by tabbouleh, fried cauliflower, chicken shawarma, and lamb kebabs.  For dessert we had baklawa.

Pita Bread
Fried Cauliflower
Chicken Shawarma
Lamb Kebabs
Seating was at two long tables.  After dinner the Dooleys moved from the first table to the second.

Thanks for reading.

See all the pictures from the dinner here.

The links below are to a few other Hoochee Map Dancers dinner reports.