Saturday, December 31, 2011

Atlanta Airport Control Tower Tour

Friday, December 30th was the last day of work for my friend and co-worker Tom.  After 44 years of government service the majority of which was working for the Federal Aviation Administration, and about 10 years working with me, he's decided to pack it in and retire.  Tom (and I) had wanted to take a tour of the new air traffic control tower at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport since it was constructed a few years ago.  We decided to use the occasion of Tom's last day at work as an opportunity to make the short drive from the Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) where we work to the airport for that tour.  I'd called the facility manager about two weeks ahead of time to set things up.  Realizing that it was the holidays and people get distracted during this time of the year, I called again a few days prior to our trip just to make sure we could get in.  Well, it just so happens that he the facility manager was on leave.  His wife probably was making him participate in Christmas.  Fortunately for us he had arranged for someone else to give us a tour.

Tom and I arrived at the tower just before 10am.  We got through security and met up with our guide.  As an Auburn engineer and former Facilities and Equipment (F&E) project manager, Tom had helped install some of the equipment of the old tower so this was especially interesting to him.  We went through all the equipment rooms working our way up to the tower cab where the controllers are located.  I brought my camera with me and took some pictures during the tour.  It was a cloudy day so some of the pictures might be a little gray.  I didn't take any pictures in the tower cab.  I didn't want to be impolite!

Hartsfield-Jackson Airport ranks as the world's busiest airport in both the number of passengers and flights. The airport accommodated 89 million passengers and 950,000 flights in 2010.  Construction of the 5th runway and the 398 foot high control tower were completed in 2006. The international concourse is still under construction with completion scheduled for April 2012.

The view of the Atlanta tower from Aviation Blvd.
A closer view of the tower
Tom waiting for me to take pictures
One of many equipment rooms
An antenna on the 12th or 13th floor protected from the weather by an air filled bladder
The view of the new Int'l Terminal from the tower cab through the dark tinted shade
Tom outside the tower on the catwalk
The new Int'l Terminal from the catwalk
The view from the catwalk to the parking lot below
Aircraft lineup on the taxiway ready to takeoff
What a great way to spend your last day at work.  Good Luck Tom it's been great working with you.

Thanks for reading.

No Motivation and the Fix

When I finished the 2011 Ironman Florida in November, in splendid fashion, I left my motivation somewhere out on the course.  In the past two months I've only competed in two 5K races and walked about a mile with my wife Susan.  I haven't run or biked at all.  That's NONE - ZIP - NADA!  Susan and I did have a short swim session at the county pool in November.  I guess that counts for something!

I have to say that it wasn't all my fault.  Susan laid down the law in early December.  She said that I would participate in Christmas or else.  I knew she was serious when she put a stop to my work refinishing the basement.  Since I started the basement project almost five years ago I've shown little desire to finish it.  I would have thought that once I showed some interest in working around the house than Susan would have sat back and let me go.  Nope, not until after Christmas!  Well, Christmas is over and I can get back to working in the basement and training for races.  Frankly, the only reason I was working on the basement again was so Susan couldn't hold it against me when the race season started up again.

Max, Susan and I Participating in Christmas
The fix is in!  To help combat my lack of motivation I registered for three late winter events.  I've gotta go, they've got my money!  That's what my buddy Jim says when he heads out the door at 6am for a race on a cold and rainy Saturday morning.  I would have registered for a fourth event but the Charles Harris 10K on-line registration form isn't up yet.  The three events I have registered for are the Snickers Marathon in Albany on March 3rd, the Gate River Run 15K in Jacksonville, Florida on March 10th, and the Tour de Pike century ride in Concord on March 17th.  I must say that the $80 registration fee for the Snickers Marathon seems a bit high.  I plan to write a race report following each event so you'll know if I think the race was worth it or not.  The fee for the GRR was $30 if I pick up my own race packet, or $35 if I had it mailed to me.  The fee for the Tour de Pike was $25.

I've also decided to register for the Ironman Miami 70.3 on October 28th, 2012.  That's at least one half-ironman scheduled for the year.  I want to do a second 70.3 race in 2012 but haven't decided which one yet.

So, I guess it's time to put down the pecan pie and pickup the Pegasus 28's.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Planning a New Century Ride

This is an exercise in event organization.  I don't know if it will amount to anything but, who knows, maybe it will.  It sure would be nice to have another well ran century ride on the south side of Atlanta and it's a good way to advertise the Southern Crescent Cycling club too.  Since I haven't done any cycling since finishing Ironman Florida in November I thought I'd at least think about riding my bike.  My thoughts went from past century rides that I've done, to ones I've missed, and then to future rides.

Each organized century I've done seems to have it's own pluses and minuses.  They're not timed so it's usually either the course and/or support that is lacking.  Maybe lacking is too strong a word.  Where there is room for improvement is probably more accurate.  I'm sure that any Century I help plan would have it's own shortcomings, at least for the first year.  For better or worse I have organized a foot race so I have some idea of the effort such events take to complete.

I live on the south side of Atlanta in what is often called the southern crescent.  The southern crescent is primarily the region of Atlanta that encompasses Fayette, Clayton, and Henry counties.

So, let's plan our perfect century.  To start I reviewed a list of local Century ride routes and Southern Crescent Cycling club ride routes.  Most of our club rides start and finish in Henry County.  The Century ride courses I reviewed are the Tour of Faith, Wilson 100, Dog Days 100, Tour de Pike, and Hospitality Highway (GA400) Century (HHC).

My thoughts are to use portions of these rides (except the HHC) because they were hopefully created by local riders using the best roads in each area.  A lesser benefit is that the residents that live along these routes should be familiar with seeing cyclists on the street.  Rider safety is paramount.  You're not gonna care about the ugly shirt you got if you're dead!  I tried to take into account the volunteer's ability to support riders on the course and to minimize the number of turns.  If a turn had to be made then a right turn is preferred.  A counter clockwise looped course helps in this regard.

I rode the inaugural Dog Days 100 century in August 2011.  The route was out and back with few turns.  Riders passed the same point twice making for easier rider support and thereby allowing for fewer well stocked water stations needed to serve riders well.

Dog Days 100 - Griffin, GA
I haven't ridden the Tour de Pike Century but, again, it appears easy to support.  Especially when considering shorter course riders.

Tour de Pike - Concord, GA
The Wilson 100 has arguably the best course of any Atlanta area Century.  I haven't ridden the Tony Serrano or Covington Centuries either so, I could be wrong.  What makes the Wilson 100 course so good is that the roads are all in rural Georgia with few vehicles to share the road with and few turns.  It's also well supported.

Wilson 100 - Senoia, GA
Tony Serrano Century - Monroe, GA
Covington Century - Covington, GA
I haven't ridden the Tour of Faith course either but I see two things that make it interesting.  The course seems to lend itself to easy support and distance reduction, should one need or desire either.  Volunteers and riders at various points along the course can easily make the transition from the outward bound portion of the course to the return portion.  Volunteers at mile 30 can move to mile 75 a few hours into the ride to help support riders returning to the start/finish.

Tour of Faith - Peachtree City, GA
Other Centuries like the Hospitality Highway Century in Roswell offer several things to think about.  I did this ride in 2011 and really liked it.  The ride has awesome local government and volunteer support in addition to some TV news coverage.  If I had any criticism of the 100 mile course it would be that it's hilly and has a lot of turns. 

Hospitality Highway Century - Roswell, GA
My proposed Southern Crescent Century is shown below with the portions of other Centuries indicated in red.  The "TT" is for a short portion of the course where my bike club had a time trial in the spring.  The "BDR" stands for Big Dam Ride which is another club ride and, as one might imagine, "Club Route" indicates a portion of the course that the club rides often near the Atlanta Motor Speedway.  Ultimately, this route includes about 75 miles out of 102 miles from previously mapped routes.

Proposed Southern Crescent Century Course - Hampton, GA
So, once a route has been decided upon, what's next?  Well, you've got to have a name.  I'm leaning toward Southern Crescent Century.  Now, what about a date?  That's a tougher nut to crack.  I suppose any date will have to take into account other events so that the maximum number of participants and volunteers show up.  You wouldn't want to schedule it on the same weekend as a UGA football game or Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS) NASCAR race.  Very little can be done about the weather other than choosing a date that's not during a time of the year that's too hot or cold.  What about a venue?  The Atlanta Motor Speedway is one option, I suppose.  I'm sure there are others.  Higher Living Christian Church on Mt. Carmel Road might be a second option.  The church is the start location of the annual Pacemaker 5000 5K foot race.

What about water stations?  How many are needed and where should they be located?  I've estimated about seven water stations would be adequate including one at the start/finish.  I've also indicated the distance from the start/finish to each water station via the shortest distance a support vehicle might have to travel.
  • Start/Finish AMS (subtract 6 miles for a Higher Living church venue start)
  • Mile 14 - McDonough (14 miles from the start)
  • Mile 30 - Jackson (24 miles from the start)
  • Mile 44 - High Falls State Park (32 miles from the start)
  • Mile 57 - Orchard Hill (19 miles from the start)
  • Mile 69 - Zebulon (22 miles from the start)
  • Mile 88 - Brooks (19 miles from the start)
Given the list above, volunteers would need to man each water station as follows.  Keeping in mind that the slowest rider should complete the full 102 mile ride in 8 hours at a 12.75mph average pace and the fastest rider in 4 hours at a 25.5mph average pace.  The times are calculated from an 8am start time.
  • Start/Finish AMS - 8am-4pm (6am-6pm providing 2 hours before and after the ride) 
  • Mile 14 - McDonough - 8:30am-9:06am
  • Mile 30 - Jackson - 9:10am-10:22am
  • Mile 44 - High Falls State Park - 9:40am-11:27pm
  • Mile 57 - Orchard Hill - 10:10am-12:29pm
  • Mile 69 - Zebulon - 10:30am-1:25pm
  • Mile 88 - Brooks - 11:20am-2:54pm
Volunteers at the water station in McDonough could move to High Falls State Park.  It's a 24 mile/30 minute drive.  Volunteers in Jackson could move to Brooks.  It's a 36 mile/50 minute drive.

With the 100 mile course identified, what else needs to be considered?  Other shorter courses are a must.  Not everyone is willing or able to ride 100 miles.  A 50 mile and 25 mile course should also be identified.  Support and Gear (SAG) Wagons are a must.  You can't plan for everything so several SAG vehicles would be needed.  I think that's doable!  Sponsors would be good.  I hate begging for money so lets just say someone else will do this.  What about event shirts?  Should they be cotton, technical, and/or jersey?  What about the artwork? 

Other things to consider are:
  • Port-a-potties and restroom locations, signage and course marking, food and fluids, registration forms, waivers, dates and pricing, printed maps and signs, permits, insurance, etc.
Venue Options:
County Government Coordination:
City Government Coordination
Other events:
 * Rides with greater fee variations are due to event shirt purchase options.

So, will this ride be on your 2012 schedule?  I don't even know if it will be on mine.  I plan to present it to my fellow club members at our annual party in January.  In the interim, I may ride the route when the weather is better.  I hope it's good.

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2011 Jingle Jog 5K - Race Report

The 2011 Jingle Jog 5k race took place in downtown McDonough, Georgia on Saturday, December 3rd. The race started and finished just south of the downtown square at Shiloh Baptist Church.  Runners start the race headed north on Macon Street.  They go through the square, run down a few streets before turning south and through downtown again on Griffin Street.  The course map showed the final turn-around at Old Griffin Road but on race day the turn-around was just beyond that.  Whereas, the Aubrae Gunderson race was probably a bit shy of 5K, the Jingle Jog was a bit long.  It's not a big deal though since it's not a PRR qualifier.

The turn out was good.  There were almost six hundred runners and walkers at the start.  The weather was great too.  It was in the mid 60's and sunny.  What made it even better was that Susan and I didn't have to get up at 6am to participate.  The Jingle Jog started at 3:15pm.

Our neighbor Jim came by to pick up Susan and I at 2pm.  Jim was more familiar with downtown McDonough so he drove and got us there without the hassle of driving through the square.  It's always backed up.  We parked off of Old Griffin Road near the last turn on the course.

We parked at the Municipal Court building
The lines for packet pickup were long.  The same was true for the port-a-potties.

The line for pre-registered runners
The line for the port-a-facilities
Me and Susan before the race in front of Shiloh Baptist Church
My Ironman buddy Chip showed up for the race.

Chip and I before the race
The race started with race director Adam Stanfield in the lead vehicle for the 5K'ers.  Right from the start three young guys took the lead.  I hit the first mile mark at 5:38.  I was in 4th place until around the half-way point when I was passed on Carmichael Street by another runner.  I passed the second mile maker at 12:01.  The police stopped traffic at the square as the runners ran through.  The drivers must have had a fit! 

Jim on the final stretch of Griffin Street near the finish
Runners headed south on Griffin Street
Susan had a good race and did well considering this was only her second race.  She paced herself in fear of inflaming her plantar fasciitis again.

Susan on the final stretch
I finished the race in 5th place overall out of 566 participants in a time of 19:35.  That was fast enough to win the Master Award.

Me picking up my Masters Award
Jim placed 1st in his age-group with a time of 36:04.

Jim adds another medal to his collection
The artwork on the long-sleeve cotton t-shirt
Participants received a Santa cap
My Masters Award
Overall the 2011 Jingle Jog 5K was a fun local race.  Registration/packet pickup was a little slow and it seemed a little unorganized.  There was no defined starting line for the race.  It would have been nice to have some cups of water before the race started.  Maybe there was some and I just missed them.  The post race refreshments included bottled water and whole bananas.  I don't think there was enough of either.  All of my crew had enough but some runners may have done without.  Timing was done via Innovative Timing Systems bib attached RFID chips at the finish line.  There was no timing mat (or tower) at the start so everyone had the same start time.  One thing that all my crew did comment on was the large number of kids in the race some of which were running all over the place.  I could see that this might be an issue as we readied for the start and the line of young boys stretched side-by-side across the road.  A few of them beat me so I guess I can't say that they shouldn't have been up front.

That's about it!

Thanks for reading.

Susan's Trip to the Foot Doctor & BPRC

On Thursday, December 1st I went with Susan when she met with a foot doctor to get treatment for two issues that have plagued her for some time.  The first issue is the dreaded plantar fasciitis in both feet.  Plantar fasciitis is an inflammation of the tissue that connects the toes to the heel and creates the arch of  the foot.  It can be very painful.  The second issue is a callus between her little toes on her right foot.  While also painful, this issue can be more quickly resolved although relief is temporary.  A third issue regarding two previously untreated broken or severely jammed toes remains unaddressed. 

To address the plantar fasciitis Susan was outfitted with splints that she is supposed to wear whenever she's not on her feet and when sleeping.  She's also supposed to do stretching exercises several times each day.  However, she has found that the exercises aggravate her broken toes. 

The entrance to Southern Orthopaedic Specialists in Stockbridge
Dr. Williams checking Susan's foot
Susan listening to Dr. William's advise
Susan gets fitted for an Aircast Dorsal Night Splint
After the trip to the foot doctor Susan and I drove up to Decatur to get her some new running shoes at Big Peach Running Company. 
Big Peach Running Company in Decatur
Susan getting her arches checked with a BPRC salesperson
We left Big Peach with a new pair of Brooks Ghost 4 running shoes for Susan.  While we were there we ran into Brad Kauffman.  Brad, a 2010 Ironman Louisville finisher, used to work at the Trek store in McDonough before returning to college and starting work part-time at BPRC.  Brad said that he also has experienced plantar fasciitis and recommended a Medi-Dyne Pro Stretch.  He suggested rolling a frozen bottle of water along the underside of the foot as well.

Medi-Dyne Pro Stretch
With Susan's broken toes it seems as though the Pro Stretch, or a similar device, may be her only option to get a good stretch.  We didn't buy one of these while we were there but it looks like a lucky someone might be getting one for Christmas.

The reason for the interest in Susan's feet is that she's racing now too.  Saturday, December 3rd was her second race.  She ran the Jingle Jog 5K in McDonough, Georgia.  A report on that race will soon follow.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Aubrae Gunderson Memorial 5K - Race Report

The Aubrae Gunderson Memorial 5K race was on Saturday, November 26th at the reasonable time of 9am.  My wife Susan, our friend Jim, and I signed up for race the about two weeks ago.  Jim ran the race last year.  This was Susan's first 5K race race.  Her prior 5K races were mostly race walks.

Susan, Jim and I arrived at Heritage High School in Conyers at around 8:30am.  While Jim looked for a place to park, Susan and I left the car to find the registration table in the school common area.  We picked up our race packets and waited for Jim.  The t-shirts we selected were long-sleeve cotton.  They also had short-sleeve technical shirts for a few dollars more.  We all liked the cotton shirts though; so that's what we got.

Waiting for the race to start
The t-shirt artwork (front)
The t-shirt (back)
Race schwag bag
Race bib
The 1-mile run/walk started just before 9am.  After that race started the crowd of 5K participants headed toward the starting line.  I wished Susan and Jim luck before moving to the front of the crowd.  That's where I caught up with my friend Randy.  We seem to do a lot of the same races.  Randy had also run the race in 2010 so he gave me a few pointers about the course.  His brief description was correct, there were a few hills.
The portion of the course that turns off of Granade Road onto Lochinver Lane
Someone said "GO" and the race was on.  We ran up a slight hill out of the parking lot to a right turn onto Hwy 138.  I was surrounded by what had to be track or cross-country team members.  As my position in the race fell from 4th I tried to keep up my pace.  I passed the first mile marker at just over 6 minutes.  At that point I was sure that I wouldn't be getting a Master award this day.  Somewhere near the two mile marker I was passed by another runner that was clearly not in high school or of college age.  As I crested the last hill and turned back toward the school I tried to let the slight downhill slope drive my pace.  Soon I was back on school property and headed toward the football stadium. A quick partial loop on the track and I was in the finish line chute.  My time was 18:47.  I finished in 10th place overall and was the first Grand Master (over 50) finisher.

After completing my time card I headed back out onto the course to find Susan and Jim.  I ran into Randy on the way and gave him a High-5.  Jim was a little further back.  I gave Jim a few encouraging words and continued on.  Susan was just rounding the corner before the big hill when I caught up with her.  We ran and walked to the stadium where Jim was waiting at the finish line.  Susan's time was 42:05.  That's a PR for her.  The good thing is that she ran her race and didn't try to kill it or herself.  Jim usually goes home with an award and this race was no different.  His time was 34:25.

After the race we went back to the common area for the awards presentation and to watch the High Heel Hustle right after.  The race organizers also drew numbers for prizes.  None of us won anything but apparently the announcer, Dan Gunderson, really wants to go to Hooters.  Several people won gift certificates from Hooters and each time he commented that he could also partake in some wings.

Dan Gunderson addressing the crowd
The awards were trophies for the overall and masters and plaques for the rest.  I brought home my first trophy - ever!  I was very pleased with my performance considering I hadn't run at all since I completed Ironman Florida three weeks ago on November 5th.

Me and my trophy safe at home
My Grand Master trophy
Jim picked up another plaque to add to his vast collection.

Jim and Susan enjoying some refreshments
The indomitable Don McClellan also ran the race after loaning a camera to several volunteers who used them to help document the race.  After the race Don collects the cameras and posts the images online.

The awards presentation
Runners preps for the High Heel Hustle
Participants in the High Heel Hustle
The start of the HHH
Some of my general thoughts about the race were that it was well run and well supported.  I ran a 10K race in Edmond, Oklahoma called the Deer Creek Classic about two years ago.  That race compares well to the enthusiasm of the participants, volunteers, and sponsorship.  The Race for Riley 5K in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia compares well but beats this race in sponsorship as it relates to schwag.  Kudos to all the organizers and participants.

Taking into account all the variables, I suppose it's possible that I could complete a race on a USATF certified course within the time required to be seeded for the 2012 Peachtree Road Race.  That would be cool!  The PRR 2010 seeded requirements are a 38:00 10K or 18:20 5K finish time.

Next weekend we'll be doing the Jingle Jog 5K in McDonough.

Thanks for reading.