Saturday, February 26, 2011

2011 Charles Harris Run - Race Report

The 2011 Charles Harris Run for Leukemia 10K took place on February 26th.  This was the 31st anniversary of the race.  Over the years the race has become popular with those trying to gain or improve their seeding in the Atlanta Track Club's Peachtree Road Race 10K on July 4th.

The Charles Harris is a popular PRR qualifying race primarily for three reasons.  The first reason being that the date of the race is just before PRR registration starts.  The second reason is that the course is USATF certified.  The third reason is that it's FAST. 

It's a point-to-point race starting at Tucker High School and finishing at Shamrock Middle School.  The course elevation profile shows a decline from start to finish of about 125'.  During the 2011 race there was a tailwind too. 

I last ran this race in 2003 when I finished in 45:17.  I registered this year not to qualify for the PRR but to qualify for the Gate River Run 15K.  Since registering the GRR has changed its qualifying requirements in my favor so I'm already set for that race.  I still ran the Charles Harris just to improve my overall results and try for a PR.  My current 10K PR is 39:40 from a race I ran twenty years ago in Brooks, Georgia.

Registration, restrooms, and the start of the race was in or near the gym facilities in the image below.  T-shirt pickup was at Shamrock Middle School.  Those that had items that they needed to get to the finish were provided bags with their race number put on them with markers for easy retrieval later.  I didn't utilize this but it looked very efficient!

A shuttle bus dropping off runners at the new Tucker H.S. Gym 
Most of the runners must have parked at North DeKalb Mall and taken the shuttle to Tucker.  I parked at Tucker H.S.  It was easier for me since my cheering committee and official personal photographer couldn't make it this morning.  After the race I had to hoof it back to Tucker on my own because the shuttle buses were only for getting runners to the start.

The new field and track
Gym sign
Inside the gym
The Tucker H.S. gym has an indoor track above the court.  It's very nice and a perfect place to get out of the cold and stretch before a race. 

Back to the course, what it offers in speed it takes away in scenery and logistics for the runners.  The organization of the race by the race director seemed to go very well.  However, the scenery was mostly thrift stores, pawn shops, automobile service centers, etc.  The neighborhood around Shamrock Middle School at the finish is nice though.  This used to be my old stomping grounds before my wife and I moved to Lake Spivey several years ago.

Timing was done via D-tags with timing mats at the start and finish.  There was a gun start.  Two water stations were located on the course.  There was plenty of water at the start, and water, Gatorade, bananas, apples, fruit snacks, granola bars, etc. at the finish in the Shamrock Middle School gym.  The Shamrock gym was considerably less impressive than the one in Tucker.  However, new or old, they both provide a great venue for this type of event. 

The weather on race morning was 40-degrees at the start.  It was a bit cool but not nearly as cold as most of my recent races.  The skies were nice and crystal clear.  As the race started runners had a few minutes of glaring morning sunlight to contend with until we turned onto Lawrenceville Hwy.

Artwork on the t-shirts hasn't changed much since I last ran this race in 2003.  The BROOKS technical shirts are a nice upgrade from the cotton one I received in 2003.

2003 Charles Harris cotton shirt
2011 Charles Harris Brooks technical shirt
I didn't get the opportunity to see the awards.  After the race, I picked up my shirt, had some snacks and ran back to the start to retrieve my car.

I did meet my goal of a sub-40 minute 10K finish with a 39:52 chip time.  I was the fifty-fifth male and the eighth 45-49 age group runner to cross the finish line.  I got "chicked" eight times.

Overall this is a great race to post a PR.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Stone Mountain Trek

On Presidents' Day, February 21st I had the opportunity to watch my 6 year old grandson, Jahshua for the entire day while his mother went to work/school.  Jahshua recommended we spend some time at the arcade near his house.  I could not imagine a scenario where I could stand spending several hours at an arcade.  I decided that we should instead take a trip to Stone Mountain Park.  I figured the weather was nice, the trip would get us outside, we'd get some exercise and more importantly, he would use up some the energy that all 6 year old boys are full of. 

If you're not familiar with the park it's located just east of Atlanta, Georgia.  The park's main feature is the huge granite outcrop that climbs 861' above the surrounding landscape to an elevation of 1,686'.

We left the house at about 9:30am headed for Publix to pick up something to drink and some snacks.  He's got a restrictive diet due to allergies but he's a good kid and smart enough to know what he shouldn't eat.  We left Publix with some sliced seedless watermelon...which actually does have seeds but they're soft and smaller than regular watermelon seeds.  We also got some pretzels, water, and apples.  We already had some granola bars from home in the backpack.

It had been about 3 years since I last visited Stone Mountain Park.  That trip was with my wife Susan and our older grandson Cody and was dominated by the park's Crossroads and The Great Barn.  I don't recall that trip favorably, full of screaming kids high on soda and candy.  The park hadn't been the same since 1998 when it was taken over by some Dollywood-esk for-profit corporation during the administration of Governor Roy Barnes.  The Stone Mountain Memorial Association also helps manage the park.

We arrived at the park entrance, paid the $10 entry fee and parked at the Confederate Center.  The center is located at the start of the trail up the mountain.  After a quick use of the facilities we headed up the mountain on the Walk Up Trail.

Confederate Center
The Confederate Center has a video and other exhibits that explains how the mountain was formed.

Taking note of the trail rules
Invasive plants - one of two Bubble Gum trees we saw along the trail
Chief navigator making sure we stay on track
In addition to making sure we stayed on the trail, Jahshua was also in charge of making sure we stopped every 200 yards to eat, drink, rest, pick up sticks and rocks, etc.

Watermelon break
Jahshua was well prepared for the trek.  He even brought along a pair of knee pads.

The tram was not in service on the day of our trek
The view from the top
Geodetic survey marker
After we returned to the bottom of the mountain Jahshua wanted to ride the train so we headed to the depot.
The entrance to Crossroads and other park amusements including the train depot
The carving
There used to be a nice grass lawn in front of the carving.  Visitors would put their blankets on the lawn and watch the nightly laser show.  Now, the grass is still there but it's covered with amusements like Snow Mountain.

Snow Mountain
The train pulls into the depot
A closer view of the train engine
The train ride takes about 30-minutes to go around the mountain.

Chicken Strips
After conquering the mountain we had some Chick-fil-a chicken strips.

As we travelled up the mountain I told Jahshua of my adventure in the late 1990's when I drove a minivan half-way up the mountain for my work.  The next day I told this story to Chip, my IM training partner, who quickly responded that he had in fact driven all the way to the top of the mountain to work on some National Weather Service meteorological equipment.  I guess that explains why he's a full Iroman (Louisville) and I'm only a half Ironman (Augusta).

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Lake Spivey Dredging

As the weather warms, my thoughts turn to more serious triathlon training for the 2011 race season.  My running and cycling training are covered.  I've been running on my own and doing a race almost every weekend.  I've been cycling with my wife and with friends from work.
My swim training is where I've been lacking.  I've completed only two swim sessions at the Steve Lundquist Aquatic Center this season.  I've enjoyed having access to the pool since all my other options are out.  The community pool is covered for the winter and it won't be open until after the Gulf Coast Triathlon in May.  My second and preferred option, Lake Spivey, has had the water level lowered for dredging.  Once every six or seven years, or so, the lake is drained about eight feet to allow waterfront property owners, homeowner associations, and the civic association that manages the lake to do repairs to seawalls, docks, and dredge the accumulated silt. 

My usual 1-mile lake swim course starts at one of the Reversed Mooring Strips (RMS) on Emerald Drive and ends near the dam on Blackhall Road.  My 1.4-mile swim ends at the RMS.  I add the two segments together for a 2.4-mile total swim distance. The scene from the RMS looks like this when the lake is full. 

The view from the RMS toward the dam
The RMS area with the lake at full pool
The starting point of the 1.4-mile swim to the RMS
Chip and I swam the 2.4-mile lake course last year.  Chip went on to finish Ironman Louisville and I finished Ironman Augusta 70.3.
The RMS with the lake drained
The view toward the 1.4-mile swim start with the lake drained

Both swim courses hug the south shore of the lake to avoid any boat traffic which typically travels counter-clockwise around the lake.

The lake should be full pool again by the summer.  Open Water Swim (OWS) sessions starting in the summer should provide plenty of time to train for Ironman Florida in November.  Now, if I could just get someone to kick me in the head while I swim I think I'd be set!

Please note:  Lake Spivey is a private 650-acre lake in Clayton and Henry Counties.  Use of the lake is limited to members of the civic association and their guests.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Al Toll Masters 15K Road Race - Race Report

The February 19th, 2011 Al Toll Open 5K and Masters 15K Road Race is a Macon Tracks running club event in, of all places, Macon, Georgia.  The 5K is an out-and-back course and the 15K is a counter-clockwise loop course.  My buddy Jim and I would be running the 15K.

We left home at 7:00am with our wives coming along as our personal cheering committee.  Our little group arrived at the IKON business park just after 8:00am.  Jim and I checked-in and got our t-shirts.

Al Toll Memorial 5K and Master 15K cotton long-sleeve t-shirt
The "27" in the design represents the anniversary of the race and the picture has got to represent the hilly course.

The weather was far warmer than it has been during the past few weekends...or even months for that matter. The temperature at the start was about 56-degrees and almost 66-degrees at the finish with blue skies and no wind.

Timing was done with index cards.  I finished 5th overall and 2nd in my age-group with an unofficial finish time of 1:04:14 at a 6:53 pace.  Jim finished 1st in his age-group with an unofficial finish time of 1:57:51.
Al Toll Memorial 15K award
Jim, Mary Ann, Susan and I just after arriving at the race
Parked right at the start/finish
Less than 2 minutes to go
The race director giving last minutes instructions
Almost - Almost there!
Almost there!
Jim at the finish
"My back hurts...I can't feel my legs"
Jim and I had plenty of aches and pains.  Jim's back hurt, my back hurt, Jim couldn't feel his legs, I had pain in my right foot.  It was great fun!
"Good Job" Jim!
The awards presentation and food area
Food and drink
The 15K Awards
Bringin' home the bacon
In 5 weekends Jim racks up 5 races and 5 awards
Jim and I with our awards
On our drive back to Lake Spivey we stopped in Forsyth, Georgia for lunch at Grits Cafe.  The restaurant had just been reviewed in the Atlanta Jounral-Constitution and everybody wanted to check it out.  Luckily for us a nice person from Bolingbroke and her friend from McDonough were kind enough to take our picture outside the restaurant.  We were all there for lunch.
Outside Grits Cafe in Forsyth, Georgia
One of several dining rooms
One of their appetizers
Our entree's
The Monroe County courthouse in Forsyth, Georgia
Overall the race was great.  Smaller races have a whole different feel from their bigger cousins.  The looped course was hilly but scenic, and the awards and t-shirts were nice too.  Our trip to Grits Cafe finished off our little outing with high marks.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Freedom Run 10K - Race Report

The Freedom Run consists of a 5K and 10K race in Morrow, Georgia.  The 10K course is USATF certified and one of the top ten Atlanta Track Club Peachtree Road Race 10K qualifying races in the metro Atlanta area.  Luckily for me it's close to home and starts at 9:00am.  That means I didn't have to drive far and could sleep-in.  Registration and packet pick up was in the gym area.  The gym provided a great place to get in from the cold, stretch and warm up.

The 10K course starts and finishes on the campus of Clayton State University and includes two clockwise loops through the neighborhoods that surround the college.  The 5K course is a single loop.  My buddy Jim ran the 5K and I ran the 10K.  The timing was pull-tab with a gun (horn) start with both races starting together.  There were two different finish lines, one for each race.

The 10K course is on MapMyRun.

10K finish line water station
The 10K finish line
Jim in need of URGENT assistance at the computer
The post-race Waffle House breakfast
Race Director, Mike Mead presenting the awards
CSU Cheerleaders address the runners
I hear the CSU (NCAA Division II) Lakers women's basketball team are doing very well this year.

The 5K and 10K men's overall race winners (Nice shirts guys!)
Jim and I with our awards
Jim took first in his age group.  This was Jim's fourth race in as many weeks where he "brought home the bacon".  I was 3rd overall and, since the overall winner was over 40, I won the masters overall award with an time of 41:32 at a 6:41 minute per mile pace.
White Swans
Canada Geese
Canada Geese wondering why I'm taking their picture
The weather was perfect, a cool 31-degrees at the start and around 36-degrees at the finish with blue skies all the way.  I didn't get my sub-40 minute finish.  The Charles Harris 10K on February 26th will be my next attempt.