Thursday, December 20, 2012

Waking up at 4:30 to do a race is insane. I much rather sleep. But here I was, throwing off the covers and jumping in the shower to wake up the rest of me. I have my running gear laid out on the floor the night before, making it easy to locate everything without much thought. Breakfast consists of a big to-go cup of chocolate milk with a smidge of coffee. We are out the door by five and headed downtown, gulping down my brew along the way.

I decided that Ponce de Leon was the least likely Thanksgiving morning to get carjacked route from my home in Decatur. Very few cars are on the road, anything moving looks like something to avoid. I arrive at the start to find my parking area last year closed. All cars are being funneled to one lot. To get in line I had to turn right, drive two blocks in the wrong direction and make a u-turn. A $5.00 per is being charged, slowing the line of cars down to a pub crawl pace. Great planning. Actually found a good spot near the start to observe Prue-race activities.

I spent some time trying to guess the start waves by looking at the body types associated with the various color coded bibs. It was obvious that some people were in the wrong start wave. Kind of like gunk in your sink, these people were ready to clog things up. I saw several runners going back and forth, like they were lost or just nervous. I like sitting in my car and listening to rock. Saw several pilgrims, Indians, even turkeys passing by. Nothing original, however. Except maybe the John Smith guy.

The first mile starts uphill, not good, and takes you by Georgia State University. The panhandlers were disappointed that we were going too fast for them to run us down.

Mile two and three took us up Northside Drive where we got a good view of guys dressed like prostitutes. Do they think they look alluring? As we approached Atlantic Station, a crazy was yelling at a policeman because he could not cross the street due to  the runners. The cop told him to have a nice day.

The forth mile is my favorite mile, a break from the most depressing areas of downtown Atlanta. Is that Ikea?

A big hill on 14th Street reclaims all the time you had accumulated from the fast, adrenalin induced start. Right after you enter Piedmont Park, you are greeted with mile six, where the gays and winos cheer you on. If you had anything left after the park, it is drained out of you with the big hill at mile seven on tenth Street.

I tried the sport-jelly beans at mile 8, and also the Twix I brought allow to boost my energy levelor at least give me a sugar high, but anything solid tends to gag me because at this point my mouth is pretty dry. Sports drinks and water have always been best for me. We pass by the mission, not the FOX as you would expect, and get a good view of people waiting in line for food, some actually sleeping on the sidewalk. This is unlike the Portland, Oregon soup line which consist of a mix of college students with no shame and mountaineers. Both sporting long beards. These are real homeless bums with their life possessions contained in a shopping cart.

When we make the turn onto Auburn Avenue for the 9th mile. "Sweet Auburn" as it dubiously called has mostly people that wish you would slow down where they could mug and rob you. Not being energetic enough to chase after you, they yell obsenities at the good looking women runners. Yeah, those are great pick-up lines. Wish I had a pen and pad to write them down.

The course then turns toward the historic Oakland cemetery for the 10th mile where you get an excellent view of a brick wall. It is inspiring, however, to know that you are out here running and not in there pushing up daisies. About the only people I can outrun at this point are zombies.

We soon hit mile eleven with only one big hill to go near the Capital. You pull it all together, knowing that it is almost over and at this point you could crawl to the finish line. I am now running in the forgotten warriors of the road. A bit different  from my competitive days, but these people still want to beat you. Therefore, it is a small reward to yourself for everyone you pass, just as it is a disappointment to not being able to latch on to a runner that passes. If one is able to draft a runner in it makes the last couple of miles go by quickly as you only think about hanging on and forget about how tired you are.

The last half mile is mostly and upward grade that obscures the finish line, making you think that maybe they moved it. Still a great thrill to cross the finish line. A chunky medallion makes it feel like an Olympic win. Soon, a choice has to made whether to continue to the goodie tables or head by to the car. The logistics genius has located these two areas a mile apart. I decide the goodies are not worth an extra two miles.

Sitting in my car I watch the rest of the finishers comig in. I spot a guy that once ran a 2:50 marathon, but now is a back packer because of arthritis in his left knee.
I see he still gets excited crossing the finish line. Some of us still enjoy cheap thrills. Your brain needs to feel that something has been accomplished each day you exist.

I wonder what the organizers of this race are thinking. This course has changed several times over the years, passing through Decatur, Buckhead, Brookhaven, Emory and other beautiful senic areas of Atlanta. Now, I am certain that out-of-town visitors to Atlanta will be disappointed in the view of Atlanta this race gives them. The Atlanta marathon and half marathon was once a Thanksgiving tradition for real runners. Now the marathon isn't even run on Thanksgiving and you are falling over kids to get to the starting line for the half. The Atlanta Track Club has turned into a profit oriented organization, catering to parents who slap their number on them and have them run the last half mile of the Peachtree for a photo of them crossing the finish line. My son actually ran the Peachtree when he was twelve in 43 minutes. And we did not buy the photo. If you run this race, don't expect to see anything scenic like Stone Mountain, Capital City Country Club, Brookhaven, Buckhead, the Fox, Decatur square, Little Five Points, Or Virginia/Highland. It goes past Georgia Tech, but avoids giving you even a glimpse of the campus. It would go by the stockyards if we still had them.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Peachtree 2012

I got lucky at the expo and found a pair of Nike Structures for 50 bucks.Almost as good as locating the free beer. The first thing to consider is what to eat the day before the race. I like ice cream, chocolate shakes and fat-free chocolate milk. Nothing that will make me feel sluggish in the morning. The chocolate milk is what I have when I wake up the morning of the race. I've done this for years and now they promote chocolate milk as a performance drink. Who knew. I cat-nap race eve, waking every two hours to make sure I haven't overslept. Everything I am to wear is laid out the night before where I don't have to run around finding things in the morning. It looks like a deflated runner. Okay, I am awake and I have time for a quick shower to relax the muscles. Then I am out the door. It is still dark. Not even anyone lurking in the shadows this time in the morning. It doesn't take long to reach Ansley Mall without any traffic to impede my way. It is 5AM, but I am not the first to arrive. No sign of my friends, however. I give my friends a call. They are parked on the other side of the mall. Why? I don't know. One of my friends claims he has a shortcut to MARTA. We follow his plan, but I am wary as we are headed in the opposite direction of the station. Next, we are on the wrong side of a golf course and have to walk all the way around it only to be at a location we could have arrived at 20 minutes ago. After 40 minutes we arrive at the station, having walked an extra mile to get there, 2 miles total. If you wonder why MARTA is in trouble, two empty trains pass us going in the opposite direction before our train arrives already packed with people. When we get to our destination, we are attacked by Peachtree paparazzi trying to take our picture, like every 100 yards, until we reach the pit stop area a mile from the MARTA station at Lenox. We have now walked 3 miles and the 10k hasn't started yet. We made some bets on who will be still in port-a-john line when the race starts. I parted company with my friends and found my wave. Saw several people dressed or painted like a flag. These same people continue to talk and move about while the national anthem is playing. I saw a guy in a pickle suit. I didn't get the patriotic connection. Barriers in the middle of Peachtree made the left side have about twice as many runners as the right. As we walked towards the start, they tried to correct the imbalance at an intersection. I gravitated toward the right side,ending up at the rear of the wave in front of me because I filled in the right side gap. A road guard spotted me too far up and she decided I had criminal intent, demanding that I return to the proper wave (the one ten yards behind me). I did not rob a bank, but nevertheless she looked ready to wrestle me to the ground. I didn't know if she was armed and I didn't wait around to find out. I returned to the front of my line which would delay my start by 5 minutes. As your race time is determined by a personal chip, when you start does not really matter. The start of the race is kind of lame as they treat each wave like no one else has gone before them. They must think we are stupid. For the first three miles things are going well, a little pain in my left knee does not slow my pace. I am doing my planned pace when we hit the hills in miles four and five. Suddenly the heat and humidity comes into play, I was moving like a snail on vacation. I still felt okay, but I am in slow-motion replay mode. At last the big left turn is in sight. The rush for me is when we make that turn for Piedmont Park, all down hill. I try to get in with the people who look like runners for the photo-op, but they don't really want me hanging with them. It downhill, so I hang with them through the camera area and soon the finish line crossed. Plenty of water at the finish but no Coke. It was not always this way. This is Atlanta! Where is the Coke!? I walk a mile back to Ansley Mall for the Phiddipides party, subs and beer, the best. Nine miles total for the day. Think I will park near the start next year like I did in the past.