2008 Atlanta Marathon | A Thankful Race Report

Atlanta Marathon grows up

Typically, a low-key, quiet race through the burroughs of Atlanta, the Atlanta Thanksgiving Marathon changed up the mojo a little bit by adding a big name sponsor. This year, the Atlanta Track Club teamed up with the Weather Channel and more than doubled the race participation for 2008.

More cheering fans, too.

The Atlanta Marathon race course is the same course run during the 1996 Olympics Marathon. It’s a challenging course, with lots of rolling hills, but it’s a really great tour of our city.

The coolest thing about the race this year was having my wife run the half-marathon. Her first. She kicked you-know-what and I am very, very proud.

“Woo Hoo LuvPi”

Fat boy baby steps

This race is sentimental for me.

Rewind to June, 2006 – I was 36 years old, nearing 250 pounds, in terrible shape, and unhappy with my career, its stress, and traveling all the time. I made the decision that “enough was enough”, and that I was going back to being the Christian that enjoyed life and bounced off the walls with energy and excitement.

F work stress. I was done.

I was letting go and decided that whatever happened with my life, happened.

The Atlanta Marathon was my first race in November 2006. Probably grossly unprepared, as I am for most of my events, I ran the race and finished in 5:10:36. Almost dead last in my age group. When I finished, the race officials were breaking down all the race tents, and other than my faithful wife, no other spectators were left.

But I finished, and I felt great.

Since then I have run over 50 races, from 10Ks, to 100-mile ultramarathons.

I’ve become an aspiring runner.

The next year, 2007, I ran the Atlanta Marathon again and shaved off over 30 minutes with a 4:41.

Still slow, but better than 2006.

Gunning for that sub-4

This year, at 195lbs, a lot stronger, and 38 years young, I have been training harder than ever. Crossfit has become a huge part of my training life, and I believe the CrossFit training methodologies will change fitness and strength training forever.

But the benefits of engaging in a lot of strength training as a runner is in heated debate. I don’t care about that, though. I’m convinced that for me, getting stronger equates to getting faster.

My dream goal was to shave 42:00 minutes off my time, and get that sub 4-hour marathon. I knew I was strong enough, but since my 100-mile race experience in September, I had not endured any training runs beyond 15K (9.3 miles), but had run quite a few 10K and 15K races, plus lots of shorter, faster intervals.

Dude, come on, you just might make it

I had a great first half of the race, but I started to wane badly during miles 15 through 24. This is probably where I would have benefited from a few more longer runs over the last couple o’ months. I started to slow way down and the mental low-points started seepin’ on in.

“I can’t make a sub-4, I should just slow down and enjoy the run”, I’d say to myself all woe-is-me.

But when I hit the 24-mile mark, I looked at my Garmin and saw 3:40-something, and realized that I might still have a shot for a sub-4 after all.

I started to push and push, and I am not sure where the drive came from or how I found the strength that late in the race, but I became hell-bent on the sub-4.

I was an obsessed runner.

Spittin’ and snottin’, calves wanting to cramp. They’d do these little mini cramps, almost making my legs buckle as if to warn me to chill out or pay dearly.

I ran as hard I could. Through the intersection leaving Peachtree, around the corner, down-then-up the last hill section, and literally sprinted the long stretch to Turner Field and the finish line.

People watching along the finish could see the clock and tell I was pushing it hard, chasing the 3:59, and they cheered and offered lots of encouragement, but I could only barely hear’em…

I was possessed.

My Garmin says my fastest pace was down to 5:24/mile. For me, that’s blistering speed.

Then…

“DAMN, DAMN, DAMN!”

I ran under the clock and it read, 4:00:06

“I can’t believe I missed it by six seconds.”, I screamed to my wife. (and anyone else within about 100 yards)

I complained the whole way home and sulked around for awhile until I remembered that I had started towards the back of the pack – my actual chip time was definitely going to be faster than the race clock time because it took me awhile to cross the actual starting line after the gun went off.

…but was it far enough back from the starting line to erase the 4:00-hour mark?

“YES!”

The Atlanta Marathon web site recorded my actual chip time as 3:59:58 – I got my sub-4 by two seconds.

I am so, so happy.

Setting and obtaining goals feels good.

It’s all about seeing that “3”.

So, great, now what’s the goal for 2009?

Funny you should ask. Here are a couple goals for 2009:

  1. Running 175 miles at ATY
  2. Sub-6 at the Mountain Mist 50K
  3. Sub-6 at the Sweet H20 50K
  4. Finish the Keys 100
  5. Sub-8 at Laurel Valley in August
  6. Head back Superior Sawtooth 100-mile for a sub-35 hour
  7. or, finish Cascade Crest 100-mile trail race
  8. A sub-3:30 at the 2009 Atlanta Marathon

Never stop trying to be better.

Restoration 15K | race report plus

I bet you never even knew that Crawford, Georgia exists.

But, sure enough, there stood Babette and Christian, at the start of the Restoration 15K, cold, shivering, jumping up and down to keep warm and wondering how “that dude” could be wearing shorts in 19 degrees.

It was sort of a low-key race.

The RD begins the race with, “Please be careful out there.”

“Please stay to the right of the road.”

“None of the race route has been blocked off.”

…huh?

“These are country roads, and if you don’t stay to the right, they’ll hit you.”

…wow.

Meanwhile, my wife is in Gloria Estefan heaven, or some other kind of ipod seventies party music, and is completely unaware. Yea, yea, I know, headphones and stuff. You tell her.

So what? You ran some country roads.

Yea, that’s about it.

9.3 miles of Georgia country roads. Stray dogs, roadkill, cow pastures and chicken factories; And grouchy, fat cops, leaning way too far back in black LTDs, blowing the horn at the occassional runner bobbing and weaving away from the yellow line.

I’m usually appreciative of the police escorts, but these guys were obviously not enthusiastic about the event. Maybe they were cold. Maybe they were just grouchy small town southern dudes. Who knows…

We ran down one long road, turned right onto another long road, and finished down the last long road.

My wife got third place in her age/sex group. Yea, Babette!

I missed third place in my age/sex group by 30 seconds. {sigh}

And that’s pretty much the race report.

But it got a whole lot wierder as I got deeper south

Along the way towards our destination of the thriving metropolis of Milledgeville, Georgia, I met quite a few characters and experienced the deep south in ways that only “My Cousin Vinny”-lovers could appreciate.

The smoky man of White Plains, Georgia

So, I’m lost.

In rural Georgia, there can be six street names for the same highway.

This is a real-world example:

“Turn down Eatonton Rd/GA-24/US-129/US-441″

Come on…

I stopped at a store in a little town called White Plains. The store owner was seated, just like you’d expect in the movies, in a ol’ plastic chair, watching a static-filled TV and smoking thick cigarettes one after the other. The entire store was thick with smoke – and the dude sounded like his trachea was falling out.

Here’s the conversation with the store owner:

“Am I going the right way to get to Milledgeville?”

“Nope.”

“Well, my Google directions tell me…”

“Thems Internet di-rections? Aw, Hell, thems is always wrong!”

He then proceeds to share the following…

“Just last week my daughter borrowed the Blazer and drove on down to Albany, GA, and you know them damn directions took her through Savannah, first? Can you believe that sh$%!?”

and he continued, “then, she calls me and says, ‘Daddy, the car won’t crank’, and ta’make a long story short, I had to go ’round the corner, get an alternator from the ol’ Chevy place, and go down there and swap out that alternator right damn there in the parking lot”

“Can you believe it?”

Then he drops the bomb.

“To make it worse, she commenced ta’tellin’ me she’s a lesbian.”

And then, thankfully, someone else walked in whom he was more interested in, and I slithered out the door when I saw the open opportunity.

Hopped back in the truck, and shared the story with my wife as we headed even deeper, into the deep south.

The Voodoo People

We pretty much bounced around, completely lost, but sorta headed in the right direction, when we stumbled upon Jones Chapel Road …near, of course, the Jones Chapel Church, in a little “community” called Devereux Community.

This is just flat-out weird.

I’ve heard about African-American communities which still practice Voodoo, and other cultural religions that freak people out, but I have only seen glimpses of it…

Saturday, I feel like I walked right into it.

There was this store, but you’d never know it was a store. It kinda looked like it might have once been a store, but the windows were boarded up, and there wasn’t any real movement around the place – but there was a neon OPEN sign, outside the boards, so we stopped for directions.

I walked in and the place was as dark as a closet. It was musty, dusty and caused me to cough immediately upon entry.

It was huge and empty and there were racks designed for food products strung here and there, but most only had a handful of products and of those products, they looked to have about six years of dust on them.

Think Lay’s Potato Chips from, like, 1999.

This very, very black woman, with white outlines around her pupils, looked at me and asked, “whatchu want?”

“Is this Carrs Station road?”, I asked.

and in the thickest, southern-Jamaican-Islandy type accent I have ever heard, she responds, “tis her’ Jones Chapel Road”, “You lost.”

Then, another very dark man appears literally out of the shadows and says, “where ya goin? what’s you’re final destination”

No way, I was telling him.

They just stared at me. Long silent stare. I heard shuffling and noises somewhere behind them, but saw nothing.

You know what it feels like when you walk in on something that sorta sketches everyone out, right? This was one of those moments.

I stumbled and stammered with my comments, but obviously was a little freaked out, so I just thanked them and left.

Walking back to the car, I just opened my mouth and motioned “WOW” very slowly and silently at my wife sitting in the car.

I love the South, but…

I am a southerner and proud of it, but the deep South could really use a make-over. For one, name your $%#@! roads. Please. Telling me to turn “at the second road”, or “at the bottom of the hill”, is just not helpful.

Once, as we were asking directions from a MIlledgeville local resident on how to get home, she states, “go on up to the stop sign and turn left on Gum Cemetary Road. It will say some other name, but it’s really Gum Cemetary Road”

huh?

The end

So there it is, I’m not really sure why or how all this made it into a 15K race report, and I apologize profusely for the rambling beyond the actual race itself, but the whole situation sorted stemmed from the little 15K country race in Crawford, Georgia and just kept getting weirder.

Just when you thought stereotypes like this were no more …you find, it’s never changed.

Serenbe 15K Race Report


Ever seen someone run over by a deer?

Me neither…

Until today.

The trippy little community of Serenbe

I’m not sure that I’ve really ever been to a “planned community” before.

And I’m not sure exactly what to think. Yea, it was beautiful with it’s big pastures of horses, wide open spaces, and miles and miles of gorgeous hiking trails; but it was also just a teeny-tiny bit creepy in a “us and them” kinda way.

I’m probably just jealous I don’t live there.

The little 15K that could

The coolest thing about this race was having my wife out on the trail. It was her first trail race, AND her first attempt at 9.3 miles. We didn’t get to run much together, but she likes it better that way anyhow. {sigh}

Serenbe 15K start
photo: Wife and I, and yes, I wear my 100-miler finisher jacket any time I can.

The race started at the center of the little community of Serenbe. We ran through the center of the pleasant-ville-ish town with it’s big country homes, neat little shops, art galleries, and restaurants, before crossing a pasture and entering some muddy jeep road.

And that’s where it happened…

This deer comes flying through the woods, right alongside all of us. It’s frantic acting, running really fast and wobbly and scared.

I felt bad for it.

The deer tries a couple of times to cross the runners’ path, but there doesn’t seem to be a gap he’s comfortable with entering.

Then he just charges it.

Runners bob and weave out the way, but one lady does not see him, or she freezes up or something, but the deer just plows right into her, twenty feet in front of me, spinning her around, and sorta’ forcing her up against this big, wooden farm fence.

It was crazy.

Less than a minute later, another deer, this time a buck, comes flying across a field, ducks his head, antlers and all, and charges right across the runners’ path.

Luckily, no runners were in his way.

From that point on, I watched for deer like a hawk, but never saw another one.

Is there such a thing as too pleasant?

What a great race. I settled into a semi-fast pace for myself, and just cruised through Serenbe trails.

We ran through double-track, single-track, pastures with beautiful horses, cute little donkeys (which my wife adored immensely), and goats, sheep, and roosters.

Some trail was rugged, but mostly it was well-manicured, wide and smooth with fallen leaves, creating nature’s more ideal running surface.

I was in heaven. I could have run out there all day. I was sorry to see it end.

Serenbe 15K finish line

My wife was …smiling?

My buddy crossed the finish line in 1:18, and I followed behind at 1:21. I had hoped to run a little faster, but unfortunately showed up with extremely sore quads from a nasty CrossFit workout.

I didn’t care though, ’cause I had a fabulous race. My fitness felt dialed-in and I never once had any trouble at all, …but I started to wonder about my wife Babette.

I had better back-track, find her, and run with her to finish the race.

“oh, man, Christian, she might be mad at you with all this mud and stuff…”, my buddy says.

“yea, I know.” – “She’ll probably scream at me and tell me not to run with her or talk to her.”

(she doesn’t like to talk when she runs)

But surprise, surprise, here she comes, about a mile from the finish, and she’s smiling.

Woo hoo! She doesn’t hate me.

She crosses in 1:55-ish, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.

Way to go Babette! You ran 9.3 miles like a champ.

You’re gonna kill the Atlanta Thanksgiving Half-Marathon!

Nothing like beer at 10:00 a.m.

You gotta love a race that cracks open the keg as the runners trickle on in at the finish. A couple of cold ones, a little socializing, and we were on way back to the real world of traffic, crime, and pollution.

Chalk up another great trail race.

This one might become a tradition. It’s just too damn pleasant.


photo: Babette cruising the trails, one mile away from her first trail race finish.

Serenbe 15K race results

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