Wednesday, July 05, 2017

My 30th Ptree Road Race

Recap of my 30th Peachtree Road Race. Living on Greenwood Avenue near Piedmont Park in the mid-1980’s, I volunteered at the finish line twice. In 1989 coworker Todd Harris talked me into running the thing. Been running it ever since.
Monday afternoon I left work at five and barely beat W&MC home. I saw them let Okie out of the car, so I let Barney go outside to greet him. The two dogs played around - and messed up some of the flowers at the end of the driveway. Ooops. Mexican for supper – chicken and fish tacos. Matthew cooked, and made a tasty bean and corn dip as well. Joel arrived just as we were finishing our meal, and later a friend of Anna’s from Camp Highland came. They all played a game. I was tired and went to bed.
Didn’t sleep well. Up before five. Left the house at 5:30. Got off at North Avenue and made a left on Peachtree. Saw my first gaggle of runners on the way to MARTA: coworker Brad and his sons. Parked on Myrtle at an intersection catty corner from Brad at 6 am. We were earlier than the past several years, and MARTA was less crowded. Made it to Phipps Plaza just before 6:50, almost an hour before we’d start. I’d started my watch as we’d begun our walk to MARTA, and had walked 1.27 miles to reach Phipps.
As Will and waited I realized that in my haste to get out the door I hadn’t eaten a single bite. Not good. Neither had Will. On the drive down he thought about mentioning it, but never did. I wish he had. Line jumpers were being escorted back to their correct groups. No invocation this year that I heard. Has the Peachtree removed God?
Saw a guy with an “1970 original finisher” Carling Peachtree T-shirt. Plenty of costumes. My favorite was a Chuck Norris America shirt. At one point of the race I was behind a guy wearing a green wig. A spectator hollered “nice hair!” so I replied “thanks!” The green wig guy whirled around to see me, and cracked up.
Seemed like a majority of people carried their cell phones. The PRR has always been more of an experience than mere footrace, a celebration for regular folk as well as the US 10K championship. Phones with cameras and social media only expand the celebration. This year there was a portable jumbotron set up at the intersection of Peachtree and Lenox. Before the race the jumbotron was showing the finish of the wheelchair race, the 11Alive broadcast, various interviews, the introduction of the elite runners, the anthem singers, the obligatory advertisements – and videos taken by runners running last year’s race, using go pro cameras and what not.
Call me a geezer, but phones were slowing down the whole process. People taking pictures as the line was moving. Running while staring at their phone. And on and on. I’d like to take my phone to take pictures, but (a) I’m scared I’d drop it and it would get stepped on and someone would slip and (b) I wouldn’t want it waterlogged. As we waiting for the start the guy next to me dropped his with a splat, but it was ok. Those damn kids and their phones.
At the end of the Star Spangled Banner two perfectly timed low-flying F16 fighters roared north up Peachtree, in full view of all 60,000 runners who were all facing south. Super bad. The jets then banked right, eventually looping around for a second flyover as they headed to Dobbins AFB. One of the pilots then came back and ran the race. My ears are still ringing.
At the start I made my way over to the slower right side. Crossed the start line at 7:51 am. My first mile was my fastest (11:23). I would run for 30 seconds and walk for thirty. I grabbed a cup of water from every official water station, but didn’t want to pour water over my head until after I said my hellos at SPdL. That made it hot - most of the first two miles are in the sun.
Mile two was all slightly downhill, my second fastest (11:57). I considered grabbing a donut, but like last year I didn’t see where Publix was handing any out. By then I wasn’t really hungry.
Saw no one I knew at SPdL. No one. They might’ve been helping with water. As a veteran of the race, I’m not sure if handing out water at SPdL is really worth the effort. SPdL is on the left, where the seasoned runners supposedly run. It’s the walkers on the right who need the water. In fact I only saw one person I knew the entire way, a former coworker who mans a water station near Channel 2.
As I continued the shady downhill from Wesley to Peachtree Creek I tried to keep up my pace, though I was growing more tired and hot (mile 3 = 12:12). Made eye contact and said hello to former Mayor Sam Massell, who looked good for his age. He sat alone in a single chair, tended to by what looked to be his daughter. Massell thanked me for saying hello.
Quite a contrast with Atlanta’s current major, who had been interviewed at the starting line. Heading up the hill past the mike 3 marker, as well as In the shade of the fifth mile I saw young men displaying signs with the race logo thanking Mayor Reed for his years of service. Then as I passed the High Museum I fell in walking behind two officers on bikes, slowly pedaling at a pace slightly slower than mine. Eventually I ran around them and discovered ten walkers slowly proceeding down the road, all dressed in black shorts and t-shirts. As opposed to dripping with sweat like everyone else, these interlopers (mostly women) scarcely had a glint of sweat on them. The group took up two lanes of pavement, blocking the path of thousands trying to maneuver past. I could be wrong, but at the rate they were going I don’t see how they could have started at from Lenox Square (even when the elite runners went off at 7:30 am) and made it five miles in approximately 75 minutes.
At mile three I finally poured a cup of water over my head. Felt great. Walked up the hill and ran the plateau past Bennihanas, then walked up Heartbreak Hill. Bumped fists with patients from the Shepherd Spinal Center. Grabbed a couple of blue SSC sweatbands. Construction at Piedmont Hospital had taken out the stately trees in front. Further down the spectator was back tossing cheese puffs into the mouths of runners. I nodded and he tossed me a puff, but I just missed. Made sure to grab a bracelet for a Mellow Mushroom free pizza. Grabbed a cup of water from an old Shriner at Pershing Point. My mile 4 split was 15:38.
Crossed the bridge over I-75 in the bright sun. The musician usually stationed on the bridge had moved further south. Usually I’ll glance his way but this year I totally forgot. I moved over to the left to see Ellsworth at the water station. Remembered how Harriett used to stand at the bank across from the old Gulf station. Not wanted to get my shoes wet, I walked up on the sidewalk to avoid a water spray. Noticed the shady “Olympic Mile” was eerily quiet, with no music, bands, or announcers between White Columns and the High Museum. There were even long stretches without any onlookers.       
As I finished mile five (13:47) I looked at my watch and started thinking. Over the years I’ve gotten worse at calculating how fast I need to be to make a certain time, but glancing at my watch (without my glasses) I was surprised to see on was on pace to finish well under an hour and a half. Before the race I had made no calculations or looked up times from the past few years. I’d forgotten last years’ time of 1:25.00. So starting at 14th Street I began to push just a little bit harder.
Before making the turn onto 10th Street I noticed two skyscrapers I’d never noticed before, across from the Federal Reserve where Jocks & Jill’s used to be. The crowd had become thicker, making for more things to see. Then out of the shade at the turn and into the bright sun again, down the hill under the photo bridge. I kept looking for a glimpse of the T-shirt, but every finisher I saw had theirs in their bag. I wouldn’t see the shirt until after the finish. Excellent choice: nice logo and color.
Up the last hill. My sixth mile had been slightly faster (13:28). The pace on the course at this point is faster, since everyone wants to finish strong. You have to be extra careful not to cut in front of someone making a sprint for the finish. Oftentimes the announcer is in the perch calling out encouragement, but I saw him turning away as I neared the finish line. I totally forgot to look at the time clock, but I’d forgotten to look at it at the start as well. Ran my last half mile at a 12:06 pace.
I had started my watch about twenty yards before the start line, so I wouldn’t be fiddling with it as all the runners were taking off. Still I hit the mile mark earlier and earlier as the race went on, probably because I wasn’t changing lanes taking the shortest route like the Kenyans can do. My 6.2 miles was actually 6.47 miles. Nice how the watch automatically tracked my splits and transferred the information to my phone: 1256 active calories burned. 1459 total calories. Average heart rate of 164 BPM. Average pace of 12:59 per mile. The time jived almost exactly with the time logged by the chip on my race number bib.
When I crossed the finished line I ended my race workout on my watch, and immediately started another workout to track the walk through the park and around Grady Stadium back to the car. Looked for Will near the awards stage, which had been moved into the shade near the hill. Couldn’t find him there or on the hill, so I walked around to where the stage had been, then looped around back to where finishers funnel out. Went back by the stage and finally spotted him in the distance. We grabbed a couple of Powerades and joined the march west up 8th Street: 2.6 miles, 1171 active calories, 1488 total calories, heart rate of 116 BPM in the 86 degree heat / 62% humidity.
On the way home we stopped by to see Joel at Chattahoochee Coffee behind the Westside Taqueria. Later W and M made a grocery run, and I went to Kroger for ice. W and M grilled burgers, dogs, and ribs. Also potato salad, corn on the cob, cole slaw, ice cream, and blueberry/blackberry cobbler. The kids played another game. I took a nap. W&MC left for Augusta around 5 pm. C, M, and Anna watched Harry Potter. I worked on my laptop and went to bed before ten. Peachtree #30 was in the books.

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