Peachtree Road Race 2016

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The Peachtree started off as a bucket list item.  Knees are in good shape, I’m in decent shape…  it was time to do it.  The first year I ran the race, I was very pleased with my overall time.  Having not run a 10k, it took me only three minutes longer than running two 5k races.   That was surprising and encouraging, considering the amount of walking I did.  Last year, it misted and rained.  It took a minute longer, but I had just gotten over a cold and hadn’t trained much.  This year, I started training earlier, but… business travel, shows to watch on TV, and who enjoys running, anyway?  I trained “some.”  In fact, my treadmill experience proved that, if the race were flat and a fan was blowing on me, I could handily beat my fastest time.

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This year, the temperature was 77o at the start.   That’s a great temperature for Atlanta in the summer, but at 8:05 a.m., it means “hot day ahead.”  By the end of my run, it was 82o… with 83% humidity.  There was little wind, and even shadows from buildings were sparse.  Ugh.

Here’s the sports recap.  First, a 10k is hardly that.  Considering the distance from the car to the Marta train, the train to the race start, the race (6.2 miles), navigating Piedmont Park in post-race stupor, the Park back to the Marta station, and the final walk to the car, we have:

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10.9  miles with enough vertical elevation to somehow say I also went up 14 floors.  That’s not bad for an early morning.  You’ll note the other bars in the chart.  These do not indicate a lack of preparation (though they may as well).  I usually don’t run with my phone and debated bringing it.  But, with the threat of terror events, best to have it just in case I needed to check in with the spousal unit.  So, I ran with it in my pocket.  Why? Because I didn’t spare a thought to bringing a fanny pack, which I’ve used in the past two races.   C’mon brain. 

Running with a phone in my pocket is a distraction.  Why?  It’s not because of the weight or any particular movement.  It’s because (see above temperature and humidity facts) I’m sweating profusely, and every mile there is a water station where I take a few sips of water and douse myself with the remainder.  Plus another full cup of water because I’m just that hot, and it feels so good.  If I’m going to be soaked, I may as well go all in, right?  Only… “I hope my phone works when this is all over.”  It’s a mental aggravation.

We line up in queues based on a starting letter, J for me this year.  As the race start looms, I’m thinking… “Why didn’t I use one of the portable potties before the race?”  I know the answer, of course.  The lines are long, I didn’t think I needed to go, and who really wants to use one?  So I ran the first three miles without stopping, in 30 minutes which is a good time for me.  I’ve done it faster, but the J group, however many thousands there are in a wave, didn’t exactly launch from the start.  It’s kind of like roller skating when I was a kid.  I was small and nimble and could zig zag between people.  Not here.  Families and friends like to run side by side, forming a wall.  People suddenly stop running and walk resulting in evasive maneuvers.  There’s feet and legs to be navigated.  It’s like a runner’s version of Frogger, trying to find a passable lane and… it just didn’t work well this year and my pace suffered.  To beat my better time, the few minutes lost in this phase really matter, because 2/3 of it is downhill.

Back to irritants.  At mile three…  pit stop.  The bladder said I had to.   That irritant dispatched, I’m ready to go!… uphill.  Not so much.  I expect to walk up some of the hills, most notably “Cardiac Hill,” but the energy just wasn’t there for any kind of incline.  So I walked those.  Miles 4 and 5… I don’t like them, but I’ve done far better.   And why is it when I’m walking that I get even more encouragement from the crowd?  “Go Clemson!” and “Go Tigers!”  - I’m one of those people who wear their college shirts.  Maybe they like Clemson, maybe they just read something to distinguish runners passing by.  So, I give a thumbs up and keep walking.  Embarrassing, really.  J wave is seeded for people who largely run…   And I did, in the flat parts.  

Usually, I like checking out the crowds.  They dress up, they hand out additional free water, dress up in costumes, carry amusing inspirational signs, and, as noted, shout encouragement.  Bands play alongside the road, church groups hand out free snacks, Mellow Mushroom offers free pizza if you return with your race bib, an Episcopal minister flicks holy water at runners, and there’s a lot going on if you pay attention.  And I should, because I’m only competing with myself.  Why do the crowds do this?  It’s a fairly big Atlanta event (55k-60k participants, not including a horde of volunteers), and many start their July 4th on the sidewalks with Bloody Marys, Mimosas or beer.   I was just looking for a sign that told me I made it another mile, because that matters, as does the water station thereabouts. Anyway, I resurrected myself to (mostly) run the final mile.  The results?  Meh.  However, I think my percentiles are probably the same as previous years, so I guess I wasn’t alone for lack of heat transfer. Or improved training.  Oops.

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As I look at it, the time could have read 01:12:00 had I not made the pit stop midway… but, there’s an excuse for everything, such as the previously mentioned pokey people and my wet feet from all that water I poured on myself (and the resulting blisters).   Anyway, I had the legs for this race (except Cardiac Hill), but when it comes to mental toughness during a meltdown… Fail.  

After recuperating with a bottle of water and ice soaked towels, I meandered to the Park exit to find that the official path to the Marta station is longer than in the previous year, and, as a bonus, it’s pretty much all uphill… in the sun.  So, thank you Three Taverns brewery for handing out free beer samples along that route.  I then met up with a couple work friends whose spouses claim street side real estate very early in the morning.  Thus was had another refreshing beer, a camp chair, and a pleasant way to unwind.  Also, it offered the opportunity to watch (roughly) Waves R-Y, which are essentially walkers.  Lots of them.  Some are elderly and move their arms like they’re running (which has a certain charm that they’re still “running the Peachtree”), some families choose to walk it together, and a lot of people aren’t fit to run but just turn out for the event (and the T-shirt).

Final note, for any travelers visiting Atlanta on July 4th… don’t use Marta in the morning.  For some reason, there’s a funky smell.

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Campground Association, Martha’s Vineyard

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I recently had the opportunity for a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard, making use of Boston’s relatively narrow season of pleasant weather and long days. Having done my research, one place I wanted to visit was the Campmeeting Association in Oak Bluff.  A brisk walk through the picturesque but nonetheless touristy town area led haphazardly to this entrance. 

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What a change of pace.  The use of this area dates to 1835 when New England Methodists spiked their tents in place for organized summer retreats.  Fast forward a bit, and the tent owners visited often enough to warrant bringing boards for temporary flooring above which they kept their tents.  By 1859, wooden buildings emerged to accommodate longer usage by attendees, which earlier included only adults, as well as the introduction of children as families began to recreate for longer than original week to 10 days of intensive religious activity.   Later, cottages emerged partially inspired by the look of the tents that they replaced as well as their close proximity. 

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A formal association was created in 1860 with 21 members of its Board of Directors, which continues to this day.  The Association owns the land (now 34 acres compared to its original half acre site), and tracts are technically leased to the cottage owners.  This also allows the Association to maintain some control of occupant’s houses – i.e. preservation.  It also creates difficulties.  As the houses may sell from $350,000 to $600,000, a loan may be required, and banks are less willing to lend for leased properties.  And to buy, you will need three recommendations, at least one from a clergy member vetting your religious devotion (though not necessarily Methodist) and another from a current campground member.  Of the over 300 homes remaining (there were over 500), only a handful go on sale each year; most are handed down from generation to generation.  Don’t forget to add ~$3,000 in property taxes and ~$2,000 for your land lease each year. All this is yours for a summer home of 650 sq.ft. to 1,400 sq.ft… and for a house built 150 years ago… that isn’t firmly secured to the ground.

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It has its charm, though, and you get to live in a National Historic District.  The houses reflect a Victorian influence and a penchant for scrolled “gingerbread” accents, and the somewhat vertical, peaked shapes suggest miniature chapels, though with balconies and porches.  Though cheaply constructed, the gingerbread scrolls are said to largely have been done by the owners.  Also, the houses were generally painted white rather than the rainbow shades seen today.

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The property is roughly centered around the Tabernacle (1879), an open sided wrought iron worship center, and near to it is the Grace Chapel (1885).  The land is immaculate, though not all houses are equally maintained.  Still, it’s essentially the equivalent of living in a doll house in a nice park setting.  The community does have many religious and social activities through the habitable months.  During the winter, the campground, and most of Oak Haven, is shuttered.

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While walking around, we found Brian Kirkpatrick painting on his porch.  He’s lived in the house for over 20 years and is a folk ark painter, selling in galleries both on the island and in Islamorada, FL.  He paints early and often, and, given the weather on the day I visited, why not?

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He has to be one of the most accommodating homeowners, freely welcoming conversation including his art and the history of the community.  He points towards the vertical post at the peak of his house as being from the tent originally on the patch of land and also confessed the house, which is obviously thin and narrow, teeters in high winds as it’s set on a stone foundation without straps or other securement.  The painting he was working on was inspired by his grandson holding a frog.

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Unasked, he also offered a peek inside.  And, me without a wide angle lens.  I’ve looked at a few other houses online, and they tend often tend towards feminine delicacy – simple antiques, lace and such.  I much prefer the splash of color and general character of the furnishings here.

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In any case, this area was more special as the downtown area is simply a better dressed Gatlinburg, Myrtle Beach, or (name your tacky tourist definition where souvenirs dominate).  It’s a very peaceful place. The complete set of pictures can be seen on Flickr.

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