Peachtree

Sorry for the long delay in posting.  I was hoping/waiting for some race day pictures to emerge, but this is the only one I could find.  Awesome, he said with much sarcasm:

Check out that facial expression! I think I was expecting someone to hurl peaches at me.

Coming into 2011, having already conquered my ultimate goal of qualifying for Boston, I decided to try to run some of those huge races I’d heard so many great things about but had never done myself.  One was the Cooper River Bridge run 10K, which I ran in April.  Another was Atlanta’s Peachtree 10K, America’s biggest road race with some 60,000 runners.

Just like I did for Cooper River, I procrastinated registering for Peachtree until it was full.  Looked like I wouldn’t be running it this year after all.  But a couple of weeks ago, the Atlanta Track Club, who puts on the race, posted on Facebook that they were providing a couple of hundred charity bibs.  I quickly pounced and, voila, just like that, I was in, albeit $150 poorer.  But at least some lucky Kilometer Kid would get to run a road race thanks to yours truly.  You’re welcome kid.  Oh, and you better win or I will be upset.  Allen doesn’t dish out cash to losers.

I posted on Facebook that I was running Peachtree and my buddy Scott Helms and his friend Glenda responded that they had a free place for the weekend and that I could stay with them.  Jackpot!

Friday

I met Scott at his place where we were picked up by his friends, Melissa and Jeff.  The drive down was mostly uneventful, with the following exception.

See the Fatz sign to the right of the giant butt, er peach? This is where we ate.

We stopped to eat in Gafney, SC at a Fatz Cafe which lied, literally, in the shadow of the world famous giant peach.  And there was nothing particularly notable about Fatz, except that they had fried corn on the menu (which they were out of, by the way), and one waitress’ hairdo.  When I first spotted her, for a split second I thought – and I’m being quite serious – that she actually had a rooster perched on her head.  I couldn’t help but stare – it was that mesmerizing.  I can’t imagine how much work she must do daily to get her hair to stand like that.  Why do people have such god-awful hairdo’s that are so difficult to maintain?  If you’re going to have bad hair, you might as well do like I do and at least get a do that’s easy (I buzz mine with my own set of clippers) – why put yourself through all that work to look like crap?  Yeah, I’m looking at you Lady GaGa.

After a google images search of bad hair, this do is the closest thing I could find to the Fatz waitress' version. Remarkably, this one is better, though.

After a lot of Medusa jokes, we finished our lunch and got back on the road.

A few hours later and we were in Atlanta.  We found a quaint little area, near where we’d be staying, with restaurants and bars.  We parked in a nearby grocery star parking lot and were fascinated to find “Jayne Mansfield’s Death Car”.  We found out later that this was actually a movie set for Billy Bob Thorton’s next production, the aptly named Jayne Mansfield’s Car.  Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your point of view, we didn’t spot any movie stars.

We settled in at a garage converted to a bar, cleverly named the Universal Joint, and had a few drinks while we waited on Glenda, who had the key to our accommodations (her friends’, out of town for the weekend, house).  I avoided alcohol as my body, still recovering from illness, was nowhere near beer-ready.  Glenda showed up and we shot across the street to Mojo, a Fuel-like pizza joint, where good food and good times were had by all.

When we finally made it to the house, I was pleasantly surprised to have an upstairs bedroom all to myself.  A little worried initially as I found the room blistering hot, I soon relaxed after cranking the window AC unit.  My first night in town, I slept like a rock.

The Weekend

With the race not until Monday, 4th of July, we had all weekend to tool around the city.  Saturday began with Scott and I taking a pleasant little run through Atlanta, including by East Lake Golf Club, the home course of legendary (arguably the best ever) golfer Bobby Jones.

Later in the morning, we met up with local Renaissance man, Joe Peacock, a published novelist, an MMA fighter, and a web designer at Studio Revolver.  But for this weekend, he turned Atlanta tour guide as he showed us around the city.  Our first stop, The Flying Biscuit, but not just any Flying Biscuit (after all, we have these in Charlotte), this was the original Flying Biscuit.  Joe assured us it was better than all the rest.  And the crowd out front apparently agreed as the host told us the wait would be 2 hours.  But it was worth the wait for the raspberry french toast alone – in a word, incredible.

In the afternoon we made it to the expo.  I was anxious to have my starting corral changed.  When I registered, I submitted my Concord United Way 10K time, 40:13, for seeding purposes, but for whatever reason, it had apparently been ignored as I was initially placed in the B Wave, whose 10K standard was 50:59.  I really wanted to be in the sub-seed (40:59) so I printed out my 2010 Athlink results in which every race I ran in 2010 qualified me for the sub seed wave (the next wave after the elites).

I entered the expo with Athlinks results and I was ready to debate.  But there was no need – the lady at the registration booth never even looked at my printout (I probably could have finagled my way into the elite wave).  She just handed me a sub seed bib and I was on my way, ecstatic.

The only other highlight of the expo occurred at a booth where you shoot a Nerf dart gun at a target for a prize.  Joe shot a dud – his dart shot a lazy arc of about 3 feet before gently crashing to the floor.  I tried not to laugh too loudly – Joe is one big dude and did I mention he’s an MMA fighter? – but  that’s partly what made it so funny.  I couldn’t hold back much.  That was some funny stuff.  Other than the dart gun incident, the expo was pretty standard fare.

Joe drove Melissa, Jeff, and I around town (Glenda and Scott were off doing their own thing).  We visited enough coffee shops that my heart was beating like a hummingbird’s.  Joe took us to his place of work, Studio Revolver, which is home to several prominent comic book artists, including Dexter Vines, well known inker of Hulk comics.  As impressed as I was (I grew up a big fan of the Hulk), I couldn’t help but be reminded of this Chasing Amy scene.

At one point we drove by Farm Burger and Joe told us we had to eat there.  He claimed the best burger he’d ever eaten came from Farm Burger.  “Not the best in Atlanta, not the best in the region, the best burger ever, anywhere”, he told us.  Having eaten there later that night, the next day, when we told Joe he was right, Farm Burger did indeed make a delicious burger, Joe said, “I told you.  I don’t deal in hyperbole.”  Which, of course, is exactly what someone who deals in hyperbole would say.  Personally, I think one of the main reasons the Farm Burger burgers seem so delicious is because a sweet, beautiful cashier sells them to you.  She could have given me a stale old Jack in the Box burger and I would have loved it.

Sunday, Joe took us to the famous Atlanta aquarium.  But when we got there, the line was insane.  We turned around and left.  I told Joe and crowd, “Yeah, I don’t care if they had the Loch Ness monster in there, I wouldn’t wait in that line to see it.”  We hit more coffee houses, Criminal Records, and other cool venues, before finally settling down at The Porter Beer Bar in Little Five Points.  I had made it the entire weekend without drinking but I could resist no longer.  These guys had the largest selection of beers I’d ever seen (more than the Flying Saucer even, it seemed!), but I wanted to keep it simple.  I like to try local brews and I heard that Terrapin was brewed in Athens, GA so Terrapin it was.  A nice light lager – perfect!  We had a great time, sharing a table and cutting up with a young couple, with the young guy, a dead ringer for Hyde from That 70’s Show, hailing from Matthews.  More fun had by all.

That night, we went back to the house and had a big pasta party.  Then things took a slight turn.  The family whose house we were occupying for the weekend came home unexpectedly.  They kindly offered to let Scott and Glenda stay in their room, so they went upstairs, to the room I’d been sleeping in.  This bumped me to the couch in the living room.  No big deal, except that the party carried on for a bit and the race was at 7:30 the next morning.  We’d have to leave by 5:30 to make it on time.

Everyone at the party was respectful of the fact that there was a race in the morning and so folks took off, or went to bed, relatively early – I could still get a decent night’s sleep.  I grabbed my sheets and settled in on the couch.  But just as I was about to nod off, someone (not going to embarrass them by mentioning any names here), plopped down on the adjacent couch.  And almost immediately began to snore.  What is it about staying with a group that has the snorers always gravitating to me (see Asheville trip)?  I thought I was saved when they got up and went back to bed at one point – I briefly fell asleep.  But they returned and the snoring resumed and I may have gotten an hour’s worth of sleep.  Maybe it was the snoring or maybe it was the 2 days of pumping my body full of caffeine – regardless, I got little sleep.  Early (before 4:00), I gave up on trying to sleep and just got up and got ready.

The Race

Everyone awoke and prepared themselves for the race shortly thereafter and we shot over to the MARTA station to ride the rail into town.  We made it to the site of the start, near the Lenox Square Mall, without incident and I started putting my game face on.  We walked up the stairs out of the MARTA station and made our way towards the start.

We walked towards Lenox Square, Scott and I in front of Glenda and Melissa.  Suddenly, I felt a sharp pain from behind, “down there”, and so, ripped from my race morning focus, mind racing, I wheeled around, not sure what was going on but thinking I was suddenly being assaulted in the big city.  But there was only Glenda, grinning, when I realized she had kicked me, playing around.  I snapped a little and yelled, “What is wrong with you?!?!”  I know this sounds bad and I may come across as a jerk, but allow me to elaborate a little (and yes, embellish ever so slightly).  Glenda’s kick was like a one in a million shot, like Luke Skywalker’s attack on the Death Star.  Her shoe found home.  Most prison rapes are less invasive.  Won’t my doctor be surprised at my next colonoscopy when he sees the Asics logo embossed on my intestinal wall?  I later apologized and said, “For future reference, when kicking someone in the butt playfully, make sure to aim far left or far right, never, ever in the center.”

But I shook off the incident and started warming up.  I eventually made my way to the sub-seed corral and took my place in the crowd.  The mayor of Atlanta said a few words, there was an invocation, and then some local Atlanta singers sang the national anthem.  Just as they reached “the home of the brave”, 3 jets flew overhead.  I am not typically an uber-patriotic, “rah rah” kind of guy, but looking up at a 4-story American flag, with the singing of the national anthem and an incredible display of our power in the air, I got a little lump in my throat.

The next thing I knew, the horn sounded and we were off.  The plan was to try and go out a little slowly and run some negative splits, basically to run a tempo.  I had no delusions of grandeur after having come off a week of sickness.  I thought I could reasonably, comfortably hover around 6:30 pace and finish with a respectable sub-42:00.

The first 3 miles went according to plan.  The first half of the race is all downhill and it felt easy to rattle off 6:26, 6:26, and 6:25 splits.  I felt comfortable, I was enjoying the huge crowd support, and most importantly, I was having fun.  Life was good.

Then came mile 4 and everything changed.  Up, up, up we climbed.  And my pace got slower, slower, and slower.  Soon, it became quite evident that my race was officially over.  My mile 4 split was 7:19.

Around 4.5, there was a crowd trying to hand beers to the runners, but they had no takers.  In the crowd was a pretty girl and our eyes met, she smiled and pointed to the guy handing out Bud Light cans.  After making eye contact, I felt obligated to take one.  I grabbed it and the crowd erupted into cheers.  For about 2 seconds, I was a Peachtree rock star.  It was the highlight of my ‘race’.  My mile 5 split was 7:33 (slower than my marathon pace should be).

Mile 6 mercifully leveled off, and I just hung on and prayed for the finish line.  When I passed the Flying Biscuit, I knew I was close as we had driven past the finish from there on Saturday.  I only had about a quarter of mile to go.  I gutted it out and finished in 43:24.  Ugh, that’s a bad tempo time even – it was my slowest 10K in a year (I was shocked when I looked back over results and saw that the OrthoCarolina 10K last year was even slower.  I knew it had been slow – I didn’t realize it had been that slow!)

Maybe it was the heat and humidity. Maybe it was the hills.  Maybe it was the illness.  Maybe it was the sleep deprivation.  Maybe it was the gravel and shoelaces in my colon.  Or maybe I just suck.  Whatever the reason, my finishing time was pretty pathetic (for comparison, I ran a 39:54 at Cooper River in April).  But I’m not going to beat myself up too much.

The post race was phenomenal – the Atlanta Track Club does it up right.  Delicious ripe peaches, of course, highlighted the post-race fare which also included ice cream sandwiches, popsicles, cookies, pretzels, Powerade, and much, much more.  It was a blast.

And that was my Peachtree weekend.  Now I officially start marathon training with my sights on Savannah.  Stay tuned!

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