Sunday, January 8, 2017

2016 Rocket City Marathon Race Report and Video

Here's Holly's Rocket City Marathon (Alabama) Race Report and Video. Following are Dave's comments and some photos from the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville.

Some states are easy to pick which marathon I want to do. This was one of them. I love the space program, so a marathon held in Rocket City with a rocket theme is a win all the way around. We got to Huntsville the night before the race with just enough time to meet our great friends Stan and Pam for a delicious pasta dinner. We then headed over to the hotel and checked in.

Race morning and we couldn’t believe how bundled up we had to be in Alabama! It was 22 degrees at the start and I don’t think it got up to 40. My three coldest marathons: Florida, Mississippi and Alabama. Crazy! I was feeling prepared for this race and my mental preparedness was much better than the last two marathons. Honestly, the hardest part about running a marathon is keeping your head in the race the whole time. It’s easy to give up and just start walking. I’m happy to say that this did not happen for this race.We started off a bit too fast but I think that was because we were cold and we were trying to warm up. The course wound around on itself several times, but I could never tell. We ran mainly through neighborhoods. The highlight of course was running through Rocket City Park. Running by the Saturn V and under a space shuttle was priceless. It was even better to run with Stan, who is a huge space nut and he provided great commentary.

We ran through a great park that had a ton of Christmas light displays up. It would have been cool to run through this in the dark to see them all. Dave and Pam were doing their usual stellar job tracking us and collecting the few layers we actually did shed. This is the first time I ran with a running vest and I loved it. It kept me warm but I didn’t get overheated.

We kept up our intervals the whole way and yes, we did get tired at the end, but I didn’t give up, as I really wanted to get in under 5:30. The wind picked up a bit and that was a challenge but soon we were finishing by running into the indoor Von Braun Arena. A nice place to finish since it was cold. We were given a huge medal and a finisher hat. They also had free race photos and great food: Ice cream sandwiches and chicken noodle soup. They also gave us finisher certificates with our names printed on it at the finish. Very nice.

This was a first class race setup with excellent communication, a nice course, great finish and great swag. I would highly recommend the Rocket City Marathon.

Here's the video:

Dave's Comments:

This race had one of the strangest courses on paper we have seen with the route crossing over itself many times. Our first planned stop was in an older area of town with a bunch of one-ways and closed roads. We ended up driving on the course for our first viewing point. Ugh. After that it got relatively easier with a lot of residential areas connected by larger commercial streets. Our last major hurdle was getting to the finish because of closures, but the police officers watching the course gave us a decent route cutting through a shady apartment complex. We got some snacks at The Embassy Suites breakfast buffet near the start (I was a guest so it was ok), a Starbucks, and a Korean grocery store. The course was pretty lack-luster with the exception of the older homes at the start and the Rocket Center.

Post-race we found "brewery row". Three different breweries on the same street almost next door to each other. We had lunch at Straight to Ale, which was in a portion of an old middle school. Dedication plaques and the gym scoreboard were left in-place to enhance the theme. Next door was Yellowhammer. They had a great space and shared their building with a wood fired pizza place - this ended up being our dinner spot later in the evening. Salty Nut was the third brewery we visited. They were in an older commercial building that was a bit smaller than the others but they had a great beer garden (which we could not use given the cold). We liked the place a lot but left quickly since a hard rock band was warning up. To their credit they handed us earplugs.

On Sunday we visited the Space Center and looked at rockets. We sat through an interesting presentation on the International Space Station and walked through a model of it. We toured through the room with the Saturn V rocket hanging from the ceiling and read through most of the timeline of the space program. Honestly I am the wrong person to comment on this since it was mostly looking at cylinders with pointy ends. To be fair, my breweries are the same thing: cylinders with liquid in them.


My exit from this thing was not graceful


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Tennessee Detour - Jack Daniel's Distillery and Nashville

Recently we were in Huntsville, Alabama for the Rocket City Marathon. While Holly and our friend Stan were running, the snow storm up north started. All the weather people were predicting a large amount of snow for the entire weekend so getting home Sunday night did not seem like a reality. By Saturday afternoon the airline sent us a note that our flight for Sunday evening was cancelled and we should call them to make arrangements. Being quick thinkers we decided that we would extend our car rental for a day, drive to Nashville, stay over by the airport, and fly out on a 5am flight Monday morning so we could be at work on time.

On Sunday we had a lovely Waffle House breakfast, toured the Huntsville Space Center (details in another report), then headed for Tennessee. Our first stop really excited Dave (as opposed to the Space Center - not his thing): the Jack Daniel's Distillery. We booked one of several tours while driving through Tennessee and we were excited to see that we could actually taste product in the dry county. Jack Daniels gets "a pass" as long as it's only a small amount served.

The visitor center was very nice. Outside the building was a stream created from the mountain spring, area, picnic tables, pathway to town (Lynchburg), and a Christmas tree made of whiskey barrels.

Inside the building were a few displays of bottles, marketing artifacts, and explanations of the distilling process. The "gift" shop only sold liquor, which could be packaged for shipping. All other tourist items were available at a shop in town. There were a few items on display related to the company's 150th anniversary.

Our tour group of twenty-eight was summoned to go to the bus boarding area. We certainly did not expect to have to bus anywhere. Most of the production buildings were not visible from the visitor center because of the large property layout and hills/forest areas. Our first drive-by was through the town of Lynchburg where we saw the courthouse, the Jack Daniel's gift shop, and a few other shops. Next we made our way up in the hills passing many of the warehouses where the whiskey is aged. These tin barns can get very hot in the summer and the temperature differs greatly depending on the floor of the building. The different brands are aged on different floors based on temperature ranges. We disembarked the bus near one of the barns and made our way to the charcoal production area. All their whiskey is filtered through charcoaled wood made on premise by three men (one of them is named Stick).

Other areas we toured while outside included the old fire truck display, the cave where the mountain spring water comes from, and a small building that used to be Jack's office.

When we went in the production facilities we could see the distillation vessels in action and watched the raw product drip into the charcoal filters a drop at a time. Total time for a drop in the filter tank is five days. We toured through one (non-operating) bottling line and watched a video on how the oak storage barrels are crafted then charred. Jack Daniel's uses each barrel once then sells them to other distillers and brewers. The final stop was the original barrel house where batches were still being stored and where the tastings would be conducted. Because of the tour we chose we were able to sample 5 different premium products.

Holly is still not a fan of whiskey
The tour and tasting was almost two hours long. It was enjoyable (for Dave) and educational. The tour guides kept it informal and handled the group well. The only downside is there's not much else to do in this small section of Tennessee. The dry county could benefit by adding a brewery or two in the area and capitalize on the captive audience they have coming into see Jack Daniel's.

We walked to town quickly to check out the branded merchandise. Lots of fun stuff from glasses, Christmas villages, statues, and almost anything else you can slap a logo on. Dave would have bought a t-shirt, but since Jack Daniel's signature colors are black and white he found nothing that suited his color palette.

Later that evening we enjoyed a few hours out with our friend Bill in Nashville. We had a quick BBQ dinner before heading to Nashville Crossroads to watch one of his favorite bands - Eskimo Brothers. Great live performers!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tizzel's Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 8

WestJet, a Canadian airline, has been making holiday wishes come true for folks for years. This year's video shows images of people evacuating their homes as a forest fire rages through the area. WestJet tries to give the families a Christmas celebration they will remember.


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Tizzel's Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 7

If you have been to the movies lately you may have seen a pre-show Christmas ad for H&M featuring a train that is re-routed during Christmas. The ad states we can see more of the story by going to their website, which most times we never do. Today Tizzel saves you the trouble by giving you the whole video that was directed by Wes Anderson and stars Adrien Brody.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tizzel's Christmas Countdown 2016 - Day 6

This clip from the Dick Van Dyke show features two street Santas engaging in a conversation that leads into a song and dance routine. Even though Dick and Mary Tyler Moore are dressed as Santa their song has nothing to do with the holiday. The outfits do play a role in the dance number.