A more specific example is that when a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world, the small additional movement of air can cause a hurricane halfway around the world.
People can be butterflies. Their actions, intentional or not, can affect hundreds or even thousands of people. We find a lot of butterflies on the marathon circuit.
Take for example Harriett Thompson. She set the world record as the oldest woman to finish a marathon at age 92 and a half marathon at age 94. In October of 2017, she passed away after complications after a fall. She was out delivering gifts when it happened. I remember riding with her in 2016, the year between her world record runs and there was no way you could not be inspired by her spirit. It was the same for everyone who met her. She raised over $115,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training.
Last year, we recruited one of our stuffed animals to be a race mascot after a frigid forecast for RNR DC. Peanut the Penguin came to 14 races with us and one with Tawni to reach the vicarious Hall of Fame level. This year, in honor of Harriett, we’ll be bringing a pair of hedgehogs – actually named Harriett and Harry. They made the rounds meeting our friends at the expo and pre-race dinner.
At the expo, Lisa told us that our friend Ann was in a mountain biking accident, going over the handlebars and doing a full-on face plant. Damage included 10 stitches, a chipped tooth, a pierced eardrum and a broken jaw that will need to be wired shut for a few weeks. The picture below isn’t her, but it’s what her husband, Peter, said it looked like when she hit the ground.
As traumatic as this was, she’s still finding the energy to write about it in her new blog called “Chew While You Can“. I’ll let you hop over to the blog with a warning that the post accident pictures are not for the faint of heart. Through all this, Ann saw the bright side of chipping a tooth since it gave her a way to get liquid nourishment through a straw instead of a feeding tube. She’s resting quietly at home with two mothers, her daughter and her trusty bulldog.
Ann’s voice at the start of the Rock n Roll races keeps the crowds pumped and hearing her in the last stretch before the finish is the sign that the celebration is ready to start. She has been heard by literally millions of people over the years, some who are at their first race, some who come back knowing she’ll be there to give them a high-five at the finish line.
We had a family moment at the start of the half marathon. Thanks to Adrian for the GoPro footage. We did our best to do the trademark Ann Wessling countdown for corral three. Is Ann a butterfly? You bet she is. And thousands of people wish her a speedy recovery as we look forward to her return for Rock n Roll New Orleans.
Jim Diego sang the national anthem for the half marathon start, his 41st different state on the way to a goal of singing before races in all 50. He’s targeting the Route 66 Marathon in Oklahoma to finish the quest.
Meanwhile, Juan started his 2018 “Elbows Up” tour. Arizona was his 89th Rock n Roll heavy medal event. He’ll be the 14th person to hit the 100 race mark and plans to have a different accessory at every location. Oddly, not a lot of people took him up on his request to Spank the Taco.
Add one more small but very influential lady to the butterfly roster. Beth (center, behind the Mad Photobomber, Drew) was back after a fourth round of spinal surgery. The first one left her with a paralyzed ankle so she runs with a carbon fiber brace designed by Allard. The brace allows people live active lives with ‘foot drop’ that can be caused by spinal injuries, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, MS or ALS. She and Jim spread awareness of the company wearing the orange and blue TeamUp colors. She is a multiple time Boston Qualifier, and she does this without using the disability adjusted times. She’s a butterfly, but she could fly through a hurricane.
This wasn’t a race for time. Arizona rarely is. Instead it was a long weekend of spending time thinking of people who’ve come into our lives and made it better, just by being who they are.
After the race, we joined Tawni and Tamie at The Butterfly Wonderland. It was the obvious inspiration for this blog, but it was also a good hour of quiet reflection. These creatures fly around their habitat, not knowing who they’ll land on, who they’ll make smile, and how that person might change as they go back into the world.
One race finished for 2018. Sixteen more planned, not counting a couple of 5K’s here and there.
In our longer trainings, probably the best trick to keep us focused mentally is not only check how many miles you have to go, but also look back and feel good about how far you’ve come. So maybe I can’t start a new race year without taking a quick look back. Besides, that gives me a heads up of any upcoming milestones worth a celebration.
Twelve years into marathoning, we’ve finished 180 races according to Athlinks. 135 half marathons, 17 marathons, 21 5K, 8 10K, 2 15K, and a one-miler. The math doesn’t quite add up because a few races didn’t get posted online – yet, or ever.
We’ve finally finished marathons on all Seven Continents. It’s official now that the Rock n Roll Chengdu results were posted. I need to check on a few things, but I can’t imagine too many people will want to claim that they’ve walked marathons, much less one on all seven continents.
Rock n Roll remains our race of choice, finishing our 100th Rock n Roll Heavy Medal race in October in San Jose. The 104 lifetime Heavy Medal races puts us at #8 and 9 on the all time list according to my records. Joining the Century Club this year also were Jeff (RNR DC), Kamika (RNR Seattle), Greg (RNR Chicago) and Mitchell (RNR San Antonio).
We finished the year with 129 Rock n Roll races (99 half marathons, 5 marathons, 20 5K’s and 5 10K’s – Susan has one more full and one fewer half). That total puts us tied for 6th behind Sherry (174), Greg (152), Joe (151) and Al (140). The 98 and 99 half marathons is behind by Joe (135), Kevin (116), Al (111) and Jeff (104).
Lifetime leaders for the 5K and 10K’s are less complete since we’ve been concentrating on tracking the heavy medal races, but of the folks with 70+ RNR’s, top 5K totals belong to Sherry (42), Greg (35), Amy (32), Deb (27) and Mitchell (22). Greg and Jeff have the most 10K’s at 8. We’re going to need a lot of help for anyone who’s racked up a lot of finish lines in the last 3 years.
2018 should have three, possibly four, new members of the Century Club. If all goes well, Beth and Jim will have Rock n Roll Raleigh for their 100th. Juan will hit triple digits at Rock n Roll Los Angeles. Deb is less than a dozen races away, but may be concentrating on other races. Amy, Hyalker and Jessica are likely on track for 2019 at their current count.
A more obscure record actually fell in San Antonio. Back in 2012, David Deniere ran 27 Rock n Roll locations in the year. A record that due to scheduling and overlaps has been logistically impossible ever since. But in addition to 2011, he ran the last 11 races and in 2013, the first 7 races for a streak of consecutive 55 Rock n Roll races. We had to do some actual date-digging, but Sherry did 25 races in 2017, 25 in 2016 and (in reverse order), San Antonio, Las Vegas, Savannah, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and St. Louis, bringing her streak total to 56!
As for the Hall of Fame medal? The unofficial Pannell Report has 14 people who have three straight years of 15 or more races (2015 – 2017). Since the class of 2014 was so small, we’ve verified that only 5 people have Hall of Fame Legacy status – Joe, Jessica, Mitchell, Susan and Ron.
As far as I can tell, Susan and I don’t have any major race milestones this year. We’ll be adding a few more states for half marathons, trying to make it 5 years in a row for Hall of Fame and celebrate a big birthday some time in May.
My only New Year’s resolution for the last half-dozen years has been “every year better than the last”. Looking back on what we did in 2017, I think we’re still on track.
Let’s start this all over again in Arizona next week.
The final Pannell report numbers for 2017 have been delayed due to the data transition post-CGI. RNR San Antonio times just recently came online so now it’s easier to tell which entries count toward the Heavy Medal numbers. It’ll be interesting to see how we did against 2016 and how 2018 looks with the new management in place.
Because of the Global TourPass starting the wave of 20+ races/year for a lot of people, it’s entirely possible that I’ve missed a few people who are within a year or two of hitting 100 RNR’s. If you’re reading this and want to get on the tracker list, please leave a comment and I’ll get in touch with you. With luck, Ironman will continue to celebrate the loyal runners who continue to come back to Rock n Roll year after year.
Rock n Roll San Antonio has been the last Rock n Roll Marathon Series event of the year since 2012. After the 15-race Hall of Fame medal was introduced in 2014, San Antonio became something of an end-of-year celebration among the folks who travel the country following the tour. In 2017, the popularity of the Global Tour Pass was at its peak, paving the way for more Hall of Famers than ever before.
We landed mid-day Friday with plenty of time to hit the expo. This was the first one being organized by Ironman and there were some nice touches right out of the gate. The legacy website and stars at bib pick-up were a really nice tribute to the runners who’ve been here for all 10 years.
All through 2017, CGI had a couple of panels of a large banner that runners were able to sign. We finally got to see the completed work for the 20 Years Running celebration.
THIS IS YOUR MOMENT. CONGRATULATIONS!
This was the last chance for people to get that milestone 15th race for the Hall of Fame Heavy Medal. By last count, the Pannell Report had 74 people sitting at 14 races, making it likely that this would be the most Hall of Fame medals ever awarded at a single event. There were some hiccups at bib pickup, but we saw quite a few people sporting the 15 bibs and the new duffle bags.
There was a lot going on Friday night, so Susan and I went over to Rosario’s for our traditional Friday meal for dinner. We caught a group of Black Sheep (Tony, Stéphanie, Josie, Andrea and Ali) and joined them for queso and fire roasted salsa. Definitely a must-have when in town for the weekend. Six of us hit Hall of Fame this year. Stéphanie was one of the few who ran all of the European Rock n Roll’s.
Saturday, December 2nd. 5K and 10K
The forecast for the Saturday was a bit warm but dry. Given the biblical flood we had in 2016, I was pretty happy. I took the first few miles at a faster pace, but decided to finish the last 4 chatting with Henry (aka, Barefoot Elvis). About the only thing we had to complain about was that they added the 5K option late in the year after we had registered for the 10K. Oh well. Same Remix medal and more steps.
Saturday afternoon was busy. We had to go back to the expo to pick up our 16-race vanity bibs, but we weren’t in time to catch Mitchell Ginsburg’s Facebook Live interview with Ann on the occasion of his 100th Rock n Roll race. After that we hit the RNR booth for the Heavy Medal presentation where Aaron, Andrea, Leon and Sherry got plaques for running all 25 possible races in 2017 (including two same-weekend doubles and one same-DAY double). We made a quick change then headed down to the St. Anthony to see the tribute to Larry Macon’s 2000th marathon.
I just read that last paragraph again. It’s absolutely crazy that we know all of these people!
This year we did something different. Rather than have the usual, last-minute, disjointed, multi-venue dinner plans, Al and Amy put together a huge event at the Sheraton Gunther – by runners, for runners – for pre-race fueling and a tribute to the accomplishments for the year. Thanks to Drew and Kamika for pitching in on the set up and to Greg who jumped in to work the merchandise and raffle table.
Ann, Ryan and Dorcas from the CGI staff made a surprise appearance. Ann gave a moving tribute to the people in the room who’ve made Rock n Roll even more of a family than before.
Al was able to get a bunch of donations of running related items as door and raffle prizes including a few free race entries to Rock n Roll events for 2018. Amy presented Hyalker and his siblings with a special gift and a donation from the group to the Alzheimer’s foundation in memory of their father’s passing. “H” has been one of the most giving, generous people we’ve met on the Series. It was great to be able to give back when he needed it.
I gave a quick pre-race update for the Pannell report. Odds are good that we crushed last year’s total of 151 Hall of Fame medals. Amy and Ainsley closed the nights presentations with a tribute to Mitch’s 100th Rock n Roll.
We had just under 100 attendees and a surprise appearance from a few of our favorite CGI staffers. The event exceeded just about everyone’s expectations and I have to say, we clean up well! Al is already looking for a venue for a mid-year reunion at Rock n Roll Chicago in July.
Sunday, December 3rd. Half Marathon, Full Marathon and Mitchell’s 100th Rock n Roll
Just like Greg’s 100th in Chicago, Ainsley organized a shirt printing for Mitchell. The theme this time around was a nickname he earned while traveling with Greg and Amy. The big reveal took place at gear check along with a champagne toast.
One last starting line. One last Rock n Roll for the year. We have no races for 6 weeks, so I took a look around a little more than usual.
Take it slow. Stop and chat. Hang with a bunch of Hall of Famers (and a few repeaters).
Remember to stop for the right pictures. Pet all the dogs. Fist-pump for Rock n Roll Jesus.
Brush off the downpour. It’ll stop soon and you’ll dry off. Just watch your step.
Stop for one of the best race entertainment of the day – a traditional Mexican dance on the bridge above.
We didn’t catch Larry Macon before the split at 12.5, but we did run into Phil and Sherry before they headed off for the second half of the marathon.
The half ended with hugs and bling. Lots of bling.
I got back out to see Mitchell finish the marathon. With a lot of people already waiting for him after finishing the half, I think this was the biggest finish line Century Club celebration so far. Mitchell is the 10th runner to hit that lifetime mark.
2017 was a good year in a lot of ways. Since I’ve dragged my feet in publishing this recap, I’ll just do our annual review in a paragraph here.
We ended our year with 23 Rock n Roll races – 15 half marathons, one full (including our 100th Rock n Roll race in San Jose) and 7 Remix races. The full in Chengdu was our 7th Continent, completing a goal that started at the Mayor’s Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska 12 1/2 years ago. We’ve applied for membership and certification in the Seven Continents Club and should be official once the Chengdu results are posted. We did only one other race this year, the 4th (and possibly last) Disney Superhero half on the front end of the double day in November. There weren’t any PRs this year, but we spent a lot of miles chatting about past races, future milestones and everything that goes on outside the start and finish lines. 2017 was a lot about solidifying old friendships and getting to know new ones.
This year, more than most, felt a lot more like a graduation than previous years. We’ll look forward to seeing everyone at the class reunion in Chicago.
With the ownership of the series transitioning to Ironman from Competitor Group, the Tourpass pricing structure changed. No longer are we allowed to register for any race for the year (including the Remix) for one fixed price. The new Tourpass was now limited to 10 events, regardless of distance, at a price 20% higher than 2016. Early reaction wasn’t great, but it remains to be seen how the numbers play out next year. There was a long line of people waiting for the Winter sale on December 14th and I suspect there will be more for the Summer event. If it turns out that the pricing drives people to find other races, we’ll be thankful for sharing the time we did.
The San Antonio results, as of New Year’s Day, are posted, but times are listed as NULL. The results site lists 13,374 finisher (10,465 in the half, 2,909 for the marathon). The location looks safe for another year. We’re starting to see the medals, shirts and signs of a different ‘runner experience’ through the RNR email lists. I guess we’ll see how things look in a couple of weeks as we start all over again in Rock n Roll Arizona.
There will be 3 (maybe 4) more entrants to the Rock n Roll Century Club in 2018. Beth and Jim are targeting home-town race Raleigh and Los Angeles will be Mr. Aguilar’s Juan-hundredth. Depending on where Deb ends up, she could be at the 100 mark late in fall or early 2019. My records show Amy, Jessica and Hyalker sitting in the low 70’s but records get decidely sketchy after that. If you’re reading this and know that you’re at 60 or more lifetime Rock n Roll half or full marathons, please drop me a note. I’d like to get you on our list!
Two states. Two Half Marathons. One Day. Seemed like a good challenge in 2013 when Rock n Roll San Antonio and Las Vegas were on the same day. Beth, Jim, Kamika, Caryn, Al, Susan and I were part of the group of 87 who completed the SA2LV challenge and Beth nicknamed the event the “Double Live Album” tour. In 2014 and every year since then, the Disney Avengers (renamed Disney Superheroes) fell on the same day as Vegas. Kamika, Al, Susan and I did it every year and Drew joined us for 2017. Earlier this year, Disney cancelled all of the California races for 2018, citing construction at the park.
Each year the blog for this weekend got longer, so this time around, fewer words. More pictures. 2017 was a bittersweet ending to a November tradition.
Two states. Two expos. Pretty much the same calm but excited mood.
Two states. One awesome vendor. Two themes to show off your goods.
Two states. Two meals. Both with tortillas and drinks.
Two states. Two medals. And something to carry our bling.
Two states. Day one. Take in a movie and a show after dark.
Two States. Off to bed, but first a churro in the park.
Two states. Day 2. At the Disney start line for the last(?) time.
Two states. Feeling good. On the field at mile 9.
Two states. Different corrals, but we come together at mile 10.
Two states. A Coast to Coast medal. But he couldn’t get a churro again.
Two states. Hop a flight. Take time to relax and smile.
Two states. On the Strip. High security at every mile.
Two states. Wall to wall crowds. We’re still able to find our friends.
Two states. The fireworks start. We’re off to the races again.
Two states. Race number two. After the tragedy, we celebrated under the lights.
Two states. The finish line. The perfect end to a perfect night.
Two states. Two Races. Hall of Fame year Four.
Two states. Two races. One Day. What a way to end the Tour.
So ends the Disney/Vegas double run. I’m not certain we’re going to try to replace it since I actually like spending time in Vegas. It’s usually the weekend Susan usually flies back from a quarterly company meeting in Chicago. Having one destination would be actually a relaxing trip for once, but who knows? We may want to find another challenge when we get closer to the fall season.
The Disney Superhero race was in its fourth year in 2017. The cancellation for 2018 is a real bummer because it would have been year 5 of the Infinity Gauntlet challenge. People who did the 10K Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday earned the bonus medal and an Infinity Stone for the first 4 years. The fifth and final stone may be lost to the ether for all time. This year, the course didn’t have a lot of the typical Disney cheer stations we’re used to seeing. Absent were the army outside Angels Stadium and the classic cars. There were even fewer cheerleader squads. I hope for the runner’s sake that Disney makes a comeback. Even with the high price, Disney races have a very loyal fan base.
Rock n Roll Las Vegas was in its 9th year, the 8th time it was held at night. After the Route 91 Harvest shooting, the starting area had to be moved to the T-Mobile Arena. Spotters were monitoring the numerous hotel windows and the side streets were blocked by city buses all along the course. Even the corrals were lined with law enforcement vehicles. Security was a priority with such a large crowd and we didn’t hear about any incidents.
After Vegas, the Hall of Fame inductee total for 2017 got to triple digits. The unofficial Pannell Report numbers put us at 101 people with 15 or more Rock n Roll races for the year. We’re assuming that the 74 people with 14 races all showed up in San Antonio, making this year the biggest Hall of Fame group ever.
This was also the final Rock n Roll event led by the staff of Competitor Group. Starting in San Antonio, the new owners will be organizing the races. While we hope to see some familiar faces there and in 2018, we do thank the CGI Staff for all the love, support and memories they’ve given us over the years. Without the event, we wouldn’t have met so many amazing people. And without all of the amazing CGI people, we never would have the events. We hope our paths cross again in the miles ahead.
Life is all about the choices we make. Sometimes, those choices are small. Left or right? Paper or plastic? Red or white? Sometimes, the choice can change your life. Lacing up a pair of shoes and choosing to finish a marathon falls into that category. We travel a lot for races and sometimes two races fall on the same weekend or the same day, like this year when the Rock n Roll series added a new race in Chengdu the same weekend as Los Angeles. That creates a choice that’s full with opportunity.
Getting to Chengdu was a 14 hour non-stop flight from San Francisco. We met Jeff and Maggie as we waited to board and also Paul and James, connections from the Marathon Maniacs page. I can’t thank Sherry enough for using one of her United Global Pass upgrades to get me set up with seats in business class. Susan was in 1B, Sherry and I were in 4A and 4B. The flight attendant was a little confused that she saw two Carinos not sitting together (‘WHAT?! My WIFE is on this plane too!?’). A few movies naps and meals later, we were landing after sunset halfway around the world.
Friday, October 27th.
The time change actually wasn’t too bad. We arranged a car for 3 with Travel China Guide for about $100 for the hour-long drive. Right away, you got a good taste of why first timers really shouldn’t drive in China. Lane lines are suggestions and the electric moped and pedestrians were absolutely fearless at intersections. I was amazed we never saw an accident the entire time we were there.
We slept a good 7 hours and woke up in time for breakfast at the Uvila Resort and Culture in Dujiagyan (found through Agoda.com – some pics of our room below). It’s a higher end hotel by any standard with pricing in the $150/night range. The key criteria for us was the location, a 10 minute walk from the start and finish lines. The sponsored race hotels were located in Chengdu, 40 miles south and train and car round trip can easily eat up cash and free time.
Packet pick up was at the Dujiangyan Sports Complex, about 5K from the hotel down the main streets of the city. The guide books said that the Chinese aren’t shy about staring and apparently, we were quite the sight. They were very polite though the language barrier was pretty high. I recommend getting an international data plan with VPN, Google Translate and WeChat (in that order). The locals did a good job with their own phones, too. Everyone was very friendly. The route to the stadium crossed a few bridges, some great photo-ops and more crazy driving episodes.
We ran into Andrea at the Sports Complex and had a few photo ops with the CGI rep who traveled to watch over the inaugural event. Aaron, Andrea and Sherry were 3 of the 4 who’ve run the table on RNR events so far (Leon was the fourth). All of them were taking on the challenge to finish the half in Chengdu, get back to the airport and fly to LA for the half in the states the next morning. The dateline would help them as long as they caught all flights and they were reasonably on time. Stacey and Chip from RNR were going to let them start with the full marathon start, giving them a few extra hours. We weren’t sure if there would be any problems if the half marathon bibs crossed the finish line early. That might be hard to explain if you didn’t speak the language.
Susan went back to the hotel to get off her feet and Sherry, Aaron and I did a little exploring, trying to find the best route to the starting line for the noon start. We did a bit of climbing and found a Wal-Mart to get some race supplies. Let’s just say the selection was a bit different from what we’re used to at home.
We dropped off our supplies at the hotel and found a back way to the starting area. The stage was as big as any of the US races and they were doing sound checks that we could hear from the hotel on the other side of the hill.
We had dinner at the hotel. Night races always make for a difficult fueling schedule, but the pasta was pretty good. Yes, that’s a pineapple pizza.
Saturday, October 28th. Full Marathon
The noon start actually worked really well since it gave us an extra night to get fully rested. I woke up around 7, went down to grab a light breakfast and started prepping for what looked like a warm rainy day until just after noon.
The starting area was just what you’d expect at a big Rock n Roll Marathon. Security was tight, but once inside the zone, it was a well-organized with a party atmosphere and plenty of space for people to warm up. We met a handful of Marathon Maniacs at the start including John, who’s done every Inaugural RNR Marathon.
The first mile took us through the cobblestone streets of the city to the west side of the Minjiang River over the irrigation system that was constructed in 250 B.C. And it still works! This was an out and back with the half turn at the Panda Preserve. I was able to catch Sherry before the turn and saw Aaron, Andrea and Leon on the way back.
It was a really good day for a marathon. The mist was keeping us cool and there were a few mile long stretches of frontage road that were lined with trees. At the accessible points, the locals were out in force.
We noticed one cheer in particular repeated all the way along – “Jai You!”. When we did the Rome Marathon in 2008, the locals would cheer “Die! Die!” (I think that translated to “keep going”, not the English meaning”). I figured at some point, I’d have to figure out what Jai You meant.
Miles 11.5 – 13.5 were a 3% uphill grade to the turnaround at the Qingchengshan Temple. I was on about 5:10 marathon pace, but could feel the incline taking its toll. This sign couldn’t come soon enough. I’d been following the fellow in the green shirt for about 5 miles. He asked me if I was a professional race walker. Yeah, I wish.
Cramps started on the turn downhill. So much for the PR, but I was still in good shape for a 5:30 finish. I saw Susan coming up on the hill about 5 minutes later. The lady in the orange just ahead of her was a story I’d hear about later.
At about 30K, a local named Soon Ri (I’ll edit the spelling when I see the Chengdu results post), pulled in beside me. He spoke just enough English to hold a basic conversation and told me this was his first marathon. His target time was 5:30 and he was having trouble with his pacing, so we started clicking off the KM’s together. He’d never been outside of China but eventually wanted to visit the states. I told him I was enjoying China much more than I was expecting. Running connected us even through the language barrier. He was the one who told me that Jai You translated into “Keep Fighting”. Google’s version – ‘add oil’ – was in the spirit, but not nearly as motivating.
The thing I love about out and back courses is that you know the route and what to expect after the turn. You can save something for hills and keep focus mentally when you get back to the long stretches of monotony. Making the last turns over the dams meant we were within sight of the finish line. The stairs going into the South Bridge at KM 41 so pretty on the way out, but the dozen or so steps on the way in were good for a wince or two.
Soon Ri had friends waiting for him on the other side of the bridge, snapping pictures as we went through the markets and on to the finish line. This was a sweet moment for him. I was happy to be there to share it. We came close to our target time, but its his new PR.
Susan finished about 10 minutes later, hand in hand with the lady I saw her with at the turn. Her new friend didn’t speak a word of English, but through hand gestures, they fell into the same run/walk interval and made sure each other were staying hydrated and motivated. They were together for 20 miles.
Both of us finished will within the 6:30 cutoff time with enough extra to take a lot of pictures. At the finish festival, Jeff reminded us we needed to pick up our World Rocker medal for completing a race outside the US.
When we signed up for the race back in June, it was the last continent we needed to visit for full marathons. Some of the running clubs are recognizing the new Zealandia continent, but until that gets internationally sanctioned we plan to rest on our laurels and work on half marathons in new states for the next few years.
That’s a choice we’re making now. It seems like we’ve made a number of good choices in our lives since we started racing.
Rock n Roll Chengdu was the inaugural Rock n Roll event in Asia. It was announced in the last few months of the negotiations with the World Triathlon Corp, operators of the Ironman series. With numerous Ironman events already running in Asia, it’s probably just a matter of time that more Rock n Roll events are announced on the continent.
The course starts in the parking lot of the Mingguan Ancestral Temple and finishes nearby at the Chongsong Ancestral Temple. After crossing three bridges in the first few miles, the course turned south on highway 59 and 4 past the Panda Preserve at mile 6.5 (the half marathon turn). The Qingchengshan Temple marked the turn at 13.4 miles. The scenery was a good mix of high density residential, country back road and tourist attractions. Susan says it her favorite full marathon course on the Rock n Roll circuit. I’d have to agree.
While the results are still not posted to date, the estimated participation was in the 8,000 range for the full, half and 6K fun run. I hope it is back for 2018.
If Chengdu is in your future plans, be sure to get your Visa application in early. Most US-based embassies will take about a week to process it. The San Francisco office required photocopies of your passport along with the application, passport photos and the ticket number for your flight (both legs). Take a world phone with you or activate T-Mobile unlimited or AT&T International Day Pass (I was told that taking a US phone and trying to install a local SIM card there doesn’t work unless you register with the local authorities). The data plan comes in handy for character recognition/translation apps and taxi cards. The locals really appreciate the effort.
Aaron, Andrea, Leon, Sherry all made their flights and landed throughout the night before Rock n Roll Los Angeles. All four are on track to race in 25 locations in 2017 as all were in Savannah and Vegas and plan to race in San Antonio. It was great to watch the extra level of awesome in action.
We spent 3 days in Dujiangyan and another 3 in Chengdu. We had enough time to see both Panda breeding facilities and the Giant Buddha statue in Leshan and walk around downtown Chengdu day and night. It was a wonderful way to finish our last continent.
We’re rolling the odometer over. Just like Joe Harris did when he finished his 100th Rock n Roll race at DC in 2015, we’re starting to count over from One. Given that introduction, it makes more sense that we make some rookie mistakes.
We landed Friday and had just enough time to get to the expo to pick up our bibs. Although we signed up for a Remix weekend, we wanted to spend more time with Jennifer, our maid of honor from our grad school days, and her husband Mike. We decided to pass on the Saturday 5K. Part of all the travel for races is being able to see friends we don’t get visit otherwise, so we had dinner and breakfast in Springfield, Illinois about an hour and a half from St. Louis.
We weren’t totally slacking though. We found time for a 5K of our own on the Lost Bridge Trail. If you’re in town and need a place to train, it’s a good path and could probably support a half marathon distance without a lot of trouble. We had a light brunch and made our way back to St. Louis. Jennifer would join us later.
Saturday we picked up Al and hit the expo. He and about 130 people had already finished a Rock n Roll that morning on the east coast for the first half of a double race weekend.
Brooklyn had a 7 AM start. Most people caught a late afternoon flight to either St. Louis or Denver for the Sunday half marathon. Lisbon was the other option (on Sunday as well, but it couldn’t fit into a double). Logistics for BRK2STL and BRK2DEN were more eventful than some people might have liked. While Al and Tawni were able to catch an earlier flight out of New York, that airport was later shut down due to a bomb scare. It’s unclear if any of the RNR doubles were impacted. Also, some of the BRK2STL runners had a connection through Chicago but the continuing flight was either missed or cancelled. They had to rent a van and drive a few hundred miles, arriving in St. Louis Sunday on a few hours sleep.
We miss all the fun it seems.
Numbers for St. Louis were down again and there was no registration for 2018. This is never a good sign for the race, but we did manage to add to our collection of RNR swag. These could become collectors items.
We had an early dinner at Gio’s so Drew could catch the Pixies concert. Tawni spent the weekend with Peanut (taking him to shop and see a few shows in the Big Apple). Tawni would also be doing her Gold Record (10th) RNR for the year and started narrowing down the location for her 50th state half marathon (Minnesota, May 2018).We caught up with Tricia and her last few weeks at the Berlin and Chicago marathons. Tricia also brought Peanut a friend – I think she settled on the name “Buttercup”. I love how there’s always something amazing to recap or look forward to when we get together. It was a beautiful night for a raid.. and a walk.
Sunday, October 15th, Half Marathon
Given the Sunday options, St. Louis ended up being the best weather as far as we were concerned. Lisbon was hot and Denver was freezing. We had mid-50’s temps, a little sprinkle at the start and the occasional blast of wind while waiting in the corrals. There was about a 25 minute delay at the start to secure the course, but with an extra space blanket and a disposable plastic poncho, it was nothing we couldn’t handle.
There wasn’t really a group pace plan this weekend. We stayed together the whole race the week before in San Jose but with Chengdu and Double Live V coming up in a month, we were on our own. Al took off and I stayed with Drew and Elaine for the first mile before stopping to see how far Susan was behind us. She was taking it slow, still wearing the rain poncho, so I decided to see what I could do for the last 12.1.
It ended up being my fastest race in probably 2 years. But you won’t see the split times on the results page. Why? Because on the bib, there are two halves of the timing D-tag. One has the instructions on how to put it on. The other is the timing chip. For some reason, I made the rookie mistake of using the wrong half.
Susan, on the other hand, went the whole race in the poncho. At the end, she realized that her bib number was obscured. So while I went the whole race without timing splits, but had a lot of pictures. She got all of her split times, and except for lifting the poncho and flashing the finish line, almost no pictures.
Pictures. Or it didn’t happen. Fortunately, we got them.
Jennifer was waiting for us at the finish line with an adorable sign. It’s going to be with our race souvenirs when we get the new room outfitted with medal hangers and the San Jose memorabilia.
We had a late afternoon flight out, so we had time to hit Park Avenue Coffee for gooey butter cake – seven flavors in all. So much for that pesky calorie deficit.
As we sat, we flipped through Facebook posts from the crew in Denver. A few dozen of them stopped for beer during that half – twice – and ended up finishing together. The pictures and videos were absolutely awesome.
We leave for the inaugural Rock n Roll Chengdu today. It’ll be our 14th Rock n Roll this year, somewhere around or 15th or 16th full, but most importantly, the last of 7 continents for full marathons. It’s been 12 years, 4 months and a few weeks, but this item will finally be checked off our bucket list.
I can assure you, once we get the SIM card for China, there will be pictures.
We had a little more confirmation after the race that both St. Louis and Brooklyn are not likely to be held in 2018. Denver is still on the schedule, but with Vancouver, Queratero and most recently Mexico City being off the tour stops for next year, that reduces the amount of races in North America. Getting to the Hall of Fame is going to require a little more planning to get to enough cities, maybe requiring a European trip. There’s some talk of another world major in the eastern hemisphere, possibly under the Rock n Roll brand.
The Hall of Fame count for 2017 got a big bump this weekend. Congrats to America, Amy, Erika, Tony, Jen, Liz, Melinda, Noah, Leny and a few more that I didn’t recognize from the pictures in the Black Sheep Run group. The Pannell Report is probably going to be a little late because of all the data we need to crunch. With any luck, we’ll have something when we get back from China.
Over the weekend, Susan and I finished our 100th Rock n Roll event, becoming the 8th and 9th people to reach that mark. Susan is only the second woman hit the century mark. I’ll never be able to capture all the moments and feelings we experienced over the weekend in a single blog, but there was something so magical about the weekend. Sometimes, a theme writes itself.
We were joined by almost all of our closest friends and even had my family there for the first time. My brother Eric was impressed with everything he saw over the weekend. When he posted pictures, he referred to us as “Rock n Roll Royalty”. I immediately thought of the Chronicles of Narnia, a story where four young children walk into a mysterious wardrobe to find that it’s a gateway to a magical land. They become heroes – the Kings and Queens of Narnia.
“We pass through the archway and out of our reality and we enter the land of Rock n Roll.
We meet the herald who announced our latest journey. We thank him for the kind words.
We are accompanied by our trusted companion, dressed in the armor which protects us from harm. Our shield is inscribed with the names of the warriors who go into battle with us daily.
We greet the citizens of the magical land: The keeper of the keys to the dance. The woman with the voice of an angel.
On the morning of the second day, we rode out to survey the roads of the kingdom into a glorious sunrise. We returned with many treasures.
After the ride, the signs of a coronation appeared. We were ready to follow the kings and queens of other regions who came before us.
We meet with the Queen of the Lone Star. We will be journeying with her to the far east before long.
The King of Paradise came bearing intoxicating gifts from his island.
Next came the Eternal King of the East. His grace and gentleness sets an example for us all.
The King of the City of Light arrived next. Our thoughts are with his land as it is recovering from devastating events.
We closed the faire with the warriors in our army. Those who have overcome great odds to participate in the battles and those who have more recently picked up shields to ride into the fray.
We dined that night with the multi-talented King of the Harvests and Wizardry. He was instrumental in planning for the festivities for the weekend, for which we are eternally grateful.
As we dined, a great bird appeared and transform itself into a mirror portal with which we heard the greetings from the King of the City of Wind. His close friends are fast approaching coronations of their own.
We were graced with the presence of Queens from other lands – accomplished in their own rights, and worldly enough for a seat at the table.
We sought our beds early, excited for the events of the next day. Before the sun rose, we received an owl from our friends from the Kingdom of the Tar Heels. We were sad that they could not be with us, and our hearts overflowed upon hearing their voices.
We rode out into the chill morning air. Smiles shone like stars, much like the clothing we wore. Somehow, my real life family was drawn into this fantasy world. I was happy to have them along for the story.
In the final minutes before the parade, the King of the West Palms arrived – his transport landing shortly before the clarion call. All was now complete for these brief hours in the land of Rock n Roll.
It was with these friends and companions that we started this journey and with these kindred spirits that we took the final 13.1 mile ride. We are honored and humbled to be counted among them.
This is the magic of the kingdom. Ordinary people who visit often can reap untold riches, wisdom, and happiness from the journey. Warriors can prove their mettle. Some come home victorious while others may leave the field to fight another day. In the end, with the energy of our friends and compatriots, we took the final steps to ascend to the thrones of the Valley of Silicon.
It may only be a fairy tale, but while we are in the confines of the doorway, it is as real as flesh and blood. The journey is not for everyone, but all who are bold enough to cross through the arch are welcome in this land.
We are the Kings and Queens of Rock and Roll.
Long may we race!
At the end of the first Narnia movie, the children step back through the wardrobe, into a train station in their own reality and get caught up in the every day lives of other people, oblivious to their alternate world. We drove home listening to news of the Las Vegas shooting investigation, instability in North Korea, recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the next morning friends and coworkers were fleeing for their lives from the wildfires raging in northern California. It seems that in this crazy world, even for a brief moment, Rock n Roll can give you an escape like no other.
Our deepest thanks to the countless number of runners, walkers, strollers, rollers, Team in Training, Biggest Losers, AACR, St. Jude heroes, Black Sheep, and Hogwarts Runners who we’ve met on the Rock n Roll circuit for the last 11 years. The stories we’ve heard, the things that we’ve seen, the lives that have touched us are memories that will forever be ingrained in our hearts.
To the staff at the Rock n Roll Marathon Series, past and present, thank you for your tireless work. There have been early mornings, late nights, times when events went wrong, when nature dictated a different outcome, and when tragedy struck. Through it all, you’ve been professional, courteous and put on the bravest faces. For Ann, John B., Garrett, Tracy, Nista, Shayne, Josh, John V, Cassidy, Thao, Colleen, Dorcas, Darlene, Grace, Cathy, Lisa, Mindy, Ryan, Amy, Diva, Emily, Kristin, Yinka, Elisa, Ashley (x3), Petey, Victor and many more I know I’m forgetting, know that you have made the events a fixture in our lives that we can’t live without.
To our dear friends in this story. Know that without your kindness, friendship, support and love, this journey would not have been as rewarding and fulfilling as it has been. And if and when one of us is unable to travel to as many races as we have been for the last few years, we look forward to flying to see you, just because.