2022: The Year that Kind of Was

Back when I was better about writing up races (think, 2017 maybe), I really looked forward to doing the end of year recap. I’d sort through the memories of 15-25 races, find the pictures that stood out and crunch the stats to see some of the trends. The 2020-2022 race season for Rock n Roll will be like a lot of things impacted by the pandemic, a season full of turmoil and adjustments.

2020 started with Arizona and New Orleans as usual. I remember coming back from NoLa after staying late to watch a parade with a group of new friends thinking nothing was going to change. We rarely go overseas, so Medellin, Santiago and Oaxaca weren’t on our calendar.

Medellin was canceled due to air quality (not Covid) but when countries started shutting down in early March the dominoes started falling. Santiago was was the last race to knob as scheduled (postponed from 2019 – thanks Russell!). DC was the first US race to be canceled. Many thought we would be back to normal in 4-6 weeks, but after a month, I started saying we wouldn’t be back to racing until June of 2021. I was actually overly optimistic.

Starting with DC, 27 tour stops were canceled or postponed for later in the year, but canceled then. RNR announced that San Francisco, Chicago, Dublin, Philadelphia, Montreal and Denver would not return. In December of 2020, I posted this blog wondering how things would look “at the end of this”. We’re still not there.

2021 got rocky as races were scheduled, postponed, then canceled. We started guessing how soon before the next race we would get the cancelation email. Registrations were rolled from 2020 with Rock n Roll honoring the TourPass credentials for the following year. RNR’s Virtual Run Club started filling our need for a calendar and offered some swag for purchase. Year 2 of the pandemic killed off more races.

Virginia Beach, one of the oldest locations, announced that 2021 would be its last. Liverpool followed suit. The inaugural Clearwater was canceled for a second time. But Fall of 2021 started the reopening.

We had a flood of 9 races in a span of 14 weeks, starting in Virginia Beach. Rock n Roll announced that they would count all races done in 2020 to 2022 toward the Hall of Fame medal, and for a short time setting the Hall level at 20 total races, but after the international races (all with TBD tour dates) went away, that number was rolled back to 15. By the end of 2021, two of our Rock n Rollers had hit the “It’s Raining 10” medal. They would never be caught on the road to be the season Chart Toppers.

I’m glad things opened before our home race in San Jose and the October date for San Diego made for a beautiful weekend. Contrast that with the brutal conditions in Savannah with temps in the 30’s, winds gusting to 40 mph and heavy rains. By the time we finished in at a warm San Antonio weekend, we could see that the numbers weren’t up to pre-pandemic which was to be expected. The TourPass extension continued into 2022 .

2022 was looking better with 17 races on the schedule including a new international location (Manila). International travel was still a crapshoot with Covid outbreaks and war in Eastern Europe happening. Medellin was open only to deferrals from 2020, making this location a question mark for me on how to count this for streaks (the ones who DID go obviously got credit for the weekend!).

Seattle moved to Bellevue where Legacy runners could continue their status. The forecasting for the Hall of Fame numbers got challenging as we added Manila, but then lost Savannah (canceled) and Clearwater for the fourth time (Hurricane Ian).

The three-year Hall of Fame season will close with the smallest group since it started in 2014. Rock n Roll made some concessions for folks who needed Savannah and Clearwater to get to 15 races, but that brings the total to 25, unofficially. I guess we will know for sure when we see the banner in Vegas?

Questions linger about the future of the Rock n Roll Running Series. They’ve pared down to 13 locations on the calendar but three (Manila, Estado de Mexico and Bellevue) without dates as of this writing. With 10 confirmed races (including the new location in Salt Lake City), the Hall of Fame 15-race medal clearly has to change. I’ve heard that the Heavy Medals will be redesigned for 2023 so I’m looking forward to that!

Even with the contraction on the the series, there was a lot to remember extended season. Tony, who is probably going to hit 800 half and full marathons this year, very likely snuck under my radar to get to 100 Rock n Rolls. Leah finished her 100th Rock n Roll event in Bellevue, the pseudo replacement for Seattle and effectively the home race, to be the first Canadian to hit the Century mark.

San Antonio saw TWO century milestones. Fred became the 21st person to reach the 100th Rock n Roll.

And Sherry became the first (and maybe the only) Rock n Roller to hit the 200 race mark. She hasn’t missed a Rock n Roll weekend in nearly 7 years.

We weren’t fast enough to catch Sherry. The backpack says it all.

Outside of the Rock n Roll Running Series, a lot of Black Sheep Run members hit century milestones also. Shout outs to Russell (@russell_gilbert) and Briana (I: @matmilesmedals) hitting their 100th in 2022. Jay, Cheryl (@myfavoritethingstodo) and Natalie (@natalieu23) hit their 200th (Natalie also joined the Half Fanatics Hall of Fame). Amy (@runcheeseball27) finished her 200th and is also months away from publishing her first book! I remember sitting in the lobby before the pre-race dinner in San Antonio noticing that there were more people with OVER 100 halfs or 100 Rock n Roll races than NOT. Kudos to all you crazies adding to their lifetime totals!

There were some sad notes for this extended season. Early in the pandemic, we lost some Black Sheep Run family. The group has over 1000 members and some relatives and friends were lost to Covid. I hope that most of the folks in the group who are just lurking are OK. In the last days of 2022, our dear friend Karin lost her battle with ALS. Joe was with her to the very end. Jim (@jimbobwaay) died suddenly after flying back from the Honolulu marathon. Our thoughts are with their friends and families.

On a personal level, we were able to visit a few new cities (Bellevue, the one-and-done Atlantic City), see a different part of New Orleans and find a good post-half diner near the university, spend more time with my relatives in San Diego, but most of all, reconnect with people. It’s still weird to me how I only see some of my closest friends at races and these past few years have reminded me not to take that for granted. On the course, I trained for a 2:32 half at San Jose and pushed hard to crack 2:30 that weekend, but the bigger story for me was dad doing his first Rock n Roll 5K at age 87. He finished second in his age group (out of 2, but.. yay!). He’s looking forward to next year in San Jose.

And with the Heavy Medal program ready for a major overhaul, i was able to grab that piece of hardware for the sixth time. Well, fifth actually. Year one we got the jackets. Kudos to Mitchell for being the last Legacy Hall of Famer standing – the only Rock n Roller with SEVEN Hall of Fame medals!

Some of my friends know that I stopped making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago because I went with the same one every year: “Every Year Better Than The Last”. I feel like for the first time since 2019, I might have a chance for a better year in 2023.

Hope everyone does the same.

Special thanks to Russell Gilbert for keeping these race records. I doubt anyone would have seen this kind of mess coming back in 2020.

Embrace the Why – RNR San Diego 2021

In April of 2019, I was walking out of the Rock n Roll San Francisco expo and I saw my friend Lisa at the 2020 registration booth. I asked her ‘what’s the point of all this?’

Granted, the changes to Rock n Roll after the last management in 2018 change didn’t help. I left the generic race t-shirts left at the side of the start corrals, customer service rarely got back to people and other than a few friends staying on staff, the series felt less like fun and more like grind. Things got better after they hired Katie for the Tour Pass program. T-shirt and medal designs got better and things started picking up again.

That was my fourth half marathon of the year but the 3rd one without Susan. She had been fighting plantar fasciitis for years and decided to cut back on distance and after Zion, Glacier and Disney Paris 2019, she retired from racing. She’s been pain-free for nearly two years, but it was that San Francisco expo where I realized not having her at every race left a big hole in the experience. We’ve each finsished over 150 half marathons and 15 marathons, all but a half dozen of them together.

Then the pandemic hit. Twenty months went by without a race. RNR San Jose was a good first step, but add a couple airports, a short plane ride and a much bigger crowd for San Diego, it was the next step back to normal. I was looking forward to one of our favorite races, but the half empty feeling was still there. So I tried to take a page out of the mindfulness movement and find some gratitude. Recognize the upsides. Why are we here?

Because right when we landed we had some pretty amazing tacos with Ann and Peter at Tin Fish and catch up in person for the first time in years. Earlier in the week Ann asked me which corral I was in for the half. More on that later.

The sunglasses were epic

Because even though being indoors still gives me the heebie jeebies, I felt great about helping out at the 5K bib pick up because they were short staffed at the opening.

Because despite reservations, friends like Russell came out for the race. He was one Rock n Roll behind me in getting back into swing of the travel races. He, Al and I talked about about the goings on in the Black Sheep Run group. No pictures from dinner. I’ve been slacky that way.

Because the new 5K course was a breath of fresh air. I had a 20 minute warm up to the start line in Balboa Park. Susan came out to cheer at the 4K mark. I cut a minute and a half off my San Jose 5K time without much effort. The bar was pretty low.

Because Susan realized she didn’t need to rest up for the half on Sunday so we took an afternoon side trip to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and went to dinner in Little Italy. Note to self: take Uber around downtown and walk a bit instead of circling the blocks for parking.

Because Inn at the Park is only two blocks from the Half/Full start line. As corral 13 was about to start the music changed and I knew why Ann asked. Yeah, I’m still a walker ;).

Because having a familiar course and a reschedule to October made for cooler temps and shaving a half hour off my San Jose race time. Still nowhere near I want to be, but it’s a start.

Because we had a late flight out so we could visit relatives that we used to see twice a year when we were growing up. Pizza dinner and four hours later, we felt like we caught on 40 years of missed visits.

Because having the late flight meant also we could sit and have a snack watching the sunset near the marina and wonder if this might be another place to eventually settle down.

So back to that question I asked Lisa in San Francisco a few years back: “What’s the point of all this”? Back in San Jose, I raced with Drew. It was a great start, a comfortable pace and reminder that there were a lot of reasons why we started racing in 2005. There was the bond with the people we trained with and the excitement of traveling from home to see a new city from the streets. Ultimately a part of it was the immense satisfaction of going from a couch potato to doing something that a small percentage of people have done (and doing it hundreds of time).

And I embrace the idea that this journey isn’t over.

Rock n Roll San Diego is the longest running race in the renamed Rock n Roll Running Series. Other than the 2020 pandemic cancellation, it has been held every year since 1998. This year there were 11,145 participants in the half and full in 2021, down a peak of 25,401 in 2011 from 15,711 in 2019 and 17,882 in 2018). While the numbers have been declining, that’s been the case for most races. I’m hopeful that being the second month back for Rock n Roll, this was better than I expected. With new races just confirmed for the 2022 season in Atlantic City (May 15) Clearwater (October 2), there are new a dozen US locations and seven international destinations. With 3 races in 2020, 7 in 2021, you’d need to complete over half of the locations in 2022 for the Hall of Fame medal, now set at 20 locations.

I’ll be skipping Nashville and DC before finishing my year in San Antonio. I should have some time to make some updates on the all time Rock n Roll leader list including a few new Century Club members (now 18 members!). There’s a lot to catch up on, and I need to catch up!

Ready and Not – RNR San Jose 2021

Six Hundred and Two days.

That’s how long it’s been since RNR New Orleans 2020, the last half marathon I finished before the pandemic changed the world. Smaller outfits like the Vacation Races started opening with logistics that supported distancing – lower participation, longer durations with highly staggered start times so only a few dozen runners are on the road at once. Over the last few months as vaccination rates climb, I started seeing bigger and bigger races go on.

But I wasn’t ready. Rock n Roll had canceled 40 races in a row before Virginia Beach went on for Labor Day 2021. Rumor has it that they were no longer able to meet the minimum number of hotel room reservations so after a long run, VB went the way of 10 other Rock n Roll races to be canceled without return dates. Rock n Roll Madrid went on the last week of September. The next race up was our home town of San Jose.

California has been the best state in terms of transmission of Covid-19. The Bay Area specifically has been one of the better places in the state for vaccination rates. And say what you will about masks, but seeing almost everyone wearing them, even outside, makes me feel better about going out. Not needing to hop on a plane is one less thing to worry about. A local race, even with thousands of people, would be a reasonable test.

Add the fact that I’d see some of my best friends there, it was enough to seal the deal.

Step 1. The expo. Discovery Meadow.

Fresh off the plane and right to the outdoor expo.
We were early for the opening. Drew downloaded Pokémon Go. Apologies to Kate.
Indoor venues required proof of full vaccination, so this was a good middle ground.
If it weren’t the hottest day of the month, this would have been perfect.
New theme logo with a throwback look.

Registration issues prior to San Jose made things interesting. RNR San Francisco was cancelled and not coming back in 2022 so people who signed up for moved to San Jose even if they’d already registered. That plus my additional St Jude registration made for an interesting expo (yes, that’s FIVE bibs – 2 5K and 3 half).

The whole weekend was awkward and I apologize to everyone if I was evasive. I have three people close to me who are immune compromised and there are still too may risks. I know a lot of people who still haven’t gone over the fence and all I can ask is for people be patient. They’ll be ready when the time is right.

Step 2. The Saturday morning 5K.
The 7:30 start time and the half hour drive put wake up at 6:00. So much for the advantages of a local race! I parked just in time to walk to the start with the gang and head out to the corrals. We had enough space for distancing, but I liked showing off the RNR VR mask. The Black Sheep were split between San Jose and the London Marathon, but we had a decent sized group here.

7 AM meet up at the Four Points for a two block walk to the start. Plenty of blocked off roads to do sprints.
Only 5 corrals today. I’ll be curious to see the final numbers. Good to see Jeff Calene again!
Black Sheep 5K. #BarefootElvis was off with his fans.
Luckily for everyone, Ann is still with Rock n Roll. It wouldn’t be the same without her!

The 5K was the usual familiar course. Kate was doing her first RNR 5K so Drew hung back with her while I tried to keep up with Jeff and Sherry (failing miserably, I might add). I was going between being really at peace with being back on the road and getting really uneasy when I got behind a large group. Yeah, Covid has rewired my brain something awful to the point where I start feeling minor panic attacks. I finished in just over 40 minutes, about where I wanted to be seeing how my longest training in the last 18 months was just over 11 miles. Save it for the half and enjoy the weekend outside the lines. Breakfast at Bijon then a few other errands back at the Expo.

I completely missed the Legacy banner on Friday. Al continues his status.

We had dinner at the Farmer’s Union under the San Pedro Square arch. The block was converted to outdoor seating to increase seating under Covid rules, something that I hope they continue even post pandemic. The street seating forced some changes to the half course that turned out to be a good thing.

Quick side bar. I signed up to raise money for the St Jude’s Children’s Hospital for the second time. I was waiting to make sure that the race was going on so i got a late start. If you happen to see this it’s not too late to donate. After hitting my minimum, Nicole at St Jude asked if I would do an interview at the start line for the half. Not an hour after I said “yes” I got this from Ann:

Step 3. Sunday morning Half marathon
7:30 AM Sunday comes and once again I’m racing to the start line. Thanks to Al for helping me find a spot near the hotel!

Future note. The Woz parking lot is in a great location for the weekend but the parking meters are painfully slow. I got there at 6:30 and the line barely moved in 30 minutes. Paying cash was faster, bit do yourself a favor if you do the 5K. Buy the two day pass!

I was very happy under the mask 😜

Two segments for the interview. First for St Jude.

Then the follow up from Creigh. There were still a lot of people missing. The spirit just took me.

Drew dragged me through the 10K as I was struggling keeping my heart rate down. I returned the favor for the last 5K when his new shoes started clamping down on his feet. This is already a long post so here’s a gallery of the half. Each one has a story behind it.

The finish time was nothing to write home about other than the fact that I finished. I’ll have to figure out how to calm my mind more, that or ignore my watch. Leave this puzzle for San Diego in three weeks but this was clearly the “Not” part of ready. The spikes correlated pretty well to those mini panic attacks I mentioned.

Noteworthy item. Tony “Endorphin Dude” finished his 200th half. He’s been concentrating on ultra trail races but came back 12 years after he did his first. Tony was one my original inspirations and continues to be.

Thanks Al for capturing the interview video and congrats on your continued progress. The BQ is not far 👍🏻

This was a step toward normal. I still have a lot of mental baggage from the long months away. On the good side, I know I can physically do it. Faster times will come.

Ready or not.

I don’t have the usual race statistics for San Jose right now but will add them when I do. This was the third Rock n Roll race since the start of the pandemic so it’ll be interesting to see the year over year trends.

The Heavy Medal series was modified to include all races finished in 2020, 2021 and 2022 to count toward the hall of fame. With the shrinking list of tour stops it remains to be seen how many people reach the requisite number of races. I’m signed up for four more this year but will only go to San Diego and San Antonio.

Fastest Aggregate Time Walking a Marathon on Seven Continents

I may hold a world record. In fact, I may actually be the only person in the world to ever do this. It’s not verified but I don’t see it in Google searches and I can’t see how anyone else would even want to claim this record, so here I go.

My wife and I started walking marathons with Team in Training back in 2005 to check off a bucket list item. After finishing the Mayor’s Marathon in Alaska, I was hooked. Since then, we’ve finished over 30 marathons and 300 half marathons between us. We’re a bit of a niche because for the most part, we walk.

Mind you, we’re not taking it easy. Our best times are in the low to mid-five hour ranges and anyone who walks a 12 minute mile will tell you it’s a challenge to keep up that pace for hours without a bit of training. We’d taken classes with some of the best race walkers in the world and while we’re not nearly fast enough to compete, and we’re not doing the fully legal race walking technique, I’m adhering with rule of ‘one foot contact at all times.’ Back when Pedestrianism was the most watched sport in the world, that was what was required to be considered “walking.” These days, especially for the races we participate in, it’s on the honor system.

The seven continent marathon bucket list item happened after we checked off our second continent at the Rome Marathon in 2008. After that was the Solar Eclipse Marathon in Port Douglas, Australia in 2012, followed by the back to back races on King George’s Island, Antarctica and Punta Arenas, Chile, South America in early 2014. In 2016, we raced the beautiful Victoria Falls Marathon in Zimbabwe, Africa before finishing the Seven with Rock n Roll Chengdu in 2017.

There are two reasons why I think this I have this unofficial record.

1) Very few people actually tell you they intentionally walked a marathon. I personally get a lot of flack for it, but having 4 knee surgeries, I actually enjoy it a lot more and I don’t get injured nearly as often as most runners I know. So walking marathons – or loudly admitting to do so – on all seven continents is likely to be extremely rare.

2) For people who wear the walker badge with honor, many are competitive walkers and if they are fast enough, they aren’t actually doing marathons per se. Longer Racewalk competitive distances are the 20K and 50K, so they would have to convert the time into equivalent 26.2 miles. Also, the pros probably would have a rough time keeping form on the Antarctic course we did. Some of my professional racewalker friends have 50K times under four hours (the equivalent marathon time of 3:10 … walking), but I’m guessing the seven continents part of the record for the pros would be extremely rare.

Basically, I’m the one person in the Venn Diagram of ‘walking’ and ‘seven continent’. Even if I’m NOT the only person to claim to have done it, I’d love to see if my times stack up.

Official Times by fastest race on the continent. (Who am I kidding? ONLY races on most continents).
South America – Punta Arenas 2014 (5:19:02)
North America – Rock n Roll Savannah 2011 (5:19:43)
Asia – Rock n Roll Chengdu 2017 (5:31:56)
Africa – Victoria Falls Marathon 2016 (5:37:49)
Antarctica – White Continent Marathon (6:21:33)
Europe – Rome Marathon (6:24:19)
Australia – Solar Eclipse Marathon 2012 (7:07:30)

Record Holder: [unverified] Ron Carino
Aggregate time: 41:41:52.
Average time: 5:57:42
Time to complete all seven: 4,339 days
First continent, North America (Honolulu Marathon), December 11, 2005
Seventh continent, Asia (RNR Chengdu), October 28, 2017

For perspective, the fastest aggregate marathon time for the Seven was set by Michael Wardian in 2017 with an eye popping average of 2:45 (aggregate 19:22:06). We actually met Michael briefly at during our SA2LV adventure. He’s the real deal.

I just told my wife that my goal was to have an average of sub-6 marathons on all seven continents. I’m pretty sure I could improve on a European or Australia race, but I think for now, I’m happy.

At least I think I’m [unofficially] a world record holder.

Finish line at Rock n Roll Chengdu 2017

The Long Road to Normal

It’s been 2 years, 8 months and a few weeks since I last posted a blog. To be honest, I’d lost a lot of the passion I had for keeping up with the race reviews because it was just the same thing over and over. Granted, we had a great time doing it. Wake up early, hop on a plane, see all our friends, have dinner before the race, wake up early, finish the race, have lunch then go our separate ways. After a dozen years, it got to be routine.

Oh, how I long for routine now.

Since March of 2020, the US has been in various stages of shut down due to a global pandemic. To date, Covid-19 has infected over 125 million worldwide including 15 and a half million people and killed 287 thousand in the US. Our home state of California has 1.5 million cases and nearly 21 thousand deaths. This is just as of today and we expect to see more due to a post-Thanksgiving surge that put California ICU capacity near zero and has our county under a 10PM curfew with only essential travel allowed.

From what we know, the virus is transmitted by airborne droplets and spreads most rapidly in enclosed spaces with poor airflow. Infected people can be contagious for two days before showing symptoms and the virus can incubate for days, meaning you might have caught it from someone a week ago and you’ll never know it. Research is showing that even if patients recover, long term effects including chronic fatigue, neurological disorders (‘brain fog’) and systematic inflammation that would severely impact the ability to race. Things we took for granted like taking public transit, flying, eating indoors are now high risk activities. Getting to the races, enjoying a good meal with close friends, even standing in a corral with hundreds of people just didn’t feel like a good idea for the long term.

So what’s a marathoner to do? Fortunately for us, we have convenient access to the Alameda Creek trail. It’s 11 miles end to end with a few turn offs to get just about any distance you need for training. We had to do more planning though. Water fountains were sealed off early because it wasn’t known if the virus could be transmitted by surface contact. Portapotties were closed as park maintenance staff was laid off. I had to go back to our original Team in Training mindset, carrying water even for 5Ks. Masks aren’t mandatory, but people with good sense are wearing them. I estimate 95%+ of the people I pass on the trail are masked up or pull something over their mouth and nose as they pass.

Little things like grabbing a lunch in our local Mexican restaurant after a long workout doesn’t happen. Now it’s take out or sitting in your car or a grassy hill along the creek since we need to keep our distance from others when we aren’t wearing masks. I usually just head home, jump in the shower and grab something out of a fully stocked pandemic supplies.

At the time of this blog, we have two vaccines that have received emergency use authorization (EUA) with one more potentially on the way. Since the US government funded production of the vaccine prior to the approval there will be millions of doses distributed in the coming months. Priority goes to front line healthcare workers, patients over 85, then a list of people based on age, exposure level then essential workers. Our turn is somewhere in the 260 millionth of 350 so we think it will be April or May before our number comes up. It’s a two dose treatment so it could be June/July until we are considered immune. There are still questions about how long immunity lasts but transmission should slow with the vaccinations.

Getting back to the races? Once the first wave of lockdowns started, Rock n Roll started cancelling races with Santiago in March. That was the last live race and only the third one of the year. Races went virtual. Sign up for free, race when you can and buy a shirt or medal if you want. With the loss of revenue, it was certain that we’d be cutting back on events that were less well attended. RNR San Francisco, Atlantic City, Chicago, Dublin, Philadelphia, Montreal and Denver will not return. The rest of the schedule was postponed to 2021 with the earliest date being Nashville in April. I’m optimistically planning on San Diego in June as the first race back. San Jose would be the next race if that falls through.

As I write this, I know that most of you are going through the same thing. But just like I go back and read my previous blogs, I remember all the things we did, not just the PRs and crazy travel stunts, but more the time with friends that we’ve been deprived of by Covid. I suspect that when we get to the other end of this – whenever that may be – I’ll look back on this blog and wonder how things have changed.

The Next Time I See You – RNR Dallas and San Francisco, RunAPalooza

Living vicariously through friends is a lot more fun when you have friends like ours.

We are five races into 2018 and most of them have had very little free time between airport arrival and departure. Dallas was a 30 hour round trip. San Francisco was a last minute change to a drive-in race because the start and finish lines were announced after our time share reservation options were full. Even RunaPalooza was a one day trip for me while Susan stayed on the east coast to visit with her parents. As I’m writing this, we’re in Chapel Hill for a day before heading to Rock n Roll Nashville.

Following friends on social media really filled in a lot of gaps for us. Every time we finish a race and say goodbye, I wonder what we’ll have to catch up on the next time we see each other.

The last time I saw a Rock n Roll expo, the Hall of Fame pictures were on a rotating slide show. Now we got to see all of our friends at once.

The next time we see Drew, he will break his goal of petting a dog per mile.

The next time we see Brent, he’ll extend his world record for the number of countries where he’s run a marathon. The picture below is a year old and 35-ish countries ago.

The next time I see Laura, I’ll have to congratulate her for getting her daughter to finisher her first half marathon (two years after Laura’s first!).

The next time I see Ann, I’ll let her and Peter know that they’ve changed the way I look at life… again.

The next time I see Al, I’m hoping he loses this new accessory and has a good path to finishing the year at Ironman. Thanks to Fred and Leny for helping him at Dark Side.

The next time I see Beth and Jim, I’ll want that picture of the two married couples to have both finished 100 Rock n Roll races.

The next time I see Julia, I know I won’t see Tom. F*ck cancer. It’s a colder world without him.

The next time I see Lida, I’ll ask her what it’s like to run over a hundred fifty miles in the desert at the Marathon des Sables… for a second time.

When I see Caryn and Tawni again, they’ll be finishing milestones – Caryn’s 100th half marathon and Tawni’s 50th State for half marathons.

The next time I see my wife will be later today when she picks me up at the airport in Raleigh. We’ll see Meg for dinner and Susan’s parents for breakfast before we head to Nashville for a couple days.

Life goes on without us. Even though we get to see the pictures near-real time, I look forward to catching up with friends.

The next time we see you.

Strength in Numbers – RNR DC 2018

Running is an individual sport, but the sheer numbers in the community is what keep people coming back. I mean, how many people have the mental fortitude to lace up for a 13.1 or 26.2 mile race when it’s below 30 degrees out in our nation’s capitol? Maybe it’s my wimpy California weather tolerance, but at least it wasn’t going to be as bad as the biblical flood of 2015 or the polar vortex of 2017.

Saturday races on the east coast usually start on Thursdays. Taking Southwest on the Companion Pass is an awesome perk (I haven’t paid for a flight in over 4 years!), but the lack of non-stop flights means an early wake up and still missing the expo. When we landed, the Westin Crystal City was overbooked because the nor’easter had prevented people from flying home. We got bumped to the Westin Arlington Gateway which worked out OK. Both hotels were on the metro, just a half-dozen stops apart.

Friday, March 9th
I’m a big fan of TSA-Pre. For an $85 investment we get to skip lines like this for 3 years (probably the spring break rush) at Oakland International. When our membership runs out, I’m likely to go to Global Entry on the off chance they add another continent. Harry and Harriet are along for the ride again.


We went straight to the expo from Reagan International (DCA). We caught up with Amy from our old CGI days and also ran into Christine whom we met on the rooftop of our hotel back in San Diego. She’s got a busy schedule this year including a couple of World Majors, so she’s putting off her White Continent/Punta Arenas trip until 2020.

This is the third race of the year and we were really hoping that Ironman would have the Hall of Fame Banner after a big disappointment in New Orleans. While they didn’t have it hanging up, they DID have a slide show with the Hall of Fame pictures scrolling through the Rock n Roll booth. The unofficial Pannell Report estimated 176 people had a shot at the Golden Headphones for 2017. There’s was a video loop and grabbed a few dozen still shots (some shown below). Hopefully you were in it!

I guess when you hang around long enough, you start dressing alike?  This was totally unplanned!

Saturday, March 10th. Half and Full Marathon


A quick shout to my friend Sherry. She hasn’t missed a Rock n Roll race weekend since fall of 2015, a run (pun intended) of 59 consecutive RNR’s. With a few new last-minute additions in China for 2018, I wonder if there was enough time to book travel to some of them coming up. If she ever misses a race weekend, I don’t think the mark will ever be broken. Regardless, this streak is only part of her record 179 total Rock n Roll events at all distances. She ran the full in DC.


Our start was the standard wave of selfies, Juanfies and hugs. With the Black Sheep Run group starting to look off for different adventures, the vibe is still there, just smaller. A few corral group pics. Layers were the order of the day. Even #barefootElvis donned a pair of sandals for this chilly one!


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The best part of being up in the corral was knowing about the background of Ann’s shout out. Credit to Amy H. who turned a Black Sheep gift collection for Ann’s bike accident into a “Make Ann Pretty Again” fundraiser to help Ann pay for costs of the dental work. Ann blogged that, as a contractor, she didn’t have dental insurance. Hearts and wallets opened instantly.

Ann sent us videos for each of the 5 days countdown gifts. The last was a check from the Black Sheep (and a donation of a set of baby teeth from one of the future BSRs)

My orthopedic surgeon said I’ve got a standard IT band syndrome affecting my right knee, but I wanted to see if I could keep a higher cadence to keep the impact per step lower. Walking 12 minute miles felt pretty good. That pace was relaxed enough to take time to appreciate the course. DC can be pretty this time of year. We weren’t there for the peak cherry blossom season, but it’s always humbling to pass the monuments.

The course didn’t cross over the river this time, but we did go along the banks like usual. The Blue Mile up 24th Street seemed a lot longer than usual and I lost count after 50. A woman in front of me stopped at one picture, touched the sign and started crying uncontrolably. I touched her on the shoulder to make sure she was OK. Thank you to all from Wear Blue: Run to Remember for the inspiration!


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The spectator signs in the back half were appropriately creative for the location. The Final Crusade reference was one I had to catch. I did let her know that the folks doing the half chose wisely.


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The last 200 meters were up hill and a right turn at RFK stadium. I was pretty solidly at goal pace, but decided to wait at 13 so I could finish with Susan. No pictures this time, I just wanted a hand to hold across the finish.

We caught up with folks as we walked from the finish, past the beer garden and to the area in front of VIP where we seem to congregate after picking up medals. That’s where we foudnd Joe, Karin, Beth, Jim and Sandy. Amy was able to find us after a successful race #3 for her Hall of Fame run. Ann on the photobomb.



TeamUp had a good day. This was Beth and Jim’s 99th Rock n Roll race. We got some news that they are looking into ways to increase access to Allard braces and hope to hear more when they run their 100th Rock n Roll in Raleigh the first week of April. We’ll be in San Francisco to continue our one legacy race, but will be wearing TeamUp gear with pride.


Susan had a last-minute client meeting scheduled near DC and since I fly free only when we’re together, we stayed over the weekend and left Monday. This gave us a chance to grab a wonderful brunch with my friends from the MySpace days on Sunday and catch a showing of the Black Panther in the afternoon.


On Monday, I took 6 hours to walk around the various evil government agencies, visit the International Spy Museum and the Natural History Museum on Monday. DC has tons to see and do if you have free time and a good map!


Running is an individual sport, but what keeps us coming back is the people we see, week in and week out, and some that we get to visit once a year. If it weren’t for this series, there’s no doubt in my mind that we wouldn’t have met 95% of the people we think of as our closest friends. They keep us going. They fill us with life, love and laughter.

There is strength.. in numbers.

Time and Perspective – RNR New Orleans 2018

Just about everyone I know says they don’t have enough time to do everything. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

I would argue that people have enough time. I’ve seen some people accomplish amazing things with the same 24 hours a day that are given to all of us. What we don’t always have is enough perspective.

My parents moved into a continuing care retirement community last month. CCRC’s have a range of care options from independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing. With mom and dad in their early 80’s, they still have enough time to enjoy life but will be taken care of when needed. Other than the idea of leaving a home of 40 years and packing/selling/donating all the stuff they accumulated, helping them with the process made me look at things a different way.

After they were fully moved and started to settle in, it felt like a good time to reflect. It hit me that so many material objects we covet and hold on to are going to eventually be given away and that at some point, there will come a time where the life you live will have to change.

This brings us to New Orleans. We have 24 hours from landing to take off, a lot of people to see and a lot of beignets to eat!

Saturday, March 3rd. 3:00. Expo.

There was early facebook notice that the Hall of Fame banner still hadn’t been finished. It seems like a small thing to the new owners, but for a few friends who really worked hard to get to 15 last year, it was a big letdown. RNR knows this and said they’d make it right. I hope they do. That’s a memory and a picture that really made me feel good the first time we saw it in 2015. The posters up front did show a few familiar faces though – Barefoot Elvis, Kathrine Switzer and “Marathon Larry” Macon. All of them were in NoLa this year.

The race-themed gear was better in New Orleans, which I went out of the way to give the staff credit for. The shirts and hoodies with the list of participant names still doesn’t grab me as much as I thought it would. It looks like it’ll come out in a few washes, but I’d love to hear what people say. The race shirt was the neon green color that I might have worn back when I was in my mid 20’s playing volleyball. The design was so similar to Arizona that it was pretty much not going to make the annual closet clean out.

Two people were on our must-see list before 5 PM close. First was George Melichar, New Orleans resident and one of the biggest names in the Gay Games. This year he told us he’d converted from his specialty field and mid distance running events to, of all things, racewalking! He actually didn’t want to tell us until he finished a race without being disqualified for technique violations. He is also helping the New Orleans Track Club organize the Pride Run/Walk in September.

We had a long chat with Ann Wessling about her recovery from a broken jaw and the until recently secret news that she’s pregnant. Imagine making your living with your voice but having your jaw wired shut for 5 weeks. Then think about how hard it is to get nutrients through a liquid diet while trying to feed a growing life at the same time! She went through some dark times, and thanks everyone for the support while she healed. The 5K that morning was a good test for the 8 hours at the mic on Sunday.

Dinner that night was at Kingfish. Kamika made the race as part of a business trip and to see his friend Donna. We may not see him again until Seattle, which really bums me out. On the way back to the hotel, we swung by Sucre. The waitress described it as an adult dessert shop. I asked if she meant “grown up” instead of adult. This is New Orleans after all.

Sunday, March 4th. Half Marathon.

Staying at the Le Meridian hotel had the perk of being a block from the starting line. We rolled out of bed and heard Ann doing the pre-race announcements. We barely needed any extra layers with the temps in the mid 50’s for the short walk to gear check. What a great way to start a beautiful, clear race day!

Katherine Switzer, first woman to run the Boston Marathon, gave the crowd a pep talk before the gun. Amy S. met us in the corral on her way to her 50th state half marathon and we waited below the stage while corral 3 and the Black Sheep group went by. Amy H did a phenomenal job of organizing a 5 days of gifts countdown that Ann received just before NOLA. The last ONE should be in her hands when she got home.

We had an afternoon flight and a date with Cafe Beignet after the race. Seeing how I’ve not had a lot of time to train since, well, San Antonio in early December, I took this one easy and looked for photo ops.

One with Amy. We met her at The Biggest Loser Run/Walk Crown Point a few years back when she was half way through her quest to finish half marathons in 50 states. This July, she’ll finish the circuit in Washington.

The long out and back for the first 10 miles on St. Charles a great set up to see people. I caught up to Larry Macon. He’s up to 2030(ish) marathons – he’s basically lost count. A few minutes later, I passed Jim on the sidelines. He was sitting this out to support Beth so that she could pull even on Rock n Rolls on the way to their 100th at Raleigh in April.

This one’s for Drew. I didn’t pet ALL the dogs, but had to stop for this one. Somehow, I missed the pig.

On the turn back, one of the Team Challenge coaches pulled alongside me saying “you must be the world’s only pineapple-headed racewalker.” It took me a while to recognize Dave McGovern with the gator hat. But having a multi-time Olympian call me a race walker was kinda cool!

I wanted to keep up a decent pace, but about mile 6, I realize that the lack of training is hitting my knee, and badly. I did manage to catch up to Lindsay for the last 5K. She’s only doing a couple of Rock n Roll’s after making Hall of Fame in 2018, so I felt especially sad that there wasn’t a banner at the expo. Hopefully this picture doesn’t get flagged when I upload it to WordPress.

This was the 300th anniversary of the city of New Orleans. Rock n Roll has a bonus medal for anyone doing NOLA and San Antonio (also celebrating a tricentennial). Both of them are already on the schedule!

This wasn’t a stellar race. The idea that an MRI was in my near future was getting more certain as I trudged out of the finisher chute to the shuttles. I had a feeling if I took the detour across the finish line festival to the beer garden, I wouldn’t be able to get moving again. Fortunately, I had a good seat mate on the ride back who recognized my hat. We chatted about NOLA, how nice the weather was for the race and coming back in 2019.

The shuttle bus dropped us off a half mile from the hotel. I did catch a Corsola on the way back! PoGo players will get that. Shower, change, pack and roll. Cafe Beignet is a bit closer than the more well known Cafe Du Monde and we like the food better. Seating is a bit tight, the tables are big enough to hold 4 orders of beignets for 5 people. Yeah, I know. We’re missing an order.

This weekend was a microcosm of our life. When I knew going in that we had 22 hours on the ground and way more people were in the city than we had time to catch up with. When you have those kinds of restrictions, you have to make choices. Some people we’ll see again at DC, Dallas or San Francisco. Rather than have a few minutes with a lot of people, it was special to have a lot of time with a few. As for the race gear, I hope the SOTR shirt finds a good home as a donation.

Chalk up RNR number 2 for 2018 and 106 lifetime. Next up is D.C!

The Butterfly Effect – RNR Arizona 2018

In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in which a small change in one state of a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state.[2] -Wikipedia

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.

Photo credit: tdwsport.com

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.

Bring the Music. National Anthem singer Jim and #barefootelvis Henry

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.

Let’s go out and change the weather this year.

2017 – Rock n Roll, By The Numbers

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.

The medal from Rome 2008 is stuck in a large shadow box.

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.

Somehow, we always miss Joe.

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.