Collecting Experiences – Rock n Roll San Diego 2016

A study in the 2013 Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that spending money on experiences instead of things tends to make you happier in the long run. Things can give great initial satisfaction, but the novelty becomes routine after a short time. Satisfaction with experiences, on the other hand,  actually tends to increase with time. This is a good reason why we keep racing. Every weekend brings along a new set of experiences, a fresh new collection of good memories.

The fact that the weekend usually ends in a fistful of medals doesn’t hurt either.

Rock n Roll San Diego is usually the peak of our spring training season. Barring injuries, this has been a PR race every year since 2011, 4 PR’s in the half, 2 in the 5K. For 2016, we hit San Diego a month away from our first full marathon in 2.5 years so we weren’t sure how much we were going to push. The course had a few small changes including a different finish line, so we came in ready to race by feel.

The 90 minute flight from OAK was a nice change from the 3-5 hour trips we’ve had so far this year. We landed with plenty of time to check in at the Inn at the Park to drop off our bags. The Inn is a new property for Shell Vacations and we’re thrilled about being able to use points for a change. Best part? It’s two block from the starting line for the 5K and half/full marathon!

We used Uber extensively over the weekend, even though Lyft had new user promos. For $6-8 a ride, it was still much better than cab fare and a great way to stay off our feet. We had to spend time at the expo though. This was shaping up to be a special weekend.

I snapped this picture for our Lifetime Achievement project, trying to see if there are any folks who have more than 50 Rock n Roll races lifetime. We figured if anyone has done all 19 of the RNR San Diego races, they don’t have far to go if they added a handful of years for races in San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles, Pasadena, Arizona or Vegas. All of those are within a 90 minute flight. We may have found two more that are over 50 races.

Appearing on this amazing list are Shirley Shaw (doing the full marathon every year) and our own Team in Training Walk Coach, Tisha Gallardo!

Olympians Shalane Flanagan and Amy Cragg would be using the half as their last tune up before the Rio games in August. Meb was taking it easy pacing the 7:30 min/mile group in the 5K and race walker John Nunn was pacing the 8:00 min/milers. Walking. Sheesh.

Our fellow gypsy, Hyalker, would be running his 100th half marathon. He’s had a busy schedule this year, hitting several of the Mainly Marathon series and racking up 83 half marathons in the last 3 years.

Hyalker runs every race and gives his medals to a special needs girl named Katy. We met her last year at Rock n Roll St. Louis.

Of course the biggest news for us non-professionals was that this would be Kevin Gonzalez’s 100th Rock n Roll race at the half and full distance. Kevin actually did the Brooklyn 10K in 2012 which at the time was a Heavy Medal qualifying race, but he chose not to count it in his total. He’d also be racing the 5K for the Remix, another first.


All time Rock n Roll race leader VIP Joe Harris and No. 2, Kevin Gonzalez.


Off for a light dinner. Last year, Joe had his heart set on dinner at the Fish Market near Tuna Harbor Park, but they were closed for repairs after a fire. No problems this year. It felt good to take the mile or so walk in the beautiful San Diego weather.


Saturday, June 4th: 5K
This is the closest we’ve ever stayed to the start line at San Diego. Team in Training usually put us downtown or up in Hotel Circle, but we’ve come to appreciate a ‘roll out of bed to the start line’ wake up time.  The two pictures below were taken about 2 minutes apart.

Left side, two block away, was the start line. Right side is the Inn at the Park. Win!



Jennifer and Blair gave us the download of their honeymoon vacation. She was wondering why when no one was bringing her drinks on the hour when she got back to work. Blair was running the 5K Saturday but would work the tail car duties with Jennifer for the full.


We hung around the start line where a lot of the Olympians were being interviewed. Standing near the start line was a great place to meet up with friends since a lot of them were lining up to take pictures with them.


Drew (left) was testing out his slow pace equipment to protect an ailing ankle. It turns out Mitch (center) is in the top 5 for Rock n Roll full marathons lifetime according to my records. Henry (grey shirt) had a solid 5K time and would PR the next day at the half.


Al had a busy schedule, flying back and forth from northern California for work to San Diego for the 5K and half SIX TIMES during the weekend. Talk about dedication! Tricia is having a good training year and is taking a shot at a BQ time next week at Grandma’s marathon in Minnesota.


Sherry made it to the corrals just before the gun. Let’s just say there may be more interesting stories for people who went to the Padres game the night before. Ha!

The 5K course was a little different from 2015, but probably about the same difficulty. The uphill after the hairpin turn on 5th and the slope uphill in mile 3 seemed to suck a little life out of me. Still, I walked just 3 seconds slower than last year’s PR time, 15 seconds off my overall personal best. I wasn’t even really feeling that great. Susan turned in a conservative time so she could test herself in the half.

The best thing about the 5K distance is that you don’t need to wait too long for everyone to finish. Will, Greg and Amy (left side) still haven’t missed a single Rock n Roll race this year after hitting Liverpool last week. Will would PR in the half on Sunday, getting ever closer to the 2 hour mark. (Blair on the photobomb).

Amy and Greg spent the next weekend with Monique, Karen, Chuck and Ainsley doing the Ragnar Relay from Madison to Chicago. Wow!

I actually took this picture because I thought it was funny. I didn’t recognize Henry Chan (aka. Barefoot Elvis) as the lifeguard until I looked at his feet!


Another good thing about our hotel location? 3 minute walk back for a shower and a nap! More evidence to show how much we save ourselves during San Diego weekend was that there were no pictures between the 5K and dinner. Sherry, Susan and I caught an early showing of X-Men: Apocalypse at the UA Horton Plaza.

Dinner Saturday was at Anthony’s on 30th. Al organized one more surprise for Kamika to round out the 50 state half marathon completion – a custom medal rack from Sport Hooks. Marcey and company did a fantastic job with the paint!


A few 100 marathoners, 50 state full and half, two 7 continent marathoners and 600 or so Rock n Roll races combined at this table.

Sunday, June 5th: Half Marathon
It was in the low 60’s by the time we woke up at 4:45. Tempted as I was to just stay in the hotel until the last-minute, we needed to check gear and I wanted to get a few strides in to get the blood pumping. We were out by 5:30, shooting to meet our gypsy group by 6:00. I’m glad we left early because the C – CAQ gear check truck was all the way on the far end of the row. Bonus steps and a few pics before the start.

Annie with Bob Babbitt, co-founder of Competitor Magazine and Competitor Radio and one hell of a good Elvis runner.
Because everything works better when you stretch together.
Left to right: Sherry, Gary, Al, Caryn, Kamika, Drew, Nalani, Marissa, Susan, Ron.  Kudos to Marissa, because in order to catch her carpool, she had to get the race by 3AM. 

They changed the course this year, so though we know we had the long downhill in the last 5K, we weren’t banking on a PR out of the gate. My pre-race Garmin trace measured the distance at 13.21 miles (ended up being right), so right away, I knew I’d need to be 4-5 seconds faster per mile. That mindset may have cost us later. The fact that neither Susan nor I had any pictures during the race meant we were both pushing this one. I started going by feel for the first 5K but just couldn’t generate any turnover. I finally found a groove after the sharp hill before mile 2. I notched a solid negative split, walking the last 5K in about the same time I did the 5K on Saturday (right results).  Susan’s goal was to feel good about the 6 hour cutoff for Victoria Falls at the end of June. Her last 5K was even faster than mine, coming within a minute of her PR (left). I think she’s pretty safe!

Screen Shot 2016-06-10 at 4.56.29 PM.png

This ended up being a good race for a lot of people. Shalane Flanagan won the women’s half marathon, setting a personal best of 67:51, the second fastest by an American this year. Amy Cragg also set a personal best 69:51. John Nunn race walked his way into the top 2% of finishers with a blazing 1:31:31. Amy (below on the awesome photobomb) PRed at the half, going sub 1:50 for the first time (1:48:08). See why we usually train to peak at San Diego? It’s a PR ready course!


Hyalker finished the last of his first 100 half marathons in great shape. He’ll have some good stories to tell Katy with this medal.

Photobomb by Diane Ehle. 🙂

Kevin was treated to his own finish line at the full marathon chute, his parents holding the banner as he crossed, just a second off his personal best. Later he received a special plaque to commemorate the event next to the race winners and the 2016 Olympians. He said this was the greatest day of his life.


We’re one race behind last year’s pace now that Portland is off the schedule. Still, picking up the Stairway to Seven Heavy Medal was very satisfying. This is my favorite medal of the new series!


I met up with a bunch of the Black Sheep Run group at the Whiskey Girl for one of the several after parties. While a lot of us had great races that morning, Karen (below) said that the Race Guards had a busy day, the busiest in years. I didn’t hear about any fatalities, thank goodness. It was mainly bumps, bruises and overexertion. Seeing these volunteers on the course makes me feel really good that the runners and walkers will have a safe race.


Susan and I went to visit my cousin’s new house for dinner. This was the 7th time we’ve done this race, but only the second time we’ve visited our closest relatives in the states. With the kid about to apply for college, its high time we took the extra night to catch up.

It felt like there was a lot going on this weekend. San Diego is the oldest and one of the biggest races on the Rock n Roll tour so it draws people who only race a handful of RNR’s a year. I missed a few of them, like Stephanie, Jessica Deree and Louie Soriano. I wish I had more time and could be in more places. We’ll be back again in 2017.

And we’ll be collecting more memories.



Rock n Roll San Diego was first held in 1998 and is the oldest race in the series. Last week, Tony Reavis re-published a blog about how that first year came together. It was the largest participation for an inaugural marathon (~20,000) and raised over $15M for charity. In 2016, there were 27,022 finishers (5,828 in the marathon, 16,820 in the half, 3,386 in the Remix 5K, and 988 in the relay).

In the past few months, I’ve been collecting data trying to figure out how many people might  be hitting the 100 Rock n Roll race milestone in the next few years.  I sent what I collected to CGI with some ideas and I hope that they find something cool to do with the information. Rock n Roll has been a vehicle for us to create a lot of memories and amazing experiences. I’d love to create some incentives that keep people coming back to share the journey.

“To do, to have, or to share? Valuing experiences over material possessions depends on the involvement of others”.Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 104(2), Feb 2013, 199-215. Abstract

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