Running for… Cover? – Rock n Roll Chicago 2016

Let’s review.

We have about 140 races lifetime since we’ve been tracking them on Athlinks. No black flags, only one yellow flag (Mustang 50th Anniversary Half Marathon) and only a handful of races where we actually had rain while we were on the course. Our Antarctica trip had exactly the amount of clear skies we needed to fly in and out for a 8 hour marathon. #weatherluck is a way of life for us.

We monitor race weather about a week ahead and Rock n Roll Chicago’s forecast was looking like typical summer Midwest – muggy and warm and chance of thunder showers. Having gone to grad school in Wisconsin, we know that CAN turn on a dime. Remix weekends give the added complication that you would love to see TWO days of good racing weather. By the time we left Friday morning, at least Saturday looked dry and reasonable but the storms on Sunday were hitting by mid morning.


Early flights out of the west coast are the way to go for this race. We had enough time to take the CTA from Midway to the city and walk a few blocks from the State/Lake station to the Sheraton Grand. The jury is still out if buying the $20 three-day pass is worth it because we ended up just taking the CTA to and from the airport and maybe one extra trip.

Walking in, we had one of those random meetings that made the entire trip worth it.We met Barbie at the infamous NyQuil race at Rock n Roll Chicago in 2013.  Susan paced Barbie to finish the half after being swept the year before. Barbie has had foot drop since elective back surgery seven years ago left her right ankle paralyzed. This year, she has nerve activity in that ankle and will be undergoing surgery to see if she can regain full motion. The amazing thing was that she wasn’t even in town for the race. She was meeting a friend at the hotel so they could go to a concert that night.

Miracles. They happen.
We got to the expo in the early afternoon, giving us enough time to pick up bibs for both races and catch up with our friends. Jennifer, Darlene, Callie and Tricia wanted to hear about our Zimbabwe trip with Marathon Adventures. I described the experience as being ‘everything I could have dreamed of on a trip to Africa. I’ve seen all I need to see, but I would go back in a heartbeat.’

We had dinner at the Bellwether. We have a break before the next Rock n Roll (Philly), so we started planning the back half of 2016. We have 9 more races after Chicago, three of them are non-Rock n Roll. And if everything goes as planned, we’ll be celebrating a big milestone in San Jose in October. All we had to do is get past the next two races and avoid getting sucked into Pokemon Go.

Multi-tasking. Getting shoes cleaned and Pokemon Go-ing
On the good side, Pokemon led Al to see things he never has and that’s saying a lot!

Saturday, July 16th. 5K:
For whatever reason, I thought it’d be a good idea to set meeting places this weekend. In San Diego and Seattle, it felt like we were missing people by a minute or two. The good part about sitting in one spot for a few minutes is that you see most of the people you want to see and meet some new friends. I also have this theory that if you hold your phone up for a selfie long enough, everyone you know will magically appear behind you.

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The 5K course was much improved from last year. The start in the middle of the park gave the corrals more time to spread out as we went under East Randall, so we didn’t have as much congestion when we got to the lake shore path at the second mile. It didn’t get too hot and we were taking our time. I felt the ‘be in the moment’ bug hit me.

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Amy has gotten a lot of her family hooked on running now. We caught up to her at the 5K 5waiting for Team Heveran. Her mother, Jamie, would earn her 5-race Roadie medal on Sunday for the half.

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Just after we crossed the finish line, Dorcas let Al and me know that there was a family waiting for two friends to finish. A man in a wheelchair was waiting for his girlfriend and surprised her with an engagement ring. Ann was in the background not only calling the finish, but also narrating the whole proposal.

With the 5K done, I took a quick shower and board a shuttle to the McCormick Center for a different conference. Susan caught up on work. I restocked my Runner’s Multivitamin supply and picked up a few promo shirts from Callie for The Biggest Loser Race Series. TBL trainer, Dolvett will be appearing at the race in Chicago in a few weeks!

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I also picked up another Fitletic belt. After Vic Falls, I realized my phone and fuel no longer fit conveniently in the old belt. I’d also be using the extra loop to hold a tube of salt to ward of late race cramps. They have a good variety of belts with built in bib-holders, something that prevents me from checking my bib accidentally. Yes. That’s happened.

I took a 15 minute walk to catch the red line to the Cubs game. The Rangers were in town and this was only the fourth time in baseball history where two teams over .600 played in the month of July (according to Elias Bureau Stats). The bleacher seats were going for $250-300 on stub hub so I’m glad we got in. Zach, a pretty amazing story himself, joined us in the cheap seats in right center. Zach (center of the bleach pic) is vying for the top spot in the 2016 tour, having only missed the Mexico City half.

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Al and I spent four innings walking around the stadium. There’s so much to see in the park and we could watch the game on the dozens of TV’s in the food lines and stores. We tried to coordinate a meeting point with Jim and Drew for 15 minutes and finally gave up. Not one minute later, we ran into them. Maybe we just let the universe tell us where to go. We watched the last few innings in the standing room area down the right field line, listening to old video of Harry Carey singing ‘Take me out to the Ball Game’ for the seventh inning stretch.

The Cubs won the pitching duel 3 – 1. This will go down as one of my favorite “‘not part of the race’ race weekend pictures” of all time.


Kamika joined us for dinner at Howells & Hood. Let’s just say “you had me at Butterscotch Bread Pudding”.

Sunday, July 17th. Half Marathon:
We went to bed Saturday night worried about the heat. When we woke up Sunday morning, we had a good cloud cover and the temps dropped about 10 degrees. Great, but the forecast pulled the possible storms in to 9 AM. We made a quick stop at the starting line for Susan’s usual picture and dropped off an early anniversary present for Ann and Peter.

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I ducked out to start the race with Kamika on the far side of the starting line. We watched the first five corrals start and I jumped back in so we could get a jump on the storms. Al served as surrogate group-selfie-taker.

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The course didn’t change much. I wrote off this race for speed but wanted to do some sprints to test the new salt routine. According to Garmin, my moving time was actually faster than my course PR from 2015. The pictures may have had something to do with it. We were enjoying the cooler weather with the cloud cover and occasional cool breeze.

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Susan mentioned that training for the full really helped her endurance and her higher run/walk ratio was doing wonders for her speed. Even though she took a dozen pictures and even went off course with us for the marquee sign picture, she ended up less than 20 seconds off her PR, breaking 2:30 for only the second time. We saw her ahead of us in the high-five tunnel at mile 9.

We started feeling the raindrops at mile 11. After we cleared the tunnel at McCormick, the lightning and thunder started off to the west. At mile 12.5, we heard announcements on the PA that the race was being suspended and we should seek shelter. All that went through my head was, damn, I’m glad we had a safety race for Hall of Fame.

Al, on the other hand, realized if this race were called before he got an official time, he would have to fit in Rock n Roll Montreal to keep his race count on track. Three of four thunderclaps later, we were both running for the finish line. I hope I didn’t look too awkward. The clock wasn’t running when we crossed, but Al got runner tracking updates on his phone, meaning we had officially finished. Big sigh of relief.

We cleared through the finisher chute to pick up our Headliner medals just as the downpour hit and we hid under the tent with Mindy and Ryan until it passed. Most of our friends prudently decided not to wait for us since packing wet clothes into your suitcases makes for icky unpacking later. Fortunately, the delay was short. Everyone was allowed to finish.

We met Jim, Beth, Joe, Karin and Valerie for lunch at the Purple Pig. This was a rare time when Beth wasn’t flooded with media requests for GetBackUp. We were there from 11 to about 2 ordering in shifts. I’m starting to realize that we may not have forever, so I wanted to take advantage of the time we share.

Time with family. Time with friends. Another set of bling on the way to the Hall of Fame. There are a lot things we run for.

Sometimes, you run for cover!

Don’t get all bent out of shape!


News from the Roads:
Kudos to Jim Diego for finishing his 50th state half marathon the other week in Missoula.  He performed several renditions of “Running State of Mind”, including one on the course. This is also his second trip to the Sun, the highest accomplishment possible as a Half Fanatic. He followed that up the following week with the Runners World Classic, completing the 5K, 10K and the half. I guess he’s going for a third round? Congrats, Jim! Jessica Claire also finished her 50th Rock n Roll half or full in Chicago, putting her in the top 20 according to my most certinaly incomplete and unofficial reccords. Sherry Ricker is the first to 300 Rock n Roll miles in 2016. She and Greg Heilers have a good shot at the all time record of 517.1 miles set by Dave DeNiere in 2012.

Rock n Roll Chicago is in it’s 8th year. There were 16,531 finishers in 2016 (11,059 in the half, 2,520 in the 10K and 2,952 in the Remix 5K), slightly down from last year’s total of 16,793. This is the 7th time we’ve done the race, missing only the inaugural year. It’s our most frequented races in the series. 

We have a few months before our next Rock n Roll (Philadelphia). If things go well,  I’d like to go after the PR I wasn’t ready for in San Diego. With Susan getting faster every week and feeling stronger, I have a feeling she’ll be doing the same. Our next tune up will be at The Biggest Loser Race Series half in Chicago in a few weeks.

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