People love gifts. Sometimes, they’re physical items – birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, anniversary gifts, wedding gifts, the list goes on. Sometimes they’re small gifts like the note your wife leaves you on the mirror when she goes off for a week-long business trip. Sometimes, it’s the gift of time that you’ve been given when a meeting ends early or you just make the light before it turns red. Sometimes the gift is more subtle, because you’ve gotten so used to receiving them that it feels like a part of your life. It’s no longer special.
I thought a lot about gifts this last trip to Rock n Roll Denver. There were the good gifts like the ones we brought for Ann and Peter who are expecting their first child in November. There were the usual gifts of clear, dry race weather that we somehow seem to have at 98% or our races. Then there are the ones I forget to appreciate, like the gift of health. My right knee, surgically repaired 26 years ago, was showing signs of swelling and clicking ever since the Old Glory Relay and I wondered if this long streak of uninterrupted racing was in jeopardy.
The Friday trip out of Oakland gave us just enough time for Uber-Al to get us to the expo to pick up our 5K and Half bibs. The
stockyard was quite a bit further than the Convention Center, and it seemed very quiet, even during the last hour for the locals who took off work early. I was happy to pick up another half-zip color, but for the third straight race, Merch had no luggage tags and pins. We’ve been collecting them for the last 6 years and I’m getting a little annoyed with the lack of race-specific souvenirs.
I did get a half-zip though. Unlike Joe, I don’t think I’ve reached my quota yet.
Saturday, October 15th. 5K.
The inaugural RNR Denver 5K was a great way to get moving and acclimate to the elevation. Temperatures were perfect for the warm up. We caught Kevin, Diane and Jeff at the start, but the majority of the diehard Rock n Rollers were at the other race in St. Louis. The pre-race pictures were smaller than usual. I swear, Susan was there, even though it looks like we photoshopped her in.
Ann is midway through her third trimester and was probably glad to not be on a plane for this weekend. We do find her sitting more than standing these days, but considering she probably gets as many steps during the race as people doing the 5K or half, it’s completely understandable.
The course was a loop with a few decent rises. Easily the highlight of this race for us was seeing our friend and TeamUp Captain, Virginia at the finish line. She did the 5K/10K combo on Denver weekend as she ramps up to her first half marathon in Vegas next month. She wears two Allard braces to overcome the conditions brought on by Charcot Marie Tooth disease. I remember Al saying how he thinks his long history with races isn’t nearly as impressive as he didn’t have the kind of challenges to overcome as others like Virginia. Talk about inspiration!
After a quick shower and change, we met Ann and Peter for lunch at Mercantile in Union Station. Peter would be on stage announcer duty with Ann for the first time during the half. After introductions, Al and Peter had some in-depth discussions about bikes and Joe, Susan and I got a download on all things baby related.
The “Porn for New Mom’s” book was a big hit.
“Let me get rid of all this junk so I can make room for the jogging stroller”.
Our pre-race movie tradition continued with a showing of Max Steele, a good off-mainstream superhero movie that looks to be the first of a good series for the Harry Potter generation. Dinner at the Yard House with Kamika ended up being a Pokemon update much to Susan’s dismay. Kamika was putting us to shame with the number of Pokémon he caught on-course at RNR Brooklyn the weekend before. I gave him a quick lesson on gym battles before heading to bed. I had an Exxecutor in the Sheraton gym for over 5 days.
Sunday, October 16th. Half-Marathon and 10K
Why is it that the closer we are to the starting line, the later we seem to get there? We got to the corrals just about 7:05 for the 7:15 start, enough time to catch Jim and Beth. We missed Nalani completely, even though she was responsible enough to get to the start early. In the corrals, Beth gave us an update on Becky Piper, another TeamUp captain who was doing the 10K. Thank social media for this connection. Beth read on Facebook that Becky would be there just the night before. Becky was a mountain biker, runner and XTERRA off-road triathlon world championship qualifier before her world changed overnight. Becky’s story was very different than Beth and Virginia as Becky’s paralysis was caused by a brutal home invasion attack. Three men broke into her home, beating her and leaving her for dead before her husband found her. Read the amazing story of her fight to GetBackUp here.
Peter was holding his own on stage, but his lovely wife was still the star. I think they’ll make a really good team.
Between altitude, allergies and babying my knee on race 4 of 10 in 10 weeks, there wasn’t a lot of incentive to push. Susan and Joe were racing ahead together. Al and I considered waiting for Kamika (who ended up catching just short of 100 Pokemon during the race). We spent a bit of time catching up on the last few months of racing and planning for the next 6 races before we go into our winter hibernation.
It ended up being our slowest race of the year, but we finished though. The knee held up. The allergies never got overwhelming. And with Al having an early flight, we had just enough time to catch up with Jim, Beth and Virginia for lunch. Jim was showing off pictures of he new grandson. Virginia was fresh off her 10K and looks to be more than ready for her first half marathon. Susan and Beth were busy planning what to do when Susan visits North Carolina over Thanksgiving.
At one point during lunch, I wondered about all the things that happened that got us together at that table. We used to miss both Denver and St. Louis because they usually fell on the same weekend as Nike San Francisco. Now with Nike folding up shop without so much as an explanation, we alternate between the two Rock n Roll locations. Were it not for the series, we would have never met any of these people we think of as lifelong friends. This isn’t the first time in recent memory, but there was no picture to accompany that meal. For the last year, I’ve been letting that slip because I just want to be in the moment and enjoy the company.
These moments are gifts. Never take them for granted.
2016 was the 7th year of Rock n Roll Denver and the first year of the Remix 5K. Given the reported low turnout in St. Louis this year, we may end up doing Denver more than just every other year. With the light rail connection to Denver International Airport complete, the $9 one-way ride beats a cab or rental car if you just plan to be downtown most of the weekend. If you plan to hop out to Colorado Springs or Red Rocks, it’s definitely worth the side trip.
Archway Achievements and Mile High Milestones:
Big shout outs to our friends Amy and Mitch who finished their 50th and 75th Rock n Roll events respectively at RNR St. Louis. I think now that Amy has a companion pass on Southwest and her mother Jamie is all-in for Hall of Fame this year, she may be hitting 100 in the next 3 years. Mitch keeps saying he’s going to cut back, but now is contemplating hitting 100 Rock n Rolls by the end of 2017. Sherry is still on track to hit 100 by Rock n Roll Las Vegas. Jeff and I went through his records and it looks like 100 will be his first race in 2017, likely Rock n Roll New Orleans.
This was our 13th Rock n Roll half of 2016. We don’t count 5K and 10K’s toward the lifetime RNR heavy medal totals, but Susan and I collected our 100th RNR race medals last weekend – Susan on the 5K, Ron on the half. Records at this level are pretty solid, but I’ll still say “unofficially”, that makes us the 7th and 8th people to do it. I guess it takes a certain amount of persistence and quality for a race series to not get boring
Downtown Denver is a good hunting ground, especially up and down the 16th Street Mall. The free Mall Shuttle travels from Civic Park to Union Station at speeds that may even allow you to get egg distance. The Mall has a poke stop just about every block, so your bags will fill quickly. Wild monsters of note are Magnemites, Magnatrons, Ponyta, Electrabuzz, Jynx and Charmanders. Gym strength is reasonable. The Level 10 gym outside the Denver Sheraton had a bottom defender in the 1700 CP range. My Exxecutor had a 4 day vacation before getting kicked out. On-course players should expect a Pokémon dead zone between miles 2.5 and 4 where the course goes by some industrial sections of town. I’d recommend dropping incense only when you get past mile 8 to maximize catches.