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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
We’ve never had a real story. I mean, compared to other people, it’s hard for us to point out something we’ve done that is truly special. We haven’t overcome life-threatening illnesses, haven’t set any speed records and we know people who’ve done so many more races that we have. Sure, we’ve shown up to quite a few races in a lot of places, but we look around and continue to be in awe of people we meet.
Rock n Roll Philadelphia always attracts world-class runners. The fast course and usually friendly conditions mean there’s always a chance you could see a national or world record fall, like seeing Deena Kastor break the Master’s half marathon record a few years back. In 2017, the half marathon field included names like Olympians Galen Rupp and Jared Ward and Jordan Hasay. We were in for a treat on the roads, but Philly is also a great city to explore. There’s a lot for history buffs, museum enthusiasts and foodies alike.
We landed Friday just before the Expo closed with enough time to drop our stuff at the Sheraton. Al took a later flight and we ended up on the same plane from Vegas. Peanut was off to her 9th race of the year. We may need to send her to Brooklyn or Savannah to pick up another race so she can get to the Hall of Fame. Heh.
The medals were different denominations of currency. I heard “Show me the Benjamin’s” more than a few times. We had a little time to catch up with Rick and the CGI staff after a two month break. Diva had been riding across the country on a motorcycle. Amy now lives in New Jersey and will try to do the expos at Philly, Brooklyn and DC.
After a quick bite at Rex Pizza, we headed out to stretch our legs after the long flight. It was going to be a warm race weekend, but it did make for pleasant evening weather.
Saturday, September 16th. 5K
This was the first of a nine-weekend stretch featuring 11 different Rock n Roll race locations (8 of those locations logistically possible, maybe one more if you chartered a plane). This was the start of the push for Hall of Fame 2017. Anyone with 7 or more races had a good shot at 15. Now it’s all a matter of staying vertical and showing up. We’re pretty good at that last part.
I even had enough energy to run (yeah, actually run) the steps of the museum. The view from the top is a treat.
On the way out, we stopped by the stage to see the leaders finish the 10K and say hi to Ann. Someone said that 10K winner, Andrew Carnes, also ran the 5K. It wasn’t the case, but a number of the Black Sheep successfully did the double on Saturday.
Quick stop by the finish line to see #barefootElvis…
And on the way back, we finally find love.
Post race lunch was at Reading Terminal Market. There are a lot of restaurants close by, but the variety here is awesome.
Pre-half dinner was at Maggiano’s with the AACR charity organization. We did this in 2016 and it was a great way to get some inspiration. Joe, Sherry and Leny were all raising money this year.Hundreds of AACR heroes raised close to have a million dollars for the weekend. We got a private performance from Boy Band, the ladies who were singing the national anthem on Sunday. Sherry and Tawni even walked away with a few of the raffle prizes. We actually hit two Raikou raids before headed to bed. We’re still trying to catch one for Tamara.
Sunday, September 17th, Half Marathon
Off to race number 11 for the year. We weren’t getting a Heavy Medal this weekend, but we do get a Remix medal and see our friends walk away with a lot of hardware. VIP was right next to the Washington statue, a perfect place to find our friends.
TeamUp was representing well. Beth and Lisa were sporting the Allard braces. Without them, foot-drop makes it hard to walk and really hard to run. With the braces, they’re a force to be reckoned with.
We got into the corrals early with plenty of time for selfies.
I missed walking a sub-2:30 in San Diego. My Garmin actually had 2:29:59, but the website showed 2:30:00 and the official results ticked it up to 2:30:01. I thought about challenging it with my watch time, but after thinking it over, I didn’t earn it. Figured I’d have Philly and maybe St. Louis to try again. Drew and I paced for the first 8 or 9 miles, petting all the dogs on the way.
It was creeping into the 70’s and it was muggy, but I was only 10-15 seconds off pace. The turn at the Falls Bridge at mile 9 put us into a slight downhill to mile 13 before a short uphill into the finish line. I just picked a few people who were pulling along at a good pace and tried to pick them off one by one. After the next 3 miles, I was able to put in a 50 second buffer, enough to climb the last slope and cross the finish chute to give Ann a high five with 10 seconds to spare. Cross off another year achieving an arbitrary milestone!
The Heavy Medal tent was hopping. Ryan and Mindy were hip deep in Gold Records. Barefoot Henry continues his quest for his first Hall of Fame. Al, Josie and Zach are on track to repeat.
Two more Hall of Fame headphones were awarded in Philly. Ainsley and Greg took the traditional shots from this slightly lower volume design. Leny picked up another. I stepped back to appreciate her back bib after learning how her home in Florida was impacted by the recent hurricane. The bib was for cancer. Twice. Now add Irma.
While there were no speed records this weekend, there were some blazing times that most mortals would have been happy with. Susan continues to be on track for a marathon PR in Chengdu. Overall a good race day.
Tamara didn’t get to Reading Market in time Saturday night, so we went back for lunch. Between the cheese steak, pulled pork, brisket and Bassett’s ice cream for dessert, it was worth the trip.
We may still yet hit personal bests this year. We’re talking care of ourselves so maybe we’ll be fortunate enough to live long lives. Instead of raising money, we’re donating to our friends, at least for now. And while we have friends who’ve hit 100 Rock n Roll races already, we’ll be hitting that milestone in a few weeks at Rock n Roll San Jose. We’ll be the first married couple to both do it.
Maybe there’s a story there after all.
There’s still time to make a donation to the AACR for Rock n Roll Philadelphia for the Black Sheep Run team (includes a link to Zach’s page). You can also find direct links for Sherry, Joe and Leny.
We turned right onto Michigan Avenue right about the 10K mark. My early estimate was that he’d be coming up to pass us between mile 6 and 9. Sure enough, not 100 meters past the turn, there was Greg, passing us on the right. He slowed down just enough that we could hand him our beer tickets.
Rock n Roll Chicago 2017 was another milestone for the RNR loyalists. Greg Heilers became the 7th person to finish 100 Rock n Roll Heavy Medal events (101 if you count the 10K in Brooklyn, which he didn’t). He’s the third one to reach that mark in 2017. He’s been racing on the RNR circuit since 2008, and after ramping up to do 55 in the last three years, it was just a matter of time.
I say that last sentence lightly, but it belies the magnitude of the work required to keep going that long. There’s the physical toll to doing 34 marathons and 66 half marathons and dozens of 5K’s and 10K’s – and that’s just in the Rock n Roll series. Then there’s the financial aspect. The races are in 30+ different locations, and now five different countries and three continents. Greg has raced in all locations except Lisbon. Reportedly, that’s on the list for 2018.
100 races seems to be frighteningly common though. Before we started racing, we didn’t know many people who did more than a couple of races a year. Now it seems we know more people who’ve done 100 races than people who have NOT.
Chicago in July can be a bit muggy, but this year was surprisingly nice with temperatures for the 5K and Half starting in the mid-60’s. There were some apps we had that were forecasting thunderstorms on Sunday morning, but they never materialized.
This year we had the honor of celebrating another milestone – the 50th anniversary year of Katherine Switzer’s historic run of the Boston Marathon. She was the first woman to run Boston, back when race directors were worried that running 26.2 miles would make a woman’s uterus fall out. She had to register as “K. V. Switzer”, like she always signs her name. But the initials masked her gender.
We spent a few hours at the Expo as usual. The redesigned Hall of Fame medal was finally revealed at the Rock n Roll booth. The first chance to pick one up will be in Virginia Beach.
We also picked up a few items for Drew. He couldn’t make the trip, but he was on our minds. In addition to the special edition racks for the Chicago locals, Pete and Marcey at SportHooks had something that crossed the miles with the just the right sentiment.
Saturday July 15th – 5K
The new course was a double out and back with some time in the park and some on the water. Katherine kicked off the weekend with a word about 261 Fearless, her organization that promotes women’s empowerment through fitness. She’s 70 years old and can still clock in the low 2 hours for a half marathon.
One at the start. One at the finish. We’ve done this so many times, it’s a lot more fun taking pictures of my friends than of the course. We were just a few dozen meters behind Katherine and her 261 Fearless group as she added yet another chapter to her inspiring career.
On the way home, we took a quick detour. Tamara and Al still hadn’t added the tyranitaur to their Pokemon Go inventory and there just so happened to be a raid a block off the path back to the hotel. Mission accomplished! Also, Beth and Jim in classic gypsy fashion, just happened upon us on the way back to their hotel, just in time for a group selfie.
After lunch, we caught the opening weekend showing of Spiderman Homecoming. 2017 has been a great year to take some time off our feet for race weekend movies! We had a good light dinner at Filini’s. I’m definitely marking that place down for a return trip!
The cool evening weather was a rare treat. Tawni, Al, Susan and I took a late night stroll out to the Navy Pier fireworks display. The place was packed. Note to tourists. Be careful if you sit on the grass. The sprinklers went on in two different patches.
Here’s the abbreviated version, in case you went to bed early and missed it. Tawni was live streaming it and SOME people who should have been asleep started a comment war :).
Sunday, July 16th – Half Marathon
The pre-race meeting at gear check was a well orchestrated surprise for Greg. Champagne shots flowed. Ainsley and Amy produced a few dozen custom shirts in Greg’s signature neon yellow color. The big reveal went over well.
Quick pre-race pic for our missing gypsy. Kamika went off to his usual start line position.
Greg usually starts in corral 3 and finishes in the 1:30 – 1:40 range for the half. Since he wanted to see people on the course, he decided to start with his brother in dead last and see people as he passed them during the race. This way a few of his friends could make it to the finish line to hold the tape and take pictures. Starting that far back must have been driving him crazy.
The course hasn’t changed much in the 8 years we’ve done it. We cross a few tricky bridges, pass the Chicago theater sign, pass 7 streets named after presidents take that right on Michigan for the three-mile straightaway, take the cheer tunnel hairpin on Martin Luther King Jr. and head back under the McCormick Center. Support was pretty good this year. The water stations were fully stocked, the sponges and cooling station between mile 10.5 and 11 probably didn’t have as many customers as they might have if it were hotter. I was working on some technique tips I picked up at the USATF outdoor championships and came within a few minutes of my Chicago PR. Susan has been running more consistently with a goal of putting up a sub-2:30 to let her move up one more corral for Disney Superheroes in November. She beat that mark with time to spare.
And Greg? He got his 100th Rock n Roll finish line. Apparently, he was going so fast that they missed him the first time around but Amy and Ann did a reenactment. After that many races and thousands of miles, what’s another dozen meters to get it right?
It’s been 50 years since that milestone at Boston. It’s been nearly 10 years since Greg’s first Rock n Roll to his 100th. The more I keep coming back to these events, the more I know that it’s all a matter of passion.
Keep working. Keep showing up. Keep finding something that inspires and motivates you and you’ll reach your next goal.
It’s just a matter of time.
Rock n Roll Chicago is in its 8th year. There were 14,985 finishers in 2017 (9.834 in the half, 2,207 in the 10K and 2,944 in the Remix 5K), down from last year’s total of 16,531. This is the 8th year in a row we’ve done the race, most of any RNR. Missing that inaugural year is really bumming me out now.
The course remains one of my favorite urban half marathons, even with the Midwest summer weather. It winds through a mix of classic old downtown, and is well supported. Short of 2016’s thunderstorms, we haven’t had any issues with weather for this location.
Greg Heilers has at least 250 lifetime races at all distances. Including the Remix distances, 137 of those are under the Rock n Roll brand, putting him third in that category. He also sits at 1888 total Rock n Roll miles (3rd) and has the most miles run in a single year (550.5 in 2016).
He is also raising money for the Chicago Marathon as part of the team representing the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicago. In some races, Transamerica sponsors a “Tomorrow Chaser” that starts last and the company donates a dollar for every person the chaser passes during the race. Transamerica doesn’t sponser this location and while Greg didn’t actually ask for donations, I decided to pledge a penny per pass based on his finish position. If you’re interested in helping him reach his $1000 goal, be sure to visit his website here.
Year 10 for RNR Chicago is next year. Once the 2018 Tour Pass goes on sale, we’ll be signed up for sure.