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.

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.

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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.

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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.

The Final Encore – Double Live 2017

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.

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Two states. One awesome vendor. Two themes to show off your goods.

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Two states. Two meals. Both with tortillas and drinks.

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Two states. Two medals. And something to carry our bling.

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Two states. Day one. Take in a movie and a show after dark.

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Two States. Off to bed, but first a churro in the park.

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Two states. Day 2. At the Disney start line for the last(?) time.

Two states. Feeling good. On the field at mile 9.

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Two states. Different corrals, but we come together at mile 10.

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Two states. A Coast to Coast medal. But he couldn’t get a churro again.

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Two states. Hop a flight. Take time to relax and smile.

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Two states. On the Strip. High security at every mile.

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Two states. Wall to wall crowds. We’re still able to find our friends.

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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.

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Two states. The finish line. The perfect end to a perfect night.

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Two states. Two Races. Hall of Fame year Four.

Two states. Two races. One Day. What a way to end the Tour.

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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.

 

Jai You! – RNR Chengdu 2017

Life is all about the choices we make. Sometimes, those choices are small. Left or right? Paper or plastic? Red or white? Sometimes, the choice can change your life. Lacing up a pair of shoes and choosing to finish a marathon falls into that category. We travel a lot for races and sometimes two races fall on the same weekend or the same day, like this year when the Rock n Roll series added a new race in Chengdu the same weekend as Los Angeles. That creates a choice that’s full with opportunity.

Getting to Chengdu was a 14 hour non-stop flight from San Francisco. We met Jeff and Maggie as we waited to board and also Paul and James, connections from the Marathon Maniacs page. I can’t thank Sherry enough for using one of her United Global Pass upgrades to get me set up with seats in business class. Susan was in 1B, Sherry and I were in 4A and 4B. The flight attendant was a little confused that she saw two Carinos not sitting together (‘WHAT?! My WIFE is on this plane too!?’). A few movies naps and meals later, we were landing after sunset halfway around the world.

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The time change actually wasn’t too bad. We arranged a car for 3 with Travel China Guide for about $100 for the hour-long drive. Right away, you got a good taste of why first timers really shouldn’t drive in China. Lane lines are suggestions and the electric moped and pedestrians were absolutely fearless at intersections. I was amazed we never saw an accident the entire time we were there.

We slept a good 7 hours and woke up in time for breakfast at the Uvila Resort and Culture in Dujiagyan (found through Agoda.com – some pics of our room below). It’s a higher end hotel by any standard with pricing in the $150/night range. The key criteria for us was the location, a 10 minute walk from the start and finish lines. The sponsored race hotels were located in Chengdu, 40 miles south and train and car round trip can easily eat up cash and free time.

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Packet pick up was at the Dujiangyan Sports Complex, about 5K from the hotel down the main streets of the city. The guide books said that the Chinese aren’t shy about staring and apparently, we were quite the sight. They were very polite though the language barrier was pretty high. I recommend getting an international data plan with VPN, Google Translate and WeChat (in that order). The locals did a good job with their own phones, too. Everyone was very friendly. The route to the stadium crossed a few bridges, some great photo-ops and more crazy driving episodes.

We ran into Andrea at the Sports Complex and had a few photo ops with the CGI rep who traveled to watch over the inaugural event. Aaron, Andrea and Sherry were 3 of the 4 who’ve run the table on RNR events so far (Leon was the fourth). All of them were taking on the challenge to finish the half in Chengdu, get back to the airport and fly to LA for the half in the states the next morning. The dateline would help them as long as they caught all flights and they were reasonably on time. Stacey and Chip from RNR were going to let them start with the full marathon start, giving them a few extra hours. We weren’t sure if there would be any problems if the half marathon bibs crossed the finish line early. That might be hard to explain if you didn’t speak the language.

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Susan went back to the hotel to get off her feet and Sherry, Aaron and I did a little exploring, trying to find the best route to the starting line for the noon start. We did a bit of climbing and found a Wal-Mart to get some race supplies. Let’s just say the selection was a bit different from what we’re used to at home.

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We dropped off our supplies at the hotel and found a back way to the starting area. The stage was as big as any of the US races and they were doing sound checks that we could hear from the hotel on the other side of the hill.

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We had dinner at the hotel. Night races always make for a difficult fueling schedule, but the pasta was pretty good. Yes, that’s a pineapple pizza.

Saturday, October 28th. Full Marathon
The noon start actually worked really well since it gave us an extra night to get fully rested. I woke up around 7, went down to grab a light breakfast and started prepping for what looked like a warm rainy day until just after noon.

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The race bag included disposable ponchos. Win!

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Security was tight. The start area was inside a walled area for the temple
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Pro Tip: Bring your own toilet paper.
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This double is about to get real.

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The starting area was just what you’d expect at a big Rock n Roll Marathon. Security was tight, but once inside the zone, it was a well-organized with a party atmosphere and plenty of space for people to warm up. We met a handful of Marathon Maniacs at the start including John, who’s done every Inaugural RNR Marathon.

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The first mile took us through the cobblestone streets of the city to the west side of the Minjiang River over the irrigation system that was constructed in 250 B.C. And it still works! This was an out and back with the half turn at the Panda Preserve. I was able to catch Sherry before the turn and saw Aaron, Andrea and Leon on the way back.

It was a really good day for a marathon. The mist was keeping us cool and there were a few mile long stretches of frontage road that were lined with trees. At the accessible points, the locals were out in force.

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We noticed one cheer in particular repeated all the way along – “Jai You!”. When we did the Rome Marathon in 2008, the locals would cheer “Die! Die!” (I think that translated to “keep going”, not the English meaning”). I figured at some point, I’d have to figure out what Jai You meant.

Miles 11.5 – 13.5 were a 3% uphill grade to the turnaround at the Qingchengshan Temple. I was on about  5:10 marathon pace, but could feel the incline taking its toll. This sign couldn’t come soon enough. I’d been following the fellow in the green shirt for about 5 miles. He asked me if I was a professional race walker. Yeah, I wish.

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Cramps started on the turn downhill. So much for the PR, but I was still in good shape for a 5:30 finish. I saw Susan coming up on the hill about 5 minutes later. The lady in the orange just ahead of her was a story I’d hear about later.

At about 30K, a local named Soon Ri (I’ll edit the spelling when I see the Chengdu results post), pulled in beside me. He spoke just enough English to hold a basic conversation and told me this was his first marathon. His target time was 5:30 and he was having trouble with his pacing, so we started clicking off the KM’s together. He’d never been outside of China but eventually wanted to visit the states. I told him I was enjoying China much more than I was expecting. Running connected us even through the language barrier. He was the one who told me that Jai You translated into “Keep Fighting”. Google’s version – ‘add oil’ – was in the spirit, but not nearly as motivating.

The thing I love about out and back courses is that you know the route and what to expect after the turn. You can save something for hills and keep focus mentally when you get back to the long stretches of monotony.  Making the last turns over the dams meant we were within sight of the finish line. The stairs going into the South Bridge at KM 41 so pretty on the way out, but the dozen or so steps on the way in were good for a wince or two.

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Soon Ri had friends waiting for him on the other side of the bridge, snapping pictures as we went through the markets and on to the finish line. This was a sweet moment for him. I was happy to be there to share it. We came close to our target time, but its his new PR.

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Susan finished about 10 minutes later, hand in hand with the lady I saw her with at the turn. Her new friend didn’t speak a word of English, but through hand gestures, they fell into the same run/walk interval and made sure each other were staying hydrated and motivated. They were together for 20 miles.

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Both of us finished will within the 6:30 cutoff time with enough extra to take a lot of pictures. At the finish festival, Jeff reminded us we needed to pick up our World Rocker medal for completing a race outside the US.

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When we signed up for the race back in June, it was the last continent we needed to visit for full marathons. Some of the running clubs are recognizing the new Zealandia continent, but until that gets internationally sanctioned we plan to rest on our laurels and work on half marathons in new states for the next few years.

That’s a choice we’re making now. It seems like we’ve made a number of good choices in our lives since we started racing.

~//~

Rock n Roll Chengdu was the inaugural Rock n Roll event in Asia. It was announced in the last few months of the negotiations with the World Triathlon Corp, operators of the Ironman series. With numerous Ironman events already running in Asia, it’s probably just a matter of time that more Rock n Roll events are announced on the continent.

The course starts in the parking lot of the Mingguan Ancestral Temple and finishes nearby at the Chongsong Ancestral Temple. After crossing three bridges in the first few miles, the course turned south on highway 59 and 4 past the Panda Preserve at mile 6.5 (the half marathon turn). The Qingchengshan Temple marked the turn at 13.4 miles. The scenery was a good mix of high density residential, country back road and tourist attractions. Susan says it her favorite full marathon course on the Rock n Roll circuit. I’d have to agree.

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While the results are still not posted to date, the estimated participation was in the 8,000 range for the full, half and 6K fun run. I hope it is back for 2018.

If Chengdu is in your future plans, be sure to get your Visa application in early. Most US-based embassies will take about a week to process it. The San Francisco office required photocopies of your passport along with the application, passport photos and the ticket number for your flight (both legs). Take a world phone with you or activate T-Mobile unlimited or AT&T International Day Pass (I was told that taking a US phone and trying to install a local SIM card there doesn’t work unless you register with the local authorities). The data plan comes in handy for character recognition/translation apps and taxi cards. The locals really appreciate the effort. 

 

Aaron, Andrea, Leon, Sherry all made their flights and landed throughout the night before Rock n Roll Los Angeles. All four are on track to race in 25 locations in 2017 as all were in Savannah and Vegas and plan to race in San Antonio. It was great to watch the extra level of awesome in action.

We spent 3 days in Dujiangyan and another 3 in Chengdu. We had enough time to see both Panda breeding facilities and the Giant Buddha statue in Leshan and walk around downtown Chengdu day and night. It was a wonderful way to finish our last continent.

Jai You!

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The Chronicles of San Jose – 100th Rock n Roll

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. 

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We meet the herald who announced our latest journey. We thank him for the kind words.

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(Kevin Gemmell, writer for the article in Competitor Running Magazine).

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.

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Thank you, Drew, for your selflessness, humor and optimism and letting us be there for your 100th half marathon last year.
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Thank you, Beth, Virginia, Barbie and the rest of TeamUp, for the inspiration

We greet the citizens of the magical land: The keeper of the keys to the dance. The woman with the voice of an angel.

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Thank you, Mindy and Ann!

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.

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We meet with the Queen of the Lone Star. We will be journeying with her to the far east before long.

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Sherry Ricker: First woman to 100 Rock n Roll’s, fourth overall and most RNR race medals including the mile, 5K and 10K.

The King of Paradise came bearing intoxicating gifts from his island.

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Kamika Smith: Sixth to 100 Rock n Rolls. He brought us fresh leis from Kauai.

Next came the Eternal King of the East. His grace and gentleness sets an example for us all.

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VIP Joe Harris: First to 100 and 146 RNR heavy medal events lifetime. Far and away the most ever.

The King of the City of Light arrived next. Our thoughts are with his land as it is recovering from devastating events.

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Jeff Calene, Fifth to 100. His hometown of Las Vegas is still wondering why.

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.

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Al Hernandez (left): 3rd to 100 RNR’s. My mentor and best friend.

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.

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Greg Heilers (center): 7th to 100. Mitch Ginsburg (right), will be the 10th by the end of 2017. Amy Heveran (left) might even make it by 2019 at the torrid pace she is going.

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.

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Caryn (Left) will be running her 100th half marathon next year. For Tawni (Center), San Jose was her 150th half.

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.

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More Gypsy friends check in. Beth and Jim were with us when we started this quest in 2012. We were always thinking they would be the first married couple to 100. They’re not far behind us.

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.  

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Mom and Dad join our race group selfie. Thanks to Jenny and Tamara for being there too!

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.

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Kevin (back, center) was second to 100. He has been roaming the globe chasing the world majors.

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.

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The Century Club in San Jose: Susan, Al, Ron, Kamika, Sherry, Joe, Kevin, Jeff

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. 

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We are the Kings and Queens of Rock and Roll.

Long may we race!

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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 look forward now, to the next 100.

What Have We Learned?

I have a fondness for Richard Bach books that dates way back to college. I find that when I reach a big milestone or turning point I end up pulling some quotes from his books. It seems appropriate to do it now. There are a lot of lessons we’ve learned from our time racing with our friends. Here are just a few.

“Every person, all the events of your life are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you.”

1) Never be afraid to try something new. Also, upgrading to the latest tech feeds your inner geek.

2) Take care of your body, and it’ll take care of you.

3) You can never be too careful 😂

4) Always be prepared.

5) Generosity is a virtue. As is humility and kindness.

6) Petting a dog makes most thing better (even the dog).

7) You can be small in stature, but have a giant’s will and courage inside.

8) It can be a great achievement in itself to make someone else happy.

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9) There is always the right attire for every occasion, especially at national monuments.

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10) Capture your memories. Don’t forget to post and tag.

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11) Don’t throw away your shot.

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“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.” 

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“True love stories never have endings.”

Thank you to all of our gypsy family who have made these last few years so memorable and to all the Black Sheep, Team in Training, Team Future, AACR, Biggest Loser, SportHooks, and CGI friends who’ve been with us every step of the way.  We hope to share the journey to 100… and beyond!

Quotes from  Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah

 

Just a Matter of Time – RNR Chicago 2017

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

 

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Quick pre-race pic for our missing gypsy. Kamika went off to his usual start line position.

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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.

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Photo Credit: Kamika Smith

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?

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Photo Credit Almi Del Villar Instagram almin8dv

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.

 

It’s All About … Us – RNR Seattle 2017

Finishing a marathon, ultimately, is an individual accomplishment. When you cross the finish line, you’re the one who gets the medal. You’re the one who gets the time posted on the internet. As you make your way to the post race bananas or chocolate milk, you should take satisfaction at the job you’ve done.

This is not to say that other people can help you along the way. Someone may have inspired you to start training. There’s the woman at the shoe store who did a gait analysis to recommend the right shoe. There are the coaches and teammates for your fundraising charity who kept you motivated as you got into higher mileage. There’s the chiropractor and orthopedic specialists who put you back on track as your body started to complain. And all the way through, there are the people who just show their support, cheering you on and giving you the freedom to pursue this activity.

That’s usually the story I hear at the end of a first race. Now think about what it takes to keep that motivation going to finish 100 races! I was thinking about this as we headed to Seattle to watch our friend Kamika run in his 100th Rock n Roll race. He would be the sixth person to reach this milestone in the 20th year of the series.

Kamika picked this race because he went to school in Seattle. It was also the site of his 100th marathon in 2010, and being as there are no

Rock n Roll events in Hawaii, this was as close to a home town as he could get. Because of the travel time, he usually doesn’t come in early to run the remix race. This time he made an exception. The free trip to the Seattle Museum of Flight (with your bib as the ticket) was a nice perk for those getting there early for the 5K.

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We landed mid morning on Saturday and headed to the expo, finding our gypsy friends to give them some gear we picked up to honor Kamika. At first we weren’t sure if the pineapple thing might be going a little too far, but everyone was curious about them. Some even asked if we were selling them for the race.

I’ll remember that night at dinner for a long time. Seated at the table was a combination of over 2000 Rock n Roll finish lines crossed including three of the other 100 Rock n Roll Century club members (Jeff couldn’t make it in time) and nine of the top 14 lifetime totals. Outside of the series there were multiple Boston qualifiers, Seven Continent Marathoners, 50 State Marathon and Half Marathon finishers, 100 Half Marathon finisher and some who’ve crossed of several of these challenges in their lifetimes. But one thing I noticed? There wasn’t an ego in the room. No one really talked about accomplishments. People talked more about longevity and the future. There was just an outpouring of appreciation of just knowing each other, making this trip and taking time out to enjoy each other’s company.

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Left clockwise: Susan, Tawni, Lynda, Zach, Sherry, Bree, Tamara, Drew, David, Tim, Jim, Beth, Tricia, Kamika, Joe, Al, Ron.

Beth said some wonderful, touching things about each of us in turn. I’m really excited that her work now wants her to run more Rock n Rolls because that means we’ll see her and Jim more often.

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She also wowed us with her decorative talent with hand-made cookies for the occasion. They looked too good to eat, but we somehow managed. I mean, after all, we needed to carbo-load, right?

On the way out, we caught Leny, who arrived on a later flight, with Juan. The timing was great since we could give Leny a pair of pineapples and take a Juan-fie.

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Sunday, June 18th. The 100th Race
The point-to-point format in 2017 made getting to the start line a bit more challenging. The Link light rail had trains so full you’d have to wait for the next ones and many runners were forced to get a ride share or were late to the start. Even the Lyft drivers were having trouble getting close and a few even refused to go near the stadium, even with nearly double surge pricing. Note for future races: reserve the night before, come early, drop off and walk the rest of the way.

We had a good amount of time to snap some group pictures in VIP. There may have been some goofing off with the pineapple gear.

Quick group fotofotos at the corrals before we scatter. Kamika hugged every single person before they left.

The other runners were starting to call us the pineapple crew.  Sherry later noted that pineapples are a symbol of hospitality and friendship. In hindsight, I think we nailed the theme. It was really easy to see us on at Kamika’s customary position on the other side of the starting line.

After watching a dozen corrals go out, we made our way into corral 10. Kamika got a nice 100th Rock n Roll shout out from Ann at the start. We made sure that she got into the Aloha spirit as well. Jeff’s Uber driver dropped him off just in time for him to join us for the first half mile.

There was a lot more of Lake Washington shore on this new course and it was a beautiful day to enjoy the weather. We got into a good run/walk pace with enough time for pictures. I smiled every time someone cheered for the pineapples.

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Drew and I traded carrying the Pineapple balloon guy until I gave him to a little girl at the end of the Blue Mile. The Mile has given us a lot of inspiration to keep going at some of the toughest points of our races. It seemed right.

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Kamika likes to run under the radar. He kept trying, unsuccessfully, to get us to go ahead and not wait for him, so I’m hoping he didn’t mind the company for the first 12 miles. We were in communication with Dorcas at the finish line and Drew, Susan and I went on a head. Joe was standing at a break between the full and half marathon chute so he could direct Kamika onto the full marathon side for a less crowded finish line. Tawni grabbed a perfect angle for the video at the finish.

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Celebrating a friend whose humility and generosity truly embodies the spirit of his island state was something I’ll have in my top memories for years and not for the reasons you think. It wasn’t the milestone 100 race, the destination city, or even the dinner with our group.

When my older brother, Gary, gave a toast at our wedding, he talked about when the three of us (including our younger brother, Eric) played volleyball together after college. He said he realized how special that time was because he knew it may never happen again.  Seattle was a joyous weekend and it gave me a very similar feeling. I realized at some point that being with this group of people and the extended family of Rock n Roll enthusiasts is the thing that keeps us coming back year after year. The race itself is only a small sliver of the time we spend over the weekend and who knows when these opportunities are going to happen again?

Finishing a marathon is ultimately an individual achievement. There are times I’ll admit as I crossed the finish line after a good race that it was all about me. But once I get that medal around my neck, I remember to be grateful for my wife who races with me everywhere we go, the friends who make me laugh and remind me that there are other people just as crazy.

In the end, it’s not all about me.

It’s all about… Us.

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~//~

Rock n Roll Seattle was run for the 9th year in 2017. There were 14,799 finishers over the weekend (2457 in the marathon, 10776 in the half, and 1566 in the inaugural 5K). The course this year was a point to point format starting at University of Washington’s Husky Stadium and ending at Century Link field. Other than the logistics of getting to the start, I liked the route better. There were a decent amount of hills for a challenge and a long stretch of waterfront path.

According to my records, Kamika is only the 6th person to reach 100 Rock n Roll Heavy Medal qualifying events (half and full marathons with the option to include 10K Brooklyn 2011-2013 since that was the only distance offered). He is one of 13 people to have finished 100 overall events (including Remix 5K and 10K) and is easily the record holder for most miles traveled to Rock n Roll events. A study by William Flynn showed that, at minimum, Kamika traveled 100,00 air miles per year just to get to 15 events (that doesn’t include stops and his legendary luck with United Airlines delays through SFO). 

This is the first of four blogs in our backlog. I just wanted to get it down in electrons because it was the most important. Thanks to everyone who continues to feed our passion, either as spectators, participants or coaches. We hope to be doing this for many more years to come.

 

Weather or Not – RNR DC 2017

For a four-year stretch between August 2010 and October 2014, we had an amazing run of weather luck. We had no rain during our races except for a sprinkle or two, even when the forecasts the night before called for downpours and lightning. It always seemed to clear up.

Then we met Lisa Marie.

For some reason, every time she was in a race with us, the weather conditions just got weird. At IM Florida, the current was so strong that they cancelled the swim. She raced the 10K at Joe’s 100th RNR downpour in DC 2015, was in Vegas 2015 with the 40 mph winds and came to DC again in 2016 where we got a good shot of rain and mid 30’s temps.

She wasn’t actually planning on running RNR DC 2017, but signed up on a Groupon deal at the last-minute. We checked the forecast and saw this:

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We admit that we’ve met our match when it comes to controlling the weather. Fortunately for us, we have a pretty good set of cold temperature gear. We brought nearly the exact same clothes that we used for the White Continent Marathon in Antarctica. That race started at 30 with wind chill into the high teens then dropped by 20 degrees.

This was a Saturday race and a Thursday flight through Columbus. Uber-Al picked us up for a short drive to the Westin Crystal City, just a stone’s throw away from Reagan
International. The rental car turned out to be a IMG_2385good idea to stay warm with the point-to-point course. Joining us this trip (and likely for the year) was our penguin Peanut. Al reminded us that we still have 14 more races, so even Peanut could make the Hall of Fame. Crystal City had a few good dining choices including Jaleo. Tapas style dining hit the spot after the long cross-country trip.

Saturday, March 11. Expo Day
The expo was in the DC Armory again. We took a short walk to Dunkin for breakfast just as the rain turned to sleet and snow. Given the security screening at the Armory and the weather, we waited to go until about an hour after the open so we didn’t have to stand outside in case there was a long line. Those who came later that afternoon had to wait 10 – 15 minutes as the line stretched around to the metro stop.

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This was the coldest race we’ve participated in, even Antarctica.

Right up front was the 2017 Hall of Fame banner and the welcome sign for Jeff Calene – the fifth person to reach the 100 Rock n Roll race milestone.

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We started building an album I’ll refer to as the “Peanut Gallery.” It seems everyone we knew had no problems humoring us for a candid. Peanut did her best to blend in.

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With 4 hours to dinner, we caught the 2:50 showing of Logan, the new X-Men release. I didn’t actually notice that we were in the NC-17 version which explains why there weren’t many kids in the theater.  In case you’re wondering, YES, it’s decidedly more gory than the PG-13 content. I felt like I had to wipe screen blood off my shoes as we walked out. We had dinner at Portofino’s. Jeff joined us, proudly displaying his custom bib for the race. He’d also wear bib number 100.

Sunday, March 12, Half Marathon
Usually, DC is 100% metro accessible when it comes to hotels, start and finish line. That is, unless you’re a wimpy Californian and want to keep your fingers and toes. Last year, the wait to get INTO the metro after the finish was about a half hour and with temps in the 30’s, the rental car option was worth it. We had a bit of a cluster getting into Lot 5 parking lot at RFK. The police manning the roadblocks didn’t get the right instructions early so we had to park at lot 7 and make a beeline for the 5:30 shuttle. Thanks to Lisa Marie for keeping us posted and telling the bus driver to wait a few more minutes.

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My eyelids froze shut.

We hopped off the bus south of the mall and trekked a few blocks to the Willard. At some point, I’ll figure out how I want to set up my phone so i don’t have to take off my gloves for selfies.

 

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Since there was only one shuttle from the VIP lot, we were at the hotel around 6 AM. The full marathon started at 7 but that half started at 8:30, giving us a good 2.5 hours until the start. It actually worked out well so we could catch up with everyone. Living in DC this year seems to have a different vibe. I’m sure it’s just that climate change hoax that people in DC talk about.

 

I had to make sure we took a group picture for Drew who missed the race to be with his mother. Family comes first, but you’re in our thoughts. There will be other races.

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It’s a Drew pose. If you know him, you’d understand.

More shots for the RNR Peanut Gallery.

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Just a few pictures before the first half of the race. The gloves stayed on after the starting line.

Jeff and Jacquline at mile 0.2.

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The course hasn’t changed much in the last few years except for a few minor tweaks around construction zones. The cold air made it a little harder to breathe and our heart rates were 10 – 15 bpm higher than they usually are at that pace. Fortunately, the volunteer crews at the aid stations gutted it out. There were a few cups of Gatorade with a thin layer of ice on top and I was pleasantly surprised that we didnt have any black ice hazards after the stations.

Just after mile 6 we hit the hill at Shoreham Drive. I was lucky to have caught up to Joe and he asked me to take pictures at the Blue Mile. It’s one thing to pass the pictures of fallen servicemen and women, but it’s entirely another to be with someone who knew them.

This sign should have been at mile 2. I would have definitely used the shortcut.

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This wasn’t a fast race. No excuses for the cold, though, I’m way behind on fitness compared to last year. With Dallas, San Francisco and Raleigh coming up and stuff at work loading up, I’ll need to force some time to get my aerobic capacity back. In the meantime, don’t forget to take those finish line selfies. Smiles can really warm you up.

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One of the first things we learned back when we started was that we should be ready for anything on race day. On days when you wake up and see rain, heat, wind or bitter cold, it’s tempting to hop on an indoor treadmill or just skip the workout altogether. If you don’t try it once, you won’t know if your gear is right for the conditions. The best thing to do is just stick to the plan.

Weather or not.

~//~

Rock n Roll D.C. Ran under the RNR banner first in 2006 as RNR USA. This year there were 16,960  finishers (2,423 in the full, 13,050 in the half, 1,487 in the 5K). Participation is down about 2,000 since 2016, mainly in the half marathon. This is the third RNR race of the year that offered a full marathon, so I expect to see a lot of friends posting the special marathon medal.

Weather in DC has been in the 40’s or colder for the last few years, so come prepared with layers and a water/wind resistant outer shell. Pack an extra space blanket or throw-away layers if you plan to take the metro to and from the race since you may be outside waiting to get into the station. Side note for the gear: DC has a no-masks policy (thanks to Lisa Marie for bringing this up!) so if you wear a buff or bandana to keep your face warm, be aware that it might draw attention.

Big congrats to Sandy (“Sandstorm”) who ran a PR of 1:42. She started running only a few years ago and her improvement has been amazing. She may be joining her cousin Beth with a BQ sooner than you think!

Pokemon hunting is relatively good in Crystal City and on the national mall. The Gen2 assortment was limited to the Marills and Slugma with a few of the starters. Gym strength was respectable with the Level 10 gyms bottoming out at 2600 CP. The area is predominantly Mystic.

As of D.C., the number of people who have done all three RNR races stands at 130 (compared to 152 in 2016). 588 people have done two of the first three races. Pannell Reports should be posting shortly in the Black Sheep Run group and with Dallas and Mexico City this weekend, the data crunching should ramp up quickly.

1310.94 Miles and a Chewbacca Onesie

Once again we continue to be in awe of how many seemingly normal people we know who have accomplished things we thought were impossible when we started racing.

Ok, maybe ‘seemingly normal’ isn’t quite accurate here.

When we were planning the weekend, we cut back one night to save a vacation day because of a lot of things happening in the back half of 2017 and hopefully early 2018. Then Susan found out she was double counting her days off and we have more days than we thought. We might have even been able to do the 5K on Saturday if we went straight there from the airport, but oh well.

Rock n Roll Arizona is usually our kick off race for the year. While it’s historically cool and a flat, fast course, being scheduled midway through the Eating Season and the horribly brutal California winter training season, we rarely looked at this race for PR’s. It’s also the first race of the Rock n Roll season and in the last 3 years, we looked forward to seeing all of our friends on the Hall of Fame banner. With 162 people in the 2016 class, the pictures were small. And also a little blurry. It looked like the printing bled a bit so the pics weren’t sharp. Hopefully this was a rush job and there is a second banner in the works?

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This is the 20th year of the Rock n Roll Marathon series since the first race in San Diego in 1998. There were some really nice retrospective signs leading us past the bib and shirt pick up areas. There are a lot of stars of the running world who’ve made a mark during the Rock n Roll Series – even some we know.

We weren’t sure when this was going to happen, but the redesigned Heavy Medal series was unveiled at the expo. Anyone signing up for multiple races AND registering as a Heavy Medalist could earn some of the new extra bling. Note that the new 15-race Hall of Fame Medal was not yet ready for prime time.

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Competitor added two more challenge medals for Coast to Coast racing incentives. People completing either San Francisco/Brooklyn or San Diego/Virginia Beach could earn the Bucket List or Beach to Beach medals.

Another half-zip and random pins later, we leave the expo for food. Drew had planned dinner at Alice Cooperstown and since it also had a decent amount of TV’s we could get there early to watch a few playoff games. We stayed and chatted until dinner. One perk of travel is that friends from former lives seem to be everywhere. We met up with Kate, one of our participants from Team in Training in 2009. She did her first (and only) half marathon at Nike San Francisco that year on bad knee. Since she was raising money for her brother Jared, there wasn’t a force on earth that would stop her from finishing. 7.5 years later, she felt strong enough to try another half marathon. She ended up shaving nearly an hour off her time.

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This was another 100 Half Marathon celebration for one of our friends. At last count, this was 10 in the last two years. We presented Drew with a small bib and a lifetime membership to the 100 Half Marathons club. Beth sent us a TeamUp medal which got Drew a little choked up.

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The food was memorable. The company, even more so.

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Drew had a group of friends in from Dallas. Some, like Stephanie,  were joining him for their first half marathon and all of them did the 5K Saturday morning. Drew had a local friend, Rachel, bake a cake for the occasion. The decoration was perfect for Drew. And the cake. I don’t think I’ve had a chocolate cake that good in YEARS.

Sunday January 15th. Half Marathon
Getting to the starting line from the airport hotels via light rail was really convenient. Usually we end up driving since we use our timeshare, but with San Francisco, San Diego and Las Vegas having good spots in the Shell Vacations network, we thought we’d try something different. The all day pass for $4 is a must as there are train stops at both starting lines and the finish line. Arizona is the only Rock n Roll where the full marathon starts in a different location than the half. We met for 7:30 pictures before the 7:50 start.

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We can tell we’re going to get along fine 🙂

We had a good group and were able to pair off to match paces. Tamara was a bit under the weather and ran with first-timer Stephanie. Drew bounced back and forth between them, us and for the first mile until he settled into a good slow run with us.

You can learn a lot about someone over the course of a race. This wasn’t a time where we were going to push and ‘see what he was made of’, but to go easy, and find out what makes him tick. We asked the standard questions. What was your first half? At the end, he told a friend “we should take a picture. I mean, how many of these do you think we’ll do?” We heard stories about college and the senior prank week and being dropped off in the middle of nowhere to walk home. We found out that if you state a dress code as “dress comfortably”, you better be more specific or one of your guests might come in a Chewbacca onesie (the host was much more specific the following year).

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Host: “Son of a bitch! This is not what I meant!!! 😛

The Garmin data showed the race to be 13.25 miles. We attribute the extra distance to Drew’s penchant for on-course puppy therapy. These four were all sitting in a line in sweaters just past the first mile.

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We had the same out and back at mile 8.5 up the hill crossing East McDowell. This time the Taiko drummers were at the top. Excellent motivation and they kept up a good beat. We even caught Tamara and Stephanie for a shout out as they came down the hill about 10 minutes ahead of us. I’m getting to be a big fan of these high-five tunnels.

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One pic with Rock n Roll jesus at mile 11. That nickname is growing on me.

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Then we head for home. The finish line used to be at the stadium, but the park is quite a bit more relaxed than the asphalt in the parking lot and a nicer view coming over the North Mill Avenue bridge. I’d asked Drew if he wanted us to go ahead of him to take video from the front as he crossed the finish line for the big milestone. He said he’d wanted to cross with the three of us holding hands. Damn. I didn’t think I’d get that kind of honor two races in a row. Nearly brought me to tears again.

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We caught Tamara and Stephanie in the finisher area. Stephanie ran a solid first half marathon and was happy to have Tamara to pace her and give her tips on the way. I think we may see Stephanie at a race sooner than she thinks *coughDallascough*. Everyone got their medals this day. First timers, and 100th timers.

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There were no Double Down medals for finishing Las Vegas this time around. And since we skipped the 5K, we just had the one medal for the half. Drew was pretty surprised to be the one with the most medals this time around. Definitely well-earned.

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Susan, Gary and I had to grab a quick lunch before getting back to the hotel to check out. Loco Patron was right off the light rail stop just a few blocks from the finish area. We didn’t have enough time to grab an ice cream sandwich at Slickables. It was a bit cold for that this trip anyway.

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For the first time, I was able to take a page out of Ann Wessling’s book and survive the whole trip with just a backpack. This was a short one though.  It feels weird that we don’t think much about hopping on a plane for a race in another time zone and just going back to normal life less than 30 hours later. I guess that’s the kind of mindset you get when you race 100+ half marathons or so.

Just don’t ask me to wear a onesie.

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Rock n Roll Arizona  finisher numbers are down about 1,000 from 2016, mainly in the half marathon (2,345 for the full, 10,377 for the half and 2,206 for the 5K). The course for the half is relatively flat except for the hill at mile 8.5 (100′ climb). We haven’t done the full for this event, but a lot of folks say it’s flat and primed for a PR. The short hop from Oakland to Phoenix makes this stop a regular on our race calendar unless we have another high priority like Star Wars in 2015 or a new continent. We’ll be waiting for TourPass 2018 to become available so we can save money on the non-refundable processing fees.

With the light rail running very early and every 15-20 minutes, its very easy to get where you’re going during race weekend. Look for hotels near the airport and skip the car if you’re looking to stretch your marathon dollars. Speaking of which, Marathonfoto actually dropped the prices for their full packages to $20 (and I heard even lower to $10 later). I was considering buying the package anyway, so with the lower price, it was a slam dunk. If this continues, I may be a more regular customer. 

We’ll be headed to Rock n Roll New Orleans next for the 5K and the half. Hope to see everyone there!