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.

 

Outside the Lines – RNR Raleigh 2017

Most of us know that the race is the reason we travel. 95% of the trips we take have a medal in the souvenir collection. But except for the occasional PR or photo-op, most of our memories are collected outside of the time between the start and finish lines. Raleigh was one of these trips.

We planned to stay an extra week on the east coast, starting with race weekend, and spending the week visiting Susan’s parents in Chapel Hill. In between we had a side trip to Boston to see Rock n Roll superstar, Will Flynn present a paper at the American Association of Geographers.

Friday March 31st
Pre-5K dining isn’t as restrictive as for the half. We don’t bother with carboloading, so Al took us out to Ole Time Barbecue, one of the hole in the wall roadside diners that he’s visited. I have to tell you, this is one you HAVE to visit if you’re in the area.  The fried chicken, brisket and the veggie sides were delicious. They had three different homemade desserts to choose from (we chose… well, all three). We highly recommend all of the cobblers.

We stayed at the Sheraton like we usually do. Although they changed the course slightly, we were still right on top of the start line and only a few blocks from the finish. The Sheraton had the balloon runner like they have since the Inaugural 2014 race. Peanut got a ride before we turned in.

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Saturday, April 1st
We missed the inaugural 5K in 2016. From what we heard it was a so cold that people didn’t wait around at the finish line festival and huddled indoors with beers and some March Madness games. UNC was playing the semi-final game on Saturday night, so 2017 was just about as perfect as it could be.  We lined up for the free shuttle provided by CGI for the mile-ish ride to Dorthea Dix Park arriving just before sunrise.

The highlight of the first weekend for me was meeting Ann’s mother, Vonnie. This was the first time she’d be watching Ann at a race. “Take Your Mother to Work Weekend” was an eye-opener for her and a joy for us. Let’s just say we know where Ann gets a lot of her energy!

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The 5K course wound through the park with a few decent hills. I realize with our shorter weekends, we skipped the 5K in Arizona and Dallas so there isn’t a good progress check on the way to San Diego like usual. I was pretty happy to walk an 11:30 pace. We hit the expo before lunch. John, Al and I walked up to the Capitol building to occupy some gyms and take advantage of the PoGo grass event.

Tawni made a last-minute call to swing through for the half, bringing her son Graem along for the ride. We had dinner at Jimmy V’s at the Sheraton. Did I mention how close this was to the starting line?

Sunday, April 2nd. Half Marathon
First things first. I had to check the result of the UNC/Oregon semifinal. Turns out it was a nail biter, but UNC grabbed a last second rebound to secure a 77-76 win to advance to the finals. That gave Susan license to change wardrobe for the day. Oh yeah. John was pretty happy about the result too. They were having a great race hearing “Go Heels” for the next few hours.

Two more for the Peanut Gallery. I’m hoping to add a picture with the third generation Franken girl before the year is over.

This was a decent race for me. I was hoping to walk in the mid 2:30’s on the ramp up to San Diego. Other than New Orleans, it was the fastest half since Seattle. Except for a small out and back at mile 10.5, 2017 was the same course as we had in 2015. The full and half split and converged a couple of times. Lisa and Dorcas were directing traffic at the first full/half split. Beth crushed a downhill to catch me before we split again on Western Boulevard.

I didn’t have any finish line pictures but we had the usual crew at the finish festival. We collected our Six-String heavy medal from Mindy and Ryan and took a Black Sheep group pic in front of the tent.  That’s Amy trying to drown out all of the planning talk for RNR Madrid (she wasn’t able to go).

We were able to get cleaned up and were just in time to see Beth finish the full before grabbing lunch. I’m inspired every time I see her run.

Sunday afternoon was relaxed. We weren’t catching a flight home this time, so we had time for a leisurely lunch with Al and Joe at The Pit and caught up with Beth and Jim later at Woody’s. I know this is why we keep coming back to race.

In the week after Raleigh, we stayed with Susan’s parents at Carol Woods, their retirement community in Chapel Hill…

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Had dinner with Bethany and Charles at Crossties BBQ to watch UNC beat Gonzaga in the national title game…

Took a day trip to Boston…

…to watch Will Flynn present “Geography of Distance Running Participation: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series Case Study” at the AAG conference. We learned about the best strategy to minimize travel distance to make the Hall of Fame and how crazy some people are to get that goal (seriously, who travels 110,000 miles just for a medal?). We finished the night with pizza at Uno’s and a picture of Will’s future goal – the Boston Marathon finish line.

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On Thursday, we caught up with one of our original Team in Training season buddies, Meg and her two kids as we watched the Greensboro Grasshoppers win a chilly season opener.

And as it that weren’t enough, we flew to Nashville Friday. The reason we extended the east coast swing was that I had a Tradesmart University meeting on the 8th. Maybe in the next few years, options trading will pay for this crazy lifestyle on its own.

Two hundred forty hours away from home. Three and a half hours inside the confines of the races. Another few hundred pictures and a basket of memories to bring home and post on Facebook. When you pack for that big destination race, don’t forget to pay attention to what’s going on outside the lines.

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~//~

Rock n Roll Raleigh was held for the 4th year in 2017. Attendance is down sharply since 2016 with full marathon participation under 1000 and total in the half and 5K below 4,000. While there was a lot of speculation that this may be the last year of the race, CGI posted registration for April 7-8, 2018 already, so it will continue for at least another year. Unfortunately for us, that’s the same weekend as RNR San Francisco and due to time, distance and cost, it’s a no-brainer for us which one to choose.

Raleigh was our 95th Rock n Roll half or full and 115th including all distances. I need to update the all time list as we have two more big milestones coming up in Seattle and Chicago. If all goes as planned, we hope that San Jose will be a hometown race to remember.

 

Glide Path – RNR New Orleans 2017

Glide Path: noun: 1) an aircraft’s line of descent to land, especially as indicated by ground radar. 2) a series of events or actions leading smoothly to a particular outcome: “we are on a glide path to success”

We’re a month into 2017. My knee is on the mend, the scale says “target racing weight +10” and we’re heading into a city that’s flat, fast and has amazing food for a 5K and a half marathon. In 2016, it was one of my fastest races, but this time around, it felt like a rebuilding year.
Flying east usually means an early morning departure out of Oakland (this time 2:45 wake up for a 5:45 flight). Note to self: TSA was actually open and at that time on Friday, there wasn’t a line. We had a layover in Denver and were surprised to see Ann on the flight. Apparently, she was missed at Rock n Roll Arizona so much that CGI asked if she could come back early. No pictures. I didn’t want to post any and spoil the surprise!
After a quick bag drop at the aLoft and we were off to the Moriel Convention Center. Those of us walking in from Canal Street side got an extra mile in as the RNR Expo was on the far west of the center. We met Rick, our friend from Nashville and picked up a few supplies. We’re going to pass on signing up for RNR New Orleans 2018 because we have faith in the TourPass and don’t want to pay the non-refundable processing fees. I started justing my iPhone 7’s portrait mode a little more this trip. I think I got a few good shots. Race 2 of the year: Stop by the TourPass booth, say hi to Mindy or Ryan and get your 2017 Credentials. New this year: a back bib showing off your TourPass status – one for each location.
The medals for the weekend were in the throwback theme for the 20 Years Running celebration. Hard to believe, but Rock n Roll started before the turn of the century.
The forecast looked dry and cool, but not cold. Susan was stocked up on snack food, so we skipped lunch completely and hit Galiano’s for dinner. King Cake bread pudding was a must have.
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Saturday, February 4th. Inaugural Remix 5K
There wasn’t a decent public transit option to get to the starting line in City Park, so drivers for Uber and Lyft (well, this week, mostly Lyft) were busy. Elizabeth (Runner of a Certain Age podcast and Train with Bain) and Andrew (Twitter @smartwatermelon) were staying at our hotel. We really should figure this out beforehand so we can take the same UberXL. There wasn’t a lot of shelter at the 5K and we were somehow under-prepared this trip – no sleeves, no racing gloves. The wind picked up a little more than we were expecting and it was good to get under way. Registration for the 5K was capped at 1,500 and it sold out.

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Henry @barefootelvis Chan
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Annie, back to work. Best. Job. EVER.
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It’s a gypsy start. We found out Dominique is actually from our area. Tamara found us in the sea of people.

The inaugural 5K was a pretty loop course through City Park’s lakes and fields, passing the Museum of Art about half way. There were more than a few Mardi Gras masks including Leny, Melinda and Aidin.

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I passed by a race walker with really good form at about mile 2.75, but after a brief chat, she pulled away. I tried to keep pace, but just couldn’t get under 11 minute miles. I have some work to do this year, it seems. Still, the finish line was a welcome sight. It was warm enough at the finish to relax a bit before catching an Uber back to downtown.

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Josie joined us for the new mom update.

Our post-race refueling was at Cafe Beignet. Most people who go to NOLA swear by Cafe du Monde, but we like the lighter taste and the shorter lines. The fact that it’s literally next to a police station speaks well to its likely longevity.

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We grabbed a quick nap before meeting at M Bistro at the Ritz Carlton for dinner. We hadn’t seen Tamie since our trip to Iowa City. Gary is going for Hall of Fame in 2017 (assuming RNR doesn’t cancel any more of his races), Tricia and Juan were late but very welcome adds to the party. Light was low, so we took pictures afterwards.

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After dinner, Al gave us a preview of the new Hall of Fame shirt design, in poster form. He has a small order being run now and if you’re interested in getting a shirt (short or long sleeve) or a jacket, let him know. This is the back. The front will be black with microphone made of neon laces.

Sunday, February 5th. Half Marathon:
Given how badly prepared we were for the chill on Saturday, we took a little extra time to get to gear check for the half. Note to first timers, be sure to give yourself another 10 – 15 minutes to search for the UPS trucks. Gear Check closed at 7:10 for the 7:30 start.  The digital event guides used to include starting area locations, but I haven’t seen them recently. More portrait mode pictures. Having the crowd makes for a really good background.

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You know it’s cold when Al needs a space blanket.
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The Gypsy start line pic back in the cheap corrals.
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Rick and Tawni stayed together to get into the 2:10 – 2:20 range.
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Zach and Sherry. She’s on track for 100 full marathons by Austin.

We both decided to start getting back into shape this race, so we tried to beat our last few race times. We’ve done this course several times, so we kept the phones stowed away this time. I have this weird feeling that some of my knee issues were caused by short-swinging my left arm while playing Pokemon Go. We did pass a few good sites like the King Cake station at mile 4.8 and the Screwdrivers at 6.2 and the world-famous beignets at Cafe du Monde at mile 10. For a better visual, jump over to Elizabeth’s blog. I was able to walk a decent first half but flagged a bit in the second half until I saw the 2:30 pacer. I was determined to keep within 50 feet of him up until the finish line where I took a few more pics. Susan did her standard negative split and is feeling good about the start of her year.

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Ann was losing her voice near the end. I guess everything needs practice.
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When your engines stall, find something to get you back in rhythm. Like this guy.
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John, the hardest working man in racing.
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Ryan at the Heavy Medal tent. Just the Remix medals this time.
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VIP Joe knocks off yet another Rock n Roll
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Ilona and Carl Marino with a rare RNR appearance since ID’s Homicide Hunter changed their filming schedule. Great to see them!
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Kamika wearing the shirt from the successful Inaugural Mainly Marathon Kauai series.

Susan and I both finished about 10 minutes faster than any of our last 5 races. With a few more weeks off to do some final healing and start doing short distance speed work, we’re gearing up for four weekends in three time zones in March. We’ll look for another shot at our PR’s in San Diego in early June, so consider this the first of 5 legs before our test flight.

Stay on the glide path. So far, so good.

~//~

Rock n Roll New Orleans has been around since 2010 under the CGI brand. This year was the first Remix 5K. There were 14,874 total finishers for all events this weekend  (2,865 in the marathon, 9,255 in the half, 2,468 in the 10K and 1,286 in the Remix 5K), down about 2,000 compared to the 2016, mainly due to a smaller half marathon participation.  Race conditions were good for the 5K and the half. Word has it, it got a bit warm past 10AM so those mortals doing the marathon got to work on their tans.

Lifetime Achievements: Sherry Ricker pulled even with VIP Joe Harris on lifetime Rock n Roll events of all distances. Sherry (and everyone else) is years behind Joe on Heavy Medal qualifying distances (full and half marathons), but she has the highest total for 5K’s at 29 and also 4 10 K’s. Jeff Calene will become the fifth person to hit the 100 Rock n Roll race mark in D.C and Joe needs just 31.9 more miles to become the first person to hit the 2,000 RNR Mile mark. This should happen some time in March.


Pokemon Hunter Report: The 5K through Central Park was prime ground with the grass and water environments. There were a decent amount of magikarp, polywag and pair of dratini as well as a pretty established kabuto nest. If you’re back in downtown, the Mississippi River bank near Mardi Gras World has a good mix of water and other rare Pokemon. I didn’t hunt in the French Quarter. There’s just too much going on to have your nose glued to your phone!

We’ve put RNR NOLA on our permanent list barring any schedule conflicts due to the floating date. It’s just a really fun place to be 🙂

 

Sugar Rush – RNR Los Angeles 2016

What happens when your race expo is in the same place as Comic Con and the League of Legends World Championship?

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You start wondering how adequate your costume is going to be. These were some of the more normal ones too.

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Fortunately, some of us had the perfect costume. We later found out Ann’s husband Peter dressed up as a quarter. I’ll let the parent explain that one to the kids.

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The kids in us got some nostalgic gold. Bonus points for anyone who recognizes this symbol from Hyrule.

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Before dinner on Saturday we even got the latest in theater experiences. The 4DX movie seats moved with the action on-screen. The flashing lights and mist sprays may have driven some of the theater goers from the room during the showing of Inferno. Wimps.

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Downtown LA Westin. We LOVE it! Especially since the wifi let us make up some work so we didn’t have to take another precious full day of vacation.

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Sunday, October 31st. Halloween. And, oh yeah, a Half Marathon:
This was the plan for a couple of years. We did Vancouver in 2014 and switched to PacMan in 2015. It was time to run the candy store. What the hell is up with my face?!

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Given the heat, costumes don’t always last the full 13.1 miles. Pamplona would be proud of these guys.

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21 races this year. Christina is a real-life Wonder Woman.

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Pirates in Kilts (De Moe). John was there in his PPAP costume early, but it was a bit too hot to run with.img_6250

On the loop back at mile 9, we ran into newlyweds Wesley and Martin, just back from their honeymoon in Puerto Vallarta. The costumes were perfect.

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And I mean PERFECT.

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The race was sponsored by the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Susan and I said we wanted to do a race with Drew sponsored by the ASPCA, so there’s one more check off the bucket list. We’d do it again next year (only we’d try to avoid the one dog who wanted Drew dead).

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There may be a day where we stop playing Pokemon Go on course. Apparently, this was not that day.

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I couldn’t tell if these guys were part of the race entertainment or if they were spillovers from Comic Con.  (or, for that matter, normal LA residents).

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The cheerleaders at mile 11 were our kind of people.

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Let’s not forget the Juanfie.  Or the other Juanfie. Or the ‘making of the Juanfie’.

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Some races you don’t worry about having a good time on the clock and just try to have a good time.

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This was one of those races. I’m only bummed that we didn’t finish in time to see all of the costume contest. I’m glad “guy riding bear” won.

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Los Angeles makes 14 Rock n Roll races for 2016. Superheroes/RNR Vegas in the second week of November will be another chapter in our amazing journey.

Hope to see you there!

Angelino Accomplishments:
Congrats to another crop of 2016 Hall of Famers including Gima, Larry and Nichole. I’m sure there were more given the 16 people who were sitting at 14 races after Vancouver. I didn’t see any other public pictures on Facebook. 

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Jonathan, Erika, Aleksandra and Nichole at various levels of awesome.

I had the honor of meeting Larry in person for the first time on the way back from RNR Vancouver. His journey started in September of 2014 with his first 5K after his doctor told him he was ‘morbidly obese.’ A little over two years, 42 half marathons, 3 full marathons and 85 lost pounds later, Larry collected his Hall of Fame medal.

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I also finally caught up to one of the 7 people likely to become a three-time Hall of Famer in 2016. Rodney doesn’t do a lot of social media and has racked up 57 lifetime Rock n Roll’s, putting him in the top 20 (as far as I can tell).

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We hope to celebrate with another friend hitting the 100th Rock n Roll race milestone. Sherry will likely be doing the full marathon, so after our double half marathon day, a bunch of us plan to be up late to cheer her in.

See you in Sin City!

Feeling the Brotherly Love – RNR Philadelphia 2016

Two years ago, our first trip to RNR Philadelphia gave us perfect weather for a race weekend, lots of great food and time with friends. For 2016? Well, two out of three ain’t bad.

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We did the usual east coast routine with the early Thursday morning flight. A 6:30 AM departure out of Oakland means there’s no traffic getting to the gates, but sometimes the TSA Pre line isn’t open yet. The other catch this time was that Susan had split this trip into four individual segments to get additional legs for A-List Preferred for the year. I had all my reminders to check in to the Denver to Philly leg for the 11:30 departure, but totally spaced on the fact that it was 11:30 MOUNTAIN time. Back in Pacific time, I check in an hour late and pull a C9 boarding number. Oops.

14316774_10209199770942729_5084215679363394205_nWe had a few nice connections on the way to Philly. While waiting to board, I was flipping through my Facebook feed and saw that Judy Bird’s daughter Rebecca was two gates away, ready to run her first half marathon – the Beat the Blerch in Seattle. Judy and her husband John trained with us the first season of Team in Training in 2005. It was really neat to be able to see the next generation of Birds ready to fly.

We also had a great treat aimg_5006s our connecting flight went through Denver and we got to sit with Ann Wessling for 3.5 hours on the flight to PHL. I took the middle seat and gave Ann the aisle since she was 7 months pregnant. C-listing has its advantages!

An Uber to the expo got us there with just enough time to pick up our 5K and half bibs. It was a short walk to the Sheraton, located mid way between the Expo and the start and finish lines. Susan and I hit Pete’s Famous Pizza on 21st for dinner, the same place we ate two years ago. I figured the cheese steak sandwich was a better idea before the 5K than the half. The penne pasta was Susan-approved.

Saturday, September 17th. 5K14364679_10209870308411796_4883455087080190678_n
The 5K was the same out and back along the river. Starting temps and humidity made it feel like we were racing in warm soggy blankets. The half wasn’t looking like PR conditions  and a lot of friends were saying that even Virginia Beach was better weather (other than the downpour that cancelled the Mile in the Sand, of course). The picture to the right actually doesn’t have a filter. The humidity was actually visible.

We hadn’t seen Beth’s cousin Sandy for some time. Sandy joked that she hasn’t actually run a distance this short in a while after having some great half and full marathons earlier this year. Her friends Allison and Annabel joined her for the 5K.

Ok, I’ll admit it. Al and I spent most of the 5K catching Pokemon. I may have to create a new category in my objectives column of my race spreadsheet (currently, Speed, Pacer, Finish, Fun… Pokemon). I still came in with what I thought was a respectable walk time, given the conditions and an aching hip. One thing I learned is that if you wait near the finisher area long enough, EVERYONE you know shows up.

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Fotofoto credit: Aidin Esparza

We took the time to take a few pictures at the top of the Rocky Steps at the Art Museum where they had a variation of the famous LOVE statue. Just to be complete, we had the English version after the 5K on the way back to the expo. I had panicked a little when I noticed that LOVE park was a huge construction site, but thankfully, Al knew that the statue had been moved just a block away.

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Thanks Al, for putting up with us.

By the way, I have to congratulate Team Heveran for another awesome race weekend. We caught up with them going into the expo as we were off to dinner. Amy has her entire family into the Rock n Roll madness, with her mom Jamie at the top of that list. We were with Jamie at her first race (St. Louis 5K, 2015) and this year, she is on track to make the Hall of Fame (in her FIRST year running!). Word has it she had her first sub-3 hour half last weekend in Montreal.

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Team Heveran about to take the expo by storm.

Downtown Philadelphia has some great tourist sites. We skipped14322243_10153780606455843_3627990650633431440_n a lot of them this year and just spend time catching up with friends. The month since Chicago seemed like a long time, so I just grabbed lunch at Reading Terminal Market with Al, Kamika, and Rick. There was a good jazz band under the tunnel, but we chose to retreat to the air-conditioned lobby of the Marriott up the street.

 

Pre-race dinner was bit of a departure from the norm. Joe was racing Philly as a fundraiser for the American Association of Cancer Research. Anyone who knows Joe knows that he has a long list of friends and family that have been affected by cancer, like Sherry and Leny (right). AACR had a fundraiser dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. It humbles me to remember that this is how we got started, supporting a bigger cause with Team in Training.

I added just one new piece of equipment for this race. Susan and I bought American flag wicking hats at the Team USA Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs the week before. This would be the 6th year in a row where we’ve both had 10 or more Rock n Roll races, something I’m pretty proud of and only a few people can claim that. The bib caption was supposed to be a try for a PR, but ended up being prophetic in a different sense.

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Sunday September 18th: Half Marathon
It was even muggier than Saturday. Temps started at 71 with 85% humidity. If there were a week to phone it in, this was it. I heard just about every one of my friends say they were 10 – 20 minutes slower than they were expecting coming into the weekend. Meh. Time to suck it up and make it a vacation race.

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I caught up to Joe and Sherry at mile five. Joe was having some stomach issues, and Sherry was keeping him entertained. Given how many races Joe has done (and the schedule he has planned this fall), I’m hoping he can get back to top form soon. I passed them to catch up with Al who was way ahead of me on Magikarp. After we caught up to De Moe, Al went ahead so he could catch a 12:40 flight home.

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Our Iowa representative, De Moe and a new kilt pattern
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Many thanks to Amy for this great shot of Susan!

The heat was taking its toll. This was the first time in a while that I saw people at the med tents and stopped on the side of course. For the most part, it looked like dehydration and cramping but there were a few that we carted off on stretchers. I’m hoping they were OK.

I caught up to Al standing over a runner named Larry who was lying on the side of the road at mile 12.5ish who pretty much just collapsed in front of him. It was pretty clear it was a nutrition issue, so I let Al go ahead to finish and catch his flight. It took a minute or so to figure out he’d only taken water the entire race, so I gave him a bit of salt and with the help of another runner got Larry to his feet. Fifty yards or so later, his legs weren’t locked up and he was able to walk the last mile. Turns out you don’t lose that coach support instinct after all.

I got a nice shout out from Henry as I came down the last 50 yards. I was on the edge of cramping at the time, so it was great to get some encouragement. Henry is a couple of races ahead of us this year and will hit his Hall of Fame race in Brooklyn. He seems well on track to get to the 20 race goal he set back at the start of the year.

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One for Susan’s background picture album

Hyalker was running with his two siblings. His twin brother Hydalker was running his 8th half marathon and sister Larissa ran her first. With Hyalker north of 100 half marathons, I suspect the Amaral kids haven’t seen the last of the race circuit.

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On the way out of the Heavy Medal tent, I did finally meet two of the new Hall of Famers for the first time. Joseph (far left) and Christina (center in blue) completed their 15th race of 2016 along with Zach and Melinda (between Joseph and Christina). Jeff Calene (not in the picture) also made the Hall and is still on track to hit his 100th Rock n Roll by the end of 2016.

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Geebuz, this is a crap ton of races this group has finished this year

We had five hours until our flight home. The cold shower and fresh clothes felt good. The lunch at Reading Terminal Market (including Bassetts ice cream and freshly baked pretzels) felt even better.

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This was the first of 10 races in 13 weeks, not counting two 5Ks, two 10Ks and dozen miles Ron is covering for the Old Glory Relay and Susan’s 6K on the tarmac at the PDX Runway. Somewhere in there, Susan is going to transition to a new client and Ron has a week-long company training in between two race weekends. Seems like the half marathon is a metaphor for life.

Or is it the other way around?

#rnrphilly @runrocknroll #marathoningforlife

Run-a-way to Portland, Oregon

“A mile of highway will take you just one mile… but a mile of runway will take you anywhere!” – a popular pilot quote

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The Port of Portland is celebrating its 125th anniversary and the Portland International Airport (PDX) is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Both are celebrating in style this year. Part of the year-long celebration included hosting a PDX Runway 6K run and walk on the airport’s north runway Saturday, September 24, 2016. This one-of-a-kind opportunity was extremely well organized thanks to the partnership with the Hood to Coast race series who managed race registration, event management, and administration.

Gary picked me up at 7am for a 9:05am start. We parked in Economy Lot Parking and walked a short distance to the registration and screening area.

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Both participants and volunteers had to undergo a background check in order to be a part of this event. This is the only event I’ve participated in over the past 11 years where I needed to carry my passport, although, we learned later any valid, government-issued photo identification would have worked. No one under the age of 12 was allowed to participate and kids 12 to 15 had to be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Everyone who had access to the runway was subject to an adapted set of TSA screening protocols. No liquids, water bottles or bags of any kind were allowed through security. Our IDs were checked by TSA personnel but we did not have to go through metal detectors.

Throughout the airfield and along the runway were very helpful and informative PDX educational displays.

The race started on the eastern end of runway 28R. The number relates to the compass heading with which the runway aligns. Since PDX has two parallel runways the “R” indicates it is the runway on the right as the pilot approaches the airfield.  

There were approximately 2,500 participants who were given exclusive access to this out and back course on the grooved pavement normally only reserved for aircraft. The “”Threshold stripes” help pilots determine the width of the runway.

The time passed quickly as Gary made new friends in the US Air Force while the rest of us were in awe of the F-15 fighter jet on display near the starting line. A second F-15 was brought out on display at the race turnaround point.  Good thing there was a F-15 selfie station.

Gary introduced me to several of his race walker friends. Even they were impressed with his outstanding performance today. He’s trained up to 20 miles for the upcoming Portland marathon which lands on October 9th and happens to be a milestone birthday for him this year. Doing a 6K was easy compared to his full marathon training. img_8218

The course closed at 11am so participants were given just under 2 hours to finish the 6K. The Portland Taiko Asian American drumming ensemble http://portlandtaiko.org/ was performing at the mid-way point on the out-and-back.  img_8237

It was easy to know when you were at the turnaround point when the runway ended. The other nice thing about doing a race on a runway is that you don’t have to worry about any potholes!

Unfortunately, the clouds didn’t lift until later in the day. Otherwise, I would have gotten a great picture of a plane taking off on the South runway over the airport terminal. The planes simply disappeared into the clouds too fast to capture. Fortunately, the North runway that we were on was well marked with a brightly lit “X” and the runway lights were turned off so planes were not tempted to land on us while we were out there during the race.

The finish line was cleverly hung with the aid of two mobile staircases from Atlantic Aviation.

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For this race, I didn’t even leave the airport area! The weekend was comprised of flying into PDX and staying at an airport hotel Friday night, doing the race on the airport runway Saturday morning, eating lunch near the airport, and shopping at the airport before heading back home Saturday afternoon. Regardless, it was possibly a once-in-lifetime experience and certainly my first ever 6K!

Travel + Leisure has named PDX as the best airport in the United States for the fourth year in a row. All proceeds from this race were donated to the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Portland Metropolitan Area whose mission is to enable all young people to reach their full potential.

#pdxrunwayrun; @flypdx

Collecting Experiences – Rock n Roll San Diego 2016

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photobomb by Diane Ehle. 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

And we’ll be collecting more memories.

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~//~

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

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

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