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.

Friday, October 27th.
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.


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.

The race bag included disposable ponchos. Win!


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


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.


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.

Screenshot 2017-11-24 21.09.56

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!


Pictures. Or it didn’t happen – RNR St. Louis

We’re rolling the odometer over. Just like Joe Harris did when he finished his 100th Rock n Roll race at DC in 2015, we’re starting to count over from One. Given that introduction, it makes more sense that we make some rookie mistakes.

We landed Friday and had just enough time to get to the expo to pick up our bibs. Although we signed up for a Remix weekend, we wanted to spend more time with Jennifer, our maid of honor from our grad school days, and her husband Mike. We decided to pass on the Saturday 5K. Part of all the travel for races is being able to see friends we don’t get visit otherwise, so we had dinner and breakfast in Springfield, Illinois about an hour and a half from St. Louis.


We weren’t totally slacking though. We found time for a 5K of our own on the Lost Bridge Trail. If you’re in town and need a place to train, it’s a good path and could probably support a half marathon distance without a lot of trouble. We had a light brunch and made our way back to St. Louis. Jennifer would join us later.


Saturday we picked up Al and hit the expo. He and about 130 people had already finished a Rock n Roll that morning on the east coast for the first half of a double race weekend.

Still wearing the Brooklyn shoe tag

Brooklyn had a 7 AM start. Most people caught a late afternoon flight to either St. Louis or Denver for the Sunday half marathon. Lisbon was the other option (on Sunday as well, but it couldn’t fit into a double). Logistics for BRK2STL and BRK2DEN were more eventful than some people might have liked. While Al and Tawni were able to catch an earlier flight out of New York, that airport was later shut down due to a bomb scare. It’s unclear if any of the RNR doubles were impacted. Also, some of the BRK2STL runners had a connection through Chicago but the continuing flight was either missed or cancelled. They had to rent a van and drive a few hundred miles, arriving in St. Louis Sunday on a few hours sleep.

We miss all the fun it seems.

Numbers for St. Louis were down again and there was no registration for 2018. This is never a good sign for the race, but we did manage to add to our collection of RNR swag. These could become collectors items.

We had an early dinner at Gio’s so Drew could catch the Pixies concert. Tawni spent the weekend with Peanut (taking him to shop and see a few shows in the Big Apple). Tawni would also be doing her Gold Record (10th) RNR for the year and started narrowing down the location for her 50th state half marathon (Minnesota, May 2018).We caught up with Tricia and her last few weeks at the  Berlin and Chicago marathons. Tricia also brought Peanut a friend – I think she settled on the name “Buttercup”. I love how there’s always something amazing to recap or look forward to when we get together. It was a beautiful night for a raid.. and a walk.



Sunday, October 15th, Half Marathon
Given the Sunday options, St. Louis ended up being the best weather as far as we were concerned. Lisbon was hot and Denver was freezing. We had mid-50’s temps, a little sprinkle at the start and the occasional blast of wind while waiting in the corrals. There was about a 25 minute delay at the start to secure the course, but with an extra space blanket and a disposable plastic poncho, it was nothing we couldn’t handle.


There wasn’t really a group pace plan this weekend. We stayed together the whole race the week before in San Jose but with Chengdu and Double Live V coming up in a month, we were on our own. Al took off and I stayed with Drew and Elaine for the first mile before stopping to see how far Susan was behind us. She was taking it slow, still wearing the rain poncho, so I decided to see what I could do for the last 12.1.

It ended up being my fastest race in probably 2 years. But you won’t see the split times on the results page. Why? Because on the bib, there are two halves of the timing D-tag. One has the instructions on how to put it on. The other is the timing chip. For some reason, I made the rookie mistake of using the wrong half.

Susan, on the other hand, went the whole race in the poncho. At the end, she realized that her bib number was obscured. So while I went the whole race without timing splits, but had a lot of pictures. She got all of her split times, and except for lifting the poncho and flashing the finish line, almost no pictures.

Pictures. Or it didn’t happen. Fortunately, we got them.


Jennifer was waiting for us at the finish line with an adorable sign. It’s going to be with our race souvenirs when we get the new room outfitted with medal hangers and the San Jose memorabilia.



We had a late afternoon flight out, so we had time to hit Park Avenue Coffee for gooey butter cake – seven flavors in all. So much for that pesky calorie deficit.


As we sat, we flipped through Facebook posts from the crew in Denver. A few dozen of them stopped for beer during that half – twice – and ended up finishing together. The pictures and videos were absolutely awesome.

We leave for the inaugural Rock n Roll Chengdu today. It’ll be our 14th Rock n Roll this year, somewhere around or 15th or 16th full, but most importantly, the last of 7 continents for full marathons. It’s been 12 years, 4 months and a few weeks, but this item will finally be checked off our bucket list.

I can assure you, once we get the SIM card for China, there will be pictures.


We had a little more confirmation after the race that both St. Louis and Brooklyn are not likely to be held in 2018. Denver is still on the schedule, but with Vancouver, Queratero and most recently Mexico City being off the tour stops for next year, that reduces the amount of races in North America. Getting to the Hall of Fame is going to require a little more planning to get to enough cities, maybe requiring a European trip. There’s some talk of another world major in the eastern hemisphere, possibly under the Rock n Roll brand. 

The Hall of Fame count for 2017 got a big bump this weekend. Congrats to America, Amy, Erika, Tony, Jen, Liz, Melinda, Noah, Leny and a few more that I didn’t recognize from the pictures in the Black Sheep Run group. The Pannell Report is probably going to be a little late because of all the data we need to crunch. With any luck, we’ll have something when we get back from China.

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. 


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

(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.

Thank you, Drew, for your selflessness, humor and optimism and letting us be there for your 100th half marathon last year.
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.

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.


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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.  

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.

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.

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. 


We are the Kings and Queens of Rock and Roll.

Long may we race!


At the end of the first Narnia movie, the children step back through the wardrobe, into a train station in their own reality and get caught up in the every day lives of other people, oblivious to their alternate world.  We drove home listening to news of the Las Vegas shooting investigation, instability in North Korea, recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the next morning friends and coworkers were fleeing for their lives from the wildfires raging in northern California. It seems that in this crazy world, even for a brief moment, Rock n Roll can give you an escape like no other.


Our deepest thanks to the countless number of runners, walkers, strollers, rollers, Team in Training, Biggest Losers, AACR, St. Jude heroes, Black Sheep,  and Hogwarts Runners who we’ve met on the Rock n Roll circuit for the last 11 years. The stories we’ve heard, the things that we’ve seen, the lives that have touched us are memories that will forever be ingrained in our hearts.

To the staff at the Rock n Roll Marathon Series, past and present, thank you for your tireless work. There have been early mornings, late nights, times when events went wrong, when nature dictated a different outcome, and when tragedy struck. Through it all, you’ve been professional, courteous and put on the bravest faces. For Ann, John B., Garrett, Tracy, Nista, Shayne, Josh, John V, Cassidy, Thao, Colleen, Dorcas, Darlene, Grace, Cathy, Lisa, Mindy, Ryan, Amy, Diva, Emily, Kristin, Yinka, Elisa, Ashley (x3), Petey, Victor and many more I know I’m forgetting, know that you have made the events a fixture in our lives that we can’t live without.

To our dear friends in this story. Know that without your kindness, friendship, support and love, this journey would not have been as rewarding and fulfilling as it has been. And if and when one of us is unable to travel to as many races as we have been for the last few years, we look forward to flying to see you, just because.

We 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.


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


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


11) Don’t throw away your shot.


“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.” 


“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


Honoring Greatness – He Did the Damn Thing

Our marathon training schedule said we should be doing 20 miles this weekend. But when we learned that Saturday, Sep. 23, 2017 was going to be Coach Alfonzo Jackson’s last coached training with Team in Training, we changed course and joined about 30 current and former TNTers to surprise him.

Decades of participants, coaches, managers up at the crack of dawn to honor Coach Al.

It takes a special reason for us to get up at 4:30 on a Saturday morning to be out the door by 5:45 and drive up to the Richmond Marina. Today was all about paying respect to an extraordinary individual who has shaped, inspired, and positively impacted so many lives. Coach Al’s legacy as the East Bay Run Coach for TNT may be coming to an end, but the impact that he has had on all of our lives will continue to live on.


We caught up with long time TNT participants, mentors, captains, coaches, and a former team manager – near and dear to us. As we were reminiscing, we started to reflect on our first encounter with TNT.

Monica was our marathon team manager for many years
Honoree Helen and Walk/Hike Coach Carolyn
The Walk team was scheduled for 20 miles: Jim, Joe, Carolyn, Nancy and Roz

Ron and I were classic, “Off the couch recruits.” We showed up for our first TNT training in February of 2005 at Crissy Field in San Francisco. We were dressed from head to toe in cotton (including our socks!), baggy sweatpants, hooded sweatshirts and carrying two 32 ounce bottles of water – for a 2-4 mile walk. Coach Tom didn’t say anything except that the Gear clinic would be held after the walk at Sports Basement. This is where we quickly learned that we were wearing ALL the wrong things. We walked out with a completely new wardrobe and Sports Basement quickly became our favorite store. We can’t leave there without spending several hundred dollars each time we shop.

Former East Bay Run Coach, Gary, was an experienced runner before he joined TNT. Yet, he too has funny stories about what he wore back when he first joined TNT including short shorts. We hear they’re making a comeback so you may still have the chance to get in a few more miles with them!

East Bay Run and Walk Coach Tim is celebrating 20 years with TNT this year! We’re in awe. Tim remembers clearly his first all Bay TNT kickoff event that was attended by more than 500 loudly cheering participants. His first training was around Lake Merced. By the end of their first season (one of his fondest seasons) the Team had bonded together so closely around the cause that they pitched in to fly their honoree and her Dad to Vancouver to be there to cheer on the team at their event. Joining TNT has always been so much more than training for and completing an endurance event. It draws people together who want to make a difference in other people’s lives. As Roz put it today, “TNTers are the nicest people!”

Tim was Nancy’s mentor. Nancy was Ron’s mentor. Ron was Susan’s mentor. That makes Tim Susan’s ‘great-grand-mentor’. (He hates that term)

Then there is Coach Al who has made a difference in every life he’s ever touched. He’s even coached TNTers to become Boston qualifiers; some qualified after completing their first marathon! But for Coach Al it’s always been about the mission of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to help find a cure for blood cancer. It’s evident any time he is near an honoree who always gets a big hug. Every honoree is made to feel special
around him.


His participants aren’t just team members, we are his family members and we all feel loved by Coach Al. He calls us his sons and daughters (with grandsons and granddaughters who show up to trainings from time to time too.) Except for Nancy who tells Coach Al, “You’re just a baby!” A decade older than Al, Nancy is entitled
to give Al grief. Of course, Al responds, “I want to be like Nancy when I grow up!” We ALL want to be like Nancy when we grow up. Who else do you know who is in their 80’s and still racing nearly every weekend? She often wins her age group, even when she’s not the only one in her age group!


A training with Coach Al wouldn’t be complete without a teaching moment. The San Francisco Giants race was his last event as a TNT coach. In order to qualify as a certified coach, he had to refresh his CPR certification two months earlier and learned from the best instructor he’d ever had. Coach Al was patrolling the race course looking for people who were struggling toward the end of the race. He saw a woman who was definitely
struggling. She passed him and then moments later he heard a thud. He spun around and dropped to his knees and immediately started administering CPR. He knew he wasn’t pressing hard enough to get the blood circulating when her lips turned blue. He advised us not to be afraid of breaking someone’s ribs if it meant saving their life. He stayed with her until she started breathing again. In all his years of coaching, he was humbled by the fact that on that special day, he was in the right place at the right time to help save that
woman’s life. What a way to go out Coach Al!

People come and go in our lives. Each one has the potential to change us for the better. We are honored to have had the opportunity to share our TNT experience with one of the greatest, if not the greatest, coach of all time. Coach Al, we feel your love and want you to know how much you are loved in return.


Coach Al and his wife “Mama Lisa” Felder were inducted into the Black Marathoners Hall of Fame in 2015. Brian Kinion, one of Coach’s long-time training captains, estimated that over Coach’s 20 years with TNT, his trainees have raised over $8 million in the fight against blood cancers. Some of his many inspirational mantras include “Your health is your wealth”, “It’s Mind over Matter – if you don’t MIND, it doesn’t MATTER,” “No WIMPS” (because you can’t be a wimp and finish a half or full marathon) and of course his send off cheer:

“Let’s do the damn thing”

To learn more about Team in Training go to http://www.teamintraining.org


Something Special – RNR Philadelphia 2017

We’ve never had a real story. I mean, compared to other people, it’s hard for us to point out something we’ve done that is truly special. We haven’t overcome life-threatening illnesses, haven’t set any speed records and we know people who’ve done so many more races that we have. Sure, we’ve shown up to quite a few races in a lot of places, but we look around and continue to be in awe of people we meet.

Rock n Roll Philadelphia always attracts world-class runners. The fast course and usually friendly conditions mean there’s always a chance you could see a national or world record fall, like seeing Deena Kastor break the Master’s half marathon record a few years back. In 2017, the half marathon field included names like Olympians Galen Rupp and Jared Ward and Jordan Hasay. We were in for a treat on the roads, but Philly is also a great city to explore. There’s a lot for history buffs, museum enthusiasts and foodies alike.

We landed Friday just before the Expo closed with enough time to drop our stuff at the Sheraton. Al took a later flight and we ended up on the same plane from Vegas. Peanut was off to her 9th race of the year. We may need to send her to Brooklyn or Savannah to pick up another race so she can get to the Hall of Fame. Heh.

The medals were different denominations of currency. I heard “Show me the Benjamin’s” more than a few times. We had a little time to catch up with Rick and the CGI staff after a two month break. Diva had been riding across the country on a motorcycle. Amy now lives in New Jersey and will try to do the expos at Philly, Brooklyn and DC.

After a quick bite at Rex Pizza, we headed out to stretch our legs after the long flight. It was going to be a warm race weekend, but it did make for pleasant evening weather.

Freedom Sculpture
Pedicabs with lanterns giving loop tours of the mall.
We were looking for LOVE in all the wrong places

Saturday, September 16th. 5K
This was the first of a nine-weekend stretch featuring 11 different Rock n Roll race locations (8 of those locations logistically possible, maybe one more if you chartered a plane). This was the start of the push for Hall of Fame 2017. Anyone with 7 or more races had a good shot at 15. Now it’s all a matter of staying vertical and showing up. We’re pretty good at that last part.

Good luck to Hyalker in his new gig in Denver. He was here with his siblings for the half. Rick was up early to cheer us on.
It was a warm morning, but the route along the river was Juan-derful!
Amy was a week away from her first world major, taking it easy on the 5K with her mom, Jamie. Truly an awesome family.
We headed over to the Rocky Statue before the line formed.

I even had enough energy to run (yeah, actually run) the steps of the museum. The view from the top is a treat.

Staring into the morning sun

On the way out, we stopped by the stage to see the leaders finish the 10K and say hi to Ann. Someone said that 10K winner, Andrew Carnes, also ran the 5K. It wasn’t the case, but a number of the Black Sheep successfully did the double on Saturday.


Quick stop by the finish line to see #barefootElvis…


And on the way back, we finally find love.

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Post race lunch was at Reading Terminal Market. There are a lot of restaurants close by, but the variety here is awesome.


Even the chocolate shop had some… interesting shapes.
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You can even get ice cream at Millers that matches your outfit.

Pre-half dinner was at Maggiano’s with the AACR charity organization. We did this in 2016 and it was a great way to get some inspiration. Joe, Sherry and Leny were all raising money this year.Hundreds of AACR heroes raised close to have a million dollars for the weekend. We got a private performance from Boy Band, the ladies who were singing the national anthem on Sunday.  Sherry and Tawni even walked away with a few of the raffle prizes.  We actually hit two Raikou raids before headed to bed. We’re still trying to catch one for Tamara.

Sunday, September 17th, Half Marathon
Off to race number 11 for the year. We weren’t getting a Heavy Medal this weekend, but we do get a Remix medal and see our friends walk away with a lot of hardware. VIP was right next to the Washington statue, a perfect place to find our friends.

TeamUp was representing well. Beth and Lisa were sporting the Allard braces. Without them, foot-drop makes it hard to walk and really hard to run. With the braces, they’re a force to be reckoned with.


We got into the corrals early with plenty of time for selfies.

I missed walking a sub-2:30 in San Diego. My Garmin actually had 2:29:59, but the website showed 2:30:00 and the official results ticked it up to 2:30:01. I thought about challenging it with my watch time, but after thinking it over, I didn’t earn it. Figured I’d have Philly and maybe St. Louis to try again.  Drew and I paced for the first 8 or 9 miles, petting all the dogs on the way.

It was creeping into the 70’s and it was muggy, but I was only 10-15 seconds off pace. The turn at the Falls Bridge at mile 9 put us into a slight downhill to mile 13 before a short uphill into the finish line. I just picked a few people who were pulling along at a good pace and tried to pick them off one by one. After the next 3 miles, I was able to put in a 50 second buffer, enough to climb the last slope and cross the finish chute to give Ann a high five with 10 seconds to spare. Cross off another year achieving an arbitrary milestone!

The Heavy Medal tent was hopping. Ryan and Mindy were hip deep in Gold Records. Barefoot Henry continues his quest for his first Hall of Fame. Al, Josie and Zach are on track to repeat.

Two more Hall of Fame headphones were awarded in Philly. Ainsley and Greg took the traditional shots from this slightly lower volume design. Leny picked up another. I stepped back to appreciate her back bib after learning how her home in Florida was impacted by the recent hurricane. The bib was for cancer. Twice. Now add Irma.

While there were no speed records this weekend, there were some blazing times that most mortals would have been happy with. Susan continues to be on track for a marathon PR in Chengdu. Overall a good race day.


Tamara didn’t get to Reading Market in time Saturday night, so we went back for lunch. Between the cheese steak, pulled pork, brisket and Bassett’s ice cream for dessert, it was worth the trip.


We may still yet hit personal bests this year. We’re talking care of ourselves so maybe we’ll be fortunate enough to live long lives. Instead of raising money, we’re donating to our friends, at least for now. And while we have friends who’ve hit 100 Rock n Roll races already, we’ll be hitting that milestone in a few weeks at Rock n Roll San Jose. We’ll be the first married couple to both do it.

Maybe there’s a story there after all.


There’s still time to make a donation to the AACR for Rock n Roll Philadelphia for the Black Sheep Run team (includes a link to Zach’s page). You can also find direct links for Sherry, Joe and Leny.

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.


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.


We spent a few hours at the Expo as usual. The redesigned Hall of Fame medal was finally revealed at the Rock n Roll booth. The first chance to pick one up will be in Virginia Beach.


We also picked up a few items for Drew. He couldn’t make the trip, but he was on our minds. In addition to the special edition racks for the Chicago locals, Pete and Marcey at SportHooks had something that crossed the miles with the just the right sentiment.


Saturday July 15th – 5K
The new course was a double out and back with some time in the park and some on the water. Katherine kicked off the weekend with a word about 261 Fearless, her organization that promotes women’s empowerment through fitness. She’s 70 years old and can still clock in the low 2 hours for a half marathon.


One at the start. One at the finish. We’ve done this so many times, it’s a lot more fun taking pictures of my friends than of the course. We were just a few dozen meters behind Katherine and her 261 Fearless group as she added yet another chapter to her inspiring career.


On the way home, we took a quick detour. Tamara and Al still hadn’t added the tyranitaur to their Pokemon Go inventory and there just so happened to be a raid a block off the path back to the hotel. Mission accomplished! Also, Beth and Jim in classic gypsy fashion, just happened upon us on the way back to their hotel, just in time for a group selfie.


After lunch, we caught the opening weekend showing of Spiderman Homecoming. 2017 has been a great year to take some time off our feet for race weekend movies! We had a good light dinner at Filini’s. I’m definitely marking that place down for a return trip!


The cool evening weather was a rare treat. Tawni, Al, Susan and I took a late night stroll out to the Navy Pier fireworks display. The place was packed. Note to tourists. Be careful if you sit on the grass. The sprinklers went on in two different patches.


Here’s the abbreviated version, in case you went to bed early and missed it. Tawni was live streaming it and SOME people who should have been asleep started a comment war :).


Sunday, July 16th – Half Marathon
The pre-race meeting at gear check was a well orchestrated surprise for Greg. Champagne shots flowed. Ainsley and Amy produced a few dozen custom shirts in Greg’s signature neon yellow color. The big reveal went over well.


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


Greg usually starts in corral 3 and finishes in the 1:30 – 1:40 range for the half. Since he wanted to see people on the course, he decided to start with his brother in dead last and see people as he passed them during the race. This way a few of his friends could make it to the finish line to hold the tape and take pictures. Starting that far back must have been driving him crazy.

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?

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.



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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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…


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.


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.



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.


Red Skies at Night – RNR San Francisco 2017

There’s something to be said about home town races. It’s even better if you have two of them.

I finished work early on Friday for Rock n Roll San Francisco weekend. I swiped my Clipper card at the Pleasanton Bart station and set off to the city. This was our first 5-year Legacy for any race. I always stand on the train out of habit, even though there were tons of open seats. Coming up from the stairs at the north end of the Embarcadero Station I felt the cool drizzle of a San Francisco spring. The Rock n Roll rain jacket was just what I needed.

On the way to the expo, I ran into one of my marathon heroes, Tony “Endorphin Dude” Nguyen. He was in his last few weeks of training before American River 50. I also saw Audrey, a former coworker. She was doing an half Ironman two weeks later. California life means you run into people you know in the middle of a big city doing healthy stuff like that.


This year the expo was at Pier 35 instead of Moscone and the longshore feel was a nice change of pace. I picked up my bib and the Legacy Runner swag – a vanity bib and a disposable shopping bag. I guess that goes with the environmental mindset of the area, but seeing the same bags hanging up for purchase for $2 at the expo was a little disappointing. We’ve been TourPass holders since 2011, and we haven’t spent that much on race entries, so we’ll look forward to a 10-year Legacy in 2022, assuming we last that long.

We had a few more additions to the Rock n Roll Peanut Gallery. We were especially happy to give Ann two pairs of matching socks (one for the new addition to their family). The expo closed up at 7 and we caught the train home.

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Saturday, March 25th
8 AM ish: I kissed my wife goodbye as she dropped me off at the train station, scratching the dogs on the head as I lifted my backpack out of the back seat. Even though check-in at the Inn at the Opera was at 3PM, I wanted to spend the morning with my older brother. San Francisco is a Pokemon Go paradise so we spent few hours of hunting during the Niantic water event before lunch at Gott’s. Besides, I wanted him to see the Hall of Fame Banner at the Expo, hoping he’d be impressed enough to want to come down to San Jose in October. By 2:30 he’d caught enough Magikarp for another Gyarados. Players get it.

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Al called from the Bay Bridge just as Gary left, right in the middle of Friday afternoon traffic. After dropping stuff off at the hotel, we headed back to the expo for his bib. A few hundred yards from Pier 35, I jumped out of his car and ran a block to catch a Lapras (again, players get this). A few of the Gypsies and Black Sheep were trickling in as we got later in the day.

We had dinner with Gary and Susan at Il Borgo. It’s one of those family owned Italian restaurants with seating for maybe 30 total where the bake the bread fresh every half hour. It’s worth the walk.

On the way back to the hotel, city hall was lit up with Rock n Roll red. Ann said something about “Red skies at night, runners delight.” This was definitely a good sign for Sunday.


Sunday, March 26th, Half Marathon
Thanks to the tip from Amy and Greg in Dallas, we got into the United VIP lounge. They moved the starting line off the Great Highway about 3/4th of a mile into Golden Gate

Wesley and Martin shared our breakfast table. Mae, Sherry and Zach took off earlier.

Park, but United chose to have their lounge at the Beach Chalet. I think it was a good choice. We had no trouble getting Uber to drop us off and it has plenty of space and decent bathrooms (supplemented by the heated trailer rooms). Flight attendants were doing their best to make us feel comfortable with a good breakfast spread, the handy United buffs and charcoal hand warmers. United even provided a shuttle to the starting line. We were among the last to board.

The start line in 2017 was located near the Bison paddock on John F Kennedy. It was eerily quiet because of the noise ordinances in the park – no music and barely any light other than the start line. Ann even had to keep her voice down for the corral send offs (which must be excruciating for her). She was sporting some cool new socks though.

They changed the course slightly in 2017. The first mile was different than last year’s course. There wasn’t the steep hill up Balboa in the first quarter mile, but it was quite a bit more crowded, forcing us to a slower pace initially. Other than that and the Haight Street Selfie Station, the main objective for us mid-packers was to get to the Golden Gate Bridge in time to come back on the road bed (about 1:10 for the first 5.7 miles give or take).

Even with that time in mind, I still had to take time at the Blue Mile, this time on the climb up Lincoln. This is the most challenging part of RNR SF, a half mile 3% grade followed by a half mile 7% grade. The motivation is the pictures and flags on the left. The reward is the view from the top.

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I’m a huge fan of out and back stretches, especially in the Rock n Roll races. This one was 2 miles long. I saw a lot of faster friends heading back. Those who come back on the sidewalk actually get a better view of the city, but it’s quite a bit narrower.

Susan was coming into the Vista Point turn as I was heading out, so I camped out and waited for her so we could head back on the bridge together. We’d done that for the last 4 years, why stop now?

Anyway, if I didn’t wait for her, we wouldn’t have taken this picture. It may have been a lot more awkward with someone else. Heh.


The last five miles we just chatted away, passing all the places we trained when we started racing in 2005. The turn up the last long hill on Polk Street put me right on the edge of my heart rate zone. I guess leaving that in San Francisco seemed pretty appropriate. The finish line pictures always seem better when we finish together.

Post race VIP at United was just as good as pre-race. We got our medals engraved free (my time says “finished”) and there were a good selection of sandwiches, brunch food including meat and veggie frittatas, nuts, popcorn and as much beer and soda as you wanted. If United sponsored another VIP, I’d be quick to sign up.

We didn’t have a flight to catch. Our timeshare was reserved for two nights so we didn’t even have to rush out of town. We shared dinner with a bunch of Black Sheep on a surfboard at the Wipeout Bar and Grill, talking about where we were going to see each other next. No surprise – next week at Raleigh. After driving through the night and arriving just a few hours before the start, Hollie caught the 1 in 8000 shiny Magikarp. I guess some things go right.

The Bart ride home was a little more crowded. We still found seats together with our roll on suitcases. Out of pocket expenses for the weekend was basically food, $12 each for train fares and maybe $20 for Uber rides. In one of the most expensive places to live and work in the US, this was one of our cheapest.

We don’t really do many home town races, but we like this one enough to want to come back every year. As long as the skies stay red, it’ll be a delight for us.


Rock n Roll San Francisco is in its 5th year under the CGI brand name. It was formerly the San Francisco Half Marathon. In year 2, the course changed from an out and back from the Marina Green to a point to point starting on the Great Highway. Short of a few bus box upgrades and the starting line change in 2017, the course is more or less the same. Participation still looks strong as the race sold out for the fifth year in a row.

San Francisco was our 5th Rock n Roll of 2017, earning us the new Roadie Medal with the opening trunk. This is my favorite so far of the redesigned Heavy Medal series. We’re among the 51 sitting with 5 races. Another 15 people did the Tex2Mex double and earned their Six String medal. I’ll have to check, but I believe we have more people than last year who have run the table (so to speak) through 6 weekends.

It goes without saying we’ll be back for RNR SF 2018. Next up, Raleigh!