It’s Us Against the Course – RNR Dallas 2017

And sometimes, the course wins.

One of the challenges of serial racing is dealing with the different weather conditions as you go between time zones in back to back weekends. The sub-freezing temperatures in DC gave way to a warm muggy weekend in Dallas. What a difference a week makes.

We skipped the 5K this year, again saving a little more on hotel and vacation time to build up for our 2018 schedule. We had some serious FOMO watching our friends post pics from the morning run around the park. Drew-Lyft give a quick recap on the ride in.


The expo was at the Convention Center as it has been for the last few years. Peanut was having a field day posing with the bulls outside. I think we’ll be bringing her along for the rest of the year. All we need is a way to take her on the course with us.

We met Joe on the way into bib pick-up (always great to see VIP Joe!). Tricia had another strong 5K showing, placing 4th in her age group. That BQ time is looking better every time we see her.

Marcey and Pete were joined by daughter Katie at the Sport Hooks booth. Katie and her sister Ashley manage the Kaktos Rose company, creating custom signage using the same technology as our medal hangers. I asked her to pick her favorite one for a Peanut Gallery picture just before she left for a wedding dress fitting. This is going to be an eventful year for the family.


We also connected with a new friend, Amy. She’s relatively new to the RNR circuit but is shooting for Hall of Fame this year. I asked her if she was doing Mexico City also, and she didn’t even know it was possible. After about 5 minutes of searching flights and thinking about hotel stays, she realized she didn’t have her passport. Otherwise, I’m sure she’d be on that plane after the half!


Meanwhile, veteran Black Sheep Runners Amy, Ainsley, Greg, Jamie and Mitchell came in later sporting their custom Tex2Mex shirts. Most of them did this double in 2016. It sounded like the flight times were a little better this year. The 2:30 departure out of Dallas would get them there a couple of hours before the Mexico City start time. Thanks to Amy, Greg and Mitchell for giving us the heads up on the United VIP for RNR SF. We signed up right away.


More pictures for the Peanut Gallery.

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Andreas is quickly getting back to peak race walking form and was scheduled to race at the USATF Pan Am qualifiers in Philadelphia the first weekend in April, then fly to Prague for another qualifying race. His estimated time based on his 5×2 mile training was a 1:24 20K. We’re trying to get to know enough about his product so we can cover the booth for him for lunch and bio breaks at future expos.

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One of the nice things about being back at a location for multiple years is that you become an annual regular. We had dinner at Ravenna. Apparently we’re memorable because the owner recognized us. Hyalker brought Mae Bear along to take more travel pictures for his college friend’s daughter’s school project. Mae Bear is like a flat Stanley, only with button for eyes.

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Sunday, March 19th. Half Marathon
Given how it was in DC, I wasn’t about to complain about the temps in Dallas. We’ve had a few hot races in the last year, and at least this wasn’t a full. The corral 5 meet up had a few newcomers to the race circuit – Jen and Nalani’s brother Brandon. Note: Don’t let your sister customize your bib or she’ll take advantage of it. “First Half” indeed.

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Drew missed RNR DC to take care of his mom while she went into surgery. This was a good break for him and relatively close to home (it’s been a few weeks since then and he’s happy to report that she’s recovering well). For a few hours on Sunday, things were back to normal and he could just soak in the moment. This is something racing just does for people. Susan and I decided before the race to hang out with him (or more accurately, he was OK waiting for us).  Pictures are better with friends anyway.

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The course changed a bit from the previous years. Mile 9 had a slight change giving us a bit more elevation – last year‘s 216 ft elevation gain total, compared to this year‘s 292 ft. Add the humidity and the temps were a stark contrast (39 F in 2016, 66 in 2017).

Coming over the South Houston bridge, you can see the finish line area and hear the music, and for some reason this makes the long straightaway is deceptively long. Right about mile 12.75, Drew and I saw a woman lying on the sidewalk, feet up on the guard rails with her hand shielding her eyes telling another lady “I’m fine. I’m fine.”

Drew knew ‘this is code for I’m really NOT’ fine, but won’t admit it.’ We stop and go into Coach Mode. We have to.

It turns out Sarah is a registered nurse, doing her second half marathon (the first one was late last year). She pulled over after getting really dizzy, so we kept her talking, gave her some salt and helped her get to her feet slowly. The three of us start walking ahead. Her phone rings. It’s a friend of hers who was wondering where she was. I took the call to let her know that Sarah was on her way, but needed to concentrate. It took a good quarter-mile before she was able to start a slow jog, but by the time we hit the downhill for the last 100 yards, she was feeling much better. Drew and I ran her past the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders, past an Ann high-five and past the finish line, right to the med tent to the friend who called her a few minutes earlier.

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Sarah thanked us profusely, but honestly, this is something we (and a lot of runners) do without even thinking about it. We know how much work it takes to even get to the starting line so we get a lot of satisfaction and joy to make sure they cross the finish.

We came away from Dallas with the Lone Star Challenge Medal. A bunch of our friends (60+ in all) were off to the airport to Mexico City for the second installment of the Tex2Mex double-day. This year, CGI was helping with the logistics by getting the runners from the Mexico City airport to the starting line. Maybe we’ll get to that level of crazy again someday, but for now, we’re content to hit brunch in matching shirts.

I connected with Sarah after we got home and asked if I could write up our encounter. She was happy to serve as the ‘cautionary tale’ for others, but in reality, given the wrong conditions, what happened to her could happen to any of us. And if (and when) it does, we’d be out there hoping that someone would check to make sure we were OK to finish or at least had the proper care to get home safely. It’s us against the course, and sometimes, the course wins.

But not today.

~//~

Rock n Roll Dallas was run for the 8th time in 2017. There were 8,320 finishers in the half and 1,971 in the Remix 5K (compared to 9,559 and 2,009 in 2016). We’ve done Dallas four years in a row and are 99% sure we’ll be back in 2018. It looks like a safe location for RNR, especially after hearing that Vancouver and Queretaro were discontinued for 2017.

Downtown Dallas was a Gen2 Pokemon Go starter heaven. Nests dotted the parks between Commerce and Elm for Chikorita, Totodile and we caught an occasional Cyndaquil and Mareep. Gym battling is mid level with the entry-level around 2500 CP. GPS lock can be a bit sketchy, so patience or a hotspot can really pay off.

Dallas was our 94th Rock n Roll event and 122nd half marathon. At some point, we may celebrate another 25 race milestone, but I need to catch up on three more blogs before then :).

 

From One to Juan-Hundred – Rock N Roll Dallas and Mexico City 2016

In 2013, nearly 2 million people finished a half marathon. That’s a little over 0.63% of the US population. How special is it to be in this number? And how often do you meet someone who has finished a hundred?

Well, if you hang around with us, that’s more often than you might think.

In 2013, a schedule conflict moved Rock n Roll San Antonio to the same day as Rock n Roll Las Vegas. That created the opportunity to finish two races in the same day, one in the morning and one at night. The SA2LV double, in my mind, kick-started the drive for getting Heavy Medals as much as the Tour Pass did in 2011. CGI said the double day would never happen again, but in 2016, Rock n Roll Dallas and Rock n Roll Mexico City fell on the same day. Tex2Mex hashtags started showing up as soon as the schedule was announced. The flight takes about 3 hours and you get an hour back with the time change and the tightest connection was making the outbound flight at 1 PM. The international flight required a little more lead time, but it was certainly doable. All that said, it was shaping up to be an epic weekend.

And no, surprisingly enough, we didn’t join them. We were cheering for this one from the hotel room in Dallas.

Friday March 18th
A mid-afternoon flight out of Oakland put us into Dallas Love Field for a late dinner. We grabbed a rental car and drove a short hop to the Sheraton Suites Market Center. For future reference, this location was significantly cheaper than downtown and has a free shuttle that would take you most anywhere you needed to be for the Saturday 5K, the expo and possibly the Sunday half marathon. We’ll test that in 2017. The weather the week before RNR Dallas was 85 degrees and high humidity. By the time we landed though, forecasts for both race days started in the low 40’s and warmed up to the high 50’s. Other than slight chance of rain, it was looking like great race weather after shedding a layer or two of disposable clothes. Fortunately, we had a big enough room to spread out two sets of race clothes.

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Saturday, March 19th. 5K
We got to Fair Park at 6:50AM for the 7:45 AM start. Parking was plentiful, and sunrise wasn’t until 7:15 so we picked up our bibs and went back to the car to stay warm. We met up with Drew, fresh off re-injuring his ankle and with a new knee scooter. He admitted that after this weekend, it was time to get some uninterrupted recovery time. This is a reminder that you shouldn’t take this kind of schedule lightly.

The course was the reverse of last year’s 5K, circling the Cotton Bowl along the surrounding railroad tracks and streets. There was a glitch in the placement of the mile 2.5 turn that shorted the course by about a quarter mile. Those of us wearing GPS watches were aware, but anyone who didn’t were amazed by their PR’s. Here’s the view of last year’s course for comparison, showing the east hairpin turn placement.

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Our friend Shawna took 2nd in the women’s division. I wonder if this guy on the right won?

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I’m guessing he finished the 5K, the half, ran to Mexico City and back in time to see us finish.
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Drew gutted out another finish. His friend Nalani (left) had a meniscus tear a few weeks ago. She did RNR DC last week. It’s like we attract crazy people.

Sherry and Marissa met a new travel partner catching an Uber ride from their hotel before the 5K. David found out about the Hall of Fame and set his sights high. He was doing a lot of last minute arrangements and, with Sherry were among the 39 of the crazies who were preparing for the Tex2Mex challenge after the finish. We got a picture of a bunch at the finish line.

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Mitch, Sherry, Justin, Elaine and Monique were with the Tex2Mex group.

After a quick trip to the hotel to clean up we headed to the expo. Other than signing up for next year’s Remix combo, it was a relatively quick visit. We were missing a lot of our gypsy group this race, but it’s good to see them on the Hall of Fame banner. Susan caught up with Ilona and Carl Marino, stars of Homicide Hunter – Lt. Joe Kenda. Their filming schedule moved to Saturdays, so it’s going to be harder for them to make Rock n Roll races.

We stopped by the Sport Hooks booth to wish Marcey a happy 29th birthday. We’ll go with that.

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We had lunch at the usual place, Iron Cactus. The queso alone is worth it.

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Susan and I went back to the expo to wait for my friend Laura. We met in the old MySpace days and she was ready for her first half marathon after a few years of planning, training issues and general life getting in the way. A few years ago, I bought some car magnets from an expo that I was going to give her when she finished. I still had them. While we were waiting, two more of our Tex2Mex friends stopped by the Rock n Roll booth.

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Hyalker was running the weekend for his mother. Juan’s double would be his 99th and 100th half marathons.

Laura made it to the expo with a few minutes to spare. She had just enough time to grab a few items and sign up for next year’s RNR Dallas Half and when home with her kids to rest up and we somehow missed taking pictures. Dinner at Ravenna was relatively relaxed and the fettuccine bolognese was as good as I remember it from last year. I like that we’ve gotten into a routine for this event.

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Sunday, March 20th
While we weren’t doing the Tex2Mex, Al was working on his next adventure. One of his friends had a wedding on Saturday with an evening reception, so Al drove to San Francisco for a 12:40 AM flight into Dallas Fort Worth. As long as everything went well, he’d land just before 6 AM, 2 hours before the start of the half. We checked first think in the morning to see this. Weather and schedules seemed to be going well this weekend!

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Al’s Uber got to the hotel at 6:45, giving us plenty of time to drive to the start at the Hyatt at Reunion Plaza.

Laura got to VIP at 7:40, giving us a rush to the start line. We missed Drew and Sherry who were going out of the early corrals – Drew so he could have more scooter time, Sherry so she could catch her AeroMexico flight at 1.

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Reminiscent of the SA2LV bib a few years ago.
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“Feels like” 34 degrees at the start. Layers stayed on a little longer than usual.

Training has been going pretty well for the year so I experimented with Jenny Hadfield’s “Running in Colors” method. Ignore the paces and go by feel. I went on the intermediate schedule – 5 miles orange (nearly full sentences), 5 miles yellow (choppy sentences), 3.1 red (everything you have left). It felt great. I even had enough in me to take a few pictures, but Susan’s were actually better. About mile 10, I got a text from Sherry saying she’d finished and was on her way to DFW to catch her flight.

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This was a welcome sign on the approach to the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge
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The last mile on the Houston Street Bridge. Headwinds the entire way. There was a lot of grumbling about this afterwards.

The last 5K miles in the red zone paid off. I walked a 33:15 and finished at 2:24:16, a 62.99% age grade. Overall, this was a solid Remix weekend, the short 5K course notwithstanding. Al had a rough time considering the late landing, but we met to take a few selfies after the finish … in a totally… random…  place.

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How is it that I miss the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders EVERY year? I’m convinced they’re always on break when I cross the finish line.

Susan finished about 20 minutes later. Here is a picture of her crossing the finish line from a totally random place.

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Drew finished the Half and the Remix. He says this is the last race before he goes into full on rest and healing mode. We’re going to hold you to that, Drew!

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Remembering how hard the last mile was on the bridge, I went out to meet Laura. She was sore, but keeping a good pace. We pushed the last quarter mile and I ran ahead to ask Creigh Kelley for a first finish shout out. I think Laura was so glad to cross the line that she didn’t even hear it. I bought a VIP pass for Laura and the location was less than 50 yards from the finish line. After picking up our Heavy Medals – Remix, Texas Legend – we closed the place down. Laura took a look at the bonus medals and I saw that look. It was the same one a lot of us had when we saw the new Heavy Medals at San Antonio in 2014.

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Laura had a great first race. She signed up for Dallas 2017 and is already recruiting friends and family to join her.

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Up until Saturday, RNR Mexico City was under an air quality alert. There were even rumors that they would delay the race start an hour to let the cooler night temps clear the air. The alert cleared as many of us were glued to our Facebook feeds to see who had a data plan to let us know they arrived and were on the way to the starting line. As far as we know, all three of the possible flights landed on time. They braved the air, the altitude and the border crossing to earn another spot on the hall of crazy. Twelve of them have run the table for 2016, earning the first dozen Roadie 5 race medals. Congrats, Tex2Mex!

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A special congrats goes to Juan. We haven’t seen him on the RNR circuit since San Antonio, but these two races put him at 72 heavy medal qualifying races, enough to put him in or near the top 10 all time. He was part of the SA2LV double in 2013 and was one of the four Elite Heavy Medalists in 2014. This double and his 100th half marathon is just Juan more star on his running resume.

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He’s Juan in a Million. And yes, those puns just keep going.

We have a week off from Rock n Roll races before we head across the Bay to Rock n Roll San Francisco. Our Peninsula TNT team will be at Sawyer Camp Trail doing 8 or 13 miles Saturday morning. I plan to take it slow and cheer them on.

Who knows? Maybe someone on our Team will be the next Juan to catch the bling bug.