The Next Time I See You – RNR Dallas and San Francisco, RunAPalooza

Living vicariously through friends is a lot more fun when you have friends like ours.

We are five races into 2018 and most of them have had very little free time between airport arrival and departure. Dallas was a 30 hour round trip. San Francisco was a last minute change to a drive-in race because the start and finish lines were announced after our time share reservation options were full. Even RunaPalooza was a one day trip for me while Susan stayed on the east coast to visit with her parents. As I’m writing this, we’re in Chapel Hill for a day before heading to Rock n Roll Nashville.

Following friends on social media really filled in a lot of gaps for us. Every time we finish a race and say goodbye, I wonder what we’ll have to catch up on the next time we see each other.

The last time I saw a Rock n Roll expo, the Hall of Fame pictures were on a rotating slide show. Now we got to see all of our friends at once.

The next time we see Drew, he will break his goal of petting a dog per mile.

The next time we see Brent, he’ll extend his world record for the number of countries where he’s run a marathon. The picture below is a year old and 35-ish countries ago.

The next time I see Laura, I’ll have to congratulate her for getting her daughter to finisher her first half marathon (two years after Laura’s first!).

The next time I see Ann, I’ll let her and Peter know that they’ve changed the way I look at life… again.

The next time I see Al, I’m hoping he loses this new accessory and has a good path to finishing the year at Ironman. Thanks to Fred and Leny for helping him at Dark Side.

The next time I see Beth and Jim, I’ll want that picture of the two married couples to have both finished 100 Rock n Roll races.

The next time I see Julia, I know I won’t see Tom. F*ck cancer. It’s a colder world without him.

The next time I see Lida, I’ll ask her what it’s like to run over a hundred fifty miles in the desert at the Marathon des Sables… for a second time.

When I see Caryn and Tawni again, they’ll be finishing milestones – Caryn’s 100th half marathon and Tawni’s 50th State for half marathons.

The next time I see my wife will be later today when she picks me up at the airport in Raleigh. We’ll see Meg for dinner and Susan’s parents for breakfast before we head to Nashville for a couple days.

Life goes on without us. Even though we get to see the pictures near-real time, I look forward to catching up with friends.

The next time we see you.

1310.94 Miles and a Chewbacca Onesie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just don’t ask me to wear a onesie.

~//~

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

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

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

Top 16 for 2016

We’re a bit behind the usual year-in-review posts, but we didn’t want to miss out on noting some of our personal highlights from what ended up being another productive and memorable year. The race quantity was about the same, but quality continues to improve. Our goal of making every year better than the last continues. Not all of these are about race moments, but all happened on race weekends. The Marathoning for Life top 16 for 2016:

16. Regarding Henry
I used to blog on MySpace, back when people were anonymous and you could throw out opinions and you’d likely never meet any of your readers unless you made a consciousIMG_1521 effort to do so. Being a lot more visible on a race blog makes for cool things like meeting Henry in San Francisco, who recognized us from the blog when he was doing research on Rock n Roll races.  Henry told us he was shooting for 20 races in 2016 (more than we’d ever done!) and went on to set multiple PR’s at the 5K and half marathon distances. Way to go Henry!

15. Hall of Fame Three-peat
I only put this as low as it is because it seemed like a foregone conclusion once we put the
plan in place. I do put it on the list because regardless of how well you plan, there’s always the chance to injury, travel delays and unavoidable conflicts that can derail you. Working the races into your schedule (and making other plans around them) take some serious commitment. We look forward to seeing if we can do this again in 2017. If you get to a Rock n Roll Expo, you’ll see a huge banner with rows of pictures. Ours are below.

14. RNR Los Angeles Candy Crunch
I don’t buy race pictures often, but this one will go down as one of my all time favorites. The Candy Store was actually an idea that we had a few years ago, but we missed 2014 (for RNR Vancouver) and did a PacMan theme in LA for 2015. The fact that the six of us did the entire race together made it something special.

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13. First Steps
Ryan and Virginia had been along the journey for years. Ryan was always on the other side of the table handing out medals and Virginia was working on the 5K distance. This year, they both stepped up and finished their first half marathons – Ryan in Savannah, Virginia in Vegas. It doesn’t look like either of them will be a one-and-done. Note that they both celebrated the accomplishment in different ways.

12. Biggest Hall of Fame Induction Yet – San Antonio
The number of Hall of Famers increased 4 fold since the inaugural 2014 year. Among the 162 people who finished 15 or more half or full marathons in 2016 there were dozens of first-timers. Five people ran the table with all 25 logistically possible events and a handful even finished 20 or more in back to back years. Every person in these pictures has a great story to tell.

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Photo Credit: Competitor Group
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The Rock Superstars who ran 25 races. Not pictured: Will Flynn

11. Chicago Storms
We’ve had an amazing run of weather luck for the last 10 years. Before 2016, we’ve only had significant amounts of rain on 2 out of over 100 races. In 2016, we had a dusting during RNR Nashville and DC and a good soaking in San Antonio. We even had our first lightning-related yellow flag that suspended the RNR Chicago for nearly half an hour. Ron and Al finished the last 100 yards as the announcers told people to find shelter. Susan didn’t have to worry about that as she finished the race 6 minutes earlier – with a brand new PR!

10. The next to 100 Rock n Rolls
Kevin Gonzalez hit the 100 Rock n Roll race mark at Rock n Roll San Diego. Kevin plans to chase world majors in 2017, but he finished 2016 as the All-Time Number 2 for RNR Heavy Medal races with 108.  He has finished 106 half marathons (2nd), 110 total events (6th) and 5th in all time RNR race mileage.

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11. Changing of the Guard
Probably the biggest news off the course was that Rock n Roll founder, “Mr. Marathon”, 12301576_10207587601625553_6517062093939443634_nTracy Sundlun was let go by Competitor Group. I remember the year Rock n Roll Cleveland was cancelled just a month before the event. We got a personal call from Tracy apologizing for the inconvenience, asking what he could to keep our loyalty and come back for another race. It was these kinds of touches that makes going to races more of a family reunion than an endurance event. We’ll miss Tracy. I think a lot of people will.

10. Double Live, Part 4
Mid November will be a highlight for every year as long as Disney and Rock n Roll continue to have the morning/evening race combination. For the last 3 years, we’ve done the Disney Avengers (renamed Superheroes) Half in the morning, hopped a plane and finished the Rock n Roll Las Vegas Half that night. 2016 had relatively good weather for both ends of the trip (compared to the windstorms in 2014 and 2015).

9. The 100 Half Marathon Club
We joined the 100 Half Marathons club late in 2015 and it dawned on us how many of our friends are close to or past that incredible milestone. Juan ran his 100th at RNR Mexico City, Tawni reached the 100 mark at a rainy Rock n Roll DC, Hyalker got there at Rock n Roll San Diego and John did the same at Rock n Roll Vancouver. We weren’t on hand for a few more including De Moe (Mayors Marathon, Anchorage). At least three more friends who are on track for 100 in 2017.

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8. The Next Generation
This was one of those non-race moments that made me appreciate the people we’ve come img_5927in contact with over the years. We met Ann Wessling on a flight from San Diego to Phoenix and I credit (blame?) her for getting us started on the Rock n Roll circuit when she told us about the 2011 expansion and the new Rock Idol Heavy Medal.  She and Peter are among our best friends, so when we went to RNR Denver for the weekend, we wanted to have a mini baby shower for the expecting mom and dad. Ann had baby Juliana a few days after Rock n Roll Las Vegas.

7. Winners at The Biggest Loser Race Series Chicago
As we mentioned on the Runner of a Certain Age Podcast earlier this week, we love this series because it gives us a chance to compete in a walk division. Both Susan and I took first place in our divisions with Susan finishing 3rd overall. We had a great time catching up with Christina and also cheering Jen in for her first half marathon finish.IMG_4200

6. Going for Gold
I loved this moment because I know how much it meant to Nalani and Drew.  Drew had been wanting to get the 10-race Rock Idol medal since it came out in 2011. Even though they redesigned the medal to be the Gold Record, 2016 was going to be the year. After starting out with a badly sprained ankle and Nalani nursing a tweaked knee for most of the year, we finished RNR San Antonio with Nalani getting a PR. Picking up the Gold Record was an emotional moment after such a long road.

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5. Catching them All – the next 100 Rock n Rolls
Rock n Roll San Jose weekend was Al’s 100th Rock n Roll and 300th Half marathon. There were a lot of moments that will stick with me from the weekend including Beth and Jim surprising us at dinner Saturday night, catching a Charizard during the 5K and Al beating Roger Craig to the tape to finish the half. It was a relaxed race, but it gave us a chance to find out a lot about Al’s extensive experiences. Al is tied for fourth on the all time list for total RNR events at all distances, 4th in total race mileage, and 3rd in half marathons.

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4. The First Lady of Rock n Roll
Sherry became the third runner and first woman to hit the 100 Rock n Roll mark at Las Vegas. She finished 2016 at second all time for total RNR events at all distances, second in total race mileage and as high as second all time in RNR full marathons (records before the Remix era are admittedly very sketchy for fulls). She’s also a cancer survivor which makes this achievement all that much more special.

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3. A Red Shoe Surprise
We have friends who don’t ask for much and like to stay under the radar. I get that, since I’m kind of the same way. But when we found out Kamika was going to finish his 50th Half marathon state in a small race in Iowa the same weekend as Rock n Roll Nashville, it was something we just couldn’t pass up. Somehow we able to keep it secret and show up to surprise him before the starting line.

2. 26.2 Miles with too many Hearty Breakfasts
We knocked off continent number 6 for full marathons in July at the Victoria Falls Marathon. This wasn’t just a moment, but an entire week worth of unforgettable experiences ranging from safaris, lion and elephant walks, aerial tours of the falls. The trip was arranged by Marathon Adventures and every last person on the trip was an absolute pleasure to spend time with. The race itself was challenging and Susan was in the position of having to drag Ron to a heat-induced, cramp-filled finish. Just one more continent (Asia) to go!

1. The one race you wish it actually DID rain
We capped off the year with Ron’s 50th birthday by doing the Honolulu Marathon. Race day was the typical hot and humid Hawaii in December, and the pace was as relaxed as the weekend. Even though the race itself isn’t my favorite, it’s hard to beat being in Hawaii when you’re done.

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There were a lot of other moments, milestones and people we remember from the year, but capturing them all would make for an even longer blog than it already is. Special thanks to John Pannell for following the numbers, Southwest Airlines for the companion pass, Rock n Roll for keeping up the TourPass program, SportHooks and Allied Metal for the cool medal hangers, Sport Medicine Institute and TEAM Clinic for keeping our bodies able to maintain the schedule and to our gypsy and Black Sheep friends and family for making each trip worth writing about.

We’re already into our third weekend of 2017 and are one race blog behind. Time to start catching up again!

Just another (100) day(s) at the Office – RNR San Jose 2016

People approach milestones in different ways. Some people celebrate every birthday with a huge party. For others, it’s nearly impossible to get them excited because they realize it’s something that happens with the passage of time.

We’re somewhere in between. When we started racing, our coaches would always know what to say to us at the end of long training when we’re tired and aching. They would always ask us to look back and see how far we’ve come. It always put things in perspective for the single training, but after 10 or 20 races , it just seems like another day. That’s why we think it’s important to figure out the big milestone races and mark it with a celebration.

Al doesn’t make a big deal out of milestones either. Truth be told, until we celebrated his 250th half marathon in Arizona 2014, I don’t think even he knew exactly how many races he had run. He started racing back before the internet records (or even the internet) was even a thing and this weekend, he was not only running his 100th Rock n Roll half or full, but also his 300th half marathon. He plans really well though. And he planned these two milestones to coincide with a hometown race.

Friday September 30th. Expo
I’d been sending CGI the lifetime stats for a while now and after San Diego, we checked to make sure they set aside bib number 100 for the half. It was good to see this (and amusing to see Al’s full name mushed into one screen).

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The sign at the entrance to the expo was a nice touch.

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Al Hernandez – stick figure

As far as we know, Al has the distinction of being Legacy at the most Rock n Roll locations. He’s run every year at six of the current races (accounting for 44 of his 100 RNR’s). He’s even outlasted five of them.

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After clearing out the Squirtle from Guadalupe Park, I headed home to finish cleaning up the house for Kamika. The dogs greeted him enthusiastically, probably because he brought a few pounds of Kahlua pork.

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Saturday, October 1, 5K:
I really like the 5K logistics. There’s free parking at the SAP Center parking lot and it’s a short walk to Plaza De Cesar Chavez park with plenty of room for selfies. The group below will probably finish 2016 with over 200 races.

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Will, Sherry, John, Caryn, Amy, Kamika, Noah, Jamie, Al, Susan, Ron

Al wasn’t sure what he wanted to do for the finish line at the half marathon, but he did know he wanted to share it with his friends. Most of the 5K was a relaxed pace and we finished as a group.

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This was not our fastest race, mainly because we stopped to catch a Charizard at mile 2.6
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Down the chute. My group selfie aim was a bit off that day.

This was the first time in a month that I’d seen a few of the folks chasing the Hall of Fame. Amy, Sherry, John and Will were all in San Jose still sitting atop the race total board with Greg in Querataro. Mitch (far left behind Al) would become the first three-time Rock n Roll Hall of Famer after the weekend. We also saw Homicide Hunter stars, Carl and Ilona, for the first time in a while since their filming schedule shifted, preventing them from a lot of Saturday and even Sunday Rock n Roll races.

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Breakfast afterwards was at Peggy Sue’s. We talked about the RNR Los Angeles costume theme (Candy Store) and Tricia’s iPhone battery problems. And laughed. A lot.

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I spent the afternoon finishing up the 13:11 minute video that we worked on for Al’s 100th Rock n Roll. When we celebrated his 250th half, Susan put together a scrapbook with photos and notes from friends that almost brought a tear to his eye. My goal was to remove the ‘almost’ this time. I think we succeeded.

Pre-race dinner at Piatti’s was off the beaten path, but with so many of us being local and having cars, it has always a good choice. We had 8 people for a reservation for 10 but Al asked us to save the last two for a few friends he saw at the expo.

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Turns out Beth and Jim were able to make the trip fit with their business travel and came in to surprise us all. Al caught them going into the expo just before close. Seeing them really made the weekend, but dammit. Can’t we go a whole weekend without him having a surprise for us? The video (here on Facebook) went over well. I’m fearing the payback already.

Sunday, October 2nd: Al’s 300th Half and 100th Rock n Roll
We’ve done this race many times before. We know where to park. VIP hasn’t moved in years. The starting line is always in the same place. The only thing new here was getting up on stage before the gun. Ann handled the interview and Al shook hands with 49er legend and RNR San Jose backer, Roger Craig.

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And with that, we were off. 13.1 miles of pictures and reflection. We asked Al about his favorite races, toughest races, best drinks on course, fastest marathon running backwards (4:18 in Rome), longest legacy (I think it was 20 years). We also told him our favorite Al moments. Drew talked about San Antonio 2015 when he was on a scooter. I recounted Seattle 2015 and Hernia Hill. Along the way we picked up a few of the people who’ve shared the first 100 Rock n Rolls – De, John, and Marissa and Cindy.

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Zach joined us at mile 10. It’s a good thing too since he and Sherry were able to go ahead and meet Caryn at the finish line to hold the finish banner on the 10K side of the mats. Roger Craig met us at mile 13. He and Al had an all out sprint to the finish with Al winning by a nose. I’m pretty surprised that the cameraman didn’t pull a hamstring following them in.

 

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Al debated on with how fast to take this race. With the exception of Jim and Beth, none of us could keep up with him if he were running at his usual speed. He eventually made a decision to run the race the way he’s run many of his 100 Rock n Rolls.

Finish with friends. Let them share the moment and the celebration.

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The award ceremony tied up the weekend well. Part of Al’s speech talked about how everyone on the course inspired him to do one more “so I guess I’m on to Denver.”

 

Along with the video we put together, we asked our friend Marcey at SportHooks  to craft a custom hanger. Al donates his medals to Medals 4 Mettle, but he does keep his bibs. Just in case he wanted to keep a medal, we had an extra hook added.

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Milestones are a funny thing. If you don’t make a big deal out of one or keep track of it, they could pass you by.  While I don’t think we would have had a problem celebrating at the 101st race, I’m glad almost all of us were there to see Al finish this one. “I guess I’m on to Denver”.

Congratulations, Al. It was just another day at the office.

Welcome Back – The Biggest Loser Race Series Chicago 2016

The Biggest Loser RunWalk was one of our favorite races. Dan and Jackie Evans from TBL Season 5 took a lot of what they learned from Rock n Roll and used it for their smaller races. They brought a supportive race environment to a lot of small communities over their five-year run. I say it ‘was’ one of our favorite races because last year, after Panama City Beach, we saw the schedule disappear, much to our disappointment.

Earlier this year, we saw a relaunch under the name “The Biggest Loser Race Series.” Andrea Wilamowski, TBL Season 16 contestant and President of the Woodward Entertainment Group, took over the series and put Erie, PA and Chicago back on the schedule for 2016. Erie was on the same weekend and RNR San Diego, but Chicago was timed perfectly with Susan’s company quarterly meeting so we made the trip out, hoping that the’d maintain the standards we’d been used to seeing. The past contestant lineup was impressive. Nine former contestants came to speak, cheer and run in the event and TBL trainer Dolvett Quince was on the schedule to support the weekend including Season 17 winner Roberto and Season 14 winner Danni.

I got to the expo before it opened at 11 and volunteered myself for anything Callie needed. They had a lot of help, but they didn’t refuse an extra set of hands at T-shirt pick-up. Once things got rolling, I moved over to the Solutions desk. Larry, our race walker friend from Florida was working the on-site registration and I got to learn a bit about the mechanics behind Active.com. Plus, I had a prime seat to hear the contestants speak on the stage!

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Andrea kicked off the session, giving the participants a reminder about the heat the next day. There were about 1000 early registrants in the half, 5K and Motivational Mile with more signing up on Saturday. Entry fees were slightly higher than TBL R/W, but the additional VIP package (pre-race mixer, parking and post-race brunch) was still a bargain at $35.

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Planet Fitness leads a 30 minute workout session

Danni is one of my favorite speakers, not just from the show, but ever. Her presentations are totally off the cuff and starts with “ask me anything! And there’s no such thing as TMI”. She’s been sidelined from distance running for a few months, but still plans on completing an IronMan at some point. She was recently named the new Chicagoland Director of seventeen Planet Fitness locations.

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Bob’s family went through a lot of trials after he left the show, including two bouts of cancer and addiction. He described it as ‘dealing with crap. But you know what crap is? It’s fertilizer for growth.’ That’s a pretty amazing way to look at challenges.

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Dolvett hit the stage next. When I watch the show, I am always amazed at how he can say things that are so spot-on to get people motivated and confront the underlying causes of their food addictions. I found out it’s not just editing. Every word he said on stage was perfect.

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Season 17 twins Luis and Roberto talked about the most recent season. Both were doing their first half marathon this weekend. They had planned to do the 5K, but upgraded to the half on a whim (recap from the Tribune).

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I really liked Lisa‘s perspective on self-control, something I have issues with still. Many people just have ‘on’ and ‘off’ settings when it comes to food. She suggested the ‘dimmer switch’. Instead of just denying yourself something you like, turn down the control for a bit, but bring it back up. Usually the first few bites is enough.

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Sonya talked about some of the reasons why the TV show was on hiatus. About half of TBL participants put the weight back on after leaving the show and the publicity about the metabolic set point really put the program under a microscope. But she says regardless of how you end up,  you have to be willing to address the emotional ties to food addiction to start changing your life. “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I respond”. Charles Swindall. Attitude.

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Susan was able to make the last hour of the expo to catch up with Callie before we headed to the race hotel (McCormick Hyatt). After checking in and laying out our race gear, we hopped on the bus to the Scout Waterhouse + Kitchen. Scout is known for some creative grilled cheese sandwich varieties and had a good selection of flatbread pizzas. We were there mainly to chat with the former contestants.

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Danni and Marci from TBL Season 11. She brought TBL R/W to Crown Point.
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Dolvett was the first TBL trainer we’ve met. He’s every bit as inspiring (and solidly built) as you think.
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It was a great night for autograph hunting!

Sunday August 14th. Race Day.
It was about a 20 minute walk or 6 minute drive to the starting line on Waldron. With starting temps in the low 70’s and forecasted humidity, we chose to drive over since premium parking was included with the VIP package. An extra 10 minutes in the AC might be a good thing after the half.

The start and finish of the course were on the lawn, just south of Soldier Field. It was a medium-sized race feel with lots of space and a good ratio of porta-potties to participants.

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We caught up with our friends Hyalker and Ainsley. Ainsley was one of a handful of people who ran over 20 Rock n Roll races in 2015! TBL Chicago would be her 50th half marathon. Ainsley’s friend Jen was running her first half marathon.

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Given the heat and humidity and the number of first timers, I was really happy to see about a dozen Race Guards here. The out-and-back course along the water gave them even better coverage. I don’t think I went more than 5 minutes without seeing one of them during the race.

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TBL has a walk division, but we weren’t quite sure where to line up. Usually, the walkers start after all the timed pace groups, but when Larry, Susan and I found ourselves being passed by the 12:30 pace sign, I figured it was as far back as we needed to be to avoid having to weave too much. After a great rendition of the national anthem by Danni, we were off at 7:35.

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The course was pretty, following the paved lake shore trail south. Larry has had a busy 2016 race schedule so he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to hold a 2:35 or better. My best summer Chicago race was in the mid 2:30’s and I was still a bit freaked out by the second half heat-induced meltdown in Victoria Falls. So naturally, the first mile is my fastest. What impressed me was Susan was about 30 seconds ahead of me using her new “mircolight” form (and pulling away!). She slowed down after mile 3 when she started feeling light headed. Larry was on my heels for at least the first 5 miles.

There was lots of support for this event. In addition to the Race Guards, there were water/electrolyte drink stations at every mile and a half-dozen volunteers at each station. Though there wasn’t any gel, there were oranges in the later miles. Andrea had several boxes of noisemakers and cheer support supplies distributed and they were put to good use. The supportive atmosphere we’ve come to expect at TBL races was in full swing.

Another thing about the out and back was that we could look for any other walkers who may have started further up in the corrals. Even though this was an honor system, non-monitored walk division, we did want to keep an eye out for anyone who was actually in front of us. After all, age grade awards were on the line. Race entries specifically stated that you’re not allowed to run – at all – in the walk division.

I saw the twins just before I hit the mile 6.5 turn, so I made it a goal to catch at least one of them before the end of the race. I’d opened up about a minute gap in front of Larry as I headed back north. He started cramping at mile 7 and took it easy. Susan was just a few seconds behind him. Ainsley and Hyalker were pacing Jen a few minutes behind Susan. Jen picked a tough first race!

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Larry finished in 2:46:53, quite a bit off his Panama City and Vegas TBL times, but a respectable showing in the conditions.

Roberto started cramping and had to slow down at mile 9. He was with a few Race Guards telling him to control his breathing.  I caught up with Luis a mile later. Considering just a year ago, they were a combined 250 pounds heavier, this was a banner day for them. They’d finish with a good appreciation for the distance. Word has it that they want to run the Chicago Marathon next year.

We could hear Lisa and Mark at the finish line a half mile off. With the winding lake path, it was really easy to take distance off the race by hugging the tangents. I finished at 2:30:57, easily my best time for 8 summer Chicago races.

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Free downloads courtesy of TBL Race Series!

Susan took a conservative back half and came in at 2:36:19.

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I grabbed a quick drink and headed back out to cheer people in. Bob and Sonya were already out there after finishing their own 5K’s.

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The kids fun run/motivational mile winner came in at just under 10 minutes. It made my knees hurt just watching him cruise by.

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We should have known Christina would be here. For once, she was free to run instead of being behind the scenes for TBL RunWalk. She took 2nd in her age group for the 5K.

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This young lady carried the flag for the half marathon. She and her father have done the Old Glory Relay that Al and I are doing this year on September 23rd. If anyone is in the SF Bay Area and free (it’s a Friday), let me know if you’d like to run a leg somewhere between Petaluma and the Golden Gate Bridge. The team is also taking donations (find out more here).

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I asked her if I could hold the flag to get a feel of the weight. It was light at first, but I’m sure it’ll be a good challenge to hold it for miles.

Luis finished in just under 2:40 for his first half marathon. His brother Roberto was a few minutes behind him.

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After all was said and done, Susan and I finished 1-2 in the walk division overall and took home some nice plaques for fastest male and female walkers. Age group winners got free engraving at the vendor too!

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Overall, this was a really well organized race. Support was awesome, aid stations and Race Guards were more frequent than most races we’ve seen and parking, logistics and the VIP experience were well worth the cost of registration. TBLRS now has races scheduled for El Paso (September 25th), Dallas/Allen (November 13th), Palm Springs (December 4th) and Las Vegas (January 29th, 2017). We have RNR conflicts with the first three, but have already signed up for the race and VIP in Vegas. Andrea mentioned that Cleveland and a few other east coast cities should go us as soon as the venues are confirmed.

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A hearty Welcome back to The Biggest Loser Race Series. We’re looking forward to some great years ahead!

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The Biggest Loser RunWalk had 799 finishers between the run and walk 5K and half. The Motivational Mile times were not recorded. About 25% of the finishers were in the Walk classification. J3 Timing used the B-Tag and I really like their results display. Full race results can be found here. There was even a new Competitive Division for the 5K and Half run that were awarded Garmin devices and other nice prizes. Winning times were respectable 23:23 and 1:25:05. 

Big congrats to Jen for finishing her first half marathon. I’ll warn you now that hanging around Ainsley and Hyalker could get you hooked.

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A big shout out to Team USA’s performance in the Rio Olympics. They brought home a record 121 medals (46 golds) including 32 medals (13 gold) in Track and Field events alone. We absolutely devoured DVR coverage including a gutsy Bronze Medal by Galen Rupp in his second marathon ever. Xfinity even had full recaps of the 20K and 50K race walk events! Special thanks to our friend Tracy Sundlun who was behind the scenes as the head manager for the men’s track team. Given all he’s done for Rock n Roll, I’m sure Team USA appreciated his support. 

We have another month until we start up again at Rock n Roll Philadelphia then another 10 races in a span of 12 weeks. The last race this year will be the Honolulu Marathon. A fitting place to spend a 50th birthday.