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.

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“We pass through the archway and out of our reality and we enter the land of Rock n Roll. 

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

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

We are accompanied by our trusted companion, dressed in the armor which protects us from harm. Our shield is inscribed with the names of the warriors who go into battle with us daily.

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

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

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Thank you, Mindy and Ann!

On the morning of the second day, we rode out to survey the roads of the kingdom into a glorious sunrise. We returned with many treasures.

After the ride, the signs of a coronation appeared. We were ready to follow the kings and queens of other regions who came before us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We closed the faire with the warriors in our army. Those who have overcome great odds to participate in the battles and those who have more recently picked up shields to ride into the fray.

We dined that night with the multi-talented King of the Harvests and Wizardry. He was instrumental in planning for the festivities for the weekend, for which we are eternally grateful.

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

As we dined, a great bird appeared and transform itself into a mirror portal with which we heard the greetings from the King of the City of Wind. His close friends are fast approaching coronations of their own.

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

We were graced with the presence of  Queens from other lands – accomplished in their own rights, and worldly enough for a seat at the table.

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

We sought our beds early, excited for the events of the next day. Before the sun rose, we received an owl from our friends from the Kingdom of the Tar Heels. We were sad that they could not be with us, and our hearts overflowed upon hearing their voices.

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

We rode out into the chill morning air. Smiles shone like stars, much like the clothing we wore. Somehow, my real life family was drawn into this fantasy world. I was happy to have them along for the story.  

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

In the final minutes before the parade, the King of the West Palms arrived – his transport landing shortly before the clarion call. All was now complete for these brief hours in the land of Rock n Roll.

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

It was with these friends and companions that we started this journey and with these kindred spirits that we took the final 13.1 mile ride. We are honored and humbled to be counted among them.

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

This is the magic of the kingdom. Ordinary people who visit often can reap untold riches, wisdom, and happiness from the journey. Warriors can prove their mettle. Some come home victorious while others may leave the field to fight another day. In the end, with the energy of our friends and compatriots, we took the final steps to ascend to the thrones of the Valley of Silicon.

It may only be a fairy tale, but while we are in the confines of the doorway, it is as real as flesh and blood. The journey is not for everyone, but all who are bold enough to cross through the arch are welcome in this land. 

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We are the Kings and Queens of Rock and Roll.

Long may we race!

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

~//~

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

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

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

We look forward now, to the next 100.

Feeling the Brotherly Love – RNR Philadelphia 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fotofoto credit: Aidin Esparza

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

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Thanks Al, for putting up with us.

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

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Team Heveran about to take the expo by storm.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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One for Susan’s background picture album

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

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

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

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

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

Or is it the other way around?

#rnrphilly @runrocknroll #marathoningforlife

Running for… Cover? – Rock n Roll Chicago 2016

Let’s review.

We have about 140 races lifetime since we’ve been tracking them on Athlinks. No black flags, only one yellow flag (Mustang 50th Anniversary Half Marathon) and only a handful of races where we actually had rain while we were on the course. Our Antarctica trip had exactly the amount of clear skies we needed to fly in and out for a 8 hour marathon. #weatherluck is a way of life for us.

We monitor race weather about a week ahead and Rock n Roll Chicago’s forecast was looking like typical summer Midwest – muggy and warm and chance of thunder showers. Having gone to grad school in Wisconsin, we know that CAN turn on a dime. Remix weekends give the added complication that you would love to see TWO days of good racing weather. By the time we left Friday morning, at least Saturday looked dry and reasonable but the storms on Sunday were hitting by mid morning.

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Early flights out of the west coast are the way to go for this race. We had enough time to take the CTA from Midway to the city and walk a few blocks from the State/Lake station to the Sheraton Grand. The jury is still out if buying the $20 three-day pass is worth it because we ended up just taking the CTA to and from the airport and maybe one extra trip.

Walking in, we had one of those random meetings that made the entire trip worth it.We met Barbie at the infamous NyQuil race at Rock n Roll Chicago in 2013.  Susan paced Barbie to finish the half after being swept the year before. Barbie has had foot drop since elective back surgery seven years ago left her right ankle paralyzed. This year, she has nerve activity in that ankle and will be undergoing surgery to see if she can regain full motion. The amazing thing was that she wasn’t even in town for the race. She was meeting a friend at the hotel so they could go to a concert that night.

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Miracles. They happen.
We got to the expo in the early afternoon, giving us enough time to pick up bibs for both races and catch up with our friends. Jennifer, Darlene, Callie and Tricia wanted to hear about our Zimbabwe trip with Marathon Adventures. I described the experience as being ‘everything I could have dreamed of on a trip to Africa. I’ve seen all I need to see, but I would go back in a heartbeat.’

We had dinner at the Bellwether. We have a break before the next Rock n Roll (Philly), so we started planning the back half of 2016. We have 9 more races after Chicago, three of them are non-Rock n Roll. And if everything goes as planned, we’ll be celebrating a big milestone in San Jose in October. All we had to do is get past the next two races and avoid getting sucked into Pokemon Go.

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Multi-tasking. Getting shoes cleaned and Pokemon Go-ing
On the good side, Pokemon led Al to see things he never has and that’s saying a lot!

Saturday, July 16th. 5K:
For whatever reason, I thought it’d be a good idea to set meeting places this weekend. In San Diego and Seattle, it felt like we were missing people by a minute or two. The good part about sitting in one spot for a few minutes is that you see most of the people you want to see and meet some new friends. I also have this theory that if you hold your phone up for a selfie long enough, everyone you know will magically appear behind you.

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The 5K course was much improved from last year. The start in the middle of the park gave the corrals more time to spread out as we went under East Randall, so we didn’t have as much congestion when we got to the lake shore path at the second mile. It didn’t get too hot and we were taking our time. I felt the ‘be in the moment’ bug hit me.

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Amy has gotten a lot of her family hooked on running now. We caught up to her at the 5K 5waiting for Team Heveran. Her mother, Jamie, would earn her 5-race Roadie medal on Sunday for the half.

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Just after we crossed the finish line, Dorcas let Al and me know that there was a family waiting for two friends to finish. A man in a wheelchair was waiting for his girlfriend and surprised her with an engagement ring. Ann was in the background not only calling the finish, but also narrating the whole proposal.

With the 5K done, I took a quick shower and board a shuttle to the McCormick Center for a different conference. Susan caught up on work. I restocked my Runner’s Multivitamin supply and picked up a few promo shirts from Callie for The Biggest Loser Race Series. TBL trainer, Dolvett will be appearing at the race in Chicago in a few weeks!

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I also picked up another Fitletic belt. After Vic Falls, I realized my phone and fuel no longer fit conveniently in the old belt. I’d also be using the extra loop to hold a tube of salt to ward of late race cramps. They have a good variety of belts with built in bib-holders, something that prevents me from checking my bib accidentally. Yes. That’s happened.

I took a 15 minute walk to catch the red line to the Cubs game. The Rangers were in town and this was only the fourth time in baseball history where two teams over .600 played in the month of July (according to Elias Bureau Stats). The bleacher seats were going for $250-300 on stub hub so I’m glad we got in. Zach, a pretty amazing story himself, joined us in the cheap seats in right center. Zach (center of the bleach pic) is vying for the top spot in the 2016 tour, having only missed the Mexico City half.

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Al and I spent four innings walking around the stadium. There’s so much to see in the park and we could watch the game on the dozens of TV’s in the food lines and stores. We tried to coordinate a meeting point with Jim and Drew for 15 minutes and finally gave up. Not one minute later, we ran into them. Maybe we just let the universe tell us where to go. We watched the last few innings in the standing room area down the right field line, listening to old video of Harry Carey singing ‘Take me out to the Ball Game’ for the seventh inning stretch.

The Cubs won the pitching duel 3 – 1. This will go down as one of my favorite “‘not part of the race’ race weekend pictures” of all time.

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Kamika joined us for dinner at Howells & Hood. Let’s just say “you had me at Butterscotch Bread Pudding”.

Sunday, July 17th. Half Marathon:
We went to bed Saturday night worried about the heat. When we woke up Sunday morning, we had a good cloud cover and the temps dropped about 10 degrees. Great, but the forecast pulled the possible storms in to 9 AM. We made a quick stop at the starting line for Susan’s usual picture and dropped off an early anniversary present for Ann and Peter.

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I ducked out to start the race with Kamika on the far side of the starting line. We watched the first five corrals start and I jumped back in so we could get a jump on the storms. Al served as surrogate group-selfie-taker.

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The course didn’t change much. I wrote off this race for speed but wanted to do some sprints to test the new salt routine. According to Garmin, my moving time was actually faster than my course PR from 2015. The pictures may have had something to do with it. We were enjoying the cooler weather with the cloud cover and occasional cool breeze.

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Susan mentioned that training for the full really helped her endurance and her higher run/walk ratio was doing wonders for her speed. Even though she took a dozen pictures and even went off course with us for the marquee sign picture, she ended up less than 20 seconds off her PR, breaking 2:30 for only the second time. We saw her ahead of us in the high-five tunnel at mile 9.

We started feeling the raindrops at mile 11. After we cleared the tunnel at McCormick, the lightning and thunder started off to the west. At mile 12.5, we heard announcements on the PA that the race was being suspended and we should seek shelter. All that went through my head was, damn, I’m glad we had a safety race for Hall of Fame.

Al, on the other hand, realized if this race were called before he got an official time, he would have to fit in Rock n Roll Montreal to keep his race count on track. Three of four thunderclaps later, we were both running for the finish line. I hope I didn’t look too awkward. The clock wasn’t running when we crossed, but Al got runner tracking updates on his phone, meaning we had officially finished. Big sigh of relief.

We cleared through the finisher chute to pick up our Headliner medals just as the downpour hit and we hid under the tent with Mindy and Ryan until it passed. Most of our friends prudently decided not to wait for us since packing wet clothes into your suitcases makes for icky unpacking later. Fortunately, the delay was short. Everyone was allowed to finish.

We met Jim, Beth, Joe, Karin and Valerie for lunch at the Purple Pig. This was a rare time when Beth wasn’t flooded with media requests for GetBackUp. We were there from 11 to about 2 ordering in shifts. I’m starting to realize that we may not have forever, so I wanted to take advantage of the time we share.

Time with family. Time with friends. Another set of bling on the way to the Hall of Fame. There are a lot things we run for.

Sometimes, you run for cover!

Don’t get all bent out of shape!

~//~

News from the Roads:
Kudos to Jim Diego for finishing his 50th state half marathon the other week in Missoula.  He performed several renditions of “Running State of Mind”, including one on the course. This is also his second trip to the Sun, the highest accomplishment possible as a Half Fanatic. He followed that up the following week with the Runners World Classic, completing the 5K, 10K and the half. I guess he’s going for a third round? Congrats, Jim! Jessica Claire also finished her 50th Rock n Roll half or full in Chicago, putting her in the top 20 according to my most certinaly incomplete and unofficial reccords. Sherry Ricker is the first to 300 Rock n Roll miles in 2016. She and Greg Heilers have a good shot at the all time record of 517.1 miles set by Dave DeNiere in 2012.

Rock n Roll Chicago is in it’s 8th year. There were 16,531 finishers in 2016 (11,059 in the half, 2,520 in the 10K and 2,952 in the Remix 5K), slightly down from last year’s total of 16,793. This is the 7th time we’ve done the race, missing only the inaugural year. It’s our most frequented races in the series. 

We have a few months before our next Rock n Roll (Philadelphia). If things go well,  I’d like to go after the PR I wasn’t ready for in San Diego. With Susan getting faster every week and feeling stronger, I have a feeling she’ll be doing the same. Our next tune up will be at The Biggest Loser Race Series half in Chicago in a few weeks.

The End of the Road – Rock n Roll Seattle 2016

I can’t believe our Peninsula Team in Training season is over. It feels like just yesterday we were meeting our team at the Oracle Bay Trail for the 3-mile kick off training. Now, months later, we’re in mid-June watching them take on Rock n Roll Seattle with one TNT Flex participant in Anchorage for the Mayor’s Marathon.

Seattle is a Saturday race with no Remix, so we go the quick weekend route and take a 2-hour nap on the early Friday flight. We weren’t pressed for time so we took advantage of the $3 one-way pass on the Link to downtown or the stadium. We were staying at the TNT hotel (Sheraton on 6th) and had time to drop off bags before heading for breakfast at Jimmy’s on 1st. Kamika brought us some hand-made leis from his backyard that smelled amazing!

“Everybody must get lei’d”

The expo opened at 11 AM. I had just time to grab bibs, pick up luggage tags and pins and say hi to Darlene, Jennifer, Ryan and Mindy. TourPass 2017 isn’t available yet, so we skip registering for Seattle 2017. We’ll be back for sure, but our pre-reg total is already about as much as last year’s pass!

I left Susan to shop as I went back to the 1 PM TNT Coach’s meeting. We got our zone assignments, but since I registered for the race before I knew I was coaching, I was going to be winging it. I was one of a half-dozen coaches who would be doing the half, doing a quick wardrobe change, then heading out to support participants. The course was new for 2016, but the local TNT chapter had a solid coverage plan in place. The participants were in good hands.

Susan and I caught a 3D showing of Finding Dory at the theater just a block from the hotel. The afternoon movie/stay off your feet routine is starting to become a tradition, especially with all the great movies coming out this year. I hear it started pouring when we were inside, so that was a bonus.

Friday matinees give you a good choice of seating!

The movie let out just in time for me to get to the set up for the TNT Inspiration Dinner. I only had a few things to drop off, so I was able to watch the slide show and see the names of the honorees from all the chapters. This is why we started. And this is why we keep coming back.


Much as I would have liked to spend time with our Team, I wanted to spend our 21st anniversary with my wife and some close friends. Originally we were going to just have a quiet dinner, but Al got a ping from David. He was back at Jimmy’s with Sherry, Jim, and Beth (who made the trip from Atlanta and hadn’t slept all day). Words simply cannot express how much I’ve come to appreciate the bond that has formed with our little group of RNR Gypsies.

We got to bed a little later than we usually do, especially for the kind of mileage I was thinking of doing – 13.1 for my race and another 9 to get to my 22 mile pre-marathon peak. The alarms were going off to meet the Team at 5:20 AM.

Saturday June 18th. Race Day
The 7 AM race start and the conservative TNT mindset put our wake up call at 4:30 AM, planning to meet the Team and leave the hotel at 5:45 AM.

Coach Meghan giving last-minute tips.

About half the group was going to walk the 1.2 miles to the start with the rest taking the monorail ride. The walk up to the starting line at the Space Needle was a good warm up and it looked like once again, we might luck out and miss the rain.

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Coach Hang and I were half of the Coaching Team for Peninsula this season

I was telling our team that we’ve done so many Rock n Roll races that we’ve become friends with a lot of the staff. This can be a mixed blessing. We got a wonderful message while at breakfast Friday that we were put on the VIP list as a gift for our anniversary. We were excited to take advantage of this given the weather and the quick change I’d need to make at gear check before going back out to support. VIP is also a good place to check in before the race with anyone we didn’t see at the expo.

Joe, Al, Drew, Susan and Ron. 
Michelle was off on a cruise, so Beth got the VIP hug.

At the start line, announcer Ann Wessling spotted Al in corral 7 and asked where Susan and I were since we were always together. Ann said we were probably somewhere making out since it was our anniversary. We were in corral 10 and made a point to stop in front of the stage for a good long kiss before crossing the starting line. I wish I had given my phone to someone to take the picture. Heh.

I stole the series of pictures below from Kamika. Someday I’m going to try standing on the other side of the starting line to watch everyone start.

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I kept my phone off for the half since I wasn’t sure how much power I’d need for the rest of the day. Seattle tends to be a recovery race for us after San Diego, but both Susan and I had great times. I walked in just over 2:29 and Susan finished just 6 minutes behind me. She hung out at the VIP area with Beth, Jim and Joe while I did the quick wardrobe change into TNT Coach green.

I admit, it was a real thrill to go back out there just to cheer people along. Following the course back out to the bridge let me catch a decent number of the half marathoners.

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And a handful of the marathoners. I actually turned to run with a few of them to give them the preview of the last two miles. I don’t know that much of what I said registered with them, but I know that in those last few miles, anything you can get to focus on is a good thing.

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I was able to catch everyone on our Peninsula team, too! The hardest part about that day was limiting my mileage. I only wanted to get 9 more miles in after the half, but by the time I got to the bridge, I was already at 9 miles.  I had to pace Carroll up the hill and let her go to wait for Hal and bring him to the finish line. Fortunately, Coaches Rudy and Tim were there to make sure we swept everyone home, TNT or not. Including the half, support miles and incidental miles going to and from the start and finish, I ended up with just over 33 miles that day. I think my peak mileage is taken care of.

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The dozen or so TNT Coaches escorted the last marathon finisher in to wrap up the event.

Our manager, Guy, made the trip up on his own dime and was waiting for us at the finish. Thanks go to CGI and especially Thao for making this an awesome day for our hard-working fundraisers.

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Christy, Guy, Melanie, Cathy, Thao and Hang. Thanks for a great season!

For the season, the Spring/Summer Peninsula team raised $43,708.  is the total for spring/summer Peninsula (RNR Seattle, TNT Your Way and Tinkerbell). Pen raised $27,432 for RNR Seattle alone. The total for all TNT chapters for Seattle was over $350,000 for the 135 participants. The Silicon Valley chapter (South Bay and Peninsula) had four of the top five fundraisers nationwide for the event.

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Carroll dedicated her race to Colleen, our honoree who passed away last month.  When I met Carroll at mile 22, she said that the light rain was Colleen’s tears of joy. Carroll was an absolute inspiration on the course, breaking her PR by 16 minutes.

Congratulations to first timers. Lauren finished her first half marathon and is already looking for her next race. She joined TNT because her mother finished her first race with Team. Flex participants Star and Mike also finished their first race. Star ran RNR Seattle Half and Mike is extending an Alaskan vacation after finishing the Mayors Marathon in Anchorage, one of our sentimental favorites. Big kilted kudos go out to our friend De Moe, finishing his 100th half and 50th state for half marathons, hitting these milestones in Anchorage as well.

This was the end of the season and the end of the road for TNT Spring 2016, but until we find the cure for cancer, the job isn’t done. I wish I hadn’t turned off my phone during the half because a few miles into the race I saw a shirt that had the following quote on the back.

“The end of one road is usually just the beginning of the next one”.

I guess it’s time to find another road.

Collecting Experiences – Rock n Roll San Diego 2016

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Photobomb by Diane Ehle. 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

And we’ll be collecting more memories.

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~//~

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

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

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


A Big Easy Race – RNR New Orleans 2016

Rock n Roll New Orleans is always a tough race to plan for, mainly because the date is based on Mardi Gras so it moves around every year. In 2015, we were in NOLA in late January. This year we’re racing in the last weekend of February. There’s also the matter of the unpredictable winter weather. Earlier this week, the southeast was getting hammered by tornadoes. The weekend was looking clear and mid-50’s when we took off, basically ideal racing conditions.

At least dealing with the weather would be easy!

This was also the race where our friend Joe Harris was coming back to the RNR circuit after surgery. Among our close friends, it seems we’ve seemed had a lot of health issues in the last few years. Statistics say 50-75% of runners get hurt every year, but few of these are the typical joint or muscle pains. I’m happy to say that every single one of us has bounced back to return to racing, something about the group energy that brings us motivation to GetBackUp! As a tribute, Al brainstormed the “VIP Joe 116 mile challenge.” Three of us ran or walked 116 miles in the month of February, one for every Rock n Roll race Joe has completed. Lisa Marie finished her 116 on Thursday.  Al and I hit 116 sometime in the last few miles of the half marathon on Sunday.

We took a late Friday flight in, landing right about when most of downtown NoLA was just coming to life. We skipped the festivities, but I heard George Melichar was putting on an aerobic dance party near his place on Camp. The lights from Canal Street were a peaceful backdrop to get some sleep.

On Saturday morning, we went through the expo pretty quickly – well, for us at least. We took about an hour and a half which is better than usual, and we somehow controlled our CGI swag spending for once. 2015 was the Year of the Half-Zip for Ron. This time, just the usual luggage tags and half marathon pins. This was the first time Al and Joe were able to see the 2015 Hall of Fame banner with pictures of everyone who finished 15 or more RNR half and full marathons last year. It’s really humbling to know so many people who made the Hall this year.

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Seeing Joe was a great lift. A lot of our group skipped out on RNR Arizona so it’s been over two and a half month since most of us had seen each other. Al surprised Joe with a brand new pair of his favorite racing compression pants. After running behind him for a while, he figured it was time to get a backup pair to prevent any on-course wardrobe malfunctions.

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Fortunately, he didn’t try them on right then and there.
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Susan thought up the idea of sending Joe a card for 30 days after his surgery. He ended up treating it like an Advent calendar, enjoying every day and getting motivated to get back to running.

We met up Rick, our friend from Nashville who we met a few years ago in St. Louis and headed off for beignets. Unlike most of the folks who took suggestions from the volunteers, we went to a smaller shop that didn’t have the hour long wait. The beignets were just as good.  We even stayed long enough for Kamika to check his Facebook feed and realize we were just down the street. Social media has it’s advantages.

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What you don’t see is the 5 orders we polished off before Kamika arrived.

We took a quick walk downtown to find some photo ops and ended up next to George Melichar’s house on camp. The hashtag banner will end up in a museum somewhere. I kept expecting him to appear on the balcony so we could throw him some beads. Heh.

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We found some good photo ops. Even in broad daylight, there’s a lot going on downtown.

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St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square was the inspiration for the 2016 race medal
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Really no idea what was going on here, but they were very enthusiastic about it.

I planned to push this race, knowing how flat the course was and having a decent month training, so Susan and I put our feet up at Canal Place for a showing of Deadpool. Probably not the kind of movie Susan was expecting, but it fit into the schedule before dinner.

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Parmesan popcorn, butternut squash spread and blood orange Italian soda. I wish we had these back home!

We joined Sherry, Joe, Al and birthday boy, Don for a quiet dinner at the 5 Fifty 5 on Canal. I’m starting to get out of the habit of taking pictures because I respect the time we spend together. Maybe I’m getting lazy?

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The view before bed.

The Sheraton was one of the Team Challenge hotels and our floor had a few dozen team members. We woke up to a row of doors decorated with motivational signs. The first time we were here, we were with Team in Training and one of those were on our door. Feels like we never left!

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Susan got out a little early to visit our gypsy friends at the Hilton, including local celeb, Geo. He’s got some big projects in the works this year. Stay tuned!

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Geo takes a Juan-inspired selfie.
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And apparently, Geo was really glad to see Dave. Either that or he was choking on a pre-race po-boy.

We started in corral 10 for a quick group selfie or 4. Drew is still not completely healed from the high ankle sprain the put him on a scooter in San Antonio. Rick was working through some nagging back issues. Sandy was gunning for a PR in her 3rd full marathon with Beth and Jim pacing her for the first half. Dave’s friend Jeff was running his first race of ANY distance. Probably the coolest thing about waiting in the corral was that every minute or so, someone else we knew showed up and it seemed like everyone had different objectives.

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The half course is seriously flat. Susan’s Fitbit actually measured zero flights of stairs for the event. I think there was a rise and fall of about 9 feet, but obvious hills were non-existent. The challenge for NOLA is the pavement. The first 8 miles are an out and back on the long curve of St. Charles and hugging the inside tangent put you on the canted gutter on the way out. While it was tempting to shorten the route, it put a lot of stress on my hips. There were a few diversions for road construction in the same place as 2015 and a few crosses over the railroad tracks. For whatever reason, I just couldn’t generate the kind of lift I was getting for the last few weeks. My Garmin data tells me my stride length shortened by 4 cm, translating into a 2.5 minute gap. The PR wasn’t happening this week, but I still walked in just over 2:25 – not bad for February.

It was sunny at the finish and we sat on the track at the City Park listening to headliners J. Roddy Walston and The Business. The beads in the picture below weren’t from a side trip down Bourbon Street, those are the lanyards for the medals. Those of you who’ve been reading our blog will recognize Carl Marino (top left), star of the Investigation Discovery Channel’s Homicide Hunter – Lt. Joe Kenda. It’s quite an addictive show and I’ve been binge watching them on treadmill workouts. His wife Ilona (bottom) has made a dozen appearances in various roles. This was the first time we’d seen her without the knee scooter that she used for almost half of last year.

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Jeff had a good first race, capping it off with a stogie. Joe was overflowing with gratitude for the friends he came back to see and being able to get back on the race circuit again. We had to catch the shuttle back to the hotel before Sandy and Sherry finished the full, but both did well. Sandy got that PR.

IMG_1493NOLA is likely going to be on our 2017 schedule seeing how there isn’t much else to do between mid January and March. If vacation time frees up a bit, we might spend the extra night and actually get to enjoy the city a bit more.

If nothing else, we’d go back for more beignets.

~//~

Rock n Roll New Orleans was run for the 7th time under the Rock n Roll name. This year there were 17,791 finishers. There were 3,625 in the full (median finish time 4:51), 11,553 in the half (2:27), 2,613 in the 10K (1:17). As noted earlier, the course is really damn flat, though by a few reports measured it being a bit long (13.2 miles by my Garmin). Unlike previous trips out, we didn’t have any rain around the weekend at all. Race day, as usual, was clear and sunny.

With only 2 RNR races down so far, John took time to upgrade the Pannell Report, adding some visual basic programming to make it easier to figure out who the Elite Heavy Medal leaders are after each weekend and also highlighting former Hall of Famers to see who is on track to repeat or three-peat. John is focusing on the Race 13.1 Series in his home state of North Carolina this year, but will be doing more than a handful of Rock n Rolls.

After NOLA, 464 participants (about 1.65% of the total number of finishers) have finished half or full marathons for both weekends. We’ll see how this shakes out after a busy March with seven races – DC, Dallas, Mexico City, San Francisco and Raleigh –  in the next two months.

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