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.

Time and Perspective – RNR New Orleans 2018

Just about everyone I know says they don’t have enough time to do everything. There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

I would argue that people have enough time. I’ve seen some people accomplish amazing things with the same 24 hours a day that are given to all of us. What we don’t always have is enough perspective.

My parents moved into a continuing care retirement community last month. CCRC’s have a range of care options from independent living, assisted living and skilled nursing. With mom and dad in their early 80’s, they still have enough time to enjoy life but will be taken care of when needed. Other than the idea of leaving a home of 40 years and packing/selling/donating all the stuff they accumulated, helping them with the process made me look at things a different way.

After they were fully moved and started to settle in, it felt like a good time to reflect. It hit me that so many material objects we covet and hold on to are going to eventually be given away and that at some point, there will come a time where the life you live will have to change.

This brings us to New Orleans. We have 24 hours from landing to take off, a lot of people to see and a lot of beignets to eat!

Saturday, March 3rd. 3:00. Expo.

There was early facebook notice that the Hall of Fame banner still hadn’t been finished. It seems like a small thing to the new owners, but for a few friends who really worked hard to get to 15 last year, it was a big letdown. RNR knows this and said they’d make it right. I hope they do. That’s a memory and a picture that really made me feel good the first time we saw it in 2015. The posters up front did show a few familiar faces though – Barefoot Elvis, Kathrine Switzer and “Marathon Larry” Macon. All of them were in NoLa this year.

The race-themed gear was better in New Orleans, which I went out of the way to give the staff credit for. The shirts and hoodies with the list of participant names still doesn’t grab me as much as I thought it would. It looks like it’ll come out in a few washes, but I’d love to hear what people say. The race shirt was the neon green color that I might have worn back when I was in my mid 20’s playing volleyball. The design was so similar to Arizona that it was pretty much not going to make the annual closet clean out.

Two people were on our must-see list before 5 PM close. First was George Melichar, New Orleans resident and one of the biggest names in the Gay Games. This year he told us he’d converted from his specialty field and mid distance running events to, of all things, racewalking! He actually didn’t want to tell us until he finished a race without being disqualified for technique violations. He is also helping the New Orleans Track Club organize the Pride Run/Walk in September.

We had a long chat with Ann Wessling about her recovery from a broken jaw and the until recently secret news that she’s pregnant. Imagine making your living with your voice but having your jaw wired shut for 5 weeks. Then think about how hard it is to get nutrients through a liquid diet while trying to feed a growing life at the same time! She went through some dark times, and thanks everyone for the support while she healed. The 5K that morning was a good test for the 8 hours at the mic on Sunday.

Dinner that night was at Kingfish. Kamika made the race as part of a business trip and to see his friend Donna. We may not see him again until Seattle, which really bums me out. On the way back to the hotel, we swung by Sucre. The waitress described it as an adult dessert shop. I asked if she meant “grown up” instead of adult. This is New Orleans after all.

Sunday, March 4th. Half Marathon.

Staying at the Le Meridian hotel had the perk of being a block from the starting line. We rolled out of bed and heard Ann doing the pre-race announcements. We barely needed any extra layers with the temps in the mid 50’s for the short walk to gear check. What a great way to start a beautiful, clear race day!

Katherine Switzer, first woman to run the Boston Marathon, gave the crowd a pep talk before the gun. Amy S. met us in the corral on her way to her 50th state half marathon and we waited below the stage while corral 3 and the Black Sheep group went by. Amy H did a phenomenal job of organizing a 5 days of gifts countdown that Ann received just before NOLA. The last ONE should be in her hands when she got home.

We had an afternoon flight and a date with Cafe Beignet after the race. Seeing how I’ve not had a lot of time to train since, well, San Antonio in early December, I took this one easy and looked for photo ops.

One with Amy. We met her at The Biggest Loser Run/Walk Crown Point a few years back when she was half way through her quest to finish half marathons in 50 states. This July, she’ll finish the circuit in Washington.

The long out and back for the first 10 miles on St. Charles a great set up to see people. I caught up to Larry Macon. He’s up to 2030(ish) marathons – he’s basically lost count. A few minutes later, I passed Jim on the sidelines. He was sitting this out to support Beth so that she could pull even on Rock n Rolls on the way to their 100th at Raleigh in April.

This one’s for Drew. I didn’t pet ALL the dogs, but had to stop for this one. Somehow, I missed the pig.

On the turn back, one of the Team Challenge coaches pulled alongside me saying “you must be the world’s only pineapple-headed racewalker.” It took me a while to recognize Dave McGovern with the gator hat. But having a multi-time Olympian call me a race walker was kinda cool!

I wanted to keep up a decent pace, but about mile 6, I realize that the lack of training is hitting my knee, and badly. I did manage to catch up to Lindsay for the last 5K. She’s only doing a couple of Rock n Roll’s after making Hall of Fame in 2018, so I felt especially sad that there wasn’t a banner at the expo. Hopefully this picture doesn’t get flagged when I upload it to WordPress.

This was the 300th anniversary of the city of New Orleans. Rock n Roll has a bonus medal for anyone doing NOLA and San Antonio (also celebrating a tricentennial). Both of them are already on the schedule!

This wasn’t a stellar race. The idea that an MRI was in my near future was getting more certain as I trudged out of the finisher chute to the shuttles. I had a feeling if I took the detour across the finish line festival to the beer garden, I wouldn’t be able to get moving again. Fortunately, I had a good seat mate on the ride back who recognized my hat. We chatted about NOLA, how nice the weather was for the race and coming back in 2019.

The shuttle bus dropped us off a half mile from the hotel. I did catch a Corsola on the way back! PoGo players will get that. Shower, change, pack and roll. Cafe Beignet is a bit closer than the more well known Cafe Du Monde and we like the food better. Seating is a bit tight, the tables are big enough to hold 4 orders of beignets for 5 people. Yeah, I know. We’re missing an order.

This weekend was a microcosm of our life. When I knew going in that we had 22 hours on the ground and way more people were in the city than we had time to catch up with. When you have those kinds of restrictions, you have to make choices. Some people we’ll see again at DC, Dallas or San Francisco. Rather than have a few minutes with a lot of people, it was special to have a lot of time with a few. As for the race gear, I hope the SOTR shirt finds a good home as a donation.

Chalk up RNR number 2 for 2018 and 106 lifetime. Next up is D.C!

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.

14463195_10209997340587521_7453316143388398975_nDorcas was kind enough to surprise him with a commemorative Rock n Roll logo shirt, signed by the CGI staff. You don’t keep coming back to the same series 100 times unless the people behind the scenes are there to make it a good experience.

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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.

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

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


Heroes – RNR Nashville 2016

When I was young, heroes wore capes and masks. They were superhuman and did amazing things with unearthly powers. As I got older, I recognized heroes in other uniforms. They still did amazing things, laying down their lives for a higher cause, but they were just ordinary people. Now I see heroes all around me, making the world a better place, some just by going above and beyond, or just being who they are.

We flew into Nashville late Thursday afternoon. Better deals for a hotel closer to the airport offset car rental and parking. We didn’t land in time to get to the expo, so we hit McNamara’s Irish Pub for dinner with Al and Sherry. She hasn’t been home since Rock n Roll Madrid the previous weekend and Al has been traveling for business for nearly 3 weeks. The food was great. The Corned Beef Bites, Black and Tan Onion Rings and Potato Soup are specialties there and worth the drive out.

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Friday morning was expo day for us. Rock n Roll Nashville, otherwise known as the Country Music Marathon was our sixth race on the Rock n Roll circuit for 2016 and we may have it on as a permanent destination until we get tired of chasing the Hall of Fame medal. (Yeah, good luck on that). Nashville in late April is very unpredictable in terms of weather like last year where the forecast of thunderstorms disappeared the night before the race. The forecast this year was no different. Other than the Mustang 50th Anniversary half, we’ve never been even yellow-flagged for heat, but there were a lot of big cautionary signs for the runners on the way in. Beth and Jim were reporting snow in Denver. I’m not sure who got the better end of the deal.

Al was able to get in the day before which freed up his time while we did our rounds. It turned out to be a good thing because he got volunteered into helping out with a lot of tasks in Merch, Registration and VIP pickup as people got off work and the crowds came in for bib pick up. Even head of PR for CGI, Dan Cruz was pitching in to help. Volunteering and taking on whatever is asked of you. Hero status.

We did the usual ‘who’s here’ roll call at the Rock n Roll booth. We were missing Carl and Ilona. Even though their filming schedule put them in Tennessee late in the week, they were prepping for the Flying Pig Half in Cincinnati. Every one of the top 7 Rock n Rollers were ready to snag the Eight Track Heavy Medal. Hyalker added Nashville to his schedule this year in addition to the Mainly Marathons Independence series, so he’ll be finishing his 100th half marathon at RNR San Diego. Kamika was getting yet another double weekend in, doing Nashville on Saturday then flying to Iowa City to finish a half marathon in the last of the 50 states.

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Kamika has finished 100 full, 100 half marathons and done 7 halfs on 7 continents in just over 7 days. He’s finished marathons in all 50 states and was on his way to 50 half marathon states. Hero status in my book

On the way out, we ran into Tracy Sundlun who was talking to local radio personality Amy Paige from The Big 98. Amy was one of the many Heroes at RNR Nashville raising money for the St. Jude Children’s Hospital. As we were chatting, she refreshed her fundraising tracker app to see a big donation hit. Her team raised nearly $150,000 for the event.

No cape. Still a hero.

Tracy also asked me to send the spreadsheet we compiled last year of the people who’ve done the most Rock n Roll half and full marathons all time. It sounds like CGI is committed to celebrating these big milestones. We’re projecting three people running their 100th Rock n Roll this year and at least four in 2017.

We had pre-race dinner at Five Odd Fellows. We all picked up a half dozen palm-tree patterned windbreakers to wear in honor of Kamika’s 50th state half. Al had a beautiful custom bib made for Iowa City and thought ahead enough to make him a second one that could be kept clean to save or frame. He really enjoyed the card from Beth too. The drag bar back story refuses to die, it seems.

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We headed back to the Sheraton to lay out our race gear. Thanks to Beth for giving me the idea of not just dressing a chair. I planned to pour myself into my clothes and I’ll be ready in no time!
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Saturday April 30th: RNR Nashville Half (and some crazies doing the 5K!)
When we went to sleep the night before (left), it looked like our streak of weather luck might be coming to an end, but as we rolled out of bed (right), the rain and thunderstorms were moving into the late morning. This seems to happen every. single. time.

While we didn’t get much rain walking across the bridge from the Nissan Center to the start line. Sherry’s roommate Holy was headed to Flying Pig the next day for a weekend double. We were able to catch up with Jennifer and Blair fresh back from their honeymoon. After Vegas last year, storms in Nashville should be a piece of cake!

Sherry took off to find the start line for the 5K. Susan and I had a few minutes of dry weather to take some start line pictures. About 3 minutes later, we were caught in a squall that sent Susan and me running to shelter.

Even though the rain held off, the 6:45 AM start of the 5K kept getting pushed back. The 7:15 AM start for the half and full was under threat of thunderstorms with lightning strikes as close as 9 miles away. Fortunately, we were able to wait out a few squalls at the Honky Tonk a few blocks from the start. CGI set up the weather alerts by text and we waited until we had a confirmed start at 7:45. We’d likely be wet, but the rain actually kept the temperatures quite a bit cooler than we were expecting.

Just for grins, we hung out with Kamika on the other side of the starting line to watch the first few corrals take off. If you haven’t done this at a big race, I recommend doing it at least once!

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Start line picture with Ann Wessling. She was doing her best to stay dry. Some of the squalls knocked out power to the PA system
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On the far side of the start line, we saw Kamika in his natural habitat
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Off on the course, I run into Larry Macon. His latest marathon count is north of 1,600. Wow.
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One of the cool things about the 5K starting before the half and full was that I saw a lot of people I rarely see on loop courses. Amy snuck up behind me, followed by Greg,David and a few more.
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Keeping the theme of Heroes. The humidity must have been brutal in full turnouts.

For whatever reason, I just wasn’t feeling this was going to be a push race. Maybe it was the delayed start, the muggy weather or the wet pavement, but I was considering just slowing down early. I kept walking in the mid 11 minute miles through mile 10 until I passed Hailey. This was her first half marathon and she was limping along with IT band problems. After a few months of TNT conditioning, Coach Mode activated and I decided not to leave her alone. We gutted it out for the next two miles. It’s her first. It’s a PR.

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Not giving up when you had every reason to do so. This woman is a hero.

Susan continues on track as we prep for Victoria Falls and the 6 hour cutoff. She walked just about 2:50, give or take a few minutes catching up with Ann at the finish line.

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About the only real bummer about the weekend was having to take off early. This was one of the rare trips where we needed to catch an early flight. Hotel and airfare prices are starting to add up for 2016. Race number 6 and the Six String Heavy Medal goes into the backpack for the flight home.

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We keep talking about how our Rock n Roll Gypsy group keeps finding each other. It turns out that Kamika was taking Southwest to Midway so he could drive to Iowa City for his Sunday race. Tawni, Tamie, Al, Susan and I were all catching the same flight for connections. The weather ended up being pretty shaky, so maybe we got lucky for the flight.

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Or did we?

~//~

Rock n Roll Nashville is the third oldest race on the Rock n Roll Circuit. 2016 was the 17th running of the event. CGI added a 5K Music City Challenge where runners start 30 minutes before the half/full. The challenge was getting from the finish line at Nissan Stadium, back across the bridge to the start of the longer events – about a mile. With over 30 corrals, most of the challengers appear to have made it back. There were 24,216 total finishers (3,101 in the 5K, 18,147 in the half and 2,968 in the full). 

There were only slight changes to the course from last year, mainly in the first 5k. While we heard quite a few gripes about hills, total elevation gain/loss of 530/590 feet is less than RNR Raleigh (646/632) or RNR San Francisco (1310/1380).  Weather, once again, was the wild card for this race. If you come, pack everything.

Nice side note. Five couples got engaged at the finish line at Nashville. All five proposals were accepted. We saw a couple who were going to be married on May 22nd running with matching back bibs. We figured if they could get through a full marathon together, marriage would be a breeze.

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