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.
There’s something to be said about home town races. It’s even better if you have two of them.
I finished work early on Friday for Rock n Roll San Francisco weekend. I swiped my Clipper card at the Pleasanton Bart station and set off to the city. This was our first 5-year Legacy for any race. I always stand on the train out of habit, even though there were tons of open seats. Coming up from the stairs at the north end of the Embarcadero Station I felt the cool drizzle of a San Francisco spring. The Rock n Roll rain jacket was just what I needed.
On the way to the expo, I ran into one of my marathon heroes, Tony “Endorphin Dude” Nguyen. He was in his last few weeks of training before American River 50. I also saw Audrey, a former coworker. She was doing an half Ironman two weeks later. California life means you run into people you know in the middle of a big city doing healthy stuff like that.
This year the expo was at Pier 35 instead of Moscone and the longshore feel was a nice change of pace. I picked up my bib and the Legacy Runner swag – a vanity bib and a disposable shopping bag. I guess that goes with the environmental mindset of the area, but seeing the same bags hanging up for purchase for $2 at the expo was a little disappointing. We’ve been TourPass holders since 2011, and we haven’t spent that much on race entries, so we’ll look forward to a 10-year Legacy in 2022, assuming we last that long.
We had a few more additions to the Rock n Roll Peanut Gallery. We were especially happy to give Ann two pairs of matching socks (one for the new addition to their family). The expo closed up at 7 and we caught the train home.
Saturday, March 25th 8 AM ish: I kissed my wife goodbye as she dropped me off at the train station, scratching the dogs on the head as I lifted my backpack out of the back seat. Even though check-in at the Inn at the Opera was at 3PM, I wanted to spend the morning with my older brother. San Francisco is a Pokemon Go paradise so we spent few hours of hunting during the Niantic water event before lunch at Gott’s. Besides, I wanted him to see the Hall of Fame Banner at the Expo, hoping he’d be impressed enough to want to come down to San Jose in October. By 2:30 he’d caught enough Magikarp for another Gyarados. Players get it.
Al called from the Bay Bridge just as Gary left, right in the middle of Friday afternoon traffic. After dropping stuff off at the hotel, we headed back to the expo for his bib. A few hundred yards from Pier 35, I jumped out of his car and ran a block to catch a Lapras (again, players get this). A few of the Gypsies and Black Sheep were trickling in as we got later in the day.
We had dinner with Gary and Susan at Il Borgo. It’s one of those family owned Italian restaurants with seating for maybe 30 total where the bake the bread fresh every half hour. It’s worth the walk.
On the way back to the hotel, city hall was lit up with Rock n Roll red. Ann said something about “Red skies at night, runners delight.” This was definitely a good sign for Sunday.
Sunday, March 26th, Half Marathon
Thanks to the tip from Amy and Greg in Dallas, we got into the United VIP lounge. They moved the starting line off the Great Highway about 3/4th of a mile into Golden Gate
Park, but United chose to have their lounge at the Beach Chalet. I think it was a good choice. We had no trouble getting Uber to drop us off and it has plenty of space and decent bathrooms (supplemented by the heated trailer rooms). Flight attendants were doing their best to make us feel comfortable with a good breakfast spread, the handy United buffs and charcoal hand warmers. United even provided a shuttle to the starting line. We were among the last to board.
The start line in 2017 was located near the Bison paddock on John F Kennedy. It was eerily quiet because of the noise ordinances in the park – no music and barely any light other than the start line. Ann even had to keep her voice down for the corral send offs (which must be excruciating for her). She was sporting some cool new socks though.
They changed the course slightly in 2017. The first mile was different than last year’s course. There wasn’t the steep hill up Balboa in the first quarter mile, but it was quite a bit more crowded, forcing us to a slower pace initially. Other than that and the Haight Street Selfie Station, the main objective for us mid-packers was to get to the Golden Gate Bridge in time to come back on the road bed (about 1:10 for the first 5.7 miles give or take).
Even with that time in mind, I still had to take time at the Blue Mile, this time on the climb up Lincoln. This is the most challenging part of RNR SF, a half mile 3% grade followed by a half mile 7% grade. The motivation is the pictures and flags on the left. The reward is the view from the top.
I’m a huge fan of out and back stretches, especially in the Rock n Roll races. This one was 2 miles long. I saw a lot of faster friends heading back. Those who come back on the sidewalk actually get a better view of the city, but it’s quite a bit narrower.
Susan was coming into the Vista Point turn as I was heading out, so I camped out and waited for her so we could head back on the bridge together. We’d done that for the last 4 years, why stop now?
Anyway, if I didn’t wait for her, we wouldn’t have taken this picture. It may have been a lot more awkward with someone else. Heh.
The last five miles we just chatted away, passing all the places we trained when we started racing in 2005. The turn up the last long hill on Polk Street put me right on the edge of my heart rate zone. I guess leaving that in San Francisco seemed pretty appropriate. The finish line pictures always seem better when we finish together.
Post race VIP at United was just as good as pre-race. We got our medals engraved free (my time says “finished”) and there were a good selection of sandwiches, brunch food including meat and veggie frittatas, nuts, popcorn and as much beer and soda as you wanted. If United sponsored another VIP, I’d be quick to sign up.
We didn’t have a flight to catch. Our timeshare was reserved for two nights so we didn’t even have to rush out of town. We shared dinner with a bunch of Black Sheep on a surfboard at the Wipeout Bar and Grill, talking about where we were going to see each other next. No surprise – next week at Raleigh. After driving through the night and arriving just a few hours before the start, Hollie caught the 1 in 8000 shiny Magikarp. I guess some things go right.
The Bart ride home was a little more crowded. We still found seats together with our roll on suitcases. Out of pocket expenses for the weekend was basically food, $12 each for train fares and maybe $20 for Uber rides. In one of the most expensive places to live and work in the US, this was one of our cheapest.
We don’t really do many home town races, but we like this one enough to want to come back every year. As long as the skies stay red, it’ll be a delight for us.
Rock n Roll San Francisco is in its 5th year under the CGI brand name. It was formerly the San Francisco Half Marathon. In year 2, the course changed from an out and back from the Marina Green to a point to point starting on the Great Highway. Short of a few bus box upgrades and the starting line change in 2017, the course is more or less the same. Participation still looks strong as the race sold out for the fifth year in a row.
San Francisco was our 5th Rock n Roll of 2017, earning us the new Roadie Medal with the opening trunk. This is my favorite so far of the redesigned Heavy Medal series. We’re among the 51 sitting with 5 races. Another 15 people did the Tex2Mex double and earned their Six String medal. I’ll have to check, but I believe we have more people than last year who have run the table (so to speak) through 6 weekends.
It goes without saying we’ll be back for RNR SF 2018. Next up, Raleigh!
There are some morning when you wake up and I have no idea what the day is going to bring. There are possibilities of making new friends. Possibilities of making a difference. Possibilities of carrying a symbol of your country for a short while as it makes its way on a 4,216 mile journey that is the Old Glory Relay.
Just getting on the road, I feel the wind in my face and the sun starting to warm the morning air. I feel alive. It’s like I could go all day.
The banter makes the time pass quickly. We run the first leg together, knowing that we still have another 45 miles to go before we’re done today. One step at a time. It’s how we’ve always gotten through things.
The first leg ends and 38 miles of solo segments start. Things hum along. Al’s got the plan laid out for us, taking a lot of the stress off the group. We just need to keep the flag going.
Angela covered the 16 mile bike leg, giving us a good buffer to get to the finish point in downtown San Francisco by 3:30 pm. She had actually done a bike leg the day before to bring the flag into Santa Rosa. There were a lot of people who were taking multiple days off to make this chain complete. It’s that important.
I took the third leg. I thought about a lot of things along the way. I wasn’t born a US citizen, but became one when my father brought us to this country. He had $400 in his pocket and five weeks to find a job. Nearly 50 years later, I proudly carry my country’s flag for five miles down neighborhoods and frontage roads along highway 101.
I pass to Keith next. He passes to Tom, who passes to Jonathan. Jonathan’s leg ends at the ferry terminal in Sausalito, but for the last mile, he’s joined by Fiona. This July, Fiona became a US citizen. She did this so that she could vote in the upcoming election. One more voice in the melting pot of America.
Thanks to the smooth hand-offs, we’re a bit ahead of schedule, giving us time to take in a fairly glorious day.
Michelle took the next leg up the hills to the Vista Point lookout. The Sacramento chapter met up with the San Francisco Chapter and the larger group took Old Glory across the Golden Gate Bridge and down into the Marina Green. It was a beautiful 5 mile stretch that I’ve done many times with other groups. For some reason, this one was different.
I think a lot of people didn’t know what to make of a group of runners in red shirts, but we had dozens of people honk at us, rolling down their windows to cheer. The event isn’t well publicized, but at Friday afternoon in 3:30 traffic, it’s hard to miss the colors going by.
The relay would go on for another 45 days, but our time in the event was almost over. I’d lost track of how many miles I actually ran by this point. It didn’t seem like a lot for some reason.
We rested for about 15 minutes at the Marina Green. One of our sponsors from Salesforce.com arranged to have a police escort to clear the roads for us to the downtown office, knowing that the traffic could slow us to a crawl otherwise. We were grateful for their thoughtful planning.
The last leg was a little over 5K. By now the group had grown to nearly 30, a mix of veterans, active duty and civilians.
At the end of the route, Al remembered to thank the men who cleared the way for us. Thanks to them we were safe.
Inside at the reception, before the flag was retired for the night, Al was asked to say a few words as the day’s team captain. I’d know that he was well spoken, but I’d never heard him talk about his military service. He told me that a lot of people don’t like to talk about their experiences, but with this crowd, it meant something to recognize how it feels.
Team RWB’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. The Old Glory Relay is scheduled to finish in Tampa on November 11th. There is still a chance to sign up to participate, or to donate to Team RWB (or our team specifically here).
Thank you to my friends, Julia and Anu and my wife Susan for their generous donations.