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.


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


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

(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.

Thank you, Drew, for your selflessness, humor and optimism and letting us be there for your 100th half marathon last year.
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.

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.


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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.  

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.

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.

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. 


We are the Kings and Queens of Rock and Roll.

Long may we race!


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.

What Have We Learned?

I have a fondness for Richard Bach books that dates way back to college. I find that when I reach a big milestone or turning point I end up pulling some quotes from his books. It seems appropriate to do it now. There are a lot of lessons we’ve learned from our time racing with our friends. Here are just a few.

“Every person, all the events of your life are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you.”

1) Never be afraid to try something new. Also, upgrading to the latest tech feeds your inner geek.

2) Take care of your body, and it’ll take care of you.

3) You can never be too careful 😂

4) Always be prepared.

5) Generosity is a virtue. As is humility and kindness.

6) Petting a dog makes most thing better (even the dog).

7) You can be small in stature, but have a giant’s will and courage inside.

8) It can be a great achievement in itself to make someone else happy.


9) There is always the right attire for every occasion, especially at national monuments.


10) Capture your memories. Don’t forget to post and tag.


11) Don’t throw away your shot.


“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.” 


“True love stories never have endings.”

Thank you to all of our gypsy family who have made these last few years so memorable and to all the Black Sheep, Team in Training, Team Future, AACR, Biggest Loser, SportHooks, and CGI friends who’ve been with us every step of the way.  We hope to share the journey to 100… and beyond!

Quotes from  Richard Bach, Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah


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).


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

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.


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.


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.

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.

This was not our fastest race, mainly because we stopped to catch a Charizard at mile 2.6
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.


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.


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.


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.


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.