Monday, March 28, 2016

On the Move

We're going to be moving the Marathoning for Life blog posts over to a new site at WordPress. We've already posted the Rock n Roll New Orleans, DC and Dallas blogs and will work on slowly migrating the rest of the older blogs there. 

We'll keep the URL and eventually point it to the WordPress site, hopefully sooner rather than later. 

Thanks so much for joining us on our journey. Remember it's never too late to choose a different future!

- Susan and Ron

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Character Building

I remember reading old Calvin and Hobbes comics. Every time Calvin was sent outside to shovel snow or wait in the rain for the school bus, his father referred to it as an opportunity for 'building character'.  This is the kind of stuff that comes to mind when I arrive at Wednesday night track practice to see this:

We're pretty spoiled in California when it comes to weather. We're also in a four-year drought, so it's hard to complain about any amount of rain we get. At the end of training, the crosswind drove the rain horizontal. We only had four participants get to Woodside this week to do a modified circuit training workout, doing strength exercises under a small overhang near the restrooms. Each of them got some Rock n Roll Marathon swag for being brave enough to show up. That's a building block for a strong season. They also will be prepared if it rains on race day.

Yesterday before our 4 - 6 mile training, Patty Rodriguez spoke for our Mission Moment. She's a two time cancer survivor. I met Patty in the first few miles of the Hot Chocolate 15K in January. She's got an amazing outlook on life. It inspires me to think about all the things that other people overcome just to wake up, get to training to run, walk or cheer.

Three weeks of coached training and so far so good. This weekend, the participants are on their own for 4 - 6 miles or 1 - 2 hours depending on their event.

On the Roads:
Character can be displayed by determination, like the teammates that showed up last week. It can manifest itself in determination like Shalane Flanagan at last week's marathon Olympic Trials. Shalane paced training partner Amy Cragg for 24 miles before dehydration slowed her enough for Desiree Linden to pass her with less than a mile left. Shalane was able to hold off Kara Goucher for the final spot on the 2016 Rio Olympic team. On the men's side, 10K specialist Galen Rupp, won in impressive fashion, joining Meb Keflezighi and Jared Ward to represent the USA. This was the first time we watched the trials, having had the privilege to meet many of the Olympic hopefuls over the last few years. Being able to have this kind of connection is one of the things that makes the sport great.

The day after trials, our friend Jessica V. ran the Skechers LA Marathon in just under 4.5 hours. The story here was that she was running on serious expo legs as the week before the LA Marathon, she was one of the organizers of the event. She ran her first half marathon less than five years ago and now was responsible for one of the best organized race events of the year by all reports. Her boss told her she was nuts running the marathon on Sunday. For Jessica, "Nuts" is just another day at the office.

This weekend were the Olympic race walk trials. In 2013, at the Moscow World Championship, John Nunn finished dead last, in pain with every step, but didn't quit. Something about representing his country pushed him to finish, regardless of the time. The tight-knit race walk community watched and agonized with him for every step.  This weekend, Nunn fought off a flu bug to win the men's 50K in a personal best 4:03:21, qualifying for his third games. Heart and dedication pays off.

Also finishing up this weekend was the three-day Florida Ultraman - 6.2 mile swim, 261.4 mile bike, 52.4 mile run. Jessica D. won the women's division, finishing 10th overall, setting a few course records along the way. We've watched one IRONMAN event. I can't imagine the amount of extra preparation the Ultraman would take.

Character. It's all around us. You recognize it when you see it. People show it through their words or actions and for the most part, they don't do it for recognition, they do it because that's who they are.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some knots that need some foam rolling. I need to be ready for our next character building event.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Goals, Tools and Missions - Peninsula TNT Summer Team Week 1

When we started this blog, "Marathoning for Life" was a goal. We want to race as long as we are physically able and still have passion for the sport. The title also came to reflect how we use marathoning as a tool to keep us healthier.  

Last week I was reminded that the title is also a mission. The reason we started marathoning was to raise money for Team in Training. Marathoning for us was literally saving lives.

Our Summer season kicked off for the Peninsula team last Wednesday. Our first regional training on Saturday was a quick 30 minute out and back on the Oracle Bay Trail where we got to know the dozen participants we have training for the Tinkerbell Half marathon and Rock n Roll Seattle half and full. 

Training Captain Cathy had an early start marking mileage.

Pre-training words from our team manager, Guy.
I chatted with each of the team members on the trail. Hal was a long time TNT veteran whose goal is to improve on his PR for the Seattle full. Nick has done a couple of half marathons and is recovering from a torn hip flexor, so he'll be staying on the flatter course at Tink. Lauren has done a few 5K's and her mother was a TNT alum who had a great season and recommended that Lauren join. Yuli, another first timer, told me he'd never run more than 1.5K in his life. Saturday's training was officially the longest he'd ever run! We have a few teammates coming back after a few years off like Robin, Andrea and Vickie and some recent alum like Kelly, Valerie and Paul. I hope to get to chat more with them as the season goes on. 

Our honoree speaker was Minnie. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 diffuse large B Cell lymphoma when she was six months pregnant. MRI's confirmed several tumors throughout her body. In the past, if the cancer was caught in the first trimester, the diagnosis would have leaned toward aborting the pregnancy, but medicine had matured in the last 20 years thanks in part to LLS funds. Minnie underwent a modified chemotherapy and she delivered a healthy son, Keiron. Shortly after his birth, doctors found tumors in her kidneys and brain, prompting radiation and more chemotherapy.

Minnie's story has a happy ending. She came through with some short-term memory loss, but has now been in remission for six years with an amazing outlook on life. Read more about her recovery on this article at the Stanford Medicine site.

We had our gear clinic at Road Runner Sports in San Carlos and a went for a post-training breakfast at Hobee's. This season's team is smaller than I'm used to, but so far with the new coaching team things are running pretty smoothly. I'm looking forward to our next track workout Wednesday where we'll start working on technique.


News from the Road:
The Z Adventures - Cruise Marathons group finished another multi-stop event this weekend. About 30 participants ran races in 7 countries at the full, half, 10k and 5k distances. The medals were wedge-shaped and together formed a larger circle. Reviews so far have been positive. White Continent/Punta Arenas alum Tee, Brent and Kamika checked off more countries on their long list of races. 

Also concluding this week was the Marathon Expedition Caribbean Running Cruise. Congrats to Jennifer and Blair, and to John and Jenny for another successful event. Other races for your bucket list this weekend include the Daytona Half Marathon (thanks Tawni for the cool video from the track!) and the 20th anniversary of the Surf City Half and Full marathon (congrats to Stephanie, Melinda, Leah, Jessica, Adrian, Kevin and Jennifer).

100 Half Marathon Club president Jenipher finished her 100th Half Marathon at the Go Hard or Go Home Half in Prospect Park, New York. Congratulations, Jenipher!

We're a month into 2016 and working on two challenges. Susan and I joined Kara Goucher's Run The Year 2016 challenge, targeting 2,016 miles in the year. I'm counting miles from walking around at work (incidental mileage too) so to be safe, I'm shooting for about 2700 miles for the year to clear a 2 mile/day baseline. With a bit over 279 miles through February 7th, things are looking good.

Al, Lisa Marie, Tawni and I are also doing the VIP Joe Challenge in honor of our friend Joe Harris. He underwent surgery after RNR San Antonio and is back on the roads prepping for RNR New Orleans. Joe is the all-time leader for Rock n Roll races completed at 116. The four of use are shooting to finish 116 miles each in February, one for each race Joe has completed. I'm only counting "intentional" workout miles for this one. I'm just over 24 miles for February, so I'll need to step it up a bit.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

When I Grow Up, I Want to be Just Like Nancy

Our friend/mentor/captain, Nancy, celebrates her 80th birthday this year. Friends and family convened to celebrate this milestone and more importantly, a transition into a new age group! Watch out runners, this endurance athlete walker is going to give you some new competition.

In anticipation for her birthday party, she posted, “Oh I'm getting worried. Tomorrow my two families are going to meet! My children are going to meet the people with whom I act like I'm a youngster. Gonna be some shocked people, I'm thinking!” We ALL love you Nancy just the way you are! Walking in the door at the birthday party, I complimented Nancy on the new hairdo. “I like the tufts of purple, Nancy!” 

“It’s actually raspberry. Purple is for old ladies.” 

Nancy with her first TNT Mentor, Tim
That in a nutshell sums up Nancy. She may have been the oldest person at her own birthday party but her spirit and positive attitude toward life makes her seem younger than everyone around her.

Nancy and her three children, Cindy, Bob and Boyd. When their family gets together and someone asks 'who's the youngest?', they all point to their mom.
Ron met Nancy at Clorox 16 years ago where she was working as an on-site nurse. They were both members of Diamond Toastmasters and Nancy gave a speech to the club about fundraising for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society (LLS) through Team in Training (TNT). In exchange for raising several thousand dollars, TNT coaches train you to complete a half or full marathon. 

Nancy signed up for TNT when she turned 65. Tim was Nancy’s mentor her first season with TNT in 2001. Nancy was Ron’s mentor his first season with TNT in 2005. Ron was Susan’s mentor her first season with TNT in 2006. We affectionately call Tim our great-grandmentor (he hates the term but I’m sure he appreciates the legacy).

Four Generations of Team in Training Participants
Tim Yagle, Nancy Ryder, Ron Carino, Susan Carino (from left to right)
Clorox has a generous charity matching, making it easier and less intimidating to fundraise. Her first marathon event was the Mayor’s Midnight Sun marathon and since then she’s made 6 trips to Anchorage, Alaska, finishing five full and one half marathon. That season they were headed to Anchorage again. Ron, always happy to help a worthy cause, joined the Team. I laughed at him, being the oh so supportive wife that I am. I told him that there was no way he could complete a marathon with his bad knees. Here’s the catch – Nancy was a mentor on the marathon Walk Team. Ron decided he would walk a marathon, help a worthy cause, and check off 'eating a meal in all 50 states' at the same time. We’ve both come such a long way since then. 

This was taken during a race in Anchorage in either 2005 or 2006. We've all lost track.
Nancy quickly adopted me even though I chose not to fundraise for TNT that season. I occasionally came to trainings as an observer with my friend Wendy. She and I had decided to train for the half marathon in Anchorage because we were only half crazy. However, once we reached 13 miles it seemed too easy so we kept training for the full 26.2 miles.

Fast forward six months, on June 17, 2005 Ron and I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary with Nancy and Wendy with breakfast (a meal in Alaska) at Safeway in Seward before going on a most memorable cruise seeing whales and getting dive-bombed by puffins. The marathon was more challenging than we expected. It was cold, wet, and windy. Yet, all of us on the team completed the event forging lifelong friendships along the way. We have several memorable trips including RNR Savannah 2010 and a full marathon at Mount Desert Island (Bar Harbor, Maine) with our friend Michelle.

Michelle passed away in 2010, but not before we got her to finish her first full marathon.
I no longer laugh at Ron for wanting to do a marathon and we’re planning to complete half marathons in all 50 states someday. Well, I guess Ron will also end up eating a meal in all 50 states again but at least this time he’ll have earned the calories.

So what makes Nancy so special to us? Besides being someone who we admire, respect, and are in awe of for who she is as a person. Even Nancy’s doctor is jealous of her and how strong her heart is. She puts new meaning into being young at heart.

Personalities can be broken down into the four elements – Earth, Air, Water, and Fire. Nancy is the WATER personality type. Not just because she fondly gives out epsom salts to all her TNT mentees for the ice bath after the race. Symbolically though her heart is her guide in everything she does, and she is very attuned to other people’s experiences. Nancy doesn’t dwell on the past. She doesn’t live with regrets. She doesn’t focus on the negative things in life. Instead, she focuses on the future and how she can help others. True to her profession as a nurse, she puts others ahead of herself.

Take for example, a race in Monterey, CA a few years back. People often ask me what my favorite local race is and I always recommend the Big Sur Half Marathon on Monterey Bay in November. The course is flat, scenic along the ocean, and the hand crafted medal is unique, though fragile. Nancy and I raced together several times and one year, Nancy was having a particularly difficult race. We finished together beyond the 3.5 hour cut off after the finish line had been torn down. It wasn’t until she told me that she had given blood the day before to the event that we realized why she was struggling. (Note to the readers, don’t give blood at least a week prior or a week after an endurance event.) You need all your blood for strength to endure and recover! But true to Nancy’s character, she was giving to others first before thinking of herself.

Fellow TNTer Roz put together the Nancy Quiz at the birthday party - 20 questions about Nancy’s life. All of us struggled with the answers (except maybe her daughter Cindy and two sons Bob and Boyd). Of course they debated a few of the answers but we let Nancy be the final authority about her own life. Even after spending hours walking with her, we learned a lot more that we never even knew about!

During the Quiz we learned that 50 of the 52 weekends in 2015, she was either participating in a race, volunteering at a race, or out actively training. Nancy was the first person we knew who broke an unspoken TNT training rule: you need three to four months to train for a half marathon and at least six months to adequate train for a full marathon. We stuck to this schedule for the first two years, completing each event six months apart. 

Rebel Nancy however was known to do more than one race every few months. If fact, she often did more than one race in a weekend. Her reputation raised a few eyebrows among TNT coaches but it opened our eyes to another approach to marathoning. Instead of training every weekend and completing long miles either alone without support, in a small mentoring group, or with the full team, you can get your mileage in at a race. The caveat is that you treat the race like a training event rather than another opportunity for a personal record (PR). Striving for a PR every six months or so is still good advice. Nancy broke the mold and is living proof that you can be active and healthy into your 80’s.

Nancy is young at heart and living proof that attitude is everything. 

We want to be like Nancy when we grow up.


If Nancy inspires you as much as she inspired us, please consider a donation to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for support of research and financial assistance of patients at her web page ( She'll be headed to Alaska this June for a second half marathon, her seventh race there and an well more than 100 since turning 65. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Full Circle - Pre Season warm up for Team in Training Spring 2016

There's something comforting about track workouts in winter. The distances are defined. At the right place, the lights come on and this night, I had the the Woodside High School track to myself. The high school soccer team was using the field. I could stay as long as the lights stayed.

Eleven years ago, I joined Team in Training. In exchange for raising $5000, they would train me to walk a marathon. We had a coach who'd been an Olympic and Pan American Games race walker. I remember showing up the first day in cheap running shoes, cotton sweatpants and sweatshirt and a hiking belt pouch that held two 20oz plastic bottles for a 45 minute walk at the Presidio. It was the end of January during a particularly excessive eating season and I was pushing my heaviest weight of my life. Two hours later, after a basic gear clinic, I left with a pair of Saucony Grid Stabil motion-control shoes, a long sleeve white quarter zip shirt and long grey Munich pants. Looking back, I probably looked like an mid-1970's weekend warrior type. 

The second week we were at a track learning good marathon walk form. Our first timed mile made my shins burn and I think I finished around 14:30. Coach Tom said that this is an indication of how fast you'll be able to sustain your marathon pace once you go through the season, get stronger and fitter.  I chose to believe every word he said. This is something I wanted to do. This was a bucket list item. It was supposed to be one and done.

Come race day in Anchorage, it was pouring rain, pretty much the entire race. I walked my first marathon in 6:23, right about the pace that Coach Tom said I would. What struck me about the journey was a lady at mile 24.  According to the veterans, her name was Faith. She stood at that same spot, cheering on the full marathoner for 9 hours, rain or shine, holding a sign saying "Thank you from a Cancer Survivor".  

It took me until that point, nearly 5 and a half months into the season, to realize why this was so important. This wasn't about me, my time or my bucket list. This was about a bigger cause. The money I raised went to support research, education and patient services for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma. It went to help people like Faith. The mission meant enough to me that I came back every season for the next 5 years.

We've done a lot since that first year. We've upgraded gear, gotten faster and healthier. But even with all the races we've done in the last three years, the milestones we've crossed, the countries and continents we've visited, I started feeling like something was missing. This year I'm going to get that spark back. It's not the reason I started racing, but it was the reason we kept going back year after year.

I've joined the coaching team for the Peninsula Chapter of Team in Training for Spring 2016. We'll be training runners and walkers for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon and Rock n Roll Seattle Half and Full Marathons this season. If you're on the Peninsula or in the South Bay and are interested in joining us, please let me know. We'll be back at Woodside next Wednesday, February 3rd at 6:15 PM for kick off.

Maybe this is on your bucket list. Maybe you want to meet new people or get into a healthier lifestyle. Or maybe you've been away for a while and just want to get back in the swing of things. Whatever the reason, we'll make sure this season is one to remember.

Back at Woodside, the soccer team was just starting to go into break away drills as I was finishing my workout. I'm well below that first 14:30 mile these days and I'd like to think I have a few years left in me before I can't set PR's anymore. Treadmills are great to monitor pace, but there's something about being out on a track that's that much closer to real racing.  

Tonight, I wasn't doing laps.

I was coming full circle.

Team In Training (TNT) is the flagship fundraising program for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) and the only endurance sports training program for charity that raises money for blood cancer research. TNT and LLS are changing the landscape of blood cancer, not someday but today, making TNT the perfect way to fundraise.
Your time is now.
It doesn't matter if you're not an athlete or in perfect shape. Our coaches will train you to cross the finish line at a marathonhalf marathoncycling eventtriathlon or hike adventure. Saving lives isn't about being the best, it's about being the best you can be when helping save lives.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Inspired by Greatness. Humbled by Humility - National Black Marathoners Association Induction Celebration

On December 12, 2015 the National Black Marathoners Association (NBMA) inducted nine marathoners and ultramathoners as 2015 Hall of Fame Honorees – three of whom we have the privilege to know. The official annual summit and hall of fame banquet took place in Dallas, TX and several of our friends flew to Dallas for the event. A committee of eight led by two highly dedicated individuals, Rudy and Laura, coordinated a local celebration at the Lake Merritt Boat House on January 24, 2016 so that the rest of us could honor their accomplishments.

Founded in 2004, the NBMA is a not-for-profit organization that encourages Black Americans to pursue a healthy lifestyle through running and walking. The National Black Distance Runner Hall of Fame honors athletes in three categories. The Trail Blazer and Distance Runner awards recognize lifetime runners who have demonstrated not only athletic performance but have also made an overall contribution of the sport of long distance running.  The third Hall of Fame category is the Running Community Service Award. This award recognizes lifetime volunteer service over a period of at least fifteen years to the running community. Community involvement includes financial donations, scholarship programs, youth programs, volunteer support, and developing relationships that benefit the mission of the club.

Mebrahtom "Meb" Keflezighi

Meb received the silver medal in the 2008 Olympic Marathon and won the 2009 New York City Marathon and the 2014 Boston Marathon. A tribute to his character, Meb carried the names of the victims of the 2013 Boston marathon bombings with him during the 2014 race. Meb became the first American citizen to win the race in over 30 years and at 38 years old, the oldest individual to win the race since 1931. Read more at  Rock n Roll's site here.

We have crossed paths with Meb on the Rock ‘n’ Roll circuit in his role as the VP of Running for Competitor Group, Inc. Not only is he an inspirational motivational speaker he has made himself quite accessible to those around him. We were on the same Southwest plane with Meb in 2014 headed to San Antonio, TX. I built up enough courage to ask him for a photo in the airport which he graciously posed for with us.

This year in San Antonio, during the 10k RNR race on Saturday, December 5, Meb doubled back to personally encourage the runners behind him. He was also waiting near the finish line at the half and full marathon the next day cheering on the finishers.  What a great ambassador for not only the RNR series but for running in general.

Lisa Felder

This NBMA trailblazer has completed over 300 marathons and 111 ultramarathons. Mama Lisa coached the East Bay Team in Training (TNT) run team for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) from 1998 through 2009. She launched the first ever TNT Ultra Team in 2009.

Coach Lisa earned the nickname Mama Lisa from a TNT participant who after assessing the spread of clothes, shoes, gear, food, etc. that she laid out for the team, he explained, “You’re more than our coach! You’re our mama!” The name stuck and that’s what we all affectionately call her.

Her story begins as a 238 lb mother who started walking around the soccer field to keep warm while watching her son play soccer. The first race she ever participated in was the Bay to Breakers. She completed her first marathon in just over three hours at the San Francisco marathon. Her personal passion for running, especially ultrarunning, is highly infectious. She has single handedly inspired almost all of the ultrarunners on the East Bay and became the most knowledgeable coach we’ve ever known to diagnose aggravations and address running injuries. She gives herself tirelessly to the cause. The story highlighting her dedication was begging people to break her out of the hospital while she was receiving treatments for stage 4 breast cancer because she desperately wanted to be out on the course with her participants at the Oakland marathon. Mama Lisa was always the last Coach out on the course, ringing her cow bell, and making sure every last runner and walker made it back from a long training. Our affection for Mama Lisa runs deep. She is living proof that you can do anything you want to do if you dedicate yourself to it.

As fate would have it, NBMA did the great honor of also inducting Mama Lisa’s husband, Alphonzo Jackson, into the Hall of Fame the very same year. Coach Al and Mama Lisa are a power couple and a force to be reckoned with. They have set an amazing example for others and are our inspiration for all that we do together on the marathoning circuit.

Alphonzo Jackson

Al was ranked third in the world in the 5k (16:28) and half marathon (1:15:28) in his age division in 1996 at 50 years old. He has completed 38 marathons, 7 duathlons, several triathlons, hundreds of 5Ks and 10Ks. His marathon personal record (PR) at the Los Angeles Marathon was 2:38:40.

He originally viewed himself as an elite athlete and the day finally came when he had to choose between continuing to pursue his own personal records or focusing his time and energy on helping others.  As a I remember the story, he discussed this fork in the road in his career with Mama Lisa who wisely said, “Where do you derive the greatest inspiration from? Your own personal achievements or the achievements of others?” The rest is history since Coach Al has served as the Head Coach for Team in Training's East Bay Run Team for 20 years. It wasn’t an easy transition from being an elite runner to figuring out how to coach people off the coach to complete a half or full marathon. Humbly, Coach Al openly shares his story how he underestimated how difficult it is to run a full marathon. So difficult in fact that he failed to complete his first two attempts. He made it to mile 24 the first time around before dropping out and then only made it to mile 22 the second time around. He had to learn that marathoning wasn’t about running fast enough to qualify for Boston, it was about mental toughness.

Knowing how hard it can be to complete a marathon, Coach Al did everything in his power to help his participants complete the event. My favorite Coach Al story was during the full marathon in Rome, Italy. I was with a fellow TNTer who as struggling toward the end of the race. I tried everything I could think of to help her continue to put one foot in front of the other. Coach Al ran up and took a completely different approach. He asked her, “What flavor?” She and I looked at each other quizzically. He repeated, “What flavor gelato do you want?” Not being able to think clearly she said, “Vanilla.” Coach Al was gone in a flash. Later I heard about how he ran to the closest gelato shop, cut in line, ordered a vanilla gelato cone, and ran back out on the course to find us. My fellow TNTer inhaled that gelato and took off running toward the finish line. Now that’s a coach who is truly willing to do anything to help his participants and someone who knows exactly the right thing to say and do at the right time.

From 2000 to 2010 (until funding ran out), Coach Al was also the Athletic Director/Coach for Students Run Oakland. This was his way of giving back something to his neighborhood and training leaders for the future. He believed that training these kids to be disciplined enough to complete a marathon, would help prepare them for the rest of their lives.

Being present with Coach Al is seeing charisma in action. He believes in you before you believe in yourself. His training mantras are well rehearsed and proclaimed loudly by all of his current and past participants. “If you don’t mind, it don’t matter” and “Just do the damn thing.”

One of his TNT participants was so inspired by Coach Al, that they wrote a letter to the Olympic committee and nominated him to carry the Olympic Torch for the United States in 2002. He describes this as one of the most memorable highlights of his life.

If the day finally comes that we hang up our racing shoes and retire, we'll look back on a lot of races and medals. But the things that we'll remember most are the people we met, especially the ones who inspired us to take the path that we travelled and continue to inspire generations by their example. 

Thank you, Meb, Coach Al and Mama Lisa. Because of you, we're marathoners for Life.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Road to Rio - Rock n Roll Arizona 2016

Traveling for races means we're usually going to see friends. I can't even remember what it's like when we used to get to races by ourselves, not knowing anyone when we get there.

Usually our race weekend starts when I take a picture of my suitcase and the hoards of luggage tags from previous races, but as the first travel race of the year, it wasn't so impressive. Sometimes, the race feels real when we get on the plane. This time, the race started at the airport waiting to board.

Rock n Roll Arizona is the last race in the series where people can earn points toward the half marathon Grand Prix. This year it's also one of the tune up races for Olympic qualifiers for the Rio games this August. As we were boarding the plane, a lady asked if we were doing the half or full. ("Half"). Then she asked if we were age-grade leaders. The look of utter amusement on my face must have been very obvious.

The lady I was speaking to was Diane Batchelor, the Women's 50 - 54 age grade Grand Prix leader going into the final event. She saw our Hall of Fame Tour jackets and assumed we earned them through competition. I guess she wasn't aware there were incentives for QUANTITY as well as Quality of races! We saw our first Rock n Roll Gypsy, Don on the plane. A-list boarding for Susan let us save him a seat in #SouthwestFirstClass. 

First stop, the expo at the Phoenix Convention Center.With half of our friends scattered across the country in various races, it was great to see the brand new Heavy Medal Hall of Fame banner as we walked into the expo. There were 84 people in 2015 to finish 15 qualifying races, up from 27 in 2014.

It looks like our friend Jennifer did some extra family volunteering. Not only was her fiance Blair working the course, she had her future daughter Heather working T-Shirt pick up.

Two races into 2016 and our weather luck is holding. High 40's for the start for both the Saturday 5K and the half on Sunday. Not a drop of rain! The redesigned bling keeps on impressing us.

The second year of the Arizona super-medal for the half. The 2015 medal fits into the left side of the start. The 2017 and 2018 medals will complete the outline of the state.

We skipped RNR Arizona in 2015 for the inaugural runDisney Star Wars half so this was our chance to catch up with Susan's cousin, Lyn and her husband Brian. We'd be staying with them for the weekend. Their backyard porch gave us some good interaction with nature. Lyn said that when she stays on the porch reading, the hummingbirds would land on her.

I grabbed a quick dinner at Pizzeria Bianco I went to meet Jody and Jerry for dinner. I highly recommend the Rosa! I'd known Jody met while we were  blogging on MySpace, which gives you some indication of how long we've known each other. Susan grabbed dinner with Lyn and Brian at the Ahi Mahi Fish Grill

Saturday January 16th. 5K
The 9 AM start was awfully civilized. Honestly, why races don't start that late more often, I don't know. We found some good parking across from the Corner Bakery on South Mill and bought a cup of coffee to stay inside and stay warm. Quick tip: Pay for 4 hours of parking and you can stay long enough for the Kids Rock wave starts. On the way to the starting line we ran into a lot the usual characters including Amy and her mother, Ainsley, Hyalker, Mitch, Sherry, Monique, Chuck, Holly and George. It sounded like Dan was going to run the year in the penguin suit. The group here did probably 200 races last year.

The 5K started last year when when we were in Disney. The course went along the new river path. The weather was pretty much perfect. 

Bigelow had a very popular truck at the end of the race giving out hot tea to ward off the chill. 

TeamUp Captain Virginia and her friend Maria joined us. Virginia is working her way up to double races, doing the 5K and 10K in Arizona.
I'm going to make a point of staying for a few of the Kids Rock races this year. Ann describes it as watching Saturday morning cartoons for an hour. The first wave of 12 year olds started at 10 and the waves went all the way down to the 2 year old Diaper Dash.

Jennifer on bike duty. Ann rallies the volunteers to the start line.
Race 1 in the books. We took our traditional picture in front of the white wall at Lyn and Brian's.

We spent the day driving around Scottsdale for good pictures. We found quite a few. Pre-race dinner was at Michelina's, one of our old haunts and Susan and I arrived early to decorate the table with wedding favors (Michelle and Ted got married over Christmas break). The salmon special hit the spot. Michelina was celebrating her 30th year in business. We also got some complimentary after dinner shots to toast the newlyweds.

Left to right: Brad, Julie, Ted, Michelle, Sherry, Don, Amy, Susan, Kamika, Gary, Ron
Sunday, January 17th. Half Marathon
With the 7:50 start time, we got to VIP parking at the US Airways lot a little before 7. VIP feels a lot better when there's a full marathon to maximize the time at the end. The seats for the headliner concerts are always good.  I did finally get a picture with Diana and her teammates, most of whom were going after age grade leader awards as well.

I had this as a push race, just to see if my fitness level dropped too much to try to PR in New Orleans at the end of February. We only took a few pictures at the start line.

I finished just under 2:30, a personal best on the course, beating the 60% age grade. In the past, this hasn't been my best race, going through calf strains, odd chest pains and too much broccoli the night before.  Leah Reid reported some stomach flu issues and still PRed at the half. This looks to be a good start for the year.

Amusement at Gear Check pick up. The UPS guys got the joke immediately, and apparently a lot of people did too.

We had a front row seat for the awards presentation. Best of luck to our Olympic hopefuls!

This was our sixth time at RNR AZ. Two years ago, we celebrated Al's 250th half marathon. We've done them with Team in Training, but mostly on our own. 

I'm just glad 'on your own' isn't as common as it has been in years past.


Rock n Roll Arizona was run for the 13th year in 2016. There were 18,855 finishers (2,349 in the full, 11,224 in the half, 3,076 in the 10K and 2,206 in the Saturday 5K). Diana ended up finishing second in her age group. Shiela Natho edged her out in the tiebreaker of age grade ranking. Final results for the Half Marathon Grand Prix are posted.

News from the Road
The past weekend was eventful for friends. Al and Tawni were at the second runDisney Star Wars. With the recent release of Episode 7: The Force Awakens, costumes and characters make the Rebel Challenge one to remember. This April, the Inaugural runDisney Star Wars - Dark Side races in April offer a dual coast Kessel Run bonus medal.

Jim Diego kicked off the Key West Half Marathon by singing the national anthem. Joining him fresh off the Kenda Cruise were Carl and Ilona Marino. The race was punctuated with gale force winds and Portuguese Man-o-Wars being blown onto the course. Ilona ran her first half marathon without her scooter.

This weekend, Melinda is off to Chile for the White Continent/Punta Arenas Marathon with Marathon Adventures. I look forward to reliving that trip through her pictures.