Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Year Isn't Over Yet - Inaugural Berkeley Half Marathon

The Rock n Roll Series is over for 2013, but the supply of Bling continues. November 24th marked the Inaugural Berkeley Half Marathon, 10 Mile and 10K events. This was Ron's 19th and Susan's 20th race of the year. Inaugural races are always special. Everyone is doing the race for the first time making it that much more memorable. When the race organizers are experienced, it helps ensure a successful first event. Plus, you're a Legacy :). 

Weather can be unpredictable in late November, except in California. We were blessed with a beautiful sunny day, cool at the start but comfortable at the end with our layers on. The course was fast and flat with two "hills" (one freeway overpass and one at the very end at Golden Gate fields reminiscent of Insult Hill in Anchorage or the final climb at RNR Seattle).  In general though several PRs were set that day. Susan included with an eighth personal best of the year!

The wave start spread out the participants nicely so the course was never too crowded. The out and back along the Bay in Emeryville allowed participants to say "Hi" to one another and cheer each other on. Near the Berkeley marina were were surprised with two off-road sections. The loose gravel is always a challenge for faster walkers to gain traction. One suggestion for next year is to redesign the course to be 100% on road to minimize the risk of twisting an ankle, but those who appreciate a softer surface would find this a welcome change. There were three distances for this event; a half marathon, a 10 miler, and a 10k, giving first timers and beginners a chance to challenge themselves. 

The Medal - The ALL important race bling - was large and beautifully designed. Berkeley partners with the San Francisco Marathon so it was similar in design, but Bigger and nicer than the SF half marathon medal this year. For those of us who did both races, there was an additional spinner medal to add to our growing collections.

Medal Mantra: It spins, we're in!
The designated parking decks filled up and oversold. After a creative parking job, we were grateful to have gotten in before the closed the garage! (Note to self:  Get there earlier next year!). If your group can arrange to have two cars, park one at the finish line and one at the start. The lines for the busses at the end of this point-to-point race were long and if not for the mild weather, would have been a bit rough as it was exposed to bay winds.

Opportunities for Adventure - While there weren't many takers for the whiskey at mile 9, apparently shocking the system with some unexpected good or drink is actually a race strategy for some extreme endurance athletes according to Al.

Nike has it's Chocolate Mile. Berkeley has the Whiskey Mile
You don't usually expect to have more adventure on the ride home than on the race course itself! Our bus driver was moving us along so quickly that one individual hadn't settled in her seat and ended up falling in the aisle while changing seats. This meant the bus had to stop so the driver could write up an accident report. Another bus drove up pretty quickly to rescue us. We were just glad we hadn't just done a full marathon because once you sit down, it's not that easy getting back up again!

A week after RNR San Antonio/RNR Las Vegas. For the Half Fanatics keeping score, this put Susan and me on Mars with 3 states in a 10-day span!

Great to see our fellow TNT walk coaches, Carolyn, Barb and MaryAnne.
The Inaugural Berkeley Half Marathon, 10 Mile and 10K was held on November 24, 2013. There were 4,682 participants in the half (Median finish time of 2:04), 486 in the 10 Miler (median finish 1:39) and 1,395 in the 10K (median 1:07). This was a relatively fast race. Results are posted here.

The 2013 Half Marathon course started at Civic Center Park, wraps around the west side of the UC Berkeley Campus, and then continues straight through the heart of Berkeley on University Avenue, passing local shops and parks on the way to the marina. At mile 4, the course turns south along the waterfront, along the Berkeley Marina, turns around to head north to Cesar Chavez Park, looping around the park, exposing breathtaking sights of the SF skyline and the bay. Finally, the route continues north for a finish and celebration at Golden Gate Fields.

Weather (2013): low 50's F at race start and mid 60's by finish. Like we said, this is winter in California!

Since this was a local race, we were treated to some home cooking by Al with a load of fudge from expert baker Caryn. Ron has now successfully (and unsuccessfully) make pizza margarita several times and we've been inspired to make our own pasta the night before our next local race. Like a lot of things that happened in 2013, we blame Al :).

Bonus note: Corrigan Sports 10-Miler/5K Series will hold their first race in Foster City on January 12th, 2014. Completing this and the other two races in Marin County (May 25th) and Santa Clara County (August 24th) earns a bonus medal. The last price increase is on January 6th, but you can get a $5 discount if you use CARINO in the coupon code for registration. Ron plans to use it as a taper for Rock n Roll Arizona the following week. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Momentary Immortality - Rock n Roll San Antonio and Rock n Roll Las Vegas Half Marathons

It's been two weeks since we toed the starting line at the Rock n Roll San Antonio Half Marathon. The plan was to do that race in the morning, fly 1260 miles to Las Vegas and end the day with butter cake after finishing the Rock n Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon. There has been so much to process with the Thanksgiving holiday in between and we're just now getting ready for Christmas decorating.  

How can we really give a good feeling of everything that happened on the 17th of November? Susan and I are project managers in real life. We live off time lines, so to cram every detail of the day into a single blog, I thought I'd just put it to a timeline and make it short with comments.  

For reference, San Antonio is on Central time, two hours ahead of Las Vegas Pacific time. SA2LV is the hashtag created by Competitor Group for the San Antonion to Las Vegas event. Some of the videos below can be played as background. You know, for effect.

If you're short on time, there's a link at the bottom to a 5 minute video with the highlights. Also, see Beth's blog on the Double Live weekend with a few of her notes on the interviews for Get Back Up. Enjoy the ride :)

4:45 AM    Wake up call
5:45 AM    Walk to the Westin Riverwalk to meet Al and Caryn
6:00 AM    Arrive at the Westin. Get a mysterious text from Al to come up to the room.
6:03 AM    Get a text from Caryn saying that Al can't find the keys to the rental car.
6:04 AM    Panic
6:04:05 AM   Get the location of the car from Al. Find the keys on the passenger's seat in an unlocked car in an uncovered parking lot. Thank stars.
6:12 AM   Pack up Chevy Tahoe with luggage from the four of us. Realize that it's going to be hard to fit luggage for seven.
6:15 AM    Drive to the VIP parking area where the #SA2LV participants meet
6:20 AM    Get stuck on a left turn and almost diverted to the freeway. Al convinces the policemen to let us turn.
6:30 AM    Finally get through the drop off line to the parking area. Ditch the unnecessary extra layers since it was already 65 degrees.
6:40 AM    Speed walk over to the starting line. Say hi to Jeremiah and James on the way (they were doing the 5K)
6:45 AM   Meet at the start line with the rest of the SA2LVer's. Find Beth and Jim. See George Melichar. Look for Kamika Smith. Take epic pictures that end up in the San Antonio Express-News the next day.

Left to right: Susan, Caryn, Jim, Ron, George, Beth. Front: Al.
6:55 AM   Pose for a group picture at the starting line with the #SA2LV group. See Kamika. Finally.

3 Brides. Explanation of joke to follow.
7:02 AM  Meet Michael Wardian. Olympic qualifier who was aiming to run the fastest two marathons on one day (2:37 average).

7:25 AM  Listen to the first national anthem of the day.
7:30 AM  Rock n Roll San Antonio starts
7:48 AM  See the Alamo. Susan and Caryn don't remember passing it. Heh.

8:29 AM Al greets a pig with an air conditioner in his rear-end. It's going to be 85 degrees, so this is a good thing.

9:20 AM  Al stops for hydration, then finds Jesus.

9:50 AM(or so) Beth and Jim finish, shower and catch the early shuttle to wait at the airport to check two large bags with Allard braces.
10:18 AM Susan, Caryn, Al and Ron finish. Ron is texting Kamika furiously to figure out where he is and almost forgets to pick up a finisher medal. Kamika is only a half mile behind and can make the ride to the airport.
10:28 AM Kamika finishes and is able to join us on Mr. Al's Wild Ride to the San Antonio airport.

10:41 AM Depart for airport. Scarf down Fritos and chocolate milk. Hydrate, hydrate, hyrdate. 
11:05 AM Arrive at the airport. Al, Susan and Ron have A-List status on Southwest and convince the TSA agent to let the whole party through.
11:20 - 11:40 AM Mass freshening up at in the restrooms. Try to figure out what and how much to eat and drink for the 3 hour flight and time change. Take pictures for the Competitor Group SA2LV event.

The day isn't half over. Beth and Jim are feeling the fatigue already.
11:50 AM Begin boarding Southwest Flight 3750. Eighty people were scheduled to do both races. Most were on the first flight leaving at 12:15 PM Central time. Al gets the exit row seat and the seven of us get the block. The flight attendant asks if all the runners can sit together so the rest of the passengers can breathe easier. Some of the non-running passengers weren't laughing.
12:19 PM Flight departs San Antonio a few minutes late. Pilot knows about the SA2LV and promises to take the short cut.

I bet the guy sitting next to Caryn wishes he'd chosen another seat.
Al's battle cry for the week was "SUIT UP!" In flight entertainment? The Avengers, of course!
12:19 PM Central - 1:00 PM Pacific  Most of us were icing or walking around to keep loose during the three hour flight. We got two hours back on the time change.  The rest of the times are Pacific.

1:00 PM Land in Las Vegas on time. 
1:25 PM Al kept telling us that transportation from LAS to the Westin was 'handled'. We meet up with Patrick, our Limo driver. How else should you get to a wedding?
1:29 PM Head to baggage claim to get Beth and Jim's bags. Reporters waiting for us who knew about the #SA2LV. Al does the honors. I still haven't found the broadcast.

1:36 PM We're wondering how we are going to get the luggage into this car. Patrick makes it happen.

1:39 PM Enjoying the ride. Monitoring the luggage.

1:50 PM Check into the Westin. Grab quick changes, showers and touch ups for the weddings.
2:10 PM Head to the start line and Run-Through Wedding Check in.

3:28 PM Jim and Beth see Kevin at the VIP tent. Sherry and Ethan find us at the check in.
3:33 PM Procession to the starting line ceremony begins. We see Stephanie Bradsher near corral 23 briefly as she has to go back to get the baby.

3:48 PM We swing by the starting line to see Ann Wessling and John Bingham. In classic Ann fashion, she gives us a pair of Candy rings for the ceremony.

4:09 PM Beth and Jim are on the starting line stage with Ann and John receiving recognition for completing 18 Rock n Roll races as Elite Heavy Medalists.
4:13 PM Ceremony in front of the starting line. Audio is garbled because of the speaker position. I remember tearing up a lot. Jim and Beth are at the end of the video. We also see Kamika again. Finally. (2 min, 30 sec)

4:30 PM Second national anthem of the day.
4:33 PM We finally see how it feels to be Kamika. He waits to see the elites (and a lot of the corrals) start. It's a really neat perspective. Michael Wardian is in the center in the orange singlet. He won Rock n Roll San Antonio (2:31), but fell short of the world record, finishing Rock n Roll Las Vegas in 2:57.

4:40 PM We jump into Corral 5 and wait take off with the back of the corral. We start our second half marathon of the day.

4:56 PM Pose for a picture in front of DJ Carmin Wong who we met at RNR Los Angeles 2013.
5:12 PM Get passed by Kevin Gonzales around mile 2. He went on to finish in a course PR 2:31.
5:15 PM Photo op In front of the Luxor.

5:56 PM  Al hasn't hydrated enough. Stops for a shot of Sangria.

6:03 PM  Al remembers he hasn't eaten much. Stops for a taco.

6:33 PM Since Al and I were going slightly faster than Caryn and Susan, a lot of people were looking at the ladies and congratulating them for getting married. Good thing we were keeping an open mind and laughing it off!
7:15 PM Pose for a Louie Soriano picture with the local law enforcement.

8:21 PM After a long day, we get to mile 13. With 0.1 to go, we hear Ann giving us a shout out that ends when this video starts. Usually we give her a high five. This one was worth a hug.

8:25 PM We cross the finish line, but before we get our medals, John retrieves Beth's frame which he carried a mile and a half from the starting line. We will be forever grateful for that and for putting up with us asking you to take this video.

8:47 PM Finally get to the SA2LV to pick up the special spinner medal. We know its a once in a lifetime event since CGI will be separating the races next year.

9:05 PM Back at the Westin for a quick shower, change for a 9:30 dinner reservation at Mastro's.
11:15 PM We get through dinner with little conversation, like the post-credit scene in The Avengers where they went to get Shawarma

We did get Caryn her butter cake though. It was a great way to cap off the five months of planning leading up to the Double Live.

I'll leave the usual race descriptions off this time around because the weekend and the day were sensory overload. One thing that we kept very low key was our sorrow for Jim and his family. Jim's mother, Georgia, passed away just days before the Double weekend. Jim left the funeral on Saturday to arrive less than 10 hours before the first race.

There's a tribute to our little group of Rock n Roll Gypsies that is too big to upload to this blog so it's posted at our Marathoning for LIfe page. Here's the direct link. It's a compilation of moments we'll always cherish. Thanks to Al for picking the background music - appropriately, "Road of the Gypsy" by Adrenalin. 

Thanks for an unforgettable weekend. ~ Susan and Ron.

Links to SA2LV Coverage:
Marathon perfect vehicle to spread uplifting theme  - Las Vegas Review-Journal (11/16/2013)
Complete list of participants in SA2LV: Competitor Group SA2LV Hall of Fame
Heat is no sweat for Runners - San Antonio Express-News, 11/17/2013
'Rock 'N Roll' Runner Overcomes Paralysis, Will Compete in Two Half Marathons Sunday - WOAI Radio. (11/16/2013)For more stories about Beth's amazing journey as a runner with foot drop, Like her Facebook page at Get Back Up.

If you're interested in joining us next year for some of these crazy adventures, it's not too late to sign up for the Unlimited Tour Pass. You get up to 24 race entries on North America for only $400 (as little as $16 per race!) or for only $450, you can add the 6 European Races. Details at the Tour Pass page.