Friday, September 26, 2014

Runners Stand. Records Fall - Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia 2014

One of our quests came to an end last weekend. We sat on a plane in late 2010 having completed a total of 9 Rock 'n' Roll events over 5 years and made the decision to race in every location on the tour at least once. At the time, there were 14 locations and we had checked off 4. What we didn't know was that Competitor Group was going to go on an expansion binge that kept us busy for five more years. CGI added locations in Europe and Canada and even more recently, Mexico

Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia is known for being fast and elite athletes from all over the world came in search of national or world records. Americans Deena Kastor, Kara Goucher and Bernard Legat were among the many stars in for the weekend.

This year, Competitor started offering a 5K race on the weekend of the marathons for the chance to earn a "Remix" medal for doing both, similar to the Dumbo Medal we got at Disney a few weeks ago. This was a good way to get used to the timezone change, but it also let us get familiar with the last mile and a half of the course. 

Pre-5K dinner was at Pete's Famous Pizza, whose stromboli's were featured on the Food Network. The meatball version (and the customer service) definitely lived up to the reviews! Dinner was tasty and not as filling as I expected looking at the size. 

I remember when we got really psyched up for a 5K back in the day. This was already Ron's second race this week having done the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge with Clorox on Wednesday. The luster hasn't worn off completely, but we tend to relax our preparation a little more.

Susan broke out a shirt she hand-made back in 2011 when they started adding cities to the tour. We met up with our friend Rick and Rhonda from Nashville.
The start of the 5K and Half Marathon was a short half mile from our hotel. The route took us near a lot of the wonderful fountains in the city.
We ran into a handful of the Rock 'n' Roll Gypsies. Ron is conspicuously absent from the shot because he forgot his Garmin and ran back to the hotel to get it. (Front: Sherry, Drew, Beth, Michelle, Susan. Back: David, Jim, Ted).
The 5K was pretty low key compared to the Half the next day. There were maybe 2000 people in the 5 corrals and it promised to be a crowded, relatively leisurely pace full of pictures.

Beth and Susan probably have all the same pictures on their phones.
The out and back course let us see the battle for first place. And something we rarely get to see was the awards ceremony (because we're usually just finishing or still out on the course).   Bernard Lagat was just 7 seconds off the American Record for the 5K (13:24) and finished second by 2 seconds to his training partner, Kenyan Lawi Lalang. 

Having done the double at Dumbo recently and with Ron wanting to push the Half Marathon the next day, we knew to take it relatively easy. Susan and I had an all out race walk sprint for the last 100 meters that I wish we had on video. The Marathon Foto proofs somehow were able to split up our pictures even though we were right next to each other down the stretch. We finished with a reasonable 35:47, right on pace for a 2:30 Half. 

The short 5K gave us plenty of time to shower, change and even take a quick nap before lunch. We met up with Kevin and Joe at the Expo before heading off to do some exploring downtown.

The two most decorated Rock 'n' Roll Marathoners. Joe Harris (92 races including RNR Philly), Kevin Gonzales (75). Susan and I pale in comparison with 51 and 50.
A quick lunch at the Reading Terminal Market. This is a great touristy stop with total sensory overload and lots of good choices. We went back after the Half for cheesesteak and our usual multiple desserts.

A photo op with a lot of crazy Fanatics and Maniacs
(Back: Nicole, Rocky, Tawni, Tammi, Rhonda. Front: Ron, Kevin, Susan, Rick)
I have no idea why I look so serious here. It seemed like the right thing to do. The Libery Bell history was fascinating. Independence Hall is seen in the background. 
Of course, we had to take a picture at Love Park on the way to dinner. It was a little tough knowing that my 30 year High School reunion was going on that night close to home. Thanks to Facebook, I got a lot of updates. 
Dinner at Fratelli's was actually quite good once we got the waiter changed out. Let's just say Brotherly Love wasn't high on his list of qualities, but the manager made it right. We even scored a few boxes of Power Bar wafer bars because the vendors at the table next to us had extras that they didn't want to lug home. Win!

Our hotel balcony had a great view of the starting area. While the weather was supposed to start muggy and in the 70's, we caught a break with the overcast. It held through most of the race.

Quick group selfie pic before the starting line. Ron started warming up a little more seriously since he was going to pace with Kevin, a notoriously fast starter.

This was Kevin's 4th Rock Idol, earned after finishing 10 Rock 'n' Roll races in a calendar year. Those of you who know Kevin will appreciate that I got him to crack a real smile.
Susan had an interesting observation. We were assigned corral 18 by virtue of our projected 2:25 finish time. I moved up to start with Kevin in corral 9 and Susan started with Rick and Rhonda in corral 13. Back in our assigned corral, we usually end up being passed by one or two corrals in the first two miles, stay in step with most people in the middle miles but then pass a LOT of people in the last 5K. As walkers, we keep a consistent pace while most of the folks in corral 18 are Galloway run/walkers who seem to  do a lower run/walk ratio in the back half.  In corral 9 - 13, we easily kept pace with the folks in the later of the race. Towards the end of the race, these earlier corrals tend to walk less and run more overall as compared to the runners in corral 18, and at no time did we feel like were were clogging up the course. Something to note if you're looking for others to support you at your overall pace.

Kevin and Ron started with a 10 minute mile and kept a good 11:05 average for the first half until Kevin's hip started acting up at the turn on the bridge. Kevin encouraged Ron to go ahead and Ron finished with a 2:27:34, getting closer to his 2014 goal of walking 5 sub-2:30 half marathons. The time is also an age-graded 60.61%, comparable to running a 1:47:43 half. (I'll take it!). Susan finished a relaxed race in the mid-2:30's which put this race in her top 10 finishes also.

And the elites?  Deena Kastor broke the WORLD Master's Record for the half marathon at 1:09:35, a full 20 seconds faster than the previous record. She also set records for several of the split times (5K, 10K and maybe the 10 mile). Kara Goucher was working her way back from an injury and hit her goal time with a 1:11:40.

We have six more Rock 'n' Roll events left in 2014 and if all goes well, we will earn a spot in the Heavy Medals Hall of Fame. I really hope my suitcase can handle all the bling!


Rock n Roll Philadelphia was originally the Philadelphia Distance Run, established in 1978 and acquired by Competitor Group in 2010. According to the cool digital event guide, there are an amazing 26 legacy runners who have raced in all 37 years of the event. There were 15,580 finishers in the Half (median finish time of 2:13 which make this a faster than usual RNR race) and 1,805 finishers for the 5K (median finish time of 31:40).  The total weekend numbers were down from 2013 where there were 18,137 finishers for the half. This was the first year the 5K was offered.

The 2014 course starts on Benjamin Franklin Drive south of Eakins Oval, heads south to make a loop around City Hall before heading back north to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It then heads north along the Schuykill River, crossing over the Falls Bridge before returning along the other side of the river. The finish line is at the Museum at the Rocky Steps.  Temperatures started in the high 60s and climbed into the mid 70's by the end of the race. Quite a few of our friends were feeling the humidity in the last 5K.
We've now visited every location on the North American Tour at least once. We are signed up for Rock 'n' Roll Vancouver in late October and are contemplating Rock 'n' Roll Mexico City next March (the day after Rock 'n' Roll DC. Urk.). We have NOT been able to get to any of the European locations yet, but feel good about staying ahead of at least one continent!

2006: San Diego
2008: Arizona
2009: San Jose, Las Vegas
2010: New Orleans*, Seattle, Chicago
2011: Dallas, Nashville, Providence*^, Virginia Beach, Savannah*, Miami Beach*^
2012: Pasadena*^, Washington DC, Portland*, Denver, Los Angeles
2013: St. Petersburg^, San Francisco*, Montreal*, Cleveland*^, Brooklyln^, St. Louis, San Antonio
2014: Raleigh*, Philadelphia. Vancouver* in October

*Inaugural event
^Race discontinued.
We also signed up for Palm Desert, Lexington, and Pittsburgh, locations that were announced, but cancelled before the inaugural race.

We haven't signed up for RNR Philadelphia 2015, but liked the event enough to put on our priority list for future years.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Two Keys to the Kingdom, Please - The Dumbo Double Dare 2014

Two races in a weekend? That's not a problem.

Warm temps at race start? Been there.

A field composed of a lot of first timers with basic race etiquette? We've lived that before too.

Watching some of our favorite stories come to life, mile after mile?  Now THAT'S something we've never seen before.

runDisney is part of THE ultimate entertainment company. The Dumbo Double Dare was our first Disney race and part of the Disneyland Half Marathon Weekend. Shelling out a few hundred bucks for a race is pretty rare for us but since these sell out within hours, there is no discounted price. Disney can command top dollar.

We stayed on the edge of the park thanks to a suggestion from Al, a Disney veteran and legacy runner. The Sheraton Anaheim is just about a mile walk to the expo at the Disneyland Resort Hotel and even closer to the start and finish lines. 

Susan likes to accessorize for races. She was in fine form all weekend!
We arrived Friday afternoon after the 5K, so the expo was already in full swing. Marcie at Sport Hooks told me the three day expo is great for business. She had a lot of custom Disney racks to show off and they were going like hotcakes.

The speaker series had a couple of big names we were looking forward to hearing. Sean Astin (known for parts like Rudy and Samwise from the LOTR), is an avid runner. His mantra is #Run3rd. He runs 1st for himself, 2nd for his family and then 3rd for you (anyone who asks him). He had a line 15 minutes long for autographs after his presentation on Friday. 

We realized how many times we've met amazing people at races. We're starting to ask for autographs, like proper groupies should.
Susan told Sean she was racing her 70th half marathon. He didn't think he had any advice to give. He actually wanted to know if we'd heard about the half marathon on Antarctica. After telling him about the White Continent/Punta Arenas trip with Marathon Adventures, I think he may be signing up for 2015!

Legendary run/walker and official runDisney coach Jeff Galloway was up next with the nutritionist. Jeff is a fan of walking, though he stresses that racewalking, when improperly practiced, can be as much a source of injury as running. He has been running for 37 years without an injury and still is close to Boston Qualifying speed. His book "Running Until You're 100" may be in need of a sequel ("Running Forever").

We took a quick walk through Downtown Disney to check out dinner places and some of the shops. My friends know I'm not a fan of the whole Princess and old school Disney stories, but the newer Pixar films are among my favorites. Add a Lego statue, and everything is awesome.

We had pre-10K dinner at Rufino's. After an early bed time and a 3:45 wake up call, we took the short stroll to the 10K start. 

in the category of 'train with what you will wear on race day', we failed miserably

The logistics were incredibly well managed. Foot traffic from all directions funneled well into each of the corrals. Here they actually did check bibs so very few if any people were able to start into the incorrect corrals. The Dumbo racers also had different bibs than the 10K and Half-only participants. There seemed to be a lot of us.

Race announcers Rudy Novotny and Carissa and a parade of characters kept people entertained before the gun. The light show at the start was really a nice touch. The jumbotron, the countdowns on the pylons and the huge lighted balls indicating corrals were a sure sign this is was a race put on by an entertainment company. Having complete control over the location really has its advantages. 

Around mile 2, we meet up with Al in Radiator Springs. This year's theme was Lilo and Stitch so he was in full Hawaiian garb. Kamika would be so proud. Somehow I missed taking a picture of Al. I'm glad he was able to come down and take a break from the chaos caused at work by the Napa earthquake. 

For this weekend, we decided to take it easy on the 10K and get any training speed during the half marathon after we left the park. Since both courses spend a lot of time in the park with several characters available for pictures, it's typically not a set up for fast races on both days. Unless you're going to spend a lot of time in the park after the races, why not have some fun? 

This was my first 10K. Susan ran Rock N Roll Brooklyn a few years back which is why she is one RNR race ahead of me. I set a really relaxed PR in the mid 1:20's including about 28 pictures. Sadly, the hat-cam froze a few minutes into the race and the only video I got was of Susan yawning at the starting line with some guy videobombing behind her. 

Disney does a really nice job with the finish line area, funneling everyone through medals, wrist band pick up (to indicate the first race of the Dumbo), a snack box tent and then gear check before sending you on your way. 

It was never really crowded, even with the over 9500 participants. Kudos on day 1 for the organization!

We met Al and Caryn for shopkicking and dinner at TuTu Tango. Those that know us may get the significance.

Half marathon morning was going to be warm - low 70's by 4 AM. I checked my Facebook feed, I saw that our friends racing Rock n Roll Virginia Beach that day were going to have temps in the mid 70's. By mid-race RNR VB had a recorded heat index of 107, the highest ever on the RNR circuit. We reminded ourselves why we've done VB twice and probably never again. All that said, we took several years of experience and geared up like a serious race.

Or not...
Score one for connections on Facebook. Our friend from the Santa Cruz Track club (Diana) and her son Jason were in town for the Dumbo also. Jason finished 4th overall in the 10K the day before and 26th overall in the half. Diana was nursing a knee injury, but at her best she is a low 2:10's race walker. Speed, it seems, runs in the family.

The low light in the first few miles of the course made for blurry pictures. The army men from Toy Story, Mater and Lightning McQueen from Cars and a few floats from Toy Story and The Incredibles are in my phone, but hardly identifiable.  I did try to wait in line to take a picture with Darth Vader and the Stormtroopers, but Darth had to take a break when I was 8 people away, proving how thoroughly evil he is.  I complained. Apparently too loudly for their taste.

Once we left the park there was a lot less Disney. Caryn was waiting for us near our hotel at mile 4, Stephanie was at mile 4 and 11 and the cheer squads on the course seemed to be stationed every half mile or so. Even though it was pretty early, it was rarely quiet. Two photo highlights of the race are the row of classic cars:

..and the stretch through Angel's stadium. They actually call everyone out by name if there's enough space between you and the folks around you.

The final loops back into the park were a bit of a fog. We finished in reasonable times (2:35 ish). We got the Half medal, picked up the Dumbo medal and went for the same smooth exit as we did the previous day. As an added perk, they gave out reusable cooling towels to fend off the heat. I had some reservations about the high price tag for the race, but I think it was definitely worth it.

Is it just me, or does Susan look even younger than usual with the ears?
These were the first Disney races for us. We'll be back at Disneyland in November for the Avenger's Half Marathon and again in January for Star Wars Half Marathon weekend.  I plan to wait in line for Darth for that one, even if he has to take a break.

In the meantime, we'll enjoy some really cool bling and a bunch of pictures that makes me feel like I did when we visited Disneyland decades ago. 

The Kingdom still has some Magic left in it.


Disney has nine race weekends that offer multiple distances over the weekend. A few have opportunities for bonus medals for finishing two or more races. The Goofy Challenge (half and full marathons) and Dopey Challenge (5K, 10K, Half and Full) both take place in January during the Disneyworld Marathon Weekend. The Pixie Dust Challenge takes place at the Tinkerbell Weekend for those completing the 10K and the Half. The new Rebel Challenge takes place at the Star Wars Half Marathon weekend in January.

The Dumbo Double Dare had 9606 finishers in the 10K and 15,984 in the Half. About 6000 finished both races for the Dumbo medal. Median times are significantly slower than most of the other races judging by the fact that we placed in the low 7000's for the half. There's a lot to see and it's a good idea to take your time.

The course is flat. Even the 'hill' at mile 4 is barely a freeway over pass. With good weather conditions, it's a PR worthy course, but I think I'd have to have done it a few times and gotten bored with the scenery to try to push it.  I don't know that we'll get to that point for the price tag, but I know never to say never.