Saturday, January 3, 2015

Goodbye Rock n Roll (at least for now) - Rock 'n' Roll San Antonio 2014

The 2014 Rock 'n' Roll Marathon season closed on a high note in San Antonio. From start to finish it was a celebration of an amazing year as well as a storied career. We added this race back in summer because we knew it was going to be John "The Penguin" Bingham's last race as an announcer for the Rock n Roll series. 

The weekend started off well. Our Southwest flight had a layover in Phoenix where we picked up a few members of the CGI staff including Tracy Sundlun (wearing his signature straw hat) and 2014 Boston Marathon winner and VP of Running Meb Keflezighi. Susan got a chance to chat with Meb on the way to the cabs. I talked to his brother and manager Hawi about Meb's typical annual schedule. Meb races about 20 times a year with 5-6 domestic A races.  Since Boston, he's had a lot more of the short distance, fun runs. He seem to be enjoying talking to a lot of the everyday folks.

The black RNR Tour Jackets are pretty easy to spot, but people ask us a lot of questions thinking we're staff members. Fortunately we can answer most of them.
First stop, the expo. A side bonus of adding this race was that it gave us 15 for the year and induction in the newly created Hall of Fame. Along with a custom 15 race bib and a gift card (which was immediately spent on race swag), we got a sweet Heavy Medal backpack. We recently received the embroidered Hall of Fame Brook jacket in the mail as well.  All told, including the retail value of the swag, I figure the $400 2014 TourPass averaged out to $21 per race, $17.50 if you include the 10K and 5K, or $9.84 per medal. I still say it's the best deal in racing.

Three Hall of Fame Gypsies. VIP Joe Harris takes center stage
Rock n Roll redesigned the Heavy Medals for 2015 and we got our first peek at them at the expo. In addition to the redesign, the added Heavy Medals for 8 and 9 races as well as one for the 15 race Hall of Fame.  Each one gets progressively larger and I heard a lot of people who kept saying they were going to cut back next year reconsidering that decision. I think TourPass 2015 sales picked up after this.

And two more just to show the scale.

Ryan was pretty proud of these. I can see why.
The turntable actually turns. Definitely gunning for a 5th straight Rock Idol!
One more addition to the Bibfolio.
We didn't do a lot of exploring this trip. We even hit the same restaurants as 2013. Dinner at Rosario's really can't miss (especially with the never ending carafes of salsa). Hyalker introduced us to World Record holder Tom Rauen and his wife Amanda. They would be doing the half on Sunday.

Susan had been nursing a hamstring injury for a few weeks show she took the 10K pretty slow. The course for this new distance on San Antonio weekend started near the Alamodome and ended at the Alamo. 

Pre-race RNR Gypsy picture: Ron, Jim, Hyalker, Susan, Beth and Andrew

Ethan and Sherri. Sherri accidentally finished her 100th half marathon a few weeks before at RNR Las Vegas. "Accidentally" because she did a half instead of a full in Savannah and forgot to adjust the count. Congratulations, 1 race late!

Barry The Juggler coming down the last stretch on East Houston.
I held a good pace, but just like the last few races, I stopped before the finish line to turn back so Susan and I could finish together. I heard Ian asking what was going on and didn't I want to finish and get some beer? Tom and Amanda were waiting on the corner before the final turn and Nic let me know Susan wasn't far behind. She wasn't struggling, just taking it all in.

Listening to Everclear at the finish line.
Race 1 of the weekend, 17 of the RNR circuit and 27 of the year, check!

That afternoon, RNR had John Bingham's last expo presentation. It was as well attended as Meb's first presentation after his dramatic win at Boston. Along with Meb and other running legends Frank Shorter and Jim Ryun, CGI Senior VP Tracy Sundlun paid tribute to a man who inspired more runners and walkers than the Olympic medalists and world record holders for the past 20 years. When I get a chance, I'll put the video clips together and upload it to YouTube. 

After John and Ian talked about how he started and everything that led him to this moment, Tracy presented John with a plaque. The inscription read: 

"To John 'The Penguin' Bingham: On behalf of everyone involved in Elite Racing and the Competitor Group since 1998, but especially the millions of runners and walkers who have participated in our Rock 'n' Roll Marathon series from all over the world, thank you for changing our sport. Thank you for opening up running to so many who would have never taken that first step were it not for the Penguin. Whether it was through your columns, or your books, or you one on one conversations, you have changed countless lives and have been an inspiration to all of us. 

Thank you for being part of our Elite Racing and Competitor Group family. Thank you for making both our events and our publications so special. Thank you for you passion. Thank you for you vision. We would not have become what we did without you. You'll be sorely missed, but good luck. God speed and Waddle on."

We ran in to John later at dinner. He's a simple guy, so all the attention was pretty overwhelming. Add the fact that he was fighting a cold and was on all kinds of over the counter remedies, the whole weekend must have been a blur.

The last presentation of the season was dedicated to the four athletes with the most races of the RNR year. Chris Small, Wesley Storey, Martin Esqueda and Juan Aguilar finished 19 events in 2014. Juan had actually been all set to do a 20th, but decided it would be more fun if they finished in a four way tie.  

Thanks to Ann for catching the picture for us!
Just to be complete, Tracy read off the Heavy Medal statistics for 2014.

over 500,000 finishers for Rock n Roll races.
6,840 finished 2 (Rock Encore)
2,804 finished 3 (Triple Crown)
1,109 finished 4 (Grand Slam)
916 finished 5 (Rock Star)
612 finished 6 (Super Six)
458 finished 7 (Rock Legend)
300 finished 10 (Rock Idol)
27 finished 15 (Rock n Roll Hall of Fame - 16 of us shown above were at San Antonio). 

We're still trying to convince Cassidy at the Heavy Medals desk to set up a Lifetime Achievement Award for total RNR's. We figure fewer than a few dozen people have 50 or more lifetime Rock n Roll half and full marathons. Hopefully we get something rolling in 2015.

We hit Zocca for the pre-marathon buffet at the Westin for dinner. They paid good attention to different dietary needs on top of the usual choices of pastas. There were also two cooks making custom meals for the hard to please.  On the way out, we ran into Chris, the RunWestin Concierge who invited us to visit the Westin tent after the race. Susan's Hilton status runs out at the end of the year, so we were definitely looking into new hotel programs to build loyalty points.

Half Marathon day gear was full Penguin. We found the hats at the RNR Savannah expo and ordered the matching shirts from One More Mile. The Penguin bibs came from the expo, another nice touch by Tracy at CGI.

In 2013, this race was a blur. That was the first half of the SA2LV challenge and we were just focused on finishing with enough time to make a flight to Las Vegas. This year we spent most of the race chatting with Sherri so time passed pretty fast. The course hadn't changed much if at all and before we knew it we were coming down the finish chute.

I can think of maybe four other races where Susan and I were together step for step the entire way. We did that in Rome, Maui, and each of our four Rock Idol races. We did the same in San Antonio, mainly so we would be sure we were together at the finish line to take this picture. It was that important to us.

We went back to the hotel to shower and check out and made our way back to the finish  line. There was plenty of time before the finish of the full marathon. We even caught a later flight just so we could have plenty of time to watch John close the race down.

It occurs to me that I've never known someone to retire who really had a big impact on my life. I mean, I still see my father a few times a week, but as far as mentors or motivators, John's retirement was the first one. Maybe that's why I went out of my way to capture a lot more memories not just of John, but also people who've been a part of our race family for the last few years. There just isn't enough space on a single blog to include them all.

Thanks everybody. This journey would not be the same without the people who are traveling the roads with us. We hope to continue along this road for years to come.  

We'll be Marathoning... For Life!


John Bingham will continue to host Running Cruises with his wife Jenny Hadfield (@coachjenny). He still posts on his John "The Penguin" Bingham Facebook page and just started his annual 100 day fitness challenge that starts every New Years Day.

For Susan and me, 2014 marked the most races we've ever done in one year with the CGI Rock n Roll series - 15 half marathons, a 10K and two 5Ks. Among those races we had 5 personal bests and over a dozen finishes that were in our fastest 10 lifetime. Between us we have 112 full and half marathons on the Rock n Roll circuit.

We'll be missing Rock n Roll Arizona to race in the Inaugural runDisney Star Wars Rebel Challenge, so our next RNR race will be in New Orleans. We haven't been back to NoLA since the inaugural year where we raced the full marathon. We're hoping to get that huge Hall of Fame Heavy Medal in 2015.  

No comments:

Post a Comment