Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Zone of Appreciation - Rock n Roll Dallas 2015

"There Will Come a Day When I Cannot Do This.
Today is Not That Day"

This is one of my favorite slogans. I see it at almost every race expo at the OneMoreMile booth on car magnets and shirts. This saying was also top of mind for me at Rock n Roll Dallas. After celebrating Joe Harris becoming the first Rock n Roll marathoner to finish 100 races in the series, the thoughts of our Rock n Roll Gypsy group turned to our friend Beth.

We met Jim and Beth at Rock n Roll Chicago in 2012. She was hard at work making a sign for the Allard "Get Back Up" campaign. We found out that they were one of the only other married couples on the RNR circuit to have earned the 10-race Rock Idol medal. We instantly bonded. As the years went on, we looked for each other to catch up at races, spending a lot of time together at RNR MontrealRNR Raleigh and of course, the epic Double Live adventure of RNR San Antonio and RNR Las Vegas in 2013. 

For those of you who don't remember those blogs, Beth has a condition called Foot Drop in which her right ankle was paralyzed and she can't lift her toe, making it difficult to walk much less run. After some time with the condition, she discovered Allard, a company that makes a specialized brace that not only allowed her to run, but be fast enough to qualify for Boston. She's one of my personal heroes and has been inspiring other people with foot drop to walk, run and take control of their lives - literally, Get Back Up. Beth told us the prior week in DC that she had to go back in for surgery and because of her previous conditions, there was a chance that this new procedure would leave her paralyzed from the waist down. 

We kept Beth and Jim in our thoughts the whole weekend and entered what we've dubbed the Zone of Appreciation.

Race weekend started early Friday morning. Susan, Al and I caught an early flight and landed around noon at Love Field, headed straight for the Aloft and to the expo for bib pick up. At mid week, the forecast for the Saturday 5K was about a 50% chance of rain. Sunday was looking to be close to 90% chance of rain. It was time to call in our legendary Weather Luck to see if we could make the weekend better. The expo visit was well timed. We met Joe Harris as we walked in.

After the race on Sunday, we actually were approached by two women at lunch who recognized us from the Hall of Fame banner. Amy and Ainsley are planning on hitting 15-19 races this year to make the Hall of Fame
Marcey from Sport Hooks decided at the last minute to run the race for the first time as a mother-daughter team. Sunday also happened to be her daughter's birthday. Since Marcey was working the booth that weekend, she hadn't brought any gear with her, but fortunately, there were a lot of good places to shop at the expo. Pete wondered if his wife would ever get back to the booth to work - it looked like she was having way too much fun shopping!

We ran into Rock n Roll race announcer, Ann Wessling, on the way out. Ann was in Mexico City the previous weekend when Joe hit 100, so they exchanged greetings and cards in Dallas. I took the opportunity to give Ann a care package of Snappers, a snack that she introduced us to last year in Denver which we got totally addicted to. Word is that the care package didn't survive the weekend.

We met Beth and Jim for dinner at the Iron Cactus. Hyalker and a few friends from our SA2LV adventure (Leny and Nancy) joined us. I was caught up in the conversation so much I don't even have any pictures. Jim's daughter Kristen would be running the 5K the next morning, their first race as a family. The forecast was clearing up nicely. Thank you, Universe!

I'll have you hop over to Beth's blog on the 5K at this point. Not only did she have a great set of pictures for Saturday, she also had a lot of detail from Rock n Roll DC that I missed and some information on her upcoming surgery. After reading that, you'll get a good sense of how concerned we were for Beth's health. I did get a chance to take a video of the 5K family finish. Al, Susan and I formed up behind Jim, Kris and Beth. The rain held off for the race. The first drops started falling as we left Fair Park. Our zone of appreciation continued.

Susan, Al and I were back on Main Street at CBD Provisions for lunch. We caught up with Kevin and got the recap of the Inaugural Rock n Roll Mexico City. Not only did Kevin have a good race time wise, the event was a big success. It looks like 2016 is definitely on and there are rumors that it will be the same day as RNR Dallas. The "Tex Mex" challenge may be popping up soon.

Pre-race dinner was at Ravenna, the same location as last year. Tawni and her aunt Missy joined us and Kevin actually surprised us by not ordering his usual Fettucini Alfredo. He went for spaghetti and meatballs (but no clams). 

Al was suffering from some really bad seasonal allergies. Smiling or laughing generally resulted in coughing up a lung. Kevin... well, I think he was between smiles in this picture.
Race morning came and the forecast for the 8 AM start was down to 5% rain. Let's just say, everything was lining up to give Beth a great race day. We caught up with a few friends at the Omni then headed out. Beth chose to go out of corral 5. We formed up an RNR Gypsy support circle around her before taking a few more group selfies.

I had the group move over to the left side as we approached the start line since Ann was on the announcer stage. I'd asked Ann earlier to give Beth a shout out to start the race.  Tears flowed freely, but we wiped them away as we started on the course.

Jim and Beth took off. With Al under the weather, we had no hope of keeping up. She finished her half in under 2 hours while most of us came in between 2:30 and 3 (with pictures and videos). The sky reflected our moods, but we didn't have a drop of rain.  Kevin had a solid 2:25 a week after walking a 2:29 in Mexico City altitude. I walked sub-2:30 (and over a 60% age grade) in March for the first time ever which bodes well for the training year. Tawni kept Al company and Susan caught up to them in the late miles. Susan said she was in a "Zone of Appreciation" for this entire race with the realization that we should never take anything for granted.

This cowboy at mile 11 was doing this rope trick for runners who stopped. The reason Al, Tawni and Susan are staying very still was that the woman who went right before them held up her arms and got caught on the rope. No bueno.

I caught Ann at the finish and thanked her for Beth's shout out. She said she saw Beth finish, looking strong. I must have been really overcome with emotion at the time since I didn't know that the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders were right behind Ann off the chute.  I waited for Susan, Al and Tawni at the finish so I wasn't able to catch up with Jim, Beth and Kevin since they had early check outs.

We did catch up with Joe at the Victory Tavern. We also found a woman with a great pair of shoes that match any color gear. 

Those colorful feet belong to Master's Half Marathon record holder Deena Kastor. We saw her world record setting effort last year at Rock n Roll Philadelphia.

We caught up with Jim, Beth, Joe and Lisa later at the Press Box Grill. Jim had to find a place to watch the NCAA tournament. It is, after all, March and they're doing what comes naturally to North Carolina residents. It was the first weekend we actually spent a lot of quality time with Joe. He's even learning how to take group selfies (with a little help from Jim).

We laughed a lot at lunch - more than I remember in a while. We talked about the next person to likely hit 100 Rock n Roll races in our marathoning subculture of agelessness and our plans for Hall of Fame this year. On TV, I think all of the right teams won. Lots of appetizers were demolished and drinks were drunk. We sent Beth off with all of our positive energy. I even told her I'd trade our weather luck for healing.

Beth went into surgery Tuesday morning. She posted her blog recap for DC and Dallas just a few hours before that so we knew the latest news. Tuesday afternoon, Susan got a text from Jim saying that the surgery went well. As of Wednesday night, it looks like she has mobility in her legs and she can start the road to recovery.  We'll see her in Raleigh in a couple of weeks and she said she'd be on the sidelines cheering for us. If all goes well, she can get back to training in 6 to 8 weeks and maybe we'll toe the line with her in Chicago where we met years ago.

They say that running is an individual sport. That doesn't mean you're alone.

And there may be a day where Beth, or any of us, won't be able to do this anymore.

Today is not that day.

We're in our home town for Rock n Roll San Francisco this weekend. Follow us on Facebook at Marathoning for Life.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Not Your Average Joe - Rock n Roll DC 2015

Loyalty. It has its rewards.

There's something to be said about people who have years of devotion to a person, a brand, an event or a place. Being a regular at a local bar or restaurant feels like you have a second home.

Meet Joe Harris. He's the first person in the history of Competitor Group's Rock n Roll Marathon series to complete 100 full and half marathons. Last weekend in his hometown race in Washington, D.C., Joe crossed the finish line for this milestone achievement. As far as we can tell, the next closest person is somewhere in the low 80's, putting them over a year away from catching Joe, even if he never ran another race. 

Susan and I pose with Joe at the Rock n Roll San Antonio expo last December
Rock n Roll DC (previously known as Rock n Roll USA) is a 'kitchen sink' race, meaning you really should prepare for any kind of weather, even up to the last minute. The weekend before, the city shut down under a blanket of snow. Fortunately, everything melted by mid-week and Friday and Sunday were forecasted to be bright and sunny. The only weather we were expecting was a large rain system coming through on race day.

We landed at Reagan National mid afternoon and hitched a ride in with Al. He's usually a very calm driver, but something about DC driving that makes people just a little insane. I fail to see why they have stoplights in a traffic circle, but I'm sure it has something to do with 'improving flow' or 'not getting people squished'. We dropped our bags off and headed to the expo.

We'd seen the pictures on Facebook earlier, but it was even better in person. CGI went all out for Joe's 100th race, publishing two articles (Bib No. 100Q&A with Joe) and even making a welcome sign at the Expo to go along with his picture on the Hall of Fame 2014 wall.  Local TV station WTOP had articles and several interviews before the race as well. Unfortunately, we missed Joe Thursday night at the expo, but planned on connecting on Friday afternoon.

Joe posted pictures of a few other surprise gifts he had waiting for him, including a pair of running shoes from Brooks (a Rock n Roll sponsor), a finisher shirt from the merch staff a custom medal hanger from our friends Marcey and Pete at Sport Hooks

This is the first of its kind. It will be a few years before another one is made.
We managed to catch up with our local friends, Anita, Lisa and Mark. Lisa was running the half and Mark and Anita were there for moral support. Weather in the area had a few people admitting they hadn't been able to train as well as they would have liked, so it looked to be a challenging weekend.  We found a little place called Asian Spice for dinner.  They were really good about accommodating food allergies and heat levels and I recommend the Honey Roasted Duck Noodle dish and Won ton Soup. Anita and I hadn't seen each other since her first half marathon at Rock n Roll Savannah 4 years ago. We met blogging on MySpace almost 10 years ago and have been close ever since. It feels like everywhere we go, we have family.

Lisa, Mark, Anita, Susan and me upstairs at on w weekend where eating with restraint was a bit difficult.
We slept in Friday and got a good bit of work done in the morning. We had alternating conference calls through lunch so while Susan was on her call, I was able to catch up some of my former Team in Training participants from the Peninsula chapter. I coached Ben and Kirsten to their first full marathons in San Diego. They said Susan and I inspired them to get back to racing. It's an honor every time I hear someone tell us that.

Both Kirsten and Ben walked the half marathon in just over 3 hours. Not bad for their first race in years!
We got to the expo after lunch to see the man of the hour. Joe was sporting another one-of-a-kind button and a huge smile. 

About 240 Rock n Roll half and full marathons in this picture alone!
Just to remind us of the fact that 'crazy is relative', while we were catching up, Kamika Smith walked up. Kamika has completed 100 full marathons including all 50 states, is closing in on half marathons in 50 states and recently completed 7 half marathons on 7 continents in just over 11 days. For the record, I absolutely love our group of friends!

Expanding on the crazy theme, this was the first leg of another RNR Double weekend. You may recall the SA2LV adventure from 2013. Rock n Roll DC was the first of the Capital City challenge. Fifty-nine participants ran the half or full marathon in DC, caught a red eye flight to run the half marathon in Mexico City the next night.

Tricia Lund was one of the only ones to run the full marathon in DC and the half in Mexico City.
Part of the DC2MX swag bag was a mask (Juan and Hyalker model theirs above)
We had dinner with Rich, Barbara and Zachary at Ruth Chris Steakhouse, one of Zach's favorites. We met this amazing family last year at Disneyland before the Avengers race. Zachary was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome, a rare autosomal dominant congenital disorder that has put Zachary through a number of painful surgeries. You can like his Facebook page, the Zachary Times-Herald to keep up on his progress. Zachary likes calamari. File that away if you ever have dinner with him. He's not your typical 10 year-old. Rich and Barbara have started a gofundme site to help raise money for his implants and future surgeries. They'd love any help you can give them. 

Race Day: We had a 5 AM wake up call to make it to the start line at 6:30. Competitor also gave Joe a dozen complementary passes to the VIP area at the Willard a block off the starting line. Here we met our fellow RNR Gypsies Beth, Jim, Sherry, Michelle and Tim. We've gotten into the habit of getting our race bibs signed by the celebrities of the week. This week it was Joe.

Joe had another interview with WTOP a half hour before the 7:30 AM start with a group of the Gypsies tagging along. The rain was lightening up as the first few corrals went off. 

But first, let me take a (group) selfie.

Gypsie pre-race: Jim, Kamika, Ted, Sandy, Beth, Michelle, Al, Ron, Sherry, Hyalker, Joe and Susan.
I estimate this is about 600 Rock n Roll half and full medals in this group.
We were actually a little late for going out at the back of the first corral as CGI had planned. Josh Furlow suggested we form up behind Joe in a Mighty Duck "Flying V" (that fell apart quickly).  Joe usually uses a Galloway method and was taking it easy this race so he could take it all in. Most of the group stayed together for the first few miles giving good chances for photo ops.

The turn at the Arlington Memorial Bridge
The Washington Nationals Racing Presidents. It's a bit blurry because of the rain and condensation.
Competitor had arranged for Joe to have his own finish line. He was cut over to the full marathon finish so there would be no one around. The media was waiting for him as Al, Michelle and Hyalker escorted him in. Joe finished just a few seconds ahead of the full marathon winner. Al said he felt a little bad for the guy since he pretty much got no media attention at all.

Joe got to keep this finish line banner, the sign and a few other souvenirs. (photo from Joe's wall, I'm sure this was a MarathonFoto credit)
Most of us did the half in DC, but Beth had personal reasons for running the full marathon. It was her third full marathon in seven weeks and the mileage was really adding up for her. Jim, Sandy and I cheered her in for a gutty finish. She's the face of dozens of runners who are overcoming lower limb paralysis known as foot drop using a specialized orthotic from Allard. The company has recruited a lot of regional captains for its public campaign to spread the message for the product, but Beth is the original captain of Team Up. She's one of my personal heroes. 

People filed out of the VIP finish tent slowly. Joe stayed, thanking everyone for coming, the gracious man he is. As we made our way to the shuttle, we stopped by the Merchandise tent where Grace and Cathy presented him with the 100th race sign from the expo. They brought it to the finish and somehow kept it dry.

I talked about how races have become our second home. With a goal of 15 Rock n Roll races this year, we'll be seeing some of our race friends more than our own families. Susan  said something over the weekend that made me realize why we keep doing this. It's no longer about goals and numbers and chasing the 100 races for the Rock n Roll Superstar plaque that Joe was awarded.  It's about seeing our friends.


It continues to have its rewards.


Rock n Roll DC (formerly known as Rock n Roll USA) was run for the fourth year in 2015. This year there were 1615 finishers in the 5K, 15245 finishers in the half marathon (median finish time 2:15) and 2503 finishers in the full marathon (median finish time 4:21). The forecast for race day was 99% chance of rain and high 40's - mid 50's up until Friday night. We ended up with light sprinkles with occasional showers. It was one of the coldest races we've done with the exception of Bar Harbor and Antarctica.

Lisa finished her half marathon cold and proud. We're talking about doing it all again in a month at Rock n Roll Raleigh.  Our IronMan Florida friends Lisa Marie, Ken and their kids came in for the 5K. They finished with a quartet of medals and big smiles.

The DC2MX group all made it to Mexico City. Reports are still coming in for the Inaugural CDMX race, but even with the rain and the start/finish on a mud track at the high altitude, there were still solid performances... and lots of touristy pictures.

RNR DC was our 80th half marathon. Ron caught up to Susan by doing the Brazen Bay Breeze half marathon on Valentine's day. We also have 58 Rock n Roll half and full marathons apiece.  With all the RNR veterans coming together, we started comparing totals. There are probably fewer than 20 people who have 50 or more RNR's under their belts. We should get our 5th Rock Idol medals at RNR Chicago if all goes as planned. We have no intention of slowing down any time soon. 

We'd consider coming back for RNR DC every other year since we have a lot of friends in the area. We haven't registered yet, but with the TourPass, anything is possible.

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