Sunday, April 19, 2015

And the Sun Rises - Rock n Roll San Francisco 2015

Our third consecutive race weekend for our 4th Rock n Roll for 2015 was in our backyard. After rain in New Orleans and DC and most of the weekend in Dallas, we were back in California where it hasn't rained in forever. Even though we didn't have to fly anywhere, the time share at Inn at the Opera with Shell Vacations is located a couple blocks from the finish line so we turned it into a long pseudo-staycation weekend. The drive in was just as scenic as most of our airport landings.

It took us a few u-turns to find it. We were welcomed with fresh baked cookies at the desk!
San Francisco City Center. The finish line is on the other side of this building.
Expo Friday was the usual light crowd. We still get slightly chilled when we walk by the Hall of Fame banner with our pictures on it at the entrance. The ladies in the pic walked in with us and mentioned that they swept the series back when there were only 6 races. Times, they do change. We grabbed a yummy dinner at the Green Papaya and finished up work at the hotel. Thanks to our employers for allowing us some flexibility!

San Francisco was our fourth Rock n Roll race of the year. It was also the last race where we'd have to wait for our bonus Heavy Medal in the mail. This time around, we'd earn the Groupie Medal. Starting in Raleigh, we get to pick up the Heavy Medals after the race!

Saturday was the obligatory time share breakfast/sales pitch. Every time they dangle an incentive, we list all the race locations we have and how far every single one of their resort destinations are located. They really don't have much extra to offer. The cookies were good though. We did the usual second day catch up with the out of towners at the expo. About half of our usual group were in for SF including Joe, Kevin and Sherri. We stopped by the Cako shops for a quick bite before meeting Al and Caryn back at the hotel. They were coming in late from a bridal shower and brought some leftover treats. They know us well. Susan turned in early as Caryn, Al and I caught up over a few slices at Pronto Pizza.

Rock n Roll San Francisco has an early 6:30 AM start. There's also a 6:15 start for folks who are looking at 4+ hour finish for the half marathon to give them time to get to the Golden Gate Bridge before the cut off. The shuttles from the Civic Center finish area to the starting line on Ocean Beach ran like clock work. Temps were in the high 40's before sunrise and warmed to the mid 60's by the time we finished. Other than a space blanket at the start, it was pretty much perfect race conditions. Just a few pics to share from the race itself for Ron:

Early morning light and iPhone selfies don't mix. Sorry about the shadow, Caryn!

There wasn't a cloud in the sky the whole race. It made for a slightly chillier day, but compared to DC and Dallas, it was downright balmy.

Rock n Roll has installed Selfie Stations for most of the races this year. This was was classic San Francisco.

At the top of the King of the Hill segment. Whoever had the fastest time coming up from mile X to this archway won something from Competitor Group. I'm hoping that included oxygen and complimentary de-fib.

After years of doing Nike SF, I realized that coming up the other direction on Lincoln gave you a much better view of the Golden Gate Bridge. It was spectacular this morning.

Al was testing out a new app called Periscope where you can stream live broadcasts to your twitter feed from his iPhone. The hearts kept popping as he showed his followers the view from the roadbed of the Golden Gate Bridge. Technology is pretty amazing.

As was the sunrise over the City as seen from the road bed.

Score one for romance! At the Vista Point turnaround on the north end of the Golden Gate, a couple was getting married. They along with their entire wedding party were in the race and we found out later that the bride and groom had finished the Oceanside Half IRONMAN triathlon the day before. If you can go through that kind of adversity together and still say 'yes', I'd say marriage should be a piece of cake!

Susan's race took on a decidedly different feel. After the last few races in DC and Dallas, she found herself taking it easy and just enjoying the ride. She also found out that apparently if you wear the race shirt from the prior year, people are more likely to stop and ask you for advice on the course. This happened to her twice this race.

"The first question came in the Golden Gate Bridge. We were making our way back in the sidewalk and had a trickle of people streaming by us in both sides - on the sidewalk on the left and on the road to the right. One nervous runner slowed to ask me if we had missed the cut off and we were going to be turned around. She was particularly depressed after having come so far to be possibly turned around. I explained that the race officials were in the process of reopening the Bridge, so the last of the people who made it across on the roadbed while additional runners had been diverted into the sidewalk. I told her she had nothing to be concerned about and she merrily went on her way."

"A couple miles later as we descended the hill to Crissy Field, another runner slowed to ask me why there were no bands along the course. She said she had done other Rock n Roll events where there was a band every few miles. I explained that this was normal for this race. Out of respect for the Presidio residents between Golden Gate park and the Golden Gate Bridge, there was a set of jugglers and circus performers (like last year) and the first band we had encountered was on the far side of the bridge at Vista Point. The next music entertainment was at Sports Basement making this race less of a Rock N Roll and more of a Rolling Hills event. Those of you who need music to keep you going should plan to bring your own in this course next year."

"I confirmed I didn't have a practical joke played on me where someone had stuck a note on my back that said, "Ask me." I'm glad that camaraderie on the race course is alive and well and that we can all help each other out there on the course - real time and for next time."

We spent some time with Joe after the race. He mentioned that while he was out in San Francisco, he'd really like to stop by AT&T Park, the home of the Giants. Al arranged for a tour and lunch afterwards.

The StubHub VIP seats

Lunch at the Public House with March Madness going on in the background.
One final thought went through Susan's mind as she cruised down the last downhill to the finish line and the same thing crossed my mind as we walked through AT&T Park with Joe. 2015 has been higlighted with spending time with George and the End Hunger fundraiser in New Orleans, honoring Joe's 100th Rock n Roll in DC and dedicating our Dallas race to Beth, we're reminded that we're a part of a huge community of marathoners. Every race is a chance to connect with people who've become your family. After having done more events than we can easily count, we realize it's more about the experience rather than our finish time. Take a moment to think to yourself, if you saw someone in the middle of the race who needed your help, would you stop to help? How do you want to be perceived by others? As Boston Strong brought to light, the running community is united and we have more in common with one another by uniting together to take a stand for good.


Good luck to all our friends racing and supporting in the 119th Boston Marathon tomorrow. While it doesn't look like the skies are going to cooperate, remember how blessed you are that you'll be on the roads to enjoy whatever the day brings.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Five for the Road - Rock n Roll Raleigh 2015

When you have 20 races on your 2015 schedule, you don't have a lot of spare vacation time. We're learning to be smart about the quantity of time we spend each weekend, but with a race in Susan's home town, we wanted to make sure we made time to see friends. We thought this may have been a one-and-done after the Inaugural RNR Raleigh last year. But with a newly created 15-race Hall of Fame Heavy Medal, a bonus shirt for beating last year's time and most importantly, seeing Beth for the first time after her recent surgery, it seemed like a great race to add to our list for 2015.

We landed just in time for dinner Thursday night and met one of our bridesmaids from our wedding and one of Susan's oldest childhood friends for dinner at a Lebanese restaurant called Sitti. Dinner was delicious - small portion appetizer style and very flavorful. Bethany was elected to Alderman of Carrboro since we saw her in 2014. We both described for her our typical life of a Project Manager. 

Available for purchase at

We watched nature put on a light and water show that we northern Californians rarely get to see. Later that night I drove back to Raleigh Durham Airport to pick up Al and on the way back we some some pretty spectacular cloud-to-cloud lightning strikes. This went on from about 6 PM until after midnight when we closed down the bar next door. Ron actually had an honest to goodness alcoholic drink (ok, maybe half of one) since we weren't driving anywhere.

Friday was our usual expo day. Al and I got there a half hour early to catch the press conference with city officials of Raleigh, CGI Director of Public Relations, Dan Cruz, and Bobby Mack, a local runner who ended up winning the half marathon with an impressive 65:44. CGI once again brought out the balloon artists with the Rock n Roll Raleigh archway, the balloon runner in the Sheraton Lobby and the balloon logo. I think we signed up for a 2016 race - I honestly can't remember, but now that we have the TourPass 2016, we better start making the most of it. We grabbed a late lunch at zPizza and decided that might be a good place for pre-race dinner since 518 West was permanently closed.

This was the first pre-race press conference I'd ever attended. Thanks to Paul for the heads up!

We had dinner Friday with one of Susan's neighbors on the street that she grew up. Al had a field day speaking to a fellow wine enthusiast, so much so that he wanted to go back the next day for some cooking lessons, a pantry clean out... and more wine. Susan was enjoying the connection between her past and present. Even though Ron was driving, he had to taste the champagne and 3 of the 5 bottles of wine.  It's only polite, right?

Saturday we dropped off Al on the way to the Saxapahaw General Store, a little restaurant with fresh local ingredients and a range of items including home made soaps, standard brand chips, organic chicken feed and a soda machine that served cane sugar drinks. This was a place that Jim and Beth bought us some souvenirs from last year, and given the reputation "5-star restaurant in a gas station", we HAD to try it. The menu rotates daily based on what ingredients they have delivered and the curry shrimp salad we split was a great light meal. We didn't get to try the Eddy Pub next door. Maybe next time?

Not your typical gas station menu! 
Decent bottles of wine next to bottled soda. The cane sugar soda fountain was on the other side of the store.

This Californian was about to fill up for $2.29 a gallon.

The vie of Eddy Pub. There was a rehearsal for a play in the amphitheater center
We got back to meet up with Al just as lunch was being served and halfway through the third bottle of wine. Sips were taken, even for the historic designated driver. Add Lion's Mane mushrooms to the list of foods we've actually tasted.

We taught Brian and Moyra about group selfies.
Pre-race zPizza was another RNR Gypsy reunion. With the new Hall of Fame medal dangling out there, we're seeing a lot more regulars hitting all the tour stops this year. This weekend's roster included Sherry, Michelle, Ted, Joe, Kevin, Susan, Al and me. Lisa Marie, Ken and their daughters came joined us to wait for Beth and Jim who were driving in from home. Beth was making a stellar recovery from surgery and was as cheerful and sharp as ever. 

Counter-clockwise from bottom right: VIP Joe, Special, Ed, Bobblehead, Ken, Lisa Marie, Spills, Guns, Bruiser, The Director, Flower Power, Coms. Gypsy code names, if you will.
We brought out a Gypsy surprise, courtesy of Al - custom bibs from Races2Remember. Each of us wore them on race day. This was one of the first times I remember us going around the table talking about how each of us met over the last few years. This is the fourth (and some, the fifth time) we've seen these friends since the start of the year and we feel truly blessed to have this circle of friends filled with positive energy. 
I had another picture with Jim smiling, but I liked this one a lot better
The Sheraton Raleigh is a great location for this race, situated between the start and finish lines. It's like having VIP with your own private bathroom and a great view and it let us roll out of bed a little later. Beth promised us a sign so we could see her cheering us on during the race and she delivered. Did we mention she did most of the sign that morning?

The heart in the center is a spinner. Beth is amazing.

Another example of why the Sheraton is a great location for RNR Raleigh. The panorama below was taken about 50 feet outside our hotel room. On the left is the start line announcer stage where Ann Wessling was revving up the crowd. On the far right is the finish line. If we didn't have to worry about all those pesky timing mats, we could go from start to finish in about 20 seconds.

The weather was just about perfect, low 50's to start and high 60's at the finish - much cooler than 2014. Weatherwise, we finally won the weather battle with Lisa Marie after freezing in Panama City Beach and having to swim through RNR DC. A few shots from the course.

Nine of us wore the bibs for Beth. Michelle (above) and Kevin were using this as their last tune up before Boston. The two of them and fellow Hall of Famer Carl Marino are racing in Boston on vendor or charity entries.

Best place for a band since you could hear them a half mile each direction. And they were really good!

Team in Training was out in force. I unfortunately missed Meg Roberts who was running the half.

The Blue Mile tribute to fallen service men and women. I welled up as I passed the flags.

We first saw the sign two years ago in Portland. It's still one of my favorites.

Benjamin Ludovico, the full marathon winner passed us at 12.9. He finished in 2:41:37
I nearly missed Beth and Jim at mile 13. Fortunately I had a full two minutes to spare for the bonus t-shirt so first... let me take a selfie.
Bless Ann for staying until the last marathon finisher. In the late hours motivation is hard to come by. (Peter, I offered her sunscreen, I swear!)
Post race concert and Heavy Medal pick up. Ron, Susan, Joe and Al with the matching 5-race "Roadie" Heavy Medal

Our good friend Juan did the double DC2MX challenge so he's one race ahead of us. His heavy medal Six-String is next up for us in Nashville! It's Juan sweet piece of bling.
Looking back at this weekend, it was very busy. We didn't have a lot of down time even though we did a little bit of work to stay current. We came to realize it's not really the quantity of time you spend but it's the quality. 

Time passes much too quickly when you spend it with good friends.

Next up, Nashville.

Rock n Roll Raleigh is in its second year. This year there were 6,551 finishers (952 in the full marathon, median time of 4:35 and 5,599 finishers in the half marathon, median time of 2:10).  There was a course change to the full marathon that made it less hilly, but the half marathon course was essentially the same.  There was a snafu for the women's marathon winner as the course markings at mile 18 were not very obvious, resulting in Heidi Bretscher running an extra three miles. She still won the marathon by a comfortable margin. Kevin finally got around to having a faster PR than me (by a lot, 2:20:36), but since he's a good 6 years younger than me, I get to fall back on Age Grade. Heh.

After RNR Raleigh, Susan and Ron have finished 194 races at the half and full marathon distance. After Nashville and The Biggest Loser RunWalk Crown Point, we will finish another bucket list item of "100 Races by age 50" at Rock n Roll Portland in May. And to think, this was supposed to be a one-time thing!

Big shout outs to Carl, Kevin and Michelle and thousands of other runners who will be competing in Boston next week. Today, April 15th, was declared "1 Boston Day" and we'll remember the day when a community came together under a banner of strength and united purpose. We will not be defeated. The will of the marathoner will endure.

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