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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