Thursday, October 22, 2015

A View From the Top - Rock n Roll St. Louis Weekend 2015

October brings a full race schedule for the Rock n Roll Marathon Series. For three weeks we have choice of two cities for the weekend. We'll ignore the fact that SOME people didn't make the choice this weekend but raced in both St. Louis and Denver.

Landing at Lambert International after an early morning flight gave us plenty of time to get to the hotel before going to the Expo. The Metro ride was convenient and dropped us off within a couple blocks of the Hilton Ballpark and we could go straight to the expo. The $4 for the 2 hour pass is worth it and saves a bunch on cab fare. 

This year, we didn't have to contend with the Cardinals being in the playoffs having being eliminated a few days before by the Cubs.  Yes, Back to the Future may have been right!

Yeah. I think we got this.
Even with the Cards done for the year, the water near the Old Courthouse was still dyed Cardinal Red. It made for a nice contrast with the crystal blue skies.

We dropped our bags at the hotel and a half mile walk to the Expo. First step was to find and congratulate our friend Jennifer on her recent engagement. We see friends at Competitor Group more than we see some of our own families, so this was a great way to start our visit.

This weekend saw the fourth round of entrants to Rock n Roll Marathon's Heavy Medal Hall of Fame, awarded for finishing 15 races in the calendar year. Sherry (right) and James would earn the medal in St. Louis and Leny got the coveted backpack and swag package in Denver. Leny also celebrated two major milestones over the weekend - her 100th half marathon and more importantly, 5 years cancer free!

Thanks, Grace, for the picture and for finding us the RNR pins!
We had a lot of prep for two races and were going on little sleep (especially Sherry), so we hit a quick dinner and tried to figure out what to do for the forecasted mid-30's starting temps for the 5K on Saturday. We should be used to this. Two years ago when we were here, it was almost the exact same weather. Thanks to Facebook, we even knew what we wore.

Saturday October 17th. 5K. 
Probably the best memory I had of our 2013 race here was the sunrise through the Gateway Arch. As we made our way to the start line, the sun came up. My wife is my sunshine in more ways than one.

The 5K was new this year. With about 1300 finishers, it looks like it has a good chance of being back in 2016. It was set up with the same start/finish as the half marathon, so logistics were great for the race.

We had some special guests this race. Amy (already a 2015 Hall of Famer) had a dozen of her family members join her. They ran and walked in memory of Amy's uncle Bill who died of cancer.  Hyalker has been running for young Katy (in the stroller) for years, donating his medals to her. She and four family members joined us as well.

Joining us just before the gun was the 2015 RNR race leader, Leah. She may have been trying to catch up on sleep or prepping for her flight out right after the 5K.  See, she was in town only for about 20 hours before flying to Denver to the the Rock n Roll Half Marathon on Sunday. She was awarded a de facto Remix medal for doing two races over the weekend, even though they were in different cities... in different time zones.

The 5K course was a nice out and back and gave us a chance to cheer for each other on at the 1.5 mile turn. I waited a few minutes for Susan and we waited for Hyalker and Lawrence, strollers in tow.

Hyalker's run with Katy was the first time he'd raced with a stroller. He's planning on doing the half marathon with her next year as long as he figures out how to keep his hands warm.  Lawrence said his puppy, Molly, was a real chick magnet.  Katy agrees.

Race 1 done. Obligatory selfie after trying a couple of the 76 flavors of Gooey Butter Cake for brunch at Park Avenue Coffee. One could argue which action was more sickeningly sweet. Heh.

We tried or  gave away White Chocolate Raspberry, Cinnamon Roll, Butterscotch Toffee, Triple Chocolate, Red Velvet, Turtle, Pumpkin, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Espresso Chip and of course, Original!

We caught up with Michelle and Ted at the expo and set up dinner that night at Charlie Gitto's. We also caught up with Jennifer, the Maid of Honor at our wedding 20 years ago when we were all in grad school at Wisconsin. Jen drove an hour and a half from Springfield to cheer us on at the half. 

It's always interesting to see how friends from previous lives integrate with our current circle. We kept telling Jen that we're not the craziest ones. We have crazier friends. The jury is still out.

The non-selfie turned out well. I'll use it instead!

About this time, Al was starting a Denver vs. St. Louis thread. With the magic of social media, it was nice to see what our friends were doing hundreds of miles away. Beth was in early and dining alone, so we sent a few encouraging comments and likes her way. Al noted Denver had "Zombies, Beer Festival, Perfect Weather, Bourbon Tasting."  St. Louis countered with "Marching Band Competition, Gooey Butter Cake and 50th Anniversary Gateway Arch tour."

Each according to his tastes.

Sunday, October 17th. Half Marathon Day
Early morning twilight is rough for the iPhone camera folks. The pictures we took were limited to an extended group selfie and a few more sunrise pics.

About 10 minutes into the race, my phone powered down because of the cold. Fortunately Susan's was fine. Fortunately, I was able to use the charcoal hand warmers in my Flipbelt to get the phone back going by mid-race.
The RNR loyalists at the start of the half in St. Louis. This group represents close to 200 Rock n Roll races this year, more if you include 5K and 10Ks.

Left to right(ish): Ron, Michelle, Ted, Sherry, Amy, Ilona, Susan, Hyalker, Carl, Irene, Jesus. I didn't catch the names for the other three gentlemen.

Some of the best stories come from pictures I take spontaneously. Amy runs for a reason. And her accomplishments this year are because of her dedication to the goal she set at the start of the year. She ran a personal best in St. Louis, beating her previous best by 3 minutes. This was her 16th Rock n Roll race of 2015.

I remember the half marathon course being pretty fast. There were some rolling hills, but knowing that we ended near the start, we knew that every uphill would give us a downhill later. It took a while to get warm, but the sun came out strong. By the time we were finished, it would be comfortable sweatshirt weather, at least in the sun.

There's a band I wouldn't have expected. Ukulele Fight Club!
This was one of my better races considering I wasn't actually pushing too hard after San Jose and Brooklyn. I walked the first 10K in 1:10:12 and had a slightly faster back half, hitting a good negative split for the last 5K at 34:33. I've got my sights set on RNR New Orleans for another shot at a PR, so I don't want to take the usual time off for the Eating Season (roughly Halloween through Easter).

Jennifer was using the Share My Location feature on our iPhones to keep track of our progress and it worked perfectly. I caught her on the side of the road just past mile 13. She was busy wowing the spectators around her with her knowledge of racing, race walking and technology.  Plus she had cool signs.

I don't always get pictures of Susan finishing, but when I do, its with her personal cheer squad.

This year, Competitor Group added Heavy Medals for 8 and 9 races, along with adding the 15 race Hall of Fame medal. However, anyone between 10 and 15 (or over 15) are in Heavy Medal Limbo. Amy took it upon herself to make a stack of homemade Heavy Medals with the RNR St. Louis logo on them, awarding them at the finish line.

Ilona hit 17. The scooter survived the race without issues, thankfully...

Carl also finished race #17. He said if Ilona's scooter had another flat tire, it would have ended up in the Mississippi. Maybe a good intro for an episode of Homicide Hunter?

Ilona awarded Amy her 16. Her Race Twin Ainsley received her Hall of Fame medal an hour later in Denver (below).
Amy earned her 15th in Brooklyn last weekend.  Now BOTH are Hall of Famers!
Susan and I hit our 13th. With 3 more races scheduled, we should finish with our second Hall of Fame in Las Vegas.

Michelle and Ted are at 11. They have four more races this year so if all goes well, they'll hit Hall of Fame in San Antonio.

Missing from this picture is James, the third Hall of Fame entrant of the weekend. I asked Amy at the Heavy Medal booth and she's guessing there will be 40 - 50 Hall of Famers this year. There may be a lot more, at least mathematically. We still have a month and a half left!

After a late check out and cleaning up, we took a tour of the Gateway Arch. Some of the pictures through the windows were really impressive. The view at the top was spectacular.

Half marathon #96 in the books. 

We're still feeling like we're on top of the world!


Rock n Roll St. Louis was held for the fifth year in 2015. This year they added the 5K for the Remix Weekend, but discontinued the full marathon. There were 5,758 finishers in the half marathon (median finish time 2:15:34) and 1,334 finishers in the 5K (median 35:51). Both times we've been there, starting temps were in the 30's (though the signs at the banks showed a starting temp in the mid to high 40's). Disposable layers are a good idea.

The race for the Hall of Fame continues. Unofficial numbers ("The Pannell Report") have 13 already in the Hall and potentially 94 total unless someone pulls off a Philly/Merida double. 

16 at 10
21 at 11
25 at 12
14 at 13
5 at 14
4 at 15     Hall of Fame
4 at 16
4 at 17
1 at 18

Rock n Roll St. Louis brought our half and full marathon total to 140 Rock n Roll races as a couple. We have a few more milestones coming up this year so I'm going to go back and verify our count. Given that this was supposed to be a one-and-done bucket list item, I think we're entitled to celebrate a few times as we keep going.

Next stop, Rock n Roll Los Angeles and an epic costume race!

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