Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Finding Neverland - Rock n Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon 2015

Week 3 of Rock n Roll Marathon Series fall season took us to Brooklyn for the Inaugural Half Marathon. Competitor Group actually had a Rock n Roll event in the city in 2013, but offered only a 10K, not a half. Brooklyn checks off a milestone for both of us, being the 25th different state for half marathons.  Yes, if you're wondering, there IS a club for Half Marathons in half the states.

The Saturday race on the east coast meant an early Thursday flight. Other than Ron taking a suitcase to the head on the second leg from Dallas to LaGuardia, traveling into Brooklyn was smooth. A rush hour Uber ride later and we were at the Aloft checking out the rooftop view and grabbing a quick bite at Forno Rosso

Not a bad view from the rooftop bar at the Aloft. The rain came the next night.
Pizza. And dessert pizza.
After a couple of weeks rest, I wanted to see if I could take another crack at a PR so we turned in early. Friday morning, we were able to navigate the subway system to get to the Brooklyn Expo Center. If you're a visitor, I highly recommend the MTA app for your smart phone!

The expo was tiny, but somehow we spent over 3 hours there as we met friends coming in waves. Mindy was conscripted into working merch even though she was planning on running the next day. We picked up a few of the Brooks branded gear items. No luggage tags. Boo.

We met the new president of the 100 Half Marathons Club, local Jenipher. Andrea is still with the club in a support role. They've got a long list of discounts and a membership fee that just keeps the website up. The new shirt design was really eye-catching, but Jenipher is already looking to upgrade. 

We knew Kamika, Kevin and Joe were heading in so we waited around, chatting with Amy, Ryan and trying to figure out who's going to be where in October as RNR has two-race weekends each of the next three weeks.  October could mean another 30 people could hit the 15 race mark and earn the Hall of Fame medal for the year. We left our mark on the banner for this, the inaugural event.

I had this weird feeling we were lingering a bit longer than usual until I realized Joe was stalling us. He was waiting for Erin Zeman to come in from the city. In 2013, Erin's husband, Jake, died shortly after crossing the finish line at Rock n Roll Savannah. In 2014, we were part of the first wave of runners to run wear bibs for Team Trust, a foundation for Erin's son, Jack. Since then, Erin had asked several people if they would wear Jake's Savannah bib in his memory.  Erin told me she'd looked up Jake's name recently and found our blog and asked if I'd be willing to be the next to wear the bib. I was nearly moved to tears as I accepted.

After the expo we took a quick ferry ride to Manhattan, grabbed lunch with Kevin and headed back to the hotel. The rain started so we stayed close for dinner. The 7 AM gun time, subway ride and with extra security planned at the start put us at a 4 AM wake up call.  Sorry guys, it's the way we trained. Maybe next time, we'll stay up late to enjoy the city!

Race Day, Saturday October 10th. 
Forecasted temps in the mid to high 50's from 7 AM to 11. Pretty much perfect race conditions.

We were able to see most of our friends in the starting corral. It still amazes me that we can do that in a crowd of 17,000. Maybe we've known each other so long, we know each other's habits even without a set plan for a meeting spot or time. It's a great way to start off the race regardless.

We even saw Megan from Maryland. We didn't know she was racing until reading Facebook feeds the night before.

Susan and I let the first 10 corrals go by, waiting for the 2:15 pacer. The plan for the first 5K  was to stay between him and the 2:20 pacer for the first half since it was a decent net downhill. The out-and-back from the start to mile 3 gave us a chance to cheer for the runners ahead of us and for Susan to take some pictures. 

I think this might be what Coach Becky would call showing 'flashes of legal form.'
Things went well and I hit the 10K mark at 1:06:22. The turn at miles 8 started a 3.5 mile gradual uphill followed by the biggest hill on the course at 11.5 to 12.1. From what I heard, that hill was a PR breaker for a lot of people. I stopped looking at my elapsed time at the top of the hill and did the best to spike the heart rate and finish strong, making a weak attempt to high five Ann before the finish line. While I did manage to walk sub 11 minute miles for all but the mile 12 hill, I missed my PR by 27 seconds. My Garmin distance was 13.15. I'm going to analyze this to death in the next few months, but given the course and the previous two race times in the last four weeks, I have to be happy with the result. The real bummer about pushing a race is that I don't take any time to say hi to Ann at the finish line. Good thing Susan had enough manners for both of us!

I hope you had time to find some pizza, Annie!

Cell traffic was so bad I couldn't estimate how far back Susan was, so I stayed in the finisher area a little longer to recover. I was standing next to John Volpe when one of the staff said they really needed help at since they'd lost a few volunteers at one of the food tables. Having nothing better to do, I unloaded about 5 crates of bananas and chatted with McKenzie while breaking the bunches and handing them out. All in a days work, it seems.

Susan came in just under 3:10. Her plantar is getting work with physical therapy and a chiropractor now, so hopefully she can keep it under control until we can take a long break from racing to rest.

We met up with Erin to return Jake's bib. For the four people who have worn the bib, there seemed to be some kind of magic to it, like someone was watching over the race to help us dig deep when we needed an extra push. I hope she continues this tradition and lets someone else get touched by this race magic. 

Erin had previously asked Hailey (RNR Nashville), Joe (RNR Portland) and Kevin (RNR San Diego) to wear Jake's bib
We sat on the grass listening to Nate Ruess, the headliner band. It's something we rarely do because we're usually checking out of the hotel the day of the race. Instead of going home, we stayed over one more night to meet up with Susan's coworker Errol and see Finding Neverland. The race recap aside, I found a lot of lines in the play to hit home this weekend.

"Believe it and you can be it."
We met Amy and Ainsley after Rock n Roll DC. They said they saw the Hall of Fame Banner and wanted to be on it in 2015. Amy (left) earned her Hall of Fame medals for her 15th race this weekend.
Ainsley will get her 15th next week in Denver. 
"Second star to the right and straight on till morning."
A quick shout out for folks who finished the half in Brooklyn and hopped on a plane for a race the next day. Jessica (left) and Adrian (second from right) ran the Long Beach Marathon on 2.5 hours of sleep. Ainsley (second from left) and Hyalker (right) ran the Chicago Marathon. Special mention to Carl Marino who flew into Brooklyn early morning Saturday after filming an episode of Homocide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda in Nashville all day Friday.

"When your feet don't touch the earth, you can't feel the fates that hurt

And you're free, there's no need to come down. When your feet don't touch the ground."
Ilona finishes her 16th Rock n Roll of the year, the last 4 with her left foot in a boot. She was hoping ET would help her fly.
And finally, my favorite Neverland lyric of the weekend just fit with this lady.
Harriette Thompson at Rock n Roll San Diego 2015 (Photo from CGI)
At age 92, Harriette Thompson is the oldest woman ever to complete a full marathon. She started running in 1977 at the young age of 54. We had the honor to escort her back to her hotel. She didn't run Brooklyn, but was an enthusiastic cheerleader for Team in Training from the sidelines. It took a while to get the golf cart to a place where we could grab Uber.

Ms. Thao's Wild Ride
The lyric?

"Neverland is a place I created where people never grow old." 

This was our 109th race since we started. I was 38. Susan was 37. 

I feel like if we keep this going, we'll never grow old.


RNR had previously held events in Brooklyn in 2012 and 2013 with only a 10K distance which is sort of messing up our total RNR race count. Originally, we only counted half and full marathons and we don't count 5K and 10K races during remix weekends that started in 2014. We're not sure how to treat Brooklyn 2013's 10K where Susan ran but I didn't, putting her one up on me in the race count. Tracy Sundlun thinks we should count it so that should be good enough. We'll figure it out in a few years when it starts to matter in the milestones.

RNR Brooklyn drew 17,500 entrants, the max that CGI was allowed by the city. There were 13,315 finishers with a median time of 2:11:15, making this one of the faster RNR halfs overall. The course (Garmin Connect - RNR Brooklyn Half 2015) was basically two out-and-backs starting at the Arch at Grand Army Plaza, running along the north and west sides of Prospect Park to finish at the center of the Park. It was worth plotting the course on Garmin since the elevation maps were a bit off and knowing where the big hill started at mile 11.5 really helped. Temperatures were in the high 50's to start and stayed there until the sun broke through the clouds around 9 AM. You couldn't ask for better race weather.

Things were rocky early on. The digital event guide was a bit confusion when it directed people to the southern exit on Flatbush if they had a bag to check and the gear drop location wasn't marked on the maps. There was about a 30 minute delay for the start as the NYPD were confirming we had the roads clear which actually ended up helping out the thousands of runners still waiting to go through security. For future planning, this would be a REALLY good event to spring for the VIP package as there was a dedicated entrance near the starting line.

At the last race of 2014 (Rock n Roll San Antonio), we heard the numbers of each Heavy Medal level. At the time, the 8 and 9-race medals weren't established and the 15 race Hall of Fame level was brand new and without a medal awarded (but a nice set of RNR swag!). We don't know the counts below 10 races, but according to RNR loyalist John Pannell here's the unofficial tally of people with a shot at Hall of Fame this year with 6 more races left. Philadelphia/Merida has been deemed logistically impossible, but I won't write it off yet. People do crazy things.

Races 2015 2014
7 ? 458
9         22
10 19  300
11 25
12 19
13 7
14 4
15 4 27      Amy and Fred hit 15 in Brooklyn!
16 4
17 1
19*  4

*European races were not counted toward Heavy Medals in 2014. 19 was the highest total for that year.

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