Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Turn it up to 11 - Rock n Roll San Jose 5K and Half Marathon 2015

Rock n Roll San Jose weekend is a destination for top runners. Between the 5K and half marathon, over 100 elite athletes were going after world, masters or event qualifying times. According to Race Director Tracy Sundlun, more than 40 half marathoners were in the 65 - 75 minute range (when you don't even talk about HOURS in your finish time, you know it's serious). Add to that the likes of first year Master's division record holders Meb and Deena Kastor and the weekend was shaping up to be epic. And all of this was happening in our backyard!

We know two people on this banner and one who was SUPPOSED to be on the banner. 10 years running!
I was on a personal mission to improve on my time at Rock n Roll San Diego earlier in 2015. I walked a sub 2:30 half for the first time in San Jose in 2012 and recorded two sub 2:25 races the two years since. I thought my 2:22:28 PR was within reach after a good two months of speed work.

We hit the expo Friday afternoon with our dogs Sprint and Dash. The fur-kids weren't allowed in the expo, but we waited outside greeting visitors and seeing our friends in person for the first time. A few of the CGI staff took breaks to say hi in between their expo duties. Ann has been on the road for a better part of three weeks and appreciated the fuzz therapy. Jim, Beth and Joe also met the dogs before Susan had to rush home to beat traffic. Tracy went so far as to suggest we change their names to "Rock" and "Roll". Perhaps with a sponsorship incentive, we could be convinced?

Susan catches up with Ann Wessling who had spent the last three weeks on the road and was badly in need of puppy therapy. Not shown was an assortment of Salted Caramel snacks, milk bones for Thor and sunscreen - the Annie care package.

A VIP welcome for Joe Harris. Thank you so much for the Amazon gift card! The puppies are going shopping!

The 10-Year Anniversary Half Medal

Walking around the area the night before the 5K, we saw San Pedro Square decked out in RNR swag.

The plan for the Saturday 5K was the standard shake out. This time for me, walk just around a 12 minute mile. The Gypsies seemed to have a range of aches and pains this time of year and between backs, necks, feet, bronchitis and allergies, we all fell into a good relaxed pace. Susan and I hung out with Beth and Al jogged up front with Jim. 

New fish-eye lens attachment for the iPhone. I didn't have a cleaning cloth so it's a bit blurry.

An IN Focus RNR Gypsy starting line pic at the 5K.
We had a good 36 minutes to catch up on what had happened since RNR Chicago. I walked a full out sprint at an 8:30 pace for the last 200 meters and felt great. We got a quick recap of the 5K from race organizer Colleen (her first event as lead!). Deena Kastor tied the masters record that morning!

Post race breakfast at Hobee's was a rare treat since we don't often come to the peninsula. In retrospect, laying off the apple walnut coffee cake would have been a good idea.

Sunday September 27th. Half Marathon day. Starting temperature 64 degrees.

Usually we park at the SAP Center (home of the San Jose Sharks), but this year the Prime Minister of India was in town, so participants had to work with other reserved parking arranged by CGI. We got a really good spot at the Adobe building, just a few blocks from the finish and start lines. We swung by the VIP suite and enjoyed one of the huge privileges of the sport - sharing space with the elites, Meb and Deena. I didn't take any pictures just out of respect, but I find it humbling that racing gives us the opportunities to cross paths with people of their stature. It's something you won't find in many other sports.

RNR had a group picture for the Legacy runners at 7:30. Al and I made it with a few seconds to spare. Esmail from Punta Arenas/White Continent and his wife Parisa were also on the list of legacies, but didn't make the group picture.

Annie was looking decidedly much more chipper on day 2. We also found out that Dash seems to have completely healed from his recent knee surgery and was no longer hopping on his injured leg. It seems dog people and people dogs are good for each other.

Joe Harris is one of the kindest, most generous person I've ever met. He continues to honor Jake Zeman, a runner who passed away at Rock n Roll Savannah in 2013, by wearing a bib from Team Trust. Joe is also raising money for the American Association for Cancer Research to honor his brother who died of throat cancer in 2009. 

Once again, our little group seems to find each other without a lot of planning. We were supposed to head over to corral 10 but met up on the way. This group represents over 100 Rock n Roll half and full marathons in 2015. We see each other more often than our own families. Chalk it up to the law of attraction - crazy attracts crazy!

Left to right(ish): Ron, Caryn, Sherry, Don, Michelle, Al, Beth, Ted, Susan, Jim. Ready to Rock again!

Walking a 2:20 half marathon puts the mile pace at 10:38/mile since I was planning on 13.2 miles for the San Jose course based on the previous 4 years. Lining up in corral 11 and remembering to stay behind the 2:15 pacer was supposed to keep me from going out too fast. This is the last picture I took until the finish. Usually in San Jose, I kiss Susan good luck and we see each other 2 1/2 hours later.

The course loops back after the first 4 miles so we did get the thrill of seeing the leaders making the turn from San Pedro Square. Not a bad way to get your heart racing before you even cross the starting line!

The first 5K went fast, a bit TOO fast. I walked past the 5K in 33:02, 12 seconds off my 5K PR. I crossed the 10K mark in 1:07:07 (previous 10K PR of 1:10:43) and I was feeling pretty good. Of course, that's right when the wheels fell off. A few underpass inclines, what other people said was a quick spike in temperature after 9 AM and late fueling put my next 10K just over 1:10. I finished less than a minute off my course PR at 2:24:54, but had absolutely nothing left in the tank. My fingers were going slightly numb and I had to sit near the med tent for a few minutes to keep my head from spinning. I waited long enough for Al and Susan to finish and started the mental checklist for next race.

I had a couple highlights in the finishers area. I reconnected with my next door neighbor from 40 years ago. Raul is back for his first race since being diagnosed with cancer. His Facebook community page I Run To Eat posts some great tips on clean eating, running and inspiration. 

Carl and Ilona Marino earned their Hall of Fame Heavy Medal (15 races for the year). In addition to making time to travel the country to race, Carl plays the young Joe Kenda on Investigation Discovery Channel's Homicide Hunter. Ilona has made a few appearances on the show as a sketch artist and coroner. 

What I found especially endearing about the Marino's is that Ilona has been racing the last few half marathons with a broken foot, in a boot and riding a scooter (below). Half way through RNR San Jose, Carl was seen on the side of the road doing repairs on the wheels. THAT is love!

Finally, yet another shout out to our friend Kamika who flew in from Wisconsin Saturday night after finishing the Brewer's race to check off his 46th state with a half marathon. He's already a 50 state full marathon and a 7 Continents marathon finisher. I wonder what's next on his list?

Looking back, I have nothing to complain about walking a sub 2:25, but I'm always willing to learn and improve. San Jose was my second highest Age Graded finish for the half marathon at 62.2%, so there's something to be said about still being able to push myself. With a two-week break before Rock n Roll Brooklyn, I may still have a shot at a PR. 

Time to turn it up to 11!


This was the 10th year for Rock n Roll San Jose. We've raced here 6 times, 3 of them resulted in Ron's fastest race of the year. The course hasn't changed in a while. It's flat other than a few underpasses with long stretches of straight road, ideal for a PR race. The addition of the 10K race staring at the same time as the half created a little congestion in the first few miles, but didn't seem to affect the race as a whole. Temperatures for RNR San Jose have ranged from the low to high 60s at race start and finish in the mid to high 70's.

In 2015, Rock n Roll San Jose had 1,993 finishers in the 5K (median finish time 35:40), 3,180 in the 10K (median 1:16:07), and 8,276 in the half marathon (median 2:19:53). Deena Kastor tied the women's US and World masters record at the 5K on Saturday in a time of 15:48, meaning she now owns or shares every masters record from the 5K through the marathon distances. Meb missed winning the half marathon by 2 seconds finishing in 63:02, but shattered the masters half marathon record by over 20 seconds.

The week before San Jose, Leah Reid became the first to hit the 15 race mark to earn the Hall of Fame Heavy Medal at Rock n Roll MontrealHome town runners Carl and Ilona Marino claimed their Hall of Fame Heavy Medal in San Jose to become the first repeat Hall of Famers. At last check, about 70 people have earned at least the 10-race Gold Record Heavy Medal with four more ready to earn the Hall of Fame 15 at their next race. RNR San Jose was our 11th race this year and with Brooklyn, St. Louis/Denver, Los Angeles/Vancouver and Philadelphia/Merida all in the month of October, I expect to see a lot gold microphones on my friends Facebook walls. 

We're looking forward to joining them for a big reunion of all the Hall of Famers at the final race in San Antonio.

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