Monday, June 29, 2015

What we remember - Rock n Roll Seattle Half Marathon 2015

When you have a busy race schedule where you travel two, three or even four times a month, things tend to blur together. It’s hard to remember where you had that great meal, or saw that really cool sign on the course. Unless I’m tracking my performance for a key race, I don’t even remember the finish times for races.

Rock n Roll Seattle has been a weird race for our little Rock n Roll Gypsy group. It's usually a rest race after a fast RNR San Diego course and maybe that's a good thing since we seem to have recover from various ailments. Last year, Jim had a calf strain and 6 of us walked together the entire race. Jim now has a commemorative portapotty at the left turn at the end of I-90 at mile 10.2. Two years ago, Ron had sharp pains just after the Blue Mile (now dubbed “Hernia Hill”). When we landed in Seattle, Kamika was reporting foot pain that he ended up muscling through. It was looking like we’d actually come away unscathed.

Let's ignore the fact that we rebooked our flight to come in a day earlier and didn't remember to add a hotel room. Oh well. At least we didn't wait for the last minute only to realize we never registered for the race until after it was sold out (*cough2011cough*). Brain farts are an ailment too.

We were planning to head to Alaska right after the race so we brought some company. Marvin the Moose wanted to go back to his birthplace, so he came along for the ride.

Our chauffeur meets us at the gate. Luckily Marvin packed light.
Since we were staying close to the airport Thursday night, we hit Duke's Chowder House for the chowder sampler and dinner. Reviews were good and we were 1 for 1 on halibut days.

Our waitress was pretty amusing since we were more there for snacking rather than a full dinner. We made our way through a couple appetizers and she told us to stack our menus when we were ready to order dinner.  She clearly had no idea who she was serving.

Tent top courtesy of Al
Friday June 12th. 
If you're traveling to the race and staying downtown, be sure to take advantage of the Link light rail. For just $2.25 each way you can get to the expo at Chinatown station or continue a few more stops to Westlake station close to Pikes Market or the Monorail to the Space Needle. From the Needle, we had a two block walk to our hotel.

The monorail has a rather famous Bunny that was left behind a few years back. Last year an Otter joined the Bunny to travel the northwest. Marvin definitely stuck close so he wouldn't be left behind.
After a quick bag drop at the hotel, we took advantage of the Pronto bike share system. One-day passes are $8 and a 3-day pass is only $16. You can (and really should) rent a helmet for a couple bucks and keep it for the duration of your pass. Seattle has a great system of bike lanes so travel down to the expo at Century Link field was a breeze.
Ron, Susan, Gary, Ainsley, Joe, Amy and Al. A sub-group of the 2015 Hall of Fame Banner
Marvin finds out how crazy his parents are and meets some of our CGI friends. We wish Shayne (lower left) the best of luck as the new Digital Marketing Manager at the DZAP Group.

Saturday, June 13th.
Ever notice that the people who are usually closest to the starting line are the last ones to get there? That was us this time. We walked up to corral 10 just as the Gypsies were getting a group picture. We had to pull Susan away from her stretching routine to get in front of the MarathonFoto photographer.

Remember when I said that someday the group selfie to not be big enough to include us all? Well, we may be getting there!

Photobomb by Jesus
Competitor arranged a special start for the race. The Space Needle was was set up with fireworks to turn it into the world largest starter pistol.

Thanks to Al for the great timing.
We saw Kamika on the side of the corrals before the starting line. I think the expression on his face may have been a symptom of all the traveling he's been doing this year after the Triple 7 Quest and his plan to finish his 50th state for half marathons. More on that in a future blog.

We were trying to figure out a good way to take Marvin on the race, but we couldn't get him out of bed.
There was no plan this race. Susan has been working through plantar faciitis for a few months and I wanted to keep my heart rate low until the last 5K. You see some memorable things when you expand your focus.

This young lady was getting back in shape so she could qualify for boot camp. That's an 80 pound pack.

The Blue Mile was once again one of the best sights on the course.
I remember last year when we were running with Jim. Beth stopped to take a picture at this spot with the Ferris Wheel. She was going to be coming in later as she was running the full.

Shortly after that picture, Al and I stopped for a fellow Half Fanatic who had take a bad spill on one of the gaps on the surface of the Viaduct. We stood for about 15 minutes directing runners around him as the Race Guards gave him aid. Reports are that he had a cracked eye socket and a few bad cuts on his legs. He was on track for a PR, but he'll recover. 

Nearly 10 years after our first race, we run into one of the reasons we finished our first one. Coach Al from the East Bay Run Team for Team in Training has inspired thousands of our friends to finish their first and fastest races. It was great to catch up with him, even for a few minutes.

By this time, Susan caught up to us. Find iPhone is a handy feature to have for those who race at different speeds.

This was a new sign that popped up just before the 13 mile mark. Its true! Racing adds years to your life.

Our friend Ryan at the Heavy Medal booth handed us the new Headliner medal for our 9th race. We've made it a habit to let folks know when we finish because this is always our first stop. Susan and I both got stopped at airport security on the way out of town for a medal check. I was happy to explain it to them.

We're estimating about 30 people have this medal at the halfway point of 2015. There's probably another 30 who have the 8-track and are on their way to the huge 15 Hall of Fame Heavy Medal.
This photo op is becoming a post-race tradition as we run into people who are racking up the race count. Congrats to Leny and her daughter. Leny (third from the left) is a multiple-time cancer survivor and is a true example of living life to the fullest.

Gary usually races on the west coast and Kamika has been busy this year doing 7 half marathons on continents in 7 days. While they're "only" getting their Roadie 5-race medal, it made for some good Heavy Medal math. 5 + 5 = 10. Sherry earned her 10-race Gold Record at Seattle.

Beth was one of the only ones of our group who ran the full. This was the first full after her surgery just a few months back. She's still not back to full speed, but she said she drew on a lot of help from the memories we've shared as a group to get her through (even smiling as she passed Jim's porta-potty). Jim caught this wonderful picture of her coming up the last 100 meters on Mercer Street. He was a little worried about leaving her when the half and full split early in the race, but he said, "she knows her body. And she's a monster."

Now THAT'S a winning smile!

What do I remember from this weekend? I don't remember my finish time because it wasn't important. I don't remember much of the course since I was chatting with Al and Susan most of the way. I remember the medal, but only because I'm in the process of clearing my office to hang the last 10 years of race swag on the wall.

What I certainly remember was laughing with some of the most amazing people I've ever met for five hours at lunch-turned-into-dinner after the race...

...and another breakfast the next day. 

Sorry about the shadows. I need to work on that.
I remember finding out that we had 10 of the top 11 Rock n Roll race totals in this blog but none of them seem to care about personal accomplishments when we're together. Knowing that we're scattered all over the country when we're not at a race, it's inevitable that we might see each other less often as life goes on and priorities change.

That's why I want to remember this while I can.


Rock n Roll Seattle was held for the 7th time since the inaugural 2009 race. This year CGI added a new 8K distance on race day to complement the half and full. There were 14,339 total finishers (11071 for the half, median finish time 2:21; 2,045 in the full - 4:33; 1,223 in the 8K - 0:58). Attendance was up by about 2,000 from 2014

Weather in 2015 was started in the mid-50's under clear skies. It's a little humid for us Californians, but it's a good early-summer race before things get toasty.

If you're headed to Seattle, watch for Southwest fares if you're lucky enough to be close to one of their origin airports. Flights go on sale every Tuesday and can do a bit to offset the hotel costs. With Link, bike share and Uber available, renting a car really isn't necessary.

With our sights set on maintaining at least the Gold Record medal, Seattle is on the schedule for 2016. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

A Record Weekend - Rock n Roll San Diego 5K and Half Marathon 2015

We've been lucky to see some amazing things. Sometimes, it's just that we happen to be in the right place at the right time. I like to think that some of it is because we continue to have passion for racing, keeping ourselves healthy and being fortunate enough to have the means to travel to the events. Working hard breeds its own luck.

We always look forward to the Suja Rock n Roll San Diego weekend. It's a quick flight to a beautiful city during our peak training period of the year. This year, they added a 5K on Saturday to the half and full marathons on Sunday. The Remix bonus medal is a nice perk and I'm sure the city appreciated the tourists coming in a day early. San Diego is also the headquarters for Competitor Group Inc., and in its 18th year, it's the oldest race on the Rock n Roll circuit. It's also where either Susan or I set a personal best in each of the last three years.

Susan and two of the legacy runners for Rock n Roll San Diego. An amazing run of 18 years!
We made a point of getting there for the pre-race press conference. Team in Training participant Harriet Thompson would be running for a world record as the oldest woman to complete a marathon at 92. She started running when she was 76. Never believe people when they say it's too late to start! I would have liked to have seen her at the Inspiration Dinner where John Bingham hosted his final function with Team in Training.

Harriet and Meb share the stage with the Mayor of San Diego, Kevin Faulconer.
We cut our usual visit to the expo short so we could stay off our feet. We didn't want a repeat of the dead legs in Portland a few weeks ago. We had enough time to catch our favorite CGI staff.  Grace (Far left) will be representing the USA in Senior Dragon Boat racing in August against Team Canada.

In retrospect, I should have waited until Darlene put the sports bra back
We congratulated Amy on her graduation from business school. Ryan has been on the road for the last four weekends, something we can relate to. Al had to head back to work so Susan and I found a light dinner near the hotel.

Race day #1. 5K at Balboa Park
The inaugural RNR San Diego 5K drew about 3000 participants. We had a chance to catch up with Ann Wessling who had been reliving her father's book about working on the railroads in the mountain states. She, her dad and husband were driving the route while she read the book aloud. With her voice, I think that would make an amazing documentary. Kevin showed up to cheer us on.

We also found Sherry, Don and Andrew at the start. Gypsy beacon activated!

The course was a great shake out and prepped us for some of the rolling hills we'd see on the half on Sunday. I actually went to bed the night before thinking that this might be the year where neither of us set a new PR given the so-so performances at Crown Point and Portland. But something about the Remix combo really gets me revved up to push the shorter distance. With Al and Andrew dragging me up the last 400 yards, I ended up trimming 30 seconds off my previous 5K best. Probably the best part about the race for me was that Al didn't get to the start line at the gun because he was holding a Deco bike parking space for Caryn. He had to throw down a few 8 minute miles to catch up to me.

Finish line appearance by Dave Mari. He lost his voice cheering while running with Deena and Meb.
Susan and I had to get back to the hotel to be presentable for brunch. We had been to San Diego 6 times but never got the chance to visit my cousins and goddaughter. Thank you guys, for making the trip south!

Our extended family has only a few blondes. Darcy and Susan really stand out in most family pictures. 
I took a quick trip to the expo to exchange Susan's 5K shirt (ran a little small) and Susan took a short nap. I was able to catch up to my friend Kassi. We met on a flight to Rock n Roll Seattle a few years back and this was her first race in a year or so. Her parents came down to cheer her on.

We met up with Caryn at Tratorria Fantastica at the bottom of the Little Italy sign. Given the visitors for race day, we'll likely head elsewhere next year. Parking and traffic are a bear. Al was about an hour late dealing with tech support issues. Fortunately we had enough time to chat. 

Al pointed out something I hadn't processed before. I was using way too much of my calf muscles when my form breaks down which explained a lot about late race calf cramps. I gave that some thought since that's the 'hike' style of race walking that I fall back on when I get tired. I know he's been pushing me to strengthen my glutes this year and it all started falling into place. Back to the hotel for an early bed time and a 3:30 AM wake up call to catch the shuttle to the start. 

We figured it was better to walk a little less than a mile to the shuttle on level ground to Petco Park than two miles up a hill to the start. Uber was unavailable and bikes just didn't seem like a good idea in the dark. The line moved pretty quickly though. I sat behind a group of firemen who were doing the full marathon in full turnouts. They were raising money for one of the company's sons who was diagnosed with leukemia.

Just like last year, we spent about an hour just resting in Caryn's car staying cozy warm. We got out enough to stretch, warm up and check gear bags. We didn't get out in time to catch Joe, Kevin, David and Tricia in the VIP area. Al did a quick run to the far side of the starting line where we usually find Kamika. He'd flown in late the night before from Boise where he crossed off the 42nd state for his half marathon quest.

This is where race brain just took over. I'd done this race three times already so I knew the turns pretty well. Except for 2014 when my back was tweaked after Mustang, I'd logged a PR every year. About 2 miles in, I started rotating muscle groups, 'going light' using more hamstring and glutes to save my calf muscles.

Damn. It worked. I started knocking mile times at PR pace without spiking my heart rate at all. I stuck to the plan to hold that pace and relax on the few sharp uphills in miles 7 - 9. Kassi passed me near the end of mile 10 on her way to a solid race and we gave each other some much needed encouragement to finish. Once I hit the last 2 miles, I'd take advantage of the downhills and see what I had left. 

Turns out, it was quite a bit. My last 5K of the half was even faster than my 5K PR the day before. Even my Garmin data gave me an indication that I had even more left. I usually peg the Training Effect at 5.0 but finished with a medium-high exertion reading of 3.8. I passed Ann at the finish line, gave her a high five, pointed at the clock and yelled out "PR by two minutes!"  Turns out it was a little less than that, but I'm not one to complain. I've got more work to do.

As I crossed through the finish area, I saw Laurie from CGI, who was one of the leads for this event. She said several of her friends came by with PR performances.  Meb won his first Master's title at 1:02:29, just two seconds behind the overall winner. Harriet Thompson became the oldest woman  to finish a marathon at 92 years and 93 days old. She finished in 7 hours and 24 minutes.

And us? We come away with our 8th Rock n Roll and a seriously heavy 8-Track Heavy Medal. We're over half way to the Hall of Fame for 2015 and loving every mile.

Note to self: We need to get a picture WITH Amy and Ryan next time.
We've been lucky to see some amazing things. We plan to keep working hard to keep that luck flowing.


In its 18th year, Rock n Roll San Diego had about 21000 finishers. There were 13,702 in the half marathon, 4,307 in the marathon, 390 in the marathon relay and 2,987 finishers in the 5K. 88 Legacy Runners even have their own results page. This year we were blessed with temps in the low 60's and a cloud cover that lasted for the first 6 hours of the race. If you're looking for a fast course, this is the place to be for a half marathon. 

Joe Harris extended his lifetime Rock n Roll race total to 106. Kevin Gonzalez crushed his PR by walking a 2:16:59 in his 85th RNR, wearing Jake Zeman's bib for Team Trust. I think we have identified the top 9 lifetime RNR totals including Al, Sherry, Kamika, Ron, Susan, Juan and David DeNeire. This is the first race where in some time where all of us participated. If anyone else has over 60 RNR half and fulls, let me know. It'd be cool to take a picture with the top 10!

We'll be in Chicago this weekend for a race walk clinic with Tim Seaman. I'll be really excited to see anything I can learn to get more efficient and faster. After all, Kevin is starting to nip at my heels on age grade results and I need to stay a step ahead!