Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Nashville to Oaxaca: Two races, Two Days, Two Countries and a Whole Lot of Hills

Why run one race a weekend when you can run two?

And why limit yourself to running those two races in just one country?

Eight women and one man decided to run BOTH the Rock 'N' Roll Nashville AND the Rock 'N' Roll Oaxaca races this weekend.

Why?

Because we could.


Saturday, 28 April, Nashville

Nashville RnR Crew
I had always wanted to run this course and finally got the opportunity.  Everyone warned me about the hills, but everyone always talks about hills forgetting that I started running in San Francisco and both my half and full PRs are there.

Hills, schmills, bring it on.  I moved to Chicago seven months ago and miss my natural intervals of up and down the slopes of San Francisco's beautiful coastline.

I met my running team in our usual spot for the group picture and pre-race shenanigans and got ready to run.

The start was a gentle slope downhill, perfect to warm up my shins.  I hadn't run for almost a month due to work and my asthma/allergies sidelining me, so I appreciated the ability to warm up my muscles without pumping my heart and lungs too much.

Love that the sport of running is open to
 everyone no matter the challenge.

I also knew that I wasn't going to push myself on this race as I had another one the next day.  Unlike last year's RnR Dallas to Mexico City, we had to take three flights to get from Nashville to Oaxaca, not one, and the body doesn't respond well to flying that much in one day without rest.

First half mile done, then here come the hills.

For 2.5 miles there was a steady climb of just over 200 feet.  Sweet.  I got this.  Take your time, focus on your breathing and climb.  Honestly, it felt good to work my legs in a way they hadn't been worked in eight months.

Mile Five came up and I got to see what everyone was talking about when they said that Nashville had the biggest crowd support of all the RnR races.  They did not lie!  For the whole mile through a very residential section of Nashville, people lined the streets playing music, dancing, singing, drinking, handing out snacks and beverages and cheering on the runners.  What a party!  I stopped to take a few pictures and might have had a doughnut or two.

Not a single telephone pole was left
without some sort of signage. 
Some of the Mile 5 Party Crew






Top of the hill.  Downhill slope for a mile.  Wheeeee!!!!  Oh, how I have missed pumping my legs down those hills, feeling the wind in my hair, running just fast enough to start getting worried that I will trip, passing everyone who gave me the side-eye for walking up the hill.  It felt fantastic!  And the nonstop roar of the crowd was pushing all of us on during the speed zone.

But now I was getting hot.  Reeeeeealy hot.  I've been training in Chicago outside when I can and sub-freezing temperatures feel a whole lot different on the body than this heat.  I could feel sweat rolling down my back and my thighs.  Ick.  It's hot at the gym on the treadmill, but not like this.  Salt started crusting on my temples and behind my ears.

And then up again.  OK, body, you remember this.  You love this.  You got this.  And with a little help from the volunteers handing out support on the course, over the hill I went.

Another downhill...that kept going.  So this is what I have been working so hard for?  YES!!!  All the love and longing I had for my San Francisco hills came back to me and I got cooler as the breeze blew across my body.

Next thing I knew, I was rounding the corner and being handed oranges and bananas by more volunteers.  Perfect.  I was on my last gel and the sugar in the fruit went immediately to my legs, cooled me down and sped me up that last hill.


Me, Leny, Nichole and Russ.  Round 1 Done.


Black Sheep Celebrate.














By this time, four of us who were doing the Nashville to Oaxaca journey had found each other on the course and we crossed the finish line together.  Most of them left right away to get to Mexico City for their overnight, but three of us stayed behind, relaxing and having adult beverages and food in the sunshine on a rooftop bar before going back to our hotel, washing our race clothes, and getting ready to get up at 3:30 AM to do it all again.


Sunday, 28 April

It might be OJ, it might be mimosas
Getting up waaaaay too early, Sherry and I packed our bags, grabbed a snack and headed to the airport for a 6 AM flight.  Nashville to Houston on United.  We're both 1K, so we were upgraded to First Class and had a snack (and maybe a mimosa) on the plane.  Short flight, and enough time to hit up the United Club in Houston for more food, print out our Oaxaca registration forms and go to the next flight.





The only real food we were going to eat the entire day.
We were also upgraded to First Class on our flights into Mexico City, so after eggs and sausage, we both took a nap for an hour or so before landing.

Now, Sherry and I don't speak Spanish, so while getting through customs was pretty easy since we didn't have any checked luggage, arriving in an airport for one of the biggest cities in the world when you have no idea where you are going is going to make things difficult.  Plus, we were changing airlines, so we had to find where Aeromexico was, and the two-hour window to check in was closing fast.

Needless to say, we didn't check in before the two hour window closed, and our seats were given away.  We're now on standby on an oversold flight.  Three other Nashville to Oaxaca teammates, Julie, Nichole, and Regina had the same experience and were also on standby for our flight.  It didn't look good.

For an hour I sat at the gate looking for options to get to Oaxaca on the next flight (that landed an hour before the race started) or to give up, call United, and go home with my tail between my legs.

Boarding time.  Russ and Tamara had checked in early, were confirmed and got on.  Five of us waited.  Group Three, Group Four, Group Five, final boarding call.  Confirmed passengers without seat assignments were called.  Then nothing.  A lump began to swell in my throat.

Then Sherry's name was called.  Confirmed seat.  Sherry hasn't missed a RnR race in over three years, so it was a sigh of relief for all of us that she got on.  Two seats left.  Four people waiting from our team, several other people not racing but also on standby.  Who is going to be next?

Miss Canale?  Please pick up your boarding pass....

YES!!!!

And one non-racer was called, too, but he declined as he didn't want to leave his friend, so Julie got on.

Nichole and Regina were left behind, but had purchased another ticket to Oaxaca on the later flight, so they had seats.  But the window to land and make the race was very, very small.

Off to Oaxaca we went.

After checking into our hotel, finding some food that didn't come in snack packages, and getting redressed, we walked over to the Start/Finish line to find out how to pick up our bibs and meet up with the rest of the team that was already here.

Amber.  The woman who saved the day
in countless ways.

It's always maddening going to a different country when you don't speak the language and trying to figure everything out, and since the nine of us didn't get to the expo to get our bibs, we were prepared for the long process of navigating through all the red tape to find where to go and what to do.

Not this time!  With three Spanish speakers in the group, we found where to go and easily picked up everything we needed.  We explained that we still had two people coming and that their flight was now delayed, landing 30 minutes before the start time.

Dear Rock 'N' Roll:  Amber from your staff is WONDERFUL!!!  I couldn't tell if her native language is English or Spanish because she spoke both of them so clearly.  Her compassion for our situation was remarkable.  She had us send specific instructions to Nichole and Regina of where, exactly, to go and what, exactly, to do so that they could race as soon as they arrived.  Please send her our gratitude for being AMAZING!

7 of 9....not Star Trek but Rock 'N' Roll Oaxaca

Start time.  We're exhausted already.  Note to self:  Do not take three flights in one day and then run a race.  Not wise.  One, maybe, two is pushing it, but three?  Never again.

And it's still hot.  Really hot.  And I haven't even looked at the course map to see what the elevation changes will be...all I know is that we're 5200 feet above sea level and I'm nowhere near as hydrated as I should be.  Whee!!!



Seven of us from Nashville and three of our team who are just running Oaxaca take our places in the corrals.  It's even hotter.  The sun is down and there's no chill in the air like there was in Mexico City last year.  It's going to be interesting.

Team Nashaca and Mole Tour Crew.
We haven't heard from Nichole and Regina since they landed.  One hour flight delay.  We've left instruction and hope that they get here before they close the race.

Time to start.  Metallica.  AC/DC.  Queen.  Oh, the producers of this race know how to fire up a crowd!!  My feet are screaming but I don't care.  I'm pumped.  Coral after coral is released.  I start my Garmin and off we go.





Again, we start with a down slope.  So very thankful for this as we're at the 36-hour marker where the muscles are at their worst after a race.  Feet are protesting.  Calves are screaming.  Sweat is pouring.  Again, I don't care.  Forward we go.  Even if I have to crawl across the finish line, I will get across it.

Did I mention it was hot?  Good grief.  Dallas was hot, but Mexico City later was cool.  Nashville was hot, and Oaxaca is still hot.  I can't remember the last time I sweat so much.  Thank goodness I have KT Tape under all the elastic parts that get super sweaty as I've gone through my Body Glide.

Two miles out, turn, and back.  The crowd is amazing!!  I'm speed walking as I'm afraid of the dreaded DNF and don't want the elevation, asthma, dehydration, or heat to take me out.

Not so ugly bags of mostly water.
(Ooops.  Another Star Trek reference)
It's no secret that drinking water in Mexico from the tap is a no-no for non-residents.  While I've never had a problem here, others might have a more sensitive stomach, and the races have an answer:  Water in baggies.  This is the coolest thing ever.  Water is sealed in little plastic bags where you bite off the corner and drink.  It's like chewing on a jellyfish.  No spilling.  The other greatest thing is that since they are sealed, you can grab two--one for now and one to tide you over for a bit until the next water stop.

Necessity is the mother of invention, they say, and I decided that since I was roasting I would figure out how to use the water bags to cool down.  The bags are ice cold so I decided to grab two--one to drink and the other to shove down my Shefit sports bra between my shoulder blades.  Perfect!!!  I kept rotating the water bags along the course, putting the coldest one down my back, grabbing the warmer one out from my bra and drinking that.  It truly saved me.

Coming into Mile 4, we entered the Zocalo.  I'm pretty sure that this crowd could give the Nashville Mile 5 Party people a run for their money on who was the largest crowd or loudest.  It was intense!  People were shouting, chanting, screaming, cheering!  It was deafening.  Whenever the crowd started to quiet down, a runner would yell, "Oaxaca!!!" and the crowd would erupt into cheers.  I've never seen anything like it.  My walk turned into a run again, even though the cobblestones were destroying my ankles and I wanted to take it easy.  Nope.  Not with this crowd's energy.

People were lined three-deep in the Zocalo.

Remember how I said I loved hills?  I still do...just not when I'm hot.  And tired.  And sore.  Oh, my.  Mile 4.5 began a climb which, save a few spots, lasted all the way up to Mile 9.  Want to know what they served along with the bags of water?  Crow Pie.  And I was eating it.  By the 10K mark every part of my body wished that I was in Chicago running on a flat, cold course.  There was only one spot for about a half mile where it was a sharp downhill, and I took complete advantage of it, running as hard as I could and passing everyone along the way.  Again, the crowd was screaming, and I ate that up, too.

The costumes were
amazing!

There was a huge party around Mile 8 where it seemed that everyone in Oaxaca was gathered around a huge stage and band.  This was part of an out-and-back, and I was inspired by all the runners coming downhill, as I knew my time would come again soon.  I'm not sure of the music, but it was some sort of Heavy Metal, and I love racing to that.  Swinging my arms even harder, I kept going up and up and up.  My walk is faster than most, so I caught up with Leny who was her usual excited self, jumping up and down, shouting at everyone in Spanish and urging us all on.  Since the stage was so large and there were so many people, I was sure this was the turn around point and kicked it into a run.

Oh, was I WRONG!  We kept going...up and up and up.  OK, I take back everything I ever said about loving hills.  I hate hills.  Where is the turn around?  Oh, another 3/4 of a mile.  I'm gonna die.

I caught up with Hyalker, Juan and Tamara right as we FINALLY turned the corner and started downhill.  Thank goodness.  I wasn't sure I was going to make it.  I was so exhausted by the time we got to this point that I couldn't take advantage of the speed zones like I usually do.  Oh well.  Who cares?  I'm finishing and I know it.  Downhill or flat from here...it HAS to be!

The highlight of the downhill was someone from my team shouting, "You made it!!!" I looked at the people who were running up the hill and there was Regina!  They made the race!!!  We were all here!  Awesome!
Another runner who
deserved the spotlight.

The last few miles were a blur.  I caught up with Sherry, who decided to walk it in and saw Nichole--the other woman who was with Regina on the delayed flight.  This was her Birthday weekend and it would have been a shame to be ruined by missing a race.  I asked her how the heck she and Regina managed to pull off getting off the plane, through the departures, into a cab, to the race and start before they closed off the corrals.  Her answer?  "Both pilots and some of the crew were also running the race.  They knew we were going too, and said that there was no way in hell that anyone was going to miss it.  We all piled in a cab and just barely made the start line.  Amber had the bibs ready to hand to us when she saw us running up, grabbed our gear bags, and through the start we went.  We were the absolute last people to cross the start line."  Now THAT'S teamwork.  Another feather in Amber's hat for a job well done.

Mission Accomplished!  Nashville to Oaxaca.  Three medal
weekend:  Both races and a World Rocker Medal.


We all crossed the finish line around the same time which was a really good feeling.  The only two people from our group that I didn't see on the course were Russ and Sabrina, but they greeted us as soon as we came through the chute and had a whole pizza for us to devour.  And we did.  We were pushing close to the closing time for the Gear Check, but still had one runner out, Regina, so we asked Amber to work her magic again, and she did.  Can we have her at all the races, please?  While Regina had a bad race this time (who doesn't have at least one?) and missed the group picture, we all eventually accomplished what we came out this weekend to do.  And we all did it together, as a team.


Team Nashaca.  Russel, Sabrina, Nichole, me, Julie, Tamara, Sherry and Lenny.  Regina was on her way.


Nashville to Oaxaca.  Two races, Two Days, Two Countries and a Whole Lot of Hills.  Mission Accomplished.  We didn't leave anyone behind.

We've all gone our separate ways...three flights to get back to our respective homes all over the US, and we learned our lessons and checked in super early this time.  I'm still here in Oaxaca enjoying the warm weather and trying to get my legs to loosen up a bit.  I couldn't join Sherry, Sabrina and Tamara on their pyramid excursion yesterday as my legs told me that I was lucky to get up and down one flight of steps and not to push it.  So, being the obstinate person that I am, I decided to get up today and retrace some of the race route on foot--the part where the hills were the steepest--and perch myself at the top of a huge hill in a restaurant where I can look down on the city and see everywhere we ran.

Ceviche and beer.  Perfect recovery.
Fantastic weekend ending with
a hike to the top of Oaxaca.





Why?  Because I love my hills.  I might be mad at them at the time I was going up them, but that feeling of wind against my face and the adrenaline rush that I get running down at full speed is something that I truly miss not living in San Francisco anymore.  I know I'll never be fast enough to get that rush on a flat course, so I'm pretty content to get it when I can.  And I'll keep on loving my hills.

See you in Liverpool in a few weeks...


Life Is Good.  Life is better when you come up with a crazy challenge with your friends and every single one of you crosses the Finish Line.  Together.













Tuesday, March 27, 2018

My Top Eight Reasons to Love Rock 'N' Roll Races



Disclaimer:  As part of being an official "Rock 'N' Blogger," I get a 10-pack Tour Pass, which means I get to run 10 races of my choosing for free.  The rest I pay for. 



I have been running for about four years now.  I've completed about 40 official races, most of them Rock 'N' Roll, but several other races were independently hosted or part of another series.

It's no secret that I love the Rock 'N' Roll Marathon Series the most.  Let me tell you my reasons:


1.  Destinations

Liverpool Full Marathon 

I never would have been to Liverpool, England if it weren't for Rock 'N' Roll.  It was my first trip overseas by myself, and what an amazing adventure!  It continues to be one of my favorite races of all the Tour Stops.  And hellooooo Beatles everything!!!  This year will be my 4th time completing it.  Definitely a destination runcation.

Lisbon Half Marathon








I've been to Lisbon, Dublin, Vancouver, Montreal, and Mexico City with Rock 'N' Roll, as well as many US destinations.  I can't wait for Oaxaca and Monterrey this year!  It's a great reason to travel and spend a few days exploring a new part of the world.

Check out the Events section on the Rock 'N' Roll website and plan your next runcation!








2.  Finish Line Festival

New Orleans Finish Line Festivities 
I've done some amazing races where  you cross the Finish Line, get your medal...and...that's it.  You're done.  You can go home now.  Wait--WHAT?  I want to celebrate with thousands of my new, closest friends who also ran this day.  I want to take pictures.  I want to talk about the run.  I want to post on Social Media all the fun I've had and all the bling I've earned!

Rock 'N' Roll provides an amazing Finish Line Festival.  There is always a Headliner Band, usually with pre- and post- bands, and most are from the local area.  What a great way to relax, stretch, have an adult beverage, and celebrate your success that day.  It's also an opportunity to make new friends from all over the world as well as get inside tips of where to eat, drink, and relax while you are in town.


3.  Run With Friends

With approximately 25 Tour Stops a year, the Rock 'N' Roll Series is a great way to get together with your friends from all over the world and spend a weekend catching up, eating and drinking, touring a new city, and, of course, running!

My running friends, Black Sheep Run (Pic by Adrian Mauricio)

I've made some wonderful friends on the course.  While we only see each other a few times a year, the friendships I have made while setting a PR in Seattle, hitting a wall at Mile 23 in Savannah, or hanging with the Back of the Pack in Philly are friendships that will last a lifetime.


4.  BLING!!!

Have you seen the BLING?  I'm sure anyone who runs loves the Finisher Medals.  The Rock 'N' Roll series does not disappoint when it comes to medals.  Check out the Heavy Medals for those who run multiple destinations in the Tour Stops.  There are special medals for everyone who completes at least two or more races in one calendar year.  And, if you race in two different countries, you get a special medal for that, too!

Hauling in the BLING
in San Diego
San Antonio Hall of Fame Class of 2016



Hall of Fame 2017!!


And then there's the Hall of Fame Medal.  I've been a member of the Hall of Fame for two years now--working on my 3rd--where I have completed 15 or more races of at least a half marathon.  That is quite an accomplishment and the Rock 'N' Roll Series has a special medal for completing this challenge.






5.  Music

There's no need to bring your earbuds, Rock 'N' Roll has music all along the course to keep you moving.  From official bands along the course to musical mile markers, you will always have something to listen to.  It's not unusual for spectators along the course to come out and either play their own instruments or set up speakers and blast music to keep you pumped.

The Finish Line Festival also has music after you finish, for hours!  From cover bands to popular headliners to local style bands, there is always something to listen to at the finish.  Perfect to keep you moving so you can stretch those legs after your race.  Make sure and stick around in New Orleans for the last band to hear some fantastic zydeco.

6.  Crowd Support

I asked the San Diego crowd their
opinion.  They said FULL!


I've run a lot of races in a lot of places, and there's nothing like a Rock 'N' Roll crowd!  It's hard to pick a location to highlight as a favorite for crowd support...Chicago?  San Diego?  Liverpool?  New Orleans?

Make sure you write your name on your bib or shirt so that they can cheer for you.  And when the half/full split comes, they will give you the encouragement to tackle the full!




Crowd Cheers for my
First Full Marathon

I must say that my favorite has to be Savannah.  It was my first full marathon, and the crowds were fantastic.  All along the course, people are cheering, waving, playing music and dancing.  And if you are doing the full marathon, the course loops around a high school where it is almost deafening from the cheering and music of the students.  This race is always at the same time as the NYC Marathon, but I dunno...I think I'll stick to this one.


7.  Remix

Love bling?  Love 5Ks?  Well, then do a remix!  You can run two races in one weekend and triple your medals!

Run a 5K, plus the half or full marathon and you will get THREE medals!  The remix is a great opportunity to introduce friends or family members to running by having them run with you one day and then supporting you along the course the next.  Remixes take place in most of the Tour Stops, so check out the locations and sign up the whole family.

Just a few of my Remix medals

First stop after the Finish Line
Heavy Medals to get my bling!


8.  Partner Discounts

United Airlines and
Team GEICO
Who doesn't like perks?  I'm a United Airlines Premier 1K Member, and I'm thrilled that United has partnered with Rock 'N' Roll for many of their races.  They frequently offer discounts to race destinations, so make sure you sign up for those email notifications.

There are also other partner discounts from sponsors such as Brooks, Westin, and Gatorade Endurance, to name some of my favorites.  I never run without wearing my CEP compression knee brace.  Since I discovered the support that compression socks, sleeves, and everything else gives, I have gone from a walker to a runner!  And I even admit that I wear the recovery socks at work and on the plane.

After the DC half marathon
First Class with United Airlines
Enjoying a post race massage
courtesy of Team GEICO



Recovery sleeves and knee brace
thanks to CEP



These are my top reasons why I love the  Rock 'N' Roll Series, and why I think you should consider running one or two...or fifteen plus!!

And...just because I want to see you at the next race, if you use the discount, RNRRNB2018 you will get $15 off a half or full marathon in the US.  Make sure you let me know which race you are running so I can cheer for you!


Life is Good.  Life is better when you get to do something you love...over and over again!


Miles Run:  201
Miles Flown:  19,389

Friday, December 15, 2017

Tis the Season...to be FUNDRAISING!

Hello Everyone!  

Happy Holidays to you all.  I hope you are staying warm and safe wherever you are.

I'm slowly settling into Chicago, relearning things like wind chill, black ice, and white-out while keeping up my running skills on the treadmill when I can't run outside.  And then those South Side Squirrels keep me on my toes, too, chasing me across the lawn, constantly hounding me for handouts.

South Side Squirrel
My first official Chicago Snow!




I'M IN!!

Two important lotteries in the running world just took place... one for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon on October 7th, and the other for the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half on March 18th.  I really wanted to win entry into both, as Chicago is my new home, and United is my preferred carrier.  I was also looking to enter more races besides the Rock n Roll Marathon Series to gain more experience as a runner.

I was fortunate enough to win a spot in the Chicago Marathon, but not so lucky when it came to the NYC Half.  




Not letting that discourage me, I decided to enter via fundraising, and have chosen to represent the New York Road Runners Team for Kids.  In their words, TFK runners, "dedicate their participation in world class running events to building a happier and healthier future for youth nationwide. Our runners receive guaranteed entry into premier running events and professional training support, while making every mile count fundraising on behalf of NYRR Youth Programs. Team for Kids makes it possible for children across the country to experience the joys of running and fitness!"




Imagine if I would have been encouraged to run when I was young by a program such as this.  Maybe I would have run my first mile before the age of 42...

So this brings me to asking all of you to reach into your pockets and donate a little.  It doesn't have to be much, every little bit counts.  I have a little over two months to raise $1300, and I'm pretty sure that with a little help from all of you, my goal will be met.

CLICK HERE for my fundraising page.

Thank you!

I'm a published photographer...sort of...
Life Is Good.  Life is Better when you help someone else with their own life, too.




Sunday, November 26, 2017

A Race to the Finish Line on the Busiest Travel Day of the Year

Today I'm leaving on a three city trip. Orlando for work, San Antonio for my last Rock n Roll race of the year--HALL OF FAME here I come--and then St. Louis for work.
Today is the busiest travel day of the year. How did I prepare? Let me tell you how to work the system.
I'm not a fan of dealing with AM traffic to O'Hare from McCormick Convention Center area. It's over an hour by public transportation and depending on traffic, can be over two hours by car. Nope. Not a fan.
By the end of the year, I usually have about 200,000 or so miles saved up from travel and such, so I booked a room at the airport Hilton O'Hare for approximately 14,000 miles. That's super cheap. Breakfast would have been another 2000 miles but I passed on the offer as I was flying out early. If you haven't had their breakfast buffet, you should, it's fabulous, regularly $33.
I took an Uber to the airport as I didn't want to schlep my big bag on three different trains. I checked the weather report for the three cities I'm traveling to, and decided that since the forecast wasn't brutal and I was taking Uber, I didn't need my heavy coat, hat and gloves and opted for my lighter coat, saving me lots of stuff to carry. The Uber was $25, and the driver was amazing, so I tipped him $5. I just checked the price to travel the same route at 0600, it's about double.
I was supposed to fly out at 0600. Because I'm a United 1K Member, I can choose to move my flight to any available flight (same fare class) in the 24-hour, same day window for free. I had already been upgraded, but there was plenty of open space on the 0947, so I called the 1K line and they switched my flights, and also received an upgrade to First Class on the new flight.
I arrived at the Hilton starved so I dropped my bags and went to the sports bar to see some football highlights and get a burger. Sitting at the bar instead of a table has its advantages as I met a man who works for one of the Rock n Roll Marathon Series sponsors, and he ended up picking up my check after we talked about racing and such. Free dinner, yay!
Slept for a few hours, but as I know how busy ORD can be the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I decided to get out of bed at 0500 to allow plenty of time to weave my way through the expected lines. I looked out the window and the traffic in front of the Departures area was gridlocked. I figured the check-in would be crazy, so I showered quickly, got dressed and headed out.
I left the Hilton at 0534 and headed for Terminal 1. Again, deciding to stay at the airport was a great decision, as I didn't have to go outside in the 30 degree weather, and was thankful that I left my heavy coat and winter wear at home.
I arrived at the United Check-In counter at 0540. The 1K line was open with no line so I checked my bag, grabbed my boarding pass and headed for the TSA Pre line.
O'Hare does not have CLEAR yet, which means I spend more time in lines at ORD than any other airport in the country. I've been a member for years and zip right through the security lines at SFO, LAS, and MCO--three of my most frequented airports. I'm rarely in line for more than five minutes and consider the CLEAR + TSA Pre Check to be one of the best business investments I make.
I was stunned to see no one in line at TSA Pre. The stanchions were already in place to accommodate what was coming and I weaved my way through the empty space and security screening in about 45 seconds. On the busiest day of the year at one of the busiest airports in the country. Am I dreaming? Pinch me.
The time was 0545.
I joked with the TSA employee about how quickly everything was going, and he said, "Oh, it's coming. Look behind you."
And there it was, the wall of people streaming down the prepared stanchions with bags, purses, and rollers everywhere.
It looked like a human tsunami. I grabbed my bags and headed to the United Club, conveniently located next door to the checkpoint.
I walked into the United Club at 0547 and greeted the counter agent. I told her that I left my hotel room exactly 13 minutes ago and hadn't even been awake an hour. She mirrored the TSA agents comment of, "It's coming" and I told her about the human tsunami I just saw. The doors of the Club opened again, and in poured the people. Up the stairs I went and grabbed a counter seat, coffee and a bagel.
One of the amenities at the Club is a complementary printer, which I need to use to print out my script. I'm doing that now while I type this and will be able to focus my time relaxing and learning my client's product.
Rumor has it that the hot breakfast this morning will include bacon. And you all know how I feel about bacon.
With some preparation and knowledge of what the busiest travel day of the year can be like, I avoided all the hassle, frustration, and lines that most people will be facing today.
And the cost to me? $30 and 14,000 miles. Combined with my memberships to the United Club, TSA Pre, and CLEAR, I skated from hotel door to breakfast in 13 minutes.
Imagine what everyone else out there is dealing with and how much they are spending on transportation and breakfast, not to mention the wait times in all the lines. Nope. I've been doing this too long to not know how to work the systems.
As I always say...play the game or it will play you.

On a closing note....the printer was giving me a bit of a hard time this morning. After speaking with the CSR at the front desk we got it to work. While we were waiting I told her of my 13-minute journey and that I use United all the time to fly to work and races and that I write a blog about my travels. She actually didn't know how to use the printer and after joking with her a bit about it and teaching her the steps to print documents, I told her in passing that I had been trying to get a job with United for a few years now with no success. She said, "Oscar is coming in today. I'll tell him that you are looking..."
Excuse me while I go put my eyelashes on...You can't potentially meet the CEO of your chosen airline (who read your blog and sent you a thank you about the compliments I wrote of his employees) when you aren't without your signature lashes and lipstick.

Bacon can wait...

Life Is Good
Life is better when you are well prepared and make smart decisions.

Friday, November 17, 2017

You Gotta Love Runners

I'm having a bad day today.

I've just come home from three weeks on the road and have four days to pack my entire apartment and move to Chicago.  And it appears I will be doing everything solo.

Grrr.

I'm very emotional about leaving San Francisco.  I never thought I would go, but high rent, unsafe living conditions, and the desire to have a better quality of life are making me leave.  It's heartbreaking, but it's the right decision.

So, knowing that today was packing-prep day, I woke up after a bad night of sleep a tad bit cranky.

I live in a VERY bad area of San Francisco.  The noise from the drug dealers and users, music, cars, cops and the occasional gunshot keeps me up most of the night when I'm home--part of the reason I'm moving.  Every time I leave my house, I'm confronted by dangerous people to the point that when I'm home, I rarely leave the apartment.  I've given up on running in the mornings as it isn't safe due to bodies strewn across the sidewalks or human waste piles spotting the path.  And don't get me started about all the bloody needles I have to watch out for.

It's a little chilly outside today, so I threw on a pair of yoga pants, a race shirt and my RnR Savannah Marathon Finisher Jacket.  Yeah, I still wear that jacket everywhere.  It might be my favorite piece of clothing and can make the day brighter sometimes.  But not today.  Today I have to battle The Hood and all of its residents.  Sigh.

So, muttering to myself as I walked through the streets, I was watching where I stepped while constantly being asked for money or drugs or whatever else people beg for all day long.  Drop off donations, pick up supplies, back to my house.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Definitely getting grumpier after two hours of this.  Back and forth to my apartment, out for another errand, back again. Three miles of walking errands.  Three miles of being harassed and shallow breathing due to the smell of human waste, cigarettes, and marijuana. 

I've hit my breaking point with this city I have loved for 20 years.

I was standing at Market St. and Stockton St. on my way to Target when the light turned red for me.  As I waited for the light to change, I felt someone tap my shoulder and grab my arm.  This is a heavy begging corner for everyone and I've learned to keep my purse tight and my eyes down, so I was quite stunned thinking that the beggars have become so aggressive that they are actually grabbing people now.

I spun around ready for a fight and looked into the eyes of a man about my age.  He was dressed as I was, relaxed clothing, and when he spoke, I heard a bit of a speech impediment, as if he was deaf.

"Excuse me ma'am.  I'm a runner, too!  I wanted to say hi!"

Ummm...what??  I just stood there and stared at him, taking it all in and trying to hear and understand him over the noise of the streetcars, cabs, horns, and regular traffic in a heavily congested intersection.

I couldn't speak.

"I'm running the Berkeley Marathon this weekend.  Last weekend I ran Bakersfield."  He had a grin on his face that could have burned through the thickest San Francisco fog.

I looked down at his hand and he had a race bag from Berkeley in it with his bib and shirt.  I looked back up at his eyes and said, "Good for you!  That's a wonderful race.  I really hope you enjoy it!"

I have no idea if it is a good race or not, I just didn't know what else to say at that moment.

He took a step back, turned and said, "I just wanted to say hello!  I'm a runner, too!"  And then he disappeared into the crowd.

I just stood there completely numb for a minute or two.  And then I welled up. 

Runners.

You can be having the worst day of your life and there will still be someone who will find you, lost in a crowd, miserable as all hell, and they will say something to cheer you up. 

Running is an individual sport, but one that has more of a team connection than anything I have ever known.  We know when another is hurting.  We know when another is soaring through the skies.  We are a family by choice, forged on the agonizing pavement of putting one foot in front of the other, over and over and over until we feel that we will break.  We don't have to have ever met to recognize our brothers and sisters...we just KNOW who we are.

We celebrate the victories, we mourn the losses, but more importantly, we support each other when we need it.

I have no idea who this man today was, and I'm sure I'll never see him again.

But he was there when I needed him.  He KNEW.

And he acted.

I walked the final mile home with a smile on my face.

You gotta love runners....








Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Women of Rock N Roll

It's no secret that the Rock N Roll series is my favorite to run.  Pick a race--any race--in the series, and you will have a good time.  The music, the course, the location...it sets this series apart from any other in which I have run.

While each race is unique in location, there are a few things that one can count on when running multiple races in the Rock N Roll series.  One of those consistencies is the staff that works each event.  For those of us who have the Tour Pass and are Hall of Fame members, seeing their faces on a regular basis when going to a new or even a familiar city is our anchor and our familiarity in a city where, sometimes, we are complete strangers and know no one.


As someone who travels for a living, I am used to being alone and introducing myself to others at work who share the same interests as I do, trying to generate a common bond so that we can meet up for the next show or event so that I won't be alone too often.  Travel is fun alone, but not on a regular basis.

De Moe and I celebrating our Hall of Fame banner
Running is different.  When you are a runner, you bond instantly with others with the ability to talk for hours with someone you have just met five minutes ago.  And when you arrive at a Rock N Roll event alone and see those familiar faces at the Expo, the starting line, or along the course, you know you really are never alone.  You are with family.

The past few years I have had the pleasure of bonding and developing friendships with several people who work for the Rock N Roll Series.  I look for them each time I race and miss them when they are not around.  A race just isn't the same without seeing them at some point along the weekend.

A few really have stood out over the years, and with all the changes happening within the Rock N Roll Series, I wanted to take a few minutes to highlight a few people who have make the past few years an incredible, irreplaceable experience for me...

So...without further ado, I present:

 The Women of Rock N Roll


Of course, the moment Kim and I get out of the Uber from ORD we are greeted by The Women of Rock N Roll

Lisa

Lisa helping people figure out
Race Day logistics

Known as the "Queen of Rock N Roll" back home in Vancouver, Lisa joined the team in February of 2014 as an Ambassador of Rock for Vancouver.  She can be found in the VIP Booth at the RnR Expos as well as the VIP Finish Experience at most events.

I asked Lisa what her favorite RnR was to run, and to no surprise, she said Vancouver.  While the RnR Series does not offer Vancouver as one of its Tour Stops now, she does hope that it will be added back into the series in the future.  Until then, her favorite RnR to run would have to be Seattle because of the time of year and the beauty of running in the Pacific Northwest along such a scenic course.

The frenzied look of a runner who just set a PR on the hills of
 San Francisco, met at the finish line by Lisa
When asked what her favorite RnR event to work is, without hesitation, she stated Nashville.  The Southern Charm, the politeness of the people, great food, and country music are enough to win her over.

I asked her why she loved working for RnR...as she teared up, she said:

"I love running and sharing my love of running with people.  I've never been prouder of working for a company that knows what to do and how to do it and gives each runner an exceptional experience."

I couldn't agree more.



Mindy
Mindy crowning me with the 2017
 Triple Marathon Challenge Medal

Mindy holds a position in Customer Loyalty and Service in National Promotions.  As Rock N Roll transitions from just marathons to the Ironman series, it is exciting to watch Mindy make the transition, also.
Mindy and Ryan, giving out Heavy Medals

Mindy is a Legacy at the Savannah Rock N Roll, meaning she ran the first race that RnR offered in Savannah and has participated in subsequent races since then.  I'm trying to talk her into doing the full with me this upcoming weekend, but I think she and I are both smart by staying with the half.

Mindy awarding Mitch with the Hall of Fame Medal
Mindy can usually be found at the main RnR booth at the Expo, but is more known to many of us as the woman who delivers us our coveted Heavy Medals at the designated tent at the finish line festivities.  Who doesn't love seeing her smiling face when receiving the 8-track or Gold Record?  I know I do!!  Can't wait for another Hall of Fame Medal in San Antonio!

Mindy's favorite race to run has been Nashville.  She loves the crowd support, "people EVERYWHERE cheering!"  And, as Lisa did, she loved Vancouver.

As far as her favorite event to work, it has to be Seattle for the beauty of the city, landscape and, without question, the FOOD.  "I wish we had a Pike Place where I live," she said.

Can anyone get enough chowder and crab after a race?  I think not.
Always a joy to see Mindy and Ryan at the Expo

Yinka

Did you know that Yinka speaks five languages??  FIVE!!!!

Never has there been a woman who understands
my love for bacon more than Yinka
Born in Sierra Leone and growing up in Minnesota via Ethiopia and Kenya, Yinka admits that she isn't a runner...YET!  I have a feeling that we may win her over and have her race for the first time very soon.  She also loves Nashville as her favorite event to work, primarily because of the music.


Yinka is the VIP Experience Manager for the Rock N Roll Events.  For a woman so young, her talents are ageless.  "Hospitality is my passion," she says.  I couldn't agree more.  You can tell when Yinka is managing a VIP event and when she is not....it's all in the details.

How I'm supposed to look after two
FULL MARATHONS in a week...
How I REALLY feel after running
Liverpool and San Diego in a week
When asked how she can relate to the runners because she does not race, she said, "Because I'm not a runner, this has been a very educational experience--learning about PRs and chafing and how important porto potties are in the mornings!"  YES!  She understands!

BACON!!!!!
Even if I've had a bad race, seeing her cheers me up right away.  Her smile and laughter are infectious and no matter how sore I am, I always make it a point to find her on race day to brighten my spirits.


The Power Duo of Lisa and Yinka in Virginia Beach














It was just announced that the Rock N Roll Tour Pass will be changing--dramatically.  For me to do the same amount of races that I have done over the past few years will cost me at least triple in registration fees alone.  I'm not sure that I will be able to participate in as many races as I would like to, which saddens me greatly.

Seeing these women--these wonderfully talented women--at least once a month and sometimes on back to back to back weekends in different time zones and even different countries has given me so much inspiration and love that I have no words to accurately sing their praises.  When I have no strength to run because I am mentally exhausted, they are there giving me a hug and a pat on the back to get up early and run the remix.  When my body is broken from flying 14-18 days a month for work, they are there to give me a bagel and bacon and the encouragement to not DNF--something I have never done which I credit to their encouragement.  And when I cross the Finish Line and set a new PR, they are there to catch me when I am shaking and dizzy, guiding me to where I need to go with my absolute, complete trust, because I know that they really care about me, the people who run with me, and the organization that they work for.

These three women. 

The Rock N Roll Series would never be complete without them.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for the past years that we have known each other.  I love each of you more than I can put into words.

I'll see you on the course soon.