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.
Because we could.
Saturday, 28 April, Nashville
|Nashville RnR Crew|
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.
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|
|The only real food we were going to eat the entire day.|
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....
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.
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.|
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)
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|
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.
|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.