1 EPIC FEAT
Wednesday, November 13th:
A fantastic message greeted me as I was trying to pack for a challenging weekend ahead: Susan Fortener and Jayme Brendle were in town working today and called me from the Iron Hen--2 blocks from my house. Susan (from Atlanta) and Jayme (from Baltimore) were in NC for a week of work for SureStep/Allard USA so I got to see them before I left for San Antonio.
|I love the concept, love the food and love the folks here at my favorite neighborhood cafe.|
|Susan and Jayme both had the tomato basil soup along with sides of homemade sweet potato chips, smoked gouda mac-and-cheese and collard-green egg rolls. Delish!|
Well, the day is finally here for me to start what could be a truly "epic" weekend, though it is with a heavy heart that I am leaving town today. Jim's mom died 2 nights ago and the family decided to hold the funeral service this weekend. After much thought and soul-searching, Jim decided that he wanted to try to keep our plans to run in San Antonio and then Vegas. We both know how much Georgia Austin appreciated our Get Back UP mission, especially as she had struggled with losing her own mobility due to a mean disease called ALD. (http://rarediseases.about.com/cs/ald/a/041301.htm)
With the funeral set for Saturday afternoon and our races both on Sunday, it was decided that I would stick to my original flight and work schedules while Jim would arrive in San Antonio late Saturday night after the service was over. One of us had to be in town before 7pm on Saturday to pick up our race gear and check in to the event, it just made sense for that person to be me.
It wasn't easy leaving Jim home to deal with such a huge loss but he was adamant that running with our friends would be healing for him. And so, I'm off to start the challenge...
|Breakfast at the USAir Club between my flights in the Charlotte airport: Oatmeal and Cappuccino.|
When I boarded my second flight I got an email from the Rock 'n Roll team that they had just aired a short story about me which was filmed at our house in Greensboro earlier in the summer. While I wish they had included information about the Get Back UP campaign, it was still really nice to be featured and to be able to share how much I love the RnR Race Series. Here's the link to that clip:
My flights were on-time and uneventful thankfully as I now have a media interview to get to. My plan is to catch a taxi from the airport to my hotel, hopefully check in early then change clothes and walk to meet the reporter.
|View from the cab en route to downtown San Antonio.|
|It's gorgeous here today; sunny and in the 60's... a perfect day to be running. I pass by Hemisfair Park on the way to a place called the Arsenal Street Bridge along a quiet stretch of the Riverwalk about a mile from the heart of downtown.|
|Dick Kutz, I will always think of you when I see these now!|
|I stray from my Google Maps directions just a bit in hopes of a more scenic route. I stumble upon a historic neighborhood and the HQ of a very active San Antonio Conservation Society.|
|The Anton Wulff House. http://www.saconservation.org/OurHistory/PropertiesPurchased/SocietyProperties/tabid/153/ArticleID/27/ArtMID/526/Anton-Wulff-House.aspx|
|I love the homes here in the King William neighborhood.|
|This street reminds me a lot of the street we live on back in Greensboro.|
|Apparently dogs and lions can co-habitate peacefully.|
|I took this photo for my "wish file"; I would love to have a similar driveway and simple carport.|
|I found the spot where I'm to meet the reporter..this is the Arsenal Street Bridge.|
|I'm a bit early, as usual, so I take time to enjoy the area. This is a view looking back towards downtown San Antonio with paved trails along both banks of the Riverwalk.|
|A different view of Arsenal Street Bridge. I could totally take a nap right here, it's such a quiet and beautiful afternoon.|
|More history to discover on this plaque beneath the bridge. Macaroni AND ice cream?! I think Guenther and I would have gotten on famously.|
|Restoration in progress.|
|I loved this modern house tucked in amongst the Arts & Crafts Bungalows and the Victorian Mansions.|
|Just for reference...|
|...I am here. (Red dot along the San Antonio River at the Arsenal Street Bridge)|
|Late afternoon shadows paint the bridge in fabulous graphics.|
|More info for you.|
|Meet Street! JT Street joins me along the riverbank for our interview. We had a great time talking and enjoying our mutual work on such a perfect weather day.|
|Thanks so much, JT, for a great afternoon of sharing the GBU message!|
I really enjoyed my time with JT, he's a talented reporter and former actor who grew up in San Antonio. We spent a little more than an hour filming takes for his story and by that time I became acutely aware of my empty belly. It was now almost 4:00pm and I'd eaten nothing but oatmeal all day. JT pointed me in the direction of South Town and recommended a great spot for a late afternoon sandwich... Mad Hatters:
|The lunch crowd was long-gone by the time I arrived and it was still a bit early for their dinner patrons so I had the place mostly to myself.|
|I love this old walk-in cooler.|
|My meal: a spring greens salad with a smoked jalapeno tuna sandwich.|
|These looked great but I don't need to run with any more pounds than I currently carry so I skipped the sweets today.|
|These are the cards they give you when you order so they'll know where to deliver your meal. These were so cute...I got the dog but thought the cat would've like my Tuna Sandwich more.|
|Part of the menu they featured for lunch.|
|By the time I finished my delicious sandwich the Happy Hour customers began to arrive. For me, it was back to the hotel for a bit of work and a good night's sleep.|
|Walking back to the hotel I stumbled upon the Friendly Spot outdoor bar where our entire Allard group celebrated after last year's run. I miss Peter, Kelly, Marc, Denise, Buck, Marci, Mark, Denny, Shelby, Gema, Ronnie, Jim and the RnR Gypsies!|
|No one here to celebrate with so I just keep on walking.|
We have several more reporters interested in our Get Back UP mission but also interested in our attempt to run both San Antonio and Vegas RnR races on the same day. I need to stay close to the Expo and to the hotel in case the media opportunities actually do materialize. With that in mind I opt for a leisurely breakfast at the hotel and then set out for my walk to the Expo, which this year has been moved to the Alamodome about a mile from the hotel.
|A friendly face! This is Emily Gibbs, PR Specialist with Rock'n'Roll/Competitor Group.|
When I finished with Stephanie I went into the Expo to start collecting the gear that both Jim and I would need for race day on Sunday. Usually the Rock 'n Roll staff prohibits picking up another runner's gear but I'm hopeful they will make an exception for me since Jim won't be in until late night on Saturday. We have more to pick up here than at any other race, thanks to our 2-races-in-1-day challenge. The RnR team has been so supportive of all of us attempting both events; we just received word that there's a special booth at the Expo to pick up some extra swag along with bracelets that will give us access to expedited services on race day.
|Another friendly face! George Melichar is helping out with packet pick-up today and has promised to help me get Jim's packet if I have any problems. Thanks, Geo!! Also, love the blond mohawk--nice change from the red.|
|Packet Pick-Up Volunteers get in on the photo fun. :-)|
After a few hours at the Expo I received word that the other potential media hits would likely be tomorrow and/or race day. With this update I felt good about heading back downtown to drop off the gear at the hotel and thus began the 20-minute walk back. When I got to the room I had a momentary panic attack thinking about all the logistics we'd need to coordinate to make sure we could run both races: proper race bibs, running outfits for 2 completely different climates, change of clothes for the plane, having all luggage in tow at the start line check in, running a half marathon then immediately making the shuttle to the airport, getting through security and on the plane, getting from the airport to the hotel in Vegas--hopefully with all our luggage, more race bibs and timing-tags for the shoes, meeting up with our other teammates in Vegas, managing media and getting ourselves to the run-through wedding, the VIP tent and finally, to another starting line for the second half marathon of the day. My head is spinning!!!
Rather than deal with the logistics right away I escaped the four walls of my room in exchange for some fresh air. I set out to walk along the Riverwalk and clear my head so I could better organize my thoughts. I took a few phone calls as I walked, one from Jim who said he was feeling better emotionally but also that he had contracted a cold and was feeling physically lousy. Poor guy...Sunday was going to be one heck of a day for Jim after having to go through the funeral of his mom on Saturday.
By late afternoon I had walked the entire downtown portion of the Riverwalk while catching up on most of my voicemail and emails. I also solidified my plans for meeting the Allard rep, Kelly Millard, tomorrow. Kelly said we'd be meeting with a local Orthotist along with Dralla member Marc Martinez and his wife, Denise, at a restaurant called Rosario's. We went to the same restaurant last year after the race so I knew basically where it was but thought I should make the walk there now so I'd know how long it would take me tomorrow.
|I couldn't help it! The Margaritas at Rosario's looked so good and with everything going on I decided to treat myself to today's Happy Hour before walking back to my room.|
|...and house-made guacamole. YUM.|
After my early dinner (and perfect margarita) I returned to the hotel and began to sort out everything we'd need for each portion of Sunday's big challenge. Since I had Jim's luggage with me I was able to organize most of his stuff along with mine which was extremely important; he may have only a few hours here before he has to start the run depending upon what time his plane lands Saturday night.
It took me about 2 hours to get everything laid out, all the while making notes about some last minute questions and details that still need to be settled. I didn't trust myself to remember anything without reminder notes! With everything mostly finished I finally allowed myself to turn in for the night.
Saturday, November 16th:
I spoke with Jim first thing this morning, checking in to see how he was feeling about the funeral service later today. He seemed to be on auto-pilot with so much on his mind: he had my family coming to town to meet him and Jason, Kassie, Kristen and Dan for lunch before the service. He also had to get the house ready for his week away (my dad and stepmom will be staying with us the day we get home from Vegas) and then had to pack the remainder of his gear for San Antonio and Vegas. He had to bring his carry-on bag to lunch and to the service with him; he was leaving straight from the funeral home to the airport later in the afternoon. On top of all that, he was still struggling with a nagging cold and of course with the sadness of the loss of his wonderful mother.
I silently questioned whether or not we should've skipped these races this weekend but then Jim seemed to be genuinely excited to have something else to focus on tomorrow. I set my mind on a more positive track after our phone call; with the perspective of Jim's loss it was easy to push through my own challenges of the day.
My plans today were to meet up with the crazy crew of friends who first talked us into running "SA2LV" (SanAntonio-to-LasVegas) with them. Al Hernandez gets the credit for the initial idea and also for designing shirts for all of us to wear. We will see more of our Rock 'n Roll gypsy friends at either the San Antonio race or the Las Vegas race, but there are only 7 of us who planned together to do both: Al, Kamika Smith, Ron and Susan Carino, Caryn Nowak, Jim and myself. Later we learned that George Melichar also signed on for the challenge but not in time to get him matching shirts.
(NOTE: We later learned that there were roughly 80 runners who actually did both events and we got to meet a lot of them over the course of the weekend. When I refer to "The Magnificent 7" it's to describe our Gypsy crew listed above.)
Ron Carino had been keeping me updated as to the arrival times of The Magnificent 7. We hoped to meet at the Expo around the same time as an interview I was supposed to participate in. Before making the trek back to the Alamodome I took an hour to finish my Get Back UP race sign and to pack everything that wasn't needed for the race tomorrow. With everything done I headed back out to the Expo.
I guess I had so much on my mind that I neglected to get many photos of the Expo yet again. Luckily, Ron and Al were taking some pics and I've included a link to Ron's FANTASTIC blog later in this post. Please check it out for more of our Epic Race Day. In the meantime, here are two pictures I was able to get after receiving my packet and my shirts from Al:
|My race bibs for tomorrow's events: San Antonio bib, Elite Medalist bib for running 18 RnR races in 2013, the special bib showing that we were running both races, same day and finally, my Las Vegas race bib.|
|I'm sure Kelly will say she was framed, but Shelby (left) and I know better. Kelly did it, whatever it was.|
|Orthotist David Gerecke (right) and his wife Heather. Thanks, David, for helping so many people Get Back UP! David will be doing the RnR bike race tomorrow along with Kelly and Shelby so we were all up for an early pre-race meal together.|
|Shelby did not pass up the opportunity for 2 awesome Rosario Margarita's. :-) I had mine yesterday and had to miss out tonight.|
|The cyclists are planning race-day strategy...they will be starting and finishing in different areas than the runners.|
|We make plans to try to see each other somewhere between the time Jim and I cross the finish line and the time our shuttle leaves for the airport at 10:15.|
|Thanks again, Marc and Denise, for making time for us tonight.|
|Thanks, David and Heather, for everything. I look forward to keeping in touch!|
Thanks to Kelly and Allard USA for treating us all to a nice dinner. It was so nice to meet David and Heather and to have more visiting time with the Martinez', Kelly and Shelby. I wish I was able to visit longer but all of us had to be up early for tomorrow's events. Marc and Denise gave me a lift back to the hotel where I was hoping to soon see Jim.
|This is the other side of the Fellow Flowers card...what a beautiful message!|
In the same bag as my flowers from Susan was a card for Jim from all the other gypsies. They all wanted to express their condolences and yet were worried about reminding Jim about his loss. They asked me to present the card to Jim when I felt it would be most appropriate, which turned out to be upon his arrival at the hotel later this same night. To all the gypsies: I can't tell you enough how much your support has meant to Jim and to me. With all the online love sent to Jim this week, the hand-written card was the perfect token to have in hand on the day he said his final good-byes to Georgia. To know how much you all care was exactly the boost he needed to begin tomorrow's epic feat. Thank you so much for your incredible friendship.
Jim made it to the hotel about 11:00pm and took about 30 minutes to check through all the gear I had organized for him. With a few finishing details to take care of, we were both able to get about 5 hours of sleep before setting out on Sunday's adventures.
Sunday, November 17th--RACE (x2) DAY!!!
5:00am: Jim is all smiles despite his challenging week, 5 hours of sleep and a mean cough-and-cold. I don't think it's quite hit him what he's gonna have to do today. Let the madness begin!
5:30 AM: We've almost finished the long walk to the back of the Alamodome with all our luggage in tow. The RnR team will keep our bags secure until we finish the race and can board the shuttle to the airport.
|Shayne McCoy is working hard to tag and store luggage for dozens of #SA2LV runners. The rest of our Magnificent 7 have their bags stored in Al's rental car, which is parked with the shuttle buses at the loading dock.|
|Mohawk challenge with Geo. (Jim discovered my "mohawk" in a costume bin at the Goodwill in Denver and I've been waiting to square off with George ever since!)|
|Can you believe what we're doing today?!|
|Thanks, Shayne, for helping SO MUCH with the #SA2LV logistics. We'll miss you in Vegas this afternoon!|
|George sporting his newest, hand-sewn race attire. He's signed up for doing the Full Marathon in both cities but is considering just doing the Half here so that he can make his flight with much less pressure on to run fast.|
|Hmmm...Flamingos? Jim and Geo have a little fun to counteract the nerves. Nobody really knows how smoothly our race-to-race journey will go and thus, we're all a bit more nervous than we've ever been before a Rock n' Roll race.|
|The Challenge (on the flip side is my usual Get Back UP message).|
|We found a willing recipient for the Denver mohawk--it even matches his outfit. George approves.|
|Kevin Gonzalez, this is for you! We will see you in Las Vegas in a few hours...after 13.1 miles here in San Antonio followed by a 3-hour plane ride, that is. :-)|
As it turned out, Jim was feeling the heat (and the exhaustion from his tough week) more than expected and we did a lot of walking pretty early on in the run. I didn't want to leave him behind, I was concerned for his health and safety, and yet we both tried to figure out a back-up plan in case he had to slow down even more. As it happened, we ran together for the first 11 miles and from there I knew he'd be okay for the last 2. I then "sprinted" ahead to make sure I finished with enough time for a post-race interview (Lee Carpio was planning to meet me at the finish line) and also to get back to the luggage at the Alamodome to load it onto the shuttle bus.
Jim was only about 10 minutes behind me and took the opportunity to shower and change while I checked our luggage out of the storage room and loaded it all onto the bus, which was scheduled to depart in 11 minutes for the airport. I missed the chance to shower but I did take 2 minutes to change into clean clothes while Jim ran up and said hello/goodbye to a waiting Kelly & Shelby who finished their bike ride well before we crossed our finish line. Whew--craziness, panic and then utter relief to be on the bus and on the way to the airport.
11:00AM: We made it to the airport and got word from the Mag-7 gypsies that everyone had crossed the finish line and were all en route in Al's rental car to the airport. The Southwest check-in line was quite long and neither Jim nor I had status on this airline to get us checked in more quickly. Our back-up plan, thanks to Al, Susan and Ron getting our boarding passes early, was to have them check our bags in the Priority line (they do have status on Southwest) in case we were cutting it too close. As it turned out, we were just at the front of the line as they walked in so everything worked out very well. They did get us through the faster security line so that was a huge help--thanks, team!!
|The Carino's dashing through security.|
|Caryn, Kamika and Jim also make it through security with less than 30 minutes before boarding.|
|Ron swears he was just getting water. Yeah, right.|
|One done, one to go...and we are none the worse for wear. Sort of.|
|Ron does a head count and verifies that yes, The Magnificent 7 are all on board. Thanks, Al and Ron for securing our exit row block!|
12:15PM: Our flight departs right on time and we settle in for a 3 hour trip to Las Vegas. Our mood is high on the plane (no pun intended) because the most difficult part of today is behind us. The challenge for now is hydrating, stretching, icing and resting enough to hit the ground running again in Vegas (again, no pun intended.)
I got word from our PR team that we have a 3/4 page article today in the Las Vegas Review-Journal--yay! I was interviewed by phone for this a few days ago and hoped it would actually get printed. Thanks to Todd Dewey for a wonderful piece, and for including TeamUP members Darren and Virginia in your story! Here's the link to his article:
1:15PM Pacific Time: We land safely in Las Vegas and, again thanks to our fearless captain Al, we have priority getting our luggage in baggage claim. Another cool surprise, Al arranged for a limo for all of us to ride in from the airport to the Westin to drop our stuff and then immediately to the race start village from the hotel.
|Patrick, our limo driver, figures out how to pack the luggage from all 7 of us into his trunk.|
|He did it! This is how we made the trek from the airport to the Westin, holding our breath in hopes that Caryn's and Al's top bags didn't get lost on the freeway en route.|
|While Al and Ron take the chance to hydrate, Jim apparently takes the opportunity to nap on the way to the hotel. Notice the open, stuffed trunk in the background.|
|Sorry for the poor photo quality, I guess our halo's were too much for the camera. :-)|
|Wow...in 15 mere minutes look how sharp they look! All cleaned up and ready for a wedding and the second half marathon of the day.|
|Andrew sighting at race check-in! We've missed you, Drew...so happy to see you here in Las Vegas.|
|One of the first friends we met back in 2012 at the start of our Get Back UP journey: Andrew "Drew" Pelletier.|
|Susan and Ron are excited to be "re-married". Susan made bouquets for herself and for me--so thoughtful!|
|The crowd in the 1st corral with Mandalay Bay in the background. We chose to wait outside Corral 1 until a few corrals go by, then jump in at the end of the Corral 5 runners.|
|It's really bizarre to have started a run before sun-up this morning and now, as the sun sets here in Vegas, we're getting ready to start our second Half Marathon of the day.|
|Kamika, Jim, Al, Caryn, Susan and Ron enjoying the energy of the starting line.|
|Everyone is feeling the chill here while waiting to run--not the same weather we had this morning in Texas.|
|And they're off! A few thousand more runners will go by before we opt to pop in and begin the end of a long, fun day.|
10:15pm: Well, Jim and I finally finished the run and made it back to meet TeamUP at the VIP in Caesar's Palace. Jim thought he'd have a better run tonight without the heat we faced in Texas but I think he didn't realize how much his tough week (and especially the last 20 hours!) would affect him. We ran more slowly than ever, and walked a lot too, but I really enjoyed the run tonight. And Jim? Well, not so much. He did it though and I was so proud of him for getting through this weekend like a champ!
|TeamUP rocks Vegas!!!|
|Jeff enjoys his post-race cake pop...|
|...while Jim dreams of his post-race snack.|
I'd also like to take this moment to say how blessed I feel to have such amazing, beautiful friends. Thanks to each of the Mag-7 (and to ALL our Gypsy friends) who've made this year so incredible...especially the #SA2LV experience. We each owe a lot to our personal dedication to walking & running; without which we may never have met.
This, more than anything else I've learned this year, is the best reason to keep encouraging people to Get Back UP, to never give up, and to celebrate the folks you meet along the way--they can change your life in the very best of ways.
|Friends to the finish!|
|The medals from today: San Antonio, Vegas, and a double-sided spinner for #SA2LV.|
|...and the other. Pretty cool, huh?|
Peace out, my friends, and thank you for sharing this journey with me.