Sunday, October 02, 2011

Groovin' at the Rock n Roll San Jose Half Marathon

Over 12,000 runners enjoyed a perfect autumn morning at the Dodge Rock n' Roll San Jose Half Marathon this Sunday, and I was thrilled to be one of them. The theme was F-U-N, 1,000+ volunteers and over a dozen bands made sure the mood was perfect, the competition was insanely fast, and there was free beer at the finish to chug while Big Head Todd and the Monsters put on a show. A nice little Sunday morning!

I hadn't originally planned to do this race, but jumped at the last minute when I realized it would be a rock-soaked tour of my new work neighborhood. My long runs are pretty lonely these days, so it's nice to have some company! I knew the guys at put on a solid show - their Rock n' Roll Series is quickly becoming one of the biggest and most successful in history, and one employee told me they were expecting over 42,000 runners at Las Vegas next time (making it the 3rd biggest race in the world). It's a nice formula - 13.1 miles of partying, and $125 x 40,000 (plus sponsors) = a lot of cheddar!
(T minus 2 minutes...)
(Defending champions Meb and Deena, photo courtesy of PhotoRun)

(Meb leads 'em out!)
(and we fill the streets! Photo courtesy of Ryan Bethke)
I lined up in Corral 1 a few minutes before the start, saying hi to Caitlin Smith and getting to know some new faces. I asked what everyone was hoping to run, and got a lot of "1:08", "1:10", and a handful of women eyeing that 1:15 Olympic Trial qualifying time. Ahem! I slowly backed up towards Corral 2....

The pack took off quickly at the gun, with 2-time defending champion and Olympic silver medalist Meb Keflezighi dropping a 4:35 mile right out of the chute. Whoa! Local speedster and 2011 USA Marathon Champion Sergio Reyes stuck right with him. Deena Kastor, Olympic bronze medalist and American Record holder for the marathon was setting the pace for the Women, showing little evidence that just had a baby in February. She was running 5:10 min/mile...phew!

(Sergio Reyes, photo courtesy of PhotoRun)

(Runners take over San Jose, photo courtesy of Maria J Avila Lopez)
(Not hard to find a cheering section at this race!)

(Living the HEALTHY rock and roll lifestyle)
My first mile was quick (5:40) and I quickly settled into a rhythm around a 6 min/mile pace. We zipped through the streets, where rock bands played everything from Maroon 5, to Aretha Franklin, to Judas Priest. Every junior high and high school had their cheerleaders and dance squads out, and if they weren't dancing, they were handing out goodies. This town came out for their race!
(Angus Young rocks out)

(Local cheerleaders giving us a boost)
(Getting a boost from the crowd, photo courtesy of Ryan Bethke)
We cruised through the first 4 miles in 23:45, coming back through town before heading north past HP Pavilion. Just as one female runner blew up, Jessica Brothers came by with her super-pacer Dave Easa, and I latched onto them to draft and take my mind off the pace. Jessica was all business, hoping to crack into the 1:18's, while Dave had enough reserves to cheer the bands and even grab a water balancing on a volunteer's head. It sure felt fast! Then at mile 7, we saw Meb cruise the other way (~mile 9) just flying along out front. He makes it look so easy...
(Jessica gets some Tex Mex rock to keep her going)
(Costumes abound, photo courtesy of Maria J Avila Lopez)
(Meb out front, photo courtesy of PhotoRun)

(All smiles after mile 13!)
At mile 11, Caitlin Smith caught up for a moment (she was having an "off day", but was still on a 1:19 pace) but decided to ease back when we all picked up the pace in the last few blocks. Jessica and Dave bolted like cheetahs, finding that extra gear (she did PR in 1:18:40, 5th Woman). I crossed the finish in 1:19:36, way back in 68th place! Good enough for 2nd in the age group, but still...pretty impressive crew of runners.
(Brian Ball gets the crowd roaring, photo courtesy of PhotoRun)
Meb went for win #3, finishing comfortably in 1:02:17, over a minute ahead of Giliat Gehebray (1:03:38) and Sergio Reyes (1:04:19). Deena Kastor also repeated in a speedy 1:12:23, over three minutes ahead of Clara Peterson (1:15:22) and Brooke Wells (1:16:14). The Top 10 finishers were all under 1:10...holy cow!

American River 50m champion Mike Buchanan found me at the finish, and we finagled our way into the VIP tent for some food and beer. It turns out super pacer Dave Easa is a good friend of his! I thanked Dave for his pacing efforts, and he was clearly pleased that his runner had a new PR today.

(Deena enjoys a laugh with 7-month old daughter, Piper; camera courtesy of Mike Buchanan)
(Just me, hanging with cool is that? Camera courtesy of Mike Buchanan)
Meb was a total champion, happy to take photos and sign autographs, as was Deena, who did so with the now-familiar baby Piper on her hip. Both commented on how great it was to see this city out and enjoying the great weather! I told Meb I would see him at the NYC Marathon in a few weeks, and wished Deena well with her training for the Olympic Trials in January. Then got some pasta with NFL star Roger Craig...gotta love crashing the VIP tent!

The beer was flowing out in the courtyard (MGD64, so you had to drink about five just to quench your thirst), and my hands subconsciously played the guitar chords of the great Big Head Todd riffs filling the air...sooo many college afternoons spent playing those songs. I had a few laughs with new friends, then walked the course backward to cheer on the walkers. So many first-timers, it was just wonderful. I just love talking to folks who tackle their first long race. It's kinda crazy to sign up for something of that magnitude, and the pride at the finish line, runners and family alike, could save the world if you could bottle it up.

(Sharing a toast with Sunnyvale barefoot runner Bala Subramanian, who also ran at Half Moon Bay last weekend)
(Bring on the bling!)
(It's like Woodstock, only more gel wrappers and diet beer)
(Big Head Todd rockin' it)
Thanks to the Race Directors and volunteers for a wonderful day of play in San Jose, CA. Best of luck with your Rock n' Roll Empire!

- SD


  1. There is an AR50? Better tell Mike. He thinks it's AR25 :)

  2. Great run Scott! Glad to still have you on the left hand coast!

    Question: was Med actually wearing sketchers??

  3. Meb was wearing Skechers! They have some fancy new racing flats, which clearly work. ;-)

  4. Hey! I saw you about 2 miles away from finish line!!! I called out your name, not sure if you heard me! I was with my niece and she asked me "who's that?" And I was like...ummm... i read his blog!?
    You guys are all amazing! I am aiming for a sub2 at the nike, and the more i read about the hills, the more freak out i am.

  5. Man, for a trail ultra runner, you sure do a good job doubling as a speedster roadie! :-) I can't believe a 1:19 puts you in 68th ... wow, what a fast crowd. Hat's off to Deena. I hope she has a great post-baby training cycle.

  6. 'the pride at the finish line, runners and family alike, could save the world if you could bottle it up'
    Such an accurate description of the feeling at the finish line after completing something like your first 13.1. It's thoughts like these that keep me coming back to your blog for more :)

  7. Hi Scott,

    I am sorry I am leaving a comment, I can't find your email. I am writing you in the hopes that you want to participate in an e-book we are writing about ultra runners.

    We want to tap into the collective craziness (we mean that as a compliment:-)) of this community to challenge and inspire other people to make their own life an ever-greater creative expression of their own goals and dreams… without limits.

    We would ask you to answer two questions about your experience with ultra running.

    If you'd like to participate please shoot me an email at


    All the best,

  8. Lazychick - good luck at Nike! That's a tough course, but a pretty one. Thanks for reading (and cheering!).

    I really appreciate all the comments...



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