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Mile 1 and I feel great! - 7/10/2011
Christopher Giordanelli
Simpsonville Weather Forecast, SC (29680)

Hot Chocolate 15k Race Report

by G-Man 27. January 2013 10:16

Location: Atlanta, GA
Date: January 13, 2013
Placing: 6th Overall
Format: 15k Run
My Race Photos
Official Race Photos
Results: Click Here

People run for many reasons. Their health; to raise money for charity; they got a DUI; as a social outlet; they like pink shoes; they just stole something; they have an imbalance in their brains; chocolate... Wha?...I could swear I just said chocolate? Oh, I did. And I will say it vehemently in front of God and the world. I WILL RUN FOR CHOCOLATE. I love it - and so does Janis. I'm more of a milk chocolate guy and she's more of a dark chocolate gal but somehow we look past these differences and make it work. There is enough chocolate for everyone. At least there had better be. To say that Janis and I like chocolate is to say that Romeo 'liked' Juliet.


More true than you know...

I've been to Hershey Park, M & M's world in Las Vegas, multiple chocolatiers and the chocolate museum in Belgium. I've taken 'chocolate tours' in San Francisco and Philadelphia. Janis and I have a motto "if it doesn't contain chocolate - don't call it a desssert". As I sit writing this in my kitchen, I see a cannister of 'spicy hot cocoa' and a tray of chocolate-iced, chocolate cupcakes that Janis made yesterday. When Janis is not around, I sometimes dress as an Oompa Loompa and sing about chocolate. I live in a chocolate world my friends. "...you will live in happiness too, Like the Oompa Loompa doompadee do...".


Chocolate covered bacon? Why, yes, thank you.

So last Summer, when I received an email entitled "Something, something, blah, blah CHOCOLATE, blah, something" I practically crushed my mouse in my frenzy to open it. A race where you are served hot chocolate and chocolate fondue when you finish. Seriously? It was just one notch shy of finding a golden ticket in a Wonka Bar. Even Janis, the self-proclaimed 'non-racer' was in. It was in Atlanta and there was a 15k and a 5k but really that was irrelevant; it could have been a 100-mile run in Alaska and I would have had no problem. I couldn't wait to sip the hot chocolately goodness after a frigid January race morning, not to mention the stylish Hot Chocolate hats and hoodies that practically scream "I would take a bullet for chocolate".

Fast forward six months. Janis and I arrived at our hotel in downtown Atlanta and decided to brave the weather and walk the mile to the expo and race registration. We bundled up in our shorts and Hawaiian shirts, applied multiple coats of sunscreen and stepped out into the blustery 70-degree, Winter day. Chocolate, yes...HOT chocolate? Not really on my list of "things to drink on a Summer's day". It was really quite comical picking up our sweatshirts and stocking caps on a day more suited for camels than polar bears.


"Take me to your chocolate"

Our swag was presented to us in a sytlish 'sling-bag' which was a bonus. The bags were several different colors but they were distributed randomly so Janis got awesome red while I got moderately, not-so-awesome white...aka 'vanilla'. Ouch. I haven't been able to use it yet since it is after Labor Day. I tried finagling a mint-colored or a blue-colored one from some other runners by telling them that the research clearly shows those colors as 'slow colors'. But they weren't buying it. We also had what will forever be known as "the bait and switch hat incident of 2013". Now, I'm not much of a complainer* but the truth is - the chocolate drew me in, but the chocolate-colored stocking cap sealed the deal. At least that's what the website showed me as a bonus if I 'signed up today'. And I did. Maybe they thought I would forget after 6 months. Really? I can recite times, paces, distances and placings from races I did 35 years ago (much to Janis's dismay); there's no way I'm gonna forget you offered me what will surely be the biggest fashion phenomenon since parachute pants. Instead, Janis and I got baseball caps. We already had to build an addition onto our house to hold the baseball caps I already DON'T wear. But in a 'Rudolph saves Christmas' moment, a volunteer stepped up and simply said "Well, that's not right. Looks like the race made a mistake. Just give me those baseball caps and take these Winter stocking caps." He restored my faith in customer service and my heart grew 3 sizes that day.

*This is an outright lie. I complain all the time.


Scotie models "the hat that almost wasn't".

Two other memorable things from the expo: 1. I managed to lose my number. That's right, I lost my number 10 mintues after I got it. It's official, senility has arrived. I'll be wearing tutus and capes in races within the year. 2. Biscoff had a booth at the expo. Biscoff is the company that makes the cinnamon cookies that airlines serve. They have a product like peanut butter that is basically their cookie in dough form. DO NOT TRY THIS PRODUCT IF YOU SEE IT. We each took a jar. I ate them both in a matter of days. Each jar contains the devil...and about 17,000 calories.

As usual, the self-proclaimed king and queen of logistics had an unrivaled plan on race morning. We donned our headlamps and helmets and pretended to put on parkas, hopped on our mountain bikes and rode the 2 miles to the start at Turner field. I tried not to laugh as we rode right past the incredibly long line of cars; mainly because I like to believe that Karma is a real thing. "I hope we find a parking spot. Oh look, here's one 20 feet from the start line. -click- (that's the sound of me locking the bikes to a pole)". I felt like I was back in school again and I had just earned 10 extra credit points. BAM!


Keep your eye on the prize, boys...keep your eye on the prize.

The 5k went first and I ran along next to Janis from the sidewalk for a few hundred yards cheering her on like she has done for me so many times. I was so proud of her...letting chocolate totally dictate her life. I loved her but I resented her; she would get to the chocolate first. I finished my warmup and then I waited for them to 're-open' the corrals for the 15k. That happened with less than 10 minutes to start, which wouldn't be a bad thing unless you were trying to squeeze 2,000 people through a single, 2-foot opening. I finally made it into the BACK of the corral while the announcer screamed out "One minute!". I hate it when people do this to me, but...what choice did I hve? I pushed my way toward the front. I wished I had a sign on my number that said "this runner will NOT get in your way" because I got some icy stares as I cut through people. Who can blame them? Look at me. Do I look like I can run 6-minute miles to you? People probably thought I was trying to get to my oxygen tank. I was still a good 10 rows back when the gun went off. Lord, forgive me for what I am about to do...

I must've said "S'cuse me" and "Sorry" 2 dozen times in the first 30 seconds before I finally found a hole down the side of the group that I shot through. At the end of the day, any seconds I lost were made up in the adreniline rush of being inside a real, live video game. Out of respect, I sent cards to the people I trampled, but I sm TOTALLY ready if I ever do the Running of the Bulls. I was in about the top 20 or so when we hit the first mile. We were spread out as if someone had strewn us upon the road. The mile clock showed 6:02 and at the same time I was thinking "Hmmm...a bit slow", the got next to me said "Hmmm...a bit fast". That's always a good sign. We weren't even 2 miles in when I remembered something really important. Atlanta is not flat. Not even close; and mile 2 was in fact, a bit slow. But I was in a happy place and really keeping my heartrate in check which can look fairly 'amateurish' as I blast ahead of people on the downhills only to get passed back on the uphills looking like I ran out of steam. But it works. Eventually, I would gain so much ground on the downs that they stopped catching me on the ups.


Felt like I wasn't even working for the first 5 miles. Just one of those good days that you hope happens at the big races. Or when your friends are watching. Or when chocolate is on the line.

I wasn't counting how many people I passed but when I got to mile 4, I pulled alongside the lead female. She was already in the hurt locker but I could tell that the hurt locker was not something new to her. Once I passed her, the road sudenly seemed clear ahead. With all the turns, I could only see one runner quite a ways up ahead. I remember distinctly thinking to myself "I hope someone yells 'looking good'" because I so wanted to yell out "I FEEL GREAT". Seriously. As hilly as the course was, I couldn't remember the last time I felt this good holding this pace. I told myself that at mile 6 I was going to notch it up and watch some fireworks. That didn't really pan out. At mile 5.5 a guy came by me like it was a practical joke. He must not have known about the chocolate at the finish until after he passed mile 3 or so.


Rounding one of the final turns to bring it on home. C'mon...baby needs a new pair of CHEWS!

Mile 6 came and instead of feeling like I could turn up the flame, I suddenly felt like I was actually moving about as good as I could (which was plenty fast enough). Imagine my surprise when I reached for a cup at the aid station and it was not filled with chocolate milk. They totally punked me on that one but I drank the water anyway. I slowly crept up on the one guy I could see...who was slowly creeping up on the guy in front of him. Just before the long grade up to mile 8 I caught them both; one right after the other. I made a valiant effort to give the illusion that I was not going to slow down and that neither of them should attempt to come with me. It worked. Well, either that or they actually were just too tired. I kept the pressure on and during the final downhill to the finish, I looked back and allowed myself to catch a bit of my breath before sprinting the final hundred meters to the line where I was anounced as "Chris Jordan". An honest error as I am often mistaken for the son of Hal Jordan aka 'Green Lantern'. Volunteers were trying to distract me with more water in the finishing chute but I stayed focused and on task. Janis put herself between the finish line and the chocolate - right where she knew I would be. She quickly gave me the instructions for getting my chocolate along with professional tips like "make sure they give you a Rice Krispie treat to dunk in the chocolate" and "don't go to that volunteer - she skimps on the chocolate".


Now you're just showin' off ;-)

I managed a 6th place overall finish and little miss "I'm not competitive" let it slip that she had set a PR. So we both had something to celebrate with our chocolate. And although it was warm out compared to normal January weather, it wasn't so warm that the hot chocolate didn't taste delicious going down. A great start to racing in 2013.


Mocha-chocolata-ya-ya.

Notes:
* As usual, I represented Fleet Feet, TeamKattouf, Rudy Project and Garmin. But today I didn't race in my Greenville Fleet Feet race top, I raced in my Fox Valley (Appleton, WI) Fleet Feet race top courtesy of the gang up there who took care of me when Delta lost my luggage during Christmas vacation. I wore it proud!
* I never saw my friends Sarah Parker and Nicole Ramsbey at the event. But later that day - about 15 miles away - we ran into them at the Cheesecake Factory!
* They are sending me my award. Wouldn't it be awesome if it was made of chocolate.
* We managed to escape town before the big Atlanta Falcon game. The tailgaters were in full swing!
* For anybody who has run the Spinx Half Marathon here locally, this course climbed almost double the elevation in 9 miles that Spinx climbed in 13. And I thought THAT was a hilly race.
* The temps while I was racing went from 58 to 61 degrees. Not too cold and not too hot but plenty humid!

Next Up: Jacksonville Marathon (National Breast Cancer Awareness Marathon), Feb 17th


Some kind of wierd, mutated version of a fist pump?


Oh that thing behind me? Just the world's largest solid chocolate egg located at the chocolate museum in Belgium


This is my 'not-so-surprised' face

Philadelphia Marathon Race Report

by G-Man 29. November 2012 10:47

Location: Philadelphia, PA
Date: November 18, 2012
Placing: 1st...or 2nd...45-49 Age Group
Format: Marathon
My Race Photos
Official Race Photos
Results: Click Here

"Our final Jeopardy category today is 'Not so Famous Firsts' and the answer is...'He beat everyone in his age group at the 2012 Philadelphia Marathon but did not get first place in his age group.'..."

It seems more like a riddle than a trivia question. But this should come as no surprise since my life is a riddle; wrapped in a mystery and shrouded by an enigma. Running races - especially marathons - rarely have anything that comes close to a 'controversey' which makes it tough to compete with other sports that make controversey as commonplace as waking up, eating breakfast or avoiding swimming. But I changed all that last week. And now, you will have something to talk about other than the election, Lance Armstrong or the life-altering debate as to whether or not Twinkies will exist for our children's children. But I should start at the beginning because a "journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step" and oddly enough, the journey of 26.2 miles ALSO starts with a single step.

I did everything right. At least everything I could control. After 100 years of competing you would think this would be the norm but it's not. Quite frankly, I can be pretty lazy about race prep these days. It's not that I am any less excited than I used to be - or care any less about doing my best - but I'm not as likely to go out of my way to eat dinner at a special time; or have a special meal; or skip watching a great Christmas movie just to go to bed early (damn that Hallmark channel). So I guess you could say that I trade some race prep for happiness and less stress. But this time, it seemed I was able to accomplish both. For starters, in keeping with the holiday season, I was able to visit the 3 wise men the week before the race - my physical therapist, my chiropractor and my massage therapist. If you know Chris Connor, Matt Eiken and Bob Mancuso you might think of them more as the 3 "wise guys" but either way they know their stuff and by Friday my competitive, war-worn exterior was simply a hardened shell holding muscles and bones that belonged to a 15-year old cheerleader before the big game. Rah. Bring it. By the way, at my age it's only a matter of time before I need to add an archeologist to that group.

We arrived in Philly Saturday afternoon after a delightful 2-day drive. We opted to take the route along the mountains of Virginia rather than fight the concrete jungle surrounding Washington, DC. A wise decision. We checked into our downtown hotel and walked the half mile to the convention center for packet pickup. This would be the first half-mile of walking in what we calculated to be nearly 25+ miles of walking across 5 days. Philadlephia managed to somehow pack everything we could possibly need into a 3-mile radius from our hotel. As usual, we were a picture of efficency at the expo...in -> race packet -> race shirt -> caffiene Power gel -> out. IF we are really feeling adventurous we will seek out the 'next big thing' that you HAVE to have. I beleive this year, it is compression headbands. Designed to squeeze blood into your brain and make you think you are running faster than you are. Buy one now. For us, we treat expos like a training ground for becoming ninjas. If Janis and I were ever kidnapped while leaving a race expo, they could probably show our photos to all 20,000 participants and they would all say "nope, never seen'em".

We had made no plans for a pre-race dinner but were assuming we would use our tried and true trick of ordering pick-up and bringing it back to the quiet solitude that was the hotel lobby. Normally we do this with the closest Olive Garden but this time we were in the very center of a huge city. There probably wasn't an Olive Garden within...300 feet. Seriously. Less than 3 blocks. We ordered, walked over, pushed our way through the throngs of marathoners waiting for tables, grabbed our food and were eating it in no time - to the chagrin of several hotel guests that passed us with that "hey, that's what we should have done" look. After dinner, I asked the desk clerk if there was any chance I could get a banana from somewhere. "Go out the front door..." I started to grab for a pen and paper. "...cross the street; go five feet and there is a grocery store." I'm not making this stuff up. And with banana in hand, my perfect race morning breakfast was complete. With an early dinner and nothing on the boob tube, I even got to bed earlier than expected.

Here's where it gets serious. I did something I have NEVER done on purpose. No, I didn't wear my new compression headband to bed. No, I set my FIRST alarm for 4am so that I could actually eat my breakfast 3 hours before the race start. At most races, I sleep as long as can - pushing the limits of time - and throw down my breakfast when I get up. But not today. In some of my better races the past couple of years, I noticed a pattern of eating early and being the keen student of science that I am I picked up on this. I ate a bagel with peanut butter, drank an Ensure and some Gatorade...and went back to bed for an hour and a half. It was like I was back in college...if you trade the bagel for Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream and drop the Ensure. Don't laugh; I credit this for giving me a stomach of steel. I could down a pizza on the start line and still run a marathon. My stomach could shield an atomic explosion.

It was about a 1.34923-mile walk to the marathon start and with a 7am start time it was going to be dark almost right up to the gun, soooo...if you have ever wondered what the Zombie apocolypse might look like just stand on the corner of JFK Boulevard and 16th street on race morning as hordes of lifeless people trying to stay warm and use minimal amounts of energy pop out of every pore in the city and funnel themselves toward a common goal - the Zombie gathering place (aka "the start line"). My Goodwill wardrobe simply added to the effect. A knit hat, sweatshirt and gloves that were all purchased to be 'disposable'. I was cleverly disguised as a homeless person. A fast homeless person. Eating a banana.


In full Goodwill disguise, I try to stay warm before heading into my corral

37 degrees. Friggin' cold...but almost perfect marathon weather if you can just stay alive until the gun goes off. If I'd had a match I would've set my number on fire. There was a calmness at the start as I waited in my corral. No doubt, it was mainly due to the deafening silence. There was no blaring announcer or loud music coming from the giant speakers. It actually made me smile to be able to hear myself think. At most events these days the start line noise makes you think you are right next to the Tunguska Meteor as it crashed to the ground. I'm sure you are all familiar with this event considering it is considered to be the loudest single-event in history. Not just a race report...a history lesson. I was actually able to chat with a few other runners without having to pratice my lip reading skills.

At first, I thought the corral was fairly narrow until I realized that the snow fencing on our left didn't seperate us from the spectators, it seperated us from a mirror-image of our corrals on the OTHER side of the boulevard. Apparently you could pick which side of the road you wanted to start on. And by virtue of ignorance...I chose the right side. Looking back behind us were the famed steps of the art museum that Rocky ran up. I thought about how cool it would have been if the finish line were at the top of those steps. In hindsight? Not so cool. Finally, a few words from the organizers, the Star-Spangled Banner, and some encouragement from Mayor Nutter (no, that is not a misspelling) and we were ready. I knocked the icicles from my nose. My years as a male stripper came in handy as I quickly removed my sweatshirt and threw it into the crowd while dancing and singing "Pour some sugar on me". That was a little embellished.


Think 'Rocky' theme. "Gonna fly noooowwwwwwww..." (photo courtesy: Island Photo)

There are few things as poetic as watching a several thousand people lean forward in unison with one hand on their watch and freeze for what seems a minute. According to the race timers, it took me 7 seconds to cross the start line and just a little longer than that to complete the 26.2 miles. It's alaways amazing to me how I can be 10 feet from the front line but as soon as I cross under the start banner, it looks like there are 10,000 people in front of me. I looked left a few times as we made our way down the 'avenue of flags' (flags from every country line the street) and it was comical to see all the people running on the OTHER side of the snow fence. It was like I was watching a movie. About a race. The fencing went on for half a mile and when we hit a huge roundabout, our side of the road went around it to the right and the other side to the left. Standing in the center of the roundabout would have made for a great video - although you would have been trapped for while. I watched my heartrate climb slower than usual, which I atribute to the fact that it had to thaw first. The beginning of the race is kind of like a game of dodge ball. So much so, that you are too busy paying attention to your line and the people around you to notice that the first miles have flown by. I never saw the mile 1 clock but the mile 2 clock was obviously misplaced for some reason and I heard I guy yell out "Shi***, I just ran a 5:20 mile!". He was obviously kidding as he laughed it off and it made me smile. I was disappointed that I never heard anyone yell "You're almost there!"


The elites head out through the Avenue of Flags. See if you can find me in this picture. If you looked, you give me way more credit than you should ;-)

Mile 3 - Running along the Deleware River. Since I stopped taking my 'allergy-induced asthma' medicine 3 months ago (Xolair), my body has returned to its prior state which means...lots of head congestion. A guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do. I moved to the lefthand side of the road where nobody was running and I lost about 5 pounds. If you don't understand what I mean then you are better off. But man, could I breathe now. By the way, I think it froze before it hit the ground. 6:06 average pace so far.

Mile 5 - Astounded that my zone 3 heartrate is producing splits in the low 6's. This is phenomenal. Effort is minimal...until we pass by some trees losing their leaves and I make a concerted lunge for one. Success! Janis and I are professional leaf catchers. Well - it's more of a hobby until we figure out how to make money with it. But we ARE good. I proudly - and carefully - hold the leaf in my hand while the woman who has been running next to me probably wonders if I am some sort of Rain Man. If I had thought quickly enough, I would have mumbled "...1,284 leaves...11 trees..." in my best Rain Man voice. I slam my first Power Gel and almost instantly feel it load a bullet into the chamber.

Mile 6 - Straight through a downtown street completely lined with shouting onlookers. I hear Janis' voice at the exact moment that I am passing her. I look back and release the leaf and wink at her. She knows I caught it for her. The woman I was running with a mile earlier was a few seconds behind me and I know to this day she is still wondering what the hell she just saw. 10k time: 38:01...6:07 pace. Still feeling good and still keeping the heartrate plenty low enough. The crowds are pretty thick and it feels like I am in the running of the bulls. I'm afraid to look back. They're right behind me, aren't they...


I don't have any idea where this photo was taken on the run, but I was feeling pretty good at this point in the story and the guy in the photo looks like he's feeling pretty good so I thought this would be a good spot for this picture. (photo courtesy: Island Photo)

Miles 7-10 - Caught a group of 7 guys and we formed a gang for a couple of miles. Every few seconds, one of us would throw out some banter. We laughed. We cried. We kept our mind off the pace. Three good hills happened in these 3 miles slowing the pace down a bit and on the 3rd hill...shattering our group. Power Gel #2 went down easy and my body continued to respond in kind. I used to believe that I could run fast virtually forever if I could just keep enough calories in my body. This was probably a lot truer 20 years ago...but 20 years ago I was fast and stupid. Now I'm old and tricky. I crossed 10 miles at 1:02:03. 6:12 pace.


Still feeling good as I climb to the halfway point…and several runners peel off to finish the half marathon. Oh look, I see Janis...

Miles 11-13 - Fairmount Park. I used my uncanny ability to run downhill like a ragdoll at the start of mile 11; passing 4 people like they were standing between me and a Black Friday deal. I still believe this ability stems from years of cycling and developing quad muscles that can handle the pounding. Either that, or I simply don't have a skeleton. For the first time since the start, I was finding myself running in my own space. Catching people - or being caught - would slow down considerably from here on out. I passed a group of spectators dressed like some kind of circus freak show including a guy dressed as a giraffe. They were awesome...unless you are prone to nightmares. Shortly thereafter I had a random thought; nobody was wearing a hat and I still had on my red knit cap that screamed "I worked on the loading docks back in the 1940's". Don't be mistaken - after an hour plus of running, I was still chilly but the hat weighed heavy on my mind. Get it? The hat was on my head. WEIGHED HEAVY ON MY MIND. I slay me. Just as the thought appeared, a runner up ahead of me threw his gloves onto the sidewalk and a guy on a beat up old bike stopped and picked them up. I figured, if he would stop for those, then...well...off went the hat. Right at his feet. He bent over to pick it up and thanked me. I wanted to tell him that the hat had travelled nearly 1,000 miles to find its new home but I was a bit busy. As I approached mile 13, the few runners near me started to take sides. Literally. Marathoners to the left and those only doing half a race to the right. The crowd was thin here and it was easy to catch sight of Janis on the gentle climb to 13. At first I was pretty pissed to know that there was a shorter, faster way to get from mile 6 to mile 13 but later Janis explained about her secret power of teleportaion and that made sense. She grabbed a great photo and cheered her heart out. She is the best.

Mile 13.1 - Halfway. 1:21:36. 6:13 pace. Amazingly, three seconds faster than the half marathon I had run 3 weeks earlier on the difficult Spinx Runfest course back in Greenville. Three seconds faster but not nearly the effort. If you account for the two hill miles in the first half, my pace was crazy consistent.


I remember exactly where this photo was taken because I remember putting on my "I'm not gonna let them see the pain" face. (photo courtesy: Island Photo)

Miles 15-19 - The metamorphosis has started. The prior two miles I finally started to feel the effort. It was expected. From mile 13 to 19, my mile splits dropped to around 6:30 but once again, leveled off. Still at the same zone 3 heartrate, I was biding my time to the jump to zone 4 and beyond. I was working now but I had no problem putting on a brave face for the cameraman at mile 16. I was on track for a 2:45-ish time. But at about mile 19...


Damn! I didn't see this photographer so I had no time to make it look like I felt all warm and cuddly inside at mile 17. (photo courtesy: Island Photo)

Miles 19-25 - OK. What the hell is this? Before I started training and racing with Rick Kattouf as my coach, I was the king of racing 'wrong' by starting out too fast. But as Rick once described it, I had the ability to "defy pain". Whereas most people who started out too quickly would find themselves dropping off a cliff late in the race, when I started out too quickly my body would somehow manage to turn the cliff more into a gentle downhill with mile splits dropping 10 - 20 seconds a mile over the final miles. So I know intimately what 'hitting the wall' is like and this was NOT 'hitting the wall'.

Somewhere between miles 18 and 20, my body 'reset' itself. Instead of my heartrate climbing into zone 4...it was slowly DROPPING. Your heartrate should gently climb over the course of the entire race. At least that's what mine has always done. In addition, my legs began to hurt as if someone had been smashing them with a hammer. For you runners, it was like I had been running down a steep hill for a long time - but I hadn't. I would say I've never experienced this but I instantly recalled the period in my life when I was first diagnosed with asthma. When we were trying to figure out what was wrong with me (a loaded proposition) I distinctly remember describing one of my symptoms as "unusual muscle fatigue". I remember telling the doctor at the time that my legs were suddenly failing well before my heart and lungs - this was sudden and new. But after we started treating my asthma, this symptom went away. Could this be happening because I came off my Xolair shot? Why would an allergy medication affect my muscles? I don't know, but I had 6 miles to think about it. At mile 20, I had hoped to 'chew through the leash'; instead, the leash tightened. ("Chew through the leash": a term used to describe the point at which an athlete is 'set free' from the constraints set upon them - such as a heartrate directive from their coach. The phrase was derived from watching my coach's dog methodically chew through his leash while remaining quiet and composed...and then suddenly take off like a rocket with his newfound freedom to the dismay of his owner.)

As I mentioned, this was very different from 'hitting the wall'. It was wierd. Rather than a slow degradation of speed - and a slow increase in heartrate - this was an almost sudden drop in both. My heartrate dropped 10 beats and my speed dropped to a 7:00 mile. And it STAYED THERE. That's not what's supposed to happen when you fatigue. So there I was, jogging along. My body would not go any faster. Well, not entirely true. It just felt as though if I went harder, it would be a gargantuan effort that would last a few minutes and they would probably need an ambulance to pick up the pieces. So, I just kept moving. It was math time. I may have slowed down, but I was holding fast and I had set a good tempo the first 20 miles. I went through mile 20 at exactly 2:07:00. To still reach my goal of 2:50, I had to cover 6.2 mile in 43 minutes. That is almost exactly 7:00 miles - and that's what my body was doing...almost. 7:06, 7:08, 7:04...

As someone who is usually observant and alert during a race, it took team Kattouf teammate Yvonne Cater a few shouts to finally grab my attention as she ran towards me on the out-and-back section. Which shows you how out of it I was. I was on cruise control and almost missed her (she ran a 3:16!). I was pushing. Pushing through the uncommon leg pain mostly. But also fighting my heartrate. It was like running through quicksand. I kept hearing "Billie Jean" in my head as I imagined myself moonwalking; looking like I was moving forward but feeling like I was going backwards. If you don't know who Billie Jean is - she's just a girl that claims that I am the one...


Oh yeah, "I wish it was as easy for me as it is for you, G-Man" Whatever. Call me when you can make this face. (photo courtesy: Island Photo)

Mile 26 - Now. NOW I can push. And since the final mile was mostly uphill, I had little choice. Seeing the road open up to 6 lanes in the final half mile, and switch to a downhill, pushed me to catch and pass the 3 runners in my path. I crossed the line and you would think that I would collapse from exhaustion but on the contrary, since I was never able to get my heartrate above zone 3 today, I was extremely fatigued in my muscles and bones but not exhausted. The instant I crossed the line, I felt a hand on my shoulder. A runner had finished practically right next to me. He shook my hand and congratulated me on a good run. We made small talk for a few seconds and then went our seperate ways. But that moment right there IS the story. A story that will make you think and make you chuckle.

Janis and I hobbled back to the hotel. Well I hobbled. We went about our 'vacationing' (which was awesome) and over the course of the next 2 days, the results would change several times. I was 5th...then 7th...and finally came to rest at 2nd place. Apparently, there were several erroneous runners initially showing up in the results including times in the 2:20's and 2:30's (probably people who ran the half instead of the full). Excellent. I had a goal of 2:50 and a top 5 (awards to the top 5). Woo-hoo! Later, Janis asked me what the gap was between me and first place so I checked again. Oh yeah, you may have figured out where this is going. The first place in my age group had the EXACT same clock time as me. They apparently showed him as first because his chip time was faster by 13 seconds - meaning he started 13 seconds behind me at the start.


Do I look lighter? I feel lighter. I'll also realize how cold it still is outside in 3…2…1…

It actually took me a few minutes to have the realization that if we had the same gun time, we HAD to have crossed the finish line at the same time. And then I remembered the hand on my shoulder. The guy who congratulated me at the finish had been declared the winner of our age group. Again, I really didn't think about it that much other than what an amazing coincidence it was. Until the next day when I got the email about my race photos. I clicked the link and perused my photos. When I got to the end, there were several pictures of my finish. A finish where I clearly crossed the line ahead of the 'first place' runner. I was, in fact, the winner. If you are not a runner then you might be confused right now. Even if you are a runner you might be. Let me explain as succinctly as possible.

When road races started out, they were small. They also didn't care as much about pleasing so many people so there weren't all these 'extra' places like age-group winners or masters winners or fastest-wearing-red-shoes winners. No, there was just "THE" winner. For these reasons, a race was just that - a race. First one across the finish line wins. Simple. But then races got big. Real big. In some races, it can take nearly an hour for the person at the back of the group to cross the START line when the gun goes off. They also added different categories. It became hard to compare times between people or between different races. Plus, some races you had to qualify to get in and it wasn't fair if you had an extra 10 minutes added to your time just because there were 3,000 people ahead of you. So, races started offering to track a runner's "chip time" - and other races started accepting people's chip time for qualification purposes. It all seemed to make sense. I mean, your chip time is the time it took you to get from the start line to the finish line. But the USATF (US Track & Field), the governing body for races, does not recognize chip time for the purest and simplest of reasons: in a race, the first person to cross the line, wins. Period. Think about the fiasco it would create if two people sprinted to win the New York City Marathon and after one runner crosses the tape ahead of the other runner, he is then told he actually got second place? That would not work. Ever. In time-trial events that would be OK but in a mass-start event, your only goal should be to be ahead of everyone else at the finish. If I am running someone down at the finish all I should have to know is that the first person across the line beats the second person across the line.

Rule #245.1 states: "...The order in which the athletes cross the finish line will be the official finish position."
Rule #245.3 states: "The official time shall be the time elapsed between the start of the watches or timing devices resulting from an appropriate start signal and when the athlete reaching the finish line. The actual time elapsed between when an athlete reaching the starting line and finish line can be made known to the athlete, but will not be considered as official time.

The other important thing to note here is that is standard practice to see the phrase "all awards are based on gun time", which is basically a reiteration of the rules I listed above. I learned this the hard way in my first marathons where I lost to someone simply because he lined up on the front row. I, on the other hand, lined up further back because I didn't want to get in the way of people who really deserved to be up front. Silly me, being all "non-self-centered" and all. But fear not, I have since seen the error of my ways. Now I line up where I expect to finish. If I expect to be in the top 20, that's where I line up. But I digress.

The final straw in this rather humorous situation...is me. If you know me, then you know there are two things I am adamant about: 1. Follow the rules. I am a rule follower to a fault. 2. This is a stupid rule. I didn't make the stupid rule...I just follow it. Sure, I believe that if you are pro or elite then it makes sense, btu to everyone else? Bah! I initially thought about not saying anything. Then I thought - I shouldn't be made to feel like I am doing something wrong by pointing out the rules? There are plenty of rules in every sport we watch that are controversial. Some people agree with them and some people don't. But they follow the rules until enough people decide to change them. My assumption here is that whoever did the race timing has a program that automatically ranks people by their gun time and breaks a tie using their chip time. This is not correct, but I'm sure the people sending out the awards will simply look at the paper handed to them and award first place to the guy "at the top of the list". In fact, they should determine who actually crossed the line first. And by virtue of the finishing photos...that would be me. As a matter of fact, I would swear that I beat him by a full second so I'm not even sure how we got the same gun time. You be the judge...


You can easily see that the guy in white is behind me...or was he just fashionably late?

So, in the end, I ended up with a pretty good race, a wonderful vacation and a story that I'm not sure I will ever reproduce. As I wait by the mailbox, only time will tell which award I receive...the "right" one...or the "wrong' one ;-)

Notes:
* I couldn't walk right again until Thursday.
* Finish time was 2:50:55. The last 5 marathons over the past 6 years...2:42, 2:43, 2:49, 3:17 (Boston this year!), 2:50.
* Average HR ended up being 142. Average at the halfway point was 143. Normal Avg for a half or full marathon? 148-152.
* Got to watch the oldest Thanksgiving parade in the country. Live!
* As always, thanks go out to my coach, Rick Kattouf; Fleet Feet Sports; and of course, Janis!


Cheesesteak? Oh, you bet I did. I ran 26.2 miles so the guilt is absolutely transparent.


I haven't seen my high school buddy Bill Mayweather in 32 years! Amazing to reconnect with old friends. And I mean "old"


Philadelphia Chocolate Tour?!!! NOW it's a vacation...and by the way, that is chocolate-covered BACON I am eating here!

Powerman Alabama Race Report

by G-Man 31. March 2012 11:33

Location: Birmingham, AL
Date: March 25, 2012
Placing: 2nd Overall
Format: 10k Run/60k Bike/10k Run
My Race Photos
Official Race Photos
Results: Click Here

The Return, or...Let's Just Get Any Bitterness Out of the Way

Powerman Alabama was my "return to duathlon". I don't have any fancy or exciting excuse as to why I took time off. I wasn't in jail for dog-fighting or shooting myself. My wife didn't find out about my other wife and I didn't have to 'sort my life out'. No, I just like variety and so I spent the last couple of years knocking back some long distance triathlons. I did 5 half-iron races last year and even with some issues in the early part of the season, I killed my age group and even beat everyone in the next younger age group in all but one race. I mention this only because I just found out this week that my phenomenal efforts garnered me an amazingly high ranking of 44th in my age group for 2011. Wow. I guess I don't understand math as well as I thought I did. I'm not bitter about it. Or maybe I am. Fortunately, I don't need a piece of paper to tell me who I can beat and who I can't.

It had been a few years since I had done a du so I said, "I should do a du." And I did. Duathlons have not swept through the bowels of our country like triathlons have and I attribute that to good marketing tactics by the tri companies. I think we could change all that if the duathlon world created an event called 'A Race So Hard, There is a Chance You Will Die'. This alone would bring people in by the droves (everybody loves an event that they could possibly die in); but to really take it to the next level, they would have to hold it in an extremely remote location, and charge people half their salaries to enter. The piece de resistance? You have to qualify. Of course, "qualify" could be something as simple as having a pulse...or paying more money. I think I'm on to something. I just opened registration for the event which will take place in 2014, but you'd better hurry - it's almost full. (Don't worry, once it's full I'll double the entry fee and say it's NOT full). I'll be rich.

Don't be fooled by the lack of 2,500 participants at duathlons. It just means that that the participants who do show up are very committed to the discipline. For instance the guy who took third overall (from Colorado) was ranked 2nd in the country in the 40-44 age group for triathlons in 2011. The guy who beat him for second overall was ranked 44th in the 45-49 age group for triathlons. Wait, that can't be right. Oh, yeah, that was me. Looks like I'm ripe for a top 100 placing in my age group for duathlons in 2012. OK, I promise I'll let it go now - I realize that no ranking system is perfect except for the one where I come out on top. I mean, maybe they only counted the triathlons where the bike and run were cancelled? All right, NOW I'm done. But I can't promise that I won't still be bitter about something because I'm old and that's what we do.

Pre-race Musings

Powerman Alabama is designated as the Regional Duathlon Championships. I've done the race 3 times before (2005 - 2007) but that was 5 years - and an asthma diagnosis - ago. Back then, I saw some great successes. After all, a long race with challenging terrain and ample time on a bike is something you can usually find on my Christmas list between "a real president" and "world peace". I went into the race thinking I could do 'OK'; knowing that so far this year I have been focused heavily on running. I hadn't even been on my race bike since last October. As a matter of fact, I have done very little cycling at all...unless you count the last 32 years as a whole. Then you could probably say I've ridden "some". Apparently riding a bike is like, well, riding a bike.


Ahhhh, my first wiff of "transition area" in nearly 6 months.

After checking into our hotel in Pelham, Alabama we headed over to the venue to pick up my race packet. It was a new venue since the last time I raced Powerman and let me say that it was a beautiful state park; and the biggest in the state. With blue skies and only a few clouds it was one of those 'jacket on - jacket off' days depending on whether you were in the shade or in a breezy area or not. Just gorgeous. I grabbed my race packet and got the 'lay of the land' for the transition area. After seeing that I was number 106, Janis told me that we should just go home because she overheard some people talking at the transition area..."yeah, they give all the fast people the single-digit numbers..." There was no chance that I was going to do well. Actually, it was even worse than that. For some reason, everyone else's number was printed in dark, bold block numbers while mine was hand-written (you can barely read the number in the photos). That was just one step above giving me a used number from another race. They said I wouldn't even be a contender...(cue the theme from Rocky)...

As is my standard operating procedure, I set up camp in a nice area near the race site to apply the 30,000 race numbers we got and to do some last minute bike prep. I started to fret about my race numbers. I had one for the bike, my helmet, my wrist, and my clothing. I would also have it written on both legs and both arms on race morning. How could this possibly be enough numbers?! What happens if I take a wrong turn on the run course? I won't have my helmet or bike number. It's likely that I would be attacked by a bear while wandering through the forest who rips both my arms and legs off and eats them - or brings them home to his family for dinner later. That would only leave me with the number on my race belt. All it would take is a pop-up thunderstorm to 'dissolve' the remaining number. How on earth would they be able to identify me??!!! Seriously, I think I need to write my race number on a piece of paper, imbed it into a kernel of corn and swallow it. We all know corn kernels don't break down in the digestive tract. Just sayin'.

My bike prep usually consists of me finding all the things that are wrong with my bike and saying "yeah, that will probably not break during this race." Today that thing was my chain. My derailer was making a little noise and I found a link in my chain that was bent (flared out at one end just a bit). I thought about removing the link but that 5-minute process seemed like quite an effort. I mean, I was cutting into my 'hang out and do nothing time'. Besides, I'll probably be too busy worrying about the play in my handlebars to think about the chain. I'll just remember to fix it before the next race. By the way, one of my favorite gadgets - my portable bike stand - got several comments from passers-by. It was a gift from Janis some years back and it folds down to the size of a box of Girl Scout cookies. Thin mint to be exact. t weighs a bit more than the cookies though. Probably.

Before heading back to the hotel, we drove the out-and-back bike course. Wow. It doesn't matter how many years I tell myself that the course is NOT as hard as it looks when you are in a car, I still think, "damn! I'm going to be walking up these hills". Seriously, it was a constant up and down. For those of you who are familiar with G'Vegas, the course basically climbed Paris Mountain each of the 3, 12-mile laps. And for the record, I didn't walk up any hills. I didn't even use my little chainring. After enjoying the rest of the afternoon, we instituted our never-fail dinner plan of finding the nearest Olive Garden (3 miles away) and ordering takeout. No lines. No waiting. No freezing in a restaurant. The quiet solitude of our hotel room. Stress = 0. Except for watching a 48 Hours marathon...THAT is stressful. I can save you some time - the wife, husband, mother, father, sister or brother did it. Now go to sleep.

Race Day

We arrived at the start waaay ahead of schedule because we had anticipated a long line to pay at the park entrance. The promoters had handled this well and we zoomed right through. Even setting up transition was super fast. I had forgotten how much easier it is with a duathlon and no swimming; basically just my bike helmet, shoes, chair, sunscreen, baby wipes, comb, cell phone, camera and breath mints. This left me with all kinds of time to debate the finer points of fashion vs comfort for my clothing options for the day. Much like checking out the bike course, I am also bad about thinking that I will be cold. I won't. But I waited until the last minute to decide on nothing but my race shorts and top. Fortuantely, I didn't decide to just go with a top or my bike split might have suffered. I was in the 3rd wave. The first wave contained all the young people. 3 mintues later, the 'not-quite-as-young' people went. Then it was our turn; the 'my son or daughter was in the first wave' people. I have to admit, as fit as the people around me looked...they all looked old. I'm sure when they all looked at me they were thinking "hey, that guy missed his start in the first wave". Yeah.

Runnin' Down a Dream...

I really was so relaxed and in a 'que sera sera' mood that I didn't even start anywhere near the front line. They made the final announcements and we all handed our canes and walkers over the fencing to our families. The gun fired and within a few strides I reached the front of the group. Well, the front of the group not including the guy who took off like Usain Bolt. Really. 3 of us pulled away from the group up the first hill as we watched a guy in a Team USA outfit drop us like a bad habit. I joked about it earlier, but I really thought that this guy had possibly missed his start wave. From a short distance, he looked pretty young. But that could be the Grecian Formula talking. I pulled away from the 2 runners I was with - or rather, they pulled away from me in a backwards fashion. I say it this way because I didn't speed up: they slowed down. A little over a half-mile in and suddenly, it went from just the 4 of us existing to a madhouse of people running. Some we were catching and some were running towards us. On an out-and-back section, I saw 'Team USA'. The name on his uniform said "Dupree" and his race number was "2". From what I've been told, a single-digit number means you're fast. Dupree did not glance side to side or look around like I do. He was full-on robotic. He was programmed to race. From this point on, I lost track of where I was in relation to everyone and just focused on the pace...until mile 2.5.


Perfectly-timed shot of me throwing water all over myself after the first lap of run #1. It was supposed to go into my mouth.

Both the first run and the second run were the same course - two 5k loops. However, the first 10k run we did it clockwise and the second 10k run we did it in the opposite direction. So, in the first run at the end of each 5k loop, we were detoured off the road and onto a moderately technical single-track trail through the woods. This would be the part in the Stephen King novel where we are all led to village of witches. When I hit this at mile 2.5, I was in the throes of passing people from the prior two waves. I was happy - and sad to say - somewhat surprised at the amount of consideration I was given. As I came up on other runners, almost all of them stopped or slowed down and moved off the trail for a second. I must have said "thank you" 50 times. For a moment it was almost like my faith in humanity had been restored. But then I remembered Ironman Florida. I was slowed a few times during my traipse through the trees but in the grand scheme of today, I'm not sure I could say it amounted to much. I'm sure if I had lost by 20 seconds that I would change my story and insist that the hordes of people slowed me down by 21 seconds. I'm also sure the fast runners in the first wave did not have to deal with this. But really, catching people kept my mind off of bear attacks.

Lap 2 of the run was much lonelier in the woods and oddly enough since I had nobody to follow, I had to concentrate a lot more on where the trail went (did I mention the bears?) I emerged from the woods happy that I had kept such a good heartrate even with all the up and down. With a few hundred yards to go to transition, I ran through the procedure in my head: slam a GU, cross the timing mat, stop my Garmin and reset it while running to my bike. Helmet first, then both shoes. Go. Restart the Garmin. And that's exactly how It went down a few seconds later...with one little hitch. Somehow my gear shifter had been knocked out of place and it took me several seconds to drop the chain down and then back up again before I could commit to full warp factor 4.


Heading out on a delightful little bike ride.

Over the years, I've tried to put into words what endurance racing is like. Turns out, the rap band Fort Minor pretty much nailed it in the first verse of 'Remember the Name'...

"This is ten percent luck, twenty percent skill
Fifteen percent concentrated power of will
Five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain
And a hundred percent reason to remember the name..."
Check out the song on youtube here.

Bikes R Me

I took off on the bike section not knowing what would happen since most of my training has been for running, but I was prepared to use up my 5-percent pleasure, 20-percent skill and 15-percent concentrated power of will. I was saving a big chunk of my 50-percent pain for the second run. Let me stop here and say that it sucks when you can't figure out why something happens. But it sucks a lot less when that something is in your favor. I couldn't figure out why I was riding so well, but I was flying and still maintaining a conservative heartrate. Maybe my body simply missed riding my bike. Maybe all the weight training kept my power levels up. Maybe it was just the adrenaline rush of being 'back in the hunt'. Whatever it was...it was. And although it didn't seem much like a tecnical course you had to make 5 u-turns, 6 90-degree turns and handle curves on descents at 40+ mph. Every bit of that was free time for me. I methodically made my way past athletes until about mile 15.

What's this? Well, I'll be...it's Dupree! Boys and girls, it looks like we've got us a race here. I rode passed him and thought, "now I just need to keep riding like this and we are done." But that was not the case. At the top of the next hill - he passed me back. Really? That is awesome. Do you know WHY this is awesome? Follow this logic. Before we knew each other existed, we were both riding somewhere near the best pace that our bodies expected that we SHOULD be riding in order to finish well. Not the pace we COULD be riding. If you go as fast as you can, you get what I call the 'six million dollar man effect'. Rememer the opening of that show where Steve Austin says "...she's breaking up...she's breaking up!" and then he crashes and burns in a big ball of lactic acid and tears? Yeah, been there, done that. So the reason this is awesome is that it looks like instead of racing his own race - the one in which he uses his advantage on the run to chase me down - he is going to overextend himself to try and keep pace with me on my turf: the bike. I believe I was actually giddy.

In 8 years of multisport, I have been passed on the bike by 4 people (on the same lap/course). 3 of those cases were actually people that I had passed - passing me back. Remember the mantra, my friends: check the ego at the start line - it is your own worst enemy. All 3 of those people dried up and sputtered out. And to prove that I practice what I preach, the 4th person that passed me I allowed to continue to outride me. And he did. I never felt the need to try and stay with him, although I'm sure I could have...at the expense of a really crappy run. We ended up taking 1st and 2nd. It could have been 1st and 5th is the way I look at it. So there we were for close to 12 miles. Me and Dupree. One would pass the other and get a hundred yards up the road for a while until the other one caught back up and passed them back. Our passes were not subtle, they each said "take that!".


Feet already out of my shoes, I'm ready to jump into my second run.

I passed Dupree just before the final 12-mile lap started and that was the last time I saw him. My thoughts turned to preparation for run #2 and I backed down just a hair the final 3 miles. I had been diligent about my nutrition and for the first time ever I drank almost 2 complete bottles in a 1:40 ride. I did my usual slam into transition but I was amazingly still in a very relaxed state. I even stopped at the dismount line to shut off my Garmin and reset it again. I ran out of transition right next to another athlete. Janis yelled at me that we were the 5th and 6th people off the bike. Wow. "Out of everybody?" I yelled back. She confirmed and told me that 2 guys were within striking distance.


Looking back at Janis so that we can discuss how the race is going. Not that I'm in a hurry or anything ;-)

You Can't Catch Me, I'm the Gingerbread Man...

I slammed my last and final GU as the run started. Yum. Why can't they make ice cream taste this good (HEAVY sarcasm). My partner had a 25 on his leg and was keeping pace with me. As we entered the forest trail I told him to let me know if he wanted to pass me but he said he was just trying to get his running legs and that since I was 3 minutes ahead of him, he was not going to challenge me. I had to break his heart and tell him that I was in fact, 6 minutes ahead of him. We emerged from the trail and hit a long downhill. I left him. At the same time, I saw the first place runner coming at me. Since the mile markers were not in place for the 2nd run, I had no idea how far ahead he was. But I had to remember that if he was 1 mile ahead, then we could literally be seconds apart in our elapsed time...6 minutes = 1 mile. On my way to the out-and-back section, I could see the remaining 3 runners ahead of me. Not knowing which wave they started in or how far ahead they were. All I knew is that none of them started WITH me or BEHIND me.


Arms relaxed; body straight up and down. Not too bad after 2 and a half hours of exercise.

At mile 1.5 I approached the water station. They all held out cups and yelled "water!". I yelled "No thanks, I'm good." As I passed them all, I amended my statement by adding "Well...I'm not really 'good', but I just don't need any water." I hit the turnaround and now it was my turn to see who was chasing me. It wasn't long before I saw Dupree. He had outrun me by 2 minutes on the first run and I anticipated he would outrun me again. But did I have a big enough gap on him? I looked at him as we passed. I smiled and said "ah, I knew I'd see you again." Stone face. The robot was on task. Maybe he was part Vulcan and incapable of emotion? Maybe he was just really focused. Nothing wrong with that. It has been a long time since I was that focused. It's got to be fun at my age or it's just not worth it. I thank all the police and volunteers as I pass. And if I'm not joking around with the people at the water stations then I must be really close to passing out.

I kept the HR in check as I finished the first lap and Janis was yelling her heart out. One of the top women had just started her first lap of the run and I was a few yards behind her as we entered the trail. I was getting pretty close to her but was not gaining very fast. I couldn't have been 30 feet behind her when I subconciously decided to pick up an entire tree by the root with my foot. I failed. The tree did not budge. Instead, I slammed into the dirt trail with my hands and knees and let out a loud and startling "OOOOFFFFFF". I kept my head up the whole time and she never even turned around. I don't know how she did it. I jumped up and instantly went back to running. I passed her right after we emerged from the forest. I was 2 miles from the finish. I approached the same water station as the last lap and this time I was about 20 yards from catching the runner in front of me. This time, as I passed, I held my figure to my mouth to "Shhhh" them and I wispered as I passed "I'm going to catch him...shhhh". I went through the turnaround and saw Dupree. I had actaully gained time on him.


A half-mile ago, I was barely catching the runner in front of me. I kicked a 5:20 pace to the finish and you can't even see the other runner behind me. I love finishing and feeling great!

The past two years of dealing with my asthma has made me gun shy. I've been burned a few times by jumping into my last gear only to find out that my last gear fizzles quickly and sharply. A few weeks ago, I took a chance by jumping early and for the first time in a long time - it was like old times. But once was not enough to satisfy me so I waited. And waited and waited. Finally, with a half-mile to go, I gunned it. I almost immediately passed the runner in front of me and I flew to the finish. If I had known, I would have tried it with a mile or more to go. But today, that would not have improved my place. According to my Garmin, I ran that last half-mile at a 5:20 pace.

BAM!

I would be the 4th person to cross the line...but the 2nd fastest of the day. Dupree would finish 2 minutes behind me which was still good enough to beat everyone who crossed the line ahead of him besides the myself and the 1st place runner. I was stunned to find out that I had the fastest bike split of the day. A great premier return to duathlon and hopefully some foreshadowing for Long Course Duathlon Championships in June. Woo-hoo!

Notes:
* I was supposed to shoot for the following HRs for the run/bike/run: 146-149/136-139/146-149. My actual averages? 147/137/147. Shazam! My first run was the 10th best, my ride was the 1st best and my second run was the 5th best. I haven't run the numbers but I had to be one of the top ranked people for 'least difference between their first run time and their second run time'. Which I equate to perfect pacing.
* I knew nothing about Dupree until I 'googled' him after the race. He just entered my age group (45), he was 2nd overall last year and as I mentioned above - he was ranked #2 in triathlons in the country for age 40-44 last year. He came in from Colorado to race.
* A confession: near the top of a climb on the bike (before a long, curvy, fast descent) a rider I was passing waved a truck around that was towing a camper. I was intentionally riding in the lane a bit so he would not pass. As I saw him do it, I yelled "NO! I'll catch him on the downhill!" And I did. At 43mph. I raced around him in my aerobars on the yellow line in a curve. Please don't ever wave a car arond you. That makes YOU responsible for anything that happens. Let the driver decide for themselves when it is clear.
* When I was cleaning up for the awards ceremony and washing the numbers off myself, I went to clean my age off of my calf and Janis stopped me. She told me to leave it. That was funny...she wanted to be sure everyone knew that I was "old".
* My bike chain did in fact make a little extra noise and skip occassionally. It will probably make it through one more race ;-)
* There is no way I can explain this in one simple note but if you read any of my race reports at all, this will be both shocking and funny: the guy I ran past with a half-mile left? Nicholas Sykes. Seriously. I have got to single-handedly be the nemisis for their entire family.
* I decided to do this event for many reasons. But one of those reasons was that I missed going last year when my Team Kattouf teammates Gail Kattouf and Cameron Dorn came and took 1st overall female and 5th overall male. I joked about having to go this year to uphold the Team Kattouf name. Sorry it couldn't be 1st place, Rick ;-)
* TeamKattoufer Rex Morgan successfully completed his first full marathon less than 10 minutes off of his Boston Marathon qualifying time. Awesome run for a 1st marathon.
* Team Magic (the promoter) does a great job with awards/prizes. Another great 'swag bag' of stuff!
* I could not quit saying the movie title "You, Me and Dupree" in my head throughout the race.

Next Up: Boston Marathon!


Janis sporting some of the 'swag' she got from my 'winnings' loot.

GHS Swamp Rabbit Half Marathon

by G-Man 15. March 2012 04:57

Location: Greenville, SC
Date: March 10, 2012
Placing: 3rd Overall
Format: 13.1-Mile Run
My Race Photos
Results: Click Here

Running and 80's Music...My Tainted Love.

It was the inaugural running of the Swamp Rabbit Half Marathon and as with most of the past 3 months this was no hazy shade of winter. It was a brilliantly bright, sunny day with just the right amount of crispness for a hard run. With the super-mild temps this year we can only hope it won't be a cruel, cruel summer.

With the Boston Marathon in 5 weeks I was looking for nothin' but a good time.  It was a point-to-point race which made for some logistical challenges but thank goodness for Janis or it would have been tougher. She is one efficient lady who gets me. Yeah, she was born to be my baby. And believe me, being married to me is no vacation. In fact, it's more like a Thriller video at times.

I was up at 6am to don my Fleet Feet racing gear. It was dark out but as I mentioned the forecast was for clear skies. I figured the future's so bright, I gotta wear shades. So I threw my favorite Rudy's into my race bag and out the door we went. We met Tom and Robin Calamia in a parking lot downtown near the finish; where the streets have no name. We belong to TeamKattouf, the 4 of us. What we share is a common coaching philosophy but in reality we are family. Our blood may be red but our true colors are black and yellow. The start wasn't so far away and I was tempted to run back to get the car after the finish. You might think it's foolish and you may be right but I decided not to do it because then Janis would say I've got an obsession...and I don't like when she says that (even though sometimes I just can't get enough)

The Glamorous Life

We chatted about goals on the drive to Travelers Rest (the nearby starting town). I believed Robin could crush her time estimate (this was her first half marathon) but I didn't tell her that because I knew it would elicit an "all I need is a miracle" response when in fact she simply needed a 'don't stop believing' attitude. But that will come. We all had plans from our coach and it really is the absolute hardest thing in the world to follow the plan to a tee. Every single one of us has the devil inside and as for your ego - you've got to leave it on the start line. If you don't you will likely be backpedaling at some point and one thing leads to another...

I had no idea how many participants were signed up or which Master runners might be there to take on me, but I showed up ready to stand and deliver. Janis dropped us off and headed back to the Greenville finish line so she could get her own exercise in before we finished. She said "Babe, I'm leaving". To which I replied, "I'm gonna run to you." "How long will this take you?" "I think I can break 1:18" "Don't think - just beat it." She drives me crazy. In a good way.


The famous 'start line lean'.

Pretty in Pink

I had a very clear mind this morning and was inspired merely to be alive and kicking. I saw my run training partner Dan Moss (aka Tarzan Boy), and my Fleet Feet teammate Jon Stoehr - both warming up. I was sure those two would shake it up. I smiled when I noticed Dan warming up with a pink hat on. I guess he still thinks it's hip to be square. Personally, I think the dude looks like a lady. One things for sure; It's never been a problem to save it for later during a warmup. Usually it's the opposite and I have trouble kick-starting my engine.

I ran into another TeamKattoufer, Rick Kolb (aka Mr. Sunshine) on our way to the start line on a narrow side road. We reached the back of the pack of nearly 700 runners just as a pickup truck was trying to get through. I grabbed Rick real quick and told him "watch this". I went right up to the bumper of the truck with room to move and let him make a giant hole for us like a sledghammer to walk right to the front of the group - a trick I learned years ago in bike racing. You can't be too shy; especially when you are no-no-notorious.

Bang a Gong

I chatted it up with the starter (Jeremy Davis) as well as many of the athletes that I knew. Christopher Hutton asked me what I anticipated for today and I said "sub-1:18". "Really?" "Would I lie to you?" Another runner behind us said "1:18? I'm going to hang with you". I thought to myself - then hold on loosely and don't let go. Or maybe it's - hold on tight...to your dreams. As the starter counted down I said a little silent mantra 'Kyrie Eleison, down the road that I must travel'. And then I mumbled under my breath..."welcome to the jungle". Let's GO! The sound turned words into action and off we went. The sudden change from the 'start line lean' to a sprint was like taking a whisper to a scream.

Here I go again on my own. Going down the only road I've ever known. But today, I'm not dancing with myself and if I don't race smart, no one is to blame but myself. Although I can see the other runners around me, it is an art form to ignore them in the early stages of a race. No matter what they do, I'm looking at the man in the mirror. Every breath you take, every move you make is calculated. Ain't nothing gonna break my stride. I’ve heard the expression "don't write checks your body can't cash" but I prefer "don't pay the ferryman until he gets you to the other side."

Get Into the Groove

Mile 1 was to be a warmup mile so I had to exhibit self control - and this is the really the secret of my success in recent years. It's fun to be reckless but if you go out too hard, you don't get a second chance. All it takes is patience. Just a little patience. That's all. In a smaller race like this, I don't see as many people over-shooting their ability from the start, but people are people and for the most part, I find myself swimming in my wisdom and thinking "Only the young..." Who am I kidding? I AM forever young. I watched Dan, Jon and Nicholas Sykes pull away during this mile and could feel the presence of others near me in the top 10. The first mile was slightly down all the way until the very end; a short, fairly steep incline. I backed down to maintain a reasonable heartrate and was passed by a handful of runners. "Relax, don't do it" I told myself. I'm nobody's fool this early in a race. I know that only in my dreams can hold a 5:30 pace. Maybe some of those guys will stay out there but only time will tell.

Let's Dance

End of mile 1 and the group around me makes small talk as if this is their pace. But I know there's something going on. And that something is that I get to pump up the volume. I instantly separated myself from the main group. At this point there are 5 runners in front of me...and things can only get better. As we neared the end of mile 2 we left the road to roam onto the Swamp Rabbit Trail. You're a great training ground, Swamp Rabbit but today I intend to rock you like a hurricane. As fast as we were moving, miles 3-10 were like slow-motion because I was gaining mere inches on my quarries as the miles ticked away.


The warmup time is over. Now it's time to start runnin' down a dream.

I was feeling good and had the eye of the tiger. As I approached Christopher Hutton for 5th place in mile 3 all I could think of was don't turn around...der kommissar's in town! I could hear his effort as I passed and I wondered if this is what it sounds like when doves cry. Getting passed always cuts like a knife. I know - I've been there plenty of times over the years but not today. I was hungry like the wolf for another victim. In my sights? A view to a kill.

Mile 4 I sucked down an energy gel and decided not to grab a drink. I've always found the human psychology of water stations to be fascinating. People will stand further and further into the road - almost blocking the way - when we have complete ability to come to them in a much safer fashion. Dear volunteers: I absolutely LOVE that you are here to help but simply put...don't stand so close to me. And it doesn't matter how far you stick the cup into our faces, if we don't want it...we're not gonna take it. And for you runners out there, here's a tip for you. As you approach a station lock eyes with a volunteer and point at them. Keep pointing at them until they are spellbound. If you can find something distinctive about them then call it out, like "You in the pink hat". Nobody else will try to hand you anything. Pink hat person will be ready for you as you approach with your best "hit me with your best shot" face. Like an acrobat nailing a perfect landing; what a feeling for both of you. When I race, I always grab from the youngest kid I can see (within reason). Kids love being part of the race.

Mile 5. Ben Davis had now caught Nicholas Sykes for 3rd and 4th and the 2 of them were running together about 30 yards in front of me. My friend Marisa Marshall was on the trail with her bike waiting to see her boyfriend. She gave me a cheer straight from the heart and tried to get a photograph but just wasn't quick enough to catch the blur as it went by ;-). It was great to see her and many other people I knew out on the trail. I love that Greenville built this trail and that it has been so successful in showing that if you build it - people will come. When I run the Swamp Rabbit Trail there's always something there to remind me how lucky I am to live in such a great place.

Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?

Somewhere shy of mile six it was time to shoot that poison arrow. Bam! Another one bites the dust as I pass Nicholas Sykes. Back in January I also passed Nicholas in a half marathon...100 yards from the finish. Quite a bit earlier this time gave me something to believe in. At this point, I had been staring at Ben Davis' back for 5 miles. Dan and Jon were just now out of sight and unless I promised you a miracle, they were going to stay there. Ben had never looked back (something I don't do either...until the final half mile) and he wears headphones when he runs so he had no idea that he had me in tow. We passed by the old train yard. Excellent, we're half way there, livin' on a prayer. Finally, at mile 8 I came up on Ben's shoulder. "Abracadabra; I want to reach out and grab ya". He glanced over as if to say "Who can it be now?". Well, my friend...it ain't Tom Sawyer.

We ran together for 2 miles never uttering a word - simply because he was wearing headphones. At mile 9 I downed my second energy gel. This one was 'laced' with caffeine. I hardly do any caffeine at all in my life but I gotta tell you, caffeine; the way you make me feel is a good thing. Moments later we came upon another water station. I figured I should really be practicing for Boston so I opted for a drink this time. I yelled, "Gatorade, GATORADE! Pour some sugar on me!" In fact I was desperate, but not serious and from the looks of it, the volunteers probably expected that I would be stopping and possibly chatting about the perfect way to prepare a meatloaf. So, no drinkie. Fortunately, it wasn't urgent.

I had no idea what would happen when I hit the mile 10 marker. Time after time I've been stymied by a heartrate that would refuse to climb to its capability. But that didn't change my plan. I glanced at Ben with the thought that I was going to do this with or without you. I was there to fight and to never surrender. I might as well jump. You miss 100% of the shots you don't take so - stand up and face the enemy. It's a do or die situation; we will be invincible!


The look says that I am well within myself...and just waiting to be well outside myself.

Out of the blue, it was like I had two hearts. I thought about how good my legs felt and how something so strong could carry me to the finish. Stroke! Stroke! In just a few seconds I was out of touch. I set it to 'wide open' - which seemed like a new sensation ...although it was an old friend. I quit looking at my Garmin at this point because with 3 miles to go, it made no difference. It hurt so good in the heat of the moment that I kept a boyish grin throughout the effort. Pleasure and pain. I've always said that if I ever battle someone in a race who looks to be my exact equal on paper I would emerge victorious because I'm the king of pain.

Rapture

Mile 12 was entirely uphill but it was just what I needed to gain even more time. I was on fire. Nothing at all was stopping me. In my head - with a rebel yell - I cried "more, more, more!" The first half of mile 13 was down before hitting the final climb into paradise city. I could hear the conversation going on in my head when the promoter designed the course. "In the last mile, we're gonna rock down to Electric Avenue. And then we'll take it higher." I spilled the tank running up that hill and my body felt like a rag doll as I 'controlled my fall' down the slight decline to the finish. I could hear voices carry from the announcer..."...and judging from that distinctive gait, I'd say here comes Chris Giordanelli!" Sweet dreams are made of this! I could see the finish clock and it looked like I was going to be in the 1:17's. I had just missed making it in the sweet 16 but I had taken more than 15 seconds per mile out of my adversary for the final 5k. Against all odds, I somehow defied the allergy gods on what should have been a 'bloomin' day. One thing I've learned over the years is that you gotta have faith. In my own race against myself, I am the warrior and victory is mine!

Funny; growing up, I was never one of those guys that you would consider a heartbreaker. At 47, I'm happy to say I'm a heartbreaker now - just in a more literal sense. The whole world has to answer right now just to tell you once again...who's bad? I enjoyed watching Tom and Rick hangin' tough to the finish. We all waited to see Robin coming down the finish more than 10 minutes ahead of her time estimate. I tease her about wearing her headphones during a race but the world was moving and she was right there with it (and she was!)

It was a phenomenal day for myself and my teammates. Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1999! I leave you with this thought: I find it hard to tell you - 'cause I find it hard to take - when people run in circles it's a very, very...mad world. Inaugural GHS swamp Rabbit Half Marathon...goodbye to you.

Notes:
* Does anyone have a friend named Sussudio?
* My training partner Dan Moss won the event in 1:15:15. We are both looking good for the Boston marathon in 5 weeks.
* When I took my first energy gel at mile 4, it went everywhere. I found myself licking my Garmin so that I could see the screen and I have no idea how - but I had drips on my leg after the race.

Next Up: Powerman Alabama. My return to duathlons.

Charleston Half Marathon 2012 Race Report

by G-Man 18. January 2012 02:42

Location: Charleston, SC
Date: January 14, 2012
Placing: 10th Overall, 1st Master
Format: Half Marathon
My Race Photos
Official Race Photos
Results: Click Here

Preface

Total bummer. For you. You see, I didn't quit racing this year. And that means more race reports. Really, you're only chance at relief is if I finally get tired of all this exercise nonsense. But don't hold your breath - I was tired of it in 1988, 1994, 1998, 2004 and 2010. So your odds are not good because you can see what came of that. Just be happy I was too busy hanging out under the "Hot Now" sign at Krispy Kreme and catching up on House episodes to write my last two race reports of 2011. But I can catch you up right now: Spinx Runfest Half Marathon - 8th overall and San Antonio Rock n' Roll Half Marathon - 35th overall, 2nd Master. There, now I'm up on House episodes and you are up on how my 2011 ended. One last thing. San Antonio had 19,500 runners and I started just 2 feet behind Shalane Flanagan who just won the Olympic Trials this past weekend in record time. I was so close I could touch her. I mean, I'm not saying I tried...but I'm also not saying I didn't think about it. Let's get to the race at hand...


One of my nicer acrylic awards...it goes nicely with my miniature guitar awards from the Rock n' Roll Half Iron. Getting old isn't so bad if you can keep from getting slower.

Pre-race Musings

Man, if us guys had a quarter for every time we heard this: "Could you please shave your legs at the gym, you're gonna clog our shower drain". Am I right, guys? Guys? Anyway, I can't remember the last time I went almost 4 months without shaving my legs. But the point here is that I've been shaving my legs since I was 15. I didn't start racing until I was 25. Just kidding. The first "shave of the season" is almost like the scene in Rocky when the theme plays and they show Rocky training for his big fight. Except that he is carrying logs through the snow and eating raw eggs and I am wielding a razor in the shower and then ordering a smoothie at the smoothie bar. It's like we're one and the same person. Now most runners don't shave their legs but as a multi-sport athlete I jsut can't stand the unsightly hair..let's do this 2012 thing!

Although Janis and I do a pretty good job of mingling with the commoners, it is no secret that when we travel to races we like to drop our facade and embrace our blue blood lines. After all, we belong to a very elite class of people known as "priority club platinum members". It's a highly selective group of people who just happen to spend tons of money at Holiday Inn hotels. This past weekend was a perfect example of our societal pull. When we arrived at the historic Mills House Hotel and the clerk saw my TeamKattouf/Fleet Feet apparel she instantly waived the valet parking fee and put Janis and I in the $440-a-night presidential suite. That is not a joke. We looked up the room rate. It was more like a house than a hotel room...it was like we were in an alternate universe where Friday the 13th brought incredibly GOOD luck instead of bad. We actually hated being there for just one night with all that room and nobody to share it. By the way...when we saw chocolates on the bed, we both instinctively ran to the other bedroom where another set of chocolates awaited our invisible friends (who loved them very much).

 


You might have to get out your binoculars to see me way back in the other corner of the 'living area'. I'm not sure why we were upgraded to the 'arena room', but in my mind it's because of Janis' good looks and my athletic prowess.

We met fellow TeamKattoufer Rex Morgan and his wife Roxann for dinner at a cute little Italian restaurant (Bocci's) downtown where we poured beer down our gullets and told tales of how when we were younger we ran a marathon to school every day...each way...barefoot...in the snow. Our waiter took one look at our chiseled physiques and asked if we were running the next day. He told us that he would be running the half - his first. We told him that it was really going to be a lot easier than he thought - especially if he skipped breakfast and just drank a ton of coffee. As penance, we left a large tip. Who says runners are "always so serious". I made plans to avoid the Port-o-potties at the start line.

Janis and I are the equivalent of a team of 20 logisticians. Everything is planned down to the minute. Escape routes are determined and we make back-up plans for our back-up plans. It is exactly like an episode of Mission:Impossible right down to the expected pre-race call from coach Rick..."G-Man, wasssssuuuup? Your mission, should you decide to accept it...". I always accept the mission - it's part of my genetic code. When I first started with Rick, this call was more like haggling at a flea market; "Keep your heartrate at 145 through mile 3...", "How about 150?", "146", "148?", "...OK, 148" SOLD! to the bitter old man in lycra. Now that I trust Rick's plan we talk about politics, religion and the weather.

Bring it

We arrived at our pre-determined parking area 3 minutes ahead of schedule. We were parked less than 200 feet from the start all by ourselves. I could literally throw a rock to the start line and yet we didn't see a soul. A quarter mile up the road, we could barely see cars backed up trying to get into the parking garage listed on the race literature. We just looked at each other and thought..."amateurs". I got ready for my warmup and had 4 extra minutes to do a crossword puzzle. I left the car at precisely 7:30 am and returned at 7:45 am. Based on the 33-degree temps and my warmup, I made my race clothing selection. I went with something form-fitting and off-the-shoulder that complemented my eyes. I opted for "Jet Blackberry" as my GU flavor of choice because it most described my mood and the purple wrapper screamed "don't mess with me". We walked to the start line where we stood hugging each other to stay warm - and so nobody would hear us talking about them as we played our little game "fast...or not" where we look at someone lined up at the front and wonder if they should really be lined up in the front or not. After the race, I have to report back to Janis our results. I wonder on which side of the game I fall when people look at me on the start line with my gray-speckled beard and triathlon shorts? I hope I fall on the "what's HE doing up here side". It's more fun to be the underdog.


Hmmmm...fast or not? I find that ususally the people who are the quietest and least boisterous are the ones who have a hidden confidence that translates to 'fast'.

The absolute crowning moment of the race happened next. The Charleston Mayor pro tem took the microphone and made some announcements. He turned over the mic to the singer of the National Anthem (who was also running the race and apparently was a local celebrity). He then took the mic back and announced, "I'll say 'runners ready, go'" at which point he then said "Runners ready!". The whole lot of us quickly glanced left to right because we were all thinking the same thing..."you're standing in the middle of the road". But nobody uttered a word in that instance and our fears became reality. "GO!" The mayor - 10 feet in front of 2,000 runners jumping off the start line - instantly realized what a mistake he had made. I would say he looked like a deer in headlights but I've never seen a deer's eyes get THAT big. He literally lunged for the side of the road. Mistake number 2. I somehow narrowly missed the pile up that he cause at the edge of the road. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I chose laugh because in all honesty it was hilarious. It was the topic of conversation as we all trotted up to speed. "Can you beleive he did that?" "Yeah, I thought surely he's not going to stand in the middle of the road and say 'go'". Surely...he did.


"Hey, you don't think one of those guys over there is going to stand in the middle of the road and yell 'GO', do you?"...

A half-mile in I reached my prescribed heartrate and I started to let people pull away. I would venture to guess 30-35 people in front of me at mile 1 where I recorded a 6:12 mile. Ahead I could see the leader in bright red shorts making a turn already about 30 seconds ahead of me. I let the HR go up just a couple of beats in mile 2 and very comfortably hit 6:26. I was running in a strung out group of 5 or 6 people at this point and was having fun watching the reactions of guys as the lead woman just ahead of me would pass them. The absolute first rule of performing your best in endurance racing is to set your ego free. It's also one of the hardest rules for a very competitive person. At almost the exact moment we hit mile 3, a guy ran past our little group. It probably looked like I took off after him but all I was doing was taking my HR up another 8-10 beats. That was a pretty big jump and my mile 3 split dropped to 5:53. I would spend the next 7 miles "chasing" that guy...into a harsh Northern headwind. At first he pulled away and opened up about a 200-meter gap. I stayed true to my plan as the two of us methodically picked off runner after runner.

Now every once in a while I prove to myself that I'm not really a smart man. And it had been a while so I was due. During my past 2 months of training things had been going great. But just one week ago I had a terrible long training run. Not terrible as in I ate wrong or I was tired. Terrible as in asthma-related. With some rain and Spring-like temps in Greenville, the plant life played a number on me. After the run, Janis and I wondered if taking a 'hit' of my inhaler in the middle of my run would help. Don't get ahead of me. Now, you have to know that for the last 3 years since I was diagnosed with allergy-induced asthma, very few of the drugs they prescribed have had ANY effect on my situation aside from a shot I get called Xolair. I quit using everything else almost as soon as I started - including my inhaler. I've taken it a few times before races in the past but again, I've seen no effect. So, call me a moron...or call me an experimental genius but today, I was going to try our little test.


I'm sure it's tough to spot me in this picture since I am dressed as a ninja, but if you look just in front of the yellow cones you can see me.

I certainly wasn't feeling bad, but my brain said "wait, how do you know that your lungs haven't been degrading faster becuase of your asthma during the run?" Which was a pretty good sentence for my brain at this point in a race. So just moments before I hit mile 10, when I was supposed to take my HR up for the last time, I took 2 large puffs of my inhaler. Hmmm. No "tingly" feeling like my lungs opening up. As a matter of fact, it felt like a normal breath. No change. I just held the inhaler for the rest of the race and kicked it up just the tiniest bit. I was closing in on the guy who passed me at mile 3 and at this point we had passed 15-20 runners along the way. I focused hard on his back on a long straightaway when it hit me. My first wheeze. It is the most ironic thing in the course of human physiology. I have been telling people for 3 years that I don't believe I actually have asthma becuase "...I've never even wheezed once in my life". Just under a minute had passed since I took a hit off my inhaler and now - after taking asthma medicine - I was wheezing. At first it came across as just something wierd like I swallowed a bug - or an elephant, but it quickly turned to a bit of fear. I thought "what have I done?" I hoped it didn't get worse or that I didn't go into shock or anything. As long as it remained a 'wheeze' and didn't turn into a 'gasp', I kept pushing. But my push was now limited to just 1 or 2 extra heartbeats instead of 5 or 6.


Oh yes, the infamous head tilt. Don't tell my competitors but the head tilt is the sure-fire sign that I am on the rivet. If you ever see my head perpendicular to the road I am probably running a 4:00 mile.

I caught my quarry at mile 11. He said he was going to try to stay with me. The problem was that he was not on the Kattouf plan. He was apparently on the "G-Man before Rick" plan. He was getting slower and I was going faster. At mile 12 who should I see but red-shorts guy who led the race through the first mile. I ran a 5:49 last mile to catch him just 50 yards before the finish line - and there was no way I could sneak up on him since I was breathing like a chain saw. I crossed under the finish banner at 1:20:03. Since it was the same course as last year, my Garmin once again showed the course as a pretty good bit long. And with the huge amount of headwind, this time can easily be extrapolated to about a 1:09:00 on a perfect day...in a vaccuum. Running down a mountain. I was 10th overall and 1st Master. For fun, I like to look at my finish like this: no matter what age group I raced today, I would have made top 3.


'red-shorts guy': 30 seconds ahead of me at mile 1...5 seconds behind me at mile 13.1. Prepare for pain to stop in 3...2...1...ahhhhh.

Something that really puzzled me were the awards. Wait, I said that wrong. They gave me a puzzle as an award. Yeah, I thought that was pretty cool. I got a framed print of historic Charleston from a local artist AND a 550-piece puzzle of his print. Great award since Janis and I love doing puzzles. Not a bad start to 2012 - my 108th season of racing...or somewhere thereabouts.

Notes:
* In one of the eeriest coincidences in racing history, the "guy in the red shorts" that I beat by 5 seconds was none other than Nicholas Sykes (age 20) - younger brother of Stephen Sykes. If you've read some of my prior race reports over the years, you will know that Stephen Sykes and I at one point had a series of a dozen races or so where our total finishing time differential was something like 8 seconds. Let's hope there's not another younger brother. I really don't want to be racing this family when I'm 90.
* At least 8 employees from where I work (ScanSource) ran this event including one who won her age group in the marathon and my CEO who set a PR here. 10 years ago, you were lucky to find 8 people who even ran at my company.
* All this talk about asthma and wouldn't you know it, their finish area was a huge tent that they set up on a dirt field. The dust was so thick it was like a fog. There was no way I was going to risk spending any time in there so Instead I had to wait for awards outside in the 30-degree weather.
* You know how I like to point out sometimes that these people are half my age. Well, I'm not sure whether or not I'm happy to report that the winner today was...1/3 my age!!. The cool thing? He is a brand new TeamKattoufer. Congrats Tony Morales (age 16!)
* TeamKattoufer Rex Morgan successfully completed his first full marathon less than 10 minutes off of his Boston Marathon qualifying time. Awesome run for a 1st marathon.

Next Up: Greenville News Downtown 5k. I hope we get to chase the cow for Chick-Fil-A coupons again this year!


I'm no longer puzzled...

Rev3 Anderson Half-Iron Race Report

by G-Man 12. October 2011 01:17

Location: Anderson, SC
Date: October 9, 2011
Placing: 3rd Overall Amateur
Format: Half-Iron Triathlon
My Race Photos
Official Race Photos
Results: Click Here

Preface

My tri season is over. And let me just say that I didn't slip out through the back door. No. I left the party in dramatic fashion right through the front door. The Rev3 South Carolina race was half-iron race #5 for me this year and much like my last event in Syracuse, I had a well-executed race plan wrapped up and tangled in a series of unanticipated events that you might expect to happen to the hero in a feel-good blockbuster movie. Justice prevails, we all live happily ever afterwards and you are left with a sense that everything is right with the world. *(lights dim; curtain closes)*

 

Chapter 1: Bob #1

The day before the race, we met up with our friends Bob and Sue from Atlanta. Bob and I used to train for bike racing together back in Texas; just after the wheel was invented. We lost touch with each other for many years and then - apparently through the ineptness of the witness protection program - Bob found me again. We picked up our packets, racked our bikes and drove the bike course; making meticulous mental notes on each of the 2,000 turns and hills. Which turns required braking, which hills to use our little chainrings, etc. Yep, I had every inch of the course memorized and analyzed...until Sunday morning, when every road looked exactly the same and I forgot it all. I swore I rode the same 2-mile loop for 2 hours. Up. Down. Turn. Up. Down. Turn.


Bob starts yet another fad look. All the kids will be doing it next year.

In an obvious attempt to sabotage my day - so that he would come out on top - Bob made sure that I didn't eat one single thing on Saturday that any sane person would have on their pre-race menu. I will swear in a court of law that he MADE me get the 'special burrito' platter for lunch. And we won't even touch my 'bacon crab cakes' for dinner. Admittedly, I didn't resist much because I was in the perfect position for my last race - still quite fit, but having very little pressure since I could hang my hat on my recent performances in Syracuse and Portland. I was as stress free before this event as I have ever been. Most importantly - on Saturday - my countdown of "number of swims left for 2011" was down to 1.

Our day ended with the 4 of us using every electronic device we had to track the Ironman Hawaii race from our hotel room. I think we all fell asleep with our phones and tablets in our hands. Thank goodness for some Facebook posts because the Ironman athlete tracking web page was useless. They probably can't afford a new server, what with the nominal $700 entry fee for a race. So anyway, I'm hoping my TeamKattouf teammmate Chris Olson has a good race. Don't spoil it for me if you know - I'm still waiting for the Ironman website. Hopefully, their 'real time' tracking will let me know how he's doing soon. Seeing as how he finished 3 days ago.


Chillin' with Bob and Sue before the start. Of course it's still dark...most of the athletes are still sleeping.

Bob continued his antics to slow me down by waking up so early on race morning that I think we traveled back in time to a moment before we even went to sleep. That's right, I think I actually got 'negative sleep'. Our set up at the venue went smoothly (how could it not - there was nobody else there yet). It was cool out but it was nowhere near the 42-degrees I dealt with in New York. Temperature would be no concern today. What WOULD be an obvious concern was the fact that at 5 o'clock in the morning, it was already prime kite-flying weather. Calling it a breeze would be an injustice. It was a full-fledged wind. I found myself looking skyward several times to make sure Dorothy's farmhouse wasn't headed for me. As daybreak broke it became apparent that the wind had blown the sun completely out of the sky. It was a grey, cloud-filled day. There would be no 'looking directly into the sun' on this swim. And that's a good thing.


This must be Photoshopped. You can tell by the subtle nuances in the photo like...the fact that I'm about to swim and I'm smiling.

Chapter 2: Synchronized Swimming

The 5 start waves went like this: pro men, pro women, men under 40, men 40 and over, women. I was glad to be behind the younger guys for once. I hate not knowing if someone who started behind me is beating me. This way, it's all about looking ahead. I don't have to wait for other people to finish to know if I wil lmove down in placings. The start seemed to come quickly today and before you knew it I was standing on the water's edge with 15 seconds to go. The course was simple - we started on one side of a peninsula, swam a rectangle and came out on the other side of the peninsula. There was a little more 'brawling' in the first few minutes than normal but nothing I couldn't deal with...until about 10 minutes in. A swimmer runs into me at such a sharp angle from my right that I instantly think I've missed a turn. Nope. I laugh as I let him pass by - headed to nowhere. Yeah, it was funny. For about 30 seconds; at which point the same swimmer broadsided me from the left. Seriously? No lie, his zigzagging continued for several minutes and I could not get away. Finally, we hit the long section of the rectangle and I lost him. I thought he was probably headed to either Florida or New Jersey at that point.


Time for the swawl. That's my term for the start of a tri. It's derived from the terms "swim" and "brawl". I'm the one with the yellow cap.

I found myself drifting a bit more than my usual straight-as-an-arrow trajectory and later on attributed that to the hefty wind. Shortly after starting the long segment, I noticed a swimmer to my left (because I breathe left). He was keeping almost perfect tempo with me and he was breathing right. We probably spent 15 to 20 minutes swimming 15 feet apart and glimpsing each other in 1 second intervals. Had this been a syncronized swimming competition, we would have been tough to beat. Our 'arrangement' was only interupted a couple of times (including once by 'zigzag man' who most likely swam twice the actual distance).

I made a decision at turn number 3 that it was silly to stay next to this swimmer who was obviously going the same speed and swimming straight - so I fell in behind him into his draft. I've rarely ever drafted in the water. It DOES work. My problem is that whenever I've tried it before I could never find anyone who could swim as straight as me. Those people are all 10 minutes ahead of me. I might have to start the "slow but straight" swimmer's club. Maybe I'd have to rename it to be more politically correct. Today was the exception and I followed this swimmer all the way to the swim exit where we ran into some congestion. The really funny part? After the race, my friend Bob asked me where I went in the swim. He said he thought he was swimming next to me during the entire long segment. Holy cow. That was my friend Bob the whole time. I got the last laugh when I told him that I drafted him to the exit. Sweet.

A quick glance at my watch...35:59. No way. 1 second off my estimate. What I completely forgot was that I had started my watch 1 minute before the gun went off. I actually swam a 34:49 (officially). That 1 minute will become very important 4 hours later. Another fairly fast swim for me using the same technique I used in Syracuse. I tried my best to have a quick transition but we had to shove everything we were leaving behind into a plastic bag that Rev3 provided; wetsuit, goggles, disdain for swimming, etc. This race had two different transition locations so we would not be coming back to this small park once we left. When I find the time, I'm inventing wetsuit bottoms that rip off like the sweatpants the NBA uses. I will be rich.


Seriously, wetsuit. Come off of my foot. I wonder if there any doctors who do foot-reduction surgery.

Chapter 3: Bob #2

I ran to the mount line and there was Bob, messing with his gears. Someone had apaprently knocked his shift levers in transition and he was having a time of it. I hopped on my steed and gave him a quick "c'mon Bob" and I was gone. I hit my Garmin to start my heartrate monitor. I hit my Garmin to start my heartrate monitor. Crap. My heartrate monitor - which has never failed me - did not want to read today. Looks like I would have to go by feel today; haven't done that in a couple of years. I'm not going to dwell on the bike - it was constantly up and down with a ton of turns. I'll never forget the first gust of wind on my first descent. With my deep dish front rim it felt like I was on American Gladiators and guys on both sides of me were whacking me with those giant Q-Tips. I had to quickly stiffen up my upper body and gain control. This would happen for the entire ride and I would find myself after the race with sore shoulder and neck muscles from 'manhandling' my bike all day.


Whoa, who's that guy at the mount line messing with his bike? I need to avoid him. Oh. Hey, Bob.

I was doing a good job of taking advantage of my cycling skills - diving into turns, using my momentum on the hills, and looking sharp in lycra - when I started to catch a rider near mile 20. The course was never straight so I would see the rider for a few seconds before they would disappear. I could see them using the same techniques that I was using. It had to be someone who raced bikes. It was 6 miles later when I finally got close enough to see the telltale sign...shoe covers. Shoe covers meant that it had to be a relay rider (no triathlete would stop to put shoe covers on in transition...hmmm, what am I saying; triathletes will do whatever you tell them to). And there was only one person I knew who did triathlon relays that fast on the bike: Bob Chambers. Talk about history repeating itself. The very first triathlon I ever did 6 years ago was the South Carolina Half-Iron. At mile 50, I passed a rider - something I do all the time. But this rider passed me back a minute later and that took me by surprise. It was Bob Chambers riding as a relay team rider. He told me after that race that he thought I had to be a relay rider since I was going so fast. But I wasn't.

Years later - Here we are again. If Bob was anything like me (and I knew he would be) he probably felt comfortable going fast and passing so many people. But sometimes all it takes is a wake-up call to make you realize that you are riding in a complacent state. I was Bob's wake-up call. He passed me back a minute later. Turns out, we played a cat and mouse game for most of the remainder of the race. I simply stuck to my plan - I couldn't be jostled into a 'pissing contest' (for lack of a better term). We never actually rode close together; when the road would spend time going up, I would pass Bob and get a good gap on him. When the road would shoot down for a good bit, he would do the same to me. We actually only passed each other maybe 6 times total and there were a couple of times where Bob rode completely out of sight again before I would reel him back in. For the first time in a race, I could see how my circa 1890 frame was probably slowing me down when the wind was strong and the speed was fast. I didn't have near the aerodynamics as Bob's state of the art set up. As a matter of fact, when I first started to catch him I swore he was riding a pencil. The most important thing that happened by accident was that Bob became my heartrate monitor. I knew he would have one of the fastest bike splits of the day for amateurs and if I was moving close to the same speed then I could pretty much bet on a solid time without overextending myself.

With about 6 miles to go, Bob flew by me for the last time on a fast downhill. It was time for him to empty the tank. I didn't have that luxury with the thought of 13.1 miles of running looming ahead. We were joined on the last 5 miles of the course by riders who were doing the olympic-distance race. It gave me a few more targets to finish out the ride. I remembered to suck down the last of my water and with a half-mile left I used the last downhill to pull my feet out of my shoes and remove my Garmin from my handlebars. Riding over the series of speed bumps like this as I approached T2 took a bit of skill. With my Garmin dangling from my mouth, I slammed on my brakes just shy of the dismount line and even popped a bit of a front-end wheelie as I waved to the fans. It was easy to spot Janis in my TeamKattouf jacket screaming her head off for me.


Thanks, Janis for getting this shot 20 seconds AFTER I give myself a strawberry Ensure bath. Mmmm, I smell berry-fresh. But my fingers are now welded together.

Chapter 4: Let's Do This...Together

The Rev3 transition areas look so different because they use wheel holders on the ground (they look like ladders that are laying down in rows) instead of the high-standing racks. So when I run into transition, it looks wide open with stuff laying on the ground everywhere and nothing standing up. As soon as I entered, Bob Chambers was standing right there - having just handed off to his relay runner. At some races I will give a quick count of the bikes in transition; a rough estimate of how many people are in front of me but today I was busy reciting the location of my rack spot, "the light, two racks, go right...the light, two racks, go right". Got it. I threw my shoes on and grabbed my Rudy glasses, Garmin, race belt and Ensure all in one hand and started running. The Rudy's first...then the race belt...then I opened the Ensure and threw it at my mouth. I beleive 60% went on my shoulder and hand; 30% went onto my Rudy's; 5% went up my nose; and 5% went in my mouth. Lastly, I attached my Garmin to my wrist and hit the start button. Let's do this. Still no heartrate registering. The thought occured to me that maybe I was dead. I thought that can't be - heaven would be much better than this. Oh, wait a minute. Maybe this is....

I felt slow. But I always feel slow. Janis had run over to see me at the half-mile point. After a ride like that I just said in a very matter-of-fact way..."that ride was brutal - this run is going to be a bit slower than normal". I waited for my Garmin to beep the first mile. What would it be? 7:30? 7:45?. BEEP...6:38. There was no way I was believing that until mile 2. Just after the first mile, a 19-year-old from Georgia State pulled up next to me and I latched on to him. I ran off his shoulder until the olympic course seperated from the half course around mile 3...and we went our seperate ways. Those first three miles were crazy. Take a piece of string, wad it up, throw it in the air and let it fall to the ground. You just created a map for the first 3 miles. It was marked very well but you overlapped and turned around enough times that at one point I beleived I could see all 1000 competitors at the same time. I believe it was a Jedi mind trick designed to deter the weakest minds. "This is not the turn you're looking for"...


"That ride was hard, baby - this run will be a little slower than normal. Hey, how do my new shoes look?"

Georgia boy and I had passed one of the female pros shortly before we seperated and a minute or two later, I could hear her chasing me. I could hear her for what seemed like forever and as we approached mile 6 I backed down just enough to let her pull up to me. My Garmin beeped and she asked me what mile that was; I told her we just passed mile 6. We had both passed another female pro earlier and were right on top of yet another one. We picked her off a few seconds later. We ran side by side - silently - for a while. We started some small talk. Her name was Courtenay and she was now in 7th (there was a payout for the top 10) and she wanted to stay there. I told her that if it bothered her for me to run with her that I could pick it up or slow it down. She was really cool about it and told me that it was actually helping her to hold pace. It was good for me too - another person taking the place of my heartrate monitor and keeping me in check. I decided right there that I would stay with her until the urge to 'go' could not wait any longer. We were hitting 6:45's and she was good with that. I was good with that also. I could feel myself holding back ever so slightly but that was really the best thing for me. If I had anything left, I would fire the afterburners at the end.

As we approached the far turnaround at mile 8, we passed my ex-bike-racing-friend turned triathlete Heath Dotson already going the other way. Wow, he must have beaten out of the water, stayed ahead of me on the bike and was now a minute or two ahead of me with 5 miles left to run. Hmmm. He was not in my age group, but still...


I had the pleasure of running alongside of pro woman Courtenay Brown for most of the run. I'm usually in "no-man's land" in many of my events (it's the downside of being old and fast that I'm willing to live with ;-) so having someone to pace with was phenomenal. By the way, I guess technically, I was still in no "man's" land...Courtenay took 7th. Sweet.

At mile 9 I offered my last Gu to Courtenay. At first she declined but a few seconds later she changed her mind. It was slightly up to mile 10 but that was a high point in the run and mile 11 was almost entirely downhill. We were working a bit harder now as she picked up the pace to the #11 mile marker. We dropped down some more and at about mile 11.25 we bottomed out and I decided it was time to find my last gear. I told her I was going to try and catch Heath. She thanked me and wished me good luck. Holy cow. With a target and less than two miles to go I found more than 1 gear...I found overdrive. I closed what was probably a 45-second gap on Heath before we hit mile 12. Son of gun. He is only 39! I thought he was 40. He actually started in a wave 5 minutes ahead of me. We exchanged some friendly banter but I was in no mood to chill - my legs was a movin'!

Chapter 5: Karma

I'm not sure if it was because I missed out on my top 5 finish at Syracuse, or if it was because I helped Courtenay a bit to her eventual 7th place finish but Karma was about to give me a little chuckle.

As many of you may know from reading my race reports, Janis and I almost make a game out of me estimating my times. It all started when she wanted to know about how long she should expect to be waiting to see me between disciplines. I fancy myself pretty good at it. When I was a bike racer my best event on the track (velodrome) was the "unknown distance". Part speed. Part ESP. Look it up. Saturday afternoon I put all the external factors into my head: wind, hills, number of burritos eaten the day before and I ran my incredibly complex algorythms. I spit out these times: 0:36:00 swim, 2:24:00 bike, 1:25:00 run and 0:03:48 transitions: a 4:28:48 total time. I told her that I was so confident that I turned around and entered the time on Facebook. You see, Yakima runs a promotion at every Rev3; you post your finish time on their page and the 2 athletes that get closest win a new Yakima rack. Fast forward to mile 12-point-something of the run...


I realized about 30 seconds ago that I was going to be real close to my time estimate. I mean REAL CLOSE...

I had just passed my friend Heath and was tearing it pretty good towards the finish line. For the first time since I exited the swim, I glanced at my watch (which holds my 'master' time). 4:25:30. It took only a second for my brain to go from "cool - under 4:30", to "holy crap! if a train leaves the finish line traveling towards me at a 6:00 pace; and I'm a half-mile away...carry the 2...times sixty...I could finish within a minute of my estimate." I near the finish and they surprise me with a hidden u-turn that throws you up a final climb. I glance at Janis at the turn and just point at my watch...4:28:30. I was kicking it prety hard but I wasn't going to make it. Damn, I'm gonna be long.

Then, a voice jumped into my head and slapped some sense into me. "You dummy - you started your watch on the beach a MINUTE BEFORE THE START. GAME ON!! I ran the last 300 meters like Usain Bolt (on his easy day). I was sprinting so hard when I came around the turn into the finish chute that people kept looking behind me to see who was chasing me. They had no idea. 4:28:40...42...44...46...BAM! 4:28:48 ON THE NOSE! I just about collapsed for a second before standing up and pointing to the Yakima tent right next to the finish line and yelling "YES! IT'S MINE!!!!" Un. Real. You'd a thought I won the lottery. Apparently there is no need to put competitors in front of me. Just offer me the chance to win something and I'll run like nobody's business. What a finish. Reminded me of chasing down my friend Dan Moss 4 years ago at Rock n' Roll Man Half. Envigorating.


There is no way this picture is real. I know for a fact that I was flying down that finishing chute. I look like I'm out for a jog.

Janis met me at the end of the finish chute and looked up my official time on my phone: 4:28:47. Fourth overall. I actually ran 1 second too fast. It was like icing on the cake. As if to say "I'm not only gonna win that rack, but I'm gonna BEAT my time estimate too". It took us a while to realize that one of the people ahead of me was Bob Chamber's relay runner. I had finished 3rd overall amateur. A phenomenal way to end the tri season. And I got to share it with tons of friends and teammates since the race was so close to home. What started as a pretty crummy season - ended with a bang the last 3 months. 2011, I'll miss you...


Epilogue: Timing is Everything

As a numbers guy, I just can't resist the "call of the data". Here is an interesting comparison table of my estimate and actual times:

Segment My estimate My actual Difference
Swim 36:00 34:49 <1:11>
Bike 2:24:00 2:24:01 +0:01
Run 1:25:00 1:26:50 +1:50
Transitions 3:48 3:06 <0:42>


With respect to the amateurs, my times were: 53rd best swim of the day, 2nd best ride, 5th best run (My friend Heath had the 3rd best ride just 8 seconds behind me...shoulda put the shoes on in trasition, Heath ;-). Also, Once again my average run pace was exactly my first mile split (6:38).

Notes:
* Although I persevered in Syracuse and still had a great race, I was disappointed to have missed a top 3-5 placing. I guess it just wasn't my time YET.
* Although the bike course never reached a high altitude, there was still 400 more feet of climbing than in Syracuse - which is considered a moderately difficult course. The difference was that this course never stopped going up and down.
* I had given time estimates to win the Yakima rack at both of my other Rev3 races this year. In Knoxville, I was just getting over my asthma problems and was slower than anticipated. In Portland, they changed the hilly course to a flat one and I was faster than my estimate.
* Janis and I housed two pro racers for the weekend: Brandon Marsh and Scott DeFilippis of Team TBB. Although he had just gotten over being sick, Brandon had a decent day finishing in 14th in the pro field. Unfortunately, Scott had a bike mechanical and had to pull out. Very cool guys. Watch for them at Kona next year.
* This was my last tri of the season. Number of swims I have left for 2011? 0.
* It was awesome to see so many of my friends and teammates placing and taking home some swag. My friend Heath finished 7th overall and won his age group. My teammate Rex Morgan took 2nd in the 50-54 and my friend Bob took 5th. Teammate John Henis took 3rd in the 45-49. Too many people to mention!
* I scored a TYR backpack, Avia shoes, a case of GU, winter hat, Fuel Belt, Inside Triathlon subscription and hopefully - a Yakima rack (it's not official yet. You know how Karma works, maybe two other people hit their times on the nose)
* At one of the feed zones on the run, the girls all dressed up as princesses. It was pretty awesome. Anything to take your mind off of the effort.
* Time to back down for a month with a couple of half-marathons and then a big break in November.

Next Up: Spinx Half Marathon and San Antonio Half Marathon

Tags:

Race Report

Syracuse 70.3 Race Report

by G-Man 27. September 2011 03:55

Location: Syracuse, NY
Date: September 18, 2011
Placing: 12th Overall Amateur, 1st 45-49 Age Group
Format: Half-Iron Triathlon
My Race Photos
Official Race Photos
Results: Click Here

I had a revelation. Actually, I had several 'events' that when added up...led to a revelation. It's not the kind of revelation where you realize something that you never knew before. No, it was a revelation that I had forgotten something over the course of time. A revelation that had long gone by the wayside. Slowly. Over 30 years. As a competitive athlete I've learned to train and hone my body in an effort to outperform others. What I've fogotten over the years is that the emotional and mental aspects are what turn an 'event' into a 'race'. Racing isn't hard on the body. Racing is hard on the psyche. We may see it as a physical test but in all honesty, I can almost predict my swim, bike and run times under certain conditions. And there's the rub. There is no such as thing as 'certain conditions' and how we react to 'uncertain conditions' is the real test. Yes; racing is a test of fortitude. A test of the human spirit.


A test of the human spirit?

After hundreds of races spread across 3+ decades, things get easier. But don't be fooled - not everything that's 'easier' is good. Complacency is easier. Accepting defeat is easier. Quitting is easier. Stripping in public is easier. Before the race, I was already looking for interesting things to jazz up my race report under the simple assumption that I would be going through the same motions I've gone through so many times before. So many things to talk about; an interesting venue, interesting weather, the absolute nightmare that was my bike shipping, and the fact that I was without my massive network of a support system otherwise known as Janis. I'll save most of these for my 'Notes' section because in the end this story really is all about a 'race'.

My season made a sharp turn for the better at the beginning of the Summer when my doctor upped my dosage of my allgery-blocking medication and anabolic steroids. Which probably also accounts for the reason my upper body has gotten so ripped. Yep, no more checking size 'small' in the race t-shirt column. I started to once again "own my body". Coach Rick pushed me as hard in August with a focus on speed in the pool and transition runs after interval rides. I felt as fit as I have in a while with no losses of power or heartrates that would not climb. I tasted this feeling in Portland in July and like Oliver Twist...I wanted some more. After my scheduled attempt to do Branson 70.3 with a friend fell through - there was no way I was going to waste this fitness. I signed up for Syracuse.


Finn made me promise to put a photo of him in my report. He stowed away AGAIN. I must admit, he DID have some great tips on cold-water swimming. But mostly he watched cable TV.

As I mentioned in my first paragraph, my fitness is never a source of stress. I control that. I've done the work and my training tells me what to expect. This weekend, it was telling me to expect something good - maybe even great. Yes, I beleive it used those exact words, "maybe even great". I also don't stess much about the things that everyone must deal with. Who cares if the course is hard or if it's raining or if your race number is an ugly color orange that doesn't mathc your Team Kattouf outfit? The guy or gal next to you isn't going to get things any different. But then there's a caveat. People are different and things affect us all differently...which brings me to the temperatures. I admit my advantage in the heat since I am part camel. No, I'm part gila monster - yeah that sounds way cooler than a camel. "Monster". So, any-who, you won't find gila monsters in the arctic because they can't handle the cold...and because most of them can't afford an airline ticket with the price of flights these days.


It looks real nice but if pictures could transmit temperatures - you'd be wearing a coat right now.

Just days before the event, a cold front had come through and dropped the temps considerably. Jeeez, it felt like New York!...which makes sense if you think about it. So there I am - the gila monster - on race morning. The air temp is 43-degrees and they announce the water temp at 62-degrees. Isn't that just a couple of degrees away from freezing? A little stronger breeze and we'd be looking at a skate-bike-run. 15 minutes before the start I sat alone in my car with the heat on. Not a sole to be seen since everyone else was several hundred yards away at the beach start. I put my wetsuit on and seriously debated whether or not I could get into water that cold. I had come close to hypothermia last year swimming in Lake Hartwell in the very early Spring. You may hurt yourself badly if you fall off your bike or trip while running. But losing use of your limbs while swimming never ends well.

I jogged to the beach and the first 3 waves had already gone. I was wave 6. I waited as long as I possibly could to take off my shoes, hat and sweatshirt and drop them to the 'holding area'. I would not touch the water before the start. If I knew how cold it was, I might just back out. But if I ran into the water full bore when the gun went off, I might just take my brain by surprise (as if I could surprise my brain after some of the stuff I've put it through the last 30 years). And so that's what I did. And my brain was surprised alright. Surprised that 62-degrees hardly felt any colder than the pool I train in! I didn't know it at the time, but this was TEST#1 of the day. Remember that.


A great shot of the start to show you what the view was like on the 'short side' of the rectangle. I think I have a hole in my retina.

I felt amazing in the swim. I had been using a different technique in the water the past month that involved actually swimming instead of flailing around (who knew?). All my training swims were slightly faster because I was not fatiguing as easily. My ability to swim very straight came in very handy on the short section of the rectangle when we swam directly into the rising sun. A quick stop at the turn to shield my eyes and locate the next turn allowed me to swim the entire length in a straight line without needing the ability to sight the intermediate buoys and cause permanent damage to my retinas. I caught more swimmers than usual and it took longer for the wave behind me to catch me. Most importantly, I never once looked up and thought "God, how much further?!" Something that usually happens about 2 minutes into the swim.


No disorientation today. Which is bad because I totally realize at this point that I still have 4 hours of exercise to go.

I emerged in a little under 36 minutes. A good swim for me. I was in the dark about a lot of things on this particular day. Here's what I DIDN'T know: my swim was even better than it sounded because a lot of the times were slower than 'normal' - only a handful of amateurs breaking 30 minutes. I had cracked the top 17% of swimmers and was 12th out of the water in my age group a great jump from my usual 25+%. Here's what I DID know: my training didn't fail me. Here's what I LEARNED: if you have size 13 feet, be sure to pick a wetsuit stripper with some strength instead of two tiny women. "Pull harder!! Really yank it!". And keep your minds out of the gutter. They weren't doing it so I had to. I yanked my foot so hard, I almost pulled both of them down on top of me.


This is not me...but it is a good representation of how comical wetsuit stripping can be. "PULL!"

With feet that were almost numb, every step on the pavement to transition felt like the principal's paddle against my soles...or so I'm guessing. Maybe. I got to my bike and I had a quick discussion with my brain, "Do we really need arm warmers and a vest?" "Yes, you idiot. It doesn't feel cold now but when you start moving, you will realize it is barely 50-degrees!" "Oh, OK. How do you think we're doing? Hey, check out the Power Bar banner; we should try to steal that after the race" "Sounds like a....". Anyway, the rest is not important. If you thought pulling socks onto wet feet was hard - wait till you try getting big, nubby, half-frozen, wet hands through arm warmers. I looked like I was doing Flashdance on LSD. After getting dressed, I took a few snapshots, wrote a letter to Janis and was surprised to see it was still Sunday when I finally got on my bike almost 5 minutes later.


So embarrased that my arm warmers are not positioned exactly right so you can read the 'Kattouf'. It negates the entire day's accomplishment.

I had at least 3 different people tell me that starting at mile 2 of the bike, you climbed for the next 10 miles. Yeah, I didn't believe it either. I thought maybe it was like some kind of Facebook gag or a type of flash mob, "Hey let's all get together and start a rumor that the bike is all uphill." I mean hell, I started telling people even though I had no idea. It was fun in a sadistic sort of way until I found out they were not kidding. As an ex-bike racer I was smart about how I took the hills. Rick was confident that a more conservative heartrate would still yield a good ride and open me up for a good run as well. And I was confident in Rick. I stuck to the nutrition and heartrate plans and at 30:00, I was right at 9 miles (18mph) and picking people off at a constant rate. Mile 6.75 was the last time on the bike that my HR went over 140bpm. It was great day!...for the next 6 miles.


Yeah right - all uphill the first 12 miles. Oh and let me guess, there are 10-foot waves on the lake. Oh. Wait a mintue...

We 'topped out' around mile 12 and we shot down the next couple of miles. I chased a rider who was moving fast - but he chose to coast on several portions of the descent while I pedaled. I raced by him shortly before the road flattened out around mile 14.5. Here's what I DIDN't know: the rider I had just passed was the leader in my age group. It was an absolutely glorious da..:* BANG *. TEST#2. My rear tired exploded like a shotgun literally seconds after passing the 15-mile marker. I pulled slowly to the side of the road. "Well, that sucks...I was going pretty good. Coulda been a great day." I dismounted and was in no hurry to take stock of the situation. The last couple of years I've rarely even carried a spare with me figuring if I flat I'm out of it. Besides, this is like race # 278,304. But today, for some reason...I carried a spare. I stood there kind of glazed over for what seemed an eternity. One by one, people raced by me. And one by one, they shouted things like "do you need anything?" and "are you OK?". That was THE defining moment. That was the point at which the 46-year-old me remembered the 16-year-old me. The thrill of the race; the desire to face obstacles head on with total disregard to 'what HAS happened' and total focus on 'what WILL happen'. The video at the bginning of this post was me 30 years ago. Don't think...just overcome. What the hell happened to me? Go, DAMN IT!

I set to task ripping my tire off the rim. I was using racing tires that you glue on and with cold hands and a good glue job - it was not easy. But I was in a new frame of mind that really was an old frame of mind. I 'willed' the tire off the rim. I mounted the new tire and crossed my fingers that the air cartridge would not have problems. One squeeze and BAM! About 120psi. I threw the wheel back on the bike, grabbed the old tire and cartridge in my hand and - after leaving the 'event' - I entered the 'race'. What I DIDN'T know: the second place rider in my age group rode by while I was fixing the flat and I had been stopped for almost exactly 7 minutes. I rode a quarter-mile and threw my tire and cartridge into the feed zone, put my head down, and 'got to it'.


Totally relaxed. Totally aero. Totally gonna look bad luck in the face and say "Nanny-nanny, boo-boo".

First and foremost, I had to remember that my rear tire was no longer glued on. The pressure would keep it on just fine except for any turns. Fortunately, there were not a lot of turns on this course but it would still eat a minute or two into my time as I normally take turns like any veteran of 30 years of bike racing would - insanely. Instead, I felt comical nearly coming to a stop at every turn. Just 3 miles after I flatted, I caught and passed a guy in my age group. At this point, I didn't know that he was second in my age group and that he had passed me while I was changing my tire. He was really moving well. At mile 20 we shot down a steep descent that was equally steep on the other side. I decided to attack it and gain some time. I kicked it as I neared the bottom and carried my momentum into the climb, passing a couple of women who were already slowed to nearly a stop. Shift, shift, shift...TEST#3. I was shifting too agressively and my chain dropped. I quickly moved to the side of the road and disengaged as my bike quickly rolled to a stop.

There was no thought process involved. I was a different guy than the one that started this ride. I jumped off, got my chain back on in a matter of seconds, looked at the steepness of the road in front of me and without a moments hesitation - started to run. On my toes. In my cycling shoes. Dragging my bike. I ran up that climb for almost 2 minutes until I could reach a spot flat enough to mount my bike safely. Guess what? The second place rider passed me again. This had to be both entertaining and psychologically annoying for him. I think I spurred him on because this time it took me until mile 35 to catch him...and pass him yet again. All this while, I was still keeping the heartrate in check. I was still well within myself.


The photographer caught me literally as I remounted my bike. I dropped my chain on this climb and ran to the top.

I had to deal with a few more turns in the next 15 or so miles and crawl through them but I did what I had to do and used all my skill to keep from losing time. When I hit mile 50, I looked down to see 2:12 on my Garmin. I should easily break 2:30 'ride time'. The question is - how much time had I spent 'not moving'? Turns out that number was a little over 7 minutes. I was taking my last sips of nutrition when the powers that be slapped me in the face for the last and final time. TEST#4. At first it made a sound similar to when you get a leaf stuck on your frame and it rubs your tire. For me, it sounded a bit like the sound someone makes when they stick their tongue out at you - not that I'm insinuating some higher being had an agenda. PHSSSSSSS. At mile 51.5 my rear tire slowly began to lose air. Over the course of the next 3 miles, it gradully reached totally flat. The last mile was rim and road, cushioned only by the thin layer of latex that was once an inflated tire. As I approached the final turn into the park, I REALLY had to be careful. A couple of volunteers must have thought I was going to stop at the park entrance and yelled "No, the dismount line is a little further." As I barely rounded the turned I could hear some woman say "Oh, he has a flat tire".

Because of my flat tire situation, I blew off my usual routine of pulling my feet out of my shoes and removing my Garmin from my handlebars while still riding. I ran into transiton, threw my bike on the rack and didn't give any of my problems a second thought. I had arrived. I had arrived back at a place where it didn't matter what you threw at me, I would merely kick it to the curb. It reminded me of a recent poster I saw about marathoning:


One of my favorite posters courtesy of I <3 to run on Facebook.

I stripped (not completely, of course - I'm saving that till I'm in the 100+ division and my dimentia kicks in), chugged, re-shod and off I went. I heard another bike slam onto the racks as I ran out. What I DIDN'T know: the guy I played tag with all day on the bike managed to catch back up to me in the final miles and that was him racking his bike just behind me. I stuck myself in my prescribed heartrate zone and started focusing on the runner ahead of me. I don't know if it's just me but I have a hard enough time guessing how fast I am moving when I'm just out for a run, but after 3 hours of swimming and cycling my body always feels like it's moving at about a 10-minute pace...but I wasn't. I cruised past mile 1 in 6:34. Before all my 'asthma stuff' a couple of years ago, I had this trick of being able to predict my run pace as being whatever my first mile was. It was pretty darn accurate. Any guesses on my final run pace today?


As Popeye would say, "Looks at me musk-els...ah, guh, guh, guh, guh"

The course was quite the change from last year's point-to-point, net downhill. We climbed 700 feet in 13 miles with a couple of very long grades and a couple of very steep grades. I was on auto-pilot and hitting my splits like a world-class bowler (get it?) - not having any idea where I was in my age group. I was still on the first lap and the runners were spread pretty thin - catching 2 or 3 'targets' per mile. My target around the 6-mile mark was moving well and as I approached, I could see he was 48. I pulled beside him and we exchanged words about how bad the road camber was in parts; basically because it's the politically correct thing to do. Yelling "Yeah, I'm gonna kick your ass", would not be nearly as sportsman-like although we all pretend it's not what we're thinking...I knew as soon as I went by him, he would be looking at my legs. Not because they are well-toned and shapely but because that's where my age was written. I also knew that I would have to give a little extra "umph" as I passed him just to say "Uh, uh...don't even think about it." Moments later, I crossed the 10k timing mat and turned to start lap 2 and join the masses of people on their first lap. What I DIDN'T know: I had just overtaken the leader in my age group and Janis - sitting at home in Greenville - saw me cross the 10k mat and calculated that I was exactly 10 seconds ahead of 2nd place at that very moment. She actually had more information than I did.


The run? Yeah...also not flat. If you squint a bit, it almost looks like the course is flipping you off.

I entered the climb at mile 7 still feeling good and decided that it was not too early to take it up a notch so I did. The large number of runners ahead of me now spurred me on. I chased a young relay runner who was surprised to see me. He ran with me for 2 miles before I left him behind. As I often do, I got the feed station at mile 3 all riled up on my first lap and had an ice-cold, defizzed Coke with my number on it waiting for me on lap 2! Messing with the volunteers is one of my favorite things. They are awesome. I kept focusing on the runners ahead of me that were moving faster. Mile 11 was a steady downhill for the most part and I chased one runner for nearly the entire mile. I finally caught her. I don't think she liked that (and she told me so after the race ;-) but she also told me that I pushed her to stay close the final 2 miles up a slight grade. I have that effect on women. She stayed within 30 seconds of me those final 2 miles and she would wind up being the top amateur female. As I turned onto the finish straight, they announced me as being the 8th amateur to finish. That didn't help me much because I didn't know if anyone ahead of me was in my age group. I also thought that there were tons of age groups behond me and with all my problems on the bike, I would be lucky for a top 30 finish.


"Aaaaand CUT! That's a wrap. Don't forget to shut off your Garmins"

It only took a few minutes for the puzzle to come together. I had won my age group. It took a bit longer to learn that I was 12th overall amateur. 12th overall and yet for 7 minutes on the side of the road I was a spectator. It was bittersweet. Those 7 minutes cost me a top-5 overall. If you throw in 2 or 3 mintutes for running up a hill on the bike course, riding in on a flat and taking all my turns at a standstill...I was looking at a top 3. This is one "I coulda" that wasn't purely conjecture - it was fact. But at the same time, it was another "I coulda". "I coulda sat there on the side of the road and waited to be picked up by a race vehicle. I coulda sat at the finish line and watched everyone else finish. I coulda gone to the awards ceremony and thought it just wasn't my day." But I didn't. And it was. It felt great to be 16 again...


I only wish Janis was here to share the day with!

Notes:
* Much like Portland, I noticed almost immediately that nobody was on their cell phone while driving. Illegal here. And again, like Portland - and unlike its reputation - the New York drivers were courteous and I saw very few doing anything stupid or illegal. I used to think that there were bad drivers 'everywhere'. After visiting Portland and Syracuse, the cold hard truth is that these people wouldn't last a day driving in Atlanta. Our drivers suck.
* This was the first time I can remember that I was literally all alone at an event. No Janis, no teammates, nobody I knew. Doing an event like this on your own is double hard. (Of course Finn snuck along but without opposible thumbs, he was only good for moral support)
* Do not read this race report and see it as a message to 'never quit' a race. 'Never' is a very definitive term. There are a lot of sensible reasons to quit a race. I mention this because a friend of mine was literally disgusted at Chris McCormack for quitting a 70.3. "He's a pro, he shouldn't quit". Sometimes quitting will ensure that you are able to race another day. Don't have so much pride that you overrun your brain. Don't misinterpret quitting a single event with quitting reaching for your goals.
* I rarely lose my sense of humor. While I was running up the hill in my bike shoes pushing my bike, a couple of people rode by and one said "Bummer". I just turned towards them and yelled "Where the hell is transition?!" (we were at mile 21...in the middle of nowhere)
* DO NOT USE HIGH COUNTRY SHIPPING to ship your bike to an event (or for any other reason for that matter). Trust me. Unless you have an extra hundred dollars to burn in your backyard and a lot of extra time and stress to fix their screw ups.
* Thanks to my friend David Hall who lent me his neoprene cap for the swim. Although I didn't realize it, I'm sure it was one reason why the water did not feel as cold. Plus it gave me an idea of what I would look like if I were black and bald. And the answer is: not bad.
* The last time I had to deal with some 'weather condtions' was at Ironman Wisconsin. In both cases, I dressed perfectly on the bike and the temps were completely a non-issue. By the time the race was over, the day couldn't be any more beautiful: clear and 65-70-degrees.
* I would finish out my day with the 4th fastest amateur run split; a 1:26:03. The athlete in my age group who came into transition just behind me turned an impressive 1:28:47 and yet he never saw me (he ended up also catching the guy I caught at mile 6 and overtook him to finish 2nd). It had to be a hard psychological day for him if you could imagine it from his point of view.
* My streak continues - I've qualified for World's at every Ironman and 70.3 I've done. Number of times I've accepted? 0.
* After 5 years of triathlon and dozens of events at every distance, my streak of having one of the 5 fastest amateur bike splits was broken. My bike split was 22nd.
* As I mentioned in my report, in my last two half-irons my run average has been within seconds of my first mile split; something I used to do often 'pre-asthma'

Next Up: Rev3 South Carolina and Spinx Half Marathon


These poor bikes - suffocated to death by their owners. Why do people insist on killing their bikes? I hope the culprits were caught...


Never flatted in 6 years of triathlon and today - twice. With a total of less than 40 miles on it, this tire cost me about $1.50 per mile...

Tags:

Race Report

Lake Logan Olympic Tri Race Report

by G-Man 30. August 2011 07:21

Location: Between a tree and a lake, NC
Date: August 6, 2011
Placing: 11th Overall, 3rd Master, 1st 45-49
Format: Olympic distance Triathlon
My Race Photos
Official Race Photos
Results: Click Here

I blame the Waikiki Swim Club. According to history, the very first event that combined 3 sports in succession was in 1902 and featured running, cycling and canoeing. Done. We could have ended it there; with the ability to suck in as much oxygen as we could at any time throughout the event. Using one of "the Giordanelli principles" it is not a stretch to say that my rowing ability would rival my cycling/running ability and I would now be living off my millions of dollars in endorsments and my triathlon clothing line. But no. Enter the Waikiki Swim Club.

The Waikiki Swim Club had to insist that swimmers were more fit than runners (when in fact, they are simply more 'mutant' than runners...uh-uh-uh...talk to the hand). And from there...SWIM, bike, run became the triathlon standard we know today. Remind me to send the Waikiki Swim Club a case of Shark Bait cologne as a token of my appreciation. I dream of what would have happened if maybe someone else was there INSTEAD of swimmers when the Ironman was being born. There are a handful of possibilities that could have made me a legend - a household name. For instance, what if Ben & Jerry had been there? Bike, Run, eat 5 gallons of ice cream. How about Shields & Yarnell? (Google it, kids). Bike, run, dance the robot. Einstein? Bike, run, solve complex mathematical equations. "I coulda been a contender"...if only.


Awesome teammate and general 'man about town' Cameraon Dorn. Problem is you never know which town in which country on any given day.

Those first 2 paragraphs are what we writers call "setting the stage". It lets you know that I will - at a later point in the story - use my own inadequacies as an excuse. But first, some character development and a plot. So there we were, Janis and I hanging out in the middle of nowhere with Coach Rick and his wife Gail. The Kattouf's had rented a cabin in the woods on the top of a mountain. Up a gravel road that was not for the squeemish - and definitely not for a Prius or Yugo. My front-wheel drive Rav4 was having a hard enough time. We found it hilarious that the owner charges a $25 gravel road fee as part of the rental. That money must go towards signage that says "caution: steep, gravel road". Because it certainly isn't going towards making the road any better.

The Lake Logan triathlon falls into a special category for me. It is a category many athletes have: races I've tried repeatedly to attend and have not been able to. I have 'ditched' more races over the past 30 years than I care to admit. Some were just 'on my plan' while others I had already paid for. I wish I had all the money in entry fees over the years that I 'gave away' to races. But even when cancelling out on races I'm no amateur. This was my 3rd attempt to make this race and I finally got there. At least I never pre-paid my entry fees. I think the Virginia Beach Rock n' Roll Half Marathon is my record. It took me 4 years to finally get there - and I waved goodbye to my entry fee for 2 of those (BTW - when I finally did it, it was a great race!). I may try to break that record as I debate signing up for the New Year's Eve 5k at midnight in Clemmons, NC...for the 3rd year. We have yet to actually attend it. On a final note here. I don't want to make it sound like I run around throwing out entry fees. As a matter of fact, after I completed my first iron-distance triathlon, Janis told me that she saw 2 or 3 people pulled from the swim in the first couple of minutes. They were fine; just had anxiety attacks and hyperventilated. Janis told me that if it had been me - after spending all the time and money - that she would have walked over and pushed me back in the water.


Team K in our stealth black team outfits. If we ever do a race at night, you'll never see us comin'.

You don't see a lot of Kenyans lining up to do the mile. Why? It just ain't their thang. And so it is with me and the olympic distance. Compared to all other distances, the swim is more heavily weighted - and especially here where the bike was even shorter than the standard 40 kilometers and not very challenging or technical to boot. I usually have a lot of catching up to do after the swim leg but in a race like this, I felt like I was on the 50-yard-line and everyone else was lined up on the 5 (see how I brought my football audience into the story). But I came here because it was supposed to be beautiful and at least a few degrees cooler than the unforgiving sun back in Greenville. It was both. And as weekends go, I cared a lot less about the race and a lot more about a relaxing weekend with Janis and friends.


A little more chillin' than usual going on at the Team Kattouf headquarters this race.

I was almost too uncaring about the race. I can't remember the last time I was so disorganized. I basically did nothing to prepare the day before. The morning was a constant game of 'what did I forget now'? An athlete struck up a conversation with me as I walked from the parking area to the venue. It was his first tri and he was a bit nervous. I told him it didn't matter what happened - he was going to have a blast. I had to laugh to myself a few minutes later when I went to the registration table and he was ahead of me. He had signed up for the Open division. I had seen this before. People don't realize that the Open division is for the athletes vying for a top 10 or so. I didn't say anything to him, but he was in for an experience.

Up there in the mountains, the lake was still wetsuit legal and I barely got myself together in time to jump in the water for 60 seconds. I had a sudden realization that my wedding ring was very loose and I didn't want to lose it in the lake so I jumped out to find Janis but I was cut short by the call to the start. It's probably just as well, the last thing I needed was women hitting on me while I'm trying to swim.


A beautiful lake swim. I enjoyed it so much that I took my time. Yeah, that's my story.

I felt a bit strained from the start but I stayed steady. In my head, I thought I would have a little advantage because the buoys leading to the turn were not in a straight line and we did not have to go around them. But that rarely stops some people from taking the long way around. Not me I swim slow but straight and I cut a laser line to the turn about 700 meters out. If you've never done an open water swim race, it's a lot like running. With a blindfold on.

After an eternity of flailing my arms about, I approached the swim exit. It was several yards upstream from the start and into the mouth of the river that feeds the lake. Almost immediately as we crossed under the roadway bridge for the final 50 meters, the water temperature dropped what had to be 15 degrees. It was cold but amazingly refreshing. Unlike many of my triathlon swims where we are required to hoist ourselves out of the water, I needed no assistance from the volunteers to fling myself onto the dock as if the lake were regurgitating some bad fish.


Searching for my rip-cord so I can pull my parachute.

Normally in my races, I start my watch timer and refer to it during the race as my "master time keeper"; just a running total of my time. Today, I was without my watch and I felt a bit naked. But it's a good thing I didn't have it on because if I had looked down when I ran into the first transition and seen my time, I would have quit right then and there. Seriously. Take your definition of slow...and add two more minutes. Imagine Roseanne Barr showing up to singing practice...with a cold. That bad.


The guy behind me probably saved 8 seconds by not putting his shoes on in transition. I enjoyed racing by him at 25 mph as he was riding 3 mph trying to get his shoes on.

We had a bit of a run along the grass with our bikes to the mount line. I did it with my shoes on - the guy next to me did it barefoot. He jumped on his bike and was off. I was right behind him. Well, fortunately I wasn't RIGHT behind him because he was weaving and nearly falling over as he tried to get his feet in the shoes. As I instantly raced by him full bore, I leaned over and said "It's NOT faster". I hope I didn't ruin triathlon for anyone, but...It's NOT faster. It's slower AND more dangerous.

I went to task doing what I do best and made short work of the course. It was fast and had no technical sections. Again, not a lot of chances for a cyclist to gain time. I even made a rookie mistake going into the last (and only real) climb. I misjudged the grade and stayed in my big chainring. I could tell it was a mistake but I had committed and it cost me some time. I was also starting to let my head take over a bit. I was disappointed at this point that I hadn't caught more Open wave athletes.


A great ride up until the final few miles. A good time, but nothing extraordinary today.

I jumped off the bike in time to see another Open Master (Tom Mather) already starting the run about a minute ahead of me. Tom is one of the fastest Master runners in the state. That's HIS sport. Which is why I couldn't understand how he was still ahead of me after the bike. I had a fast transition and off I went. The six-mile course was basically a gradual climb for 3 miles and then a turn around to a gradual descent into the finish. I didn't understand why I seemed so far behind everyone but I figured if I hit my 6:00/mile pace on the run then everthing would have to work out. And it seemed like for the first time today, things were going as anticipated.


Do I look powerful? I feel powerful. I just wish I had felt this way about 30 minutes earlier.

I had no watch on, but my tempo felt strong and fast. In the first couple of miles I ran down 2 Open Masters. Up ahead, I could see the black uniform and ponytail that is the distinct trademark of my teammate Gail Kattouf. As I approached her - and passed mile 2 - I started to see the first place athletes coming towards me. It's always funny to me how I can feel like a 10-minute gap on paper is long but when you are out on the course, it was less than 2 running miles. It was like the leader was right there in front of me. Or so it seems. I caught Gail just before the turn around and we exchanged words between our labored breathing. I counted over a dozen people still ahead of me before I hit the turn including Masters David Hall and Tom Mather. But neither of them provided the inspiration to keep flying. No - that distinction belonged almost completely to the ladies.

I had chased down Gail just before the turnaround. Shortly after the turnaround, I found myself chasing another 'ponytail' - ANOTHER national caliber female athelte, Alicia Parr. I can't remember exactly but Alicia held the distinction last year of winning high honors at multiple national championships. She made an excellent target. Again - a few words of encouragement exchanged. I was 4 miles in at this point and I was being sharply reminded that it had been a long time since I had run a 10k without socks on. I was bascially drilling a hole in the end of my big toe. My glances went back and forth between the athletes I was chasing - and my shoe; where I expected at any minute to see the color of blood seeping through.


I ran down a lot of people today. But the one thing I couldn't run down was my crappy swim.

Two miles left and I still felt good. Strained, but good. I thought that Alicia was in 1st place for the women but no. No sooner had I left Alicia than I started to catch my next quarry. Yep, another woman. This woman was a pro whom I'd never heard of. Male or female - it made no difference to me. They were all just targets. With a mile to go there was no sign of the two 'known' Masters ahead of me and I hoped that I would somehow sneak into 3rd with my run resurecting a less-than-stellar swim/bike combo. I rounded a curve with a half mile to go and there he was right in front of me. I could see the "OM" written on his calf denoting "Open Master". I took a few deep breaths and backed down a bit. You have to be prepared when you pass someone that close to the end that you pass them convincingly.

It probably sounds funny but in situations like this, I actually expend energy trying not to be heard until I am right on top of the person I am passing. I want to give them no time to respond or prepare. I feel like a mouse sneaking up on a piece of cheese just before he POUNCES ON IT. I was starting to run out of gas a bit so I had to just do it. I did. He had little left to respond and I managed to hold a small gap to the finish. Within a couple of mintues I got to see an amazing race for the line as the top 3 women that I had passed all finished within 18 seconds of each other.

I was almost confused by what had happened today. I know I'm not a specialist at this distance but the race I had planned in my head never materialized. My confusion was laid to rest as soon as I saw the results. As I mentioned earlier, my swim was beyond bad. I even wondered if I had done some extra distance somewhere. My bike was OK - but it too was a minute or two slower than I was capable of. My run was pretty much the only thing that actually showed up ready to go today. Taking into consideration the gradual climb on the way out and my toe on the way back, my 6:10 pace was pretty much where I expected it to be.


I managed to pull out a 'podium' finish - not something that always happens at this distance.

I would finish 11th overall and 3rd Master. Oddly enough, both Masters ahead of me were in different age groups (40-44 and 50-54). Putting me first for my age group. As anticipated, I pulled back about 5 minutes on each of the two Masters ahead of me on the bike and run. But I finished 9 and 7 minutes slower than them in the swim. Holy cow. 95th swim split, 6th bike split, 10th run split. I guess it really doesn't look that different than usual. But 95th?! Sheesh.

Notes:
* This race actually has money at it so several pros actually showed up - some very good pros.
* Teammate Gail Kattouf took 3rd in the women's race. 19 seconds behind 1st and 8 seconds behind 2nd.
* I found it sort of funny that the top 3 Masters each specialized in a different discipline...and I mean specialize. David Hall and Tom Mather are probably both in the top 5 Masters in the state in swimming and running respectively. With my cycling, we would make one really wicked Masters relay.
* The "hole" in my toe really was like a hole. I had to baby that thing for several days.
* Nothing felt better than jumping back into the lake where we exited the swim. It was frigid and awesome.

Next Up: Paris Mountain 7k and Syracuse 70.3

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Race Report

Portland Rev3 Half-Iron Race Report

by G-Man 20. July 2011 02:44

Location: Portland, OR
Date: July 10, 2011
Placing: 12th Overall, 1st Master
Format: Half-Iron distance Triathlon
My Race Photos
Official Race Photos
Results: Click Here

Hey, what just happened? I wish I knew. Somewhere around 3 years ago - in what some believe was an attempt to become a better swimmer - I tried to breathe in a glass of water. Because I'm not a fish, I developed mild pneumonia. A few short months later it happened again. Some would say I have a 'drinking problem' but that is neither here nor there. According to my doctor this series of episodes caused me to contract 'allergy-induced asthma' after 40+ years of near-perfect health. I'm not sure I beleive the doctors, after all they are also the same ones who say I'm 'getting older' and that's just ludicrous. A more likely scenario is that someone cast a spell on me. A spell that I have been trying to undo for some time now but you just can't find eye of newt and dragon blood at Whole Foods these days. So I've mainly resorted to being a guinea pig to modern medicine.


My look as I enter the finish at May's Rev3 Knoxville let's you know some of the struggles I've had this season. That's not my happy face...

I could draw a roller coaster graph of my performance in 2009 and 2010. Unable to figure out what it is that aggravates my condition and what it is that helps it. With the addition of adding Rick Kattouf as my coach, I set PR's when I felt 'normal'. Unfortunately, I also set PR's when I wasn't normal...as in Personal Records for worst times. It was impossible to tell which G-Man would show up for an event when I was 4 weeks out. Psychic hotlines were no help at all. Well, at least not with regard to my racing. They did actually help me win a couple of $5 payouts in the South Carolina lottery. It certainly made the $2 per minute phone calls worth their weight in gold; if you consider that a phone call doesn't weigh anything.

To finish the story - and to spare you the details - 2011 was a huge decline in my ability to push my heartrate and a struggle to perform anywhere close to what I had been capable of even just a few months prior. Then, about 2 months ago we re-did the test that basically tells the levels of allergens in my body (or rather, the power of the spell cast upon me) and what my dosage of Xolair should be (or the potion that counteracts the spell put on me). Xolair is a monthly shot I get to block allergens and it is the only thing that I truly believe is helping me. Turns out, my allergen levels had gone way up and my dosage was doing about one-third of what it used to do. About 6 weeks ago, we upped my dosage. Two weeks later, I was able to get my HR up near my normal max at the Sunrise Run and wasn't too terribly far off of 'normal'. The next week - I ran a 5:02 mile at the All-Comers Track Meet. And then, about 2 weeks ago, I not only turned a really fast time at the Red, White and Blue Shoes 5k, but I felt 'powerful' again for the first time in a long time. Right after that, I ran a 2:20 marathon at the Olympic Trials. That didn't actually happen. But it all brings me to Rev3 Portland.


The week before Portland, I ran a 16:53 5k (net downhill course, but fast nonetheless) and finished much closer to my 'usual' competition than I had all year.

Portland was awesome. They were having Winter in the middle of July with afternoon highs in the mid to upper 70s. And all that crap about "It always rains in Portland" is just propoganda to keep the rest of us out of their little secret sanctuary. It was cloudy the day we arrived and then blue skies for the next 4 days straight. Originally, we had not planned to rent a car because we made reservations downtown overlooking both the Willamette River and the race venue. Unfortunately, Rev3 had to change the race venue at the last minute because of a problem with one of the towns on the bike segment. How does that happen? Don't you have something in writing? Did the town send them an email that simply said "HA! - just kiding" with a cute little smiley face emoticon?. Maybe someone just cast a spell on them too. The race went from challenging hills to just about pancake flat. If we hadn't already made plans to turn this trip into a vacation, I would have seriously debated getting my money back. One of the reasons I like Rev3 is they are not afraid to pick hard courses. And hard courses = no drafting (or at least it makes it inefficient to do it). Also, the easier the bike course is, the harder it is for me to put time on other athletes. But as you can see by my varied racing over the past 30 year...throw a challenge in the air and I won't hesitate to jump up and grab it. Of course sometimes it hits me in the eye. At least now it would be an EASY half-iron (my favorite phrase)


The view as we drove to our Portland hotel. It was a cloudy day when we drove in...but hardly a cloud in the sky for the next 4 days.

But Rev3 managed to pull it off with a great last-minute venue. A beautiful park with a nice lake and an almost unencumbered view of Mt. Hood for most of the race. Not too terribly hard to do since Mt. Hood sticks out like a sore - but very beautiful and majestic - thumb. As an added bonus, the new swim course was billed as being all downhill...and although the run was a bit on the boring side, I got to see Janis about a dozen times without her moving much at all (another thing I like about Rev3 - they care about the spectators almost as much as I do). This was awesome because it is hard for me to go more than an hour without seeing Janis.

If you know me, then you know that I would wake up 10 minutes before the race start if I could. I'd actually wake up AFTER the race start if that was possible. I see no reason to add additional stress - and lose sleep - by sitting around at the venue. Rev3 really wins here. The race starts later than "the other guys", the transition stays open longer, and there is no blaringly loud music. Sorry if you like to have your eardrums blown out at 5am but you can do that with an iPod. I want relaxation, serenity and the ability to hear myself think. Ahhhhh. Of course, the flaw in my "sleep-in" plan is that Portland is on the left coast and I am from the right coast. That means, when it is 4am in Portland my body thinks it is 7am. So regardless of my 6am alarm setting...5:15 it was. Portland is also much further North than South Cacalacki and that means it was light at 5:15. Reminded me of Quassy last year. It would be great if the days were that long in the Winter but it doesn't work that way.


Birdseye view of the transition area. Well, birdseye for me. And yes, it's the middle of July and I am wearing a windbreaker. Sweet.

Okay. So I'm going to admit here that getting up early was a blessing in disguise that I had not expected. Turns out that my body really appreciated the 3 full hours I gave it to digest my breakfast. I even had time to sip more water all morning and for the first time ever...I [insert your euphamism for peeing here ie. "shook the dew"] 3 times before the start! Janis has become somewhat of a number-placement artist at Rev3 races where they give you stickers to apply yourself the morning of the race. I'm beginning to think that maybe she has tattoo parlor experience somewhere in her sordid past. It's an extra minute of effort on the part of the athlete but there's no waiting in line for body-marking. Chip pickup is also during packet pick-up and bikes are racked the night before the event. At first I wasn't sure I liked this but now I love it. The only thing I have to do when I arrive at the venue on race morning is set up my transition and deal with autograph hounds. No numbers, bikes or chips.


Hmmm, let's see. Parka? No. Armwarmers? Yes. A Big Mac? Yes. Wait; probably not enough time. Ensure instead. OK, I think I got it all.

With the air temperature a cool 58-degrees, I opted to throw arm warmers and a jacket in my transition and while I was doing that, I was surprised to hear them announce that the swim would be wetsuit legal for amateurs...but NOT wetsuit legal for pros. What?! It's in the upper 50's in the morning and the highs are about 77-degrees! I can't believe it was THAT close. Sure enough, once I got my wetsuit on and stepped into the water, it felt amazingly warm compared to the air temperature. It is nice that the pros get a seperate start that is 30 minutes before any age-groupers. We all get to watch the first pros exit the water - something you rarely get to do at other events. It gave me a chance to see the chioces they made in regard to what they wore, and how they handle the start of their transition. I heard a couple of people comment that the swim course must be a bit long because of the times. That would not be good for me; but more on that in a minute.


At 58 degrees, it was actually comfortable wearing the wetsuit before the start. I might start wearing it around town this Fall back in Greenville. Plus, I imagine it would be great for running in sleet and hail.

My wave of about 100 athletes went off last and we had a nice wide beach start - only two or three rows deep. Of course, as soon as the gun went off, those same 100 guys all tried to swim to the same exact 2-ft-wide spot 100 meters ahead. I managed to get away with only a minimum of bumping and kicking. I was happy with my fast - but not hypoxic - start. The course was a loooong rectangle and we started on the bottom-right corner. We swam a short distance out then a sharp left for close to 900-meters. That 900-meters was directly into the sun. The first time I looked up it was like lasers in my eyes. There was no way to sight the next buoy so I just had to believe that everyone around me was heading the right direction. Every time I looked up it was like daggers and every once in a while, I would somehow catch sight of the next large, floating 'R'...and its location would literally be burned into my retina. I was able to use my super power of swimming straight to stay close to the line of buoys on the way out and I was unpleasantly distracted for several minutes by a guy who was drafting me and didn't know how to keep his hands behind - or to the side - of my feet. I mean, I expect a few toe taps along the way but I think this guy was trying to give me a pedicure. I finally lost him by swimming right up next to another athlete and then stopping for just a second. Sure enough, I passed him off to annoy the next guy.


The glare on the buoy in this shot gives you an idea of harsh the sun was. But we were looking directly into it.

We rounded turn 2 for the short part of the rectangle and then turn 3 to head back to the start. Now - with the sun directly behind us - you felt like you had bionic vision. I could almost see South Carolina in the distance it was so clear. I started heading for the next buoy and after a few strokes, I saw the next bouy beyond that one was off to the right so I started swimming right some more. A few strokes later...the same thing. I decided to come to a full stop and sighted the bouy aaaaaalllllll the way at the end. They were somewhat curving and the rules say that I don't have to go around any interim bouys; only that you have to swim on the outside of the corner buoys. So I started heading straight for the last bouy and realized that about half the group was doing what I was doing and off to my left was the other half swimming from bouy to bouy. Once again, chalk one up to knowing the rules and using the noggin to save time. I felt strong throughout the swim and was hoping I would hit my mark of 37:00 that I gave to Janis. I emerged from the water just behind a woman competitor and glanced down to see 36:35. Oh yeah. The hard part is done and I'm almost exactly on schedule. Of course all the troubles I've been encountering haven't showed up until the bike leg so I wasn't ready to count my chickens just yet.

I don't know what looks funnier - me racing out of the water like I'm in first place (even though I am way back in the swim pack) - or nearly knocking over the woman next to me who is acting like this is not a race at all. With swimming being such a slow part of my triathlon, I'm guessing nobody would ever believe Janis if she turned to someone as I came out of the water and said "Oh yeah, he'll finish top 20". I'm pretty sure, I'd be thinking "Whatever, lady - he's like so far behind it's not funny". I once told Janis she should stand at the exit of the swim and take side bets that the 47-year-old man that just exited the water in 800th place would be in the top 20. She'd probably make a killing.


Would you look at that - Brightroom got a shot of me about to just about knock over the lady in front of me to get to the steps first. C'mon, lady...IT'S A RACE!

Because of the late venue change, there was a logistical challenge. There was a half-mile run on pavement to get from the lake to transition (not to mention a flight of stairs right out of the water). Rev3 gave athletes the option to hang a bag of shoes on a rack near the exit. You could grab your shoes, throw your wetsuit back into the bag and take off. Many people took advantage of this, even a few pros. Not this ironman. My transitions are slow enough. Besides, the benefit of doing a lot of racing is that I've encountered similar situations. Why just this past March at San Juan 70.3 we ran something like 6 miles from the water to transition dodging Puerto Rican traffic on dirt roads. At least that's how I remember it. So I opted to rely on the skills I learned as a firewalker when I was growing up in Nepal and skipped the shoes. I was still wise enough to strip my wetsuit at the water exit (a wet wetsuit is easier to strip). I stopped right in front of a woman and did the 'wetsuit dance'. All the while she just stared at me with her mouth gaped open as if she were watching some caged beast during a mating ritual. I'm sure my "Uggghhhs" and "Hmmmpphhs" added to the effect.


What? This thing? Oh, that's my wetsuit. I carry it everywhere I go. Right now, I'm carrying it a half-mile so that it can be reunited with my bike. They are best friends.

I ran past Janis and she echoed out loud the sentiments in my head, "Now the race STARTS". I made what seemed like fairly short work of T1 and made the decision NOT to down my usual bottle of Ensure. My brain said I didn't need it and that it would be easier to finish all the bottles on my bike if I skipped it. Things usually work out for the best when I listen to my brain so...no Ensure. I was also plenty warm from the swim and skipped the arm warmers and jacket. I would have been the only person wearing them if I had done so. I mounted my steed and shot off like a rocket. Unlike most of my races, it took me a little over 3 miles before my body would back down to my appointed HR of 140 and settle in. I felt good although I didn't actually feel like I was going that fast.


I feel the need. The need for speed.

The road was closed so we had more than enough room for passing, etc. The route also followed the Columbia River which was very scenic. Every time we headed East, we had a full-view shot of Mt. Hood and I gave it plenty of glances. Normally, I like to have a lot of people to pass; I see each one as a mini-target. But today it was not so good. Oddly, the road surface on the shoulder was quite smooth, but the lane itself was a macadam surface with a very bumpy feel. It's a much slower surface and by the time on was on the second lap, I was hoping to not have to pass anyone else. And fortunately at that point people were few and far between. It was a flat and fast course with only a couple of slight up-and-downs each lap and no turns (only the turnarounds at each end). A course with absolutely nothing technical and this fast is not very conducive to helping me put time on my competition. It would be like a race where we all swam with a huge current and didn't have to sight any turns. The distance of the swim would be the same, but the difference between the fastest swimmer and slowest swimmer would be much smaller than on a challenging course.


S'cuse me. Old guy coming through. Try not to spontaneously combust when I pass. Man, if I could swim this fast...

Although I don't watch any kind of average or current speed on my bike since I simply watch my heartrate, I still extrapolate my speed at key times. So, at the 1-hour mark I looked down to see that I had covered 25.2 miles. At current speed, I was looking at about a 2:13. My estimate to Janis? 2:15. There were two very significant things that happened on the bike...or rather DIDN'T happen. First, I had no problem drinking my bottles. I would say that this hasn't happened in xxx races but in all honesty, I'm not sure it's EVER happened. I did not feel over-bloated and full (like I did for the entire ride at Knoxville) and I also did not feel like I just didn't want to drink. It was so unlike me. Approximately every 5 miles, I took a drink and managed to finish all three of my bottles just before the ride was over. More importantly - the other thing that didn't happen was anything. No, that's not a mal-formed thought. Literally NOTHING happened. No loss of power, no big drop in heartrate, nothing. I was so scared of what I've come to expect that I even backed off my heartrate just a few beats after mile 40. All I could think of was "when's it going to happen".

Well, I might have been expecting something to happen...but to hell if I was going to wait for it. In the last quarter-mile of the bike, I pulled my feet out of my shoes and somehow managed to get my Garmin off my handlebars and into my mouth. I had skipped wearing my Garmin on the run in my last event out of disgust but today - if I was going to have a blow-up - I was going to have the data to go with it. I did my usual slam right up to the dismount line where my shoe disengaged from the pedal. I ran into transition with a bike in one hand, a shoe in the other, and my Garmin hanging from my mouth.

I got a bit disgusted immediately when I got to my rack only to find that they had placed someone's wetsuit bag right where my wheel was supposed to go (that 10 seconds cost me one overall placing, thank you). I threw my shoe down, pulled off my helmet and threw it down, grabbed my Ensure and opened it, grabed the Garmin out of my mouth, chugged the Ensure, dropped the bottle, threw the Garmin back in my mouth, grabbed my sunglasses and race belt, slipped my running shoes on, started to run out of transition, put my glasses on, clipped my race belt around my waist, grabbed the Garmin out of my mouth and put it on my wrist, reset the Garmin, pressed the 'start' button and then finally looked up to see my first turn on the run. All that took about a minute from the dismount line.


This is where my whole plan fell apart - mile 1 of the run. The plan was to feel crappy and have trouble getting my heartrate up. So much for THAT plan. I like THIS plan much better. Mile 1: 6:35.

The first half-mile of the run was through a field of tall grass that had been pressed down and then a dirt road. The grass was crazy-slick. It was like ice skating and I was glad it was only a couple hundred yards. When I emerged onto the road, Janis was cheering hard. My body felt 'indifferent' for lack of a better term. I was not fatigued and was not anywhere close to exhaustion. I passed the 1-mile marker and a few seconds later, my Garmin beeped "6:35". No. Way. I hardly felt like I was moving and my heartrate was just a hair over 140. Mile 2: "6:25". The back of my brain was saying "Holy Crap!" just quietly enough so that the front half couldn't hear it. The front half was still worried about "when IT was going to happen".


Mile 4.5. One of my favorite pics that Janis took. You don't have to ask how fast I am going or how I feel. It's all right there in the picture.

I am averaging a 6:30 pace when I get back to Janis at mile 4.5. As I raced past several runners I held my hands out to my sides and said softly to her "6:30's!!?". She snapped one of my favorite pictures at that moment. I look like I felt: powerful. I would describe the feeling but it was undescribable. No pain, no struggle. Only fear, as I watched my heartrate gently climb each mile. I was like a metronome. I watched the pros coming toward me as they were finishing. Then the age group leaders. I looked every one of them in the eye as we passed each other. It was a look I hadn't given in a long time. It said "you'd better not slow down...becuase I'm sure as hell not". But again, I was still worried. This wasn't how things have been for a while. I kept putting off my last surge. At first, I told myself when I hit mile 9 that I would take it up. Then mile 10. By the time I realized that the old G-Man had shown up, it was too late to make up a lot of time. I was content to catch 2 more guys in the last mile - although at this point I was pretty sure that anybody I caught had started 5 minutes ahead of me.


I'd have to look back pretty far to see that look on my face and that kind of form at the finish of a half-iron event. Unfortunately, I look too good - I definietly left something out on the course. But I didn't care. You can't buy the way I felt today.

Wave starts are good becuase they keep people who are in the same age group together and yet spread out the competitors. The flip side of that is that for someone like me who often times is looking for a good 'overall' placing, it can be a game of 'out-of-sight, out-of-mind'. For instance, as I rounded the final turn to enter the finishing chute, there was a runner just 4 seconds ahead of me and another one some 20 seconds ahead of me. Unfortunately, I could not see them because they started in a wave 5 minutes before me and had already crossed the finish line. No doubt, they had each other to push them to their limit in the final seconds of the race. I didn't have the luxury of having anyone to chase across the finish line. After a long string of low-energy races, it's like I'd forgotten how to push myself to the finish line and arrive with nothing left. No matter. Today was not about placing well. For me, today was about freedom. Freedom from whatever it is that has been messing with my body. It certainly is the closest I've felt to being a superhero in quite a while. G-Man lives...


I love that Rev3 shows your photo on the jumbo tron when you are finishing. Before the race, I had my picture taken with Janis - so there we are, two stories tall.

I arrived across the finish line as the 12th place amateur and 1st Master. My splits tell the same story they've told for years: out of the amateurs...105th swim slpit, 4th bike split and 8th run split. My bike and run split combined to be the 3rd fastest. My Garmin shows that my run miles had a deviance of only about 20 seconds between the fastest and slowest. AND...I was greeted with my free Qdoba burrito at the finish. It was as big as my face. I absolutely LOVE that Rev3 doesn't make me wait until 6pm for the awards ceremony. As a matter of fact, I haven't been to an IM awards ceremony in the last 3 of their races...but I've made it to all 3 Rev3 awards. I had just enough time to enjoy my lunch, clean myself - and my transition - up a bit, and pack my bike back in it's shipping box; then it was awards time. And a big thank you again, Rev3 for appreciating my hard work by giving me worthwhile prizes!! What a tremendous day and we still had 3 more days to spend in Portland. Best race trip for 2011 so far.


And...the money shot.

Thanks again to my wonderful wife Janis - who knows more about triathlons than most people that actually do them! And of course, Coach Rick from TeamKattouf coaching. I think we got that nutrition plan dialed in, Rick. Fleet Feet, Rudy Project, Garmin and Mauldin Chiropractic can all take partial credit for this perfomance. Thanks all!

Notes:
* Janis befriended a woman during the race. Turns out, her husband was the guy that beat me by 4 seconds.
* While I was on the left coast, teammate Cameron Dorn was on the right coast at Providence 70.3 taking 3rd in his age group (15th overall). And although I know it was far from her best performance, my other teammate Gail Kattouf was taking 5th place in her age group at Muncie 70.3. I'd say TeamKattouf had the US covered this weekend.
* We went straight to the FedEx office from the venue and sent my bike on its journey home. Cost to ship it round trip? $160. And I stuffed that thing with my entire triathlon (wetsuit, goggles, bike, tools, pump, helmet, running shoes, bike shoes, water bottles and all my nutrition, transtion towel, tools, etc.).
* Portland drivers are the best drivers. That is not a joke. It is illegal to talk on your cell phone while driving. Hmmm. Coincidence?
* You also can not pump your own gas in Oregon. True. They have gas station attendants.
* Voodoo Doughnuts was awesome. Google it.

Next Up: Lake Logan Tri, Paris Mountain 7k and Branson 70.3


Janis and I headed out to haystack rock on the Oregon coast our last day there.

Tags:

Race Report

Cooper River Bridge Run Race Report

by G-Man 12. April 2011 01:09

Location: Charleston, SC
Date: April 2, 2011
Placing: 77th Overall (37,000 finishers), 3rd 45-49
Format: 10k Run
Race Photos: Island Photography (you'll have to key in bib #38)
My Race Photos
Results: Click Here

NOTE: I didn't wind up with any real race photos to speak of this time, so I thought I would ad lib...

Ahhh. The Cooper River Bridge Run. Me and 40,000 of my closest friends trying desperately to get out of Mount Pleasant, SC. I imagine the sight would be similar if unfriendly aliens had landed in San Francisco and deactivated everything electronic or with a motor and the entire population had to escape over the Golden Gate Bridge. Sure go ahead and laugh but all this running, riding and swimming I do is secretly in preperation for just such a day. It's likely only the first humdred or so humans will make it to safety and it's looking pretty good for me. How about you?


The Bridge Run always reminds me of my days as a stunt double for David Lee Roth. Good times.

Have you ever seen the movie Same Time Next Year? Well, if you haven't seen that you must've seen Groundhog Day? Often times this is what it feels like when you do the same race - with many of the same people. A famous quote often attributed to Einstein defines insanity as "doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results". People who enter events and expect faster times are (by defnition) insane. Not me. This quote proves that I am NOT insame because I enter the same event expecting the SAME results; the same results I had when I was 20 years younger ;-) Or, in the case of the Bridge Run - one year younger. Of course that quote doesn't exactly hold true in racing anyway because there are so many factors that the only reason we keep coming back for more is the staunch belief that even when we did our fastest time, it is likely that not everything was exactly perfect. It's this assumption that allows us to rationalize our insanity. Psychology lesson 1 complete.

Sticking with the movie theme...I gotta tell you - Janis and I are like the supercomputer in War Games. We have been travelling to events for so long that we have ammassed a knowledge about the logistics of racing that is almost ninja-like. And when we go to an event, we instantly learn how to adapt the next time we go to make our experience better. Here's an example: On the way to Charleston Friday night for packet pick-up, I changed into running attire and had Janis drive the last portion. Last year, we were stuck in a huge traffic jam around the auditorium where thousands of people were trying to get their packets. Lesson learned. We got off the highway early and took a side road near the bridge until we were about a mile away. Then Janis found a free place to pull over (a post office) and I jumped out of the car with my waist pack on and jogged to the auditorium. I ran in - directly to my packet pickup area (I am fortunate enough to have a seperate pick-up area for local elite runners) - grabbed my packet, and jogged back to the car. In fifteen minutes I got my packet, and got my 2-mile warm-up jog. In the meantime, Janis read a few dozen pages of her novel in the relaxed solitude of an empty parking lot. Less than 10 minutes later, we were at the hotel. And that, my friends is how it's done. Stress-free.


Disturbing? Maybe. But it's this kind of mind that pushes me beyond normal limitations.

Part of our plan this year included combining our knowledge with a couple of other Bridge Run pros - Bob Mancuso and Ruth McDonough (our awesome massage therapists). Ruth and Janis had their own plan devised for spectating and they left just before 7am to make it across the bridge into Chucktown before the bridge closed to all traffic. Ruth had a secret place to park that was a few blocks from the finish line and they had their coffee shop already 'pre-selected'. I jogged the mile and a quarter to the start as part of my warmup. The temperature was a bit warmer than last year - just over 50 degrees. Perfect running weather. With all the lung-related issues I've had the last couple of years, I no longer had the consistency that I took for granted most of my racing life. These days, it was a roll of the dice and my expectations are somewhat relaxed. I just remember that my worst day still impresses me - and I'm the only one that counts. I actually felt pretty good but that totally means nothing. After a billion races I've learned that how you feel before a race is about as good an indicator of your performance as flipping a coin would be.

With an age of 46 and a predicted time under 36:00, I get the opportunity to race as an elite here and I'm not going to lie, it's like staying in the presidential suite at a swanky hotel compared to a night at the Motel 6. Our own Port-o-Potties with no line, our own pre-race drink area, and our own bus parked ahead of the race where we could sit and get warm and put our spare clothes. I felt a bit like Charlie Sheen. You know...a warlock with tiger blood and Adonis DNA.

 


A little too pretentious? Well, get used to it because I'm 46 now; it's only a matter of time before I start breaking out the costumes at races. Pray for Janis.

American Idol winner Ruben Studdard belted out the National Anthem and a group of past participants from The Biggest Loser gave the crowd some imspiration. All the while I spent jogging back and forth playing 'pick the winner' from the large number of African runners that were warming up. I ran back to the course to watch the wheelchair athletes take off. An impressive display of upper body strength. God forbid something should put me into a wheelchair, I would take up the challenge right beside them. You don't become a good athlete by seeing obstacles; you become one by accepting challenges.

We lined up to start. This year, those that were selected as 'elites' would start in a small wave that consisted of anyone who could prove a time under 40:00 so it was a bit more crowded than last year when about 60 of us got to start a few yards ahead of the rest of the group. The gun sounded and I did what I always do - I ran hard until my heartrate reached its appointed place and then settled in. Twice I had to literally muscle my way between 2 runners that started way too fast and were blocking my way. It didn't bother me that they took off too fast - so I hope it didn't bother them that they got a little 'elbow time' from me.


I don't line up ON the front line...I AM the front line. It's funny how I look so much more 'gaunt' in my race photos. The camera actually subtracts about 40 pounds. Mostly from my arms.

I had memorized my mile splits from last year because, well, that's what we do. And even though I was racing by heartrate and had no intentions of letting my mile splits change my strategy, I was still anxious to see if I was anywhere near my optimal speed from last year. Mile 1 was a 5:21. From which year you ask? Both. Yep, my first mile for both years was exactly the same. Well hell - that's a good sign. At the end of mile 2 we started up the bridge and I throttled my heartrate; staying on task and allowing a good number of people to pass me. *Beep*. Mile 2 = 6:05. Last year? 5:49. Oops. I looked at my Garmin and almost out loud pondered "Is this thing working?".

I finally crested the top of the bridge at mile 3. *Beep* Mile 3 = 6:13. Last year? 5:49 again. Aw, c'mon. But here's a few things that I was aware of but never seemed to process. First of all, at this pace I would've expected more people to be passing me - but since we started up the grade, I believe I ended up with a 'positive pass rate'. Also, there were several people I knew around me and relative to our placings last year I was in better position. Lastly, the thing that should have blown me over was the thing that was blowing me over: the wind. All across the bridge I was getting buffeted around and was actually looking for small groups of runners to draft off of (never really had the opportunity) and yet I never put two and two together while I was running. Like I mentioned in my first couple of paragraphs...I just kept expecting the SAME RESULTS when everything around me was telling me the conditions were obviously different.


That Janis. She's so sly. I don't know how she fools me time after time after time after...

As I stop the story for minute at mile 3, I have to tell you one thing that has made me chuckle both years. The organizers of this event - the 3rd largest 10k in the US - can not seem to get the mile markers right to save their life. They are not like 5 or 10 feet off; they're like an entire state off. If you go back and read my race report from last year you will read about how a group of us passed mile 2 with a 5:00 mile. We all laughed out load at how that was the 'fastest mile we've ever done in a 10k'. Of course the clock and marker were way short. This year, mile 2 was right where it was supposed to be. But mile 3? Let's just say that I once again clocked a 5:00 mile. I mean really. How hard is it to get these things in the right place? Absolute hilarity. Oh yeah, and one more funny thing as we approached their mile 3. I watched as one runner just ahead of me refused to move over even the slightest bit to let another runner fit between himself and the race clock on the side of the bridge. I totally winced as the passing runner double-stepped back behind the other runner at the last instant and missed hitting the clock by millimeters.

Mile 4. Hell yeah - all downhill. Since I get to keep the same heartrate going down that I held going up this is the part where we see some fireworks. But it was more like a firecracker. Last year I flew down the hill at a 5:07 pace (and that was a 'real' mile) and picked people off left and right. This year, it was like running through peanut butter...another 21 seconds slower than last year. But my brain was thrilled that I was not having any heartrate problems and so on I pushed; still seeming to make up ground on other runners. At the bottom of the bridge I took up my heartraet to it's highest zone and I passed Tom Mather whom I had beaten by just a few seconds last year at this race - but who had beaten me by about 40 seconds last month at the Reedy River 10k. Another decent sign for me.


An actual race photo! Just a few yards away from the finish line - I felt dead, and yet adding an extra 8 miles on afterwards in preparation for the Boston Marathon went extremely well.

Miles 5 and 6 were now spent in the pain zone. I was amazed to see mile 5 was only 5 seconds off of last year. We were back out of the wind now and I STILL hadn't put it together yet. Halfway through mile 6 I was begging for the final turn to show up. I was at the end of my rope and had nothing left. *Beep* Mile 6 = 5:37. Which year? Both. That's right, my first mile and my last mile were exactly the same as last year. Somewhere in the middle I had lost 1:13 but I was not aware of all that as I shuffled across the line. Getting passed in the last second by a runner who had beaten me by 5 seconds last year. I had even made up time on him. Only after talking to some of the other runners did it finally become apparent that the wind ahd played a large roll in our times today. Most of the faster runners (many of whom did not have the benefit of hiding in the draft of large groups of people) reported a differnce of close to a mintue. Whew. If that's the case, I was looking at only a very slight speed difference from last year. Excellent news.

But my fun was not over. With the "Big Dance" coming up in 2 weeks (Boston Marathon), coach Rick had prescribed an additional 8 miles. After that kind of effort, I had little hope of feeling 'spry' but these 8 miles - which I did by running back and forth down a 1/3-mile section of a closed 6-lane road - turned out to be almost a better thing than the race itself. At what felt like a moderate jog, I averaged a 6:45 pace for another 8 miles. I even ended up running the first couple of those miles with a guy who finished just a few seconds ahead of me. A guy who I did not know but who turned out to also be named Chris (Lowe) and who lives ON the Boston Marathon course. Too cool.

I realized that as I finished my 8 miles, I had to get to the elite bus where my clothes were. And now, the only way to get to the street it was on was to actually jump back into the race for a few blocks and make my way over there. I then had to do it again in order to 'exit' the area. After that, I jogged directly to the Starbuck's a few blocks away where Janis, Ruth and Bob were already enjoying some food and drinks - and a glorious day.

My final placing was 77th overall out of about 37,000 finishers. Last year I was 62nd so that's not really a big statistical diffence. Although this year, One 'uber-runner' showed up at the age of 45 and turned a 31-minute time and change (18th overall). It says he's from New Mexico but his name tells me he grew up in a place where they run from birth. Another 45-year-old beat me by about 40 seconds giving me 3rd this year in my age group. A time and result that I am happy with heading into Boston.

Race Notes:
* Just in case I hadn't said it in a while...thanks to Fleet Feet Sports, Team Kattouf Coaching, Rudy Project, Garmin and Mauldin Chiropractic for your support. You all rock!
* For all the problems they have with placing the mile markers, my Garmin had the course at 6.25 miles both years (a 10k is 6.20 miles).
* While I was running in my 'little' 10k, 3 of my friends were running a trail race (Umstead): Jackie Lafontaine, Mike Pastore and Eric Gelber. Jackie took 10th overall out of 103 finishers in the 50-miler. Mike and Eric both set PR's and finished in the top 25% of the 100-miler by running for just over 20 hours!
* .

Next Up: Boston Marathon...or as I like the call it "the Boston"


Finn thought he owned the place when we got to the hotel...