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Plenty of fresh fruit stands to pull up to and order a smoothie on the fly - 3/19/2011
Christopher Giordanelli
Simpsonville Weather Forecast, SC (29680)

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


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.

* 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...


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