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Janis gets a great shot of the field as almost everyone starts their watches and heads out. My Garmin told an 'all-too-true' tale today as I suffered with allergies - 3/7/2009
Christopher Giordanelli
Simpsonville Weather Forecast, SC (29680)

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.


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.

* 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.


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