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I love different races for different reasons - the cool 'pelican' trophy makes this one special - 12/6/2008
Christopher Giordanelli
Simpsonville Weather Forecast, SC (29680)

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.

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