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Mile 92 of our epic ride from Greenville to Atlanta. Janis met us in Athens, Georgia for lunch…KFC was the first place we saw (we were famished) - 11/8/2008
Christopher Giordanelli
Simpsonville Weather Forecast, SC (29680)

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.


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!

* 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.


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