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Dan Shelby and I take a moment to regain our composure after completing a challenging 5k 'romp' throught the woods - 10/12/2008
Christopher Giordanelli
Simpsonville Weather Forecast, SC (29680)

San Juan 70.3 Race Report

by G-Man 6. April 2011 06:07

Location: San Juan, PR
Date: March 19, 2011
Placing: 24th Amateur, 2nd Master, 2nd 45-49
Format: Half Ironman
Race Photos: My Race Photos
Results: Click Here

Puerto Rico. It's like a whole other country. Or is it? Yeah, I'm pretty good at geography...but not so good at history or politics. Which is to say that I know WHERE Puerto Rico is but I don't know WHAT Puerto Rico is. It's like a yogurt flavor at Baskin Robbins - is it ice cream or not? Does it belong with the other ice creams? Yes and no. And so it is with Puerto Rico. Part America; part not-America. I don't blame them for their dual identity. I mean if someone said to me "Be a part of the US and pay taxes", I'd say no thank you. But "Be part of the US and we'll help you pay for things"...well, you get the idea. So as it stands, Puerto Rico is a US Territory. I just know it's a place to go do an Ironman event. Oh yeah, and they also have a different word for everything...except "ironman". I'm not sure what the word for pain is, but it makes no difference because the facial experession is the same in any language.

Not sure what the translation is for the word pain, but if you show someone this picture they will know what you mean no matter what language they speak.

You may already know that I am not a huge fan of Ironman but they are what I like to call a 'necessary evil' in the world of triathlon but I am trying to help change that by doing 3 Rev3 half-iron races in 2011. M-Dot (Ironman Corp) slipped yet another notch this year by changing something so sacred that it is almost unforgiveable. Don't they realize that even though we are a competitive lot that it actually IS all fun and games? So what is this travesty? OK, I'll tell you but don't blame me if you don't want to sign up for anymore Ironman events.

All of a sudden, you no longer have an open textbox to list your occupation/profession when registering for a race - now it's a dropdpown selection. Can you believe it!?? No more "Shrimpin' Boat Captains" or "Double Agents" or "Gigilos". They robbed me of my chance to be a "Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition Sand Remover". No. From now on I'd be racing against "Salesmen" and "Managers". For the love of God, is it really THAT important that you know exactly what I do for a living that you have to try and take away ALL our fun?! I gave it my best shot; if you look me up in the results you'll see that my profession is "Culinary Arts" which is not far from the truth since I play with my food. While we are on the subject, I really love it when races ask for a "List of Accomplishments". Problem is that they have yet to read what I've written. I don't know; I guess they are expecting me to put down races and times that I've done and not that I was school table tennis champion - or the fastest 10-key touch cashier in San Antonio (you might not remember this but cashiers used to have to actually punch in the prices of items. That was 'round about the time they invented the wheel)...or other 'real' accomplishments. I went to accept an award once and after reading the list of accomplishments of the 2 people that finished ahead of me, they got to my name and were dead silent. Guess which race is NOT on my list of accomplishments. Na-na-na-na-na-naa

The view from Eric's parent's house was like something out of Jurassic Park.

I could write a big book about our trip to Puerto Rico but this is about racing so I'll stick to writing this small book instead. I'll just throw out some observations. A lot of what we ate either fell off a tree in someone's backyard or was raised around the corner. It doesn't get fresher than that. I raced Puerto Rico partially because my good friends Eric and Jackie Lafontaine invited me. Eric grew up on the island and we stayed a few days with his parents in his childhood home deep, deep, deep in the center of the island. Eric's parents were gracious hosts and his mother cooked some amazing meals for us. The staple there is plantains. They are like giant bananas but they treat them like potatoes- they fry them, mash them, put them in stews, and sell Mr. Plantain Head (I made that last one up). You name it. I'm pretty sure McGyver could have escaped from any situation with just his wits and a plantain. San Juan looked like just about any other beach town but away from the beach, it was like buildings had just sprung up in the middle of a jungle. Very cool. Beautifully lush and some interesting rock formations. It was really wierd in that one instant you felt like you were in a foriegn country and the next instant you felt like you were in the US. When we were driving...that was one of the parts that felt like a foriegn country; a foreign country where there are no rules. I loved being able to pull over to a fruit stand and look at all the fresh fruit sitting there and creating my own smoothie on the fly.."...and throw a mango in there, too...". DE-LISH! Of course, I'm not sure how wielding an 18" machette in public would go over in the states...

Is that a machette in your pocket or are you just...slicing up coconuts.

We definitely picked the right race in at least one respect. At the end of 2010, Ironman held an inaugural event in Miami and it was a catastrophe. So much so that they handed out free races to the participants. Well, Puerto Rico is about 100 miles from Miami and you can bet that Ironman was going to make sure that this race over-delivered. And for the most part, it did. Plenty of volunteers and supplies, and a safe course.

One last thing before I get on to the race; the expo. I rarely ever visit the expo at a race because I know that the time in the expo is not as good as time I could be spending doing something else with Janis. Besides, after years of racing, to me they are just one giant store filled with things I can buy around the corner at home. However, they have some redeeming value in that you can find out about upcoming events, grab some free samples of things, or get an item you may have forgotten to bring. But the best reason to visit the expo is entertainment value. I would apologize in advance at the risk that I might offend someone but you know me better than that by now. There is nothing more entertaining than to watch a company convince people that their product will make them faster. They will use every marketing tactic possible...except of course for real research. And triathletes are the worst at buying into it. I had a chance to run through this expo and was hoping to grab a glimpse at what people would be wearing/using in the upcoming season. What would it be? Compression neck braces that increase the flow to the brain so that you believe you can go faster? Maybe special hand paddles that you wear while running so that your hand 'slices' through the air and makes you more aerodynamic. (P.S. I call dibs on that idea).

= Roger, Tri-ship 1...you are cleared for your jump to hyperspace. Prepare your crew by engaging your blue-leg, blowup thingies...=

Here's a bit of an insider tip. Just because a pro uses it or says it is faster, that doesn't make it so. Those people need to make a living you know. I was almost through the expo - distraught that I had come up dry - and then I saw it. Fors real. It can only be explained with a photo (above). I may buy stock in this company because apparently a now-defunct independant labaoratory showed that their product increased blood flow to the legs by 50% in laboratory rats (when compared to the alternate method of slicing your aorta open). And more blood flow = more oxygen. And more oxygen = better looking skin. And better looking skin = better sense of self. And everyone knows better sense of self = faster! I am so gonna get me some!

An awesome early morning shot from the bridge over the lagoon facing the ocean. The majority of the swim occured on the other side of the bridge.

The swim was one of the best venues I've ever been in. It was a lagoon that was actually an inlet right off the ocean. Picture the lagoon from Gilligan's Island...and then think of the opposite. Large rocks at the mouth of the inlet broke the incoming waves and the chop was minimal - only a bit rough the final 100 meters or so during the race. For a good portion of the swim you could see the sandy, seaweed-speckled bottom as close as 8 feet down through the crystal clear water. It was a point-to-point swim but just made a giant rectangle that started on one side of the lagoon and finished a couple hundred yards away on the other side. Spectators watched from the bridge that we swam under. I'm not sure who decided what the temperature limit was for legal wetsuit use but undoubtedly they had 'thicker skin' and a higher heartrate than this ex-Texas boy who was transplanted to the frigid North of South Carolina. I was shivering almost uncontrollably when I got in and I think they announced the water temp at 150-degrees. That's usually the temperature I use for an ice bath.

The camera may or may not add 10 pounds...but the lack of a wetsuit definitely adds about 4 minutes so I had given Janis a pre-race estimate of 40:00. The gun sounded and I took off at a steady rate; always remembering how I used to take off way too fast and end up hyper-ventilating. It seemed like any other swim - with the same scenery stroke after stroke. With the half-iron races using a wave start, it is soooo much better with respect to getting banged around. I only had a couple of times where I had to 'deal' with people who were doing their best to help me out by swimming in circles. About 2/3 of the way through my swim, the 'pink caps' caught me and I swear the first one by me had an outboard motor. Seriously. She was swimming above the water and creating a 1-foot high wake in her...well, wake. I made a mental note to do the same to her on the bike; whoever she was.

The final hundred meters to the 'swim out ramp' were a bit choppy but manageable. Swimming under the bridge (which was pretty low to the water) was actually cool.

I exited the water onto the ramp and after the volunteers helped me down the steps I glanced at my watch to see 40:05. Officially, it was 39:54 out of the water. How's that for predicting your time? But it gets better later. I began the run to the first transition by first passing the shoe monument. This is where hundreds of pairs of shoes were left by athletes so they wouldn't have to run to Miami barefoot. Oh yes, it was almost to Miami. It's a toss up between this race and the Mountaineer Half Iron event as to which one had the longer run to T1. I believe this one was worse because it was on roads and not sidewalk. So no, I didn't stop for lunch during my 4:09 first transition. My feet handled it without problem and as a matter of fact, for the first time I can remember I felt no diziness at all coming out of the swim. Could it be that all this time it was my wetsuit depriving me of oxygen because it's so tight? Does it really matter; because I'm still gonna wear it every chance I get...

"I'm done taking my bath, mom...can I go ride my bike now?"

It never gets old telling people how far back I was after the swim. It's like guys saying 'pull my finger'. Although some day I would prefer the joke be "I was first out of the water". I was 53rd in my age group after the swim - 14 minutes behind the 45+ leader. As I finally mounted my steed, I wondered if hopping on a bike would ever feel strange to me. It's as natural as walking, eating ice cream, or over-using punctuation!!!?? Today I felt especially spry as I jetted away and yet found it easy to throttle my effort to keep the heartrate where I was supposed to. I had told Janis that I was looking for a 2:15 bike. Adding in 5 minutes for the transitions would mean that I would be running by 3 hours and should break my ever-present, self-imposed 4:30 standard for the day. The course started out pretty hilly; mainly due to highway overpasses. As it flattened out and we headed along next to the coastline I could feel that I was flying even though the wind was whipping around me. I got to thinking that I must have the tailwind right now and hoped that the headwind would not be too torturous. For about the millionth time, I wondered why people were not smart enough to take advantage of things like taking the shortest line around a curve or riding really close to retianing walls that helped to block the wind. Or finding the lowest part of the road to also help reduce wind drag. The only reason I even think of these things is because I see other people NOT doing them. It was obvious after a few miles that part of the organizer's attempt to make this a stellar race was to clean the roads impecably - shoulders and all. My kitchen floor wasn't that clean. Wait; scratch that. Janis will probably be reading this (but it was that clean). That was awesome! It allowed me to take advantage of all the things I mentioned above. In addition, I felt comfortable stopping to pick up half-eaten Powerbars that people dropped and finishing them off. No. Not really. They were mostly blueberry-flavored.


Two things to note here..1) What the view from a tropical island looks like and 2) What 26mph on a bike looks like (Photo: FinisherPix)

I passed my friend Jackie (who started in an earlier wave) somewhere around the 25 mile mark. I wanted to slap her on the butt as I passed but then the headline went through my head..."athletes crash during display of sexual harrassment", so I used my better judgement and simply gave her some words of encouragement. I continued on passing people as they were spread pretty evenly out on the course. And then I noticed it. About 2/3 of the way through the bike, my heartrate was dropping - I'd say it's unusual in an event this long but it's actually unusual for the heartrate to be going in that direction at all. In the final 15 or so miles, my speed decreased partially due to the wind but equally due to the fact that I kept finding myself having to forcably pick up my pace (and therefore my heartrate). The bike course doubled back on itself in the middle part but the last 10-12 miles you passed the 'finishers, go right' sign and when I did, I was suddenly alone and only saw 4 or 5 other competitors the rest of the way in. I knew I lost some time the final miles but I was still moving well. I pulled my feet out of my shoes on the final downhill and then braved the final 100 meters which were on a sidewalk with lots of cracks for your wheel to fall into (Janis saw a nasty crash here). I ran into transition and there on the rack for my age group was one lone bike. At this moment, I knew I was in second and I thought confidently to myself that whoever it was would not run faster than me. Later I would find out that my bike split was 2:15:21. Again - how's that for predicting?

Crap! 21 seconds slower than my predicted time. I'll have to remember not to ride with one hand off my handlebars next time...

I slammed my Ensure and ran. As I passed out of the stadium I looked down to see that I was so close to my schedule it was funny: 3:00:30. The run course was as difficult - and awesome - as any course I've ever done. The uphills were ridiculous. Two nasty hills every 3-mile section as we went back and forth through the town of Old San Juan. Ocean vistas, cobbled streets, old spanish fort, it was such a cool run that I wish I had been on a training run instead of a death march. As soon as I started, I felt low on energy but my first mile was uphill and I turned a 7:00 mile...and I didn't really hurt, my body simply felt laxidasical. During the first few miles, the course was nearly empty except for the pros and it was impressive to see the speed that some of them were running - and the grimmaces on some of their faces.

I got to start in a pretty early wave so by the time I got to the run, the first lap was pretty deserted except for the pros. (BTW, heel-striker? Yeah, I think so)

About 2.5 miles in, we ran down, down, down to the water level and ran through the 8-foot wide tunnel in the wall that surrounds Old San Juan. I was directed onto the path they built that followed the jagged edge of the island in the shadow of the fort. The water was lapping up against the rocks just a few feet away. A minute later, I realized that I had not seen a soul since I went through the 'gate'. I got nervous that I was sent the wrong way but kept going. At mile 3 I was still at a 7:00 pace even though I couldn't push very hard. I was good with that. But unfortunately, the miles just got slower from there on out. Shortly after passing mile 3, someone finally came running towards me and he was wearing a number close to mine. Aha! First place in my age group. It was only a few seconds later when I hit the turnaround that I realized he was less than a minute ahead...and I could do nothing about it. I quit looking at my Garmin as both my times and heartrate went up. Amazingly, I ran the following paces for each of the last 3 quarters of the run: 7:32, 7:34, and 7:31. Which goes to show that what was going on with me wasn't normal fatigue. In addition, I never walked once - even up the incredibly steep climb in town (the wheelchair athlete had to go backwards up this climb - an unbeleievable sight). I just had no 'overdrive' today.

Check out that view for about a mile of the run each lap. Well, the bad news is that in about a mile from this point, I will be at a spot about 3 times the height of that wall in the distance (Photo: FinisherPix)

The aid stations were phenomenal. Well stocked with both liquids and sponges and let me tell you folks - they were nice and cold. Nothing tastes better than cold. I had all but given up hope of catching first place and was getting concerned about being caught by third! When I hit the far turnaround again - this time at around mile 10 - I was actually a few seconds closer to him. But still, I had no more power to give. As we went up the long, slow grade in the last mile, I could see him up in the distance. I ran to the turnaround point near the stadium knowing that this time I wouldn't be turning around. I was completely devoid of any energy and in some cruel twist of sadism, the volunteer yelled "last lap, turn left to the finish". I turned left and was greeted by a man-made walking bridge that went about 60 feet up. I could not believe it. I shuffled up it; all the while looking backwards to make sure that nobody was coming behind me and that I didn't have to move any faster than I was already moving. I ran down the other side and the final hundred yards to the finish. My age group winner had finished only 18 seconds ahead of me. 18 seconds. That was the Coke I forgot to drink in the final 3 miles. Ugghhh! It really didn't matter to me because the bigger disappointment was performing well below my capabilities. In over a dozen half-irons, that run was the slowest by 6 minutes - and I've done hotter, hillier courses than that (before anyone goes and starts making excuses on my behalf). It is humbling and hard to be gracious when the guy that just beat you turns and says "you had a good run" when all you want to do is tell him how bad a run you really had. But that is racing and today - he was the better man. You don't win races on what you did yesterday. At the end of the day, it was a 1:37:06 run and a total time of 4:38:04. Not what I planned or had hoped for. Oddly enough, I was correct back in T2; the winner actually did NOT run faster than me...but I was making the conjecture that it would be minutes that seperated us - not seconds.

Not sure I've ever been so glad to see the finish banner..."Yes!". "What? Turn Left? And go over that mountain of a footbridge?! Are you friggin' CRAZY??!!" I guess they got the last laugh because I was crazy enough to do it.

When all was said and done, I reminded myself that I actually do this because I still enjoy it - even if it hurts every once in a while. The trip was fantastic and Janis and I had fun taking another Segway tour (we are already planning one for Boston while we are there for the marathon). And Eric and Jackie are great people to hang out with...especially becuase Eric makes me look so laid back compared to him ;-) It's a good thing we get along because the Giordanelli's and the Lafontaines are headed to Boston together. Should be another great adventure. Oh yeah and I said I do this because I enjoy it but just for the record, I enjoy it more when I win...

Riding off into the sunset...except we're on Segways instead of horses...and it's teh middle of the day instead of sunset; but the idea is the same.

Race Notes:
* As we left the venue after the race and walked back over the lagoon, we saw a huge manatee hanging out where we swam 5 hours earlier. Although I know they are slow-moving, docile creatures I still think it would have scared the crap out of me if I had seen him during the swim.
* I was 24th overall amateur. This race was capped at 1500 entrants as opposed to 2000 or 2500 like most 70.3 events.
* By the numbers:
last year I won my age group in all 4 half-iron events; today I was 2nd.
last year I was in the top 2 amateur bike splits in all 4 half-iron events; today I was 5th. (the worst amateur bike placing in 5 years of tris).
fastest half-iron run? Rock n' Roll Man 2007 - 1:24:04. slowest half-iron run before today? TryCharleston 2010 - 1:32:12. today? 1:37:06.
* Although I didn't see any groups drafting while I was on the course, I did hear a couple of people complaining about it (one was a pro).
* Eric and Jackie both had great races with a 20th and 8th place respectively in their age groups.
* Still managed to qualify for 70.3 Worlds...although not planning to attend at this time.
* Just realized as I was looking up the results that nobody in the 40-44 age group finished ahead of me...making me the 2nd Master.

Next Up: Cooper River Bridge Run and the Boston Marathon

The only person in the world who completely 'gets me'. I'm not saying she has me figured out but she at least knows what to expect ;-)

A huge manatee (are there any other kind?) hanging out in the laggon we swam in a few hours earlier.


Race Report

Green Valley 10-Miler Race Report

by G-Man 25. February 2011 06:29

Location: Greenville, SC
Date: February 12, 2011
Placing: 2nd Overall
Format: 10-mile Running Race
My Race Photos
Results: Click Here

I received quite a few comments on my last race report - apparently everyone was enthralled with the idea of cow-chasing. Nothing nearly as spectacular this time. We had no cow to catch. No, this week - it was a GOAT! OK. Not really. Unless you consider Kevin Mosteller a goat (his ears and chin are kind of 'goatish' but I'll leave it up to you). And by the way, his name is pronounced "Most-stellar". At least that's how I like to pronounce it with the kind of flair that a rap star might put on it. Because, by all accounts...he is "most stellar". He would have made a great training partner for the Boston Marathon this year - if he hadn't been shut out by the registration system. Then again, I'm not really sure he deserved to go in place of others since he ONLY beat his qualifying time by 40 minutes. But as usual, I digress...

Yeah, no - it's not some form of new arctic animal. It is Coach Rick letting us know that it is C-O-O-O-L-D

I've done 4 running races in just over a month and I swear each one has been progressively colder than the one before. I could be like a lot of people and scoff at the idea of "global warming" after 2 of the coldest Winters in a row but I'm smarter than that. I know that something like global warming isn't an overnight phenomenon. Al Gore might just have the last laugh in a few hundred thousand years. In the meantime, I'm afraid to show up for the Reedy River Run in a week for fear of a second ice age.

It was a really sparse turnout this year. At least that's what I thought until I discovered that I somehow got the start time wrong by what seemed like 2 days. I felt so amateur - not only for getting the start time wrong, but also for being 'that guy' who is sitting in his car waiting for them to get registration set up. I mean it's great to be excited about racing but at least give people the illusion that you have a life outside of exercise. Fortuantely, I didn't drag Janis with me today to wallow beside me in my shame.

Scotie and Finn try to help pin my number on...but it's hard enough WITH opposable thumbs

After my failed attempt to nap in my car for an hour or so - which just seemed to make me more tired - I finally got up the energy to brave the just-under-30-degree temps to do about a 2-mile warmup. Amazingly, I actually managed to warm up during my warmup and felt comfortable stripping down to my Kattouf shorts and socks, a long-sleeve shirt under my Fleet Feet singlet, and gloves. I must have looked stunning in my color - and sponsor - coordinated outfit. I was confident that if they had decided at the very last moment that it was too cold to run and that we would be judged solely on our attire, I would podium for sure. Only the cheetah skirt could have elevated me another place or two. But then again, I'm not sure I could pull it off anymore. That was a younger, more svelte G-Man.

Team K pose with Gail Kattouf - who won the women's event, Tom Calamia (yellow cap) - who raced his first 8k, and Coach Rick who is really just a figure head

We all moseyed over to the start line when the announcer started barking over the megaphone (which, if it had been named by the people at Starbuck's would have been caled a 'superhumongargatuanphone'). One of his first announcements was "...I'll say 'runners ready'...and then 'go'" After which he immediately said "Runners ready. GO!". Mmmm, yeah. We totally were not expecting that. Several of us at the front were laughing as we started up the road. Did he just really do that? Kevin Most-stellar immediately starting pulling away from us as the lead group behind him slowly formed. In the first mile, the group is like an amoeba trying to take shape. People catching up; people dropping off; people jumping into the race...what?

Yeah, when we got to the first mile marker I looked around to see that I was in a group of about 7. I was surprised to see some people I hadn't noticed when we first took off including a couple of guys running together. At the time, I didn't think anything of it because I would never have guessed that someone would bandit a race of this size. I mean, maybe if you were trying to help a friend out with pacing but why would you and your buddy just decide to 'crash' a race? It can't be because you're lonely since you are running with your other bandit friend. I hope they didn't take any food or water at the stations becuase *I* paid for that stuff. I'm not necessarily saying that you shouldn't ever bandit a race because who knows if there will ever come a time when I need to bandit a race. Like when...well...an evil mastermind kidnaps my family and tells me that if I don't compete in a running race without paying for it, they will slowly release the poisonous gas into the secret chamber where my family is being held - just below the public library in Gotham City. I'm guessing this is exactly what was happening with the guys who were 'banditing' this race. It would HAVE to be because the only other explanation would be that they were afraid to get beat 'officially'. Oh yes I did.

A couple of seconds sooner and you would have seen the 6 or 7 guys that dropped me here as I kept to my prescribed heart rate. I got them all back...

This event is the perfect event for showcasing how running by HR can be so much more efficient. It is actually almost comical when seen throught the eyes of spectators or competitors. Our group was all together at the end of mile 1 right before an all-uphill mile 2. I had to back down to keep the HR in the right spot and so the rest of the group pulled away by a good 30 yards. Mile 3 was flat/rolling and I caught back up literally as we crossed the mile 3 marker. The next half-mile was a good, steady downhill and in order to keep the HR in line, I had to kick it up. I left the group. By mile 5, it was just me and the two bandit runners trading the lead. Every time the road went down, I left them behind and every time it went up, they caught back up.

At about mile 7.5 I used a good downhill to open up a gap but this time - when I hit mile 8 - I was allowed to take the HR up to maximal effort. I never looked back until the final half mile. There was nobody there. I crossed the line and still...nobody. It wasn't until this moment that I realized that the runners had to be bandits. They must have turned off the course somewhere in the final couple of miles. I crossed the line in 58:50. 2nd place. I told Coach Rick that although I know my first few races of the year were well off of pace because of allergy/asthma issues - I would still be disappointed if I could'nt break a 6:00-mile. I was thrilled to see a 5:53 pace. Just a few weeks ago, I couldn't even break a 6:10 pace on a flat half-marathon. It appears that I am returning to 'normal' although I'm not quite counting my chickens yet.

The money shot. Remembering to press the stop button on the Garmin at the exact moment you cross the line is no small feat

I mentioned how comical it might look racing by HR; slowing down on uphills and racing down the other side. Today I was with the group at mile 1, dropped at mile 2, back with the group at mile 3, and by the end of the race I had put more than a minute on the next closest runner. Comical? Maybe. But the results don't lie. One of the other nice things about running this race is that the course has been the same for many years. And I found it quite interesting to compare my Garmin data to my PR last year.

mile 2010 2011 diff
1 5:44 5:51 7
2 6:05 6:13 8
3 5:49 5:45 -4
4 5:47 5:47 0
5 5:58 5:58 0
6 5:51 5:50 -1
7 5:50 5:58 8
8 5:44 5:48 4
9 5:43 5:49 6
10 5:36 5:36 0
11   10 10
12 58:07 58:45 :38

Fo-shizzle! It's Kevin "Most-Stellar" wearing his cap of eminence

Race Notes:
* Fleet Feet runners took 2nd, 4th and 5th overall.
* I felt good during the race but I was wasted during my cooldown (moreso than usual) and had trouble shuffling through 3 extra miles.

Next Up: the Reedy River 10k and Ironman Puerto Rico 70.3

The only man I trust my legs to...Bob "Magic Fingers" Mancuso

Ruth finally meets Finn. Finn says Ruth is his new BFF

Greenville Downtown 5k Race Report

by G-Man 10. February 2011 02:03

Location: Greenville, SC
Date: January 22, 2011
Placing: 22nd Overall, 2nd Master, 1st 44+
Format: 5k Running Race
My Race Photos
Results: Click Here

My 3rd race in 3 weeks - this time a short, local event that is always fun and oddly enough...always cold. Go figure. I guess we forget that January is during what I like to call "Winter". Just because we have the word 'South' in our state name and 'Green' in our city name we have this belief that it should always be warm. I don't think we are fooling Mother Nature with that one - only ourselves. Of course, it could be worse. We often forget, it can ALWAYS be worse.

I've had a bit of a rougher start this year dealing with some lung issues that I still have trouble believing is 'allergy-induced asthma' - as it has officially been diagnosed. My skepticism derives mainly from the fact that it follows the rules of asthma about as much as 'carrot cake' follows the rules of 'deserts' (carrot cake is clearly a vegetable regardless of how you try to disguise the carrots). I feel more comfortable calling what I have 'alien bio-terrorism'. Anyway, this is the worst my alien bio-terrorism has been in 2 years and it's effects on me are minimal when you look at the big picture. But really, who's looking at the big picture. The total picture is that it makes me slower. Some would say I have no room to complain going from 1:16 half marathons to 1:20 half marathons but I would say I have 4 minutes room to complain...

But all of this is OK. It's OK because it helps to remind me that there are bigger fish to fry in our lives; more important things to focus on than just the second hand of a clock. There are things deep down in our hearts that make us run. Things that transcend winning. Today was not about a 16:45 time - or an award. No. Today was about a bigger goal. A goal from deep down inside me. With my wife Janis by my side at the start, I was there for one thing...and one thing only...to beat the cow.

One cow and you've got dinner. Two cows and you've got a herd

Two lungs, one lung, half a lung - there would be no excuses. Mano y Bovine. Now I have no beef with cows; so to speak. And Janis grew up around Wisconsin dairy farms. But do you know what I love more than cows? Chick-fil-a spicy chicken biscuits. Beat the cow = get free chicken biscuits. It's the kind of math that translates in every language. Let me bring you up to speed...

My friend Ashley - who used to work at Scansource with me and is a runner - now works for the Greenville News as an events coordinator. One of the events she works on is this race. A few weeks before the race she announced through Facebook that the Chick-fil-a cow would not only make an appearance this year but he would be running the race. Then came the real news. Beat the cow - get the goods. I got cocky and thought "that cow better be able to break 17 minutes or he'll be paying the piper and that's no bull". Then my friend started leaking some inside information. The "cow" typically runs a sub-16:00 5k. What?! I began to wonder - how much slower the "cow" will be with all his, uh, cow on.

Holy cow! Let's go "round 'em up" boys...

I started getting worried. I knew I was not at 100% and the last thing I wanted was to get my rump roasted by a cow. Plus I knew there was spicy chicken biscuit on the line. FREE spicy chicken biscuit. Did I mention, FREE? As we lined up, the cow emerged from the crowd and lined up in front of all of us. In the blink of an eye, the announcer mummbled something over the crowd about a head start and "BANG" the cow took off. "What?! Hey, they let the cow go early! That's a load of bull..." I looked around but it looked as if nobody cared. How could that be the case? They must have known about the FREE chicken within their grasps, no? I had no idea how much of a head start they were giving him but as the seconds - no minutes - ticked away, fear took control. When our gun finally went off it was like a stampede; I T-boned two kids and took off like I was possessed by Colonel Sanders. There were people all around me and yet nobody existed. Nobody except for the cow.

Moooooooooooo! ...and we're off

I had memorized my heartrate plan before the race but somewhere around mile one all I could think about was "cow, cow, cow,...". And then there he was. I was closing in on mile 2 when he was spotted. Actually, he was always spotted - but now I could see him. He was moooooving. I used the downhill to my advantage and was really hoofing it. Then I realized he was hoofing it 4 times as much. I made sure not to let him see my pain as I passed...there was so much at steak. I took the bull by the horns and gave a convincing burst.

And there it is. Just seconds ahead of 3rd place Master, Joe Hammond

I looked back only once as I ran down the finishing chute. I thought I herd him coming but victory was mine. I crossed the line in 17:41. It was utter elation. I think they tried to hand me a medal but I'm not sure because my eyes were like lasers fixated on the woman handing out the FREE chicken coupons - or as I call them, the FREE chicken trophies. Like a good competitor, I waited to watch the cow finish in an impressive 20 minutes or so (plus the 3 minute head start). I patted him on the back. I was milking this for all it was worth.

"What's that? Where's your brother? Oh, he's behind me. Why didn't you run? Oh I get it, too CHICKEN"

The victory was even sweeter when I received not one, but TWO free coupons attached to a small, plush, toy cow. Finally, something worthy to replace my 3rd place Ironman trophy. The cow stands majestically on the mantel; an ever-present reminder of the day I slaughtered the cow. Oh yeah, I was also the 2nd overall Master and got a beautiful piece of artwork to hang on the wall. I can't WAIT to get my chicken biscuits!

Biscuits for everyone!...well, by 'everyone' I mean 'everyone that beat the cow'...

Race Notes:
* Only 66 people beat the cow...which is less than the number of people who won awards.
* I continued a sort of one-on-one battle with another local Masters runner - Joe Hammond. I took less than 5 seconds out of Joe today. We had a good cooldown run together.
* My lung issues continue to show themselves in the form of slower times this year so far. Today, I was almost a minute slower than last year. That's nearly 20 seconds per mile. Stop and count to 20; it's a long time.

Next Up: the Green Valley 10-miler

Ed Hughes in his usual flairful fashion; dressed as "Captain Blue Shoes". He beat the cow - and won the 50+ age group

Charleston Half Marathon Race Report

by G-Man 20. January 2011 01:45

Location: Charleston, SC
Date: January 15, 2011
Placing: 17th Overall, 2nd Master, 1st 45+
Format: Half Marathon Running Race
My Race Photos
Results: Click Here
Check the run on Garmin by clicking HERE

Doing good at a race never does anything for me. What I mean is that when I perform 'well' - as defined by the little man inside my brain who is in charge of the G-Man record-keeping and race archive - I really just performed as I had hoped. That sounds great...but what it lacks is an incentive to push harder. It's like humming along with a solid 'B' in your trigonometry class. Yeah, I could just sail through the semester right there in the "comfort zone". 'B' is good, right? But what happens when you have a bad test and it drops you down to almost a 'C'? Or maybe you ace a test and suddenly you are hinging on an 'A'?! Well, if you're like me...you run faster. Scoring a 'B' doesn't drive me. Scoring an 'A' or a 'C'? THAT drives me. Today, I studied hard and I thought I knew the material but alas...a C+ (and no extra credit for style points)

I went into today's race with 'reserved confidence'. It was my second weekend in a row for running a half marathon and I was using my performance last week as my gauge. I used to be that consistent. After all, similar weather and terrain were on the menu (although this race was much closer to the arctic circle - and it felt like it). My time of 1:18:24 last week already seemed a bit slow to me and I figured that this week I would run a 1:17:59 because...well...because once again, the man in my head who does my record-keeping also does my higher math calculations and that's what he came up with. I believe he factored in that most of the point-to-point run would be away from the ocean which would provide a prevailing tailwind and away from the sun which which create a rift between low pressure and high pressure causing lift (vis-a-vie Bernoulli's Law). Personally, I just figured I would be a bit faster because I was a week older and therefore, wiser. OK, really. This event had 3 times as many runners and statistically speaking...3 times...bell-shaped curve...1 standard deviation...carry the 1. I should finish between 7th and 11th on a normal day. (I got a solid 'A' in statistics)

I once again warmed up by running the first mile of the course and back. It was quiet except for the police who were already positioned at their intersections in the center of downtown Charleston. It was actually the prettiest mile out of the 13 and quite serene just 10 minutes before 3,000 people were to come charging through. I saw a woman setting out tables at a small coffee shop and thought about how nice it would be to grab a cup of coffee with Janis...but that would have to wait. I returned to the start line at 0750 hours and met Janis at the drop point for the ritual 'disrobing' and the obligatory 5 minutes of deciding 'do I wear a hat or not'. I opted for not. I knew so many people that were doing this event that I was surprised that I only saw a handful as I mulled around the start line. Entertainment was provided by the start-line crew who were trying desperately to get people to stop crossing the electronic timing mat so that it could be reset.

There was an absence of pre-race fanfare - no Star Spangled Banner or invocations (either that, or I was sleeping; or dreaming of a chocolate milkshake. Sometimes that happens). Out of nowhere, Greenville elite runner Kevin Mosteller popped up next to me (Kevin finished 5th in 1:15:55) and we chatted for a minute or two before we both suddenly snapped back to the realization that they were about to say 'GO'. Kevin and I almost missed the start of the Greer Half Marathon last year for the same reason - discussing all the reasons we might not do well today. It's just something we do.

We all leaned forward in that moment of deafening silence between "runners take your mark" and "GO!". I can always start pretty hard because it takes a couple or minutes to get this engine from a 40 heartrate to 145. At about the quarter mile mark I was actually accidentally in 2nd place. But as soon as I hit the magic 145, I threw it into neutral and slowly watched a group of about 7 runners start to pull away. Near the end of mile one, a runner who had just pulled up beside me threw off his hat. It was a nice-looking hat. And I had pockets. Oh yes, I seriously considered grabbing it but then decided I was here to run and not to shop. That runner left me behind. Oddly enough, I would see him again at mile 12 and finish the race just 3 seconds ahead of him. Funny how that works out.

Not feeling bad early on...just moving a bit slower than expected. And a REAL good day to have my Rudy Project shades on (note the direct sun in the face) (photo courtesy PBC Sports Photography - pbcsportsphotography.com)

First mile was a 5:45. Excellent but I knew it was just me getting up to speed and my plan on this day was to keep a lower HR through mile 4 and then kick it into the next gear. I totally knew the plan. Problem was, I don't think the plan knew the plan. I remember the smell of fresh Brueggar's Bagels as we passed their stor around mile 2. I eat there about twice a week in G'Vegas and as an Italian, fresh bread is like a dessert. For the first time in a long time, I began to get frustrated. First, my mile splits seemed slow. Then on top of that, my Garmin seemed to be marking the miles short again (just like last week). But most importantly, people were still passing me a couple at a time. And I know I shouldn't think this way but the honest truth is it hurts way worse when the assailant is wearing a cotton t-shirt and basketball shorts; or they look older than me; or they're wearing pink compression socks; or they are enjoying a cup of tea; or they exist...

Although my 'easy' HR seemed a bit harder than expected, I was all but ready to jetison the first stage at mile 4 and catch back up to some people. Not gonna happen. I had a serious discussion with my body at mile 5 when my speed increased by only a few seconds. At mile 6, I looked at my watch and blurted out loud "seriously?!". At this point, I knew I was in for a difficult day and that I would be lucky to hold my pace, let alone increase it the final 2 miles. The Yin of it was that I actually had some people in front of me to keep chasing. The Yang of it was I actually had some people in front of me to keep chasing. From mile 6 to 11 I focused on one runner ahead of me. I actually got close enough at one point to reach out and knock him out with a baseball bat...if I had one ;-) He was my saving grace...until we reached mile 11 and he suddenly turned off because he was running the full marathon. Ouch. With 2 miles to go, it was sheer survival. I was now merged with the 10k racers and having people around always helps. At mile 12 I passed the guy from mile 1. The last mile had all these little 'whoop-de-doo' roller coaster bumps and that didn't help at all.

The pain train looms in the distance...metaphorically of course. (photo courtesy PBC Sports Photography - pbcsportsphotography.com)

The pain train was in full swing and with a half-mile to go, I could hear the sounds of the finish line. I focused all my will power on moving the line closer to me. That trick has never worked, but it is still ALWAYS worth trying. I was passed with a quarter-mile left by a 20-year-old that I had left five miles earlier. When I turned down the final hundred yards, insult was added to injuury when I saw the finish clock already past the 1:20 mark. I believe I actually started walking a step or two before the finish line. Done. Cooked. Finished. Twice as hard as last week and 2 minutes slower. If I had run the exact same time as last week, I would have ended up 11th as I had statistically predicted. But apparently nobody was on board today - my plan, statistics, the clock. They all smited me.

We hung around just long enough to get my free shrimp & grits before heading out. I wanted to be sure that my race day didn't interupt Janis' workout plans. She did a 5-mile walk/run all around the Patriot's Point area and I rode her mountain bike alongside her. I highly recommend hopping on a bike after a hard run. It's a trick I learned a long time ago to keep your legs from getting too sore.

I look like a frail child here...which is definitely better than I felt. (photo courtesy PBC Sports Photography - pbcsportsphotography.com)

I still managed to wrangle a top 20 finish (17th) and the 2nd overall Master but the story doesn't end here. I knew that this performance had much less to do with training or racing tactics and a lot more to do with my cursed 'allergy induced asthma'. I talked about a good bit in my race reports from 2010. I've had it pretty much under control for over a year now and it only rears its ugly head every once in a while and usually at shorter events where a more maximal effort is involved. If you read my report from the 2nd week in December you know that I got hit really hard. A couple of weeks later, my pulmonologist told me that a live Christmas tree was a huge no-no for me now. We took it down right after Christmas. During that visit my doctor tested my lungs; something we hadn't done in a year. Then just a couple of days after this race, I went back to the doctor and said that I was still feeling 'off' both at night and during hard exercise. So we performed the test yet again. Here are the results:

Lung capacity readings as a percent of predicted lung capacity (for a normal human male my age)
End of 2009: 144%
Late Dec 2010: 124%
Mid-January 2011: 112%
You don't need to be an 'A' math student to see that something's awry. That's a 22% drop. Doc put me back on some meds that I have been off of for nearly a year. We'll see what happens. But I wouldn't say that all this is a 'ray of sunshine'.

Race Notes:
* Lots of friends in Chucktown and some great performances. But the standout was a 2:57 marathon by my friend Kristi Arledge who decimated the women's field (definition of decimation = 12-minute lead). She was so close to breaking the SC state record for her age group. It is only a matter of time.
* The moment of the day had to be after the race and I asked Janis if she was worried when she didn't see me before an hour and twenty minutes. She looked at me in a 'matter-of-fact' way and simply said "I figured the wheels just fell off".
* It turned out to be a great weekend and we took advantage of the weather. On Sunday, we traded and Janis rode her mountain bike alongside me as I ran over the Bridge and back.

Next Up: the Greenville Downtown 5k - then a few week's break to hopefully get the lungs back to normal

Enjoying an easy bike ride after my race, alongside Janis while she does her workout on a beautiful Charleston day!

Mobile Half Marathon Race Report

by G-Man 18. January 2011 05:59

Location: Mobile, AL
Date: January 9, 2011
Placing: 3rd Overall
Format: Half Marathon Running Race
My Race Photos
Results: Click Here
Check the run on Garmin by clicking HERE

Did any of you ever think that you would ever make it to 2011? I'll never forget back in high school when I thought that the year 2000 was soooo far away. Back then - when I ran laps in PE class with my size 12 feet attached to my scrawny little frame - I would never have guessed that at age 46 I would consider running 13 miles to be 'a fairly short, fun event'. By the way, I offically wear a size 13 running shoe. I often wonder how fast I'd be with a size 7...

Well, I DID in fact make it to 2011 and I kicked off my 31st year of endurance sports with a combination race/family weekend near Mobile, Alabama. Whenever I'm there, I can't help but think about one of my favorite movies and how appropriate for this quote..."That day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run. So I ran to the end of the road. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd run to the end of town. And when I got there, I thought maybe I'd just run across Greenbow County. And I figured, since I run this far, maybe I'd just run across the great state of Alabama. And that's what I did. I ran clear across Alabama. For no particular reason I just kept on going..." - Forrest Gump. As enticing as the idea sounds, I actually stopped when I got to the edge of Mobile and turned back towards the finish line.

Got to start 2011 with a visit to my parents. Hanging out with my dad before the start.

This race was about as low-key as they come. For some people that's a drawback but I've always been a 'low maintenence' racer and I've learned to treasure each race for so many different reasons. The only thing I need is a well-marked, safe course. Don't need mile markers, split clocks, drink stations or a medal...just safe and well-marked. Now that's not to say that these other things were not provided it's just that I've never found myself caring or obsessing over them. Today, I was treasuring the view of some very old Southern architecture, and having my dad there braving the breezy, 40-degree temps to watch me race. I certainly wouldn't have blamed him if he had stayed home with my mom in that weather. I knew the race was low-key when I jogged over to where the map showed the start to be and when I asked someone where the start was, they looked at me and simply pointed to a piece of duct tape across the road right where I stood. No big banner or platforms of any kind. Just a piece of tape.

As sort of a well-thought-out ritual I've developed, I warmed up by jogging the first mile and back. The most noticeable thing was the 5 billion police officers and their vehicles. The event may have been low-key, but the police force (and promoter) took it seriously and I was impressed by that. I felt at ease during my warmup and tried not to think too hard about the extra 5 pounds I was carrying or how my training times didn't quite seem 'up to snuff' when compared to last year or some of my December allergy issues...but obviously, all those things tend to creep in. As it usually is at the first long race of the year, I had no idea what to expect. On paper, it would appear that I would run somewhere between 1:15 and 1:20 and that's what I told Coach Rick and my wife. I told them "If I'm any slower than that, then I'll be slower".

As we assembled at the start, they had a couple of local dignitaries around as well as 4 girls dressed in full antibellum attire. A nice touch. I handed Janis my warmups as we listened to the world's slowest version of the Star Spangled Banner playing on a CD player (think low-key). It was funny for a moment when the announcer started talking and then suddenly the next song on the CD started playing. One of my favorite times in a race is standing on the start line. As I look around at all the competitors I try to determine how fast everyone is and/or what their situation is. I can only imagine that people do the same thing with me. The beauty of this sport - and life in general - is that you really can NOT judge a book by its cover. I often think of myself as a prime example. I imagine someone talking to their friend and saying "hey look at the old guy lined up on the front row...we'd better stay clear of him..."

Off we go! The guy in the green outfit near the front ran this race like I USED to; way to fast at the start. I caught him at mile 3 and beat him by 5 minutes.

I realized the instant the gun sounded - or rather the recording of a gun sounding ;-) - that I had forgotten to grab my gels. Fortunately, I had plenty of calories for breakfast but I still hated forgetting them. ALWAYS be prepared with your own calories. Dependency is something I hate to have. We took off down the wide-open 5-lane road. 507 of us. It instantly reminded me of a bike race as I noticed 2 distinct lines forming - myself and the guy in front of me about 10 feet from the left curb - and another line of runners 20 feet to my right. From above it had to look like a person dragging a heavy tarp. We were his right hand pulling and they were his left. Of course, since I had pre-run the first mile, I knew we were making a left turn and that made my start position a much wiser choice. The two runners on the far right who were seperating themselves from the pack at a high rate, had to cross all 5 lanes to make the left. I took the shortest route.

As we approached mile 1, the two leaders were already an estimated 30 seconds ahead of me. 3rd place was about 15 seconds ahead and I was next in 4th, with another runner breathing down my neck. I kept close watch on my heartrate and felt almost caged as I crossed mile 1 in 5:59. Mile 2 is a mystery that I will probably never solve as much as I have tried. I kept the same HR as mile 1 and I slowly gained on 3rd place and even seperated myself from 4th. Yet when I hit mile 2, my Garmin reported a surprising slow '6:17'. Basically 20 seconds slower than all my other miles and the only 6:00+ mile. I had some intial concern but thought to myself that the pace was not important - the reality was that I was gaining position and so I shrugged it off.

In the middle of mile 3, I pulled alongside of the 3rd place runner. He looked so hauntingly familiar that I felt compelled to ask him some questions. I hope this didn't put him off but he really did look THAT familiar. When I failed to make a connection after 3 or 4 questions, I decided to quit playing 'What's My Line'...and pulled away. I was looking forward to seeing Janis and my dad near mile 5 and I breezed through in 3rd with a comfortable smile on my face. From this point on, it was like hundreds of other runs I've done. I think I'm going to rename no-man's land to "G-Man's Land" because quite frankly, that's where I live. I would not see another running sole in front of or behind me the rest of the race. I was scheduled to keep the HR on the level from mile 3 through 9 and I was as steady as you could imagine. My mile splits were all within about 5 seconds of each other. I had a good bit to keep me entertained as I would wave and comment to the occasional spectator and always made sure to thank the volunteers.

I first noticed at mile 3 that the mile marker was a bit farther than my Garmin was reporting. As the miles clicked away, it very steadily got worse. I kept thinking that at some point the mile markers would come close to getting back in line with my Garmin but they never did. By the time my Garmin 'beeped' mile 9, I still had another 20 seconds to run to hit their mile marker. I was feeling pretty comfortable and my pace was consistently good (based on my Garmin - not the mile markers) so I decided on some judicious complacancy and waited until mile 10 before I kicked up the HR for the final time. I was dismayed to once again find my heartrate unwilling to break the 150 mark. This is the same thing that has plagued me in the past at the most unpredictable times (see my last race report). I felt comfortable at 148 beats but a simple gain of 3 beats per minute felt like a leap across the Grand Canyon. Beyond explanation. The only saving grace is that in a long race, I don't get above 150 that much. In a 5k or 10k, I'm supposed to be there the entire race. In my 5k race a month ago, my minimum HR was 151 and it felt fine.

I did my best to push into the direct headwind the final 3 miles but was never able to get above 152 HR before the final 100 yards. One of the funniest things in the final 3 miles was when I was running towards one of the many manned intersections. The police officer had gotten out his car as I approached to make sure and hold traffic. I was running in the right lane of a 4-lane road and it was coned off but for some reason, the cop was standing almost in the middle of my lane and I had to move over to squeeze by him. Just before I passed he gave me the "Yeah - you are kicking it!" sign with his hands...which turns out looks just like the "Hey - you're supposed to turn here" sign. Seconds after I ran right past him, he turned and shouted that I missed the turn. Too funny. I had been so good about watching the giant arrows on the ground up until now. But I never saw this one because I was so distracted with what he was doing. I'm sure this error cost me a full 10 minutes. Or maybe 4 seconds; whichever story you want to believe.

Even though it was a bit slower than I had hoped, I crossed the line feeling good and not over-exerted. Maybe that's because today, I was 'Rick' Giordanelli

As I sprinted through to the finishing chute, the announcer yelled "...and here comes our 3rd place finisher...Rick Giordanelli racing for Fleet Feet" I almost bust out laughing as I could hear my dad yelling up at him "It's Chris...CHRIS". My Garmin read 1:18:20 and the official clock read 1:18:24. More importantly, my Garmin read 13.23 miles. It may not sound like a large disparity from the mandated 13.1 but the math says it was an additional 45 seconds. That's like an eternity when you are scrutinizing your finish time. It was almost 2 minutes off of my personal record but still fast enough for me on this day. The top 4 runners would each be seperated by about 5 minutes which I found to be pretty unusual even at a smaller event.

Since I was visiting my family (and it was still quite chilly out), we didn't hang around long after I finished. Well, that AND my mom was at home making waffles. Oh yeah!

Race Notes:
* Not much else to say about the race - except that I'm hoping they mail me my award as they promised (I'm still waiting for my award from a race I did 3 years ago). Hopefully, it will be something unique - those are the ones I really like.
* The REAL news was the trip home. Anybody in the Atlanta/South Carolina area knows what I am talking about. We tried to drive back from Mobile to Greenville the day after the worst snow/ice storm in years. We ended up stopping in Atlanta for the night - where the roads were like giant sheets of ice. We were pretty lucky to make it home the next day considering the conditions!

Next Up: Charleston Half Marathon and then the Greenville Downtown 5k.

Not one thing to do with the half marathon, but it is probably the only time you will ever see Janis in sparkly high heels.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention that my dad is a huge Jets fan (that's a Jets hat). It was a good weekend for me AND the Jets.

National Cross-Country Championships Race Report

by G-Man 21. December 2010 02:11

Location: Charlotte, NC
Date: December 11, 2010
Placing: 38th - 45+
Format: 10k Off-Road Running Race
My Race Photos
Results: Click Here
Check the run on Garmin by clicking HERE

I'll just start by saying that this race was so good that I almost wish it had happened smack dab in the middle of my season rather than when I was just taking the legs for their first few test drives. Not that I would have placed so much better that this would have been a heroic tale...I mean this race was chock full of reasons for me NOT to place:
1. It was the national championships. If you were at this race, you are pretty much a 40+-year-old mutant of a runner.
2. It was a relatively short race for me. I don't hold a candle to 'sprinter' guys.
3. I'm just starting my season so although it was a 'big' event, I planned on it being a fun adventure with my Greenville Track Club teammates.
It was also my first cross-country (off-road) race ever. However, I didn't take this as something that would effect my time or placing much (although a good number of my teammates seemed to think that we were likely to lose a few seconds over the course due to 'slippage'). For these reasons, I set a hard - but deliverable - goal for myself. No expectations of greatness here. My expectation was to run around a 35:30; a little over twice my 5k time from last week. But there were 2 things I had not counted on that took me by surprise. And it was these 2 things that turned a good race south...

You ever hear that expression "trying to fit a square peg in a round hole"? Well, that was surprise number one. The original field estimate of 250 runners came closer to 400 on race day. Sure, I've done races with 25,000 people before but in those events you are usually seeded into corrals and the road is pretty wide and if someone bumps you a bit, you don't have to worry about face-planting into a tree. Even on paper, most engineers would wince. You see, all 400 of us lined up in large, open field on a single start line that was about 100 meters wide. We stood there - in our assigned team start box - about 2 or 3 rows deep. At the sound of the pistol, we had about 150 meters to squeeze down to the width of about a single car lane. You do the math. Sounds like a magic trick, doesn't it. I'm told that this is how cross-country races are run. At first I thought it was some kind of joke. Who knew?

The gun went off and it must have been quite a sight. Picture the Battle of Stirling from Braveheart..."They may take our lives, but they will never take our FREEDOM!". Majestically and with radiating vigor we took off crossing the field. Now cross that with a typical scene this time of year. Every last one of us trying to be the first one through the doors of WalMart the morning after Thanksgiving. "BAAAAAAAHHHHH". Sorry...still having flashbacks. Oh, the horror. I was about two-thirds of the way to the dirt path when I heard a quick smathering of curse words and I glanced over for only a fraction of an instant (so as not to crash myself) and what I saw in that moment looked like a group of Muppets flying through the air. My teammate Joe Hammond who was still just two steps ahead of me glanced back and shined me a look like he was running for his life.

Look closely. I'm sandwiched right in the middle at mile 1 and this was after the trail opened up a bit!

Through the grace of God, I somehow made it. After about 3 seconds of celebrating, I snapped back to reality and was astonished that hardly a single person looked strained running their first mile in the low to mid 5-minute range. In most 10k's that don't include professional runners, I would already be in the top 20 runners at this pace. Wow. For the first couple of minutes it was like my senses were being bashed in. All I could do was think about someone running into the back of me with my sideways 'cerebral palsey' stride. But then it suddenly all came back to me. I had done this for 25 years of my life. This was bike racing. I quickly remembered how to relax in a pack and take advantage of holes between athletes. That was the last time I worried about the volume of runners because I suddenly had bigger fish to fry.

As soon as my brain caught up to my situation, I thought "Holy Cow, it feels like we are running a 5-minute mile". I glanced at my Garmin and expected to see 160 heartrate. Instead, what I saw was 150 AND I felt pegged. Not good. Not good at all. I immediately tried to resist the thought that today was going to be one of those "asthma" days. It didn't matter how much I resisted - my body said, "sorry, Chris". I've termed them "asthma" days because I don't know what else to call them. It is likely to assume that they are somehow based on my asthma because that's about the only logical explanation. As I've written before it means that my maximum heartrate is slashed by 10 or 15 beats (which is huge) and the relative effort level follows with it. To put it in perspective...I raced 3.1 miles last week with the following average heartrates each mile: 150, 154, 157. I maxed out at 163 at the finish. My first mile was a 5:30 and it hardly felt like I was working. Today, my first mile was 5:39 at an average heartrate of 151 and it felt like I was going to die.

I look a lot more strained than the other runners at the halfway point. Moments later, my teammate Joe Hammond (left)...left.

Oddly enough, my plan had me running the first 2 miles at a 151 heartrate - and that's where I was. The problem was that I could not even imagine kicking it higher at miles 3 and 5. Even if I could've done something about it by backing down...I really couldn't. You see, at mile marker 1 there were probably 30 people within a 10-foot radius of me and we were all hauling ass. If I had backed off for an instant, I chanced getting tripped and trampled. It was like we were all being sucked along in a current. Amazingly at this point, I heard my buddy Joe say something to me. We were still practically side by side. We ended up being good pacers for each other right up until just before the halfway point.

There is no mistaking how much this hurt. The "pain face" says it all.

The group finally thinned for me around the 2-mile mark. This was the point at which I was supposed to kick it up a notch. Instead, the pain was as hard as any race I'd felt in a long time and my heartrate was still sitting between 150 and 152. Pushing through pain is one of the things that makes me a better endurance athlete in the first place. At least that's what I kept telling myself in order to continue. That and the fact that this was a club championships and I didn't want to let my teammates down. At mile 3, I could no longer hang on to Joe's pace. He seemed to be picking it up when in actuality, I had passed my limit and was slowing down.

It was all I could do at mile 5 to look down at my feet and pray for the finish line.

I gave everything I had to stay with a couple of runners that were near me. My last quarter-mile felt like a jog but I was thrilled to be near the end. I was pretty much alone as I hit the last 200 meters until I heard heavy footsteps behind me. I was still about 20 seconds or more from the finish so I bucked it up and put a last ditch effort in. Just enough to keep ahead of whoever was trying to pass me. The jerk was persistent ;-) I kicked it up another notch...and another. Son of a bitch! We were at an all out sprint for nearly 200 meters when I finally had absolutely zero left. Scratch that - I had negative zero left if that was possible. He passed me just before the line and I thought to myself as I began to pass out "man, if you had that much left why the hell didn't you use it out on the course?" Turns out he was in a younger age group anyway.

No lie - the longest sprint I may have ever done on one of the hardest days I've had in a long time. Don't ask what I was thinking because after 30 years, I rarely think - I just do.

36:30 my Garmin read. I didn't even break a 6:00 mile the last 2 miles. My heartrate average was 152 and I was wiped out. Joe had finished in 36:08. I know that if I had been able to run my race, I think I would have pushed him to run harder as well and we both would have broken 36:00. In the 45-49 age group, I finished 38th. Although the individual honors are done in 5-year increments, the team competition is awarded in 10-year increments. This didn't help us much because all of the runners on our 40-49 team were between 45 and 49. No 'youngsters' here. It took me a good while to finally move again after crossing the line and even a cooldown was a strain. I ran mile 6 at close to the pace I intend to run the entire Boston Marathon in April

Regardless of how I ran, it was an awesome race because I haven't had that felling of 'team' in a long time. Joe, myself, Danny Murray and Bob Samms had gone up the night before the race and had a great time hanging out. It was incredibly interesting for me - a guy who grew up bike racing - to hear stories from guys who had been competitve runners their whole lives. Great stories from some fast guys who used to be real fast.

I mentioned at the start that the photographers were awesome at this event and quite honestly, I think my face says it all. As a matter of fact, local elite runner Kevin Mosteller watched our race and cheered for us. After the race I told Kevin about my problems during the race and his response was "Yeah, when I saw you...you didn't look so good"...

Race Notes:
* Well - I actually finished writing this post several days ago and just hadn't had a chance to put it on the website. Since I wrote it, I had my monthly allergy shot. After telling my pulmonologist about my recent problems (which have persisted after the race), she instantly asked me if I had a live Christmas tree in the house. Why yes I did. I put it up right after the Paris Mountain 5k. Duh! Live tree in the house = asthma no-no. Hopefully that clears things up! I'm still leaving it up till Christmas...what's a few more days of breathing a bit heavier?
* I just can't stress how impressive it is to see such incredible athletes in their 40's, 50's and beyond - including my Greenville Track Club teammates. The entire lot of them can outrun just about every 20-something that you know. Take that, Wii game...

Next Up: Mobile Half Marathon in January.

Paris Mountain 5k Race Report

by G-Man 7. December 2010 08:07

Location: Greenville, SC
Date: December 4, 2010
Placing: 3rd Overall
Format: 5k Running Race
My Race Photos
Results: Click Here
Check the run on Garmin by clicking HERE

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!...well, maybe not according to the calendar on your wall but this weekend was the start of my 2011 racing season. That's not entirely true. In an effort to keep things new and fresh, I decided that this year, I would have a "pre-season". All the popular sports are doing it. I figure if I have a pre-season, then I don't have to really be on my game yet. I can always do poorly and then proclaim that I was protecting my "first-stringers" or that I didn't want to show my entire hand prior to the "real" season. Plus it gives me time to juggle my coaching staff (just kidding, RK)

The first of my 2 pre-season races was the Paris Mountain 5k. This is the sidekick race to the prestigious Paris Mountain 20k race - which literally goes up and over The Mountain. It's been a few years since I've done the 20k and I hated having to miss it this year. I had a good number of moderate-length runs in my legs, but my recent ankle injuries at the end of this past season still had me a bit nervous about running down a steep incline for that length of time. It's a shame. Not so much because I thought I might do well, but because I look real funny when I run downhill. No. REAL funny. Take how funny I look when I run on the flats and triple that.

When a race is small, local and inexpensive I usually don't pre-register. From the looks of it, a lot of other people go by the same system. Between the two events, there were over 600 entrants. Quite impressive. I guess maybe word got out that I would be there. I mean, it certainly wasn't for the weather which was a little chillier than expected. To be honest, it really was nearly a perfect temperature to race in; just not so perfect for jogging over to registration, making clothes changes at your car or sunbathing.

There are several things that take the edge off at an early season race and one of those things for me was seeing a lot of my friends that I hadn't seen in a while. It may not have been a super large group of people but it was definitely diverse. Aside from pure runners of all ages and abilities, I spied quite a number of triathletes. My warmup felt somewhat like a speed dating service as I would join up with one friend for a minute or two before parting ways and running into another friend. I probably jogged around in my heavy gear for a good 3 miles or so before returning to my car to 'strip down' to my racing outfit. As the name implies, my warmup had done exactly exactly what it was supposed to do and I didn't feel too bad in shorts, a long-sleeved top under my singlet, and gloves.

I finished my final bit of warmup with fellow Masters runner, Joe Hammond. Several of the Greenville Track Club Masters were out today as a warmup for next weekend's National Cross Country Championships in Charlotte. Joe and Dan Shelby assembled a great group from our club and we're hoping to have a good showing there. Joe is a great runner who just finished 3rd overall at the Spinx Runfest Half Marathon and I hoped that I would be running well enough to give him some competition. I really decided to run this event to make sure I wouldn't embarrass myself next week.

I watched Joe - and several others (myself included) almost fall forward on the front line when the starter said "runner's ready"...and then gave an unusually long pause before declaring "GO!". Quite humorous watching as runners lean forward as if they are about to fall off the edge of the earth. A hundred watches beeped and off we ran. In the first 100 yards we went around a roundabout which was problematic as everyone squeezes to the inside. Even with a smaller group I found myself trapped. Ironically, it was behind Santa Clause who was somehwere in the top ten. This would have been more disturbing had I not known that Santa was actually Ed Hughes - yet another great Masters runner.

A glance or two at my Garmin told me that I was well below my prescribed heartrate and that it was moving up rather slowly. That's a good thing. We finally came out of the huge roundabout and I gently passed the small group that seperated me from 4th place. The runner in first left the start line like he was shot out of a cannon. It was obvious after the first half-mile that this was probably a race for 2nd. I was now in 4th and the sounds behind me diminished. I had reached my heartrate of 151 and was holding it there amazingly steady. Now I can hear just one runner breathing off my shoulder as I close in on 3rd place. That runner was Joe. He came around me and my first thought was "looks like it's gonna be Joe's day". But after he passed me, he settled into nearly the exact same pace.

So it was my turn to spend a few hundred yards behind Joe. He was holding the exact right pace for my heartrate. It was almost as if he was reading my heartrate and adapting. Shortly before the 1-mile mark, we passed 3rd place and the two of us came shoulder to shoulder. We would run that way for the next mile and a quarter. We had passed mile 1 at 5:30 and neither of us was flinching. At the start of mile 3, we hit a short, steep hill and I was thinking that Joe might punch it here. Instead, he and I stayed as steady as ever as we tempoed up the climb. We hit the top and surprisingly, that's when it all "went down".

The "Windmill". That's what it's come to be known as. I think it started years ago when I would do the Fleet Feet night runs. I found I had this knack for being able to 'let my body go' on the downhills. I always surmised that it came from my cycling. The heavy pounding that downhill running does to your legs doesn't seem to bother me much after years of cycling. And of course, the only way to really let your legs go - is to let your arms go. Ergo...the "Windmill". It's not a pretty thing to watch and at times it can be quite scary, but who wouldn't look a little like a dork just to move up one place in a race?

I put the windmill in full swing down the other side of the hill and put a gap on Joe of several seconds. I didn't realize how many seconds I had gained at first and thought he might run right back up to me, but I couldn't even hear him so I just kept the pressure on. I was in the final mile now and allowed to take my heartrate up to 158. It was an effort (as it should be). I never thought of looking back, I mean after all if I am running at the correct heartrate what good is it going to do to look back with that much time left in the race? Either he is catching me or he isn't. Having said that, I most certainly looked back as I approached the finish because once you are within sprinting distance of the banner, all bets are off.

I was glad to not see Joe out of the corner of my eye but knowing that Joe is a great sprinter I wasn't going to be comfortable until that peice of tape on the ground was behind me. 3rd Overall. 17:36. Pretty far from a PR but a worthy time considering my circumstances. The real blooper of the day is what happened immediately after I crossed the line. I walked around for a few seconds, bent over and caught my breath (by the way, no hacking! Looks good for the asthma). When I finally turned back around, there was the next place runner handing over their timing chip. No, it wasn't Joe. It was Kevin Mosteller. A sub-2:40 marathoner and typically a leader at events like this. As soon as I saw him the realization set in that he was not in front at the start - even though we saw each other before the event.

It turns out that Kevin - who had been at the race site since around 5am because he was the co-director of the race - had forgotten his running stuff!! He raced back home. Parked about a half-mile from the start and literally ran up to the back of all 300+ participants as we took off. He had spent the better part of 2 miles finally weaving through the masses and then focused on Joe and I. He finally passed Joe in the finishing straight and finished just 4 seconds behind me. Wheeew! I thanked him for giving me 3rd place today and we had a good laugh about it. I was really hoping to train for the Boston Marathon with Kevin since we are only a few minutes apart on our marathon times, but the fiasco that was the Boston registration this year kept him out of the race. BUmmer for him AND me! Just one more year and Kevin will enter the ranks of Masters running.

A great "pre-season" run for me and I'm as excited as ever to race this year. I've always fought the idea of comparing myself to "other old people" instead of just everyone, but I'm starting to relax that just a bit. Oh, I'm still all about competing with the young guns but now it's more of a self-actualization for me. I hear myself saying to myself "can you believe a 46-year-old can do that?" Sometimes even I have trouble fathoming it.

Race Notes:
* Team Fleet Feet teammates Jon Stoehr and Brandon Southern took 2nd and 10th respectively in the 20k.
* Greenville Track Club Masters runners that will be racing in the National Championships next week took 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th in the 5k. In addition, Ed Hughes (also participating next week) finished 14th dresses as Santa Clause.
* Keith Brown - a friend and co-worker who only recently got into being active - was the lead cyclist for our race. We might have spent some of the day together had it not been for the speed demon winner.
* No "team photos" today. My "team photographer" slept in. I don't blame her one bit.

Next Up: Masters (and Club) National Cross Country Championships. After that, a barrage of running events in January including 2 half marathons.

2010 Year in Review

by G-Man 5. November 2010 02:48

What a season. A great year not only in the fact that I performed well but also that I had a 'renewed' enjoyment in racing and training that seemed to be slipping away. I also reconnected with a few old friends and took advantage of some new challenges.


My official season each year starts on Thanksgiving "AT" (after turkey) and runs until I run out of gas physically or I start acting like a 2-year-old; which is how I act after racing and training without a break for long periods. 2010 was my 30th year in endurance sports and I can honestly say that no two seasons are ever the same and this one was no different...in the fact that it was different, I mean. For starters, the weather was very uncooperative. First we start out with a very cold and wet Winter which had me riding outside less than any Winter I can ever remember. And then we have the hottest Summer in something like 1000 years. I couldn't escape it. Connecticut, Wisconsin...didn't matter. Every race felt like the surface of the sun.

I also had a real, identifiable injury this year. It was a stress reaction - turned tendonitis - in my right ankle. I ran several races on it before stopping 2/3 of the way through the season to let it heal. It definitely affected some races but it was more of a shame in that it caused me to miss a handful events but it wasn't too discouraging since I had already squeezed pretty much an entire season into 6 months. So I was out of running commission for 8 weeks and off the race grid for two and a half months. I hung on just long enough to get one last race in on October 2nd and it was worth it.

On the other side of the health coin, I have my allergy-induced asthma under control. My asthma affected me in just 3 events this year and not nearly as bad as last year when I huffed and I puffed and I could blow a paper house down. My asthma doesn't present itself in a typical manner (wheezing, etc.); it's taken me a couple of years to figure out that my asthma does something to my body that won't allow my heartrate to go as high as normal. And since 'normal' is only slightly faster than 'dead', that's not a good thing. I had one small event where worlds collided and I dealt with both my foot injury and my asthma - the Sunrise 8k Run right here in my backyard. A dismal performance in this race kept me from saying that I was the fastest 45+ athlete in every event I did this year. Bummer.

The most important change this year was TeamKattouf. My idea to hire a coach last Fall was probably triggered by my aforementioned 'slipping away of enjoyment'. Training is hard; real hard if you do it the way I was doing it. And I wasn't sure I could - or would - be able to continue pushing. So I decided that I would hire someone else to tell me what to do (for most husbands that role is already taken...but not me). I figured that way I would have someone other than myself to blame when my old and tired body got slower. Boy, did that come back to bite me in the arse. Now I'm just blaming myself for 29 years WITHOUT a coach.

There are a handful of good multi-sport coaches in our community but I was attracted to Rick Kattouf. Maybe it was his bald head or Mediterranean descent but I'd like to think it was his coaching approach and attitude. Talking to Rick makes you want to just stand up and go run 10 miles...which is why I still have to limit our face to face communications. I know every one of the other coaches in town personally and they all have something to offer. But Rick had the exact combination of things I was looking for. I could go on about Rick but he will be reading this and I don't need to feed his ego; I do enough of that by performing well (he is such a proud papa, at times I think he actually beleives he gave birth to me). If you have any questions about coaching and/or Rick, shoot me an email.

Rick shared a lot of the same 'theories' and training ideas that I had, but they say the devil is in the details and nothing could be truer about how he changed my training. I can honestly say that I was pretty skeptical at first and almost expected the plan to fail - produce nothing better than I could do myself - but that was OK because after 30 years, I had nothing to lose and a whole new person to blame. So I made sure that I followed his plan to a T. I didn't want him to tell me that I failed miserably because I ran an extra mile 5 weeks before my race. Well, first of all he would never do that. And second of all, the joke was on me.

By the numbers

This season I completed 15 events. My orginal calendar had 20 events on it. I also made one 'exchange'; dropping one national championship (Masters National Marathon) for another (Long Course Triathlon Nationals) because of my foot injury. Here was the breakdown:
9 running races
5 triathlons (one of which was turned into a duathlon becuase of e. coli levels in the water)
1 swim race
Yes, I was so race-starved during my ankle injury that I competed in my first ever open-water swim race. However, you won't find this event listed under my accolades for the year even though it was a top-10 finish (I am bound by my good conscience to tell you there were 7 people in my race).My 2010 schedule took me to 5 states (SC, NC, TX, WI, CT)

2010 Goals

Let's see how I did on my 2010 goals:
1) Top 3 AG - Masters National Marathon Championship. Well, this was a big one for me. I like to try and put a marathon on the calendar each year to keep me well-rounded and this was my year to try and break 2:40. My ankle had other plans and I had to cancel this race.
2) AG wins @ all 4 half-iron events. My goal here was two-fold. I wanted to compete in 4 half-iron distance events for the 3 largest triathlon production companies and try to best the field at each one. The challenge took a turn near the end of the season and saw me completing 4 events from 4 different companies. I successfully won my age group in all 4 events and kicked a lot of younger booty while I was at it.
3) Lower swim times. Successfully moved from being consistently right at the 50 percentile in my half-iron swims in the past years to being at the 30-40 percentile this year. Not a huge move but to put things in perspective, a 2-minute time gain in a half-iron will usually move me up several places.
4) Maintain bike times. Maintain them? Hell, I dropped them! I have been concerned as I get older that my bike splits will plummet. Considering my cycling background and how fast I have been during my multi-sport tenure, it seems inevitable that my bike HAS to slow down. Especially when you consider that cycling is the 'power' sport of the three and research shows a decline in muscle as we age. I'm not gonna argue with them but I'm not just going to believe them either.
5) Do at least 5 new races. This is simply to enjoy the thing I enjoy the most with multi-sport: variety. 9 of my races this year were events I had never done.
6) Enjoy myself and try to get Janis to enjoy it too. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed my season so much. As for Janis...I think she liked all the 'exotic' places I took her to. She even had her sister around for 2 of my half-iron events to keep her company.

I liked these goals so much this year, I may keep them around for 2011.


When I was a bike racer I raced on several teams throughout the years. It was pretty typical to have a dozen or more sponsors. These days, I rely on a few key sponsors that are important to me. My list of sponsors now includes people/companies that 'give' me more than just something of monetary value...you can't buy this kind of support.

I've already mentioned TeamKattouf and my coach Rick. What I didn't mention was that shortly after I approached Rick to coach me, he turned the tables and asked me to race for him. Our relationship is not give and take...it's give and give. I really don't feel like I have to sell Rick's coaching - just literally look at the results of any of his athletes.

Fleet Feet is unbeleivably supportive of my running. A relationship that started years ago has become 'bulletproof' to outsiders. Sponsored or not, I've been running for Fleet Feet since the first day I said, "Hey, I wonder if I'd be any good at running". Sure there are other running stores, but I'd rather have a "running family".

Before there was TeamKattouf or Fleet Feet, there was Rudy Project. I've been a Rudy athlete for more than half my endurance 'career'. Those helmets and glasses have seen some fast times.

Matt Eiken at Mauldin Chiropractic found me one day and asked me if I wouldn't mind trading some chiropractic services for some triathlon training advice. We've been friends ever since. My back is feeling great and Matt just finished his first 70.3 event (Branson - arguably the toughest 70.3 out there). He's desperately trying to convince me to do Ironman Switzerland 70.3 with him next year ;-)

Then there is my wife, Janis. Lord knows how she puts up with it but she does. I'm not just saying this because people expect me to. Since we have been married, Janis has been more than just supportive, she's interested. She knows more about bike equipment, run training, race nutrition and anything else triathlon related than most triathletes because she cares enough to make it her business. I train when I want; I race when I want. She doesn't "let" me do anything because that implies I have to ask her permission - I don't. And for this reason, I never push the envelope of reason. I take responsibility. I think of her when I pick events or set up my training weeks. It's what best friends do.

Of course nobody "does" a triathlon alone. Aside from sponsors there are your trustworthy family and friends. The only thing more fun than racing is cheering your friends on.

Lastly, there's my list of people and companies who in some way have helped me out this season. People and companies who may one day be on my sponsors list or may have been on the list at one time and I just can't seem to remove them...Garmin, Hincapie Sportswear, Erin Bakers Breakfast Cookies and Blue Ridge Sports Therapy and Massage. Just plain "good people" who go above and beyond. All of the 'triathlon' shops in town have helpoed me out at one time or another as well - Go Tri Sports, Carolina Triathlon and Ride On. As has Sunshine Cycles.

Top 5 moments of 2010 Season

In no particular order, here are my top five favorite race moments of the year...
1) Ironman Racine 70.3 bike segment - This easily made the top 5 for multiple reasons. For starters, I was expecting to see packs of riders drafting on the course and was pleasantly surprised at how everyone seemed to be playing fair. I also remember my not-so-friendly banter with the 2nd place rider in my age group as I passed him. Most of all, I remember myself doing the math in my head the last 10 miles. I couldn't believe I was averaging nearly 26 mph and was riding into the finish with little effort. My 2:11 bike split was the 2nd fastest amateur and only 5 minutes off of 2-time Ironman World Champion, Craig Alexander.
2) Last mile of Downtown 5k. My second race of the year. Normally, since a 5k is so short I would take off at rocket speed and then just try to hang on to the end. But today, my new coach had me start off much easier. People were running past me left and right. I couldn't believe I let him talk me into this. When I hit the mile 2 marker and had one mile left. I had an epiphany. I threw my legs into overdrive. At that moment, I realized Rick knew what he was talking about. It was the easiest 5k I had ever done and I PR'd by 20 seconds.
3) Awards at Rev3. With the trend that Ironman Corporation has set, I wondered if the efforts of elite amateurs would always go 'unnoticed'. I felt I was destined to be 'overplayed' by a guy who used to weigh 400 lbs and was now completing his first triathlon. Sure, his accomplishmet is amazing. But what about my accomplishment? I spent my entire life caring about my body, caring about not inconveniencing others. I guess there's no award for people who chose to do it right the first time. When I walked up to take my award at the Rev3 Quassy event. I was stunned to see that for my efforts I got a free pair of running shoes, $150 Canondale gift certificate, a nice award, free intry into another event and points towards winning cash at their race series. Thank you, Rev3. You will be seeing more of me.
4) Greer Half Marathon finish. A small race but vitally important. besides being the state half-marathon championships, it was yet another eye-opener. A PR on a course like this? A sub-1:16 is not only possible in 2011, it is inevitable.
5) Passing riders like a machine during the USAT Long Course National Championships (aka Halfmax National Championships). After just recently setting an unbelievable bike course PR at Racine 70.3 I let my mind believe that a 2:11 was the new standard...and I went and turned a 2:09. In my race report, I rememebered one fond moment where I cut inside a group of riders and whipped through a turnaround only to hear one of them say "Seriously?". Sounded like a challenge to me...
Honorable Mention: It wasn't a competition but 2 weeks ago, my training partner Dan Moss and I completed our 3rd annual ride to Atlanta - a 155-mile journey. With a slight tailwind the last 3 hours and an absolutely gorgeous day, we completed the journey in record time and arrived feeling rejuvenated by the adventure. A 20mph pace for nearly 8 hours. I'd say I felt like I was 25 but how many 25-year-olds can do that?

Worst 5 Moments of 2010 Season

Yeah, it wasn't all pretty in 2010..
1) The Myrtle Beach Half Marathon was to be the crowning jewel to my rash of running PRs. That is until Mother Nature decided to bring snow and ice to the beach. The race was cancelled. 2) My first tri of the year for me was the Paris Mountain Tri - touted as a torturous course. I hyperventilated in the ultra-short swim and basically caused some reaction with my asthma. It was one of the slowest rides over Paris Mountain I have ever done. My HR would not go above 140. It left me thinking that my tri season was doomed.
3) In the first of my 4 half-iron events - the Tri Charleston - I completely ignored my coaches recommendation. I had such a great swim, I got on the bike and ramped it up out of the gate. It was not much different from the way I always raced in the past. I placed fairly well, but the run was miserable and I would later come to believe that if I had followed Rick's plan, I would have cut at least 5 minutes off my finish time. I know this is true because I had 3 half-irons after this to prove it.
4) Sadly, my only 'hometown' race of the year was my worst. This was my 5th year doing the Sunrise 8k Run and after a Spring filled with speedy times, this race saw me battle both with some asthma issues as well as the start of my stress reaction issues. I was minutes off my 'normal' pace.
5) The swim at the Halfmax National Championships was cancelled and the half-iron race became a duathlon. Now most people would expect me to consider this a highlight of the year knowing full well that I am a poor swimmer, but instead I felt like I cheated the good swimmers out of a chance to beat me. It is what it is, but I didn't like having an unfair advantage.
Honorable Mention: With a poor strategy in my first half-iron, and recurring foot problems in my last 3 half-irons I was never able to turn a quality run split at any of my tris this year.

Accolades and PR's of 2010

Long Course Triathlon National Champion - 45-49 age group
SC State Masters Half Marathon Champion
SC State 45-49 10k Champion
Ironman 70.3 World's Qualifier
5k PR: 16:50
10k PR (twice): 35:05, 34:27
10-mile PR 58:13
Half Marathon PR: 1:16:34
Half-Iron Swim PR: 35:41
Half-Iron Bike PR: 2:09:32 (course marked short), 2:11:21 (on verified course)
Fastest 45+ athlete in 14 of 15 events in 2010 (from 5k runs to half-iron tris)
Bested my age group in 5 big triathlons this year, I expect to place high in the US Rankings


Where do we go from here? Variety is still the key for me. There are only a few reasons I like to do an event multiple times: it's close to home and it makes a good "filler" race; it has some notable accolade (ie state championships); I failed at it the first time; it was immensely fun and/or a lot of my friends are doing it. Outside of that, I want to do different races. Here are some of my preliminary race plans for 2011...
Mobile Half Marathon
Puerto Rico 70.3 (half-iron)
Boston Marathon
American Zofingen (an incredibly challenging duathlon)
Lake Stevens 70.3 (half-iron)
Rev3 South Carolina (half-iron)
Long Course World Championships
San Antonio Half Marathon
Aside from the Boston Marathon, all of these races will be firsts for me. As I mentioned, I'll do some of my usual local events mixed in as well.

Regardless of what your goals were for 2010 (athletic or otherwise), I hope you all reached them. And I hope to see you all out on the road in 2011!


Halfmax Long Course National Championships Race Report

by G-Man 5. October 2010 04:30

Location: Myrtle Beach, SC
Date: October 2, 2010
Placing: 5th Overall, 1st 45-49
Format: 1.2-mile swim/56-mile bike/13.1-mile run
My Race Photos
Commercial Race Photos
Results: Click Here
Check the bike portion of this race by clicking HERE
Check the run portion of this race by clicking HERE

Done. Finished. My 2010 season is on the books. A phenomenal year...but I'll save all of that for my year-end wrap-up. A lot of cool things to write about this year including the subject of this post: the last of my half-iron 'quadrilogy' (is that a word?). This race alone could've been turned into a made-for-TV movie; or better yet a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation where you wind up all emotional at the end and wondering "what just happened?" By the way, I would be played by Tom Hanks.

Keeping track of all the 'championships' out there in the multi-sport world would require a 20-foot wipeboard, 2 dozen dry-erase markers, a laser pointer and several hours on a rainy day, but I'll break down this small part for you. USA Triathlon crowns amateur triathlon national champions at three different races: Sprint Nationals (about an hour long), Olympic-distance Nationals (about 2 hours long) and the race I did this past weekend...Long Course Nationals (about 4 hours long). Sprint favors the fast-twitch, younger crowd. Olympic favors those who are better at swimming. I am a distance man. I carry the "I can make it hurt all day" gene. If it wasn't for sheer boredom, there would be no race too long for me. Ergo, Long Course Nationals.

Each year, I look for some unique and different goals and one of my goals for this year was to complete 4 half-iron distance races and to do at least one half-iron from each of the three largest race production companies: Ironman, Rev3 and SetUp Events. I thought it would be a unique way for me to be able to compare the events and at the same time be able to say that I left no 'competitive stone' unturned.

Well, it kinda turned out to be even more of a challenge than that. During my 2nd half-iron in June, I dealt with some foot 'discomfort' that hung around till my 3rd half-iron in July. Turns out I had a stress reaction - which is a possible precursor to a stress fracture. I didn't run a single step for the next 4 weeks. At this point I cancelled all my August races including my 4th half-iron and one of my 'mac-daddy' 'A' races of the year...the Masters National Marathon Championships in Minneapolis. There was no way I would be ready to run a marathon on October 3rd. I'm not ashamed to say I cried the day I hit the delete button on my calendar for that event.

Two days before I was supposed to start running again...I get tendonitis in the same ankle. Say what? Yeah. Somehow - after taking 4 weeks off from running - I managed to get a 2nd running injury. This is like gaining weight after fasting for 2 weeks. To borrow a quote from The Princess Bride..."Inconceivable!" Three more weeks off from running. The problem was, I was still swimming and riding as if I planned to do another triathlon, but now I was closing in on the end of the season. That's when I remembered about the Halfmax Championships practically in my back yard. The marathon had knocked this race off of my race calendar but now that I wouldn't be running the marathon, maybe my foot would be good enough to run 13.1 miles at the end of a triathlon? My foot would be warmed up and the effort on the feet at that point would be much less than a stand-alone running event. Not only was I back in swing with a 4th half-iron race, but it would be a National Championship AND it would be produced by yet another big race production company (Halfmax).

Just over 2 weeks before the event, I did my first run in more than 2 months. Coach Rick put plenty of walk breaks into all my runs leading up to the event. Four days before the race I completed an 8 mile run where I walked for a minute after each mile. There was little to no discomfort at all but with the small amount of running I had done - and no brick workouts (bike then run combined) I honestly had no idea what would happen. I figured my swim and bike would be at least as strong as they had been all year but when it came to the run...who knows. I figured I might be in for a loooong walk.

A beautiful day and a beautiful venue.

If you read my last triathlon race report (which was quite a while ago thanks to the ankle), I made a big deal about how Wisconsin and I had always had a great racing relationship. Myrtle Beach and I?...not so much. I planned on breaking my half marathon PR back in February in Myrtle Beach but Old Man Winter had other plans. The race was cancelled due to snow (check out that report HERE). There would be no snow on this race morning but I wouldn't say things went 'as planned'.

I was delighted beyond belief to see that the transition area did not close 4 hours before the start of the race which meant that we could sleep past the normal time that most triathletes like to get up - 2am. Now I'm not sure why everyone complains when it's hot. When it's hot, there's never any question as to what you will wear during the race; nope, no stressing about that just throw on the thong and go. Today, on the other hand, started out in "that annoying temperature range". In the wind and shade it was downright chilly. In the wind OR the shade it was cool. In the sun and wind it was just right and in the sun with NO wind it was warm. I set up my trasition area to plan for anything...a hat, gloves, arm warmers, wind jacket, space heater, dry sauna...I am very organized with my transition and it takes me no time at all to set up but I like to spend time watching everyone else set up; especially newbies. I feel a natural urge to help with advice and some kind words while they are still naive to what they are about to do. Kind of like a bird pushing it's hatchlings out of the nest. Only this nest is about 3000 feet off the ground.

I had just left transition with my wetsuit and swim gear when they started calling all athletes over to the stage for an important announcement. Janis and I gathered with Coach Rick, his wife Gail and my ex-bike racing friend Heath Dotson. The announcer sounded a bit serious as the droves of athletes congregated. I leaned to the others around me and with a devilish grin said "they're cancelling the swim". Everyone had a good chuckle coming from me. This would be like Superman saying "they left their kryptonite at home". The promoter began his speech the way that a 16-year-old might start to tell his parents about how he wrecked the car..."I've always obeyed the traffic laws; and you and dad are the best parents, but...". Seconds before he made the announcement, he had me thinking that the entire race was cancelled and then, BAM! "The swim is cancelled". I recently wrote a review of my Xterra Wetsuit online (which you can read HERE). I touted the suit as being nothing short of super-human; with the ability to withstand ANYTHING. Well, anything except ecoli. Yup, apparently I wasn't the only thing in Myrtle Beach that was full of...well...you know what.

Where the swim exit WOULD have been...

My mouth dropped open and my face went blank. Those who knew me slapped me on the back and put their hands out as if to congratulate me. Even my coach saw it as a chance for me to grab an advantage. But I wasn't happy. Above all, I'm about fairness. It wasn't fair to the swimmers. Besides, I swam my butt off for the last 10 weeks for this event and this event alone. You mean to tell me that I spent endless hours in the pool for nothing?!! Maybe we could all just wear snorkels or something? No go. But then I also rationalized that this is why I consider myself a 'multi-sport' athlete and not a triathlete. If they had said the bike was cancelled and it was to be a swim and run, I would have been equally prepared. Triathlons, duathlons, aquathlons all come in different configurations. As the quote goes, "some days you're the hammer and some days you're the nail". Today would be a hammer day for me. Although with my limited running, it could likely be more like a soft rubber mallet day...

With the delayed start, it would definitely be warm enough to forego any additional clothing on the bike - especially since I wouldn't be wet. I went back to transition to do some rearranging. This is the part of my race report where I get to insert my "bitter old man comment of the day". I spent the next half hour regurgitating information both from the race packet as well as the instructions that we were all just given. People - LISTEN and BE PREPARED. "Can we wear our shoes?", "Do we line up in numerical order?", "When does the clock start?"...I answered these questions and more at least 2 dozen times. No, I didn't have a special meeting with the organizers, I just LISTENED.

The time trial start staging area. The shade was not warm...

We basically corraled ourselves over by what would have been the swim exit in totally random order. No shoes, but anything else goes. Surprisingly, nobody wore their helmet - although I debated. They would release athletes one at a time every few seconds and they would immediately cross a starting mat...which means that our race would begin with a transition. They commented that not all the fast guys should try to fight their way to the front. Why would I do that? I'd rather have more people to chase and pass. I felt like they were saying "come to the front of the line if you want to create a big draft pack". Hmmph. Personally, I would've lined up behind me ;-)

I was about 2/3 of the way back and so I stood there in the cool shade trying to stay warm and waiting about 45 minutes to start. I was near a very lively crew of people and we had a great time joking about the situation. I "re-met" Alicia Parr whom I had met last year at Duathlon Worlds. Alicia was the first place Masters woman the prior week at the Olympic-distance National Championships in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Turns out, she would win the women's overall today. I finally made it to the start line only to see the person in front of me take off wearing her shoes. Sheeesh. Un-be-liev-able. Is this thing on? Is anybody listening?

I was in and out of transition quickly and on the bike in a flash. I assumed this would feel different without having the swim as a warmup and I was right. A little tougher getting the heartrate up to where it was supposed to be but I got it there. Now there was quite a wind out on the wide-open course which was run purely on closed highways. Not pancake flat - but close. Many of the athletes debated hard about using disc (solid) wheels because they catch the wind like sails in a crosswind. I told my friend Heath that I use my deeep-dish wheels (almost completely solid) in anything short of hurricane winds. I am a power rider with good handling skills so I felt confident in this choice. You would think my power would be obvious to most people by my massive upper body but, whatever. At least twice during the ride, the wind practically picked up my entire bike and moved me sideways about 3 feet. I think my upper body got the same workout holding my bike straight as if I had done the swim anyway.

Just 4 miles into the ride we took a loooong sweeping right curve. I passed at least 5 riders who were all out in the lane instead of staying as tight to the shoulder as possible. They were missing FREE TIME. Even on a course with almost no technical spots, people were leaving time on the table. Of all the people I encountered on this course, I didn't see more than a couple of riders taking the shortest line through curves. We did enough turnarounds and sweeping curves that I probably put 2-3 minutes on people without a single ounce of additional effort. Put down the compression socks and turn on your brain...

I would have a photo of my ride segment here, but my team photographer was out enjoying her own morning workout! So instead, here's a shot of us the next day out on the beach. Luv ya, Janis ;-)

My time estimate for Janis was a 2:15 today. Flatter than my ride in Racine, but much windier. I was surprised when I hit the halfway point at 1:04 and change. I glanced down to see that the loop was about a half-mile short. Still, I was flying...and comfortable. I only got caught up behind someone twice. At the turnaround, which was a roundabout, I had to stifle myself instead of trying to pass dangerously. The other time, I was reaching a turnaround out on a highway and ran up on a group of 4 guys. I used a bit of what I like to call "extra skills" to navigate the turn inside of them at about twice their speed. I surprised them and I reveled in hearing one rider say.."Seriously?!". Yes, my friend, seriously. Not sure what you and your pack of friends are doing here but I'm in the middle of a race.I also had a guy whistle at my butt as I raced past. Well, He might have been whistling at his female teammate who had just passed him as well but I know how good my butt looks so that's my story. It was cool that on this course, I actually had the ocassion to see several of my friends (Heath, Nicole Ramsbey and Rich Chey).

I pulled my feet from my riding shoes as I rode down the hill into transition, scared the hell out of the volunteers at the dismount line and did my usual full on power stop. A quick glance showed a ride time of 2:09 and a distance about a mile short of the prescribed 56. Nothing unusual in transition. Rudy glasses, chocolate Ensure and I was on my way to see if my body remembered what running 13.1 miles is like.

Janis catches a shot of me putting my Garmin on my wrist. I know I ran the entire course because my Garmin said 13.06 miles...and I even started it a few seconds late.

Out of transition, onto the road, start the Garmin and away I went. 100 feet into the run and I hit a roundabout. It was unclear which way to turn so I looked up at the volunteer in the road and yelled "which way?". He was busy talking to someone in the crowd (who I would later find out was my coach!). So I yelled again "WHICH WAY?". Still ignored. I didn't stray a single muscle as I ran right towards him. I couldn't have been 4 feet in front of him when he finally pointed and yelled "that way". I turned 90-degrees on a dime. Had he not responded I would have literally run him over.

There were lots of people on the run course now because there were sprint and olympic distance races going on simultaneously. I seemed to be moving a bit faster than most people and I felt pretty comfortable. 140 heartrate. Right on target so I set it on cruise control. A half-mile in, a guy came running by me like I was standing still. At mile 2, I caught and passed him. At mile 3, a woman did the same thing but then stopped at a water station. She caught back up to me and asked what pace I was tryin to keep. I told her I had been injured so I was just watching my heartrate and hoping that I could run the full distance. I also looked at my Garmin and told her that my first 3 miles were 6:40 - 6:45 pace. She said "that's great - do you mind if I tuck in behind you?". I told her no. A half-mile later I had lost her. I chuckled to myself about that one but at least it was a nice distraction for a mile or two.

Now I don't want to delve too heavily into the greatest source of pain that this event delivered but in a few words...if Christopher Columbus had to follow this run course to the New World, we'd all still be living in Europe. We doubled-back, crossed our own path, and ran into ourselves twice on each lap. If you didn't understand that don't worry, neither did about 50% of the athletes. Promoters keep insisting that it is our responsibility to know the course; that's a little hard when you give us a 'stick-figure' map with 2 lines on it and no detail (which is why I didn't know which way to turn when I started the run AND the bike). And much like the bike course, there were no timing mats placed strategically on the 'edges' of the course to help ensure that athletes completed the entire distance.

Whew! Made it to the turnaround without going off course...and just ahead of my prediction.

I can't say that I actually saw anybody cut the course, but to see it happen would have been impossible. At it's most congested point - a point that we actually ran past 4 times in less than 2 miles) the road looked like one of those Bangladesh open market scenes from the movies; people moving every which way. If you looked at the maps in advance - which I had - you at least had a sense of where you were supposed to go and you could figure it out. If you hadn't looked at the map completing the course would have been nothing short of a miracle. As a matter of fact, there are probably search parties still out there right now who are finding delerious athletes running in circles mumbling "how many laps is this race anyway?".

I just focused on me and stayed on course. My heartrate was gently rising as my mile splits were gently falling. When I reached the halfway mark and was still under a 7:00 pace I was astounded and yet I knew I could hang on for 6 more miles. I saw fellow Simpsonvillian Mark Render and as anticipated, he looked like he was flying. Of all the people in the US, I considered Mark (who is practically a neighbor) to be my stiffest competition. Cancelling the swim gave me anywhere from a 5-7 minute advantage over Mark on this day but he is a phenomenal athlete and I certainly wasn't counting him out considering the blazing run splits he turns out. In the end, Mark DID outrun me by 9 minutes with the 6th fastest run of the day!...unfortunately, I outbiked him by 19. That had to look funny on paper.

The longest freakin' quarter-mile...

I could feel myself starting to slow somewhere around mile 9 but what I felt was more like exhaustion than the typical pain of pushing myself. This was the difference in not having run a lot leading up to the race. My body had forgotten just a little how to make it hurt on the run. It also forgot a little bit how far 13.1 miles was. My splits dwindled the final 4 miles: 7:01, 7:06, 7:12 and finally a 7:22. I was baked but I held on for a 1:30 and a sub-7:00 overall pace. A nice finisher's medal and a cool beach towel awaited me as I crossed the line in 3:43:58. I couldn't wait to get out of my nasty shoes and clothes and get cleaned up so in a matter of minutes, Janis and I were back at the hotel. Sitting in ice and wearing constricting clothing may help you recover better, but a warm shower and sweatpants? That's what I'm talkin' 'bout. I would not see the results until we went to the awards ceremony 5 hours later.

Mark Render and I put Simpsonville, SC on the big map with a 3rd and 1st respectively in our age group.

The story actually ends here...and yet it doesn't. Moments before the awards were given out, I took my first look at the results. 8th overall and first 45-49. With limited expectations for the race I was pleased. But no competitive athlete is ever 100% satified with their result. Even in victory we can find some area where we could have improved. For me, that came in the form of the 2nd fastest bike split. 4 half-iron events this year and 4 2nd place bike splits. Bummer. There were also 3 Masters-age competitors ahead of me (over the age of 40). That hurt a bit. But today was Saturday.

I received my 1st place age group award and gift certificate to trisports.com and went on my merry way to cherish my final race of the season. Then Sunday came. An athlete in the top 5 was removed from results. His 58:00 run that showed up in the results was, well...impossible. Then Monday morning came. Another person in the top 5 with a bogus run time (1:08 - which I believe would have been a world record for a half-iron run). I was 6th. Then Monday afternoon came. One more athlete was removed. This time it was the guy with a 2:02 bike split. I had been extremely skeptical about this time. It was 7 minutes faster than mine. The pros didn't even put 7 minutes on me at my last half-iron. Apparently, neither did he. 5th place overall, 2nd Master, 1st 45-49 and I finally got my fastest bike split! Whew, dealing with the results was almost as painful as the race itself.

The money shot. Oh and by the way, it's now OK to "resume safe speed". P.S. That's teh TeamKattouf gang sign in case you didn't recognize it.

Race Notes:
* I finally convinced Janis to do her workout while I was racing because she always sacrifices it to watch me. She had one of the best runs - and still got to see me on the bike course.
* I was almost 4 minutes up on 2nd place in my age group. Had there been a swim, it would have been mighty close. My friend Mark Render took 3rd.
* The venue was really beautiful...but it wasn't practical. Parking for packet pickup was downright dangerous and there was literally nowhere for me to do my warmup ride on Friday (I rode back and forth on the run course).
* There will always be people that look for chances to cheat, but with today's confusing run course there was a really good chance that a lot of people that "cut" the course did it completely by accident. Shame on the promoters.
* My coach's wife - and TeamKattouf teammate - Gail Kattouf did the olympic-distance event where she annihilated the women's field and took 4th overall including the men.
* Got to race against Heath Dotson who was on a rival Asheville bike racing team back in my earlier days. Like me, Heath has recently switched to multi-sport. With his 3rd fastest bike split I imagine I will be seeing more of him.
* Never felt any problems with the foot at all and 2 days later all I feel is a bit of an ache. Time to really let it recover.
* I imagine that much like the people who were removed from results, that a good number of people probably question my bike split. Fortunately, I have both my Garmin and nearly 30 years of cycling results online to back up my speed.

Next Up: My season is done. I had planned on possibly running a half-marathon at the end of October but my coach and I agreed that we'll finally let the ankle completely heal. So now I'm going to have some fun...Dan Moss and I will do our 3rd annual Ride to Atlanta at the end of October and Janis and I will run a half marathon together in November.


Race Report

NC Open Water Swim Race Report

by G-Man 24. September 2010 08:15

Location: King Mountain, NC
Date: September 18, 2010
Placing: Seriously?
Format: 3,000-meter open water swim
My Race Photos
Results: Click Here
Check my Garmin data of this race by clicking HERE

Where to start, where to start...Let me start by saying that for those that were unaware, I have been dealing with foot issues that actually started in late May. Two half-ironman races later, I had to stop running for almost 8 weeks. With 7 great months of results under my belt this year I wasn't whining TOO much, but I ended up canceling several races on the calendar including 2 big ones: the South Carolina Half-Iron and the Masters National Marathon. Hence the lack of race reports the past 2 months. Story behind my foot could fill several pages by itself but suffice it to say that I have started running again and should be OK so long as I don't shoot out of the gate. I already have some plans for a great running season this Fall/Winter culminating with a second trip to the Boston Marathon where I hope to eclipse the 2:40 mark.

Now that you are up to speed, I think I'm gonna need a dislaimer for this report: I can be quite a sarcastic person. I do not particularly like swimming. I have the utmost respect for all athletes - and when I say athletes, I mean anyone who has the audacity to get their butt off the couch and sweat; including swimmers. There. I'm just trying to cut off any swimmer hate mail in advance because I have a feeling that this report might get a bit...uh...spiteful?

An open-water swim meet. I had several people question me about this because of my above mentioned disdain for swimming. I was surprised by this because my love of competition - and pushing my aged body to it's limits - well outweighs how I feel about almost any activity where the odds of death are less than 50/50. Not to nention a line of logic that should be very easy to follow even for the simplest of minds: triathlon involves swimming -> to get better at swimming you have to swim -> you are more likely to swim if there are other people suffering around you AND you paid money to do it. I invited my friend Chad Croker to join me just to be sure that I personally knew at least one other person that would be suffering (as a side note, we also planned to reverse the mind-numbing affects of swimming by doing an enjoyable bike ride after the race). By the way, did you catch some of that anti-swimming sarcasm in this paragraph?

Tough to beat a view and a venue like this

In all honesty, I have looked for open water swim events to do in the past and they are very scarce. I imagined a nice venue and a relaxed setting for me since I would put very little expectations on myself. This race delivered. A bit more low-key than most triathlons, it almost felt like I was at a huge family reunion. My measly $25 entry fee (registration took me all of about 2 minutes) got me a t-shirt, wet-bag and access to some fruit and drinks. Three things that were noticeably different than most tris were: 1) the absence of blaringly loud music (ahhhhhh), 2) the sun (it's that thing in the sky that usually shows up about halfway through our triathlon) and 3) people selling food, coffee and all kinds of good eats before, during and after the event. It could hardly be more relaxing knowing that my race preperation basically involved standing up, taking my shirt off and walking to the shore.

I originally planned to do the 2k event (1.2 miles) but Chad signed up for the 5k (yikes, 3.1 miles) - which took off first and I didn't want him to have to wait 2 hours for me, so I opted for the 3k (1.85 miles) which took off immediately after the 5k finished. I tried my best to look like a swimmer - or at least a 'normal' adult as I sat by myself watching Chad's race. I mean, an old man hanging out by himself at an event whose competitors were predomimently age 10-20. Yeah, I don't need another arrest on my record. No joke, I don't think I saw more than 5 swimmers over the age of 22.

Trying to pick Chad out of an open water swim turned out to be quite a bit more problematic than at a triathlon.

The sky was clear blue and the wind was whipping; so much so that I cursed myself for not bringing a sweatshirt or wind jacket. The lake was noticeably choppy - reminded me a bit of my lake swim at Ironman Wisconsin a few years ago which in turn reminded me of the aggitation cycle of a washing machine. Hmmm, maybe that's how it came to be known as the 'aggitation' cycle . I found a spot in the sun and watched the 5k'ers as they swam multiple laps around the 1k course. The first swimmer emerged from the water in what I calculated was about 1:35. Hmmm. I should finish the 3k in about an hour, I shouldn't be TOO embarrased. One by one "the children" pulled themselves from the lake. Almost every one of them looked like a cartoon - legs like toothpicks and an upper body that looked like a steam roller had driven over it and flattened it out about 50 inches wide. I also watched as officials and parents yelled at some of the swimmers who were rounding the bouy for a 6th lap - or had no idea where to go at the end of the 5th lap. Turns out, swimmers are no better than triathletes at listening to pre-race instructions...

My friend Chad - who is a better-than-average triathlon swimmer - pulled himself from the water right at about 2 hours. Upon finishing, he notified me that in fact, they had started 30 minutes late. Which means the first place swimmer swam 5k in just over an hour in choppy conditions. Wow. I guess to make myself fell better about that fact, this would be a good time to insert how I can average nearly 26mph on my bike for 56 miles. There - I feel a little better. Not much, but a little.

The view from the start beach

My event was next up and my first few steps into the water (it was an in-water start) were pleasant. I had anticipated a bone-chilling cold but the water temperature couldn't have been much different than the air temperature. Now because I am a geek, and I CAN do it, I wore my Garmin GPS under my swim cap. It's great for giving me feedback during open-water swims. I set the watch to beep every minute and make a different sound every 500 meters. Its easy to hear, helps me track my pace between 500-meter points, gives me short-term goals during the swim and lets me know how straight I swam (once I download it and view the map). There isn't mauch to write about the actual race - and I use the term "race" very lightly. I could tell you about everything I saw while I was out there but "sun, dark water, sun, dark water, sun, dark water" is even more boring in text than it is in real life. Let's just say that within a couple of minutes of the start, I was alone doing my best to swim from giant beach ball to giant beach ball.

My Garmin beeped "1 kilometer" just as I completed the first lap. There was no doubt that I was swimming pretty straight and that the course was accurately laid out. I was about 1 minute from completing lap 2 when I was startled by what appeared to be a dolphin in the lake. At least that How I want to remember being lapped by a 14-year-old girl who would go on to finish the course in 41 minutes. By the way, the 2nd and 3rd place "girls" (and yes, they call their divisions 'girls' and 'boys' instead of women and men, which should tell you right there that I was about 25 years too late for this event) both had already raced the 5k event. I could feel myself slow a bit on the final lap and when I got to the last 300-400 meters I could see that I had gained a kayak escort. There is no doubt in my mind that this person expected me to just give up on life at any moment.

I neared the shore and could see that the swimmers for the next event - which was SUPPOSED to start an hour after my race started - were hanging out at the start line. I had successfully delayed their start by a few minutes. The moment I exited the water, they sounded the air horn 3 times to signify that the course was now clear. I was welcomed at the exit by a good sized crowd, cheering and clapping. "He did it! He made it out alive! We won't have to close the beach down and stop the races. Hurray!". Turns out my 1:03:49 still broke the top 10 with a 7th place in the 'boys' and 2nd place over the age of 40 (although in this event, there don't have age divisions). The bad news that I really don't have to tell you is that there were only 7 males in this race and 25 swimmers total. The 5k and 2k had close to 100 each. Yep; dead last. But if you want, I could provide a list of people that WOULD have finished behind me had they shown up. Top of the list would be Thing from the Fantastic Four (look it up).

Yeah, we stuck out like sore thumbs among the swimmers but that was half the fun.

I was far from exhausted - which I beleive is part of my problem with swimming. I've learned how to push myself to the brink when I ride and run but my body just can't do it in the water. The chop slowed most everyone down but it didn't bother me that much; I guess it was really only detectable to good swimmers. I dried off, grabbed a banana and in a few minutes Chad and I were headed out to do a nice bike ride through the back roads Northeast of Spartanburg. We decided not to hang around for the awards because quite frankly, they didn't have a "Most likely to drown" division. We were stopped on the way out by a keen reporter who obviously mistook us for real swimmers based on my TeamKattouf shirt (it certainly wasn't for our swimmer physiques). I even ended up with a quote in the article. Maybe it was a sympathy move by the reporter.

After the swim, Chad took me on a great tour of the area on our training ride and it really ended up to be a great day and a pretty good experience for my first ever Open Water Swim event (I still don't fell right using the word 'race').

Hmmmm, so these are the "sights" around NE Spartanburg. Don't ask, don't tell...

Race Notes:
* I practically got into an argument with a women before the start over who was the worse swimmer. Guess I showed her.
* With it's slightly sweet palatte and it's greenish-brown bouquet, I would consider the water in Moss Lake to be more of a 'dessert water'.
* There is no doubt about it - I excel at duathlons and long-distance triathlons, but I would never be one of those people who only does the races they know they will do well in. Doing an event like this does a few things: it gives me an opportunity to improve myself both physically and mentally; it presents variety - which I love; it also helps to keep me down to earth by showing me that I don't have to be good at everything I do - I can just be happy to be good at something and leave it at that.
* If it fits into next year's schedule, I will plan to do the Cooper River Over Under Challenge. The challenge combines your time from the Cooper River Bridge Run in March (which runs over the Ravenel Bridge) with your time from the Lowcountry Splash in June (which swims under the bridge).

Next Up: I plan to compete in the Halfmax National Championships next week in Myrtle Beach. It is a half-iron distance triathlon. Having not run 8 out of the last 10 weeks, my performance is up in the air. Likewise, I am tentatively planning to run the Spinx half marathon on the end of October before taking a Fall break.


Race Report