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Excuse my language, but…Holy Crap! The little kid right behind me on this "fun run" that I am leading ran a sub-6:00 pace for a quarter-mile! - 3/05/2010
Christopher Giordanelli
Simpsonville Weather Forecast, SC (29680)

Powerman Alabama Race Report

by G-Man 31. March 2012 11:33

Location: Birmingham, AL
Date: March 25, 2012
Placing: 2nd Overall
Format: 10k Run/60k Bike/10k Run
My Race Photos
Official Race Photos
Results: Click Here

The Return, or...Let's Just Get Any Bitterness Out of the Way

Powerman Alabama was my "return to duathlon". I don't have any fancy or exciting excuse as to why I took time off. I wasn't in jail for dog-fighting or shooting myself. My wife didn't find out about my other wife and I didn't have to 'sort my life out'. No, I just like variety and so I spent the last couple of years knocking back some long distance triathlons. I did 5 half-iron races last year and even with some issues in the early part of the season, I killed my age group and even beat everyone in the next younger age group in all but one race. I mention this only because I just found out this week that my phenomenal efforts garnered me an amazingly high ranking of 44th in my age group for 2011. Wow. I guess I don't understand math as well as I thought I did. I'm not bitter about it. Or maybe I am. Fortunately, I don't need a piece of paper to tell me who I can beat and who I can't.

It had been a few years since I had done a du so I said, "I should do a du." And I did. Duathlons have not swept through the bowels of our country like triathlons have and I attribute that to good marketing tactics by the tri companies. I think we could change all that if the duathlon world created an event called 'A Race So Hard, There is a Chance You Will Die'. This alone would bring people in by the droves (everybody loves an event that they could possibly die in); but to really take it to the next level, they would have to hold it in an extremely remote location, and charge people half their salaries to enter. The piece de resistance? You have to qualify. Of course, "qualify" could be something as simple as having a pulse...or paying more money. I think I'm on to something. I just opened registration for the event which will take place in 2014, but you'd better hurry - it's almost full. (Don't worry, once it's full I'll double the entry fee and say it's NOT full). I'll be rich.

Don't be fooled by the lack of 2,500 participants at duathlons. It just means that that the participants who do show up are very committed to the discipline. For instance the guy who took third overall (from Colorado) was ranked 2nd in the country in the 40-44 age group for triathlons in 2011. The guy who beat him for second overall was ranked 44th in the 45-49 age group for triathlons. Wait, that can't be right. Oh, yeah, that was me. Looks like I'm ripe for a top 100 placing in my age group for duathlons in 2012. OK, I promise I'll let it go now - I realize that no ranking system is perfect except for the one where I come out on top. I mean, maybe they only counted the triathlons where the bike and run were cancelled? All right, NOW I'm done. But I can't promise that I won't still be bitter about something because I'm old and that's what we do.

Pre-race Musings

Powerman Alabama is designated as the Regional Duathlon Championships. I've done the race 3 times before (2005 - 2007) but that was 5 years - and an asthma diagnosis - ago. Back then, I saw some great successes. After all, a long race with challenging terrain and ample time on a bike is something you can usually find on my Christmas list between "a real president" and "world peace". I went into the race thinking I could do 'OK'; knowing that so far this year I have been focused heavily on running. I hadn't even been on my race bike since last October. As a matter of fact, I have done very little cycling at all...unless you count the last 32 years as a whole. Then you could probably say I've ridden "some". Apparently riding a bike is like, well, riding a bike.

Ahhhh, my first wiff of "transition area" in nearly 6 months.

After checking into our hotel in Pelham, Alabama we headed over to the venue to pick up my race packet. It was a new venue since the last time I raced Powerman and let me say that it was a beautiful state park; and the biggest in the state. With blue skies and only a few clouds it was one of those 'jacket on - jacket off' days depending on whether you were in the shade or in a breezy area or not. Just gorgeous. I grabbed my race packet and got the 'lay of the land' for the transition area. After seeing that I was number 106, Janis told me that we should just go home because she overheard some people talking at the transition area..."yeah, they give all the fast people the single-digit numbers..." There was no chance that I was going to do well. Actually, it was even worse than that. For some reason, everyone else's number was printed in dark, bold block numbers while mine was hand-written (you can barely read the number in the photos). That was just one step above giving me a used number from another race. They said I wouldn't even be a contender...(cue the theme from Rocky)...

As is my standard operating procedure, I set up camp in a nice area near the race site to apply the 30,000 race numbers we got and to do some last minute bike prep. I started to fret about my race numbers. I had one for the bike, my helmet, my wrist, and my clothing. I would also have it written on both legs and both arms on race morning. How could this possibly be enough numbers?! What happens if I take a wrong turn on the run course? I won't have my helmet or bike number. It's likely that I would be attacked by a bear while wandering through the forest who rips both my arms and legs off and eats them - or brings them home to his family for dinner later. That would only leave me with the number on my race belt. All it would take is a pop-up thunderstorm to 'dissolve' the remaining number. How on earth would they be able to identify me??!!! Seriously, I think I need to write my race number on a piece of paper, imbed it into a kernel of corn and swallow it. We all know corn kernels don't break down in the digestive tract. Just sayin'.

My bike prep usually consists of me finding all the things that are wrong with my bike and saying "yeah, that will probably not break during this race." Today that thing was my chain. My derailer was making a little noise and I found a link in my chain that was bent (flared out at one end just a bit). I thought about removing the link but that 5-minute process seemed like quite an effort. I mean, I was cutting into my 'hang out and do nothing time'. Besides, I'll probably be too busy worrying about the play in my handlebars to think about the chain. I'll just remember to fix it before the next race. By the way, one of my favorite gadgets - my portable bike stand - got several comments from passers-by. It was a gift from Janis some years back and it folds down to the size of a box of Girl Scout cookies. Thin mint to be exact. t weighs a bit more than the cookies though. Probably.

Before heading back to the hotel, we drove the out-and-back bike course. Wow. It doesn't matter how many years I tell myself that the course is NOT as hard as it looks when you are in a car, I still think, "damn! I'm going to be walking up these hills". Seriously, it was a constant up and down. For those of you who are familiar with G'Vegas, the course basically climbed Paris Mountain each of the 3, 12-mile laps. And for the record, I didn't walk up any hills. I didn't even use my little chainring. After enjoying the rest of the afternoon, we instituted our never-fail dinner plan of finding the nearest Olive Garden (3 miles away) and ordering takeout. No lines. No waiting. No freezing in a restaurant. The quiet solitude of our hotel room. Stress = 0. Except for watching a 48 Hours marathon...THAT is stressful. I can save you some time - the wife, husband, mother, father, sister or brother did it. Now go to sleep.

Race Day

We arrived at the start waaay ahead of schedule because we had anticipated a long line to pay at the park entrance. The promoters had handled this well and we zoomed right through. Even setting up transition was super fast. I had forgotten how much easier it is with a duathlon and no swimming; basically just my bike helmet, shoes, chair, sunscreen, baby wipes, comb, cell phone, camera and breath mints. This left me with all kinds of time to debate the finer points of fashion vs comfort for my clothing options for the day. Much like checking out the bike course, I am also bad about thinking that I will be cold. I won't. But I waited until the last minute to decide on nothing but my race shorts and top. Fortuantely, I didn't decide to just go with a top or my bike split might have suffered. I was in the 3rd wave. The first wave contained all the young people. 3 mintues later, the 'not-quite-as-young' people went. Then it was our turn; the 'my son or daughter was in the first wave' people. I have to admit, as fit as the people around me looked...they all looked old. I'm sure when they all looked at me they were thinking "hey, that guy missed his start in the first wave". Yeah.

Runnin' Down a Dream...

I really was so relaxed and in a 'que sera sera' mood that I didn't even start anywhere near the front line. They made the final announcements and we all handed our canes and walkers over the fencing to our families. The gun fired and within a few strides I reached the front of the group. Well, the front of the group not including the guy who took off like Usain Bolt. Really. 3 of us pulled away from the group up the first hill as we watched a guy in a Team USA outfit drop us like a bad habit. I joked about it earlier, but I really thought that this guy had possibly missed his start wave. From a short distance, he looked pretty young. But that could be the Grecian Formula talking. I pulled away from the 2 runners I was with - or rather, they pulled away from me in a backwards fashion. I say it this way because I didn't speed up: they slowed down. A little over a half-mile in and suddenly, it went from just the 4 of us existing to a madhouse of people running. Some we were catching and some were running towards us. On an out-and-back section, I saw 'Team USA'. The name on his uniform said "Dupree" and his race number was "2". From what I've been told, a single-digit number means you're fast. Dupree did not glance side to side or look around like I do. He was full-on robotic. He was programmed to race. From this point on, I lost track of where I was in relation to everyone and just focused on the pace...until mile 2.5.

Perfectly-timed shot of me throwing water all over myself after the first lap of run #1. It was supposed to go into my mouth.

Both the first run and the second run were the same course - two 5k loops. However, the first 10k run we did it clockwise and the second 10k run we did it in the opposite direction. So, in the first run at the end of each 5k loop, we were detoured off the road and onto a moderately technical single-track trail through the woods. This would be the part in the Stephen King novel where we are all led to village of witches. When I hit this at mile 2.5, I was in the throes of passing people from the prior two waves. I was happy - and sad to say - somewhat surprised at the amount of consideration I was given. As I came up on other runners, almost all of them stopped or slowed down and moved off the trail for a second. I must have said "thank you" 50 times. For a moment it was almost like my faith in humanity had been restored. But then I remembered Ironman Florida. I was slowed a few times during my traipse through the trees but in the grand scheme of today, I'm not sure I could say it amounted to much. I'm sure if I had lost by 20 seconds that I would change my story and insist that the hordes of people slowed me down by 21 seconds. I'm also sure the fast runners in the first wave did not have to deal with this. But really, catching people kept my mind off of bear attacks.

Lap 2 of the run was much lonelier in the woods and oddly enough since I had nobody to follow, I had to concentrate a lot more on where the trail went (did I mention the bears?) I emerged from the woods happy that I had kept such a good heartrate even with all the up and down. With a few hundred yards to go to transition, I ran through the procedure in my head: slam a GU, cross the timing mat, stop my Garmin and reset it while running to my bike. Helmet first, then both shoes. Go. Restart the Garmin. And that's exactly how It went down a few seconds later...with one little hitch. Somehow my gear shifter had been knocked out of place and it took me several seconds to drop the chain down and then back up again before I could commit to full warp factor 4.

Heading out on a delightful little bike ride.

Over the years, I've tried to put into words what endurance racing is like. Turns out, the rap band Fort Minor pretty much nailed it in the first verse of 'Remember the Name'...

"This is ten percent luck, twenty percent skill
Fifteen percent concentrated power of will
Five percent pleasure, fifty percent pain
And a hundred percent reason to remember the name..."
Check out the song on youtube here.

Bikes R Me

I took off on the bike section not knowing what would happen since most of my training has been for running, but I was prepared to use up my 5-percent pleasure, 20-percent skill and 15-percent concentrated power of will. I was saving a big chunk of my 50-percent pain for the second run. Let me stop here and say that it sucks when you can't figure out why something happens. But it sucks a lot less when that something is in your favor. I couldn't figure out why I was riding so well, but I was flying and still maintaining a conservative heartrate. Maybe my body simply missed riding my bike. Maybe all the weight training kept my power levels up. Maybe it was just the adrenaline rush of being 'back in the hunt'. Whatever it was...it was. And although it didn't seem much like a tecnical course you had to make 5 u-turns, 6 90-degree turns and handle curves on descents at 40+ mph. Every bit of that was free time for me. I methodically made my way past athletes until about mile 15.

What's this? Well, I'll be...it's Dupree! Boys and girls, it looks like we've got us a race here. I rode passed him and thought, "now I just need to keep riding like this and we are done." But that was not the case. At the top of the next hill - he passed me back. Really? That is awesome. Do you know WHY this is awesome? Follow this logic. Before we knew each other existed, we were both riding somewhere near the best pace that our bodies expected that we SHOULD be riding in order to finish well. Not the pace we COULD be riding. If you go as fast as you can, you get what I call the 'six million dollar man effect'. Rememer the opening of that show where Steve Austin says "...she's breaking up...she's breaking up!" and then he crashes and burns in a big ball of lactic acid and tears? Yeah, been there, done that. So the reason this is awesome is that it looks like instead of racing his own race - the one in which he uses his advantage on the run to chase me down - he is going to overextend himself to try and keep pace with me on my turf: the bike. I believe I was actually giddy.

In 8 years of multisport, I have been passed on the bike by 4 people (on the same lap/course). 3 of those cases were actually people that I had passed - passing me back. Remember the mantra, my friends: check the ego at the start line - it is your own worst enemy. All 3 of those people dried up and sputtered out. And to prove that I practice what I preach, the 4th person that passed me I allowed to continue to outride me. And he did. I never felt the need to try and stay with him, although I'm sure I could have...at the expense of a really crappy run. We ended up taking 1st and 2nd. It could have been 1st and 5th is the way I look at it. So there we were for close to 12 miles. Me and Dupree. One would pass the other and get a hundred yards up the road for a while until the other one caught back up and passed them back. Our passes were not subtle, they each said "take that!".

Feet already out of my shoes, I'm ready to jump into my second run.

I passed Dupree just before the final 12-mile lap started and that was the last time I saw him. My thoughts turned to preparation for run #2 and I backed down just a hair the final 3 miles. I had been diligent about my nutrition and for the first time ever I drank almost 2 complete bottles in a 1:40 ride. I did my usual slam into transition but I was amazingly still in a very relaxed state. I even stopped at the dismount line to shut off my Garmin and reset it again. I ran out of transition right next to another athlete. Janis yelled at me that we were the 5th and 6th people off the bike. Wow. "Out of everybody?" I yelled back. She confirmed and told me that 2 guys were within striking distance.

Looking back at Janis so that we can discuss how the race is going. Not that I'm in a hurry or anything ;-)

You Can't Catch Me, I'm the Gingerbread Man...

I slammed my last and final GU as the run started. Yum. Why can't they make ice cream taste this good (HEAVY sarcasm). My partner had a 25 on his leg and was keeping pace with me. As we entered the forest trail I told him to let me know if he wanted to pass me but he said he was just trying to get his running legs and that since I was 3 minutes ahead of him, he was not going to challenge me. I had to break his heart and tell him that I was in fact, 6 minutes ahead of him. We emerged from the trail and hit a long downhill. I left him. At the same time, I saw the first place runner coming at me. Since the mile markers were not in place for the 2nd run, I had no idea how far ahead he was. But I had to remember that if he was 1 mile ahead, then we could literally be seconds apart in our elapsed time...6 minutes = 1 mile. On my way to the out-and-back section, I could see the remaining 3 runners ahead of me. Not knowing which wave they started in or how far ahead they were. All I knew is that none of them started WITH me or BEHIND me.

Arms relaxed; body straight up and down. Not too bad after 2 and a half hours of exercise.

At mile 1.5 I approached the water station. They all held out cups and yelled "water!". I yelled "No thanks, I'm good." As I passed them all, I amended my statement by adding "Well...I'm not really 'good', but I just don't need any water." I hit the turnaround and now it was my turn to see who was chasing me. It wasn't long before I saw Dupree. He had outrun me by 2 minutes on the first run and I anticipated he would outrun me again. But did I have a big enough gap on him? I looked at him as we passed. I smiled and said "ah, I knew I'd see you again." Stone face. The robot was on task. Maybe he was part Vulcan and incapable of emotion? Maybe he was just really focused. Nothing wrong with that. It has been a long time since I was that focused. It's got to be fun at my age or it's just not worth it. I thank all the police and volunteers as I pass. And if I'm not joking around with the people at the water stations then I must be really close to passing out.

I kept the HR in check as I finished the first lap and Janis was yelling her heart out. One of the top women had just started her first lap of the run and I was a few yards behind her as we entered the trail. I was getting pretty close to her but was not gaining very fast. I couldn't have been 30 feet behind her when I subconciously decided to pick up an entire tree by the root with my foot. I failed. The tree did not budge. Instead, I slammed into the dirt trail with my hands and knees and let out a loud and startling "OOOOFFFFFF". I kept my head up the whole time and she never even turned around. I don't know how she did it. I jumped up and instantly went back to running. I passed her right after we emerged from the forest. I was 2 miles from the finish. I approached the same water station as the last lap and this time I was about 20 yards from catching the runner in front of me. This time, as I passed, I held my figure to my mouth to "Shhhh" them and I wispered as I passed "I'm going to catch him...shhhh". I went through the turnaround and saw Dupree. I had actaully gained time on him.

A half-mile ago, I was barely catching the runner in front of me. I kicked a 5:20 pace to the finish and you can't even see the other runner behind me. I love finishing and feeling great!

The past two years of dealing with my asthma has made me gun shy. I've been burned a few times by jumping into my last gear only to find out that my last gear fizzles quickly and sharply. A few weeks ago, I took a chance by jumping early and for the first time in a long time - it was like old times. But once was not enough to satisfy me so I waited. And waited and waited. Finally, with a half-mile to go, I gunned it. I almost immediately passed the runner in front of me and I flew to the finish. If I had known, I would have tried it with a mile or more to go. But today, that would not have improved my place. According to my Garmin, I ran that last half-mile at a 5:20 pace.


I would be the 4th person to cross the line...but the 2nd fastest of the day. Dupree would finish 2 minutes behind me which was still good enough to beat everyone who crossed the line ahead of him besides the myself and the 1st place runner. I was stunned to find out that I had the fastest bike split of the day. A great premier return to duathlon and hopefully some foreshadowing for Long Course Duathlon Championships in June. Woo-hoo!

* I was supposed to shoot for the following HRs for the run/bike/run: 146-149/136-139/146-149. My actual averages? 147/137/147. Shazam! My first run was the 10th best, my ride was the 1st best and my second run was the 5th best. I haven't run the numbers but I had to be one of the top ranked people for 'least difference between their first run time and their second run time'. Which I equate to perfect pacing.
* I knew nothing about Dupree until I 'googled' him after the race. He just entered my age group (45), he was 2nd overall last year and as I mentioned above - he was ranked #2 in triathlons in the country for age 40-44 last year. He came in from Colorado to race.
* A confession: near the top of a climb on the bike (before a long, curvy, fast descent) a rider I was passing waved a truck around that was towing a camper. I was intentionally riding in the lane a bit so he would not pass. As I saw him do it, I yelled "NO! I'll catch him on the downhill!" And I did. At 43mph. I raced around him in my aerobars on the yellow line in a curve. Please don't ever wave a car arond you. That makes YOU responsible for anything that happens. Let the driver decide for themselves when it is clear.
* When I was cleaning up for the awards ceremony and washing the numbers off myself, I went to clean my age off of my calf and Janis stopped me. She told me to leave it. That was funny...she wanted to be sure everyone knew that I was "old".
* My bike chain did in fact make a little extra noise and skip occassionally. It will probably make it through one more race ;-)
* There is no way I can explain this in one simple note but if you read any of my race reports at all, this will be both shocking and funny: the guy I ran past with a half-mile left? Nicholas Sykes. Seriously. I have got to single-handedly be the nemisis for their entire family.
* I decided to do this event for many reasons. But one of those reasons was that I missed going last year when my Team Kattouf teammates Gail Kattouf and Cameron Dorn came and took 1st overall female and 5th overall male. I joked about having to go this year to uphold the Team Kattouf name. Sorry it couldn't be 1st place, Rick ;-)
* TeamKattoufer Rex Morgan successfully completed his first full marathon less than 10 minutes off of his Boston Marathon qualifying time. Awesome run for a 1st marathon.
* Team Magic (the promoter) does a great job with awards/prizes. Another great 'swag bag' of stuff!
* I could not quit saying the movie title "You, Me and Dupree" in my head throughout the race.

Next Up: Boston Marathon!

Janis sporting some of the 'swag' she got from my 'winnings' loot.

Duathlon World Championships Race Report

by G-Man 8. October 2009 23:10

Location: Charlotte, NC
Date: September 26, 2009
Placing: 1st 45-49 Age Group (Gold Medal)
Race Photos
Results: Click Here

Somehow, I made it. We each have our own little 'circle of life' and for nearly 30 years, a big part of my circle has has gone something like this: 1. Love the long bike rides wrapped in layers of clothing and group runs with friends. 2. I gotta race. 3. I need a BIG race. 4. Stoked to fill my race calendar. 5. I can go faster. 6. "I'm king of the world". 7. What? another tempo run? 8. Is it ever gonna get cooler? 9. Just a few weeks more. 10. C'mon, you can stay fit. 11. Amen. The last race is here. 12. Let's catch a flick - I don't have to workout today. 13. Love the long bike rides wrapped in layers of clothing and group runs with friends...last week, I reached step 12. Well, sort of.

Although I still have one more event on the calendar - the Marine Corps Marathon at the end of October - my multisport season is over, and focusing on just one sport is kinda like realizing you only have to take one more class to graduate...and you really just need a 'C' in the class to qualify for Boston. Well, you get the idea (not that Boston is on next year's schedule - but just in case...)

So how did I finish off my multisport season? Glad you asked. I claimed the Gold Medal in the 45-49 age division at the Duathlon Short Course World Championships. With a title that long, it has to be important. To be honest, my performance was not quite up to par. As I pointed out in my cirle of life, I had been struggling a bit the last few weeks with motivation and was spending most of my training time running and hardly any time riding or lifting (two crucial components for an aging duathlete). Turns out, all I had to do was beat a bunch of really old guys to win the title ;-p

In essence, the race itself was like any other race but because the ITU (International Triathlon Union) is in charge, there were a lot of differences surrounding the race. For starters, all the athletes had to wear an outfit with their name across their chest and butt (thank God I have both a massive chest and butt, otherwise the people behind me would probably have thought my name was ORDANEL). When mine arrived in the mail, I learned that people in the US must be giants compared to the rest of the world because my 'mediums' would have been tight on a 10-year-old boy. They might as well have sent me finger paints to paint the outfit on (to the elation of everyone - they did not do this). These state-of-the-art outfits were designed to be ultra fast in the water. Oh wait. We don't swim in a duathlon. Hmmmm, could it be that duathletes are still the ugly stepchild of the multisport world? Sorry, cheap shot. Well, at $180 - not really a "cheap" shot...

When you have a long name, you'd better have a big butt. Wow - that's a quote I'd like to be famous for.

Well, as you can see, it's getting tougher and tougher for me to fight my 'bitter old man' tendencies; after all, it is a rite of passage - like wearing black socks with bermuda shorts, no shirt and sneakers (I can't wait to show up at a race this way). So I'll just throw this one last tidbit out. This event was just a couple of hours up the road for me and it cost me nearly a quarter of my entire race budget for the year. There. Now I feel better. On to the race...

We arrived in Concord, NC on a beautiful Friday afternoon through no small miracle. We followed the directions in the race manual to a tee...and ended up in someone's driveway on a tiny back road. We know we followed the directions correctly because the address was in fact the address in the manual. Unfortunately, it was NOT the address to the race hotel. Using our navigational skillz we successfully found the hotel and registering was relatively painless. Next, we headed over to Lowes Motor Speedway - a huge NASCAR venue, which was a really cool race site. We had to rack our bikes nearly 24 hours prior to our event and with the pending rain, I made sure to 'super lube' the chain. I also took a spin around the outside of the stadium to make sure the bike was ready.

I had so little expectations for my performance that I was really relaxed - even after seeing that both the run and bike course had just short of a billion twists and turns. I got lost just looking at the map. No worries. They'll either have the course marked well...or they won't. Besides, I imagined that I could just follow the trail of bodies from all the 'wipeouts' in the rain. If Christopher Columbus had used this map to find the New World, we'd all be living in Norway.

Oh - My - God. After 30 years of racing, someone finally figured out that a 2-hour race does not have to start at 3am. Years from now, when someone sees my Gold Medal in a hermetically sealed box in the middle of the living room and says "tell me about this race". I will smile wide and begin with..."I didn't have to set my alarm." to which, I imagine I will ge the rebuttal "Liar!". I swear it's true. I got to sleep until there was no more sleep in me. The "junior" racers raced in the morning hours and that's simply how things should be. I paid my dues - it's their turn. Plus it's harder for me to get out of bed, what with the arthritis and all. I had both breakfast and lunch at normal human hours. It felt so wierd. What wasn't wierd was the rain. A steady misting/sprinkling all day. I didn't care. Some of my best races have been in wet conditions; but I hated it for Janis. She never complains but for her, it has to be a pain in the ass.

Over 30 years, I've raced through a lot of different weather conditions. On these days, the most important thing is what you wear (or don't wear). If you dress correctly, you don't even notice the impact the weather is having on you. For instance, I know it rained all day at Ironman Wisconsin but I don't ever remember getting wet. If you dress poorly, you might not realize it until late in the game - like when it comes time to unbuckle your helmet and your hands are so frozen that you can't operate them (Powerman Alabama '07). There was little fear of getting too cold today, but with the weather, I went the extra mile to lube myself up with Body Glide and Vaseline. Water = blisters. I was so lubed up that if Janis had hugged me, I would have shot out of her arms like a wet bar of soap. It feels a little funny, but you get used to it

Any day is a beautiful day for a race...it's just that some are 'less beautiful' than others.

I was in the 4th of 5 waves and would be starting with all the men ages 35-49. The older men and all the women were starting ahead of us and the 'young' men were behind us. The rain continued as the athletes warmed up in the infield of the track and I jogged a bit with fellow G'Vegas resident Gail Kattouf. Gail is a phenomenal athlete and I anticipated that she would actually place in the top 5 overall (regardless of age group). We wished each other good luck and then lined up across the width of the track for the start. I watched Gail's group take off and 10 minutes later, it was my turn. I glanced around me to see and hear the athletes from so many different countries. I thought about how we are all really the same no matter where we're from. We race. That's what we do. The gun sounded and that's what we did.

Lead, follow or get out of the way.

Immediately, I found myself surrounded - and at the same time, falling behind. This was a far cry from Nationals where I was racing only with my age group and American athletes. I kept having to remind myself that many of the runners ahead of me would be 5 or 10 years younger. The first run was 2 laps of a 5k course. Lots of turns and plenty of hills. The first mile snaked all through the infield on what could be described as a 'go-cart' track. As ususal, I over extended myself simply because I thought that if a couple of dozen runners are ahead of me, I must be going slow. I realized how hard I had started when we dove down a bit into the tunnel that goes under the track and then had to climb up the tunnel to the outside world. The climb was so steep that a wheelchair athlete was turned backwards and inching their way up the incline. I was passed by several runners and struggled to get out of oxygen debt. I managed to finally gain composure as I re-entered the track near the end of the first lap.

On lap 2 of the run, I found myself felling stronger now that I had settled into a more even tempo and I passed a few runners back. At mile 4, we doubled back on ourselves and I could see 2 of the best US athletes over the age of 45 - John McGovern and Jeff Terry. It sure made it easy to identify people with their names on their uniforms. Both athletes were probably a minute ahead of me. I found myself running near another American named Riley and the two of us helped each other set a tempo for the last couple of miles. Running back through the tunnel was almost painful it was such a steep little descent; I thought for sure someone would trip and fall here. Riley and I entered transition together and exchanged a couple of quick words of encouragement. A quick glance at the watch revealed that I was not running slow at all - everyone else was freakin' flying! My 5:36 pace looked like I was a mall walker

Ahh, the bike. I had hardly been riding the last few weeks trying to get over the 'end of the season' motivational hump. But really, I've been riding for 30 years. I think riding a bike is more natural for me than walking. Riley and I darted out of transition together and we started by doing some short, quick turns in the infield. I felt like he was practically coming to a stop and as soon as I had room, I bolted around him. It was like a sudden rush coming back to me, my years of doing semi-pro bike racing in the rain. It was an absolute blast pushing the limits of my bike in every turn. I may not have been my fittest on the bike today, but I sure made up time using my "skillz". It may well have been the most fun I've had on my bike all year. YEE-HAAAAAA.

Knowing the limits of your machine is a huge plus on a day like today. My bike and I had a lot of fun out there.

I caught both Jeff Terry and John McGovern and felt great. I could tell I was missing some power but I was still moving well. With just a few miles to go, I was caught by 3 riders - the 2 eventually overall winners and Casey Williams - last year's Master Duathlete of the Year. I stayed relatively close as they pulled away ever so slightly. I had them all in sight as we entered the Speedway and took a lap of track. As I approached the turn into transition, I pulled both feet out of my shoes, and slammed the bike to a perfect stop. My first thought was "try to unbuckle your helmet to make sure your hands aren't too cold". They weren't...and I did.

Finishing the bike leg on Lowes Motor Speedway, I get ready to transition to the run

Just then a volunteer yelled at me "your shoe!". I assume he didn't realize that I had intentionally left my shoes on my bike but something made me look back. There was my shoe about 50 feet behind me lying on the road. I debated for an instant before I continued on my mission. It wasn't until about 5 minutes into my second run that I pondered the fact that leaving my shoe behind could be construed in the rules as 'abondoning equipment' even though the shoe was physically inside the transition area. But that was 5 mintues from now. Right now, I had something else on my mind as an official stepped towards me holding up a yellow card. I looked at him and said "What?".

He told me to stop immediately and buckle my helmet. I did as he said but not before muttering about not even being on the bike. It's a rule I was not aware of - although it is apparently a rule (helmet must be buckled until you rack your bike. Since it was a warning, there would be no penalty but this made me as mad as I have ever been. Why, you ask? Because Janis and I are huge proponents of wearing helmets and we get severely angered when we see people riding around before and after the race without wearing them...and THIS IS ALSO A RULE - but nobody has EVER been penalized for this. Amazing. I'm running into the transition area off of my bike and they think it's more important for me to have my helmet buckled NOW! And not as I ride into the transition area with 2, 10-pound bags of gear hanging all over me an hour before the race. Un-freakin-believable.

I wish I could say that I channeled my anger into a great second run but it wasn't so. I exited the transition area almost side-by-side with Casey. I felt quite sluggish and spent the entire 3.1 miles playing accordion with Casey. For nearly 20 minutes I could almost reach out and grab him - and yet I could never catch him. By the finish, he had gained only 8 seconds on me. Fortunately for me, Casey is in the 40-44 age group. Hmph...young pup. With so many people on the course - and having started with several age gorups together, it was nearly impossible to tell where I was at the finish in relation to my competition. Something told me I was 3rd...

I don't care what country you are from - or what language you speak. We all understand 'FINISH'.

It was only after standing around chatting with Gail, Casey and some of the other athletes that the realization set in that it was still raining...and my body temperature was dropping. By the time I grabbed the riding shoe I lost and my bike from transition, I was shaking and my lips were blue. I made Janis drive back to the hotel with the heat blasting. Unlike most of my races, my initial reactions today were less about my placing and more about how much fun I had on the bike course and reflecting on my up and down season as a whole.

I learned a few hours later that I was just hallucinating when I thought there were other 45+ athletes ahead of me...I had won the Gold for my age group. I was elated to see my multisport season end on a high note; it made me almost wish the season would keep going...almost.

Race Notes:
* After spending Friday night in a 'non-smoking' room at an off-brand hotel - where the overposering smell of air freshener was a poor attempt to cover up the the smell of smoke - Janis and I vowed that it's Holiday Inn or Marriott from now on (our 2 usual hotels).
* I had a bit of an 'incident' at the awards ceremony. Guests were not allowed in to see the ceremony unless they paid $35 to partake of the lunch buffet. That's extortion. Period. So I asked for my medal (as did another athlete who had 5 family members with him...that's $175 just for his family to see him win a medal). The two of us were leaving when Skip Gilbert (the President of the US Triathlon Assoc.) grabbed us and told us he would take of it for us. Janis and I had the money - that's not the point I told him. He told us that the UTI was in charge and it was their rule. This is the second time I've dealt with Skip Gilbert and I've got to say, he's truly a stand-up guy and I'm glad he's running this sport in the US.
* I had an awesome first run...and yet, even with all my time off the bike, my bike split (13th fastest overall) still outperformed my run splits.
* Rick Kattouf - the husband of Gail Kattouf, who is also from Greenville and took second overall amateur woman - was there to cheer his wife on. He cheered me on as well...from everywhere. Seriously. It was like something out of an eerie movie. He would be at the side of the road cheering and five minutes later, seemingly miles away, there he would be again. Thanks, Rick...but that was eerie.
* I was sad to see my neighbor, teammate and training partner Dan Moss having to skip this event due to injury. Dan had a good shot at placing highly overall.
* At the awards ceremony - when the Italians found out that both Gail and I were Italian heritage, it was like they had known us all their lives - we were like family. It made us proud - and certainly answered a lot of questions about where I get my outgoing, loud and carefree traits from.
* I don't care who you are - racing your bike around a huge NASCAR motor speedway is cool. Way cool.
* Next year is Janis' and my 10th anniversary over Labor Day weekend and we are looking to travel somewhere new and different. On a completely seperate note, next year's Duathlon World Chamionships will take place in Edinburgh, Scotland over Labor Day weekend. That's somewhere new and different. I'm just sayin'...

As always, a super-special thanks goes out to all my sponsors especially Go Tri Sports, Fleet Feet, Rudy Project, NutraFit

This ends my multisport season but I have one big event left - the Marine Corps Marathon on October 25th. I'll be trying a little experiment at this marathon so stayed tuned

Duathlon Nationals Race Report

by G-Man 27. April 2009 12:23

Location: Ricmond, VA
Date: April 26, 2009
Placing: 14th Overall, 1st 45-49
Race Photos
Results: Click Here

Since it has been almost 2 months since my last race, I'll start with a bit of background on where I 'disappeared' to...

Well, if you had asked me 7 weeks ago if this was an impossible mission I would have said yes. I had been managing my recently-diagnosed asthma effectively through the Winter and was having some very hopeful early season success...until Spring suddenly appeared on March 7th and my lungs said "to hell if I'm breathing that stuff in". It was a rude awakening and it was hard enough for me to phathom - let alone explain to a doctor..."Yeah, last week I could run a 35-minute 10k and now I can't even break 41 mintues." Everyone just wanted to tell me that 41 minutes is great and "Oh, I have allergies, too". I have had 'allegies' since I was born and this was not simply 'allergies'. Allergies make my head feel terrrible and slow me down a few seconds not a few minutes. When your messing with something that has been your lifestyle for so long, well...let's just say it can be quite the emotional rollercoaster. I was already planning my retirement: coaching young budding triathletes from within my hermetically-sealed plastic bubble...

Well, nobody should just give up at the first sign of a fight. Things looked pretty bleak, but as far as I knew, this thing could leave as quickly as it showed up...and it did, sort of. Although I was slower - and I hacked and coughed a lot - I continued with my training. I only trained with Dan and my other teammates a couple of times since I was afraid to slow them down. I went back to training completely on my own for a while. Several events on my race calendar came and went; and so did a few rounds of drugs - nothing that seemed to really help. For four weeks I watched my swim, bike and run times stay consistently slower than my pre-March times, and not by a little bit. What used to be 6:00/mile pace was now a 7:00/mile pace. My 20-mile bike time trial was in the 46:00 range prior to March...now? 50-52:00. I did a 5-mile run with teammates one morning and nearly collapsed from the 7:26/mile pace. On April 4th, I went out to do a 6-mile tempo run followed by a 40-mile ride. I ran the 6-miles at 6:01 pace and then jumped on my bike and rode my road bike 38 miles at 21 mph with no problem. Since that moment, I have had good days and bad days. The difference is that a good day is a 6:00 pace and a bad day is a 6:10 pace. With 3 weeks until Nationals, I thought maybe I still had a shot...

For the first time ever, age has literally snuck up on me. The weeks leading up to this event, I told everyone that my age group wave started at 9:30. I even examined some of my competitors in the 40-44 age group. The problem is...this is no longer my age group. It wasn't until 2 days before the event that I realized I had been focusing on the wrong age group. According to the US Triathlon Association, I was now 45 years old - even though I won't actually hit that milestone for 7 more months. Since most races are not this big, I'm either looking to place 'overall' or as a 'master' (anyone over 40). With this being the National Championships - where winners are crowned in 5-year increments, I was forced to realize that I am racing as a 45-year-old now. In the end, I still consider myself to be competing against everyone and I'm fortunate enough to still be competitive against athletes half my age...but that won't last forever (especially if my body continues to fall apart). It's just funny that since this past weekend, it's really sunk in that I am nearly 45 years old and still pushing like I'm 25...

The Richmond venue is one of the best race venues ever as far as the start/finish and transition area. Check the photos for a couple of shots of the view above the transition area. Navigating the courses was a bit 'wacky' to say the least although they are pretty good for spectators. I made myself very familiar with the bike course with a pre-race ride on Saturday and was comfortable with it except for the anticipated traffic from other athletes on the course. The promoters tried to keep the amount of congestion down by sending off each age group in a different wave - each separated by 40 minutes. The 55+ athletes would start at 7:30am and the the under-30 athletes would eventually start at 11:30am. This plan seemed to work fairly well. My biggest concern was that I hadn't had time to check the run courses. When I did the world championships here in 2007, I remember the course going behind buildings, down pathways, etc. If you found yourself alone you might not have any idea which way to go. I just hoped the course was marked well. The BIG story of the day was Mother Nature. It was scheduled to be a record-setting 96 degrees!! As nasty as that sounded, I knew it might well be an advantage for my Texas upbringing.

As is our typical ritual the night before a longer event, Janis and I found a great place for pasta (Piccolo Italy). It was about a mile from the hotel and we walked there and back. The food was delicious and teh walk helped me stretch out a bit. When we got back to the hotel, I completed the ritual by writing out my detailed time estimate for Janis. This ritual began when Janis wanted to know how long she would have between seeing me each time at a race. She doesn't want to just 'sit there' if I'm going to be gone for 3 hours. Since then, this has also turned into a great lesson about how well you know your fitness and your body. I recommend it for everyone. Here's what I wrote on the paper I gave Janis:

Run1: 37:00
T1: 1:00
Bike: 57:00
T2: 1:00
Run2: 19:30
Total Time: 1:55:30

I felt like I was playing a bit conservative on my run based on my up and down times recently and aiming right on for my ride. As you will see, I was a bit mixed up on this. I knew that running would be my weak point and that my cycling - and my ability to 'recover' from one sport to the next - would be my strong points. With this in mind, I was prepared to go with my standard plan: push as hard as I have to on the first run so that the leader is within sight; even if it means over-extending myself. I know that no matter how hard I run, I can get on the bike and go. I would keep the pace really high on the bike leg to try and gain as much lead as possible (hopefully) and then back off a few miles from the bike finish and simply survive the second run and hold onto any advantage I might have.

Personally, I didn't care about the temperatures for the day, I would rather get a good night's sleep and race at 10 am in any condition than have to get up at 4 am for a start. As it was, it was already 80 degrees when my field of 86 athletes took off running. Jeff Terry - USAT's Master Duathlete of the Year a couple of years ago found me on the start line and struck up some conversation. This was good becuase I now had someone to gauge myself. Jeff was a stronger runner than cyclist so I thought I might keep an eye on that. We started with a short, steep downhill and I allowed myself to be boxed in a bit since we seemed to be moving well and nobody was out to make a challenge from the gun. I was a tad nervous to say the least - not knowing if my lungs were going to effect me at all. I was however glad to see that we had a cyling escort to keep us on the right path. Admitedly, I was only a half-mile into the race when I was already working hard and thinking that I might not be ready for this. Running hard hurts. Period. I can't make swimming hurt that much because I'm inefficient at it. I can't make cycling hurt that much becuase my body has been doing it longer than many of you have been alive and my brain just doesn't see it as pain. But running? Ouch. I quickly forgot about the effort when the group started to stretch a bit. I darted around some guys and into the 3rd position right behind Jeff Terry. We let another runner set the tempo and it was a couple of minutes later when I noticed that it was down to the 3 of us. I was definitely working hard as we slowly extended our lead. As we closed in on mile 3, Jeff started to come off the pace and I figured if this was hard for Jeff then I was in no position to try and keep up with the leader so I too let the leader go. A quarter-mile later, I pulled away from Jeff.

We hit a turnaround at 3.5 miles and I got to see a small gap between myself and Jeff and a moderate gap to the next group of 4 runners. I was already over-extending myself but kept pushing. What they tried to pass off as mile markers were easy to miss and I never saw any of the first 3. I passed mile 4 at 22:00 on the nose (5:30 pace), but could tell I was rapidly declining. The leader was really pulling away now but I still had a gap on my persuers. Just past mile 5, I was caught - not by Jeff Terry - but by another runner. I tried hard to keep the runner close by but the final quarter mile was all uphill and I felt like I came to nearly a complete stop. I made it to the transition area in 3rd place. My watch said I had run somewhere in the mid 35-minute range and it appeared that the 2 athletes ahead of me were about 1 minute and 30 seconds respectively.

Thank God I know myself really well. I had run a 10k at the same pace that I would if I had run it by itself (5:44 pace) but knew that getting on the bike would erase it all. And it did. One mile into the 24-mile ride, I gobbled up 2nd place. I saw him make a right turn at the bottom of a short steep hill. I could see him get out of his aerobars and brake. I took the turn full force in my aerobars at close to 30 mph. Less than a mile later, a similar incident occured. The leader was braking to take a turn and I went around him on his outside without missing a beat. I was flying. I had erased my deficit in just the first 2 miles of the ride and I was feeling awesome. I continued to pound away and I came around the first of three laps in a little under 19 minutes - right on schedule to turn a 57:00 time. I focused on catching every rider ahead of me. I know I hate the traffic of other riders but there's also an incredible adrenaline rush to weave through people at breakneck speeds. It's the closest to NASCAR you can get without being in the car.

My flurry of excitement dwindled a bit when I started to lose some power halfway through lap 2. I was still moving fairly well, but it seemed like I wasn't able to push the large gears I did on lap 1. I started to get a bit concerned but tried to hold myself together and focused on riding as efficiently as possible. To make matters a bit worse, I reached down for my water bottle filled with 'Perpetuem' to take a sip and as I squeezed the bottle, liquid came shooting out of the sides of the lid. Those who know me know that I am like a camel and that I race on very little liquid (not highly recommended - I just didn't know any better when I taught my body to do this years ago and so it adapted). I told myself before the event that I was going to force myself to drink and take in calories because of the extreme temperatures. Now I was trying to race down the road while trying to screw my water bottle cap on correctly. I had gotten a couple of gulps down before I gave up so I left it alone for now...my body now had a light layer of Perpetuem on it to go with the gobs of body glide and sunscreen. A tantilizing combination.

I was still feeling a power loss, but as I went through a turnaround point near mile 14, I noticed my gap had increased over my closest persuer. Good. My second loop time had dropped to over 20 minutes and I feared that I would feel terrible when I got off the bike so I just kept trying to be efficient - no over-exteding and no under-exteding. At mile 19, I slowly caught a rider who was age 42 (everyone's age is marked on their leg). While I was on my last lap, he was on his first since he started in the wave 40 minutes after me. As I passed him, he sped up a bit. Once I passed him, I could see with my peripheral vision over my shoulder that he was using me to pace him. He was not cheating by drafting me; instead he stayed a good distance behind me and off to the side, but he was definitely using me. I thought nothing of this at the time. At mile 20, I grabbed an energy GU from my pocket and squeezed it into my mouth...YUCK. the necessary evils of racing. When are then going to invent a liquid Snickers bar? I reached for my water bottle to wash it down and apparently, my attempts to tighten the lid earlier were not as successful as I had thought. The lid snapped off in my mouth this time and Perpetuem went everywhere. I had no choice but to quickly pour the contents out of the bottle, throw it back into the water bottle cage and stuff the cap in my pocket. Oh yeah, don't forget I still have a mouth full of GU.

With about 3 miles to go, I backed down a bit in preperation for transition and this is when the guy shadowing me passed me. As usual, I raced right up to the bike dismount line and scared the hell out of the official who was yelling at me to slow down. I slammed on my brakes, skidded to a stop about 6 inches in front of the line and quickly dismounted. My watch revealed that my ride took somewhere around an hour. Not good, I thought. I probably didn't even break the top 20 bike times with that ride...but I didn't have time to debate things in my head, I still had a 5k to run and a race to win. I threw on my shoes and my Rudys and off I went, not knowing how large a gap I had. I took off at a comfortable pace and decided that I would stay at a comfortable pace unless I had any indication that I was being chased. I actually felt pretty good and my fears of dying on the second run immediately disappeared. I went through several spots where I could see back for long stretches and nobody was coming. I went through a turnaround with a half-mile remaining and I saw second place - about a minute back. I knew I was safe and just kept a bit of pressure on to the line. Victory was mine. Yee Haaaaaa! By the end of the day, I had captured 14th overall and a National Championship in the men's 45-49 division.

Race Notes:
* Amazingly, with the way I felt, my bike time was 9th fastest and was less than a minute from being 2nd fastest. Yet my first run that I was so proud of was only the 40th best! I was happy that at age 45, I was only two and a half minutes from the top 3 overall which shows the competitiveness of the field.
* The mystery of the rider that shadowed me on the last lap turned out to be a bad story for me. It turns out that the rider in question was Jeff Miller. Jeff was 'Duathlete of the Year' a couple of years ago when he was 40! On this day, he was the only masters-aged athlete to beat me and it was a 30 second margin. In looking back now, I actually HELPED JEFF BEAT ME by pacing him. Arrrgh!
* Amidst the myriad of high-tech racing bikes, I once again raced on standard road-race clincher wheels, an aluminum frame and circa 1980 clip-on handlebars. It's all about your position on the bike.
* A part of me wishes that someone had been close enough to me to make me work more on the final 5k. There was nobody to push me and I settled for a 5k run that was slower than it could've and should've been.
* Congrats to teammate and training partner Dan Moss who took 3rd overall and 1st in the 25-29 age group. It's pretty cool looking at the list of National Champions and seeing 'Simpsonville, SC' in there twice. Team GoTriSports rocks!
* I was only 33 seconds off my pe-race estimate
* Next up: Lake Murray Sprint Tri.

Charlotte Long Course Duathlon Race Report

by G-Man 3. March 2009 04:40

Location: Charlotte, NC
Date: February 28, 2009
Placing: 3rd Overall
Race Photos
Results: fsseries.com

Fifty degrees, steady rain. I am soooo glad it was a race day. Seriously. Think about it...if it wasn't a race day what do you think the odds are that I would have gotten off the sofa to work out? Yeah, I would've done something but it wouldn't have compared to a race. Like many early season events, I was anxious and tentative just to get a gauge on my training and fitness. Although looking out the hotel window on race morning made me a litle less anxious.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, all 3 of my sports seemed to be fairly strong - certainly compared to last year when I battled a bit with some undiagnosed asthma. With the asthma identified and under control my training times are already close to what they were two years ago. But the last 2 weeks took a little downturn between rest time, skiing in Vermont (and let me just say that the snow was the most spectacular that we've skiied in) and a project deadline at work. No worries - it's only February. Most importantly, I went into this event without having 5 extra minutes this week to actually prepare. I hadn't had time to dust off the race bike or even figure out what I was going to wear. So I just threw everything I could think of into the back of my Rav4 after work on Friday and drove up to Charlotte. I hadn't even had 10 minutes to shave the past week and I was sporting my mountain-man look.

I've been racing for a LOT of years. I don't do morning drives unless I absolutely, positively have to. If I could, I would pay extra money to wake up next to the start line. Maybe they should start a race from a hotel parking lot? That would be awesome. The only downside for this trip was that my team photographer, travel agent, manager and support crew could not make the trip (those would all be my wife, Janis).

The race itself was a duathlon - 4-mile run, 32-mile ride, 4-mile run; my first multisport race of the year and my first race as a member of the GoTriSports triathlon team. Teammate Chris Olson was slated to join me at this event. Chris is a phenomenal traithlete on our team this year and although we both were just looking to test our fitness at this event, I think we still wanted to have a good team showing as well. Chris had done this event last year and went off course twice on the bike segment. He had advised me to try and familiarize myself with the bike course since it had a lot of turns in 32 miles but the best I could do was try to memorize the map and the turns from my hotel room just before going to sleep. This was the thing I was most nervous about. At most races, the promoters say "it's the athlete's responsibility to know the course" but I take issue with this as many times we don't have a chance to preview the course. Plus, is it really that hard to put someone on a corner and everytime they see someone point and yell "go that way!"? As usual, I digress...

Race morning was everything the weathermen had promised. The only good thing about it was that in 2007 I had done 2 major races in the exact same conditions so I pretty much knew what to wear to avoid a near miss with hypothermia. Several athletes in those other races were not so prepared. I also don't usually get to the race site really early. I did that when I first started racing because you are so nervous about what you need to do before the race that it seems like it will take 3 or 4 hours. In reality, if you are prepared and you have a regimen, it takes very little time. But as I mentioned, I did not have a lot of time for preperation and I kept feeling as though I had a lot to do, so I arrived at the race site 2 hours before the start and I think I was the 2nd competitor there. I grabbed my registration, put some extra lube on my bike chain for the rainy conditions and set up my transition area. I was smart enough to grab a couple of extra kitchen trash bags from home and I used one to stick my towel and riding shoes in. This worked amazingly well and only took an extra second or two to grab my dry shoes from the bag during the race. I finished getting ready so quickly that I ended up sitting in my car for nearly an hour anyway. Oh well.

So, the rain on the bike course sounds fun, right? Well it turns out that the run was on hard-packed dirt and gravel roads 'laced' with red clay. Chris and I ran one of the 2-mile laps as a warm up and when we were done, we already looked like we had been trying to catch a pig in a mud pit. We quickly learned to avoid any red dirt which was basically the the equivalent of ice. I also opted to wear a little heavier shoe which was probably a wise decision as I could ocassionally feel rocks under my feet as I ran. As we lined up to start, I seemed to be wearing a bit more than a lot of people - especially gloves - but I knew what cold hands meant from past experience (more on that later). I was happy to hear them announce that they had police officers directing at every turn this year both for safety as well as keeping people on course (keep this tidbit in mind as well).

The start gun went off and away we ran. It was good to have a teammate in the mix not only becuase we were teammates but also because I was pretty aware of the other Chris' ability and that would give me one more gauge on today. We took off next to each other down the start hill behind the two leaders. We ran two 'loops' of a two-mile course. It wasn't really a loop, but an out-and-back route that resembled a giant letter 'E' and it doubled back on itself the entire way which really made for some fun times - trying to dodge the red clay AND the oncoming traffic. I managed to stay just behind the leaders in third place and Chris fell just a few seconds back in fourth. Of course, the good part about this type of course layout is that you always know where you are in relation to everyone else. After only a mile, my body was acting as if I had over extended myself and believe it or not the thought crossed my mind "holy cow, am I gonna be able to finish this race?" I don't know why I was surprised - going out hard is how I do all my races; I simply trust in my endurance. There was one turn in particular where your mind made a left...but your body would keep going straight. It was the human version of auto racing's 'drifting'.

As I watched the two leaders get further and further from myself and the field I was passed by two runners with just about a half-mile to go and I stayed with them to the transition. The three of us exited on our bikes almost side by side. Now, do you remember how they told me about all the police marshalling the coorners? Well, did they think to put one in the parking lot to direct us out? Any guesses? Of course not. The three of us rode straight down a hill that simply ended into a dead-end parking lot. I quickly turned back on an available dirt road and used some of my years of bike handling skills to navigate the muddy road, leave my companions and return to the course just in time to see Chris cruise by. I thought to myself this wasn't too bad - I knew Chris was a strong rider and now I could focus on him. I just hoped the REST of the course was marked...

The first 4 miles of the ride, I seemed to gain on Chris on each uphill and he seemed to gain some back on the downhills. The course was surprisingly demanding and there was so much up and down that it was hard to tell if I was catching Chris or if he was pulling away. He was about a quarter-mile ahead of me when we entered a small town and took a couple of turns. After that, he seemingly disappeared. I kept thinking I would see him the next time the road opened up. Or even better yet, that I would see the leaders. But nothing. I ocassionally questioned whether I was off course or if any of the 3 riders ahead of me were off course. Could he have just stepped it up a notch? No matter - I trudged on through the rain. As I approached every police car, I searched the ground for a painted arrow and always yelled "Which way?!" to the officer. Sure enough, this made it easy to stay on course. If you are unfamiliar with a course, I highly recommend simply yelling this question either to the police or the volunteer. A lot of times, these people just stand there or are there to watch for traffic and rarely ever point you in the right direction...so just ask instead of guessing. As it turned out, I never saw another rider on the course after Chris 'disappeared'.

As I came slamming into the transition area, one of the race volunteers yelled that the two guys ahead of me were not too far. Two guys? Hmmmm...I guess I would find out soon enough. And now the reason I wore gloves: if your hands are too cold, you'll never get your helmet unbuckled. How do I know this? Ask me sometime about my adventure as 'helmet boy'. My transition was fairly quick and off I ran. After a few strides it was apparent that I had left my feet in transition becuase all I could feel was my leg striking the ground. My feet were completely numb. Just a couple hundred yards into the second run - on different parts of the course - I saw the two original leaders...but no sign of Chris. I hoped he hadn't crashed. I was only about a minute behind 2nd place but did not feel very strong and summized that I could blow up trying to catch 2nd so I set it on cruise control and told myself I would push it if it looked anyone might catch me. Turns out that the closest person behind me was Chris. As we passed each other for the first time going opposite directions, I shrugged at him and he sorta just grinned. Well, at least he was in one piece and we were both still top 5.

As I came up to the finish line, Chris' wife Laura yelled - "you poor guys must be freezing". Believe me - I was NOT freezing. I wasn't even cool for that matter. I comfortably crossed the line in 3rd and turned around to wait for Chris to cross the line next for 4th. During our cooldown, Chris confessed that for the 2nd year in a row, he missed a turn. Apparently, one police officer was in his car when Chris went by but had emerged from his vehicle before I came by. I'm guessing that watching Chris go the wrong direction might be what prompted him to get out of his car. So we both went a bit off course today. I joked with Chris that we took turns trying to give away 3rd place. We also talked about how we both love our Rudy aero helmets; when I first got mine, I thought the plastic shield would be annoying but I was way wrong. I pull my face shield down as soon as I get on the bike and it's amazing how I don't even notice it's there. And to top it off - when most glasses would fog up in weather like this - the sheild stays clear as a bell. It was probably my favorite piece of equipment for this race. That and my poor Brooks ST3 running shoes...which will never be white again ;-)

In spite of the weather, the venue (the US National Whitewater Center) was awesome and the race promoter did a great job - providing food (lots of it) as well as coffee and hot chocolate. I can't be anything but happy with my performance at the end of February. I'm hoping this year that I can get my cycling back to it's level from a couple of years ago and it's looking hopeful.

Race Notes:
* The biggest surprise of the day for me was that even with all my focus n running right now, both runs felt quite uncomfortable whereas the moment I clipped into my pedals on the bike, I felt strong and comfortable.
* The winner put nearly 5 minutes on me between the two runs.
* My asthma and allergies never even showed up today. Lets hope that's a trend that continues.
* Bike split was 2nd fastest of the day - I'm hoping for a return to a trend of fast bike splits.
* Congrats to Chris O. I think it says a lot when both of us can go off course and still finish 3rd and 4th.
* Next up: Reedy River 10k.