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I had the opportunity to do a 5.5 hour training ride with 5-time Ironman champion Heather Gollnick - 3/2/2008
Christopher Giordanelli
Simpsonville Weather Forecast, SC (29680)

Hot Chocolate 15k Race Report

by G-Man 27. January 2013 10:16

Location: Atlanta, GA
Date: January 13, 2013
Placing: 6th Overall
Format: 15k Run
My Race Photos
Official Race Photos
Results: Click Here

People run for many reasons. Their health; to raise money for charity; they got a DUI; as a social outlet; they like pink shoes; they just stole something; they have an imbalance in their brains; chocolate... Wha?...I could swear I just said chocolate? Oh, I did. And I will say it vehemently in front of God and the world. I WILL RUN FOR CHOCOLATE. I love it - and so does Janis. I'm more of a milk chocolate guy and she's more of a dark chocolate gal but somehow we look past these differences and make it work. There is enough chocolate for everyone. At least there had better be. To say that Janis and I like chocolate is to say that Romeo 'liked' Juliet.

More true than you know...

I've been to Hershey Park, M & M's world in Las Vegas, multiple chocolatiers and the chocolate museum in Belgium. I've taken 'chocolate tours' in San Francisco and Philadelphia. Janis and I have a motto "if it doesn't contain chocolate - don't call it a desssert". As I sit writing this in my kitchen, I see a cannister of 'spicy hot cocoa' and a tray of chocolate-iced, chocolate cupcakes that Janis made yesterday. When Janis is not around, I sometimes dress as an Oompa Loompa and sing about chocolate. I live in a chocolate world my friends. "...you will live in happiness too, Like the Oompa Loompa doompadee do...".

Chocolate covered bacon? Why, yes, thank you.

So last Summer, when I received an email entitled "Something, something, blah, blah CHOCOLATE, blah, something" I practically crushed my mouse in my frenzy to open it. A race where you are served hot chocolate and chocolate fondue when you finish. Seriously? It was just one notch shy of finding a golden ticket in a Wonka Bar. Even Janis, the self-proclaimed 'non-racer' was in. It was in Atlanta and there was a 15k and a 5k but really that was irrelevant; it could have been a 100-mile run in Alaska and I would have had no problem. I couldn't wait to sip the hot chocolately goodness after a frigid January race morning, not to mention the stylish Hot Chocolate hats and hoodies that practically scream "I would take a bullet for chocolate".

Fast forward six months. Janis and I arrived at our hotel in downtown Atlanta and decided to brave the weather and walk the mile to the expo and race registration. We bundled up in our shorts and Hawaiian shirts, applied multiple coats of sunscreen and stepped out into the blustery 70-degree, Winter day. Chocolate, yes...HOT chocolate? Not really on my list of "things to drink on a Summer's day". It was really quite comical picking up our sweatshirts and stocking caps on a day more suited for camels than polar bears.

"Take me to your chocolate"

Our swag was presented to us in a sytlish 'sling-bag' which was a bonus. The bags were several different colors but they were distributed randomly so Janis got awesome red while I got moderately, not-so-awesome white...aka 'vanilla'. Ouch. I haven't been able to use it yet since it is after Labor Day. I tried finagling a mint-colored or a blue-colored one from some other runners by telling them that the research clearly shows those colors as 'slow colors'. But they weren't buying it. We also had what will forever be known as "the bait and switch hat incident of 2013". Now, I'm not much of a complainer* but the truth is - the chocolate drew me in, but the chocolate-colored stocking cap sealed the deal. At least that's what the website showed me as a bonus if I 'signed up today'. And I did. Maybe they thought I would forget after 6 months. Really? I can recite times, paces, distances and placings from races I did 35 years ago (much to Janis's dismay); there's no way I'm gonna forget you offered me what will surely be the biggest fashion phenomenon since parachute pants. Instead, Janis and I got baseball caps. We already had to build an addition onto our house to hold the baseball caps I already DON'T wear. But in a 'Rudolph saves Christmas' moment, a volunteer stepped up and simply said "Well, that's not right. Looks like the race made a mistake. Just give me those baseball caps and take these Winter stocking caps." He restored my faith in customer service and my heart grew 3 sizes that day.

*This is an outright lie. I complain all the time.

Scotie models "the hat that almost wasn't".

Two other memorable things from the expo: 1. I managed to lose my number. That's right, I lost my number 10 mintues after I got it. It's official, senility has arrived. I'll be wearing tutus and capes in races within the year. 2. Biscoff had a booth at the expo. Biscoff is the company that makes the cinnamon cookies that airlines serve. They have a product like peanut butter that is basically their cookie in dough form. DO NOT TRY THIS PRODUCT IF YOU SEE IT. We each took a jar. I ate them both in a matter of days. Each jar contains the devil...and about 17,000 calories.

As usual, the self-proclaimed king and queen of logistics had an unrivaled plan on race morning. We donned our headlamps and helmets and pretended to put on parkas, hopped on our mountain bikes and rode the 2 miles to the start at Turner field. I tried not to laugh as we rode right past the incredibly long line of cars; mainly because I like to believe that Karma is a real thing. "I hope we find a parking spot. Oh look, here's one 20 feet from the start line. -click- (that's the sound of me locking the bikes to a pole)". I felt like I was back in school again and I had just earned 10 extra credit points. BAM!

Keep your eye on the prize, boys...keep your eye on the prize.

The 5k went first and I ran along next to Janis from the sidewalk for a few hundred yards cheering her on like she has done for me so many times. I was so proud of her...letting chocolate totally dictate her life. I loved her but I resented her; she would get to the chocolate first. I finished my warmup and then I waited for them to 're-open' the corrals for the 15k. That happened with less than 10 minutes to start, which wouldn't be a bad thing unless you were trying to squeeze 2,000 people through a single, 2-foot opening. I finally made it into the BACK of the corral while the announcer screamed out "One minute!". I hate it when people do this to me, but...what choice did I hve? I pushed my way toward the front. I wished I had a sign on my number that said "this runner will NOT get in your way" because I got some icy stares as I cut through people. Who can blame them? Look at me. Do I look like I can run 6-minute miles to you? People probably thought I was trying to get to my oxygen tank. I was still a good 10 rows back when the gun went off. Lord, forgive me for what I am about to do...

I must've said "S'cuse me" and "Sorry" 2 dozen times in the first 30 seconds before I finally found a hole down the side of the group that I shot through. At the end of the day, any seconds I lost were made up in the adreniline rush of being inside a real, live video game. Out of respect, I sent cards to the people I trampled, but I sm TOTALLY ready if I ever do the Running of the Bulls. I was in about the top 20 or so when we hit the first mile. We were spread out as if someone had strewn us upon the road. The mile clock showed 6:02 and at the same time I was thinking "Hmmm...a bit slow", the got next to me said "Hmmm...a bit fast". That's always a good sign. We weren't even 2 miles in when I remembered something really important. Atlanta is not flat. Not even close; and mile 2 was in fact, a bit slow. But I was in a happy place and really keeping my heartrate in check which can look fairly 'amateurish' as I blast ahead of people on the downhills only to get passed back on the uphills looking like I ran out of steam. But it works. Eventually, I would gain so much ground on the downs that they stopped catching me on the ups.

Felt like I wasn't even working for the first 5 miles. Just one of those good days that you hope happens at the big races. Or when your friends are watching. Or when chocolate is on the line.

I wasn't counting how many people I passed but when I got to mile 4, I pulled alongside the lead female. She was already in the hurt locker but I could tell that the hurt locker was not something new to her. Once I passed her, the road sudenly seemed clear ahead. With all the turns, I could only see one runner quite a ways up ahead. I remember distinctly thinking to myself "I hope someone yells 'looking good'" because I so wanted to yell out "I FEEL GREAT". Seriously. As hilly as the course was, I couldn't remember the last time I felt this good holding this pace. I told myself that at mile 6 I was going to notch it up and watch some fireworks. That didn't really pan out. At mile 5.5 a guy came by me like it was a practical joke. He must not have known about the chocolate at the finish until after he passed mile 3 or so.

Rounding one of the final turns to bring it on home. C'mon...baby needs a new pair of CHEWS!

Mile 6 came and instead of feeling like I could turn up the flame, I suddenly felt like I was actually moving about as good as I could (which was plenty fast enough). Imagine my surprise when I reached for a cup at the aid station and it was not filled with chocolate milk. They totally punked me on that one but I drank the water anyway. I slowly crept up on the one guy I could see...who was slowly creeping up on the guy in front of him. Just before the long grade up to mile 8 I caught them both; one right after the other. I made a valiant effort to give the illusion that I was not going to slow down and that neither of them should attempt to come with me. It worked. Well, either that or they actually were just too tired. I kept the pressure on and during the final downhill to the finish, I looked back and allowed myself to catch a bit of my breath before sprinting the final hundred meters to the line where I was anounced as "Chris Jordan". An honest error as I am often mistaken for the son of Hal Jordan aka 'Green Lantern'. Volunteers were trying to distract me with more water in the finishing chute but I stayed focused and on task. Janis put herself between the finish line and the chocolate - right where she knew I would be. She quickly gave me the instructions for getting my chocolate along with professional tips like "make sure they give you a Rice Krispie treat to dunk in the chocolate" and "don't go to that volunteer - she skimps on the chocolate".

Now you're just showin' off ;-)

I managed a 6th place overall finish and little miss "I'm not competitive" let it slip that she had set a PR. So we both had something to celebrate with our chocolate. And although it was warm out compared to normal January weather, it wasn't so warm that the hot chocolate didn't taste delicious going down. A great start to racing in 2013.


* As usual, I represented Fleet Feet, TeamKattouf, Rudy Project and Garmin. But today I didn't race in my Greenville Fleet Feet race top, I raced in my Fox Valley (Appleton, WI) Fleet Feet race top courtesy of the gang up there who took care of me when Delta lost my luggage during Christmas vacation. I wore it proud!
* I never saw my friends Sarah Parker and Nicole Ramsbey at the event. But later that day - about 15 miles away - we ran into them at the Cheesecake Factory!
* They are sending me my award. Wouldn't it be awesome if it was made of chocolate.
* We managed to escape town before the big Atlanta Falcon game. The tailgaters were in full swing!
* For anybody who has run the Spinx Half Marathon here locally, this course climbed almost double the elevation in 9 miles that Spinx climbed in 13. And I thought THAT was a hilly race.
* The temps while I was racing went from 58 to 61 degrees. Not too cold and not too hot but plenty humid!

Next Up: Jacksonville Marathon (National Breast Cancer Awareness Marathon), Feb 17th

Some kind of wierd, mutated version of a fist pump?

Oh that thing behind me? Just the world's largest solid chocolate egg located at the chocolate museum in Belgium

This is my 'not-so-surprised' face

Philadelphia Marathon Race Report

by G-Man 29. November 2012 10:47

Location: Philadelphia, PA
Date: November 18, 2012
Placing: 1st...or 2nd...45-49 Age Group
Format: Marathon
My Race Photos
Official Race Photos
Results: Click Here

"Our final Jeopardy category today is 'Not so Famous Firsts' and the answer is...'He beat everyone in his age group at the 2012 Philadelphia Marathon but did not get first place in his age group.'..."

It seems more like a riddle than a trivia question. But this should come as no surprise since my life is a riddle; wrapped in a mystery and shrouded by an enigma. Running races - especially marathons - rarely have anything that comes close to a 'controversey' which makes it tough to compete with other sports that make controversey as commonplace as waking up, eating breakfast or avoiding swimming. But I changed all that last week. And now, you will have something to talk about other than the election, Lance Armstrong or the life-altering debate as to whether or not Twinkies will exist for our children's children. But I should start at the beginning because a "journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step" and oddly enough, the journey of 26.2 miles ALSO starts with a single step.

I did everything right. At least everything I could control. After 100 years of competing you would think this would be the norm but it's not. Quite frankly, I can be pretty lazy about race prep these days. It's not that I am any less excited than I used to be - or care any less about doing my best - but I'm not as likely to go out of my way to eat dinner at a special time; or have a special meal; or skip watching a great Christmas movie just to go to bed early (damn that Hallmark channel). So I guess you could say that I trade some race prep for happiness and less stress. But this time, it seemed I was able to accomplish both. For starters, in keeping with the holiday season, I was able to visit the 3 wise men the week before the race - my physical therapist, my chiropractor and my massage therapist. If you know Chris Connor, Matt Eiken and Bob Mancuso you might think of them more as the 3 "wise guys" but either way they know their stuff and by Friday my competitive, war-worn exterior was simply a hardened shell holding muscles and bones that belonged to a 15-year old cheerleader before the big game. Rah. Bring it. By the way, at my age it's only a matter of time before I need to add an archeologist to that group.

We arrived in Philly Saturday afternoon after a delightful 2-day drive. We opted to take the route along the mountains of Virginia rather than fight the concrete jungle surrounding Washington, DC. A wise decision. We checked into our downtown hotel and walked the half mile to the convention center for packet pickup. This would be the first half-mile of walking in what we calculated to be nearly 25+ miles of walking across 5 days. Philadlephia managed to somehow pack everything we could possibly need into a 3-mile radius from our hotel. As usual, we were a picture of efficency at the expo...in -> race packet -> race shirt -> caffiene Power gel -> out. IF we are really feeling adventurous we will seek out the 'next big thing' that you HAVE to have. I beleive this year, it is compression headbands. Designed to squeeze blood into your brain and make you think you are running faster than you are. Buy one now. For us, we treat expos like a training ground for becoming ninjas. If Janis and I were ever kidnapped while leaving a race expo, they could probably show our photos to all 20,000 participants and they would all say "nope, never seen'em".

We had made no plans for a pre-race dinner but were assuming we would use our tried and true trick of ordering pick-up and bringing it back to the quiet solitude that was the hotel lobby. Normally we do this with the closest Olive Garden but this time we were in the very center of a huge city. There probably wasn't an Olive Garden within...300 feet. Seriously. Less than 3 blocks. We ordered, walked over, pushed our way through the throngs of marathoners waiting for tables, grabbed our food and were eating it in no time - to the chagrin of several hotel guests that passed us with that "hey, that's what we should have done" look. After dinner, I asked the desk clerk if there was any chance I could get a banana from somewhere. "Go out the front door..." I started to grab for a pen and paper. "...cross the street; go five feet and there is a grocery store." I'm not making this stuff up. And with banana in hand, my perfect race morning breakfast was complete. With an early dinner and nothing on the boob tube, I even got to bed earlier than expected.

Here's where it gets serious. I did something I have NEVER done on purpose. No, I didn't wear my new compression headband to bed. No, I set my FIRST alarm for 4am so that I could actually eat my breakfast 3 hours before the race start. At most races, I sleep as long as can - pushing the limits of time - and throw down my breakfast when I get up. But not today. In some of my better races the past couple of years, I noticed a pattern of eating early and being the keen student of science that I am I picked up on this. I ate a bagel with peanut butter, drank an Ensure and some Gatorade...and went back to bed for an hour and a half. It was like I was back in college...if you trade the bagel for Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream and drop the Ensure. Don't laugh; I credit this for giving me a stomach of steel. I could down a pizza on the start line and still run a marathon. My stomach could shield an atomic explosion.

It was about a 1.34923-mile walk to the marathon start and with a 7am start time it was going to be dark almost right up to the gun, soooo...if you have ever wondered what the Zombie apocolypse might look like just stand on the corner of JFK Boulevard and 16th street on race morning as hordes of lifeless people trying to stay warm and use minimal amounts of energy pop out of every pore in the city and funnel themselves toward a common goal - the Zombie gathering place (aka "the start line"). My Goodwill wardrobe simply added to the effect. A knit hat, sweatshirt and gloves that were all purchased to be 'disposable'. I was cleverly disguised as a homeless person. A fast homeless person. Eating a banana.

In full Goodwill disguise, I try to stay warm before heading into my corral

37 degrees. Friggin' cold...but almost perfect marathon weather if you can just stay alive until the gun goes off. If I'd had a match I would've set my number on fire. There was a calmness at the start as I waited in my corral. No doubt, it was mainly due to the deafening silence. There was no blaring announcer or loud music coming from the giant speakers. It actually made me smile to be able to hear myself think. At most events these days the start line noise makes you think you are right next to the Tunguska Meteor as it crashed to the ground. I'm sure you are all familiar with this event considering it is considered to be the loudest single-event in history. Not just a race report...a history lesson. I was actually able to chat with a few other runners without having to pratice my lip reading skills.

At first, I thought the corral was fairly narrow until I realized that the snow fencing on our left didn't seperate us from the spectators, it seperated us from a mirror-image of our corrals on the OTHER side of the boulevard. Apparently you could pick which side of the road you wanted to start on. And by virtue of ignorance...I chose the right side. Looking back behind us were the famed steps of the art museum that Rocky ran up. I thought about how cool it would have been if the finish line were at the top of those steps. In hindsight? Not so cool. Finally, a few words from the organizers, the Star-Spangled Banner, and some encouragement from Mayor Nutter (no, that is not a misspelling) and we were ready. I knocked the icicles from my nose. My years as a male stripper came in handy as I quickly removed my sweatshirt and threw it into the crowd while dancing and singing "Pour some sugar on me". That was a little embellished.

Think 'Rocky' theme. "Gonna fly noooowwwwwwww..." (photo courtesy: Island Photo)

There are few things as poetic as watching a several thousand people lean forward in unison with one hand on their watch and freeze for what seems a minute. According to the race timers, it took me 7 seconds to cross the start line and just a little longer than that to complete the 26.2 miles. It's alaways amazing to me how I can be 10 feet from the front line but as soon as I cross under the start banner, it looks like there are 10,000 people in front of me. I looked left a few times as we made our way down the 'avenue of flags' (flags from every country line the street) and it was comical to see all the people running on the OTHER side of the snow fence. It was like I was watching a movie. About a race. The fencing went on for half a mile and when we hit a huge roundabout, our side of the road went around it to the right and the other side to the left. Standing in the center of the roundabout would have made for a great video - although you would have been trapped for while. I watched my heartrate climb slower than usual, which I atribute to the fact that it had to thaw first. The beginning of the race is kind of like a game of dodge ball. So much so, that you are too busy paying attention to your line and the people around you to notice that the first miles have flown by. I never saw the mile 1 clock but the mile 2 clock was obviously misplaced for some reason and I heard I guy yell out "Shi***, I just ran a 5:20 mile!". He was obviously kidding as he laughed it off and it made me smile. I was disappointed that I never heard anyone yell "You're almost there!"

The elites head out through the Avenue of Flags. See if you can find me in this picture. If you looked, you give me way more credit than you should ;-)

Mile 3 - Running along the Deleware River. Since I stopped taking my 'allergy-induced asthma' medicine 3 months ago (Xolair), my body has returned to its prior state which means...lots of head congestion. A guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do. I moved to the lefthand side of the road where nobody was running and I lost about 5 pounds. If you don't understand what I mean then you are better off. But man, could I breathe now. By the way, I think it froze before it hit the ground. 6:06 average pace so far.

Mile 5 - Astounded that my zone 3 heartrate is producing splits in the low 6's. This is phenomenal. Effort is minimal...until we pass by some trees losing their leaves and I make a concerted lunge for one. Success! Janis and I are professional leaf catchers. Well - it's more of a hobby until we figure out how to make money with it. But we ARE good. I proudly - and carefully - hold the leaf in my hand while the woman who has been running next to me probably wonders if I am some sort of Rain Man. If I had thought quickly enough, I would have mumbled "...1,284 leaves...11 trees..." in my best Rain Man voice. I slam my first Power Gel and almost instantly feel it load a bullet into the chamber.

Mile 6 - Straight through a downtown street completely lined with shouting onlookers. I hear Janis' voice at the exact moment that I am passing her. I look back and release the leaf and wink at her. She knows I caught it for her. The woman I was running with a mile earlier was a few seconds behind me and I know to this day she is still wondering what the hell she just saw. 10k time: 38:01...6:07 pace. Still feeling good and still keeping the heartrate plenty low enough. The crowds are pretty thick and it feels like I am in the running of the bulls. I'm afraid to look back. They're right behind me, aren't they...

I don't have any idea where this photo was taken on the run, but I was feeling pretty good at this point in the story and the guy in the photo looks like he's feeling pretty good so I thought this would be a good spot for this picture. (photo courtesy: Island Photo)

Miles 7-10 - Caught a group of 7 guys and we formed a gang for a couple of miles. Every few seconds, one of us would throw out some banter. We laughed. We cried. We kept our mind off the pace. Three good hills happened in these 3 miles slowing the pace down a bit and on the 3rd hill...shattering our group. Power Gel #2 went down easy and my body continued to respond in kind. I used to believe that I could run fast virtually forever if I could just keep enough calories in my body. This was probably a lot truer 20 years ago...but 20 years ago I was fast and stupid. Now I'm old and tricky. I crossed 10 miles at 1:02:03. 6:12 pace.

Still feeling good as I climb to the halfway point…and several runners peel off to finish the half marathon. Oh look, I see Janis...

Miles 11-13 - Fairmount Park. I used my uncanny ability to run downhill like a ragdoll at the start of mile 11; passing 4 people like they were standing between me and a Black Friday deal. I still believe this ability stems from years of cycling and developing quad muscles that can handle the pounding. Either that, or I simply don't have a skeleton. For the first time since the start, I was finding myself running in my own space. Catching people - or being caught - would slow down considerably from here on out. I passed a group of spectators dressed like some kind of circus freak show including a guy dressed as a giraffe. They were awesome...unless you are prone to nightmares. Shortly thereafter I had a random thought; nobody was wearing a hat and I still had on my red knit cap that screamed "I worked on the loading docks back in the 1940's". Don't be mistaken - after an hour plus of running, I was still chilly but the hat weighed heavy on my mind. Get it? The hat was on my head. WEIGHED HEAVY ON MY MIND. I slay me. Just as the thought appeared, a runner up ahead of me threw his gloves onto the sidewalk and a guy on a beat up old bike stopped and picked them up. I figured, if he would stop for those, then...well...off went the hat. Right at his feet. He bent over to pick it up and thanked me. I wanted to tell him that the hat had travelled nearly 1,000 miles to find its new home but I was a bit busy. As I approached mile 13, the few runners near me started to take sides. Literally. Marathoners to the left and those only doing half a race to the right. The crowd was thin here and it was easy to catch sight of Janis on the gentle climb to 13. At first I was pretty pissed to know that there was a shorter, faster way to get from mile 6 to mile 13 but later Janis explained about her secret power of teleportaion and that made sense. She grabbed a great photo and cheered her heart out. She is the best.

Mile 13.1 - Halfway. 1:21:36. 6:13 pace. Amazingly, three seconds faster than the half marathon I had run 3 weeks earlier on the difficult Spinx Runfest course back in Greenville. Three seconds faster but not nearly the effort. If you account for the two hill miles in the first half, my pace was crazy consistent.

I remember exactly where this photo was taken because I remember putting on my "I'm not gonna let them see the pain" face. (photo courtesy: Island Photo)

Miles 15-19 - The metamorphosis has started. The prior two miles I finally started to feel the effort. It was expected. From mile 13 to 19, my mile splits dropped to around 6:30 but once again, leveled off. Still at the same zone 3 heartrate, I was biding my time to the jump to zone 4 and beyond. I was working now but I had no problem putting on a brave face for the cameraman at mile 16. I was on track for a 2:45-ish time. But at about mile 19...

Damn! I didn't see this photographer so I had no time to make it look like I felt all warm and cuddly inside at mile 17. (photo courtesy: Island Photo)

Miles 19-25 - OK. What the hell is this? Before I started training and racing with Rick Kattouf as my coach, I was the king of racing 'wrong' by starting out too fast. But as Rick once described it, I had the ability to "defy pain". Whereas most people who started out too quickly would find themselves dropping off a cliff late in the race, when I started out too quickly my body would somehow manage to turn the cliff more into a gentle downhill with mile splits dropping 10 - 20 seconds a mile over the final miles. So I know intimately what 'hitting the wall' is like and this was NOT 'hitting the wall'.

Somewhere between miles 18 and 20, my body 'reset' itself. Instead of my heartrate climbing into zone 4...it was slowly DROPPING. Your heartrate should gently climb over the course of the entire race. At least that's what mine has always done. In addition, my legs began to hurt as if someone had been smashing them with a hammer. For you runners, it was like I had been running down a steep hill for a long time - but I hadn't. I would say I've never experienced this but I instantly recalled the period in my life when I was first diagnosed with asthma. When we were trying to figure out what was wrong with me (a loaded proposition) I distinctly remember describing one of my symptoms as "unusual muscle fatigue". I remember telling the doctor at the time that my legs were suddenly failing well before my heart and lungs - this was sudden and new. But after we started treating my asthma, this symptom went away. Could this be happening because I came off my Xolair shot? Why would an allergy medication affect my muscles? I don't know, but I had 6 miles to think about it. At mile 20, I had hoped to 'chew through the leash'; instead, the leash tightened. ("Chew through the leash": a term used to describe the point at which an athlete is 'set free' from the constraints set upon them - such as a heartrate directive from their coach. The phrase was derived from watching my coach's dog methodically chew through his leash while remaining quiet and composed...and then suddenly take off like a rocket with his newfound freedom to the dismay of his owner.)

As I mentioned, this was very different from 'hitting the wall'. It was wierd. Rather than a slow degradation of speed - and a slow increase in heartrate - this was an almost sudden drop in both. My heartrate dropped 10 beats and my speed dropped to a 7:00 mile. And it STAYED THERE. That's not what's supposed to happen when you fatigue. So there I was, jogging along. My body would not go any faster. Well, not entirely true. It just felt as though if I went harder, it would be a gargantuan effort that would last a few minutes and they would probably need an ambulance to pick up the pieces. So, I just kept moving. It was math time. I may have slowed down, but I was holding fast and I had set a good tempo the first 20 miles. I went through mile 20 at exactly 2:07:00. To still reach my goal of 2:50, I had to cover 6.2 mile in 43 minutes. That is almost exactly 7:00 miles - and that's what my body was doing...almost. 7:06, 7:08, 7:04...

As someone who is usually observant and alert during a race, it took team Kattouf teammate Yvonne Cater a few shouts to finally grab my attention as she ran towards me on the out-and-back section. Which shows you how out of it I was. I was on cruise control and almost missed her (she ran a 3:16!). I was pushing. Pushing through the uncommon leg pain mostly. But also fighting my heartrate. It was like running through quicksand. I kept hearing "Billie Jean" in my head as I imagined myself moonwalking; looking like I was moving forward but feeling like I was going backwards. If you don't know who Billie Jean is - she's just a girl that claims that I am the one...

Oh yeah, "I wish it was as easy for me as it is for you, G-Man" Whatever. Call me when you can make this face. (photo courtesy: Island Photo)

Mile 26 - Now. NOW I can push. And since the final mile was mostly uphill, I had little choice. Seeing the road open up to 6 lanes in the final half mile, and switch to a downhill, pushed me to catch and pass the 3 runners in my path. I crossed the line and you would think that I would collapse from exhaustion but on the contrary, since I was never able to get my heartrate above zone 3 today, I was extremely fatigued in my muscles and bones but not exhausted. The instant I crossed the line, I felt a hand on my shoulder. A runner had finished practically right next to me. He shook my hand and congratulated me on a good run. We made small talk for a few seconds and then went our seperate ways. But that moment right there IS the story. A story that will make you think and make you chuckle.

Janis and I hobbled back to the hotel. Well I hobbled. We went about our 'vacationing' (which was awesome) and over the course of the next 2 days, the results would change several times. I was 5th...then 7th...and finally came to rest at 2nd place. Apparently, there were several erroneous runners initially showing up in the results including times in the 2:20's and 2:30's (probably people who ran the half instead of the full). Excellent. I had a goal of 2:50 and a top 5 (awards to the top 5). Woo-hoo! Later, Janis asked me what the gap was between me and first place so I checked again. Oh yeah, you may have figured out where this is going. The first place in my age group had the EXACT same clock time as me. They apparently showed him as first because his chip time was faster by 13 seconds - meaning he started 13 seconds behind me at the start.

Do I look lighter? I feel lighter. I'll also realize how cold it still is outside in 3…2…1…

It actually took me a few minutes to have the realization that if we had the same gun time, we HAD to have crossed the finish line at the same time. And then I remembered the hand on my shoulder. The guy who congratulated me at the finish had been declared the winner of our age group. Again, I really didn't think about it that much other than what an amazing coincidence it was. Until the next day when I got the email about my race photos. I clicked the link and perused my photos. When I got to the end, there were several pictures of my finish. A finish where I clearly crossed the line ahead of the 'first place' runner. I was, in fact, the winner. If you are not a runner then you might be confused right now. Even if you are a runner you might be. Let me explain as succinctly as possible.

When road races started out, they were small. They also didn't care as much about pleasing so many people so there weren't all these 'extra' places like age-group winners or masters winners or fastest-wearing-red-shoes winners. No, there was just "THE" winner. For these reasons, a race was just that - a race. First one across the finish line wins. Simple. But then races got big. Real big. In some races, it can take nearly an hour for the person at the back of the group to cross the START line when the gun goes off. They also added different categories. It became hard to compare times between people or between different races. Plus, some races you had to qualify to get in and it wasn't fair if you had an extra 10 minutes added to your time just because there were 3,000 people ahead of you. So, races started offering to track a runner's "chip time" - and other races started accepting people's chip time for qualification purposes. It all seemed to make sense. I mean, your chip time is the time it took you to get from the start line to the finish line. But the USATF (US Track & Field), the governing body for races, does not recognize chip time for the purest and simplest of reasons: in a race, the first person to cross the line, wins. Period. Think about the fiasco it would create if two people sprinted to win the New York City Marathon and after one runner crosses the tape ahead of the other runner, he is then told he actually got second place? That would not work. Ever. In time-trial events that would be OK but in a mass-start event, your only goal should be to be ahead of everyone else at the finish. If I am running someone down at the finish all I should have to know is that the first person across the line beats the second person across the line.

Rule #245.1 states: "...The order in which the athletes cross the finish line will be the official finish position."
Rule #245.3 states: "The official time shall be the time elapsed between the start of the watches or timing devices resulting from an appropriate start signal and when the athlete reaching the finish line. The actual time elapsed between when an athlete reaching the starting line and finish line can be made known to the athlete, but will not be considered as official time.

The other important thing to note here is that is standard practice to see the phrase "all awards are based on gun time", which is basically a reiteration of the rules I listed above. I learned this the hard way in my first marathons where I lost to someone simply because he lined up on the front row. I, on the other hand, lined up further back because I didn't want to get in the way of people who really deserved to be up front. Silly me, being all "non-self-centered" and all. But fear not, I have since seen the error of my ways. Now I line up where I expect to finish. If I expect to be in the top 20, that's where I line up. But I digress.

The final straw in this rather humorous situation...is me. If you know me, then you know there are two things I am adamant about: 1. Follow the rules. I am a rule follower to a fault. 2. This is a stupid rule. I didn't make the stupid rule...I just follow it. Sure, I believe that if you are pro or elite then it makes sense, btu to everyone else? Bah! I initially thought about not saying anything. Then I thought - I shouldn't be made to feel like I am doing something wrong by pointing out the rules? There are plenty of rules in every sport we watch that are controversial. Some people agree with them and some people don't. But they follow the rules until enough people decide to change them. My assumption here is that whoever did the race timing has a program that automatically ranks people by their gun time and breaks a tie using their chip time. This is not correct, but I'm sure the people sending out the awards will simply look at the paper handed to them and award first place to the guy "at the top of the list". In fact, they should determine who actually crossed the line first. And by virtue of the finishing photos...that would be me. As a matter of fact, I would swear that I beat him by a full second so I'm not even sure how we got the same gun time. You be the judge...

You can easily see that the guy in white is behind me...or was he just fashionably late?

So, in the end, I ended up with a pretty good race, a wonderful vacation and a story that I'm not sure I will ever reproduce. As I wait by the mailbox, only time will tell which award I receive...the "right" one...or the "wrong' one ;-)

* I couldn't walk right again until Thursday.
* Finish time was 2:50:55. The last 5 marathons over the past 6 years...2:42, 2:43, 2:49, 3:17 (Boston this year!), 2:50.
* Average HR ended up being 142. Average at the halfway point was 143. Normal Avg for a half or full marathon? 148-152.
* Got to watch the oldest Thanksgiving parade in the country. Live!
* As always, thanks go out to my coach, Rick Kattouf; Fleet Feet Sports; and of course, Janis!

Cheesesteak? Oh, you bet I did. I ran 26.2 miles so the guilt is absolutely transparent.

I haven't seen my high school buddy Bill Mayweather in 32 years! Amazing to reconnect with old friends. And I mean "old"

Philadelphia Chocolate Tour?!!! NOW it's a vacation...and by the way, that is chocolate-covered BACON I am eating here!

GHS Swamp Rabbit Half Marathon

by G-Man 15. March 2012 04:57

Location: Greenville, SC
Date: March 10, 2012
Placing: 3rd Overall
Format: 13.1-Mile Run
My Race Photos
Results: Click Here

Running and 80's Music...My Tainted Love.

It was the inaugural running of the Swamp Rabbit Half Marathon and as with most of the past 3 months this was no hazy shade of winter. It was a brilliantly bright, sunny day with just the right amount of crispness for a hard run. With the super-mild temps this year we can only hope it won't be a cruel, cruel summer.

With the Boston Marathon in 5 weeks I was looking for nothin' but a good time.  It was a point-to-point race which made for some logistical challenges but thank goodness for Janis or it would have been tougher. She is one efficient lady who gets me. Yeah, she was born to be my baby. And believe me, being married to me is no vacation. In fact, it's more like a Thriller video at times.

I was up at 6am to don my Fleet Feet racing gear. It was dark out but as I mentioned the forecast was for clear skies. I figured the future's so bright, I gotta wear shades. So I threw my favorite Rudy's into my race bag and out the door we went. We met Tom and Robin Calamia in a parking lot downtown near the finish; where the streets have no name. We belong to TeamKattouf, the 4 of us. What we share is a common coaching philosophy but in reality we are family. Our blood may be red but our true colors are black and yellow. The start wasn't so far away and I was tempted to run back to get the car after the finish. You might think it's foolish and you may be right but I decided not to do it because then Janis would say I've got an obsession...and I don't like when she says that (even though sometimes I just can't get enough)

The Glamorous Life

We chatted about goals on the drive to Travelers Rest (the nearby starting town). I believed Robin could crush her time estimate (this was her first half marathon) but I didn't tell her that because I knew it would elicit an "all I need is a miracle" response when in fact she simply needed a 'don't stop believing' attitude. But that will come. We all had plans from our coach and it really is the absolute hardest thing in the world to follow the plan to a tee. Every single one of us has the devil inside and as for your ego - you've got to leave it on the start line. If you don't you will likely be backpedaling at some point and one thing leads to another...

I had no idea how many participants were signed up or which Master runners might be there to take on me, but I showed up ready to stand and deliver. Janis dropped us off and headed back to the Greenville finish line so she could get her own exercise in before we finished. She said "Babe, I'm leaving". To which I replied, "I'm gonna run to you." "How long will this take you?" "I think I can break 1:18" "Don't think - just beat it." She drives me crazy. In a good way.

The famous 'start line lean'.

Pretty in Pink

I had a very clear mind this morning and was inspired merely to be alive and kicking. I saw my run training partner Dan Moss (aka Tarzan Boy), and my Fleet Feet teammate Jon Stoehr - both warming up. I was sure those two would shake it up. I smiled when I noticed Dan warming up with a pink hat on. I guess he still thinks it's hip to be square. Personally, I think the dude looks like a lady. One things for sure; It's never been a problem to save it for later during a warmup. Usually it's the opposite and I have trouble kick-starting my engine.

I ran into another TeamKattoufer, Rick Kolb (aka Mr. Sunshine) on our way to the start line on a narrow side road. We reached the back of the pack of nearly 700 runners just as a pickup truck was trying to get through. I grabbed Rick real quick and told him "watch this". I went right up to the bumper of the truck with room to move and let him make a giant hole for us like a sledghammer to walk right to the front of the group - a trick I learned years ago in bike racing. You can't be too shy; especially when you are no-no-notorious.

Bang a Gong

I chatted it up with the starter (Jeremy Davis) as well as many of the athletes that I knew. Christopher Hutton asked me what I anticipated for today and I said "sub-1:18". "Really?" "Would I lie to you?" Another runner behind us said "1:18? I'm going to hang with you". I thought to myself - then hold on loosely and don't let go. Or maybe it's - hold on tight...to your dreams. As the starter counted down I said a little silent mantra 'Kyrie Eleison, down the road that I must travel'. And then I mumbled under my breath..."welcome to the jungle". Let's GO! The sound turned words into action and off we went. The sudden change from the 'start line lean' to a sprint was like taking a whisper to a scream.

Here I go again on my own. Going down the only road I've ever known. But today, I'm not dancing with myself and if I don't race smart, no one is to blame but myself. Although I can see the other runners around me, it is an art form to ignore them in the early stages of a race. No matter what they do, I'm looking at the man in the mirror. Every breath you take, every move you make is calculated. Ain't nothing gonna break my stride. I’ve heard the expression "don't write checks your body can't cash" but I prefer "don't pay the ferryman until he gets you to the other side."

Get Into the Groove

Mile 1 was to be a warmup mile so I had to exhibit self control - and this is the really the secret of my success in recent years. It's fun to be reckless but if you go out too hard, you don't get a second chance. All it takes is patience. Just a little patience. That's all. In a smaller race like this, I don't see as many people over-shooting their ability from the start, but people are people and for the most part, I find myself swimming in my wisdom and thinking "Only the young..." Who am I kidding? I AM forever young. I watched Dan, Jon and Nicholas Sykes pull away during this mile and could feel the presence of others near me in the top 10. The first mile was slightly down all the way until the very end; a short, fairly steep incline. I backed down to maintain a reasonable heartrate and was passed by a handful of runners. "Relax, don't do it" I told myself. I'm nobody's fool this early in a race. I know that only in my dreams can hold a 5:30 pace. Maybe some of those guys will stay out there but only time will tell.

Let's Dance

End of mile 1 and the group around me makes small talk as if this is their pace. But I know there's something going on. And that something is that I get to pump up the volume. I instantly separated myself from the main group. At this point there are 5 runners in front of me...and things can only get better. As we neared the end of mile 2 we left the road to roam onto the Swamp Rabbit Trail. You're a great training ground, Swamp Rabbit but today I intend to rock you like a hurricane. As fast as we were moving, miles 3-10 were like slow-motion because I was gaining mere inches on my quarries as the miles ticked away.

The warmup time is over. Now it's time to start runnin' down a dream.

I was feeling good and had the eye of the tiger. As I approached Christopher Hutton for 5th place in mile 3 all I could think of was don't turn around...der kommissar's in town! I could hear his effort as I passed and I wondered if this is what it sounds like when doves cry. Getting passed always cuts like a knife. I know - I've been there plenty of times over the years but not today. I was hungry like the wolf for another victim. In my sights? A view to a kill.

Mile 4 I sucked down an energy gel and decided not to grab a drink. I've always found the human psychology of water stations to be fascinating. People will stand further and further into the road - almost blocking the way - when we have complete ability to come to them in a much safer fashion. Dear volunteers: I absolutely LOVE that you are here to help but simply put...don't stand so close to me. And it doesn't matter how far you stick the cup into our faces, if we don't want it...we're not gonna take it. And for you runners out there, here's a tip for you. As you approach a station lock eyes with a volunteer and point at them. Keep pointing at them until they are spellbound. If you can find something distinctive about them then call it out, like "You in the pink hat". Nobody else will try to hand you anything. Pink hat person will be ready for you as you approach with your best "hit me with your best shot" face. Like an acrobat nailing a perfect landing; what a feeling for both of you. When I race, I always grab from the youngest kid I can see (within reason). Kids love being part of the race.

Mile 5. Ben Davis had now caught Nicholas Sykes for 3rd and 4th and the 2 of them were running together about 30 yards in front of me. My friend Marisa Marshall was on the trail with her bike waiting to see her boyfriend. She gave me a cheer straight from the heart and tried to get a photograph but just wasn't quick enough to catch the blur as it went by ;-). It was great to see her and many other people I knew out on the trail. I love that Greenville built this trail and that it has been so successful in showing that if you build it - people will come. When I run the Swamp Rabbit Trail there's always something there to remind me how lucky I am to live in such a great place.

Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?

Somewhere shy of mile six it was time to shoot that poison arrow. Bam! Another one bites the dust as I pass Nicholas Sykes. Back in January I also passed Nicholas in a half marathon...100 yards from the finish. Quite a bit earlier this time gave me something to believe in. At this point, I had been staring at Ben Davis' back for 5 miles. Dan and Jon were just now out of sight and unless I promised you a miracle, they were going to stay there. Ben had never looked back (something I don't do either...until the final half mile) and he wears headphones when he runs so he had no idea that he had me in tow. We passed by the old train yard. Excellent, we're half way there, livin' on a prayer. Finally, at mile 8 I came up on Ben's shoulder. "Abracadabra; I want to reach out and grab ya". He glanced over as if to say "Who can it be now?". Well, my friend...it ain't Tom Sawyer.

We ran together for 2 miles never uttering a word - simply because he was wearing headphones. At mile 9 I downed my second energy gel. This one was 'laced' with caffeine. I hardly do any caffeine at all in my life but I gotta tell you, caffeine; the way you make me feel is a good thing. Moments later we came upon another water station. I figured I should really be practicing for Boston so I opted for a drink this time. I yelled, "Gatorade, GATORADE! Pour some sugar on me!" In fact I was desperate, but not serious and from the looks of it, the volunteers probably expected that I would be stopping and possibly chatting about the perfect way to prepare a meatloaf. So, no drinkie. Fortunately, it wasn't urgent.

I had no idea what would happen when I hit the mile 10 marker. Time after time I've been stymied by a heartrate that would refuse to climb to its capability. But that didn't change my plan. I glanced at Ben with the thought that I was going to do this with or without you. I was there to fight and to never surrender. I might as well jump. You miss 100% of the shots you don't take so - stand up and face the enemy. It's a do or die situation; we will be invincible!

The look says that I am well within myself...and just waiting to be well outside myself.

Out of the blue, it was like I had two hearts. I thought about how good my legs felt and how something so strong could carry me to the finish. Stroke! Stroke! In just a few seconds I was out of touch. I set it to 'wide open' - which seemed like a new sensation ...although it was an old friend. I quit looking at my Garmin at this point because with 3 miles to go, it made no difference. It hurt so good in the heat of the moment that I kept a boyish grin throughout the effort. Pleasure and pain. I've always said that if I ever battle someone in a race who looks to be my exact equal on paper I would emerge victorious because I'm the king of pain.


Mile 12 was entirely uphill but it was just what I needed to gain even more time. I was on fire. Nothing at all was stopping me. In my head - with a rebel yell - I cried "more, more, more!" The first half of mile 13 was down before hitting the final climb into paradise city. I could hear the conversation going on in my head when the promoter designed the course. "In the last mile, we're gonna rock down to Electric Avenue. And then we'll take it higher." I spilled the tank running up that hill and my body felt like a rag doll as I 'controlled my fall' down the slight decline to the finish. I could hear voices carry from the announcer..."...and judging from that distinctive gait, I'd say here comes Chris Giordanelli!" Sweet dreams are made of this! I could see the finish clock and it looked like I was going to be in the 1:17's. I had just missed making it in the sweet 16 but I had taken more than 15 seconds per mile out of my adversary for the final 5k. Against all odds, I somehow defied the allergy gods on what should have been a 'bloomin' day. One thing I've learned over the years is that you gotta have faith. In my own race against myself, I am the warrior and victory is mine!

Funny; growing up, I was never one of those guys that you would consider a heartbreaker. At 47, I'm happy to say I'm a heartbreaker now - just in a more literal sense. The whole world has to answer right now just to tell you once again...who's bad? I enjoyed watching Tom and Rick hangin' tough to the finish. We all waited to see Robin coming down the finish more than 10 minutes ahead of her time estimate. I tease her about wearing her headphones during a race but the world was moving and she was right there with it (and she was!)

It was a phenomenal day for myself and my teammates. Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1999! I leave you with this thought: I find it hard to tell you - 'cause I find it hard to take - when people run in circles it's a very, very...mad world. Inaugural GHS swamp Rabbit Half Marathon...goodbye to you.

* Does anyone have a friend named Sussudio?
* My training partner Dan Moss won the event in 1:15:15. We are both looking good for the Boston marathon in 5 weeks.
* When I took my first energy gel at mile 4, it went everywhere. I found myself licking my Garmin so that I could see the screen and I have no idea how - but I had drips on my leg after the race.

Next Up: Powerman Alabama. My return to duathlons.

Charleston Half Marathon 2012 Race Report

by G-Man 18. January 2012 02:42

Location: Charleston, SC
Date: January 14, 2012
Placing: 10th Overall, 1st Master
Format: Half Marathon
My Race Photos
Official Race Photos
Results: Click Here


Total bummer. For you. You see, I didn't quit racing this year. And that means more race reports. Really, you're only chance at relief is if I finally get tired of all this exercise nonsense. But don't hold your breath - I was tired of it in 1988, 1994, 1998, 2004 and 2010. So your odds are not good because you can see what came of that. Just be happy I was too busy hanging out under the "Hot Now" sign at Krispy Kreme and catching up on House episodes to write my last two race reports of 2011. But I can catch you up right now: Spinx Runfest Half Marathon - 8th overall and San Antonio Rock n' Roll Half Marathon - 35th overall, 2nd Master. There, now I'm up on House episodes and you are up on how my 2011 ended. One last thing. San Antonio had 19,500 runners and I started just 2 feet behind Shalane Flanagan who just won the Olympic Trials this past weekend in record time. I was so close I could touch her. I mean, I'm not saying I tried...but I'm also not saying I didn't think about it. Let's get to the race at hand...

One of my nicer acrylic awards...it goes nicely with my miniature guitar awards from the Rock n' Roll Half Iron. Getting old isn't so bad if you can keep from getting slower.

Pre-race Musings

Man, if us guys had a quarter for every time we heard this: "Could you please shave your legs at the gym, you're gonna clog our shower drain". Am I right, guys? Guys? Anyway, I can't remember the last time I went almost 4 months without shaving my legs. But the point here is that I've been shaving my legs since I was 15. I didn't start racing until I was 25. Just kidding. The first "shave of the season" is almost like the scene in Rocky when the theme plays and they show Rocky training for his big fight. Except that he is carrying logs through the snow and eating raw eggs and I am wielding a razor in the shower and then ordering a smoothie at the smoothie bar. It's like we're one and the same person. Now most runners don't shave their legs but as a multi-sport athlete I jsut can't stand the unsightly hair..let's do this 2012 thing!

Although Janis and I do a pretty good job of mingling with the commoners, it is no secret that when we travel to races we like to drop our facade and embrace our blue blood lines. After all, we belong to a very elite class of people known as "priority club platinum members". It's a highly selective group of people who just happen to spend tons of money at Holiday Inn hotels. This past weekend was a perfect example of our societal pull. When we arrived at the historic Mills House Hotel and the clerk saw my TeamKattouf/Fleet Feet apparel she instantly waived the valet parking fee and put Janis and I in the $440-a-night presidential suite. That is not a joke. We looked up the room rate. It was more like a house than a hotel room...it was like we were in an alternate universe where Friday the 13th brought incredibly GOOD luck instead of bad. We actually hated being there for just one night with all that room and nobody to share it. By the way...when we saw chocolates on the bed, we both instinctively ran to the other bedroom where another set of chocolates awaited our invisible friends (who loved them very much).


You might have to get out your binoculars to see me way back in the other corner of the 'living area'. I'm not sure why we were upgraded to the 'arena room', but in my mind it's because of Janis' good looks and my athletic prowess.

We met fellow TeamKattoufer Rex Morgan and his wife Roxann for dinner at a cute little Italian restaurant (Bocci's) downtown where we poured beer down our gullets and told tales of how when we were younger we ran a marathon to school every day...each way...barefoot...in the snow. Our waiter took one look at our chiseled physiques and asked if we were running the next day. He told us that he would be running the half - his first. We told him that it was really going to be a lot easier than he thought - especially if he skipped breakfast and just drank a ton of coffee. As penance, we left a large tip. Who says runners are "always so serious". I made plans to avoid the Port-o-potties at the start line.

Janis and I are the equivalent of a team of 20 logisticians. Everything is planned down to the minute. Escape routes are determined and we make back-up plans for our back-up plans. It is exactly like an episode of Mission:Impossible right down to the expected pre-race call from coach Rick..."G-Man, wasssssuuuup? Your mission, should you decide to accept it...". I always accept the mission - it's part of my genetic code. When I first started with Rick, this call was more like haggling at a flea market; "Keep your heartrate at 145 through mile 3...", "How about 150?", "146", "148?", "...OK, 148" SOLD! to the bitter old man in lycra. Now that I trust Rick's plan we talk about politics, religion and the weather.

Bring it

We arrived at our pre-determined parking area 3 minutes ahead of schedule. We were parked less than 200 feet from the start all by ourselves. I could literally throw a rock to the start line and yet we didn't see a soul. A quarter mile up the road, we could barely see cars backed up trying to get into the parking garage listed on the race literature. We just looked at each other and thought..."amateurs". I got ready for my warmup and had 4 extra minutes to do a crossword puzzle. I left the car at precisely 7:30 am and returned at 7:45 am. Based on the 33-degree temps and my warmup, I made my race clothing selection. I went with something form-fitting and off-the-shoulder that complemented my eyes. I opted for "Jet Blackberry" as my GU flavor of choice because it most described my mood and the purple wrapper screamed "don't mess with me". We walked to the start line where we stood hugging each other to stay warm - and so nobody would hear us talking about them as we played our little game "fast...or not" where we look at someone lined up at the front and wonder if they should really be lined up in the front or not. After the race, I have to report back to Janis our results. I wonder on which side of the game I fall when people look at me on the start line with my gray-speckled beard and triathlon shorts? I hope I fall on the "what's HE doing up here side". It's more fun to be the underdog.

Hmmmm...fast or not? I find that ususally the people who are the quietest and least boisterous are the ones who have a hidden confidence that translates to 'fast'.

The absolute crowning moment of the race happened next. The Charleston Mayor pro tem took the microphone and made some announcements. He turned over the mic to the singer of the National Anthem (who was also running the race and apparently was a local celebrity). He then took the mic back and announced, "I'll say 'runners ready, go'" at which point he then said "Runners ready!". The whole lot of us quickly glanced left to right because we were all thinking the same thing..."you're standing in the middle of the road". But nobody uttered a word in that instance and our fears became reality. "GO!" The mayor - 10 feet in front of 2,000 runners jumping off the start line - instantly realized what a mistake he had made. I would say he looked like a deer in headlights but I've never seen a deer's eyes get THAT big. He literally lunged for the side of the road. Mistake number 2. I somehow narrowly missed the pile up that he cause at the edge of the road. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. I chose laugh because in all honesty it was hilarious. It was the topic of conversation as we all trotted up to speed. "Can you beleive he did that?" "Yeah, I thought surely he's not going to stand in the middle of the road and say 'go'". Surely...he did.

"Hey, you don't think one of those guys over there is going to stand in the middle of the road and yell 'GO', do you?"...

A half-mile in I reached my prescribed heartrate and I started to let people pull away. I would venture to guess 30-35 people in front of me at mile 1 where I recorded a 6:12 mile. Ahead I could see the leader in bright red shorts making a turn already about 30 seconds ahead of me. I let the HR go up just a couple of beats in mile 2 and very comfortably hit 6:26. I was running in a strung out group of 5 or 6 people at this point and was having fun watching the reactions of guys as the lead woman just ahead of me would pass them. The absolute first rule of performing your best in endurance racing is to set your ego free. It's also one of the hardest rules for a very competitive person. At almost the exact moment we hit mile 3, a guy ran past our little group. It probably looked like I took off after him but all I was doing was taking my HR up another 8-10 beats. That was a pretty big jump and my mile 3 split dropped to 5:53. I would spend the next 7 miles "chasing" that guy...into a harsh Northern headwind. At first he pulled away and opened up about a 200-meter gap. I stayed true to my plan as the two of us methodically picked off runner after runner.

Now every once in a while I prove to myself that I'm not really a smart man. And it had been a while so I was due. During my past 2 months of training things had been going great. But just one week ago I had a terrible long training run. Not terrible as in I ate wrong or I was tired. Terrible as in asthma-related. With some rain and Spring-like temps in Greenville, the plant life played a number on me. After the run, Janis and I wondered if taking a 'hit' of my inhaler in the middle of my run would help. Don't get ahead of me. Now, you have to know that for the last 3 years since I was diagnosed with allergy-induced asthma, very few of the drugs they prescribed have had ANY effect on my situation aside from a shot I get called Xolair. I quit using everything else almost as soon as I started - including my inhaler. I've taken it a few times before races in the past but again, I've seen no effect. So, call me a moron...or call me an experimental genius but today, I was going to try our little test.

I'm sure it's tough to spot me in this picture since I am dressed as a ninja, but if you look just in front of the yellow cones you can see me.

I certainly wasn't feeling bad, but my brain said "wait, how do you know that your lungs haven't been degrading faster becuase of your asthma during the run?" Which was a pretty good sentence for my brain at this point in a race. So just moments before I hit mile 10, when I was supposed to take my HR up for the last time, I took 2 large puffs of my inhaler. Hmmm. No "tingly" feeling like my lungs opening up. As a matter of fact, it felt like a normal breath. No change. I just held the inhaler for the rest of the race and kicked it up just the tiniest bit. I was closing in on the guy who passed me at mile 3 and at this point we had passed 15-20 runners along the way. I focused hard on his back on a long straightaway when it hit me. My first wheeze. It is the most ironic thing in the course of human physiology. I have been telling people for 3 years that I don't believe I actually have asthma becuase "...I've never even wheezed once in my life". Just under a minute had passed since I took a hit off my inhaler and now - after taking asthma medicine - I was wheezing. At first it came across as just something wierd like I swallowed a bug - or an elephant, but it quickly turned to a bit of fear. I thought "what have I done?" I hoped it didn't get worse or that I didn't go into shock or anything. As long as it remained a 'wheeze' and didn't turn into a 'gasp', I kept pushing. But my push was now limited to just 1 or 2 extra heartbeats instead of 5 or 6.

Oh yes, the infamous head tilt. Don't tell my competitors but the head tilt is the sure-fire sign that I am on the rivet. If you ever see my head perpendicular to the road I am probably running a 4:00 mile.

I caught my quarry at mile 11. He said he was going to try to stay with me. The problem was that he was not on the Kattouf plan. He was apparently on the "G-Man before Rick" plan. He was getting slower and I was going faster. At mile 12 who should I see but red-shorts guy who led the race through the first mile. I ran a 5:49 last mile to catch him just 50 yards before the finish line - and there was no way I could sneak up on him since I was breathing like a chain saw. I crossed under the finish banner at 1:20:03. Since it was the same course as last year, my Garmin once again showed the course as a pretty good bit long. And with the huge amount of headwind, this time can easily be extrapolated to about a 1:09:00 on a perfect day...in a vaccuum. Running down a mountain. I was 10th overall and 1st Master. For fun, I like to look at my finish like this: no matter what age group I raced today, I would have made top 3.

'red-shorts guy': 30 seconds ahead of me at mile 1...5 seconds behind me at mile 13.1. Prepare for pain to stop in 3...2...1...ahhhhh.

Something that really puzzled me were the awards. Wait, I said that wrong. They gave me a puzzle as an award. Yeah, I thought that was pretty cool. I got a framed print of historic Charleston from a local artist AND a 550-piece puzzle of his print. Great award since Janis and I love doing puzzles. Not a bad start to 2012 - my 108th season of racing...or somewhere thereabouts.

* In one of the eeriest coincidences in racing history, the "guy in the red shorts" that I beat by 5 seconds was none other than Nicholas Sykes (age 20) - younger brother of Stephen Sykes. If you've read some of my prior race reports over the years, you will know that Stephen Sykes and I at one point had a series of a dozen races or so where our total finishing time differential was something like 8 seconds. Let's hope there's not another younger brother. I really don't want to be racing this family when I'm 90.
* At least 8 employees from where I work (ScanSource) ran this event including one who won her age group in the marathon and my CEO who set a PR here. 10 years ago, you were lucky to find 8 people who even ran at my company.
* All this talk about asthma and wouldn't you know it, their finish area was a huge tent that they set up on a dirt field. The dust was so thick it was like a fog. There was no way I was going to risk spending any time in there so Instead I had to wait for awards outside in the 30-degree weather.
* You know how I like to point out sometimes that these people are half my age. Well, I'm not sure whether or not I'm happy to report that the winner today was...1/3 my age!!. The cool thing? He is a brand new TeamKattoufer. Congrats Tony Morales (age 16!)
* 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.

Next Up: Greenville News Downtown 5k. I hope we get to chase the cow for Chick-Fil-A coupons again this year!

I'm no longer puzzled...

Cooper River Bridge Run Race Report

by G-Man 12. April 2011 01:09

Location: Charleston, SC
Date: April 2, 2011
Placing: 77th Overall (37,000 finishers), 3rd 45-49
Format: 10k Run
Race Photos: Island Photography (you'll have to key in bib #38)
My Race Photos
Results: Click Here

NOTE: I didn't wind up with any real race photos to speak of this time, so I thought I would ad lib...

Ahhh. The Cooper River Bridge Run. Me and 40,000 of my closest friends trying desperately to get out of Mount Pleasant, SC. I imagine the sight would be similar if unfriendly aliens had landed in San Francisco and deactivated everything electronic or with a motor and the entire population had to escape over the Golden Gate Bridge. Sure go ahead and laugh but all this running, riding and swimming I do is secretly in preperation for just such a day. It's likely only the first humdred or so humans will make it to safety and it's looking pretty good for me. How about you?

The Bridge Run always reminds me of my days as a stunt double for David Lee Roth. Good times.

Have you ever seen the movie Same Time Next Year? Well, if you haven't seen that you must've seen Groundhog Day? Often times this is what it feels like when you do the same race - with many of the same people. A famous quote often attributed to Einstein defines insanity as "doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results". People who enter events and expect faster times are (by defnition) insane. Not me. This quote proves that I am NOT insame because I enter the same event expecting the SAME results; the same results I had when I was 20 years younger ;-) Or, in the case of the Bridge Run - one year younger. Of course that quote doesn't exactly hold true in racing anyway because there are so many factors that the only reason we keep coming back for more is the staunch belief that even when we did our fastest time, it is likely that not everything was exactly perfect. It's this assumption that allows us to rationalize our insanity. Psychology lesson 1 complete.

Sticking with the movie theme...I gotta tell you - Janis and I are like the supercomputer in War Games. We have been travelling to events for so long that we have ammassed a knowledge about the logistics of racing that is almost ninja-like. And when we go to an event, we instantly learn how to adapt the next time we go to make our experience better. Here's an example: On the way to Charleston Friday night for packet pick-up, I changed into running attire and had Janis drive the last portion. Last year, we were stuck in a huge traffic jam around the auditorium where thousands of people were trying to get their packets. Lesson learned. We got off the highway early and took a side road near the bridge until we were about a mile away. Then Janis found a free place to pull over (a post office) and I jumped out of the car with my waist pack on and jogged to the auditorium. I ran in - directly to my packet pickup area (I am fortunate enough to have a seperate pick-up area for local elite runners) - grabbed my packet, and jogged back to the car. In fifteen minutes I got my packet, and got my 2-mile warm-up jog. In the meantime, Janis read a few dozen pages of her novel in the relaxed solitude of an empty parking lot. Less than 10 minutes later, we were at the hotel. And that, my friends is how it's done. Stress-free.

Disturbing? Maybe. But it's this kind of mind that pushes me beyond normal limitations.

Part of our plan this year included combining our knowledge with a couple of other Bridge Run pros - Bob Mancuso and Ruth McDonough (our awesome massage therapists). Ruth and Janis had their own plan devised for spectating and they left just before 7am to make it across the bridge into Chucktown before the bridge closed to all traffic. Ruth had a secret place to park that was a few blocks from the finish line and they had their coffee shop already 'pre-selected'. I jogged the mile and a quarter to the start as part of my warmup. The temperature was a bit warmer than last year - just over 50 degrees. Perfect running weather. With all the lung-related issues I've had the last couple of years, I no longer had the consistency that I took for granted most of my racing life. These days, it was a roll of the dice and my expectations are somewhat relaxed. I just remember that my worst day still impresses me - and I'm the only one that counts. I actually felt pretty good but that totally means nothing. After a billion races I've learned that how you feel before a race is about as good an indicator of your performance as flipping a coin would be.

With an age of 46 and a predicted time under 36:00, I get the opportunity to race as an elite here and I'm not going to lie, it's like staying in the presidential suite at a swanky hotel compared to a night at the Motel 6. Our own Port-o-Potties with no line, our own pre-race drink area, and our own bus parked ahead of the race where we could sit and get warm and put our spare clothes. I felt a bit like Charlie Sheen. You know...a warlock with tiger blood and Adonis DNA.


A little too pretentious? Well, get used to it because I'm 46 now; it's only a matter of time before I start breaking out the costumes at races. Pray for Janis.

American Idol winner Ruben Studdard belted out the National Anthem and a group of past participants from The Biggest Loser gave the crowd some imspiration. All the while I spent jogging back and forth playing 'pick the winner' from the large number of African runners that were warming up. I ran back to the course to watch the wheelchair athletes take off. An impressive display of upper body strength. God forbid something should put me into a wheelchair, I would take up the challenge right beside them. You don't become a good athlete by seeing obstacles; you become one by accepting challenges.

We lined up to start. This year, those that were selected as 'elites' would start in a small wave that consisted of anyone who could prove a time under 40:00 so it was a bit more crowded than last year when about 60 of us got to start a few yards ahead of the rest of the group. The gun sounded and I did what I always do - I ran hard until my heartrate reached its appointed place and then settled in. Twice I had to literally muscle my way between 2 runners that started way too fast and were blocking my way. It didn't bother me that they took off too fast - so I hope it didn't bother them that they got a little 'elbow time' from me.

I don't line up ON the front line...I AM the front line. It's funny how I look so much more 'gaunt' in my race photos. The camera actually subtracts about 40 pounds. Mostly from my arms.

I had memorized my mile splits from last year because, well, that's what we do. And even though I was racing by heartrate and had no intentions of letting my mile splits change my strategy, I was still anxious to see if I was anywhere near my optimal speed from last year. Mile 1 was a 5:21. From which year you ask? Both. Yep, my first mile for both years was exactly the same. Well hell - that's a good sign. At the end of mile 2 we started up the bridge and I throttled my heartrate; staying on task and allowing a good number of people to pass me. *Beep*. Mile 2 = 6:05. Last year? 5:49. Oops. I looked at my Garmin and almost out loud pondered "Is this thing working?".

I finally crested the top of the bridge at mile 3. *Beep* Mile 3 = 6:13. Last year? 5:49 again. Aw, c'mon. But here's a few things that I was aware of but never seemed to process. First of all, at this pace I would've expected more people to be passing me - but since we started up the grade, I believe I ended up with a 'positive pass rate'. Also, there were several people I knew around me and relative to our placings last year I was in better position. Lastly, the thing that should have blown me over was the thing that was blowing me over: the wind. All across the bridge I was getting buffeted around and was actually looking for small groups of runners to draft off of (never really had the opportunity) and yet I never put two and two together while I was running. Like I mentioned in my first couple of paragraphs...I just kept expecting the SAME RESULTS when everything around me was telling me the conditions were obviously different.

That Janis. She's so sly. I don't know how she fools me time after time after time after...

As I stop the story for minute at mile 3, I have to tell you one thing that has made me chuckle both years. The organizers of this event - the 3rd largest 10k in the US - can not seem to get the mile markers right to save their life. They are not like 5 or 10 feet off; they're like an entire state off. If you go back and read my race report from last year you will read about how a group of us passed mile 2 with a 5:00 mile. We all laughed out load at how that was the 'fastest mile we've ever done in a 10k'. Of course the clock and marker were way short. This year, mile 2 was right where it was supposed to be. But mile 3? Let's just say that I once again clocked a 5:00 mile. I mean really. How hard is it to get these things in the right place? Absolute hilarity. Oh yeah, and one more funny thing as we approached their mile 3. I watched as one runner just ahead of me refused to move over even the slightest bit to let another runner fit between himself and the race clock on the side of the bridge. I totally winced as the passing runner double-stepped back behind the other runner at the last instant and missed hitting the clock by millimeters.

Mile 4. Hell yeah - all downhill. Since I get to keep the same heartrate going down that I held going up this is the part where we see some fireworks. But it was more like a firecracker. Last year I flew down the hill at a 5:07 pace (and that was a 'real' mile) and picked people off left and right. This year, it was like running through peanut butter...another 21 seconds slower than last year. But my brain was thrilled that I was not having any heartrate problems and so on I pushed; still seeming to make up ground on other runners. At the bottom of the bridge I took up my heartraet to it's highest zone and I passed Tom Mather whom I had beaten by just a few seconds last year at this race - but who had beaten me by about 40 seconds last month at the Reedy River 10k. Another decent sign for me.

An actual race photo! Just a few yards away from the finish line - I felt dead, and yet adding an extra 8 miles on afterwards in preparation for the Boston Marathon went extremely well.

Miles 5 and 6 were now spent in the pain zone. I was amazed to see mile 5 was only 5 seconds off of last year. We were back out of the wind now and I STILL hadn't put it together yet. Halfway through mile 6 I was begging for the final turn to show up. I was at the end of my rope and had nothing left. *Beep* Mile 6 = 5:37. Which year? Both. That's right, my first mile and my last mile were exactly the same as last year. Somewhere in the middle I had lost 1:13 but I was not aware of all that as I shuffled across the line. Getting passed in the last second by a runner who had beaten me by 5 seconds last year. I had even made up time on him. Only after talking to some of the other runners did it finally become apparent that the wind ahd played a large roll in our times today. Most of the faster runners (many of whom did not have the benefit of hiding in the draft of large groups of people) reported a differnce of close to a mintue. Whew. If that's the case, I was looking at only a very slight speed difference from last year. Excellent news.

But my fun was not over. With the "Big Dance" coming up in 2 weeks (Boston Marathon), coach Rick had prescribed an additional 8 miles. After that kind of effort, I had little hope of feeling 'spry' but these 8 miles - which I did by running back and forth down a 1/3-mile section of a closed 6-lane road - turned out to be almost a better thing than the race itself. At what felt like a moderate jog, I averaged a 6:45 pace for another 8 miles. I even ended up running the first couple of those miles with a guy who finished just a few seconds ahead of me. A guy who I did not know but who turned out to also be named Chris (Lowe) and who lives ON the Boston Marathon course. Too cool.

I realized that as I finished my 8 miles, I had to get to the elite bus where my clothes were. And now, the only way to get to the street it was on was to actually jump back into the race for a few blocks and make my way over there. I then had to do it again in order to 'exit' the area. After that, I jogged directly to the Starbuck's a few blocks away where Janis, Ruth and Bob were already enjoying some food and drinks - and a glorious day.

My final placing was 77th overall out of about 37,000 finishers. Last year I was 62nd so that's not really a big statistical diffence. Although this year, One 'uber-runner' showed up at the age of 45 and turned a 31-minute time and change (18th overall). It says he's from New Mexico but his name tells me he grew up in a place where they run from birth. Another 45-year-old beat me by about 40 seconds giving me 3rd this year in my age group. A time and result that I am happy with heading into Boston.

Race Notes:
* Just in case I hadn't said it in a while...thanks to Fleet Feet Sports, Team Kattouf Coaching, Rudy Project, Garmin and Mauldin Chiropractic for your support. You all rock!
* For all the problems they have with placing the mile markers, my Garmin had the course at 6.25 miles both years (a 10k is 6.20 miles).
* While I was running in my 'little' 10k, 3 of my friends were running a trail race (Umstead): Jackie Lafontaine, Mike Pastore and Eric Gelber. Jackie took 10th overall out of 103 finishers in the 50-miler. Mike and Eric both set PR's and finished in the top 25% of the 100-miler by running for just over 20 hours!
* .

Next Up: Boston Marathon...or as I like the call it "the Boston"

Finn thought he owned the place when we got to the hotel...

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.