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Looking back over my shoulder after Janis yells "you are within striking distance of 2 guys!" The guy running out with me is 6 mintues behind me - 3/25/2012
Christopher Giordanelli
Simpsonville Weather Forecast, SC (29680)

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...

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