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National Cross Country Championships mile 2 of 6. It doesn't end all too well. - 12/11/2010
Christopher Giordanelli
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Lake Logan Olympic Tri Race Report

by G-Man 30. August 2011 07:21

Location: Between a tree and a lake, NC
Date: August 6, 2011
Placing: 11th Overall, 3rd Master, 1st 45-49
Format: Olympic distance Triathlon
My Race Photos
Official Race Photos
Results: Click Here

I blame the Waikiki Swim Club. According to history, the very first event that combined 3 sports in succession was in 1902 and featured running, cycling and canoeing. Done. We could have ended it there; with the ability to suck in as much oxygen as we could at any time throughout the event. Using one of "the Giordanelli principles" it is not a stretch to say that my rowing ability would rival my cycling/running ability and I would now be living off my millions of dollars in endorsments and my triathlon clothing line. But no. Enter the Waikiki Swim Club.

The Waikiki Swim Club had to insist that swimmers were more fit than runners (when in fact, they are simply more 'mutant' than runners...uh-uh-uh...talk to the hand). And from there...SWIM, bike, run became the triathlon standard we know today. Remind me to send the Waikiki Swim Club a case of Shark Bait cologne as a token of my appreciation. I dream of what would have happened if maybe someone else was there INSTEAD of swimmers when the Ironman was being born. There are a handful of possibilities that could have made me a legend - a household name. For instance, what if Ben & Jerry had been there? Bike, Run, eat 5 gallons of ice cream. How about Shields & Yarnell? (Google it, kids). Bike, run, dance the robot. Einstein? Bike, run, solve complex mathematical equations. "I coulda been a contender"...if only.


Awesome teammate and general 'man about town' Cameraon Dorn. Problem is you never know which town in which country on any given day.

Those first 2 paragraphs are what we writers call "setting the stage". It lets you know that I will - at a later point in the story - use my own inadequacies as an excuse. But first, some character development and a plot. So there we were, Janis and I hanging out in the middle of nowhere with Coach Rick and his wife Gail. The Kattouf's had rented a cabin in the woods on the top of a mountain. Up a gravel road that was not for the squeemish - and definitely not for a Prius or Yugo. My front-wheel drive Rav4 was having a hard enough time. We found it hilarious that the owner charges a $25 gravel road fee as part of the rental. That money must go towards signage that says "caution: steep, gravel road". Because it certainly isn't going towards making the road any better.

The Lake Logan triathlon falls into a special category for me. It is a category many athletes have: races I've tried repeatedly to attend and have not been able to. I have 'ditched' more races over the past 30 years than I care to admit. Some were just 'on my plan' while others I had already paid for. I wish I had all the money in entry fees over the years that I 'gave away' to races. But even when cancelling out on races I'm no amateur. This was my 3rd attempt to make this race and I finally got there. At least I never pre-paid my entry fees. I think the Virginia Beach Rock n' Roll Half Marathon is my record. It took me 4 years to finally get there - and I waved goodbye to my entry fee for 2 of those (BTW - when I finally did it, it was a great race!). I may try to break that record as I debate signing up for the New Year's Eve 5k at midnight in Clemmons, NC...for the 3rd year. We have yet to actually attend it. On a final note here. I don't want to make it sound like I run around throwing out entry fees. As a matter of fact, after I completed my first iron-distance triathlon, Janis told me that she saw 2 or 3 people pulled from the swim in the first couple of minutes. They were fine; just had anxiety attacks and hyperventilated. Janis told me that if it had been me - after spending all the time and money - that she would have walked over and pushed me back in the water.


Team K in our stealth black team outfits. If we ever do a race at night, you'll never see us comin'.

You don't see a lot of Kenyans lining up to do the mile. Why? It just ain't their thang. And so it is with me and the olympic distance. Compared to all other distances, the swim is more heavily weighted - and especially here where the bike was even shorter than the standard 40 kilometers and not very challenging or technical to boot. I usually have a lot of catching up to do after the swim leg but in a race like this, I felt like I was on the 50-yard-line and everyone else was lined up on the 5 (see how I brought my football audience into the story). But I came here because it was supposed to be beautiful and at least a few degrees cooler than the unforgiving sun back in Greenville. It was both. And as weekends go, I cared a lot less about the race and a lot more about a relaxing weekend with Janis and friends.


A little more chillin' than usual going on at the Team Kattouf headquarters this race.

I was almost too uncaring about the race. I can't remember the last time I was so disorganized. I basically did nothing to prepare the day before. The morning was a constant game of 'what did I forget now'? An athlete struck up a conversation with me as I walked from the parking area to the venue. It was his first tri and he was a bit nervous. I told him it didn't matter what happened - he was going to have a blast. I had to laugh to myself a few minutes later when I went to the registration table and he was ahead of me. He had signed up for the Open division. I had seen this before. People don't realize that the Open division is for the athletes vying for a top 10 or so. I didn't say anything to him, but he was in for an experience.

Up there in the mountains, the lake was still wetsuit legal and I barely got myself together in time to jump in the water for 60 seconds. I had a sudden realization that my wedding ring was very loose and I didn't want to lose it in the lake so I jumped out to find Janis but I was cut short by the call to the start. It's probably just as well, the last thing I needed was women hitting on me while I'm trying to swim.


A beautiful lake swim. I enjoyed it so much that I took my time. Yeah, that's my story.

I felt a bit strained from the start but I stayed steady. In my head, I thought I would have a little advantage because the buoys leading to the turn were not in a straight line and we did not have to go around them. But that rarely stops some people from taking the long way around. Not me I swim slow but straight and I cut a laser line to the turn about 700 meters out. If you've never done an open water swim race, it's a lot like running. With a blindfold on.

After an eternity of flailing my arms about, I approached the swim exit. It was several yards upstream from the start and into the mouth of the river that feeds the lake. Almost immediately as we crossed under the roadway bridge for the final 50 meters, the water temperature dropped what had to be 15 degrees. It was cold but amazingly refreshing. Unlike many of my triathlon swims where we are required to hoist ourselves out of the water, I needed no assistance from the volunteers to fling myself onto the dock as if the lake were regurgitating some bad fish.


Searching for my rip-cord so I can pull my parachute.

Normally in my races, I start my watch timer and refer to it during the race as my "master time keeper"; just a running total of my time. Today, I was without my watch and I felt a bit naked. But it's a good thing I didn't have it on because if I had looked down when I ran into the first transition and seen my time, I would have quit right then and there. Seriously. Take your definition of slow...and add two more minutes. Imagine Roseanne Barr showing up to singing practice...with a cold. That bad.


The guy behind me probably saved 8 seconds by not putting his shoes on in transition. I enjoyed racing by him at 25 mph as he was riding 3 mph trying to get his shoes on.

We had a bit of a run along the grass with our bikes to the mount line. I did it with my shoes on - the guy next to me did it barefoot. He jumped on his bike and was off. I was right behind him. Well, fortunately I wasn't RIGHT behind him because he was weaving and nearly falling over as he tried to get his feet in the shoes. As I instantly raced by him full bore, I leaned over and said "It's NOT faster". I hope I didn't ruin triathlon for anyone, but...It's NOT faster. It's slower AND more dangerous.

I went to task doing what I do best and made short work of the course. It was fast and had no technical sections. Again, not a lot of chances for a cyclist to gain time. I even made a rookie mistake going into the last (and only real) climb. I misjudged the grade and stayed in my big chainring. I could tell it was a mistake but I had committed and it cost me some time. I was also starting to let my head take over a bit. I was disappointed at this point that I hadn't caught more Open wave athletes.


A great ride up until the final few miles. A good time, but nothing extraordinary today.

I jumped off the bike in time to see another Open Master (Tom Mather) already starting the run about a minute ahead of me. Tom is one of the fastest Master runners in the state. That's HIS sport. Which is why I couldn't understand how he was still ahead of me after the bike. I had a fast transition and off I went. The six-mile course was basically a gradual climb for 3 miles and then a turn around to a gradual descent into the finish. I didn't understand why I seemed so far behind everyone but I figured if I hit my 6:00/mile pace on the run then everthing would have to work out. And it seemed like for the first time today, things were going as anticipated.


Do I look powerful? I feel powerful. I just wish I had felt this way about 30 minutes earlier.

I had no watch on, but my tempo felt strong and fast. In the first couple of miles I ran down 2 Open Masters. Up ahead, I could see the black uniform and ponytail that is the distinct trademark of my teammate Gail Kattouf. As I approached her - and passed mile 2 - I started to see the first place athletes coming towards me. It's always funny to me how I can feel like a 10-minute gap on paper is long but when you are out on the course, it was less than 2 running miles. It was like the leader was right there in front of me. Or so it seems. I caught Gail just before the turn around and we exchanged words between our labored breathing. I counted over a dozen people still ahead of me before I hit the turn including Masters David Hall and Tom Mather. But neither of them provided the inspiration to keep flying. No - that distinction belonged almost completely to the ladies.

I had chased down Gail just before the turnaround. Shortly after the turnaround, I found myself chasing another 'ponytail' - ANOTHER national caliber female athelte, Alicia Parr. I can't remember exactly but Alicia held the distinction last year of winning high honors at multiple national championships. She made an excellent target. Again - a few words of encouragement exchanged. I was 4 miles in at this point and I was being sharply reminded that it had been a long time since I had run a 10k without socks on. I was bascially drilling a hole in the end of my big toe. My glances went back and forth between the athletes I was chasing - and my shoe; where I expected at any minute to see the color of blood seeping through.


I ran down a lot of people today. But the one thing I couldn't run down was my crappy swim.

Two miles left and I still felt good. Strained, but good. I thought that Alicia was in 1st place for the women but no. No sooner had I left Alicia than I started to catch my next quarry. Yep, another woman. This woman was a pro whom I'd never heard of. Male or female - it made no difference to me. They were all just targets. With a mile to go there was no sign of the two 'known' Masters ahead of me and I hoped that I would somehow sneak into 3rd with my run resurecting a less-than-stellar swim/bike combo. I rounded a curve with a half mile to go and there he was right in front of me. I could see the "OM" written on his calf denoting "Open Master". I took a few deep breaths and backed down a bit. You have to be prepared when you pass someone that close to the end that you pass them convincingly.

It probably sounds funny but in situations like this, I actually expend energy trying not to be heard until I am right on top of the person I am passing. I want to give them no time to respond or prepare. I feel like a mouse sneaking up on a piece of cheese just before he POUNCES ON IT. I was starting to run out of gas a bit so I had to just do it. I did. He had little left to respond and I managed to hold a small gap to the finish. Within a couple of mintues I got to see an amazing race for the line as the top 3 women that I had passed all finished within 18 seconds of each other.

I was almost confused by what had happened today. I know I'm not a specialist at this distance but the race I had planned in my head never materialized. My confusion was laid to rest as soon as I saw the results. As I mentioned earlier, my swim was beyond bad. I even wondered if I had done some extra distance somewhere. My bike was OK - but it too was a minute or two slower than I was capable of. My run was pretty much the only thing that actually showed up ready to go today. Taking into consideration the gradual climb on the way out and my toe on the way back, my 6:10 pace was pretty much where I expected it to be.


I managed to pull out a 'podium' finish - not something that always happens at this distance.

I would finish 11th overall and 3rd Master. Oddly enough, both Masters ahead of me were in different age groups (40-44 and 50-54). Putting me first for my age group. As anticipated, I pulled back about 5 minutes on each of the two Masters ahead of me on the bike and run. But I finished 9 and 7 minutes slower than them in the swim. Holy cow. 95th swim split, 6th bike split, 10th run split. I guess it really doesn't look that different than usual. But 95th?! Sheesh.

Notes:
* This race actually has money at it so several pros actually showed up - some very good pros.
* Teammate Gail Kattouf took 3rd in the women's race. 19 seconds behind 1st and 8 seconds behind 2nd.
* I found it sort of funny that the top 3 Masters each specialized in a different discipline...and I mean specialize. David Hall and Tom Mather are probably both in the top 5 Masters in the state in swimming and running respectively. With my cycling, we would make one really wicked Masters relay.
* The "hole" in my toe really was like a hole. I had to baby that thing for several days.
* Nothing felt better than jumping back into the lake where we exited the swim. It was frigid and awesome.

Next Up: Paris Mountain 7k and Syracuse 70.3

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