Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Augusta 70.3 race weekend

September 23-25, 2016

It's amazing to me that I am now writing my race recap for the Augusta Half Ironman! I signed up for this race back in December. Started training for it "officially" 18 weeks ago. And I finally did it! I just can't get over it! :)

Friday morning, Carolyn, Wendy, Gina and I drove to downtown Augusta for the expo. We had driven up the day before, so we could get a good nights sleep and have time for the expo and a swim in the river on Friday. We got downtown early, so we took a walk along the water front, found the dock for the swim start, and dipped our feet in. It was cold! We all looked forward to trying out our wetsuits in the water later. We had a short line to wait in, outside the expo doors, before going in to get our bibs, shirts, race stickers, timing chips and goodie bag. I love the large mesh backpack. It will be my new swim bag. This led us right to the official merchandise tent, were I bought some stuff. Like, a lot of stuff. Even though I though I had a lot, the cashier said she had customers buying a lot more. I got a hoodie, tank top, visor, coffee mug, event pin (for my tri bag), A race towel (that has everyone's names in the 70.3 giant numbers) a couple of stickers and a key chain. We then went to the athlete briefing, then wondered around the expo. The expo was smallish, but they had some good stuff.

Getting ready for a pre race swim with Gina
After the expo, we got some lunch, and then went to get our swimming gear. There were a lot of people with the same idea as us. Get in a swim! Carolyn and Wendy went out first. They swam down to the second bridge, where we were told there was a ramp to get out of the water, and then walk the qaurter of a mile back. Gina and I went next, while the other two watched all of our stuff. Gina was a rock star, going in without a wetsuit. The water temp was 73 degrees. I felt super comfortable in my wetsuit and could really feel the current give me a gentle push. I looked out for Gina on the swim, as she was having some issues. She went ahead and got out before the first bridge, so I continued on without her. It was a good swim. I walked back to meet the group, were Wendy and Carolyn decided to go out again, so I went ahead and joined them. I got a little faster swim in this go around. I was looking forward to the full distance on Sunday morning!

Saturday morning, we all tried to sleep in. The others did better than me. I went up to the 5th floor of our hotel, the Sheraton Augusta, were they had a breakfast for the club members. This was a first for me, even though I've had my Starwood Preferred Guest account for years. Really loved the perk of free food, drinks, snacks and bottled water! Late morning, we packed up our bikes and drove them to the transition area to check them in. Then we drove the bike course. I am so happy we did this as it helped me to visualize where I was during points of the race. I was prepared for some of the hills and a couple of the tight turns. And, we could feel the condition of some of the roads, even in the car. Bumpy! After the drive, we went ahead and hit the expo again, just to wander through and also ask a couple of other race day questions, then headed back to the hotel. I was really happy to finally be meeting CJ, the boy I was matched to last year through the Irun4 program. He and his family live in GA, not to far from Augusta. We got to spend some time together outside by the pool. It was really awesome to have that opportunity to meet them all and it really gave me a boost of inspiration the day before my big event. Our pre race dinner was at Outback, then back to the room for an early night.

The pre race show.
We are ready to go!
Race morning: The BIG DAY!
I woke up just before 5 am. We got ready, then headed out, on the road at just after 5:30 am. It was a quick trip back downtown, were we found a spot near the finish for Carolyn's car. Then we all got into Gina's car and headed to transition. Gina dropped us off a block or so away from our bikes. As we walked to the transition, with a bunch of other athletes, we heard some people talking about the water temperature and how we were no longer allowed to wear our wetsuits for the race. Say what!?!?! Once we got to transition, Wendy and I found a race official, who explained to us that the water temp had risen just enough (1 degree over the limit) to make for a non wetsuit legal race. OMG, If I wanted to wear my suit, I could start in the last wave, an hour later, and not get points and other stuff that didn't matter to me. I really did not want to start at 9:30 in the morning. It was going to be way to hot for that! I was a little freaked out, but I knew I could make it through the swim. I had done plenty of swims without a wetsuit during training. Not without a few short breaks though! I got to my bike, set up all my gear, made sure everything was were it needed to be, then took off my compression sleeves. The rules for Ironman are so much more harder than with regular triathlons. Even though compression sleeves give me no advantage in the water, you are still not allowed to wear them. It was going to be tough putting them on wet legs later, but I was going to! Once we were done with set up, we decided to walk to the swim start, 1.2 miles up river. We had over an hour to wait before Wendy and I started swimming. We met up with Gina and at the church, that was offering morning snacks and coffee to all the athletes. It was really great of them to do this. I needed that second cup of coffee! We then headed over to the swim area, where the first wave was going to start. Wendy and I were in wave 11 and Carolyn was in wave 16. We watched the pre race festivities (4 guys jumping out of an airplane) then watched the first wave go off. This wave had the elite women in it. We watched 2 more waves go off, before heading back to porta potties and then went ahead and found our own wave. It was very exciting and nerve racking. We were finally going to do this thing! I'm so happy I had Wendy there with me. As well as our awesome sherpa, Gina, there to take photos and cheer us on.

So happy I had Wendy in my wave!
Waiting on the walkway for our turn on the starting dock.
I'm in there somewhere! :)

The Swim: I jumped in the water, about 30 seconds before our wave started. I wanted to get a feel for the water. It was still cold! I ducked my head under a couple of times, to make sure my goggles had a snug fit, then held on to the dock until the horn blasted. I wanted to stick behind Wendy on the swim, but as soon as that horn sounded, she was off! I let some people get ahead of me, because it was really congested in the first few seconds, then I tucked in behind a couple of swimmers and just watched their feet in front of me, for guidance. I would look up every once in a while, to make sure we were on course. Having been in the water two days before, I was prepared for all of the tree debris in the water. Beside all of that stuff floating around, the water was crisp and clean feeling. So different from the Gulf and from the pool. A couple of times, I started to get that panicky feeling, specially when we passed the second bridge, knowing I still had a mile swim left. But, I calmed myself down right away, and just continued to swim. After a while, I pulled to the side of the two swimmers I had been following, and then pulled ahead. The next wave of athletes came up on us, but it wasn't a huge amount trying to get around, like in shorter distance races. I tried to draft off of the faster ones, for as long as I could. I then caught up to another swimmer from my wave, and tucked in just to her left. About half way through, I caught sight of the Rowing club building, ahead. I knew this was just before the finish. I am so happy we had walked around that area the day before. It was great having the end in sight. I stayed with the other swimmer, until we got close to the ramp, leading up from the water. It got a bit congested here, and it was hard to see in the water, because the dirt/sand had been churned up. I tried to stand up a couple of times, but it was still deep. On my third try, I was standing and then running up the ramp with a big smile on my face. I did it. The most scary part of the triathlon for me, and I did the whole 1.2 mile swim!! I've come a long way since my big panic attack last summer during the Englewood Triathlon! And, my swim was pretty fast (for me) considering I didn't have the wetsuit. Swim Time- 36:31 (division rank: 132/214)

So happy to be done with the swim!
It was great seeing Gina in the crowd!
Transition 1: After running over the timing mat, you run along the outside (near the river), to the end of transition, then up the middle to your row. I got to my bike, dumped my swim suit in my bag, pulled on my Mermaid Club bike jersey, then sat down on the grass to dry off my legs and feet, before getting on the compression sleeves. It was a bit of a struggle, but not as hard as I thought it would be. Wendy ran by me with her bike while I was sitting. She did awesome on the swim! I put on my short compression socks (which I need, otherwise my toes get swollen!), then shoes, then stood up to put on sunglasses, gloves and helmet. I grabbed my bike and then ran it out of transition. Time: 7:35. Super long, but worth the time!

The bike course
The Bike: I caught another glimpse of Gina on the sidelines, cheering away, as I rolled away from transition. Some guy on a fancy bike was having a hard time adjusting the straps on his bike shoes and was blocking me from passing on the left. You are not supposed to pass on the right, so I finally yelled at him to move over if he wasn't going to go faster! Geesh! Once we were out on the main road, there was more separation of the athletes. Like I said earlier in this post, I was really happy we drove the course on Saturday. I had a good idea of how long we would be on this road, before it forked to the right. My pace was great! Every time I looked at my Garmin (on the bike), I was at a 20 mph pace. My first 5 mile split was 15:10! I had 4 bottles with be. Three had tailwind/water mix and one was just water. My goal was to make sure I drank at least every 5 miles, as well as eat something every 10 miles. I ended up snacking on my crackers at mile 5 and some chews at mile 10. Then I stayed with the every 10 miles of eating. I caught up to Wendy, just after mile 10, then we made the turn to the left, which was the new detour and which included a new, long climb, for this course. About half way through the bike, it really started to warm up. I guess my body had gotten warmer after the coolness of the swim. I'm kind of glad we had that cool swim first, as it kept my body temp down for longer on the bike. My black jersey, while super cute, was not a great idea out in the blazing sun. 
Early on the bike ride.

The second bigger climb. I was happy to see that on this major roads
one lane would be closed down for us to ride in. On this road,
the left lane was for us to ride in, since we would be making
a left turn after the hill.
By mile 20ish, I really had to use the bathroom. I wasn't sure if I would stop on the course or in transition. I didn't want to add to my bike time, so at this point I figured I'd wait until transition. I passed by the first aid stop without getting anything. I had been wondering how all this would work. People could toss their water bottle and then grab one from a volunteer. They also handed out half of a banana and cliff gels. Since the aid stop was on a incline, most athletes were going through the area slow anyway, so it looked like it was pretty easy to get aid. At the next aid stop, I grabbed a banana, peeled it down with my teeth, then ate it, and tossed the peel, all during the length of the aid station! It worked great! Just after mile 30, we took a sharp right turn (which I remembered from the day before!) and on to my favorite part of the course. It was the smoothest road yet, with rolling hills. I had a pretty good pace going here. Not long after, a woman rode by, telling me my ring looked loose and I might loose it. Um, what? I had no idea what she was talking about! I looked down at my chaing and gears. It all looked good. I though maybe she was talking about the water bottles and holder behind my seat. I also had some attachments on it. I didn't really care about those. I didn't want to stop and look, so I just put it out of my mind and kept going. (when I looked at this after the race. The whole water bottle unit was hanging by 1 screw!) Just after mile 45, was the last aid station. Since my time was looking really good, I decided to take a minute to hop off the bike and use the porta potty. They had a rack right next to it, so I racked my bike went in to the porta potty, took care of business and was back out on my bike within a minute. I'm so happy I did this, as I felt sooo much better for the last miles. I was really happy to get back to the main road, because I knew once we crossed over the river, it was only a mile or so to transition. I was so happy to be finishing without any bike issues! My biggest concern out there. Even with all the road debris, bumpy roads and rolling water bottles (how hard is it to put your bottle back in the cage, geesh!) I managed to not get a flat. Yippee!! Bike time - 3:15:38 (17.17 mph average, division rank: 91/214)

Transition 2: I slowly ran through transition with my bike. Legs felt OK. I was surprised. I racked my bike, took off my jersey and put on my Mermaid Club tank (again in black!), took of my bike shoes and short socks and swapped them for the over the ankle compression socks and my Hoka shoes. I had brought a new pair with me, thinking I would need all that wonderful cushion on this run. I put on my visor, put on my bib belt, grabbed my washcloth, then ran it out of transition. We followed the same way out as when we came in for the swim, so it was kind of a longish run to get out. Time - 5:06

The Run: Yes, finally on the run! I grabbed water from the first aid station, just past the transition exit. Walked through it, while I drank the water. Gave a few of the young girls working the tables, a high five, then started running. There was a small hill, leading away from the river, that I walked. I was perfectly fine with that! About another half a mile out, we got to another water stop, that was on the main loop. Got more water, then started running again. Even with the 3 short walk breaks, my first mile was close to 9 minutes! During mile 2, my watch told me my heart rate was high, so I started to slow it down. 13.1 miles, starting at mid-day, was going to be tough. Just before mile 2, I saw Gina. So awesome to see her cheering! It put a big smile on my face. We were on Greene street, which had some nice shade on the left side, so I tried to stay over there as much as possible. On 13th street, we turned right, then right again a couple of blocks later. We were now on Broad street, where most of the cheering crowd was. So great to have so much support out there! I got more water at the next water stop, but decided after that, I had better watch my intake, so that I didn't get a sloshy stomach. It was just so hot out and that cold water tasted wonderful! I saw Linda, running in the opposite direction, just after mile 3. She was looking strong (and went on to win 2nd in her age group!!). After we passed the 6th street intersection the crowds died down. The next few blocks before the next water stop, were rough. I slowed down more. The bottom of my feet were super hot. I don't know if that was from the bike, or the hot pavement, but they really hurt. At Sibley st, we turned back, running on the other side of the road, which had a large grass section, dividing the road. We ran back by the large, cheering crowds again. I got a boost seeing Gina again at the 10th street intersection, then we turned to the right at 11th, to get to Reynolds. 
On the first loop. Still feeling ok.
This road took us back towards the transition exit. Full sun and just brutal! We later found out that the heat index was 103! I had started dunking my washcloth in the big barrels of ice water (for the sponges) and grabbing small cups of ice at the water stops that had them (thankfully, most of them!). Sucking on an ice cub and using the cold washcloth on my face, helped to cook me down. I took a gu at mile 5 and then some of the base salt at mile 8, both of which gave me a nice boost. Some area homeowners, were in their yards, offering to spray us down with hoses. I took each one up on that! We ended up on East Boundary again, to start our second loop. Thankfully, there was still some shade on Green St. This was a very long stretch! I could have sworn there was a water stop on it, but it wasn't there this go around. I was really happy to turn the corner again on Broad street. A water stop and more cheering people! I saw Gina again at 10th. She told me Wendy wasn't to far ahead, and that I could catch her. That gave me a little boost and a very short term goal to get to. I ended up finding her at the end of the road water stop, just before mile 11. We walked and talked a bit before she started running again. I walked another few steps, then started running too. I wished her luck as I passed, continuing on towards the main area of Broad St. I knew I only had to pass by the finish area one more time (you pass by the finish area 4 times before you actually run down to the finish line!) and then I would be done. I saw Gina one more time at 10th street. She had our cart, with our mimosa making ingredients. I was soo ready for one of those! I passed by the mile 12 water stop, not taking anything, because I was worried about all the people behind me and wanted to leave my share for them. We turned right on 7th and then right on Broad st. One block to the finish! I started to get very emotional, but held it together as I lifted my arms in the air and crossed the finish line with a huge smile! I did it! I completed a Half Ironman! Run - 2:21:37 (10:48 pace, division: 58/214)

Overall finish time - 6:26:27

So happy! FYI, finish time on above clock is from the start of the first wave.

Augusta 70.3 Ironman finishers!!
Super happy with my race! My main goal was to finish. My second goal (based on my training) was to finish near 6:30. Considering how very hot it was (in the 90s), and the added hill (elevation gain), I am very happy with my first 70.3 finish time. I wasn't going to go back next year, but now I'm thinking I just might, to improve on that time! :)


  1. You are amazing!! You put in the hard work and it really paid off! Congrats!!