Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Race - Augusta 70.3...

Take a seat, this is going to be a long one...

As with most races, it was a super early start. Wendy, Todd and I decided to meet out front for the shuttle at 5:45 AM. When I got there a group was leaving so I staked my claim as first in line and waited for the shuttle to come back. Wendy and Todd came around the corner a few minutes later. At that point there were 5 people (including us waiting). As the shuttle pulls up, 3 more people get in line. Todd being the courteous person that he is helped the female driver load the gear in the back. As he was doing this everyone piles in the car not leaving a spot for Todd. The driver shouts out that Todd needed a seat and he had been helping load the car. Wendy and I said we had been first in line, that sort of thing. You could have heard crickets chirping. Not one person even acknowledged that the driver said anything or made any motion to maybe scoot over and make room. It was the strangest thing, as if they suddenly became deaf and could not hear. They all stared straight ahead silently hoping the driver would stop asking them to give up their seat for Todd. Weird. Todd ended up having to fold into the cargo area of the mini van. He is 6’4” so you can imagine…

The shuttle dropped us of at transition, we unfolded Todd and headed to set up our transition area. There were super expensive bikes everywhere. Nothing like a big race to make you feel bad about your ride. My little $300 bike I bought on ebay was feeling a little inferior this particular day. it is like having an El Camino in a group of BMWs. We got our tires pumped up, gear laid out and we hopped on the bus to the swim start. As we are waiting for the start, it starts drizzling a bit. At that point, we thought if it would just stay slightly cloudy, that would be perfect. Augusta can be brutally hot and humid and I didn’t want any part of that action. We stopped at a bench to pull on our wetsuits and headed to the starting area. We can hear the announcer sending off the first few waves. We parted ways with Todd so he could get in with his wave and we headed to drop off our morning clothes bag. As Wendy reaches in her bag, she realizes that somewhere along the way she has dropped her goggles. We retrace our steps with no luck. Wendy asks someone if they happened to see a pair of goggles on the ground. They say no but offer her their spare pair for which she was forever grateful. Crisis averted!

At that point, we needed to start finding our wave. Jan was going off first in our group followed by Wendy and then Christy and I were in the 3rd wave of our group. I felt completely calm at that point. We marched down the walkway to the dock and eased in the water. It felt good at that point since we had heated up a bit in the wetsuits. I positioned myself on the far left and somewhat to the front. We treaded water for about 60 seconds and we were off.

The churn was minimal, I never really felt like I was boxed in by other people. There were the occasional swimmers who would come shooting across diagonally and I would pause for half a beat to let them keep moving on their way. The water was murky and a little on the nasty side. When we first took off, we were swimming over the tops of trees or bushes. Very strange. Every once in a while you would grab a handful of branches or some random grass would get stuck on your goggles and face. I couldn’t help but wonder what that might look like in the race photos if I came up out of the swim with river grass all over my face.

We passed under a couple of bridges and I remember thinking that I should have studied the map a little bit better so I would know where I was on the course in relation to the finish. Shortly thereafter, I looked up and thought I saw the finish buoys. It didn’t seem like that was possible. My goggles were fogged up so I thought maybe I was not seeing that correctly. At that point I was sighting every couple of breaths until I was sure. It turns out it was the finish! I could not believe how quickly that leg went by. I kept swimming until my hands almost touched the ramp with each stroke, I stood up and made the run uphill to the wetsuit strippers and into transition.

Swim: 28:30

My plan all along was to not try to rush through transition. I wanted to make sure I had everything I needed so I wouldn’t be miserable on the ride. I could have gone faster but the time wasn’t all that important to me on this day. I was more about a positive race experience. Maneuvered my way out of T1 onto the bike course. (What is it with people clogging up the bike mount area trying to get on their bikes? Walk it over to the side and get on. You don’t need to stop dead in the middle. Just saying…)

T1: 6:09

…And we’re off. My plan for the bike was so get back to T2 with enough energy to run a half marathon. Don’t go all out, leave something in the tank. I had ridden the course twice before race day which helped. Even though I had ridden the course, I really did not have a good sense of how long it would take me to ride the course when I wasn’t with my training group. I fully expected to be passed by people in droves which is what I had experienced during my race in Chattanooga. I was pleasantly surprised to find that even though I was getting passed a lot, I was also passing other people which gave me a lot of confidence. I found myself using the aerobars for 95% of the race which is not the norm for me. I also seemed to figure out a gear that worked. It just clicked. I kept checking my MPH on my garmin and was surprised. I knew it would be quick early on but expected the number to go down as the race wore on.

Having never ridden in a race with water stops, I was a little nervous about how that might work. I had read all about how to do it but executing the hand off sort of unnerved me. I rode past the first water stop because I didn’t need anything at that point. By stop number two, one of my bottles was empty so I wanted to get some water. Worst case, I figured I would pull off the road at the stop and get a bottle. I slowed down and the volunteer kind of pushed the bottle in my hand so that it would have been hard to drop it. I put it in the bottle cage and that was that. Surprisingly easy.

The course was congested almost the entire way. There were very few stretches where you weren’t aware of getting too close to someone, needing to pass or getting passed. The only odd thing on the ride was a man standing in his driveway with a sign. At first I thought he was a friendly spectator. As I got closer I would read his sign and heard him. The sign said “go home – get off the road”. He kept saying “you are not welcome here, you are a nuisance to the locals”. All I could say was WOW. Guess he didn’t read the article about this being the worlds largest half iron and the all the business it was bringing to the local economy. He was more concerned with being unable to get to the Stop and Shop on a Sunday morning I suppose. I think for one day out of the year you could get over it. Odd.

Just like the swim, before I knew it I was approaching the end of the bike ride. I turned the corner to see Jan’s husband Scott cheering on the racers and ringing a cowbell. A few more feet and I was unclipping and making my way to my bike rack. Unbelievably happy with my ride!

Bike: 3:12:29

I don’t know if most people feel this way but once I get off the bike, for shorter distance races anyhow, you feel like you are home free. No mechanical worries, from here on out you could walk it in if you had to do so. I was riding a wave of biker’s/runner’s high at this point. I honestly thought this would be the slower of my transition times because I stopped to use the port-o-potty so was surprised when I saw that my T2 time was faster than T1.

T2: 4:57

I headed across the mat and back out onto the course. Right before you get to the main road, there were a group of volunteers pouring jugs of water on people. I opted for the impromptu shower. More due to the high and enjoying the moment than any real need to cool off at that point but it did help once I got on the road. The course is essentially two loops as you enter the loops the people on the second half of the course feed into the loop with you. Due to the double loop, you are seeing signs for mile 9 when you are on mile 2 and that kind of thing. We were told that you could not use audible beeps on your watch for pacing (i.e. setting an alarm to go off every 5 minutes so you know to walk for the next 60 seconds if you were doing a Galloway thing). This threw me a bit because that was the plan I was going to execute for B2B and what I had planned on doing for this race. I ended up walking 60 seconds at every mile marker. I didn’t get as much walking in that way but it worked out fine in the end. I never felt like I needed to walk more at any point. Even though it was a loop course, I didn’t see anyone I knew until around mile 11. I came up on my friend Wendy who I guess would have been on her mile 4 at that point. We walked together to the next water stop and chatted about our race. It felt good to see her. I had passed her early on in the bike and had been wondering how her race was going. At the water stop I started running again knowing I only had a couple of miles to the finish. Shortly after I left that water stop I started having some GI issues. There were no port a potties in sight so I gutted it out and hoped for the best.

During that last mile, I saw Joanna who was going to race with us but had to pull out due to an injury and then Dave from Tri Your Best. So exciting to finally see some people I knew in the crowd. The legs felt good and I could not believe I was around the corner from completing this race. As I turned the final corner, the first loop people split off from the final lap people and I was running down the chute to the finish! I have a history of hyperventilating from excitement when I reach milestones like this so I was trying to keep that from happening. It ends up looking like some weird ugly cry. I choked it back as best I could. As I am running, I hear my name and then I swear he said she likes McDonald’s which was weird (I might have been hallucinating). I crossed the finish line and I was done! Oh. WOW.

Run: 2:15:52

Overall Finish: 6:07:57

The finish line area was PACKED with people. It was at that point I realized that we really did not come up with a meeting place for after the race. I knew Wendy was maybe an hour or so behind me so worst case, I would watch for her. In between visits to the port-o-pottie (UGH! GI issues…), I milled about the finish area hoping to see someone I knew. I watched the finish line for about 5 minutes and happened to see Summer cross the line – so exciting! I decided I would go sit on the sidelines around mile 12 on the back side of the finish area and wait to see Wendy go by. I saw Jan and Christy shortly after their finishes and then finally saw Todd come through with his and Wendy’s bike and gear. As I was talking to him, I felt like I was going to pass out so I rambled over the medical tent to get checked out. They had me lie down with my feet up for a few minutes. My blood pressure was super low – 80/30. It is normally pretty low to begin with but that was a little excessive. A few minutes of that and I no longer felt like I was going to pass out. They had me sit up and drink some Perform.

From my vantage point on the cot I could see and hear the finish line. I knew Wendy had not crossed yet. I also saw a flash of lightening followed by an immediate announcement that the race was being shut down due to weather and the racers were being pulled off the course. I quickly told the doctor I was feeling better and rushed out to try and find Todd if not Wendy. Within 60 seconds, the tents were being pulled down and timing equipment pulled up. I rounded the corner from the finish to find Todd. I told him the course was being shut down. He had already heard and had gone to find Wendy on the course. She ran up right behind him, crossed the finish line and was given a medal and finisher’s hat. On the offical record her run time was not recorded but we saw her finish and there is even an official finish photo. I am so thankful that she was that close to the finish when all that went down or she would not have gotten anything. I can’t even imagine… There were people out there on the course that were pulled off. Just heartbreaking. I am pretty sure that was the only flash of lightening I saw too. It rained for a bit and then the sun came back out.

Todd and Wendy drove me over to transition to pick up my bike. I was so thankful because there was no way I was feeling like riding even a mile to my car. My stomach was messed up for a couple of hours after the race. Nutrition wise, I followed my plan on the bike. I followed my plan on the run as well but had some GI issues around mile 11.5 or 12 that make me think I need to really look at that over the next week and figure it out before B2B. I took GU gels at mile 4 and 8. The plan was to take another at mile 12 but my stomach could not have taken it at that point. Drink wise, I was taking in water at every other stop if not more. I took in Ironman Perform at almost every other stop (maybe not quite that often). In all honesty, I felt GREAT until that mile 11.5 or so. I still felt good enough to run it in at the end but knew I needed to find a restroom as soon as possible. (I know, TMI…).

This is the only thing that concerns me now about B2B. I am wondering if it could have been the Perform I took in on the course. I also took in 2 orange slices and 2 cups of coke along the way. In my training runs, I typically take in oranges and occasionally coke so I don’t think that was a problem. I have never had Perform before (and have never had GI issues like that before either). I am wondering if that is a coincidence or if I should come up with a better plan for B2B? Maybe I could get my electrolytes in some other manner and just rely on water. Does this sound familiar to any of you? If so, what do you suggest? I am a little over 4 weeks away from Beach 2 Battleship so really want to get this figured out.

Overall, I am OVER THE MOON about my finish time. I honestly expected a best case scenario of 6:30 if everything lined up perfectly. To come in 23 minutes ahead of that just blows my mind. Now it makes me wonder what I could have done to shave 7 minutes of the time in order to come in under 6:00 that day. There is always that next big goal, isn't there? HA HA.

I am a little over 4 weeks out from my full iron at Beach 2 Battleship. The nerves are already starting to hit me. This should be an interesting month!


Tina @GottaRunNow said...

How fun to beat your hoped for finish time by 23 minutes! Great race photos - you make 70.3 look easy!

Amanda said...

Congratulations - that sounds like you had an amazing race! You are smiling in all of your photos which is awesome.

That is so sad that those on the course were pulled off and not allowed to finish or get anything. What a let down that would have been for so many people.

I have had GI issues with running. I'm certainly not really able to help with the tri aspect as it's so intense, but if this is the first time you've had Perform and you had issues and nothing else was different I'd try something else. I'm sure you'll find the right combination - make sure you try what you want to use on the course and you'll get it.

Congratulations again!!!

Julie said...

Congrats on a truly good race!!! You rocked it! Love the bike photo and finish line, you look so happy!

Suz and Allan said...

Congratulations! You don't even look tired at the finish line! Love the pre-race and race recap!

Kate Geisen said...

You did AWESOME!! Way to go! And I love your pictures...you look so strong and happy! Congratulations! :)

Lindsay said...

haha. i would be kicking myself over the 7 minutes too, instead of celebrating the 6:07!! congrats!! i'm glad you and your friends were all able to finish - that sucks that they shut down like that. hopefully they compensated in some way to the remaining racers?

umm WHAT THE HECK was up with that 'spectator'?!?

Katie said...

LOVE the finishing shot, you look so pumped! congrats on such a great race!

A Prelude To... said...

GREAT race. The pics of you on the bike are fantastic! Happiness beaming off your face!

Meaghan said...

GREAT WORK out there!!! I'm excited to see what you can do at B2B!!!

Carolina John said...

1. double your half iron time and add an extra hour = your full iron expected time. that would make yours around 13:15, so breaking 14 hours seems like a realistic b2b expectation.

2. I completely shit myself at the end of my first half iron i was so happy to be crossing that finish line. it's ok.

3. You can easily shave 10 minutes off of the bike time and break 6 hours. Next year, maybe even at a different race.

4. You thought that swim was fast? B2B swims with the current, and some years it's pretty strong. If it's strong this year you will feel like you're flying through that swim.

5. You did great. Revel in your accomplishment. Done? now get back to ironman training.

Lora Abernathy said...

Woo hoo! Big congratulations to you! Good luck in your IM. What a month, indeed!

ajh said...

Is your next race also a HI? I love the finish photo of you. You look so darn happy! Glad your friend finished! I didn't know they had water stops on the bike.
Great job!

Teamarcia said...

Phenomenal race girl! I am so impressed and inspired. You are so darn photogenic! Congrats on a fantastic performance!

That Pink Girl said...

LOVE how excited you look in all the photos but especially your finishing photo! Loves McDonalds, ha!
Congratulations on a GREAT race!!!

The Original MAJ said...

STELLAR finish!
AMAZING run!! I'm so envious! I can't run a 2:15 half mary WITHOUT a 56-mile ride and 1.2-mile swim prior!

You really did great!

B.o.B. said...

I'm just now commenting on this, only a year late. LOL! I needed to read this to get some tips and see how you felt. You rocked the hell out of this race Karen.