OK – this is long. I have pre-race items. If you want to skip to the actual race, you can skip on down to Swim.
I have run the Augusta 70.3 half iron distance twice before: in 2010 it was my first ever triathlon, and in 2011 when preparing for IMAZ with the inaugural Team in Training Ironteam.
My friend Joanna’s mom has recently been diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL), and she asked friends who are running races to run for her mother. I told her I couldn’t promise that I would think of her mother while racing as for me racing is nothing close to what she was going through ( I love what I get to do, and it is nothing close to fighting to live!). But that I would do my best to honor her mother by doing what I love to do to have fun out there and push myself to do my best. I actually did think of Joanna’s mom once while out on the course. I thought how much I love what I get to do (train and race), smiled, and then passed some people!
This was the first time I have gone in to a race with a deliberate plan to give what I had, and feel confident about it. That kind of freaked me out so two days before I took myself off Facebook to avoid race chatter. When I went on to pass some time or check how friends doing the Northface Endurance Challenge were doing, I would scroll and skip rapidly past anyone I knew was racing Augusta. I just couldn’t get caught up in the frenzy. I needed to and wanted to just stay calm so I wouldn’t doubt myself.
Although a bit of on inconvenience having our hotel 20 minutes from the start, it worked out well in that we were away from the hubbub.
Carlos and I drove over Friday afternoon to check in early and avoid the Saturday line. However, it seems that they may have gotten a faster system in place this year. Hopefully the long line typical for Augusta has been tamed some.
Carlos rode the course and I hooked him up as best as possible with friends riding the course that day but he rides his own pace and does his own thing. He started with them and after about 15 miles settled in to his pace. While he was riding I took advantage of the local YMCA offer for athletes to swim for free as they were not offering a pre-race swim at the event site. My fears of them being overwhelmed were misplaced – I shared a lane with a fellow athlete and soon had the lane to myself. I had a solid, relaxing swim
I returned to the hotel, and packed. When Carlos called saying he was 11 miles out, I packed my bike up and took it to transition. I had a great spot with good landmarks nearby so I could get straight to my bike without thinking. FABULOUS! Oh – and as soon as I was walking out of transition I spotted Carlos as he was coming in. Perfect timing!
The rest of the day was spent relaxing, staying hydrated, and staying calm, along with getting proper meals in and making sure I was fueling well for the next day. Football on the TV made hanging out in the hotel room bearable – as well as free wi-fi.
I went to bed at a decent hour and actually slept pretty well until 3:30 a.m. Then I was up. No matter, my alarm was set for 4 a.m.
I got out of bed just before my alarm and started getting ready: mixing my bottles, getting dressed, putting on my timing chip, double checking my gear I packed the day before and having breakfast. Breakfast was tricky as my wave was not until 8:32 – four hours from when I ate. Three hours before is ideal for me so I packed a couple of fig newtons (OK – Barbara’s whole wheat fig bars – they are much more filling/satisfying and a lot less cakie than real fig newtons) to top me off and keep any hunger at bay. I also packed my pre-race fuel to take just before the swim, and a bottle of water in a bottle I can just toss.
I woke up Carlos at 4:45 saying he had 15 minutes until we left. Transition opened at 5 and was open until 7, but I didn’t want to deal with traffic and having to park farther than necessary from transition. Carlos, being the super-supportive hubby he is, got up, and was soon driving me to transition. He stayed with the car while I walked the ~0.5 miles to transition. I set everything up and was about 1/3 of the way back when I realized – dang! I had forgotten to pull the baggie of sunscreen from my transition bag set it out. I squeeze a glob if sunscreen in to a baggie so I can grab it and put it on me as I run out of transition. I have been burned before and know that being THAT burned is distracting and saps my strength and focus. It is worth the effort to put it on, and since I do it on the run, it doesn’t slow me down.
So back I went, pulling my little bag of sunscreen out and then returned to Carlos. All-in all it was about 30-40 minutes. I asked if he minded staying until I finished my warm up run. It was about 2 and a quarter hours until I started, but I know I can do my warm up run that early and be fine. I just need to prime myself so that I can control my breathing when I start swimming. Soon I was back. I grabbed my swim gear from the car (water was 69 degrees so I chose my sleeveless), gave Carlos a kiss, and he left to return to the hotel to pack the room up, get cleaned up, have breakfast, and return later. Did I mention that Carlos is super-supportive? He is!
I walked down to the starting area where I soon found a friend (Mike) and we started talking. Finding someone with whom to chat about anything but the race is my idea of heaven, and I was luck that day. Mike first – we chatted about track, and then Jane topped by. Jane had just gone and spectated IM Lake Tahoe, so I got to listen to her adventure spectating. Soon John, who raced IM Lake Tahoe, stopped by and he had quite the story to recount. Then Karen and Beth, both there supporting friends, stopped by. They kept me busy chatting as more people stopped by. They took a few pictures. I don’t look too thrilled. I was actually rather cold and put my wet suit on to keep my legs warm. I just wanted to start. And also wanted to sit as I had been walking all morning!
While there I went to the bathroom lines a couple of times and soon decided it was time to head over to the start and line up. I found my wave and got in place.
Soon we were heading down to the dock, and I started jockeying for position to sit on the dock and not be in the second row of starters. I was closer to the shore which meant a slower current but no matter. I was ready to swim strong. And better to be in front that push through people. I sat and splashed water on me and put it down my wetsuit. The countdown was on. I chatted a little with one of the women next to me and soon was watching the clock. 5…4….3…2….1….
The director blew the air horn and I was off. I started off at a sprint until I had to back off. I backed off some for a short while to catch my breath (I was SO thrilled that I was able to regulate my breathing with a sprint start while continuing swimming) and then settled in to my race pace. I kept pushing. In the past, once I started passing the wave in front of me, I would be lulled in to backing off. I consciously told myself to keep going – no backing off. And I didn’t. I swam near the river edge which means I didn’t have a strong of a current to push me as those farther out, but I had a clear path and didn’t want to weave around. I was swimming straight….for once!
I had worn my sleeveless wetsuit and knew I had made the right choice. The water temperature was perfect for it. I knew any time I could gain from my wetsuit with sleeves would be balanced out by the reduced time to take it off my arms as I ran to transition.
I had little interference on this swim – it was a straight shot and I never got kicked or swatted. I came close to a couple of people in previous waves, but quickly went around them.
Soon I was sighting on the exit. I started running a little earlier than I usually like – my hands didn’t hit the ground, but it was OK. I hit the ground running.
Up the ramp I go taking out my ear plugs, swim cap and goggles off. I heard a couple of people yelling “go Katie” but wasn’t sure where from and just kept moving forward. And here is where my word for the day (“left”) started. I started announcing myself by saying (yelling isn’t the right term, but more like the volume of an announcer) “Left” and clearing a path through people walking towards transition. I also heard a couple of women behind me follow my lead.
I ran to the wetsuit strippers. I had my suit already down past my butt so I knew I could go to anyone and they would have it off me quickly. I laid down and they had my suit off in a flash. I hopped up and they tossed it to me. I was on my way.
It was a long transition, but I didn’t waste much time. I was at my bike. The usual extra couple of seconds fussing with my aero helmet over my ears, shoes on and I was off.
For the first 10- 15 miles or so my quads had a low burning. I kept thinking to myself “no one said your goal was easy. Keep pushing. You will be fine. You are strong enough”. Eventually the feeling passed. The first 15 miles were not overly crowded on the course, and I actually had long stretches on my own. I thought I would love it if the course remained like that but I also knew it was not going to happen.
I was passed very little. I did most of the passing and was announcing myself with a “left”. At times people said thank you , especially in the crowded areas. Often I saw they were getting closer to someone ahead of them, but I was close enough to pass both of them before the former would pass the latter.
I only played back and forth a couple of times on this course: early on with a woman and then later (mid ride or so) with a group of three women in the 40-44 age group. They were noteworthy as they were definitely working together.
A little before mile 28 those three women in the 40-44 age group zoomed by – two of the women in the same kit, two of the women tucked in behind the third. I passed them. Around mile 28, at a downhill section or so I heard a woman’s voice from that group of three about 20 yards or so behind me (guessing – but a fair distance) announcing “on your left”. I moved over and they zoomed by – the two smaller women tucked in behind the larger woman. I didn’t jump on the train, but did push a little to keep up. At the next uphill section I passed them. We played back and forth a couple of times and soon I passed them and never saw them again.
I timed my drinks by watching ahead of me and as I neared a large group, I would grab a drink, and accelerate. Sometimes I would also grab a drink as I passed someone, being aware to do this before it became their responsibility to drop back. Never did I take a drink right after passing anyone. I kept on moving!
As I rode occasionally I would have brief flashes to previous times I have ridden the course: thinking of friends. That was a little different. Usually if it isn’t about what I was seeing on the course or what my body was telling me I don’t think about it. Maybe since the memories were a part of the course It was OK for my brain to register it!
Around mile 45 I felt fatigue in my hamstrings. I had felt this at IMCdA and didn’t worry – I knew it wouldn’t affect my run. I kept pushing. I saw one woman in my age group pass me. She was hauling. I kept her in sight as long as possible but decided if I had the stronger run we were close enough I could out pace her. A gamble but…I am about 95% sure I did pass her on the run. I knew I had it in me. I need to keep those mental pictures of who I need to catch on future races.
Soon I was coming in and at the dismount line. I unclipped and ran in to transition.
When I got to my transition spot something was a little off. It hit me after the race what I had done “wrong”. Normally I get my feet out of my shoes first and run in to transition with them still on my bike. This time I don’t know why I didn’t – it was an easy place to do it. So the “off” was that I had to take off my shoes. Hmmm. Next time I will remind myself before the race. Carlos says I need to make a list and check it. It may be time! I guess it shows how much I just do (and not think) – especially in transition. If I think I lose time. Everything has to be automatic.
I switched to my run gear, grabbed my sunscreen and started running. I smeared my shoulders and arms as I headed out to the run out sign.
As I left on the run I was surprised and happy to see Mary and Beth. Mary’s voice saying “quick feet” stayed with me on the run. I am not sure I will ever run a race without hearing her voice telling me “quick feet.” She has brought me far in the time we have worked together, and for that I am grateful. It has been a fun journey.
I felt good – like I could run all day. I didn’t feel like I was pushing. A few times I would look down and my speed wasn’t where I wanted it so I upped the effort pretty effortlessly. It just took an awareness. My pace was fairly consistent. I would walk a few water stops and grab water. Once I grabbed a little coke for the caffeine and sugar, but stuck with my own Heed on my race belt.
On the first loop there was a woman who passed me and a man joined her and commented that she would pace him to the end. She mentioned she was supposed to pick the pace up at mile 7. He groaned. Eventually I didn’t see them anymore. But, at mile 9 or 10 I did pass her. I kept quiet as I passed her, but knew I was running a solid race for me, and she did something wrong for her. Some things are MUCH better left unsaid. I am sure she was aware and rather annoyed as she was not walking, just hadn’t upped her pace as planned.
There is a section in the middle of the two loop course where most people are, and that is where I saw the most friends: people I know from Team in Training, Team Podium and Dynamo. I LOVED getting to see so many people I know. They were all awesome and give me a little zip to my step. The energy in that section would push me through. I smiled and waved, but kept focused. Somewhere after my first pass through the party zone and seeing so many friends, I saw Adam on his bike. He talked to me some. I eventually told him I was going to focus but I was listening….I just needed to focus. He understood. Another woman caught me and he chatted with her – Renny. He looked up where she was in her age group, and chided us both along the way. I felt strong. Renny stayed behind me for a long while, but somewhere after mile 8 on the second loop I lost her.
I saw Mary and Beth at the bottom of both loops past the party zone. The second time I heard Beth holler “Dinosaur, dinosaur” in reference to how I place my left hand. I know looks like a T-rex hand: I tuck it in and my hand dangles such that it looks like the short arm of a T-rex in pictures. My response to her was a literal “Roar” to which I heard her laughing until she was out of ear shot.
Soon I was rounding to the finishing mile and picking up speed.
About a quarter of a mile out a woman passed me. I looked and she was in my age group. I knew it was a long way to run hard, but I rallied and passed her back. She stayed behind me until the chute where she made a second move and passed me again. I stepped it up again and passed her. As I was coming in I looked at the clock – it was almost at 6:32. I had left 1 hour and 32 minutes after the clock had started. If I wanted 5 hours (or even less) I was going to have to run HARD. So now I was racing a woman in my age group AND the clock. I kicked it up and raced in to the finish with the woman right behind me. I edged her out by one second and hit 5 hours on the nose.
I walked around some, shook hands with the woman I sprinted to the finish with, got water, by-passed the food tent as I was not in the mood for pizza and cookies, and eventually spotted Carlos.
We wandered to find some friends who congratulated me. I hugged as many friends as I could spot. They had been amazing that day and made a fun race a terrific race . Carlos and I eventually went to the car where I could get chocolate milk and food that I could easily digest. It had been a good day, but pizza still wasn’t on my horizon any time soon!
I have done this race twice before and I am comparing my finishes. It is fun to see progress and efforts paying off. Not that I do it just for getting faster. I love what I get to do; what I chose to do on a daily basis. I really feel lucky in that I get to train, and train for a goal. I enjoy my time out there, and challenging myself physically and mentally. I appreciate what my body lets me do. And I do my best to take care of it so I can continue to do what I love to do….and get stronger! As I often say, this is my happy. Everyone has one: cooking, singing, working on cars, gardening, et cetera. Everyone has something where you are willing to invest the time and effort to improve. This is mine. I appreciate what I get to do every time I train and race, and I am sure to thank my body and mind for making it possible.
My finish time was 5:00:00.
Bike: 2:41:33 (20.8 mph)
Run: 1:45:39 (8:03 min/mile)
In 2010 I finished the race in 5:52:04
In 2011 I finished the race in 5:37:02.
Definite progress being made here in becoming a stronger athlete which is exciting to me.
I would have loved to have gotten under 5 hours, but am not bothered too much as I see progress overall. I hit my goal right on the nose. I raced a strong race, and I know I have stronger races in me. Five hours will go down in a big way soon. I am patient, and I enjoy the work.
The fun part of doing a big race is there is a larger pool of people racing – more people who are better and faster than you are. And they make you put your best out there on the field. I got to sprint in against one such woman, and I was able to meet her step-for-step. It was amazing. I love getting to train with people who push me. And getting to race with them…fabulous!
On a different, but interesting, tangent is that, in my age group, the women who finished 5-10 were separated by less than 3 minutes. THREE minutes. How amazing is that? It is here where seconds count and make a huge difference.
Now for a little down time – still training but a little less structure to the workouts. Soon I will pick up again