Friday, October 1, 2010

Ironman Augusta 70.3: The Race Report

For years, I've watched many of you ramp up to the longer distance triathlons.  I've tracked you on race day.  I've read your training.  I've shared in your triumphs and your heartbreaks.  I've wondered "What the hell take so long to spout out a race report about such a huge accomplishment?"

Now, I understand.

It's taken me about a week to get where I can sit down and start this post.  I'm not sure how long it will take me to hammer this out.  It could be today.  It could be tomorrow.  It could take another week.  Just bare with me.

Saturday Afternoon, The Day Before
Saturday morning and early afternoon was a whirlwind trip to Millen/Sylvania to see family.  I knew that I wouldn't have a chance to get back down there and visit soon, so I wanted to make sure I had at least dropped in for a "hello."

After getting back to Augusta, my hotel-mate and I loaded up the bikes and headed to the expo and bike check-in.  We didn't have any problems finding parking downtown Augusta, opting to park on Broad Street and walk a couple of blocks to the expo.  We'd breezed through the expo the evening before, so we'd planned to stay a while.  We browsed and browsed and browsed and weren't all that impressed with what Ironman store had to offer.  I went through IM Florida's when I volunteered in 2008, so I guess I was expecting similar.  No, not so much.  They were sold out of stuff.  The Augusta logo'd stuff was almost non-existent.  I ended up with a couple of things (which still set me back almost $100.)

After the store, we headed off to transition.  We parked on a side street and took one last spin to make sure everything was functioning well.  After racking the bikes and snagging some pictures, we headed off to our group dinner.

Pre-Race, The Evening Before
Group dinner was held on the outdoor patio of the Cotton Patch off Reynolds St.  One of our club members handled getting everything coordinated and she did a fantastic job.  We had all prepaid so literally all we had to worry about was eating, relaxing, and having a great time celebrating our hard work.  It was a lot of fun and a great way to spend the last few hours before bed.

After making our way back to our hotel, my hotel-mate and I packed our transition bags, double checking that we had everything we needed.  My mom had been gracious enough to send two 2.5 gallon ziplock bags for shoes, as the weather forecast called for rain.  This turned out to be a godsend and will definitely be in every transition bag I ever pack again.

I planned on the night before Ironman Augusta to be a night of ill-fated sleep.  I'd stored up some the nights leaning up to the race, so I just went to bed with the mindset that if I toss and turn all night - it will be okay.  I crawled in the bed between 9 and 9:30.  My hotel-mate decided to shower before bed.  She was still showering when sleep came. 

Sleeping the night before a huge event like this made me nostalgic for Christmas eve as a kid. Every other breath, I was looking at the clock thinking, "It has to be time to get up now."

Finally, the alarm went off at four.

Before the Race
I jumped up, showered and made my breakfast (once again, putting way too much water in my oatmeal!)   We were ready to hit the road by 4:50.  Parking was easy!  We'd gotten a text from another club member that there was lots of parking across from the finish line, behind the restaurant we'd eaten at the night before.  It was less than a block to the shuttle bus.  After grabbing our gear, we headed over to the shuttle area when BEEP!BEEP!, the bosslady pulled up and said "Get In!"    We clamoured into the Get Fit Mobile and got a great ride to transition.  Yay!

After body marking, setting up transition, pumping tires, grabbing our swim gear, we caught another ride to the swim start.  Here we got our timing chips, use of the facilities, and then hung out, chatting and taking pictures, until time to wetsuit up.  About 30 minutes from my wave start time, I took a Roctane Gel.

Here's where things could have gotten dicey.  I missed the announcement that the swim waves were being moved up to get people out of the water sooner because of the rain (and potential lightning/thunder.)   I had to RUN to my wave group and only had about 4 minutes of standing in my wave before we were jumping in the water.  This may actually have benefited me, because I didn't have time to freak out.

The Swim
You know that rule of thumb of never doing anything different on race day?  Yeah, I did a big violation of that rule.  The 1.2 mile swim down the Savannah River would be my first swim in my wetsuit - ever.  In weeks leading up to my race, the cosmos conspired against me and I just couldn't seem to get in an open water swim with my wetsuit.

When the race official said to get in the water.  I jumped in feet first.  You know that bouyancy thing you guys are always talking about with wetsuits, how you'll just "float."  Well, let's say I was quite surprised when I went about 10 feet under the surface of the Savannah River. 

The water was cold.  I kept forcing myself to put my face in the water, knowing that the cold water on the face tends to be my biggest issue with getting my breath with swimming.  We treaded water for about 90 seconds and then we were off.   As I said after Callaway Gardens Triathlon, I know I have a lot of work to with my swimming.  I'd mentally prepared to just get through the swim and had allotted myself 50 minutes for the swim.  I had a lot of sighting issues with this swim and swam Z's down the river.  There was a lot of debris.  I got swam over by the faster people in the waves behind me.  I even got headbutted in the ribs about 3/4ths the way through the swim.  But, I just kept stroking.  What else could I do?   Swim Time:  36:45

T-1 took a long time.  It was quite a run through transition to my bike.  I was trying to calm down.  I was trying to remember everything.  I took another Roctane.  I slid my bike shorts on.  I pulled my DRY bike shoes and socks out of my ziplock.  Helmet on.  Garmin on.  Camelbak on.  Time To GO!   T-1 Time: 6:24

The Bike
I tried to be good about spinning for the first mile or so.  About four miles out, I realized I was still spinning and needed to gear up and get going.  I was averaging like 12mph and this bike was going to take forever at that pace.  The rain was coming down pretty hard at this point.  I don't have a lot of rain riding experience and I was very tense about the rain (plus my tires were inflated to dry road levels, not wet road levels.)  

At about 30 minutes, I started trying to eat.  I got down a couple of potatoes, but they felt heavy.  I sucked on my camelbak.  That helped a little.  I was getting passed a lot.  I knew that was okay.  I had an early wave and expected it, but somehow out on race day, it's a little defeating.  I know I average 15-16mph on a good day and there were a lot of riders behind me that average 18+.  Still...

I was still struggling to get food down.  The potatoes were soggy from the rain and were still feeling heaving on the stomach.  I switched to a larabar.  That was slightly better, but too sweet for my already unhappy stomach.  I had R4 in my cage bottles, but I couldn't even get liquid calories down.  I was frustrated - knowing this was going to be a long day if I didn't get something on the bike.   Finally, at mile 19 (first bottle exchange), I made the decision to ditch one of my R4 bottles and take a Gatorade.  (Good decision - since that would be about all I could get down until another Gel about 5 miles from the finish of the bike.)

The rain would let up for a bit and then come down hard again.  I saw several cyclist wipe out and there were lots of flats.  I kept praying to avoid the flat fairy.   I should have prayed to avoid the mechanical issue fairy too.  Around mile 34, my chain locked down.  I couldn't spin forward, I couldn't spin the pedals backwards - they were literally stuck.  I quickly unclipped (before tipping over) and got off the course.  Somehow the chain got stuck between downshifting from the big chain ring to the little chain ring (I was in the valley of two hills when this happened.)   It took about ten minutes of fiddling with it before I got it to go again.  Back on the bike and let's get up this stupid hill.

By mile 40, I hated the bike.  I was drained (no fuel) and having this weird back spasm (which is still hurting six days later.)   My butt hurt.  I was so tired of the rain.  My shoes/socks were soaked. 

Finally, I made it back to Atomic Road/Sandbar Ferry and headed back into Richmond County.  I just kept pedaling thinking - I am totally going to finish this!  Not much longer and I'll start seeing my family and my Get Fit peops and that will lift me up and I'll feel better.   Final Bike Time:  3:47:48

T-2 was much better than T-1.  The only thing I forgot was to take my bike shorts off.  Grr!  (Yeah, I ended up running the half marathon with my bike shorts on.).  I was exceptionally excited about dry socks and shoes.  I didn't care if they were going to be wet again in a few.  It was wonderful to feel dry feet.   T-2 Time:  3:41

The Run
Out on the run course, I was feeling strong.  All those brick workouts were paying off.  I knew I needed to keep it slow and steady.  So I did.  I trudged along.   About mile 1 or so, I finally saw James and the boys!  Yay!  I told them I felt good and I'd see them in a bit.  About a half mile later, I saw my parents.  Yay!  

I kept running.  Up Broad street, I saw my Get Fit Family - fist bumps and thumbs up!  Still feeling good.  Felt good until the "other end" of Broad Street.  Took my first walk break.  The lack of fuel on the bike was catching up with me.  I walked a bit and then ran some more.  Back down Broad.  Yay, see my cheering sections again.  Finally to the second loop.  At this point, a team member caught up with me and we ran and walked a bit together.  I was feeling a bit better and she wasn't quite ready to run again, so we parted ways.  Run, Walk, Run, Walk.  I was over heating and couldn't cool down.  I had kids throwing ice water on me at water stops, sponges, over my head.   Grr.  I think it was the 2nd pair of shorts not helping.

Finally, I came down Broad Street the last time, around the corners and to the finish.  I cut my watch off before I entered the finisher's tunnel - so I didn't have finishing photos with me shutting off my watch.  Got my medal!  I was done!    Run Time:  2:56:34

The Race Itself
My final time was 7:31:09.  I accomplished my goals.  1 - I didn't die.   2 - I know what the half ironman distance feels at the end of the day  3 - I finished under the course cutoffs.

This is a great race - the swim is fast.  The bike is not crazy hard.  The run is flat and (here's the most important) VERY spectator friendly.  I would venture to say this is a good 70.3 distance for first timers. 

Honestly, I was less than thrilled with my times, but not surprised at all.  There's always a part of each of us that hopes we will have an amazing day and go out there and knock it out of the park.  I'm deeming this race, my first longer distance race since ING in March, a success.  I've learned a lot about myself in the last year.  I have lots of ideas and plans swirling around in my head.  I'm excited about the future and what's next on the horizon.

So, What Is Next?
Yes, I'm crazy enough that I want to do another one.  I want to be smarter about training this time.  Talking to bosslady, I understand now that my eating issues on the bike was probably because my heartrate was too high.  I need to work on swimming.  I need to spend a lot of time in the saddle.  I need to continue to run consistently.  I've got a few ideas for what to do next year.  I really think 2012 is my year of Fe now.

Thank you all for your support! 


  1. You are most welcome. Great race report! Truly, you learn that you are competing (for most of the time) against yourself. There are always going to be other athletes flying by you.

    I'm glad that you had a great experience. Augusta 70.3 IS a great venue for first timers. You have something to build on now, and your future is out there.

    Good luck!

  2. Way to go, Lauren! You did a great job on this race! I am looking forward to whatever you do next. : )

  3. Great job Lauren!

  4. Awesome job Lauren. Augusta is definitely a great course.

  5. OMG!!! CONGRATS! What an awesome accomplishment! And you look so great doing it... Smile in every picture, as if it wasn't a freaking half ironman.

    Well, congrats again! You inspire me to go for it one day. :)