For those that want the cliff notes version: it was a great race and I set a personal record (PR) by almost 20 minutes. Feel free to skip down to the bottom to see what I’ve learned. For those willing to entertain my verbosity, please continue.
Coming into race weekend I was a little nervous about the race. I had so much fun in May at Gulf Coast Triathlon that I was worried my second half iron distance race wouldn’t compare. I had trained much differently for this race using a paper plan as opposed to a coach (trying to save some money for some future plans) and had some things (work, life, ailments) that got in the way of following it to a T. The swim wouldn’t be an issue–had a great practice swim last weekend in False River. I was most nervous about the bike in the hills and the subsequent run on legs that had just biked in the hills.
Got on the road with my travel buddy Shannon on Thursday. And after making an overnight stop in Atlanta at my parents’s house (where we were treated to pancakes for breakfast–yum) we were off to Augusta.
Went to expo on Friday and was immediately impressed with this race! The check in process went very smooth and there was much to see (and buy!) at the expo. After picking up some necessities (and some treats–new argyle compression socks by Zensha!) we were ready to go check things out. We found the swim start and transition and scouted out parking options for Sunday.
Saturday we joined some friends for a dip in the Savannah River where we would be swimming for the race. It was the perfect temp but had a lot of seaweed which weirded me out a bit. Also the river had a noticeable current which was quite nice and would be helpful in the swim on race day. Also took a short spin on the bike. A nice jog to the Saturday market rounded out my pre-race facilitation. Checked my bike in around 4:00pm (a little later than originally planned because I forgot my number on the first trip downtown–oops!). Then the nerves set in. A bit earlier than usual. I have to admit that I am always nervous and anxious about a race, but it’s not usually too bad I can’t eat until race morning. Lunch Saturday was the first sign they were present. By dinner it was much worse, but luckily Macaroni Grill has great bread to eat–and that essentially became my meal with a bit of pasta that I forced myself to eat. Got to bed around 10pm with the alarm set for 4:30am.
Race day started off smooth. tried to eat a bagel–didn’t work so we n to plan B: the protein shake. Also took in some water and some Gatorade. We found some great free parking and hopped on the shuttle to Transition.
Set things up in transition–it was tight with about 3000 racers, but everyone was very cordial. Took some pics. Used the potty. Grabbed my wetsuit and morning clothes bag and walked with the crew to the swim start. It was a good mile walk and chatting with the others took my mind off things. The swim start area was packed. We found a place to hang out right by the flag pole. From there we could see and hear the festivities and the waves starting. You could feel the excitement in the air and I could feel it in my tummy as I tried to eat a balance bar–just couldn’t do it, so I sipped on water instead and downed a gu. Shannon went into the water first, then Jonathan so we watched them. Then it was time for Lindsey and I to line up with our wave. It was fun having someone to wait with. We both jumped right into the water when we got to the pier (as per instructions from PF) to get acclimated to water and ready for swim. Water was moving (current at 1 knot) and we had to make an effort to stay behind the buoys. Gave Lindsey a high five and then the gun/air horn went off.
The swim was a straight shot downstream. Passed the two bridges and was feeling good. I stayed close to the outside line of buoys towards the middle of the river which gave me lots of room–people seemed to be gravitating towards the shoreline. I was thinking happy thoughts the entire time and did not stop once, although I did pull some seaweed out of my face mid stroke once. Got to the end of swim and hurried out of water up the boat ramp to the transition area where I happily laid down to let the wetsuit strippers help me take my suit off–yay for volunteers! In transition I put on socks, bike shoes, my race belt, helmet, and sunglasses and as I was trotting out I pulled on my bike gloves–and glad I did because it was misting the entire ride.
The bike course was gorgeous! In the first 5 miles it takes you over the river and into South Carolina. Lots of rollers, some pretty long climbs and a couple steep sections. The course was pretty packed for the first half but then thinned out when we arrived at the steeper hills. The one cruel joke on the bike course was the placement of the second aid station on an uphill section of the course–couldn’t even think about grabbing a bottle while trying to mash, I mean spin uphill. My long rides in St. Francisville definitely helped to prepare me for this course. As far as nutrition, I had two roctane gels, several Endurolytes, and lots of stinger chews along with watered down red powerade. I grabbed a bottle of water at the first aid station as well and drank some when I needed a break from the sugar. I did change my bike routine a little bit this time around–maybe it was all the time I had spent with Shannon (if you don’t know her, she’s a bit of a taker) in the past couple days, but I decided to talk to some of the other racers as I was biking. Usually I save the chit chat for the run but I cheered for those that passed me and complimented people on their cool bike jerseys and tricked out tri bikes as I passed them. I wasn’t really conscious of what I was doing. I usually make it a point to thank the volunteers and police, but it was fun to chat up fellow racers, too. Have I mentioned yet how much fun I was having–I was really enjoying this race! The last few miles was a nice downhill so I got in some good high cadence spinning to get my legs ready for the run.
Back in transition I racked my bike, took off my gloves, helmet and bike shoes, put on my visor and Newtons and trotted out the run exit to get started towards the finish line. Being a double loop course, there were tons of people on the course where it joined in from the transition area. The course winds thru the wide, oak covered streets of downtown Augusta–it was beautiful! We all know how much I struggle with running. I knew this run would be slow because of the hills on the bike course, but I just accepted it and got going. Yes it hurt–but from what I’m told it hurts for everyone whether they are able to finish in under five hours or are racing to beat the cutoff time. I think that’s where some of the camaraderie is built in the sport. As far as nutrition, I would alternate water and perform at the aid stations and took a gu every third–even ate two pieces of banana! On my second lap of the run course it started to rain so the crowds thinned out as well as racers as I fell towards the back of the back, but that didn’t stop me as I was on a mission for the finish line–I knew Shannon would be there (I actually heard her name called across the finish line during my first lap–so fun!) and so would my parents and my nieces. And 13.1 miles later I crossed the finish line and it was over and it felt so good!!!
With all that, what did I learn…
1) I learned I can do this. While I may never be at the pointy end of my age group, I don’t have to worry about beating the cut off times. I really can do this.
2) Trust your training. When you put the work in ahead of time it pays off on race day, but you have to put the work in.
3) If you are going to be out there for a while, you might as well have fun! Have I mentioned yet how much fun I had at this race?! I enjoyed every painful minute of it–I really did! If I am going to devote this much time to a hobby I need to enjoy it-all of it. From the long training days to the actual race, I need to smile, encourage others, say lots of thank yous and just have fun or I need to find another way to spend my free time.
So what’s next: thinking about Big Cajun, a local Olympic distance race in three weeks–just can’t imagine that tri season is over.
If you made it this far, then you are a true friend. And if you just skipped to the end, I do not blame you at all! Thanks for reading. Can’t wait to hear what you have on your calendar next.