Augusta 70.3 was supposed to be my warm up race leading up to Ironman Florida. I went last year and had a blast (see race report from 2012) and signed myself up shortly after race registration opened up. When I planned out my race calendar with my coach for 2013, Augusta was one of three races on the calendar. Given it’s proximity to IMFL, it was a good time for a warm up race. It also happens to be only a couple hours drive from my family so it allows me to visit them and for them to come watch. But we found out about the tumor in my leg 10 days before the race and the moment we found out, I immediately took Augusta off the table. I was more focused on whether I could keep working towards the bigger goal of the Ironman. With all the tests and appointments and the pending surgery, I was trying to save all the time I could until it finally clicked in my head that I needed to go to Augusta. Whether to race or not could be decided later, but I needed to be with my people–my racing team, other triathletes, and my family.
I had been planning on catching a ride with Jeff. Jeff and I have been friends for a long time–we actually met through the local mountain bike club and started doing triathlons around the same time. I used to ride a whole lot more with Jeff and then he went and got fast and I got myself a coach. We have always checked in with each other and when I found out he was signed for Augusta I was excited to have an adventure with an old friend and a fellow member of our new racing team #FRESHJUNKIE Racing. Along with myself and Jeff, three other people–Doug, Keith and Damian–were also racing from #FJR and for all them this would be their first 70.3 . In addition to the FreshJunkie crew there were many more coming from Baton Rouge and the surrounding areas so we would know quite a few people.
When we first got to Augusta we fueled up at Panera (because we don’t have on in BR) and then headed over the the expo where I realized that I had made the right decision coming to Augusta–I was with my people. The friends I have made through the multi-sport lifestyle are some of the best ever–they have been with me through the good, the bad and the ugly and still stick around. There is no way to look pretty having an attack of anxiety at an open water swim nor is it graceful bonking at mile 80 of a 5 hour bike ride where all you want to do is get off, lie down, and take a nap no matter where you are. Knowing that Ironman Florida was most likely out of the picture I had begun to grieve the abrupt and early end to my triathlon season and I was not ready for it to end. Going to Augusta and getting in as much running and biking and hanging out with the team as possible was what I needed to be able to let go of my Ironman dream for this year. It also helped me to capture my progress in numbers over the course of the year.
On Saturday I made the decision not to run or even attempt to walk any part of the run course. It was a very hard decision to come to for me, because I am hard headed and stubborn and love to finish what I start. If you don’t remember that about me, feel free to reread my race report from Gulf Coast Triathlon in May. After making that decision, although I was disappointed, I was also able to enjoy the day a whole lot more. Team RKF did another practice swim, then a short bike ride, and then I figured out the plan for the rest of the day while they finished up their run. The rest of the day included the expo, lunch, dropping bikes off at transition, watching the LSU game, eating dinner, packing transition bags and making plans for the next morning. Lucky for us, we were staying at the host hotel where there was a free shuttle to take us to transition.
Race morning was fun. Meet up with the team in transition where we were joined by our coaches–shoutout to PF and Juba. Then took the shuttle down to the swim start where Jeff and I got to chill while the other three had pretty early wave times. This year they did not allow us to start in the water, so we had to sit on the doc until the gun went off. So as soon as I sat down I splashed my face with water and put some water in my wetsuit and continued to do this to acclimate to the water–it was a bit colder than I remember it being last year. And then we were off. The plan from the coach was to PR the swim and then go on to PR the bike since I did not have to run afterwards. No pressure at all!!! I stayed out of the fray towards the river bank as it seems lots of people like to stay in arms length of the shore where the alligators live and the current is not as strong. I was counting buoys and cruising down the river and before I knew it there was a kayak in my face telling me to turn to the right to the swim exit. I was still looking for that last buoy on the left–oh well. Swam right into the exit chute where there were volunteers ready to help me out of the water. And I ran up the ramp, heard someone call out my name, remembered I wasn’t supposed to run, and then sighed as people I had beat out of the water passed me as I stopped to walk. The wetsuit strippers were awesome and I took full advantage of them being there. So then it was a walk to my bike and another walk out of transition to the mount line. And then off again…So excited to see what the new bike could do in a race situation, and I am happy to report that she did good! The course takes you over the river into South Carolina along scenic country road that alternate between rolling hills and some pretty flat areas and then a little bit of some steeper fun sections. I love this bike course and I was happy to have ridden it before. While it’s hilly, it’s a fast hilly course! One of my favorite parts of the race was on one of the last downhills, I hear a guy yell from behind, “on your left” and then I hear him say “uh oh”. I started to laugh as he then said “there was no way I should have tried to pass you, you are going too fast.” And I have to say that really made my day 🙂 Before I knew it we were back at the dismount line and I was walking my bike back into transition.
Then came the hardest think of all–I racked my bike and turned in my timing chip and my race was over. I took my time and changed into my “train hard. don’t suck” t-shirt to support the rest of the crew and began what was to become a long walk (which was about 2 miles but still took me a long time) to a finish line I wouldn’t be able to cross. It was hard to see the same people I had bunny hopped along the bike course running their run and finishing their race. I tried to keep my chin up and cheer for everyone as I was walking against traffic with them. When I finally got to the finish line–had to take a couple of breaks to eat and rest as I did just finish a pretty awesome bike/run in addition to being so tired from all that I was dealing with. In fact it was during this time that I realized I needed to go ahead and have the surgery on my knee sooner than later because the emotional toil was more than I could handle trying to keep up with the other things, like training for an Ironman. This was where I let go of my dream of crossing any more finish lines this year. So when I got to the finish line all I could do was cry. I know you might not be able to understand, but I had to grieve this dream that I had not knowing if I would ever get the chance to try for it again. I said a quick hello to the team and then went back to the hotel to have some time to myself to get some thoughts and feelings down on paper. After everyone finished the celebration at the finish line, we went to get our bikes and then out to celebrate some more.
Not sure when I will get back to Augusta 70.3 as it seems they have scheduled IM Chattanooga for the same weekend next year. Still have my fingers crossed that they will change the date of Augusta, but if not I will make sure that it gets on my race calendar again very soon. Of course this is all pending a successful rehab from a pretty serious surgery with a long time out of training.
Stats from the race…
Swim: 28:19 (minute and a half less than last year)
Bike: 3:14:00 (over 15 minutes faster than last year)
Allowing yourself to “cry”, “grieve” whatever word you want to call it, is the most courageous thing you could have done to get through this new adventure of healing. All of your dreams are not gone, just postponed a while, while you shift life’s gears to tackle the next life hills. After you beat the hills, it’s easy riding my friend, and you will enjoy the ride even more than before. You can look back at those huge accomplishments you’ve earned and think “those hills weren’t so tough after all”! YOU CAN, and always remember: NEGU!