October 1, 2014

Race Recap: Half Ironman 70.3 Augusta


Race day! After what felt like 15 minutes of sleep, my alarm went off on Sunday at 3:45am. I plan my race mornings by scheduling backwards from the time transition closes. Transition closed at 7:15am, so I planned on arriving around 6:15am. We stopped & picked up Cathy en route, so she wouldn't have to hassle with parking her car. I held it together until John dropped us off at the shuttle & then the floodgates opened. Cathy took this picture of me crying on the shuttle. Y'all...


I got to transition with all kinds of time, which I like. I put on my headlamp (pro tip) & leisurely set up my transition area & met all of my transition neighbors (Hi, Susannne Allen!). Once I was set up, I walked one row up & found Kristie & then we got body marked & walked the mile to the swim start.

Here's where the one thing I did wrong that day happened. I accidentally wore my GD Garmin to the swim start. My Garmin that's not waterproof & was supposed to be strapped onto the handlebars of my bike. So... oops.

Luckily, I still had two hours until my swim start, so I left Kristie & hopped on the shuttle back to transition. With my Garmin safely on my handlebars, I got back on the shuttle. I actually made a lot of friends this time because everyone had questions about where the shuttle went & I was like, 'Hey, I've ridden this whole ding dang circuit. Let me tell you where it goes'. Everyone laughed & before I knew it, I was standing back beside Kristie at the swim start.



Swim:  1.2 miles in 31:29 minutes (1:37/100m pace)
Nutrition:  1 cup coffee, 1 banana, 1 Uncrustable for breakfast (supposed to eat 2 Uncrustables, but couldn't get second one down), Huma gel 15 minutes before swim


The race started at 7:30am, but my swim wave (18) didn't start until 8:40am. Kristie & I were lucky to be in the same age group, which meant we were close in transition & in the same swim wave. We helped each other get into our wetsuits & then it was go time.


You had the option of sitting on the dock, or jumping in & treading water until the gun went off. We both jumped in. Y'all, that water was FREEZING. I'm a strong swimmer & I had read the current is stronger in the middle, so I made my way to the middle. I looked around & realized Kristie was beside me, so we high-fived, wished each other good luck, & then the gun went off.


It's always a little Thunderdome at the beginning of open water swims, but I can usually swim out of it & I did. I always give myself to the first buoy to relax & get into a rhythm. When I passed the first buoy, I kicked it in a little. Kristie had told me there were 19 buoys, so every time I passed one, I'd swim a little faster. After the 4th or 5th buoy, they quit numbering them, so at that point, I just decided to swim my balls off.


Disclaimer:  this was the fastest, easiest swim I've ever done. I realized real quick that there weren't a lot of swimmers around me & then I noticed that I was passing people in different colored swim caps. I took this for a good sign & swam faster. I felt like I had only been in the water 10 minutes when it was time to get out. I loved this swim!


T1:  9:21
Nutrition:  Huma gel

This is the first race I've done in a wetsuit, so I did a lot of data mining on best practices for getting in & out of that thing quickly. Enter wetsuit strippers. Yes, that's a thing. I was told to peel the top half of the wetsuit down as I was coming out of the water & when I got to the strippers, to sit on my butt, hold on to the top of my tri shorts & throw my neoprene legs into the air. It was awesome & hilarious. Those strippers were pros. They pulled that wetsuit off of me in seconds.

Beside the wetsuit strippers were sunscreen appliers. No one was using them but me, so three of them went HAM on me with sunscreen. A girl bent down & covered my legs, while another girl did my arms & a guy did my back. It was real weird & surprisingly effective as I did not, in fact, get sunburned.


I got to my bike, sat down & dried my feet off & rubbed the sunscreen in a little before taking a gel & walking my bike to bike-out. I took my time because I was so worried about forgetting something & then being stuck out on the bike course for 4 hours without something important, which luckily didn't happen.

Bike:  56 miles in 3:49:48 (14:63 mph average pace)
Nutrition:  2 bottles of Hammer Perpetuem, 2 bottles of Nuun, 2 rice cakes, 1 banana. Salt pills:  one million.


Oy, the bike. The bike is the weakest part of triathlon for me. Cathy & I drove the bike course the day before, so I kind of understood the course. Kind of. Everyone had told me that this course was nothing compared to Natchez Trace & they were totally right. All of my practice rides were harder than this course. Train hard, race easy.

Marne warned me that I would start too fast & to slow my roll in the beginning. Sure enough, my first few miles were at 18.5 mph. Y'all, that's insane for someone who averages 14 mph. I was like, 'Dumbass, slow down. You are doing this wrong'. But it was so fun to go fast with the fast people! Alas, I slowed down. Womp, womp.


But everyone was super awesome. My handlebars really stood out & everyone that passed me commented on them. I got a lot of, "Good job, purple handlebars!". So thanks, Shannon. Good call on the purple handlebar tape.

I probably should have mentioned this earlier, but Mari-Etta Parrish, dietitian to the stars, helped me with my nutrition plan for the race. And THANK GOD because the tweaks she made saved me. In all of my training rides, I just drank 1 bottle of Perpetuem & 1 bottle of Nuun. Mari-Etta told me to drink 2 bottles of Perpetuem because I'd need the calories, so I had a ziploc baggie of Perpetuem on my bike & an extra Nuun tablet. I also had 4 rice cakes with instructions to eat one every 50 minutes.


There were 3 water stop/aid stations. I stopped at the second one. I took my sweet time & pulled over, clipped out & mixed two new water bottles of Perpetuem & Nuun. Also, I took some bananas for the road as I could no longer get the rice cakes down my gullet. It wasn't the rice cakes' fault. I made them on Thursday & had them in a cooler until Sunday morning, so they had freezer burn & were completely inedible. But the bananas worked. I had no issues on the bike with hydration or nutrition. Thanks, Mari-Etta!

I always take salt pills when I ride because my legs cramp. I usually take one every time I eat, but I had read to take one every time you feel a stomach cramp or a muscle twinge, so I did. And I felt a lot of things. I think I was taking a salt pill every half hour or so, so I probably took 8. Whatever, I didn't cramp!


The last part of the bike course is downhill. Julie had told me to spin-out to get my legs ready for the run, so I did. I also cried. A lot. I don't know what in the hell happened to me out there. When I got to mile 46 or so, I realized I had done it, I had survived the bike course & I just started bawling. It was volcanic, but I couldn't stop it. And then I was done & it was time to run.

T2:  8:02
Nutrition:  Huma gel

I knew I was supposed to have peed on the bike course, but I didn't & I was super worried about it. As I was running out of transition, I asked the girl beside me if she peed & she did & said I should go now instead of out on the run course. So I literally turned around in the middle of the run-out & went back to the port-a-potties. And I peed for like a hundred minutes, so good call random girl in transition.


Oh, also, I forgot to change my shoes, so I ran halfway out of transition in my bike shoes.

Run:  13.1 miles in 2:53:50 (13:16 average pace)
Nutrition:  Nuun in hand-held bottle, 2 Huma gels (couldn't get anymore gels down, so took Powerade at aid stations). Salt pills: 2-3.


I know how to run a half marathon. Now granted, I've never run one after a 56-mile bike ride, but still, this was familiar territory. Plus, I did 2 bricks a week in my training. The first mile of the run felt terrible, but, of course it did. Real early on, like in the second mile, I saw a woman in the same running shoes as me, so I said, 'Hey, shoe twin, good job!'. She asked if she could run with me & we ended up running the whole run together. Her name is Laura (Hi, Laura!) & it was so nice to have someone to run with. It honestly probably saved my run because I kept up my pace so I wouldn't slow her down.


This course is awesome because it's lined with spectators. John, Jaime & Lana were everywhere & it helped so much. There was a rule that spectators couldn't run with you (obvi), or beside you, that was pacing & it was an immediate disqualification. So if your friends & family wanted to follow along beside you, they had to side shuffle. Y'all, John Baldwin side shuffled his butt off. Every time I passed him, he was side shuffling & cow-belling me so hard. It was the best part of the race.


The one thing that I was worried about & had no control over was my knee giving out. And it did. Luckily, it didn't give out until mile 10, so I just had to run a 5k & I could do that on a bum knee. When it first went out, I stopped & walked, mostly because I was scared of falling like I did in Oak Barrel. Laura walked with me for a mile. She told me she was going to start running again at mile 11, so I started with her, but I couldn't keep up, so we parted ways. I ran the rest of the way, but at a slower pace. And then before I knew it, I was at the finish chute. When I turned the corner into the chute, I started crying. Again.


 At some point on the run, my transition neighbor joined us for a few miles & she told us that someone had told her that once you get to the finish chute, to slow down, smile & not look down or mess with your watch - to take it all in & to listen for your name. So as I ran into the finish chute, I remembered what she said & I slowed down, smiled & listened for my name. It was over in seconds, but it was the best feeling in the world.


Lessons Learned:


I LOVED this race! When I started looking at 70.3 races, this one came highly recommended & I see why. I wanted this race to be a BFD, which is why I chose an Ironman branded race. Yes, I paid a high registration fee & yes, I spent a million dollars at the expo, but, for me, it was worth it. Also, Augusta is very drive-able from Nashville & there are lots of hotel options in every price range.


Augusta is a great race host city. Tri Augusta & the unofficial Augusta 70.3 Ironman Facebook page helped so much. I learned a lot from both of these groups.


Let's talk about the race course. The swim is the fastest, easiest swim you'll probably ever do in a race. The bike course isn't easy, but if you train on Natchez Trace, you'll be ready. The trick to the bike isn't the course or the mileage, it's making sure your hydration & nutrition are right & making sure you can change your own flat tire. The run is nothing. If you run in Nashville, especially with East Nasty, you've run harder courses. It's completely flat. But it's not boring! I thought the run course was really scenic & even though you run the same loop twice, I didn't even notice. Plus, the entire run is lined with spectators. It's awesome.


A) I would do this race again. B) I'd push anyone looking at doing their first 70.3, to do this race. But sign up soon. I signed up last December, before the price went up in January. And I believe it sold out in either March or April. And yes, it will again be held on the same day as Ironman Chattanooga next year.

Looking Ahead:

I know I'm not supposed to decide this yet, but I'm not planning on doing a full Ironman. When I signed up for this race, I was unhappy with a lot of things & needed an outlet for that negative energy. I was also unhappy with my weight & kind of just wanted to prove that I could do this thing. I'm not that person anymore. I'm obviously outwardly different in that I've gone from 198 lbs to 161 lbs. But the biggest change is inward. I went into therapy in February/March & am honestly just a different person now. Welcome to your late thirties! *I also very quietly left my job & started a social media business, which I'd like to devote my time & attention to.

*That's we in the biz call 'burying the lead'.


In addition to having time to clean my house & buy groceries again, it's also important to me to be the kind of wife & friend worthy of the love I'm receiving from these exceptional people that I'm lucky enough to have in my life. The outpouring of support you all have shown me is beyond anything I ever expected.

As far as training, I'm done! Heh. I smartly signed up for a half marathon in December so that I'd have to jump right back into something after a week-ish of celebrating & recovering. I'm obviously interested in keeping this hot new bod, albeit with significantly less cardio. I'm interested in more yoga & I'm interested in strength training. My friend Dawn had an awesome trainer here & I may look into working with him. I know she had great results. We'll see! But for this week, you can find me in Halloween pajamas on my couch, eating candy & randomly crying anytime someone says something nice to me.


Race Summary:
Swim:  31:29
Bike:  3:49:38
Run:  2:53:50
Total Time:  7:32:20
Age Group:  150/166 (39 women DNS or DNF)
Overall:  2364/3290

Full race photostream here & on Facebook.

I'm going to spend the rest of my life thanking people, but to start, I'd like to thank:  John, April, Jaime, Lana, Cathy, Kristie, Mary Katherine, Marshall, Melanie, Jessica, Heidi, Katie, Alexis, Patrick, Shannon, Red Kite, Paige, 12South Yoga, Chris, NAC Masters, Mari-Etta, Chatty, Emma, Kathy, Monday Night Ladies Ride, TriSuccess, Caroline, Julie, Marne, Maureen, Kristine, Team CV, Karen & Paul, Beth, Allison, Rita, SKB, Chrissi, Jeney, Freya, Lauren, Jen, Season, NRC, my Pancake Run family & my enormous East Nasty family. ENFL.

4 comments:

April said...

I read this post on my iPhone, standing in my kitchen, while eating the remainder of a pint of ben & jerry's, and strangely cried through half of it. It's so bizarre to not know someone well, but know how important something is - and this is HUGE. Saying "I'm proud of you" feels condescending and too personal, but I don't know what else to say. How about: "This was inspirational. The transformation of your body and your dedication to this race and lifestyle is incredible. And I'm just in awe." Congrats to you - what a major big deal!

The Blonde Mule said...

April! Thank you!! It feels like a big deal to me, but I'm continuously surprised that it's a big deal to anyone else. Thank you!

Karen P said...

I'm so grateful for your half ironman blogs. I'm going through and rereading them. I love this one and will start bricking 2x a week now too. Oh, post surgery weight gain up to 180. So be it, I'm strong!

The Blonde Mule said...

Hi Karen! Is this your first blog comment?! Yay! I'm so excited for your race coming up. I can't believe everything you've had to train through this summer. Remember last year when we thought the worst thing that could happen was getting run over by a jet ski? Ahh, simpler times. Ha-ha! Girl, yes you are strong. Hell yes! xo

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