Monday, September 30, 2013

Ironman 70.3 Augusta

I signed up for this race right before the Raleigh 70.3 so I wouldn't talk myself out of it, and over the last few weeks I was reconsidering the soundness of that decision.  But registration for Ironman events is not cheap, so there was no way I could justify bailing and last week's Olympic made me feel a lot more confident that I could at least get through it.  With the current-assisted swim and hopes of not completely blowing up on the run as I did in Raleigh, my goal was a 15-minute PR/sub-5:45.  If all went perfectly, I thought I might even have a shot at 5:30.

We headed down to Augusta on Friday night and checked into our hotel around 11pm.  Saturday morning I slept in until after 7, which is unheard of for me, and then headed down to packet pickup around 11.   Check-in and packet pick up went smoothly, and we seemed to have just beat the crowd.  From there we drove down to the start area to drop off my bike, and then we just had a relaxing afternoon watching football at the hotel, packing up my gear, and studying course maps.

I didn't sleep much at all on Saturday night, and finally got up well before my 5:00 alarm.  Showered, had a balance bar and some coffee, put on my race tattoos and lots of glide, and headed down to the race a little after 6.  We got there about 20 minutes later, and I set up my stuff for the bike and run.  With about 3500 people registered for the race, transition was a zoo and we all had very little space to work with, but it was a great atmosphere.

Transition closed at 7:15 and the race started at 7:30, but my wave wasn't until 8:52 so I had a bit of time to wait around.  We drove up to the start and found a spot on the bridge to watch the first waves get underway.

I'd thought Monte would just drop me off and then head back to the hotel to get some more sleep, but we were able to find a parking spot near the start so he waited with me until it was time to line up for my swim.  It was great that he was there, because that's the time when I really start to get nervous!

Wave 21 lined up around 8:30, and gradually made our way to the dock.  They didn't split my age group my last name, so we were the largest of the swim waves (185).  It was by far the largest swim start I've done, but I found a spot on the dock off to the side and in the back, so I figured it wouldn't make much of a difference.  8:52 and it was time to go!  I waited for the women ahead of me to jump in and move a bit, and then hopped in.  The water temp was 68, so it was a little chilly but not bad with the wetsuit.  Somehow I found myself behind a few people who were kicking like crazy, so I did the breast stroke for a bit and searched out some space.  I maneuvered to a less crowded spot and it was pretty smooth sailing from then on in.  Swimming with the current was great - when I would breathe to the right I could see the shoreline and could tell I was moving along a lot faster than usual!  I was passed by some men in the wave behind me, but stuck to the outside and it wasn't nearly as washing-machine-like as I'd anticipated.  Before I knew it, I could see the exit buoy, and the swim was over.

It was a bit of a way up to transition, and several people around me were walking, so I did the same and took off the top half of my wetsuit.  There were wetsuit shuckers at the entrance to the transition area, and they did a great job of getting it off quickly.  From there I jogged over to my rack, threw on my bike shoes, helmet, sunglasses and garmin, and then made the long jog from my end of transition to the bike out.  My bike is often all alone at T1, because most of the field has already left.  But to my surprise, there were still several bikes on my rack.  I wasn't last!  Woohoo!  As I started my watch, I saw that the time was 9:26.  WHAT?!!?  I knew I had a stronger swim than Raleigh, and I knew that the current would make it a much faster swim, but leaving transition in 34 minutes was way beyond my expectations.

The bike course has basically three different parts - miles 1-17 are mostly flat, 18-40 are hills, and the rest is mostly downhill.  My goal was to finish in under three hours, so the goal pace was 18.7 miles per hour, or about 3:13 per mile.  Because of the course profile, the plan was to put in a steady effort on the flat section, take it relatively easy on the climbs to keep my heart rate and effort level from skyrocketing, and then push the downhill section to the end.  The bike was crowded the entire way and there were a few sharp turns, so my primary focus was on the road and the people around me, so I have no idea what the course was actually like scenery-wise.  I went by the 10 mile marker with exactly 30 minutes on my watch, and worried that though I felt comfortable, 20 mph might not be the best strategy to set myself up for a good run, so I dialed it back a little.  I tried to eat either a small piece of bonk breaker or honey stinger chew every 10-15 minutes, and pretty steadily sipped on Gatorade perform, refilling on the fly at two of the three aid stations.  That nutrition/hydration strategy and my pacing plan seemed to be working out pretty well and I felt great!  Other than staying focused on the road and other cyclists, my thoughts were pretty much limited to two things: race time math (if I stay at this pace I could easily have a shot at 5:30 - that wasn't a crazy thought after all!) and please do not get a flat tire... please do not get a flat tire...  Thankfully I did not get a flat tire, and made it to T2 without incident and feeling great.  Final bike time: 2:56 (19.1 mph).  

I jogged my bike all the way back through the transition area (I should have measured the distance - it was pretty far), changed my shoes, and was out of T2 in 3:20.

According to my math, I figured I could run a 9 minute mile and hit my secret/unlikely/wishful thinking goal of 5:30.  The key to this would be not dying.  And one of the keys to that would be not going out too fast... I felt great then, and running 13 miles doesn't seem that far to me anymore, but I did learn my lesson in Raleigh and was determined to keep it under control.  The course is a two lap zig zag back and forth across downtown Augusta, and my goal was to average about an 8 minute mile and finish the run in 1:45.  As usual, it was a struggle to slow down my legs getting off of the bike, but with conscious effort I hit the first mile marker at 7:37.  Still too fast... remember Raleigh! Slow down!  The next few miles were in the 7:40s and 7:50s.  It was starting to get warm and most of the run was in full sun, so my plan was to keep the pace there, but walk through the aid stations long enough to throw some ice in my trisuit and drink a bit of gatorade, which would hopefully average out to 8-ish.  

Thanks to the back and forth layout of the course, I was able to see Monte several times, which is always a good boost.  It was also nice because mentally I thought, "just a couple of miles and then you turn around and come back; just a couple of miles and then you start lap 2," and so on.  The plan was working perfectly, and I went through mile 9 in 1:11:25, averaging about 7:57.  And then with about 4 miles to go, my stomach decided to stop cooperating.  I started burping up gatorade and feared I was going to throw up on an innocent spectator, and went from feeling great to being harshly reminded that half-iron triathlons are not supposed to be easy.  I was hot, my stomach was unhappy, and my speed was plummeting; but other than through the aid stations (where I dumped ice water on my head and ate some ice chips), I did not stop or walk, and continued to pass people, though at a much slower rate.  Midway through the run, I realized I could potentially break 5:20, and I could see that going out the window, but I was determined to at least get as close to that number as possible.  There was one girl with a 34 on her leg who I'd gone back and forth with a few times on the bike, and she ran by me with about a half mile to go.  When she passed me on the bike, I thought she looked like she was working really hard while I was feeling pretty comfortable.  When she passed me on the run, she was definitely working really hard again, and I was just shuffling along.  She put a little gap on me and I was going to just let her go, but when we turned the corner and could see the finish line, I thought "No!  Do not be such a wuss... you've been out here for 5 and a half hours and you can see the finish line.  Now GO!"  And so I did.  I didn't think I had much left in me, but I put in a solid sprint (or at least what felt like a sprint and was far faster than the people around me) to catch and pass the girl in my age group.  I crossed the finish line and thought I was going to lose my gatorade, but thankfully that didn't happen.  Final run time: 1:46:09; Final race time: 5:20:45.

The woman behind me is the one who inspired my kick

The first timing mat was off - run 1 and run 6 were not that fast

Thrilled to end the season with a 38-minute PR and ready to focus on running for a bit!  Cheers to fall racing!

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