Monday, October 3, 2011

Augusta 70.3 - Race Report

   After five months of training, it was hard to believe the race was finally here!!  The weekend started bright and early Friday morning when we met up with my friend Holland for the drive down to Augusta.  We wanted to check in Friday so we could just relax Saturday and figure out what the heck we were doing on race day Sunday.  Unfortunately, that didn't happen.  Traffic was bad so we didn't make the 6:00 check-in deadline.
  Check-in didn't open on Saturday until 11:00 so we got there about 10:30 hoping to beat the line.  About 300 other people apparently had the same idea because the line wrapped about 3/4 around the Marriott convention center floor.  Fortunately, the line moved fast and we were able to talk to a few athletes who had done the race previously, and we had a lot of our newbie questions answered (like when do we put on our wetsuits?  And what do we do with them when we're done?  Ahh - the innocence of inexperience.)
  Check-in went fine.  We learned that over 3,200 people had registered for the race, making it the largest Half-Ironman ever.  Which made me feel pretty good because I figured with that many people, I wouldn't finish dead last!!
   After check-in was the expo.  Ironman stuff was, obviously, everywhere.  They're brilliant marketers, those IM people.  When you first walked in, you saw a poster with the IM logo on it.  Pretty basic poster. Nothing too special.  But then you looked closer and you could see that all of the competitor's names were in the logo!!  How awesome is that?!!  So, of course I had to get it.  BUT THEN - I saw the T-SHIRT that had all of our names on it.  Of course, this was $15 more than the poster.  But I had to get it anyway.  I did put the poster back though.  :-)

   After that, we went down to the dock to check out the water and then went to go set up our bikes.  Every wonder what 3,200 bikes looks like?
Well - there you go.

   After a good dinner, all that was left to do was to get a good night's rest.  I actually thought that was going to happen until I woke up at 3:00 am FREAKING OUT.  Seriously.  Total freak out.  Didn't ever go back to sleep either.   I wasn't too worried about it though.  I had so much adrenaline going that my lack of sleep wasn't going to hurt my race at all.
   The alarm finally rang and we packed up and headed down to the race.  

Let's go racing!!

   Augusta has a set-up where the transition is a mile away from swim start.  So Dudley dropped us off at transition where we set up all of our stuff.  Most of the women setting up around me were first-time 70.3ers as well.  It was great to talk to them and realize we were all pretty much in the same boat - as in clueless.
   Next thing we knew, we were on the bus heading down to the swim start.   The weather was scheduled to be over 90 that day, but it was in the 70s at that point.  Fortunately, it was swim-suit legal with the water temperature being around 72.  One of the things I'll remember from the start of the race was how the women were acting prior to the race.  The men all went first so for a while there were about 1,500 women waiting to start racing.  The song "I Love Rock & Roll" came on and women just went nuts dancing, cheering and clapping to the music.  For some reason, I don't think the men did that prior to their race.  :-)

All ready to go!!  

  This was my first wave start so I was a little intimidated.  I've heard horror stories of people getting kicked, pushed and dunked underwater at wave starts.  Being one of about 200 women in my group at the start didn't help my anxiety either.  But I had already made a mental plan of my race to just take it easy for the swim and the bike portions of the race, so when it was time, I just eased into the water and treaded water until the start went off.   Then once the airhorn blew, I paused about 30 seconds to let the thrashing of the water subside.  No need for me to get hit and panic right at the beginning.  Then I started to swim.  The wetsuit helped my confidence greatly.  It's so buoyant!  Plus, the swim was down-river so the current was with us.  I just got in my groove and swam.  I didn't push myself, but I noticed I was starting to see swim caps from the groups that went before me, so I was happy about that.  
  I swam off course a little and got covered in what can best be described as seaweed.  But we were in a river so does that make it riverweed?  Anyway, there was a ton of it.  I'm happy to report I didn't suffer from the freakouts like I did in Chattanooga.  I just kept doing my thing until I saw the exit buoys.   I was definitely ready to get out of the water though.

   Next up was the ride.  Again, sticking with my plan, I was just going to cruise this part.  I'd been told by many people who had a lot more experience than me to ignore the instinct to hammer at the beginning of the ride.  Sure, I'd get passed, but I'd catch them at the end.  And that's exactly what happened.  At the beginning, I felt like I was getting passed by everyone!  But I just kept reminding myself that I still had a half-marathon to go after this ride so I needed to chill and enjoy the ride.  And I did.  Fortunately, I didn't have any mechanicals or other mishaps.  I just rode at a pretty even pace for 56 miles.  Other than a mild headache, it felt really good too.  I even remember thinking "I could do this all day!  I don't know why people think Half-Ironmans are so tough!"  Famous last words...

Coming into transition.  Hi Dudley!!  
So I come into T2, rack my bike and get ready to run.  I have a plan for the run as well.  Start out at about an 11:30 pace for the first three miles, then bump up my time 30 seconds every three miles after that.  If I did that, I'd end with a 10:00 pace.  Unfortunately, for the first time, my plan had a wrench thrown in it.  I could tell almost immediately that something wasn't going "right" with my run.  It wasn't my legs, though they were tired, they weren't cramping or anything.  But that headache I had in my ride was getting worse and I just didn't feel good.  I immediately changed plans to a nine-minute run / one-minute walk routine to try to get into a groove.  That never happened though.  I went from not feeling "right" to flat-out feeling sick.  I thought maybe I was dehydrated as at this point it was over 90 degrees and about 95 percent humidity.  So the first rest area I hit, I took some Ironman energy drink and poured water over my head.  Didn't help.  I then just felt full and sick.  So my plan then changed to run as far as I can until I feel sick, then walk.  Once that went away, start running again.

Me.  Concentrating on just putting one foot in front of the other.

   That plan worked until Mile 4, when I actually threw up.  I've heard of people throwing up in races, but they usually make it sound like they're bad-asses pushing their bodies to the limit until they hurl.  I'm not that much of a bad-ass.  Nope.  I think mine was a heat-related illness.  It was kind of funny because I kept thinking "surely I'm not going to throw up.  I'm not going fast!"  But sure enough, I did.  
   I was hoping I would feel better afterwards, but I didn't really.  Have you ever tried to run after puking?  It's not easy.  I could walk fine, but every time I tried to run, I would feel nauseous, so I'd have to stop.  I continued with my "run until I feel sick" plan, at some points only running for about 30 seconds before having to walk, until mile 11.5 when I got sick again.  Bad.  To the extent that runners asked me if I needed medial attention.  I just pushed them off.  Are you kidding?  I've been puking for the last 11.5 miles!  You think medics are going to let me to continue?  NO WAY was I not going to finish this race.
   Fortunately, once I puked that last time, I felt a little better.  Not great, but better.  I could actually run a bit longer than 30 seconds at a time.  After what seemed like an eternity, I turned the corner to the finish line.  People were lining the finishing chute clapping and yelling.  It was very cool.  I was a complete dork and threw up my hands like I won the whole damn thing.  I didn't care though.  I was SO happy to be finished.  Not just because I felt like crap, but because this had been a five-month goal achieved.  It felt pretty freakin' cool.

   So there you have it.  I was a 1/2 hour past the time I'd hoped for my finish because of my illness, but I still think that's OK.  I'm bummed because had I known I was going to be sick for the run, I would have killed myself in the swim and bike.  Maybe I could have still made my time goal of 6:15.   Who knows?  I'm thrilled I finished and, overall, very happy with the experience.   And the good news is that I wasn't sore AT ALL the next day, which leads me to believe that my conditioning was there - that it was definitely the heat that got to me.  I'm already looking forward to next year to so I can beat my time!!   Good news is that it shouldn't be that hard!!   

Augusta 70.3 times:
Swim: 30.09   71st out of 180 who finished (over 30 dropped out)
TI: 5:25
Bike: 2:59:09  63rd
T2: 2:39
Run:  3:06:02  136th!!  (Oh well - I at least finished!!!)  
Total time: 6:43:34

Thank you to my ever supporting husband Dudley and to Holland for talking me into this craziness!!   Also thanks to my parents and all of my friends for their support and well-wishes!