My alarm was set for 4:00am, but I don’t know why I even set an alarm really. I’d been having trouble sleeping all week, and the night before the race was no exception. Finally at 3:45am I turned off my alarm and got up to start getting ready for the day! My bag was mostly packed the night before, but I got my tri top and bottoms on, drank a huge cup of iced coffee I had brought from home, and tried to eat as much of a bagel as I could tolerate. I am a creature of habit, and race mornings are no exception, so whenever we travel for a race away from home, I like to bring my
own food and drinks. I topped off my three bike bottles with plenty of ice, in hopes that by the time I needed them they would still be cool. The forecast for the day was 91 degrees and sunny, and there is nothing worse than your liquid nutrition bottles on the bike being warm and disgusting when you go to drink them! I’d recently bought all new Polar insulated bike water bottles for Chris and myself, with the hope of keeping our liquids chilled. Chris and I headed out of the hotel a little after 5:00am and had an easy drive into downtown Augusta, where athletes everywhere were making their way to transition. We parked in the parking garage right across the street from the Convention Center, and paid $7 to park for the day. It ended up being the perfect location, and when we arrived around 5:20am there were plenty of spots open. We took the shuttle bus down to transition, and proceeded to set up all our gear, pump up our bike tires, and get everything ready for a long day. While in transition we also got the official water temperature news of the day: 77 degrees. The race was officially “Wetsuit Optional” and not wetsuit legal. Which means if you want to wear your wetsuit, you start in the very last wave, after everyone else has started in their waves, and you are also ineligible for any age group awards. I didn’t want to start last, and the river here is known to have a bit of a downstream current, where you can count on a fast swim time, so I knew immediately I would not wear my wetsuit. Chris and I had brought them with, just on the chance it might be wetsuit legal, but ended up taking them back to the car. My only
real mistake of the day turned out to be minor, but at the time really stressed me a bit. We had taken the shuttle bus back to the convention center, which is where the Swim Start was located, with plans of being early to relax before the race start. We went back to the car to drop off our backpacks and othe
r items we didn’t need to leave at transition, when I looked down into my backpack. At the very bottom of my bag was my black run visor. Crap! I always wear a Headsweats visor when I run. Every. Single. Time. Today was not the day to be without it. Chris and I looked at each other, and he said “You’re gonna need that today.” So with that, I grabbed it, and we waited to take another bus BACK to transition to drop it off
so I’d have it when I headed out on the run. The busses were more crowded now, and I was nervous about time, since transition closes at 7:00am, but we made it. And with the hot day we had, I was really glad I wasn’t without it! We got back to the swim start, used the restrooms at a local church that opens their doors to the athletes every year, and waited nervously to start our day. I ate a package of BelVita biscuits and drank almost an entire 32 ounce Gatorade in the 90 minutes or so before starting my race, and I felt like that was the perfect amount of fuel for me to begin a hot day. Chris was in Wave 8, and I was in Wave 19. Swim waves were starting every 4 minutes like clockwork, the music was playing, and there were people everywhere. It was every emotion possible… nervousness, fear, excitement. The day we had trained for was finally here! I got choked up when I said goodbye to Chris when he left to join his swim wave
heading to the dock. I didn’t want to wait there alone, and I was nervous for him, but off he went and
I felt better after his wave was in the water and on their way! They had a bag drop off area, where you could drop items at the last minute, and they were returned to you after the finish line, which was really nice. I got to hold on to my cell phone and my flip flops for a while before I dropped my bag, which also meant I got to video Chris’s swim wave start. Number one thing I learned starting this race: Bring cheap throwaway flip flops to wear after you drop your morning clothes bag!! The walk from bag drop to the ramp up to the swim dock was covered in this weird pebble texture pavement, and it was painful on bare feet! It seemed like time flew by, and before I knew it, it was time to line up with the rest of my 35-39 Females for my swim wave! There were tons of us chatting nervously, and everyone was friendly. There was a great volunteer who fist-bumped every single one of us as we made our way down the gangplank and onto the floating dock. There wasn’t much time to wait and worry… I immediately jumped into the water, went under a few times to acclimate myself, and they blew the horn and it was go time!
I love to swim in open water, and although I’m not a fast swimmer, this is the leg of the race I can usually beat Chris in time. I have worked through a lot of swim nerves in the past, and have become really comfortable for the most part in open water swims. The swim in this race worried me, because it was in the Savannah River. I’m a Gulf swimmer at heart, and I’m spoiled by Florida’s beautiful beach triathlon starts and relatively clear waters. The river looked dark, and there was a lot of talk about snakes, gators, river weeds, and a ton of other unpleasant stuff to worry about. I was so surprised at how clear and refreshing the water was! Clear enough to be able to see weeds and little fish below me, and I could easily make out colors of the clothing of the swimmers next to me. It turned out to be a really fun swim, and I was relieved at the water conditions. Minimal river weeds got tangled on my wrists, but nothing I couldn’t shake off easily. There were buoys lining the swim course in the middle of the river, and I tried to focus on those and pick them off
one at a time. At the halfway mark, they changed color, from yellow to orange I think. So at that point, it was a great visual cue to tell yourself that you are already halfway done! I have to admit, I love swimming, and I was almost disappointed when the swim was over – it was great, and I was thrilled with my time. And that current they talk about is no joke! I can’t say I really “felt” the current while swimming, but looking at my swim pace and overall time, it was definitely there. I was smiling huge when I exited the water and checked my Garmin. I was relieved I had a great swim, and couldn’t wait to get onto my bike!
1.2 mile swim: 35:56 (1:51 / 100 m pace)
I ran from swim exit to transition, about 1/8 of a mile maybe. I found my bike rack easily, dried off my feet, drank some water, and put my helmet on immediately. Slipped on my bike shoes and my sunglasses, shoved a Honey Stinger waffle into my jersey pocket in case I wanted something more than my CarboRocket drinks on the bike, and grabbed my bike. It was time for a little 56 mile ride! No problems clipping in, despite a little crowdedness at the bike mount line. I made sure to just get to the right past the crowd, clip in, and go, and that approach worked well. Tons of spectators lining the bike exit area as we made our way out of the athlete village and out onto the roads! It was so fun hearing the cheers, cowbells, and people supporting these athletes. Definitely motivating and I was smiling as I headed out! The first few miles I tried to drink a little bit, get comfortable, and find a pace I could stick with for 3+ hours, But after about 10 miles, I realized this was not going to be like any other bike ride. The “rolling hills” started coming, I tried to shift effectively to utilize as much power as I could, without completely exhausting my legs. And although the hills weren’t particularly steep or long, they were relentless… one after another, after another. The downhills were fun, but they were nerve-wracking in their own way also, and I didn’t feel comfortable staying in aero for most of them, because I wanted to be able to reach my brakes if needed. Around mile 20 my lower back started hurting, which really made me more angry than anything. My back never hurts on the bike! Why today?? I’m sure it had to do with the terrain and up and downs of the hills, and frequent position changes, but it definitely messed with my mindset the more uncomfortable I became. I considered stopping at one of the three aid stations just to get off my bike and stretch, but I chose not to. My plan was not to stop at the aid stations, I had all the liquids and nutrition I needed on the bike, so I decided to push through and stick to my plan, and I’m glad I did. The sun was out, and the temperature was rising, so I tried to drink as much as I could. I had some hesitation when it came to repositioning my bike bottles. My plan was to drink from the one mounted on my frame below me, and swap out a new one from behind me when the first one was empty. I’ve come along way with my bike handling skills and eating and drinking on the bike, but there were stretches with lots of cyclists and congestion on the road, and I wanted to wait until I had a little wiggle room before I made the bottle exchange, which delayed my drinking just a little bit, but eventually I made the swap and was fine. At mile 47, I hit the point in the course I was worried most about. This was a pretty steep downhill, where you have to turn a corner at the end, and immediately
climb another short but steep hill. Turning the corner makes you lose all your momentum from the downhill, as you have to brake to make the turn. That hill was a killer, made worse by the fact I couldn’t shift into my small chain ring for some reason. I gutted it up the hill in the big ring, and prayed I had enough speed to not end up in a slow motion tipover. Whew. The last 9 miles or so were uneventful, and we finally made it back into town and headed towards transition. I kept looking at my watch with frustration, trying to shake off how difficult the bike leg had been for me. I love the bike, it is usually my favorite leg of the race, but today this course chewed me up and spit me out. I was a good 15 minutes over my goal time I had set for myself, but I had to let it go. The end of the bike was really the only low point of the day for me and as we rolled towards the dismount line I can honestly say I have never been so happy to get off my bike!! I ended up consuming about 2 1/2 out of my 3 bottles of CarboRocket liquid nutrition, which I think worked out well. No GI complaints, and felt decently fueled and hydrated starting off the run in the heat.
56 mile bike: 3:28:35 (16.11 mph)
Back into transition, I pulled off my helmet and bike shoes, took a few drinks of water, and snapped on my race belt with my bib number on it. At a triathlon earlier this summer, I left T2 without my race number and ended up with a 2:00 minute penalty, so since that time I’ve become super conscious of making sure I have my number on before I do much else to get ready for the run! I stretched my legs quickly, and put on my socks and running shoes. I stuffed 3 packs of Clif shot bloks in my jersey pocket, along with my BASE electrolyte salt tube, and headed out. I never know how my legs are going to feel in the first mile of a run off the bike. Some days my pace is strong and my legs are happy, and sometimes not. Today I tried to take it easy, knowing I had 13.1 miles to run, and it was also after 1pm and in the 90s out, so the heat was definitely going to be a factor into how the rest of the day panned out. I headed out of transition, up a short hill, and knew the run course after that was flat, so I was thankful for that at least. The run portion at Augusta really is amazing, because it is two loops that weave through the downtown, and the crowd support is phenomenal! Lots of tents with triathlon teams and spectators who came with chairs and coolers, spending the day to cheer on the athletes running
by. I didn’t feel great, but I didn’t feel terrible either, so I tried to make it a point to run until I reached an aid station, and allowed myself to walk through the aid stations. At each aid station I grabbed ice, and shoved a handful down the front of my sports bra and a handful down the back. Every. Single. Time. And this is what kept me cool and allowed me to keep running. I also took 2-3 licks of BASE salt as I approached each aid station. When you sweat as much as I do, and your running in 90 degrees, salt and electrolytes are a lifesaver, and BASE is the bomb diggity! I ended up taking in about 2 1/2 sleeves of CLIF Shot Bloks total, in addition to water and gatorade about every mile. The volunteers at each aid station were amazing, and I was so grateful for them. Also, every aid station was really well stocked, with plenty of water, gatorade, and ice. At about mile 6.5, you reach a split, where if it is your second lap, you take a right to head towards the finish. It was quite the carrot dangling to see and hear the roar of the finish line and have to go right by it for another 6+ miles, but the incentive to get there was powerful. I had to get into a run/walk pattern if I was going to finish this, so I ran 4-5 minutes at a time, and took 30-45 second walk breaks, and that seemed to work well for me. At mile 10 I chugged a Dixie cup of cold Coke and it was amazing! Just the sugar rush I needed at that second. The closer I got to the end, the more fellow runners were pep talking each other and lifting each other up, knowing we were all survivors of a really tough day. I ran with a girl with a 42 on her calf and a pink flower in her hair off and on for almost the last two miles, when she finally said “Your pace is strong, go on ahead!” and she stopped to stretch and I never saw her again. The only aid station I skipped the entire course was at about the 12.5 mile mark. I just wanted to be done, and the adrenaline was kicking in.
I was picking up the pace, I had quit taking walk breaks, and I knew the finish line was coming. I had been looking for Chris, knowing he started 45 minutes before me and had probably been waiting for me for a while, and I finally saw him about 1/4 mile from the finish line area! He hurried to get his phone out to snap a few pictures, but I wasn’t slowing down, so most are of me as I ran past him. And then I approached the finish line area, and my emotions were overwhelming. Ironman does so many things right when it comes to these races, but their finish lines are the best, hands down. Red carpet, loud music playing, an announcer calling you in, and tons of spectators cheering and high-fiving you into the finish. I was smiling so hard, but fighting back tears at the same time. I crossed the line, and right into the arms of a volunteer, who I proceeded hug, and then immediately apologized because I was so sweaty! She laughed and hugged me again and patted me on the back, and the next volunteer put my medal around my neck. And just like that, my day
was done! I made my way through the finishers’ area, found Chris, and we decided to pass on the pizza that was out for the finishers… that was the last thing I wanted at that moment, even after the long day we just had! We sat down for a bit, collected our morning bags, changed into flip flops, took a few pictures, and recapped our days for each other. Chris had a great race too, although he confessed that he struggled and he was worried about me out there! We both had slower-than-expected bike splits, and we both agreed that the run was an inferno and we were so thrilled to be done.
Overall, such an amazing day. Hands down, the hardest thing I have ever done in my life, but I also can’t wait to race this distance again! A lot of people don’t understand what drives athletes like myself to challenge themselves with training and races like this, and it is hard to explain, but all I can say is that the feeling of accomplishment is always worth it in the end!
13.1 mile run: 2:50:03 (12:58 pace)
Official finish time: 7:07:29