HIM (Half Ironman) Augusta was September 24th. Shortly thereafter, I wrote up my experience, mostly to use as a reference as I begin training for IM CHOO, but to share with a couple friends, as well as the Women For Tri Facebook group.
But, It deserves to be shared here as well.
I put together a “little” recap for my experience at Ironman Augusta 70.3…
Our “70.3 or bust” journey started just after 4 AM on Friday. We hit the road, and made it into town just minutes after Athlete Check-In opened its’ doors.
Upon walking into the Augusta Convention Center I was flooded with (self) doubt.
“What are you doing here?”
“You don’t fit in.”
“You didn’t train enough.”
“You’re never going to reach the finish.”
I was freaking out! I tried to remain calm, but on the inside I was screaming.
But, I still had to get checked in. First, we grabbed the waivers to review and sign, then we had to turn those in, next it was bib and packet pickup. This is where you are given your Ironman wristband- your passport for the weekend. Next it’s shirt and swag bag pickup, and finally- at the Village threshold- timing strap pickup.
Before hitting the expo, we took in the first (of many) athlete briefings. Most everything covered were reiterations from the Athlete Guide, but it was worthwhile to hear some things explained in greater detail.
After the briefing, it was time to shop. The expo was a madhouse- especially the official Ironman merchandise- but it was so cool. The expo itself was much smaller than ones I’ve attended for foot races, but I really enjoyed it.
I had planned to attend a practice swim, but a monsoon-like thunderstorm came out of nowhere as we were preparing to leave the expo, and instead we got stuck at the convention center/Marriott until that cleared up.
By time that happened, we needed to get over to our hotel to check in and unpack. There wasn’t enough time to make it to practice swim after that.
I woke up Saturday feeling so pumped for the race on Sunday. Every last little bit of doubt I left at the expo on Friday. I was ready!
I wanted to have the bike at transition at 10:00. This is mandatory that all bikes be checked in a day prior. I parked over by the Convention Center, then rode the 1.7 miles over to transition to do a last minute once over of the bike. Once she was safely racked, and once I let a little more air out of the tires (to avoid popping), I ran the 1.7 miles back. It was a nice way to shakeout my legs.
I made it back to the Convention Center just in time to grab a cup of coffee before the Pro Panel started. I love getting to hear from the professionals! There is always so much to learn from them!
I also made sure to stop by the TriAugusta booth to pickup tickets for the St Paul’s Pasta Dinner. St Paul’s Church (also downtown, about three blocks up from the Convention Center) welcomes athletes, spectators, friends, and family by welcoming them with open arms. Each year they put on a big pasta dinner the evening before. Tickets are only $10 each. They serve pasta, meatballs, salad, bread, cookies, and water/tea. The money goes towards a great cause, and it’s so refreshing to see the entire congregation come together to welcome the event.
After dinner, we drove the bike course. I’m so glad we made time to do that! It was nice getting to see firsthand the hills, and some of the more technical/sharper turns.
Back at the hotel later that evening, I checked out my gear one last time and made sure everything was packed up the way I needed it to be. Then it was off to bed!
Surprisingly, I slept pretty well! Since I had such a late swim wave, I didn’t need to be at transition right when it opened. I woke up a little past 5:00 and was at transition to setup by 6:00. I got my gear laid out, and my bike tires pumped. And then it was time to wait.
We headed back over to St Paul’s church. They opened their doors at 5:00 that morning to welcome athletes and their family and friends with coffee, water, and refreshments. Most importantly, they had clean restrooms and a place to grab a seat to relax.
The swim start was pretty much directly behind the church. We were there for the National Anthem and to watch the pros take off, then we headed back into the church to relax a bit more.
I was shocked at how calm I was feeling. I just kept telling myself whatever happens, happens. I was going to go out there and give it my all.
Before I knew it, the hot pink swim caps were lining up. From that point, it all just happened so fast.
The gun went off, and we were in the water. The temperature was so refreshing. For about the first 250 meters or so, it felt very congested. I let it overwhelm me a bit and was struggling to find my rhythm. Once we passed the first bridge, things cleared up and I was able to get comfortable.
My goal for the swim portion was 35 minutes. I came in at 31 minutes. And looking back, had I not felt overwhelmed at the start, I could have easily pulled in a sub-30.
Transition was a breeze, and now it was off to ride 56 miles. I very quickly realized I should have spent more time hill training. Though I was never forced to unclip and walk up a hill, so I was proud of that. But those hills kicked my butt! My speed definitely reflected that. Though I did get off at the first aid station to refill my Speedfil, and again at the second aid station to use the port-a-potty. At around mile 40, it dawned on me that I was not on target to hit my time goal. I caught a second wind and really started to pick up my pace. That was also about the time I ran out of nutrition. I took a few sips of water at the third (and final) aid station and then pushed through. As the bike finish neared, I was flying. And I was feeling good. So good that it never even crossed my mind that I might be disoriented. Well, I was. I fell off my bike dismounting. In front of everyone. It was pretty funny and I couldn’t believe I let that happen. Unfortunately I fell on the money side of my bike.
I got a little scuffed up when I fell, so I walked into transition. I quickly changed shoes and prepared to start my run. I stopped by the sunscreen table to reapply, and then I was off.
The run course was beautiful. Full of shade, amazing volunteers, and tons of spectators.
I’m a Galloway runner, so for almost all foot races my strategy is to do my normal run/walk and then walk through the aid stations. In a regular foot race this doesn’t add up to much walk time. In an Ironman event it does. The aid stations here are crazy! There is so much to choose from! There’s a water table, a Gatorade table, a snack table- with GU, Clif Blocks, bananas, oranges, chips, and pretzels, then there’s usually another Gatorade table, another water table, then Red Bull, and Coke. And finally, ice and sponges, and if you’re lucky, sprinklers! Heaven!!
The course was two loops through downtown, which gave my family plenty of spots to see me. It was super nice and distracted me from noticing just how warm it was.
The last couple of miles were tough, and mentally I was ready to be done. Once I turned the corner and could finally see the finish just a few hundred feet in front of me, I took off.
I finished in 7 hours and 32 minutes. Two minutes past my goal time, but close enough to not even matter.
Crossing that finish line is a moment I will treasure forever.
So, looking back, what did I learn? Or what will I do differently next time?
1) More hill training
2) More run-off-the-bike training
3) More strength training
4) Start my swim in the front of my wave- I’m a strong swimmer, I need to quit doubting myself and I probably wouldn’t get so overwhelmed
5) Carry extra nutrition on the bike regardless of if you think you will need it or not
6) Wear sleeves- underarm chafing is the WORST!
7) Don’t wait to apply sunscreen
8) Know what you want from each aid station- grab it and go