Ironman Augusta 70.3 Recap

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

Augusta Finish

Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side Race Recap

Happy Sunday!

I had a great fun and family filled weekend at Walt Disney World for the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon where I completed the Dark Side Challenge- a 10k on Saturday, followed by a Half on Sunday.

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Disneyland has had a Star Wars themed race for a couple years now, so I knew if/when WDW got one, I would have to sign up. I’m so happy I did, but I will not be doing it again…

We got to the expo on Friday around 2:30. Packet pickup was a breeze! The Health & Fitness expo on the other hand was very crowded. I grabbed the couple items I needed (strawberry Honey Stinger waffles and a red Sparkle Athletic skirt) and left to go check in to our hotel and relax.

For dinner we opted to walk around Disney Springs and grab whatever jumped out at us first. The new Hangar Bar won out. The drinks were very good, but the menu (food-wise) was just small plates/appetizers. They were okay, but not great. The place itself is really cool! I could see us going back just for a drink on the way to one of the other surrounding restaurants.

And then it was time to head back to the hotel to get ready for race day #1. Uncle Barry and Kristy flew in for the weekend to do the Half; I was the only one signed up for the Challenge.

My alarm went off at 3:00 (yuck!). After getting ready, the Boy and I met up with my parents and grandma (who also flew in for the weekend’s festivities) in the hotel lobby at 4:00. The 10k started at 5:30. There was no traffic getting to Epcot. We got to hang out and take in all the sights and awesome costumes. Soon enough we parted ways and I made the ~15 minute walk to the starting corrals.

About 45 minutes after the first corrals were cut loose, I crossed the start line (right on time with my calculations). The 10k course went through Epcot and Hollywood Studios before ending at ESPN Wide World of Sports.

The course was very very very crowded and kept bottlenecking to where all of the foot traffic was pretty much at a standstill just trying to get through.

When it comes to registering for races, I tend to lowball my estimated finish time. I think I just get it into my mind, what if I’m having a bad day/race, I don’t want to get in people’s way. Well! I have officially learned my lesson. By lowballing myself I was placed in the last starting corral. And… I’m going to try and say this without trying to sound like a complete race snob, but…it was a lot of walkers (nothing wrong with that), a lot of run/walkers (how I train, so definitely nothing wrong with it), and a whole heck of a lot of people that don’t understand proper race etiquette. I have learned my lesson though. I have been working and training very hard, so my start corrals will now reflect to the best of my ability my appropriate finish time.

I became very pissed off, very early on, and while I felt great, I just wanted the race to be over. Nobody should go out for a Disney race hoping to PR, but the bottlenecking and poor course layout made for a really unfavorable experience.

I finished two minutes over the Disney-adjusted estimated finish time I was expecting, and with all the “distractions” (I use the word loosely when referring to this race weekend to embody all the things that “slowed” me down) I was okay with it.

I found the post-race runner area to be a bit of a maze. After getting my medal, and grabbing water, it took me a minute to find the snack boxes, and even longer figuring out how to exit the runner area to locate my family.

At that point we had to hop on a shuttle back to Epcot. Oh, and the line for the shuttle was a good 45 minutes. See, the start of the race was at Epcot, and the finish was at ESPN, but the ESPN parking lot was closed for the race, so spectators were shuttled from Epcot to ESPN, and then EVERYONE had to be shuttled back. Oh, and did I mention the spectators weren’t even able to watch the start?!

The good thing about having such an early race start time meant that we still had the entire day to do whatever we wanted. To the outlet mall we went!

After shopping and a carb-filled dinner, we made our way back to the hotel to pack up and get ready for race day #2. Unlike the night before, I was going to make sure I got a decent night’s sleep.

My alarm went off at 3:00. I woke up at 3:52. We were supposed to leave the hotel at 4:00. Whoops! We ended up leaving about 15 minutes after. There was a bit of traffic getting to Epcot and I feel it took us about 30 minutes to get there from the hotel.

Uncle Barry decided to fall back from his spot in Corral A (yeah, he’s a speedy one) and Kristy fell back from Corral G to join me in Corral Leisure 😉 (yeah, I wasn’t paying attention and assumed since I was in the last corral for the 10k that I was in the last corral for the half- I was actually supposed to be in K).

It was nice having them there to help pass the time!

About an hour after the first corrals crossed were let loose, we crossed the start (once again, right in line with my calculations).

I knew with my experience yesterday that I needed to try and get in front of as many as I could right out of the gate while the road was still open, so I wasn’t following my run/walk.

The first few miles were the most congested. I eventually turned off my run/walk alert because I was walking when I had no choice (congestion).

I’m just gonna say that the frustration from the course congestion fueled my adrenaline because I did not run/walk this half marathon. I walked the bouts of congestion when I had no choice and through most of the water stops. I feel I averaged a minute walking each mile to mile and a half.

Obviously this is not how I have been training, so I am feeling a bit sore tonight (and likely will for the next day or two).

The Half course went through Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, and ended at ESPN.

I finished four minutes over my Disney-adjusted estimated finish time. After getting my medal, I made my way over to the Challenge medal tent. The process was very seamless and hardly took any time at all.

I grabbed some water, found the snack boxes, and made my way over to where my family was.

Once again we had to shuttle back to Epcot, but luckily the line seemed to move faster today. I feel like we waited around 25 minutes for the shuttle (as opposed to 45 yesterday).

And just like that, race weekend was over.

I’ve definitely been training hard and feel really good about my performance. My official finish times were:

  • 10k: 1:17:47
  • Half: 2:44:52

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And lastly my takeaways from the Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side Race Recap:

  1. Not a spectator-friendly course. The only highlighted spectator points were the start and finish, and yet the start proved not to be spectator-accessible.
  2. Poor course layout.
  3. Logistical nightmare (for parking)
  4. Great for first-timers (not looking to PR).
  5. FUN! Lots of fun!

To check out more pics from race weekend, go here.

And, a big shoutout to my family for continuing to support me in all my running adventures!

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Happy running!

Skydive City and skydiving/once-in-a-lifetime opportunity ReCUP

Holy crap! I jumped out of a plane!

Let’s think about this for a sec… Heights? Afraid of them. Flying? Don’t like it. Falling? Terrified.

But, last Saturday, I jumped out of a plane.

I don’t talk about work on here a lot because this is my ME-time, but last October my boss announced that “we” (anyone within our large work family that wanted to) would go skydiving as a sort of team-building exercise.

From the moment it was first announced I was on the fence about participating. I decided the week leading up to Jump Day that I would not be jumping. I tend to be a big chicken, and I also tend to worry about the worst-case scenario…these are not things I’m proud of. 😉

The night before, I was a wreck. I was crazy stressed, and just wanted Saturday to come and go. One thing you have to understand about our work family, is just that, we are one big family. These were my family members about to hurl themselves out of a plane at 13,000 feet. I was very nervous!

I woke up Saturday feeling much more at ease than the night before. I picked up some donuts and coffee for everyone to nosh on while they waited, and made the drive up to Zephyrhills.

It’s about a 30-minute drive, so it wasn’t bad at all. I had never before been to Skydive City, but knew I was in the right place driving up. The parking lot was packed!

We had a large group and tried to complete a lot of the necessary items beforehand to cutdown on wait time, but there was still a bit of a wait before our first group (6 jumpers were taken up at a time) were suited up.

I was still feeling a bit uneasy and really just wanted all of our jumpers to get this over with. 😉

Eventually our first group was suited up, briefed, and then hopped in a plane. What felt like 10-15 minutes later, we were squinting up into the sky.

My boss was the first to land; it was a very smooth (read: safe) landing. The remaining five from group one landed just a few moments behind him. It was at that time that my nerves started to dissipate.

I began to look around the facility and noticed how bustling it was, and even though all of the tandem instructors were all kinds of kooky and crazy, something just felt right. 🙂 The entire operation was well organized and every safety protocol that could be taken, was. Hell, I found out one of the videographers (Billy, who ended up being my videographer) has done over 18,000 jumps! I’m sorry, what?!

It was in that moment that I decided, I could do this.

I still wasn’t going to though…

Around the time our third group of jumpers went up, one of my coworkers (who I am very close with and look up to, but also watch out for) cracked under some light-hearted peer pressure and agreed to join the list of jumpers.

I almost wish someone had taken a picture of my facial expression because I know it had to be good… It was right then that I KNEW I had to jump. If Marie was doing it, she wasn’t doing it alone.

Ahhh! What did I just do?!

For about the next hour my stomach my stomach twisted and turned, and I’m pretty sure I peed about five times (there was no way I was going to be the one that peed her pants while skydiving).

Eventually I was introduced to Scotty (my tandem instructor) and Billy (my videographer). Scotty got me all suited up, and did a quick (yet thorough) initial-brief. Then Billy pulled me off to the side to do a quick interview.

There were so many things running through my mind at this point. I was on the verge of tears, I kid you not.

Within minutes we were boarding the plane. This part was nice. The views were great! I felt safe in my jumpsuit and harness and goggles (can’t forget the goggles). And then…

Holy crap! This isn’t a round-way ticket! This is a one-way ride!

To avoid overwhelming the jumpers, the briefs/directives are dished out in segments. Looking back, that makes a whole lot of sense!

Scotty got us all clipped together and explained how we would get to the back of the plane, how we would jump, and how the freefall would play out.

And then, it was go time.

I asked Scotty for no flipping/no twisting/no spinning, and what do you think was the first thing he did? A backflip! Honestly, I didn’t even know he did one until he told me once we were back down on the ground. 😉

During the 60-second freefall, Billy “swam” over to us and grabbed my hand and we were spinning around in a big circle. This immediately brought back some bad Little Teacup memories and I started to feel very queasy.

Also the jumpsuit zipper that was whacking my throat wasn’t helping matters…

When it was time to pull the parachute, we separated from Billy and then Scotty got to work. In the video (and really all skydiving videos) it looks like a Tower-of-Terror kind of moment whenever the parachute is opened. In reality it does NOT feel like that. It was quick and smooth and there was no “jolt” at all.

It was at this time that Scotty gave me the “canopy” handles to control. I did not want to. I didn’t want to steer and what would happen if I accidentally let go?! He immediately reassured me and said that I didn’t need to steer, but I did need to hold on to them because he had to tend to a couple other things.

One being the adjusting of my/our harness. He started by saying, “I’m going to loosen the harness around your hips. It’s going to feel like you are falling. You are NOT. I got you!”

To be honest, I knew that he did.

The loosening didn’t freak me out. It was very minimal and it was done one side at a a time.

And then…it was time to sit back and enjoy the moment. Scotty was great and pointed out all the beautiful scenery.

As the ground became closer and closer, Scotty briefed me on the landing.

Granted there was no turning back now, the landing was what I most feared.

He told me to bring my knees up and point my toes; however, if something is “off” he is going to shout for me to stand up. He won’t know if something is “off” until the last 2-3 seconds before we touch down.

Of course in my mind…”oh crap! oh crap! oh crap! oh crap! oh crap! oh crap! oh crap! oh crap! oh crap! oh crap! oh crap! oh crap! oh crap! oh crap! oh crap! oh crap! oh crap!”

I could not have asked for a more smooth landing. I never even touched the ground!

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In the end, skydiving is both the most exciting and most terrifying thing I have ever done all rolled up into one.

Do I regret doing it? Hell no!

Would I ever do it again? Nope!

I am so unbelievably proud of myself for taking something I feared so much and facing it head-on. This experience has made me realize I am capable of so much more than I give myself credit for. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and has created memories to last a lifetime.

And now, for your viewing pleasure… my jump!

Please note: I was seriously on the verge of vomiting 80% of this video, and when I am nervous and/or scared, I get very very dorky.

Enjoy!

Questions of the day

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

Ever been skydiving?