First and foremost I’d like to apologize for not getting in my Gangnam Style finish line dance. I had every intention of doing it coming down the finish chute. My race didn’t go according to plan. To clarify, I mean that I just didn’t expect to feel so good. I know, woe is me. I’ll explain that whole thing later in this post. As per usual with race reports, this is a long one so feel free to take that iPad or phone of yours into the bathroom with you for a potty read.
A group of us headed down to Augusta on Friday morning. It’s about an 8 hour drive from Tampa so we caravanned down and stopped for lunch along the way. The usual tomfoolery occurred as it does with all road trips where we missed an exit, got stuck behind slow drivers, got separated from each other at times, and really wanted to get out of the car by the time we got to our hotel.
My fantastic sherpa and amazing friend Jess from Cuban Running Crisis was the BEST road trip buddy I could ask for. We had lots to talk about and she never let me have a negative moment of self doubt. In fact, if I even mentioned my bothersome IT band she’d yell “Squirrel!” to get my mind off of it and stay positive.
The good news is that we got to Augusta in time to head to the host hotel to check in and pick up our race packets. No long lines for us, score! We ran into Tori
and she gave us some Bonk Breakers that she scored from her boyfriend who works for Ironman. During a previous training ride Tori and I had discussed how we were bad at hydrating. I joked that we needed to write “Drink Bitch!” on our arms. Well, wouldn’t you know it? Tori had water bottles made with a friendly reminder. Love it! Thank you so much Tori!
We all got our packets and wandered the expo a bit before heading back to the hotel for pizza and much needed rest.
Saturday morning came quick and a few of us headed out for a pre-race run and ride. My legs felt good on our two mile jaunt and Dolly (my bike) was gearing ok after a few tries. I was nervous as we found a few little hills try ride but mostly because I feared the bike course was going to be rough on Sunday. And because, we all know how I
am was on the bike.
After the shake out run and ride we ate breakfast, cleaned up, and headed out to rack our bikes and finish up some shopping at the expo. I got real nervous when we reached transition and had to part ways with Dolly. Fortunately, Tim the Unicorn (a good luck gift from my friend Tim), stayed with Dolly to keep her company over night. Don’t worry, I put him in the bento box so he stayed warm and dry.
With the bikes racked, we went to the expo to shop and pick up last minute items. I really didn’t buy too much on this trip and I know it’s because I was anxious and just wanted to get back to our hotel to rest my legs and get in a nap before dinner. Insert antsy and weird B.o.B. here.
Another blessing on this trip was that we had no issues calling ahead to Carrabba’s and got in and out quickly and with good service to boot. There are a few pasta options in Augusta and they all get pretty packed on race eve. This stuff always makes me panic so I’m glad logistically it all went well. My Type A personality is not so good with waiting and getting to bed late the night before a race. We got to the hotel, sorted our race day gear and it was lights out. Of course lights out meant little to no sleeping since I basically had to nervous pee every hour on the hour. I had crazy dreams during those random hours I did sleep though.
The alarm jangled at 3:30 AM and sherpa Jess, myself, and our race roommate Celeste (AKA La Jefa, which means boss lady en Espanol), got up and dressed and headed downstairs to meet up with the guys.
|Race day kit from Flying Fish. A fish on a bike, sounds like me.
|Sherpa Jess in her green hair glory. Was supposed to be yellow cause it’s my favorite.
Another bonus in logistics is that we got to transition early and had tons of time to hang out before the waves started. On the one hand, the waiting is brutal, but on the other I got to see all of my non-Florida blogger peeps. JC, Jennifer, Summer, and Karen and I all met up at some point. Photos ensued.
|Jennifer, Me, and Summer – Game Faces.
Before I knew it, I was westuiting up and hugging Jess and heading down the dock to swim start. I am fairly certain I said “holy shit” and “oh my God” eleventy thousand times.
The Swim: 1.2 Miles
Heading toward the dock I chatted with a few women in my wave who were super nice. They helped calm me down and a couple were also first timers. All we had to do was finish, right?
I could have gone without the wetsuit because the water wasn’t quite that cold but since all of my buddies were doing and it was a water start, I figured, what the hell. It brings to mind my mom saying, “If all of your friends jumped in a lake, would you?” Apparently, the answer to that is yes. Yes mom, I’ll jump in any body of water if my friends do.
As we got into the water from the dock, I was happy I chose to wear the wetsuit and enjoyed the buoyancy as we waited for the start horn. I noticed the current was pushing us out and we had to tread water backwards to stay in line with the start buoys. Hooray for a river current!
|Not me. But this guy felt like racing in Superman underwear.
The horn sounded and off we went. Someone had said to stay to the middle of the river to really get the current and move to the right as I got closer to the exit. I tried to keep a steady pace and not kill myself the first couple hundred meters. I found a groove and went with it. My dumb goggles fogged up so I had a hard time sighting but I just kept going.
Not for nothing but 1.2 miles in a river feels like for damn ever. I kept looking for the end of the seemingly endless line of buoys and I admit that my goal of not breaststroking didn’t happen. I did the breaststroke maybe twice to sight and clear out my dumb foggy goggles. I’m ok with the little bit of breaststroking I did because it was for legitimate reasons and not because I was tired or being lazy. I was veering too far to the left of the river and wanted to get back toward the center so I could move right closer to the end.
As soon as I saw the houseboats and more swimmers getting bunched up, I knew I was close to the exit. I had zero issues with other swimmers during this race. It got crowded upon exiting but nothing major. The river was cool and refreshing and reminded me of how much more I like to swim in fresh water. Salt water can suck it.
I got to the exit which is an incline up a very short hill. I looked at my watch and was pleased with my time. I didn’t feel like I killed myself and spotted Jess as soon as I got up the hill.
Swim Time: 27:54 (1:26/100)
Having never before completed a race with wetsuit strippers, I have to report that it is the best thing since
cupcakes sliced bread. The wetsuit strippers stand in a row and tell you to pull your wetsuit down past your butt. I had been pulling it down as I ran so when I got to them it was ready to go. I dropped down on my back on the mat and my wetsuit stripper, a middle aged woman, yanked it off me so quickly I can guarantee she cut a good three minutes from my transition time. It was awesome.
I got to my bike, wiped off my feet, threw on socks, shoes, helmet, race belt, sunglasses, said hi to Tim the Unicorn, and headed out. I was feeling great.
I clipped in easily and caught a glimpse of Jess as I headed past transition and out on the course. I found a good cruising speed to start. There were a ton of cyclists bunched up at this part and I got worried riding with so many nearby. What if someone drops a bottle in front of me? What if I get a penalty for drafting? How hard is this ride going to be? I pushed those thoughts away and rode on as quickly and cautiously as I could.
I did see two women go down because of a dropped bottle and I felt very bad for them. One looked super pissed but they both seemed fine and intent on getting back on their bikes. There’s no bad assery like the bad assery you see during half ironman races. For real.
The first ten miles clicked by quickly and I finally got some space around mile 15. I was never alone which was nice but I felt much calmer the more spaced out I was from other riders. I drank my first bottle with Herbalife Prolong quickly and made a note of the time. I was passed by a ton of people during the first 20 miles but I didn’t care. This was my race and I was doing what I needed to do.
By mile 30 I was wondering when the really scary hills would hit cause thus far I wasn’t real taxed. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few inclines that had me going about 8 MPH but nothing that made me wish for death or the end of the ride. The weather was amazing and the sun just kept hiding behind clouds.
I would pass the same people on the climbs only to get passed by them on the downhills. I called out to one of these people, a woman named Jessica, that we had to quit meeting like this. She laughed and we rode on. One of the women I spoke with right before the start who was in my wave passed me on the bike and we yelled out good luck to each other. The camaraderie of the course was awesome and exactly what I needed.
I saw John walking with his bike at some point and I thought I yelled out if he was ok, he says I yelled out “What are you doing?” Too funny. It’s probably the only thing I could think to say while trying to stay on the road and get through this ride. He yelled back he was having a cleat issue. I felt bad for him but knew he’d be fine. He’s also one of those bad asses of the day.
As I rode on I saw a slim woman wearing compression socks and realized I recognized that person. It was Summer. I knew immediately something wasn’t right because this girl can ride. I rode up next to her and she told me she thought she broke her toe and it was very painful. I told her to DNF the run and to remember that she had IMFL coming up. She said she’d take it easy. It was at this point that we hit a turn and she blew my doors off. So long Summer! Take it easy my foot. Pun, very possibly, intended.
I passed the first aide station without needing anything but by the second one I needed water. This is the first time I actually grabbed water from a volunteer while riding. The first aide station I told the volunteer I was new to it and I’d go slow. He said I needed to practice. I told him this was practice.
At the final aide station, about mile 46, I grabbed another water and decided I still didn’t need to pee and didn’t want to stop. I was definitely ready to get off the bike at this point. I wanted to run.
Before I knew it I saw the Welcome to Georgia sign (most of the bike is in SC, remember?) and I started to see the spectators cheering the cyclists in. I think I saw Jess heading into transition but I can’t remember. I know I saw her on the way out to the run.
Bike Time: 3:13 (17:37 MPH)
Racked Dolly, threw on my running shoes, and off I went. My sunglasses had broken somewhere during my ride. I had them hanging on my shirt but when I looked down the left side had broken off. Random. It wasn’t sunny and I don’t care for wearing them much anyway so it wasn’t a concern at all.
T2 Time: 3:28
The Run: 13.1 MilesAs I started the run I realized that I had a buttload of time (technical term) to make my secret goal of 6:30. At this point in the race I was at 3:45. I’m not the greatest at the maths but even I could figure out that I had a lot of time to get in before the 6:30 mark.
I started the run and felt good. Real good. Scary good. I kept wondering when the hell I was going to crash and burn and feel like total death. I hit mile three and still felt fine. I kept thinking that if I continued to run and keep a reasonable pace I could bank some time in case my IT band started to act like a fool.
By mile five I decided I would not walk at all. Not even during the water stops. There would be no walking during this race no matter what. As the miles ticked off I’d think, “You’ve run six miles, no reason to walk now.” And then, “You’ve run seven miles, no reason to walk now.” My IT band did start to hurt around mile seven but I ignored the bastard and kept going.
I got to see Jess multiple times and she had a different sign every time I saw her. She’s the best. Everyone should have a Jess. But get your own. She’s mine.
|Laughing at Jess’ zombie zone sign.
The miles from seven to nine were the worst for me mentally. This portion of the course takes you closer to transition, which means farther away from all of the crowd support that’s jamming in downtown. I had to dig deep during these miles and keep repeating, “You’ve run eight miles, you aren’t walking now.”
I’d get to see Summer, Patrick (Tori’s BF), Chris, Tori, Bruce, and John while on the run. We all waved to each other and shouted words of encouragement. I kept looking at my watch with the race time and thinking I must have started it late or that it couldn’t be right. Again, not so good with the maths but knew if I kept up the pace I’d be well under 6:30. I don’t think it dawned on me until mile ten that if I kept up the pace I’d come in under six hours. I was shocked as shit. My IT continued to hurt but I continued to tell it to piss off. There’d be no walking unless the damn leg fell off. Suck it ITB.
My coach, Navy Steve, had told me before my race that he felt I could do six hours. I told him I disagreed and would be happy with 6:30. He said ok, maybe 6:15, but we’d see.
I hit mile 11 and felt lifted by the crowds. I ran a little faster and kept looking at my watch incredulously. I am dead honest when I say I couldn’t believe it. I hit mile 12 and that last mile felt like an eternity. I still kept thinking I was reading my watch wrong and that something would go wrong that last mile. It never did.
As I approached the finish line I got all sorts of emotional. I was smiling so big I heard a spectator yell, “That’s a finish line smile!” I saw Chris, Karen, and Jess yelling for me. I think Chris yelled “Gangnam style!” but I couldn’t bring myself to slow down enough to do it. My plan was to do Gangnam Style down the chute because I’d be so tired I didn’t give a shit if I slowed down and had fun at that point but this wasn’t the case. I wanted to finish running. And I wanted to run strong, and so that’s what I did.
The second I crossed the mat I started crying. I couldn’t help it. I was a big ball of emotion. I got my medal and looked around and still couldn’t quite understand how I finished under six hours. In my wildest dreams I never thought I’d go sub-six. I saw my friend Ian and tried to lock it up but the tears rolled on. Chris and Celeste came to meet me in the finishers tent. I couldn’t eat and all I wanted was to get to Jess.
As soon as I saw her I bawled like a big, fat baby and cried a little more when she gave me the card my sister had sent with her to Augusta. I opened the card and it started singing, “Celebrate good times! Come on!” And that’s exactly what I did.
Run Time: 1:57 (8:58/mile)
Total Race Time: 5:47:16
Thanks to all of my friends and family for putting up with all of this training and days I couldn’t stay out late or hang out because of this here little race. HUGE thanks to Jess, I don’t know what I would have done without her keeping me calm and positive. Thanks to my coach, Navy Steve, who predicted I’d go six hours even though I didn’t believe him. And thanks for all of the post race congrats and kudos. It was a perfect day.