Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ironman Augusta 70.3 Race Report

This was my "A" race for the year.  The entire last 9 months of training was pointed towards this race.  Augusta was all business for me.  Looking at last year's results I thought I could make the top 5 in my old man age group, 40-44.  A current aided wetsuit swim is just my race.  A guy from Charlotte biked 2:18 here last year and I just beat him on the bike split of an olympic race last month. Since I'm first and foremost a runner, I thought 6:30's were attainable.  So I felt pretty good I could nail top 5 AG finish and a Vegas Slot. 

Started taking it a little easier about 9-10 days out.  The last weekend before the race, I cut my rides down to 20-30 miles and my runs down to 4-5 miles.  Still had some good intensity on Friday and Saturday.  But starting that Sunday, I didn't do any tempo or interval workouts on the bike or run.  I did workout every day of race week.  Just once a day, though.  Went swim, run, bike, swim, run.  The last run just being a 2 miler.  I still swam hard that last week, but not as much yardage, just 2,100 on Monday and 1,600 on Wednesday.  From my previous races, I've found I needed more time to rest the legs before the race (but I don't need as much swim rest).

Headed out as soon as the kids got out of school.  Took us about 3 hours to get all the way to the campground including a stop at Subway along the way.  We stayed at Wildwood Campground, about 20 miles north out on Washington Road.  It took 30-45 minutes to get to downtown Augusta depending on the traffic.  Setup Camp and made a fire.

We all slept in, and had a lazy morning.  Took a shower and headed downtown a little after 10am.  I'd heard nightmares about checkin taking an hour, so I wanted to get going.  Parked at the garage across the street from the Marriott and proceeded to checkin.  Went upstairs in the main lobby and got in line.  There were only about 6 people ahead of me.  They had a guy at the front of the line directing people.  You had to go through 5 different stations to get everything.  It was all unbelievably well organized and smooth.  The volunteers at each station knew exactly what to do.  They didn't know much about anything else, but knew their task well.  At the end you had to go through the Ironman gift shop to get out.  Just like every museum and amusement park ride!

We then proceeded down to T1, after paying our $1 parking fee. It was a little chaotic down there with all the cars trying to find a spot on the road, but not too bad.  Really not any different than Rev3 SC last year.  It was kinda nice that you pulled through that road one way and didn't have to fight traffic on the way out.  I affixed my bike sticker around the seat tube so as to be more aerodynamic!  I then pumped my tires up a little bit to roll the bike over to transition.  I had let air out of them for the ride down.  There really wasn't any more to do since I would bring everything else in the morning to set up transition, so I walked back to the car.  When I get back, my wife was like, some lady said you should let the air out of your tire so the tubes don't blow in the heat.  It was hot, so I hiked back down to the bike and let some air out.  I heard a lot of other people doing the same.

Green Lightning.  Ready to Hammer.

That's how far I had to run to get to Bike Out

We headed out.  Stopped by TGI Fridays for lunch and then back to the campsite for an uneventful afternoon.  I organized all my stuff.  Checked out the swag.  Then packed everything for the morning.  The nerves were about to kill me.  The kids played on the lakefront beach and my wife read and took a nap.

Playing in the fire never gets old.

Sunday (Race Day)
Woke up at 3:50am.  I was going to get up at 4am, but I had been so nervous on Satuday I decided an extra 10 minutes would calm my nerves.  Grabbed my food and water and headed back down to the Marriott parking garage.  Ate a bagel on the way.  Got there about 4:40am and caught (I think) the 2nd bus down to transition.  I was in an earlier wave (8:04am) so I wanted to get ahead of everyone.

Once in transition, I was delighted to see that the guy next to me didn't show.  So now I actually had a 'normal' amount of transition space.  They really pack them in there.  They had 3,345 registered, but only about 2,900 show up.  Seems like a high number of no-shows, but more money for WTC, I guess.

I put my number bib on my handle bars so I wouldn't forget it.  This is the first race where I had to wear my number on the bike.  Put my helmet on top of that off to the side, and put my shot bloks and sunglasses in there as well.  Covered my run shoes and helmet with a plastic bag in case it rained.  Forecast called for rain all day, but at this moment, all I could see were the stars and the moon.

I walked around and checked everything out and ate another bagel and a couple of fig newtons.  Finally decided to hop on the bus up to the swim start.  Once there I still had well over an hour. It was a little chilly, but ok.  I ate a couple of more bananas and felt much calmer.  I guess I as really nervous about the logistics, and once I had my gear setup and all the running around out of the way I could relax.  I got my wetsuit on, dropped my morning clothes bag and headed over to the swim wave corral.

I still had more than 20 minutes.  They had volunteers standing there with signs for your wave number and swim cap color.  It really helped with the organization.  I was in wave #9.  The last of 3 waves for Male 40-44.  They said they had 506 of us registered.  It wasn't long before we got the go ahead to go down on the dock.

Swim 27:48, 139/412 AG, 583/1900 OA (male non-pro) 1900 is approximate (2,200 registered)
My goal on the swim was 27 minutes (my whisper was 25 minutes).  The current was pretty good.  Enough that you had to work to stay on the starting line before the gun sounded.  At the gun, I hit the start on my Garmin, and I was off.  I wanted to start hard and see how long I could go.  Not long evidently.  About 200 yards in I had a massive panic attack.  I couldn't breathe, couldn't put my face in the water, couldn't swim.  I treaded water for about 30 seconds while all these thoughts raced through my head.  Like, I wouldn't even be able to finish the race.  I hate swimming.  I'm never doing another triathlon again.  You know, stuff like that.  I finally started to calm down, and luckily floating down the Savannah river is probably faster than I can normally swim anyways.  I started back at it, breathing every stroke at first, thinking, well there goes the Vegas Slot.  Then I got back into my normal breathing pattern and tried to push it.  I felt like I was probably half way when I saw the flags for the finish.  They never looked so beautiful!
The run up alongside transition.  Strippers on the right.

When I got up on the ramp and looked at my Garmin it was 27 something.  I felt a wave of relief.  I was still in contention.  Yeah I'm behind everyone and their brother (5:23 behind #1 in my AG), but that's pretty normal for me.  My Garmin had 27:48 and 1.22 miles.

T1 3:04
Ran hard up the hill and around transition.  Must have passed 20 people.  Used the wetsuit strippers and off to the bike I went.

Bike 2:16:13 (24.5 mph) 2/412 AG, 19/1900 OA
My goal on the bike was sub 2:20 (my whisper was 2:17).  Had my shoes on the bike which really helped in transition since I had to take my bike almost all the way through transition because I had a spot on the far side.  Got on my bike, and got my feet in pretty easy.  Once we got out on Sandbar Ferry Road, holy crap were there a lot of people!  I can't imagine being in a later wave.  It was packed all the way through mile 25 or 30.  I drank my maltodextrin mix every 5 miles or whenever I felt like it.  I hit a shot blok every 30 minutes or so.

I knew the first 17 miles were relatively flat, so I just tried to hammer them.  Hit 17 miles with about a 25.3 avg. Then 17 to 40 were the hills.  Lots of blocking going on.  Had to pass 3 wide (4 wide once or twice).  Just a small piece of advice here.  If you are riding a Cervelo, get your freakin' two wheels to the right side of the road!  Holy crap, yeah I know you're doing an Ironman 70.3 and you ride a Cervelo.  Yup you're a BAMF.  Just get out of my way when I get ready to pass you, ok?  I got hoarse from yellin "On your Left" all day.  [Rant Off]. 

I averaged 23.4 mph through that hilly stretch.  I felt ok, not great.  Took some water at the aid station around mile 37.  They had it on a good spot on a slight uphill.  Then I tried to hammer it home.  Averaged 25.5 from 40 miles on in. Tried to pee on the cloverleaf ramp around mile 50, but didn't get much out.  Slipped out of my shoes and my dismount was flawless.  My Garmin had me at 2:15:56 for 55.43 miles, so a 24.5 average.  Felt pretty psyched because I made up all the time I lost in the swim and then some.  Didn't know it at the time but I made my way up from 139th to 3rd on the bike alone.

T2 1:33
Went down the right row of racks, but missed my spot.  Panicked for second, but I was only 3 feet away from where I should have been.  Sat down, put my socks on and away I went.  As I came to the transition exit, I looked at the multisport time on my Garmin.  It read 2:48 (didn't display seconds).  So I knew if I could hold onto the run I would go sub 4:15.

Run 1:25:19 (6:31 avg) 2/412 AG, 12/1900 OA
My goal was 1:25 (my whisper was 1:23).  When I first got going, my left arch and my left quad were hurting.  Luckily the pain just kinda went away.  Felt good in the beginning.  Averaged 6:19's the first 3 miles, but it felt easy.  Like I wasn't pushing at all.  So I fell into a pace and averaged 6:33's for miles 4 to 9.  The clouds kept the sun out and the weather was perfect.  I felt some hunger twinges a couple of times.  So I ended up taking 2 shot bloks during the run, which helped a lot.  After mile 9, I started to feel it.  I had to really work miles 10, 11, and 12.  Averaged 6:44's for those miles.  It got tough at that point in the race.  Kept telling myself 3 miles to go, 2.5 miles to go, 2 miles to go . . . Then when the Mile 12 marker came up, I just tried to push for the finish.  Ran the last mile in 6:13 for a strong finish. 

Finish 4:13:57,  3/412 AG, 10/1900 OA Male Non-Pro
When I saw the 4:13 on my watch, I knew I had done it.  Even though I had no idea what anyone else had done (or even how many Vegas slots were in my AG), I was confident.  In the finish chute I stopped so they could take my timing chip.  Then when I went to walk, I ended up taking 3 steps back.  The volunteer asked if I needed medical.  I thought, no way!  I just needed to sit down and drink some water.  I was a little dehydrated. 

After a few minutes I found my family.  My son got online with his Kindle and found out that I was 3rd in my age group. Yes!  It felt awesome.  I was going to the World Championships in Las Vegas!  I got a massage and some pizza and felt euphoric.  The free beer really didn't sound good, so I skipped that.  We headed over to Beamies on Reynolds Street for some food.  I had a black and bleu burger that tasted awesome.  Don't really know if it was good or not, but it was one of best tasting meals I ever had.

After that, the family headed back home.  I hung around the finish line until about 2:15 and wandered over to the stage to check out the Vegas registration situation.  A volunteer had the official World Championship slot allocation sheet.  My age group had 4 slots allocated.  I believe M35-39 also had 4, but everyone else had less.  Feeling better.  A few minutes later, she was handed the official results.  I got to sneak a peak and saw that I was officially 3rd in the AG!  Started shooting out some texts at that point!  So right at 2:30 I went up on the stage and registered.  I'm not sure what is more sore: my legs or my credit card.  $375 on the spot for a race that will take place in 49 weeks.  I couldn't care less.  Got my award and headed over my car and dropped my stuff off.  Grabbed a bus back down to transition to get my gear loaded up.  Just as I was walking to transiton, the heavens opened up.  Rained like crazy as I rode my bike back up the car.  At least I was parked in a garage, covered from the rain.  I highly recommend that parking garage on Reynolds.  They open up at 4:30am. Its a block from the buses, and a block from the finish.  It only cost $7 for the entire day on Sunday.

The boys and a purple fountain.

Broad Street

I feel Good! (James Brown, get it?)

Post Race at the Commons

The Hardware

All in all, an incredible experience.  I don't think the race could be run any better.  3,000 people is a ginormous number for a tri.  Cool T-shirt in that it doesn't have a bunch of sponsor logos on the back.  Nice headsweats IM Augusta logo hat at the finish.  Also got to keep the timing strap.  I know its a little thing, but I needed one. 

It feels awesome to set your sights on something and then execute it almost perfectly (after the first 200 yards of the swim that is).  Looking forward to Rev3 Florida in 4 weeks as my goal for that race is to have fun.  Next year will be a sweet race schedule with the Boston Marathon, Las Vegas 70.3 Worlds, and then some fun with the Beach to Battleship Half!