Thursday, September 29, 2016

Augusta 70.3 ---- First half ironman!

Augusta 70.3 ---- I AM IRONMAN 70.3!

I don't even know where to begin exactly.  It's all like a dream now.  Have you ever been on vacation and when you returned home it seemed like it was over way to quick?  That's exactly how I feel about Augusta! I'm sad it's over.  I thought I would just mark this off my bucket list and probably never do another one, but I must say that now I'm itching to do another one.  Oh it may not be anytime soon because I have a couple big races coming up that I've got to focus on for the rest of this year.  But I do hope to do another 70.3 and I would LOVE to do it again in Augusta, especially if I could pick the weather. 

Let me try to briefly recap my race experience.... (I did say try.. not sure I can do briefly... so many details.. :>))

We all start counting down the days to race day.  We can't wait for that big day to come.  We stress over things like.. are we ready? can we do this? how hard will it be?  What's the weather going to be? We pack and repack...... and the list goes on and on!  

On the drive to Augusta on Friday my mind began to go all crazy.  I had a recent injury where the doctor had told me it was best to not swim practice due to all the bacteria that can be in a pool.  I was not too thrilled about this at all.  So I worried on the drive about the swim.  I had not been in a pool in 2 weeks.  I know I can swim, but I'm not a strong swimmer.  I lack some confidence in this area.  

Me and Mom after we arrived on Friday afternoon.  Our hotel was on the street where the finish line was located.  We had the perfect spot for the race.  Thanks to my friend, Marsha that had recommended the Holiday Inn on Broad street.  They really catered to the racers! All weekend that had water, Gatorade and snacks out for us.  They even opened the free breakfast early just for the racers to be able to eat on race morning! 

There was a practice swim on Friday at 5 pm in the river.  I had made the decision to not go to that because the doctor still worried about me being in river water with a huge cut on my calf.  I was only going to expose my cut to the river one time and that was on race day.  I was sad that I couldn't and my friends could.  However, they texted me after they were done and said they had both developed cramps while swimming.  I couldn't figure out why because they are both strong swimmers.  So then this worried me.  Yes, your mind will  play all kinds of tricks on you.  

I meet up with my friends on Saturday morning. 

We had to get a few pics on the finish line. 

 The ironkids race was scheduled for 10 am and we all wanted to see the kids race.

  They were so cute! They each got a medal as they finished. 

 As we were watching the race we talked about their swim and they had decided they did not hydrate enough on the drive to Augusta was why they had developed cramps.  So I told my mind to quit worrying.  I was drinking so much that I had to find a bathroom every hour just about on the drive. :>)  We walked to the expo after watching the kids for the athlete briefing and I wanted to here the pros speak.  It was funny when they asked them what they all ate the night before a race.  Guess what they ALL said???   CHICKEN AND RICE! :>) 

The one with FEAR on her shirt won the race on Sunday! She had also competed in the 2012 Olympics.  Helle Frederiksen - DNK Time 4:10!

Saturday was a nice day walking around town, but we soon realized we had walked a tad too much and our legs were getting very tired.  We all decided to head to our rooms early after taking our bikes to transition area to check them in and get some rest.   

Getting bike ready to take to transition check in.

When we arrived at transition to check in our bikes we were all amazed.  So many bikes and bike racks! It was HUGE.  We quickly found our racks and left our bikes and started the 1 mile walk back to the hotel.  It was so hot! We stopped at a gas station and bought drinks.  I looked at my watch thinking I could be running tomorrow at this exact time and it's so HOT.  I was not looking forward to that at all..... 90 degrees running... YIKES  


Serina walking the swim exit (uphill!) before we left transition... We had to get our minds wrapped around how the race day would go.
Getting ready... swim course

Saint Paul's church offered a pasta dinner that night that we had purchased tickets so we could attend.  It was nice seeing so many other racers.  I can't thank the church enough for all they did for us racers over the weekend! 

The River Room where the pasta dinner and morning coffee was at for the race.

After supper we walked down to the swim start to just gaze out and focus.  Nerves were starting to kick in..... Kathy & I were quiet and Serina was talking non-stop. :>) 

I don't think any of us slept well the night before the race.  I started walking up every hour after midnight thinking it was time to get up.  Our morning began early! I was up drinking my coffee at 5 am and eating.  I meet up with the girls to take all our stuff to transition where our bikes were at 5:45 am.  

My bike is ready

We were walking out the hotel and a nice lady asked us if we needed a ride.  We were so excited we didn't have to walk! She was our little angel that morning.  However, we learned on the ride that the water temp was 77 degrees which meant non-wetsuit legal. :<  Water temp has to be 76 or below.  If it's over 76, but below 82 (I believe that's it), you can wear your wetsuit but you are not eligible for awards.  I knew I was not there to win an award.  My goal was to finish and not tear my calf open.  So there was no debate for me.  I was wearing my wetsuit.  The only downfall to that was you had to wait and start the swim in the last wave!  Which I had a late swim start anyway, so it wasn't that much of a difference for me.  They do the waves in age groups.  I was in the age group 50-54 that was scheduled to start at 8:36 am.  The last wave would be 9:20 am for wetsuits.  Serina and Kathy decided to go ahead and go without their wetsuits.  My hat goes off to them! They are both BADA@@.  A wetsuit can make you 3-5 minutes faster.  However, I've also read that a wetsuit only really helps certain type swimmers depending on their level.  Who knows...but I was going to wear mine! Not being in the pool for 2 weeks and not being real confident in the swim, I needed that peace. 

Waiting to start and mom asking to take pictures... :<>)

After Serina and Kathy started I walked back inside the church.  I was so glad we were on the Augusta TRI Facebook group page and had learned about Saint Paul's Church.  They opened their doors for racers at 5 am.  They were directly by the swim start on the river.  They had free coffee and snacks.  It was a nice place to sit and relax. They even told us we could go in the Sanctuary if we wanted to.  Not to mention CLEAN bathrooms! No porta potties!  I decided I need to go pray.  I walked into the Sanctuary to find a couple of  people sitting quietly.  I walked up to the altar and knelt.  That's when the tears started flowing.  All week I had been an emotional basket case.  I would tear up at the smallest things.  Some call that stress or worry over a big event.  As I sat there, I let the tears flow and I thanked God for getting me there.  I asked for him to watch over Serina and Kathy that had already started and to give each one of us strength and endurance.  It was so calming.  God has a way of doing that.  If we just trust him and lay all our worries, anxieties and stresses at his feet he will be faithful and supply our needs.  When I was done, I knew I was ready.  I walked back out to find my mom sitting on the bench in front of the church watching the other swimmers start.  There was a guy and his wife sitting on the opposite bench and he was spraying pam (yes cooking spray) on his legs of his wetsuit.  I asked him why he was spraying it on the outside of the legs.  I told him I knew to grease up my legs & feet so that my suit would go on, but I could not figure out why he was putting pam on the outside.  He said his coach had told him to do so because it would make the wetsuit come off so easy for the strippers at the swim end.  I had never thought about that.  I quickly grabbed my vaseline and greased mine below the knee.  It was soon time for me to walk down the steps to the start line.  I was shocked to find out how many people actually waited to the last wave.  There were so many wetsuit racers that they had to make 2 waves at the end.  I didn't even have time to get nervous again.  The guy was rushing us out on the pier and as soon as I got to the end he said get ready and go.  I was kind of glad we didn't have to sit there and wait because I may have looked out and got all nervous all over again. :>) 

Once I was in the water it was like a cat fight.  I'm not in this wave, but you can tell how close everyone is in the picture.

Swimmers were everywhere.  I got kicked, bumped and pushed.  It was a battle.  I probably wasn't even 100 yards out and a woman kicked me and my right goggle came off.  Oh I was about to die.  My heart started beating like crazy and my breathing was all out of whack.  I tried to get the goggle back on by turning over on my back..... something I had said I was not going to do.  But you do what you go to do when things happen.  I fiddled with my goggles and floated kicking my feet and taking deep breaths.  I finally got them back on but my breathing was still crazy so I stayed on my back.  I swam until the 2nd buoy (I think they were like 100 yards apart because there were like 19 of them before you turned to head into the bank).  I finally felt at ease again so I turned over and told myself that I was going to have to fight hard and swim.  I tried to spot often and move around people.  It was work.  I even swam under a buoy once! I lifted my head to spot and an orange buoy was on my head.  I kind of freaked out and then realized it was just the buoy in the middle of the river directing our way.  I tend to pull left when I swim so I had eased over to far.  I was so glad to finally see the boathouse, which was the biggest marker close to the end.  I knew I was about to turn and head in to the swim finish.  I was thrilled when I got out of the water and looked at my watch and it said 33 minutes because it felt like an eternity!  LOL   I wasn't sure how the strippers would work so I watched the guy ahead of me walking out of the water.  I was amazed.  The strippers had us out of our wetsuits in like 2 seconds.  They literally jerk them off in one big jerk.  I was off to get my bike feeling good the swim was over. :>) 
Coming out of swim and pulling down my wetsuit so the strippers could pull it the rest of the way off me real quick at top of hill. 
Me giving mom the thumbs up coming out of water... (race photo)

Several bike racks were empty.  So many were already out on their bikes. 
This is a picture I pulled from the internet.. see how racks are empty and everyone's stuff is all over.

 I knew Serina and Kathy were a good hour ahead of me due to swim start times.  I wondered how they were making it.  It was starting to heat up.  At first I was counting and smiling as I passed people on the bikes especially since I was just taking it steady.  I was not pushing it hard.  I didn't want my calf ripping open and me not being able to finish the race, so I paced myself.  Actually I was never even out of breath the whole bike ride.  Now in hindsight, I wonder if I had pushed it could I maybe had a better race time.  But I know I did what was right.  My doc had said if it busted open, it would not be a simple sew back up.  I had to take cautions.  I started seeing people really struggling on the bike.  Several were pulled over changing flats and so many were breathing so hard.  I heard several say they had not been on hills and the hills were killing them.  I was so glad I had trained on hills.  I begin to pray for each person I passed.  None of us expected the temperatures to be so high on race day.  We had all hoped for a nice fall day!  That did not happen! 

Race Photo

The one thing I had wondered about on the bike was how the aid stations would work for me.  They had told us if we had empty water bottles there would be an area as we approached the aid station to threw them away and then there would be people lined up with fresh bottles in their hands for us to grab.  Yes.... grab and keep on peddling.  You did have the option of stopping if you wanted to and the aid stations also had oranges, bananas and snacks if you needed them.  I wondered if I would be able to grab a bottle without having a wreck.  Well, to my amazement it worked just fine. 

 I slowed my bike down and pointed to a guy and said I want your bottle.  He stuck his hand out with the bottle far enough I just grabbed and kept on going.  It was so cool.  I did stop at the 2nd aid station and take a bathroom break.  I stuck to my plan.  Every time my watch beeped for me to take in nutrition I did just that.  I had read that for my body weight I needed to take in 250-300 calories per hour on the bike so that I would be fueled to run afterwards.  I had practiced this and calculated calories for weeks.  I believe the reason I had absolutely no cramps on a terrible hot day was because I stuck to my nutrition plan.  It was tough at some points because I was so hot I didn't want to eat anything.  I kept my water bottles with my UCAN hydrate in them.  I really like the UCAN products.  They are not loaded with all the sugar you get from Gatorade and GUs.  That stuff tends to really mess up my stomach. 

Soon I was headed back in on the last mile.  I was thrilled to be under 4 hours on the bike.  Mom wasn't able to capture a picture.  She thought she did but her camera wasn't on.  In my head I was trying to calculate what my final time would be if I could maintain my 3 minute run & 1 minute walk for the 13.1 miles coming up on foot.  I was so sweaty.  I tried to rub sunscreen on my face before heading out and all I could feel was salt all over my face.  I wished I had a bottle of water to wash my face and try again, but I didn't.  I had left my handheld water bottle filled with ice and UCAN hydrate to use on the run.  Well, there was no ice and the liquid was HOT.  I literally spit it out when I went to take a drink as I was heading out of transition on the run.  I told myself to remember to ask for ice at first aid station.  They had told us at the athlete briefing there would be ice on DEMAND.  Well, when I got to the first aid station and asked they said they were out of ice!  I couldn't believe it!  I just grabbed a cup of their water and told myself I'd ask at next aid station.  

My run was going good.  I felt really good.  I was doing my 3 minute run and 1 minute walk.  I was surprised how good my body felt.  Well, that soon changed around mile 4.  I started to get so very HOT and every aid station I asked for ice they said they were out.  I soon just poured out my water bottle and filled it with water at an aid station.  I didn't want to waste the UCAN mix, but there was no way I could drink that stuff when it was as hot as coffee.  By this time I felt like my body was on fire it was so hot.  So I told myself to switch and do 1 minute of run and 3 minutes of walk.  I looked around and EVERYONE was walking.  I did not see a single person running the 13.1 course.  Everyone was either running just a little followed by walking or just plan walking.  I saw several people stopped along the course sick.  I couldn't begin to count the people I saw getting medical attention.  The heat was BRUTAL.  

By mile 6-7 I'm thinking to myself that I'll just walk the rest of the way.  I'm calculating in the head that if I do so I can still finish in under 8 hours 30 minutes (the time limit).  Then a guy came up from behind me and asked if he could run with me.  I laughed and told him I was about to be walking a lot.  He said well I've been behind you and noticed that your run pace is about the same as mine so how about we run/walk this thing on in together.  I told him I'd try, but I was so HOT.  Heat really takes a toll on your body.  I was so glad I had hydrated and stuck with my nutrition on the bike.  So many were hobbling around with cramps at this point.  You could see the pure misery is everyone's faces.  We were all praying for it to be over soon. 

John my running partner at this point begin to tell me all about himself and ask questions about me.  I found out that he's done many half ironmans and full ironmans.  Not to mention all the marathons he had done.  He said he'd not raced lately because he had started crossfit, but his buddies suckered him into coming to Augusta.  There were 18 of them in his group and he said he was the oldest.  He had not trained like he should have and was very tired.  He told me about several races that are on my bucket list.  I finally got up the nerve to ask his age since I couldn't see his calf (that's where they put your age in a TRI). 

My calf :>) 

 I was shocked when he told me he was competing as a 60 year old.  He was 59 turning 60 in November.  They go by your age as of December 31.   He did not look 60!  I was so thankful he came along to take my mind off the heat!  And then we rounded a corner and there were my friends Sernia & Kathy hollering at me!  They had already finished and when I saw their smiling faces and heard their voices it was another push for me to finish the race.  I was so pumped to see that they had finished and were smiling.  I had thought of them often during the bike and run wondering where they were at and if they had finished.  I told John they were my friends that I had trained with and they had finished and it was time for me to do the same.  He smiled and said then let's do this thing.  As we approached the finish line he eased back and told me to go ahead and make sure I got a picture of myself at the finish line.  

Mom got a shot of me and John before the finish line. 

It was an amazing feeling coming across that finish line! I heard my mom yell out from the side and then the tears hit.  Tears of pure joy.  I turned around and grabbed John as he finished and gave him a big hug.  I thanked him for running with me.  He laughed and said you helped me as much as I helped you.  He said he had learned in these type endurance races that it's easier if you find someone your pace and talk to them.  It helps you forget the pain.  For this day it was forget the HEAT> :>)    I had no cramps and still felt pretty good.  Yes, I was drained and tired, but I did not feel like I have felt when I've finished a marathon.  Matter of fact I've heard several say now that the recovery is easier after a half ironman compared to recovery after a full marathon.  I would agree.  Maybe because you are not on your feet the entire time.  I was a tad sore and tired, but there was not all the soreness I've experienced from a marathon where I dreaded sitting down and getting up.  

Our hat and medal we received at the finish line. 
Under the 8 hour 30 minute time limit :>) 

Our names in the Augusta paper the next day! 

So would I do it again.... YES IN A HEARTBEAT (especially in cooler weather!).  I do wish they were not so expensive to register for also! I certainly can't afford to start doing 2-3 of these a year. The training is harder...not physically harder... time wise harder to me than a marathon.  Yes, it was brutal conditions, but it was an amazing experience.  Maybe it was just Augusta.... they do have awesome town support!  It kind of reminds me of the support you get at NYC marathon only in NY it's probably 100 X the people standing on the streets cheering you.  And I can't begin to tell you how special all the workers/volunteers were for the race! I was called by name so many times.  They were there to help with anything you needed.  AMAZING SUPPORT! 

I was shocked the next morning eating breakfast at our hotel listening to everyone talk about so many that did not finish the race either due to bike problems, medical issues, or not making the time cutoff.  One was a lady that I had ridden bikes with a couple of times in Wiggins.  She did not make the bike time cut off.  I felt so bad for so many.  I feel very blessed that God did allow me to finish.  So many things could have gone wrong.    I heard from another racer that he said his wife had checked the weather during his run time and the heat index was 107!!

I can not finish this post without mentioning my BEST SUPPORTER! MY MOM!

  In the beginning Kathy and I were going to share a room because she didn't think her husbands off shore schedule was going to work out for him to go.  Well about 3 weeks before the race, they realized his schedule was going to allow him to go.  He wanted to go and see his wife finish.  I only had a room with a king bed, so they bought a room from another friend who had decided not to go.  That left me alone.  I thought my husband might want to go, but he really doesn't like the race scene.  However, I asked him anyway and he said no.  So then I was concerned if mom would go or could go.  She just got a new puppy that she wants to bond to her.  The last inside dog they had got attached to my dad because my mom was still working at the time.  Anyway, I asked her if she would go and she was so excited.  She was the BEST!  I told her she didn't have to run around and try to see me everywhere on race day because I knew it would be tough...not to mention the heat.  However, she was at the swim start, she was at the swim exit (yes, she walked 1.2 following me down the river), she watched me leave on the bike and then she saw me several times on the run.  Each time she would yell there goes my baby..she's doing it.  I was beyond thrilled to have her by my side.  She was the best SHERPA ever!   She even wore her "support crew" shirt. :>) I'll always cherish all our travels together! Love her TONS! She got in about 4-5 walking miles on race day.  I told her that was good practice for her 5K coming up in December with me at St. Jude. :>) 

I guess I could have just listed the things I learned from the race in this post, but I love DETAILS :>)  Now I can look back in a couple of years and remember what all took place. :>)   I finished something I never thought at first that I could do.  I'm not fond of swimming in open water.  However, the more I trained the more I believed that I could do it.  They say that's half the battle.... believe in yourself.  Plus I don't have any negative people around me.  Everyone in my circle encouraged me and told me that I could do it.  I only had to prove it to myself.  Now I smile and say.. I AM IRONMAN 70.3! Whoop Whoop! 

I encourage each of you to go for it...whatever your dream might be! I love this quote one of my friends post on Facebook a couple weeks before the race.....  

Now it's time for me to focus on the Marine Corps Marathon in just 30 days! I've got a full schedule all the way until January so no rest time for me.  Time to hit the pavement and keep on running. 


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