Pre-race: I packed up the bike, gear, and family (priorities) on Friday and left for Augusta after a doctor appointment and massage (pre-race ritual). I thought I would be able to make it there by 5pm for a group swim down the river, but with some heavy traffic starting early on I-20 we didn’t make it in time. I checked into the hotel, headed over to the convention center to get my packet, and waited around for Taylor so we could go to dinner. GREAT FOOD, but terrible service over at the local Red Lobster. The fish, rice, and vegetables were great and I had no GI issues the next day.
Saturday morning I woke up and pretty much tried to take it easy all day. We went back to the convention center to get Taylor’s packet, attended a pre-race seminar, walk around the transition area and swim start, do some bike maintenance, check our bikes in, and go to dinner when my parents showed up.
Not so fun moment: There was no room for my bike on the rack. I had to talk to three people to get a race official involved and they had to re-rack 5-6 bikes to make room for mine. I felt like a douche the entire time, but it’s not my fault that they didn’t set it up adequately.
Funny in retrospect moment: We tried to get a table for dinner but it was an hour wait, so I called Chili’s and they had no wait. Apple Maps got us there, but decided the best route to take involved getting back on the highway and jumping the fence into the back of the parking lot. So we ended up back at our hotel because that was the next closest exit down the highway. I was pissed at the time, but getting seated right away for dinner when we finally made it to Chili’s felt good.
I went with a combo chicken and fish plate with rice and vegetables. It worked the night before so I thought I’d add a little more protein. I let dinner digest and then hit the hotel gym for 30 minutes to sit in the sauna, spin on the stationary, and stride on the treadmill. I tried to go to bed at 9, but I couldn’t get to sleep until after 11.
I woke up at 5:30 on Sunday morning to start eating and gather my gear. Just like at Tugaloo my head wasn’t there. Some days I wake up and I feel like a completely different person. It has to be the depression and anxiety getting out. I hope it’s over soon. I gathered all my stuff and headed down to transition to set it up. We were 10 minutes away and as soon as I parked I realized I forgot stuff: air pump, towel, gatorade, salt pills, and gels. But it was too late and I couldn’t go back. There wasn’t enough time. I ended up getting a towel from my mom and just dealing with everything else as best I could. I was frantically trying to get everything setup, repurpose run nutrition for the bike, and ended up getting kicked out of transition before I could finish. I started to feel really stressed out and there might have been some tears (I’m not admitting anything and you can’t prove a thing). I just felt the whole day was going downhill very fast. I drove back to the hotel (2 hours until my wave started), ate some more breakfast, tried not to talk to anyone, gathered my gear, and drove back down to get in line for starting.
Warm-up: I did a jog from the car to the start line because I knew there was no place to swim prior to your wave getting in the water. That and I was so stressed out from the events of that morning that I was pretty late. I had to run/jog or I wasn’t going to make it. I stretched in the grass, looked for people I knew, and applied body glide liberally before getting the wetsuit on. There wasn’t much time between waves, so I was only able to swim around for maybe 2 minutes. I wasn’t too concerned with that because I’m not big on pre-race activity. My heart was pounding as I paddled through everyone to get a front row position for the in-water start. This was it. This was 9 months in the making. This was what I had been training so hard for.
Swim: The first thing I noticed was the vegetation on the bottom of the river. I even got some strands of it caught on my arm and ankle (but I just kept going). I started at the front of the pack and immediately made my way over to the buoys. I had read many times on a Facebook group that the current in the middle is stronger than on the side, so that’s where I swam. Like I do every swim, I drafted the heck out of every single person I could. Once I tap their toes twice I move to pass and find someone else. I was feeling great on the swim. I caught up with the yellow caps fairly quickly and felt good about that. I even saw a few blue caps which made me feel great. Even though I used some Quick Spit, my goggles fogged up slightly after maybe 10 minutes and I had a hard time sighting for the end and the buoy numbers. I concentrated on breathing, staying mentally engaged on every stroke, and squeezing every ounce of distance I could on each pull. I finally saw a red buoy and started kicking a little harder to warm up my legs.
It was about this time I decided to try something new. I took a cue from Chrissie Wellington and just smiled. I had a crappy morning and I was so nervous and anxious that I thought the whole day was going to be ruined. All these people came to see me race and I worked really hard to be here, so I just did the best I could to try and change it. I forced a smile coming out of the water that was incredibly fake, but as soon as all the people started cheering and I saw people I knew, it was incredibly real and I felt so happy. My legs felt great running to T1 too. I’ve always felt very tired and gasped for air into T1 but today I felt good.
I had no idea what to expect for this swim or swim time. I’ve only ever raced in the pool and in a lake. That’s why I desperately wanted to join the group swim on Friday afternoon. My expectation was a 30 minute swim, so when I checked my watch standing up my jaw hit the water. I guess Paul was right. Smoked it.
Swim Time: 00:24:37
T1: It was the longest run I’ve had, but I passed a good number of people. The wet suit strippers were great. I toweled off my upper body, threw on my top, stuffed nutrition and a flat kit in the pockets, put on socks and helmet, and ran off. I used rubber bands to steady my shoes that were already clipped in and it worked really well even though there were quite a few people getting on bikes at the mount line. I ran past all of them about 15 more feet and did a running leap onto the saddle and took off. I still don’t really know why my T1 times are so long. I’m doing everything as fast as I can. I really wish I could figure out how to cut 25% of my time off.
T1 Time: 00:04:04
Bike: I came down to Augusta on Memorial Day weekend to bike the course with a friend. I already knew what to expect. I didn’t need to drive the course the night before. I had been visualizing it for weeks. I knew the front half was flatter than the back and I expected there to be a ton of people on the course when I got there. I spent so much time on the left side of the road I’m pretty sure I’m a Socialist now. I wanted to average 20mph over the whole course so any time I saw myself getting over 22 on a flat section on the front half I dialed it back just a little bit in order to stay good for the back half and the run. My nutrition consisted of PowerBar PowerGels, Clif Bars, Honey Stinger Waffles, and water. I mentioned before that I forgot Gatorade that morning so I only had water until the first aid station when I picked up some Perform. I felt good the whole time. I gave encouragement when I could, talked to people that talked to me, and tried to keep up with people in my AG.
I had a goal of 02:48:00 which is a 20mph average, but in reality I didn’t really care how fast I swam and biked as long as I was out of T2 by 03:15:00 so I had a chance to go under 05:00:00 total. Ended up biking negative splits with a ~01:20:00 on the front and ~01:15:00 on the back. I was really happy to see something under 02:40:00 coming down to the dismount line because I knew there was a chance if I could get changed and get on my horse.
Fun moment: At the second aid station I really wanted a banana so I called out for it when I rolled up. They told me it was farther down so I kept calling it out so they could have it ready (I saw different things in every person’s hand so I wasn’t sure where it would be coming from). No one had a banana in their hand as I rolled by the last food table and this lady hurried to grab one for me. She didn’t get it in time because I didn’t want to stop. She yelled out “Sorry!” and I said “Throw it!” So she overhand tossed it to me and I backhand grabbed it while doing 12-15mph past everyone handing out water. Everyone around ERUPTED with cheers and applause.
Bike Time: 02:35:57
T2: Coming up to T2 I was so excited to be coming in at ~02:35:00 that I forgot to get out of my shoes. I got up to the dismount line and almost fell over because my feet were still strapped in. So I angrily unclipped and ran into transition. The bulk of my T2 time is always the run to and from my rack. I think I’m pretty fast with everything else. This race called for a few extra steps though. I actually changed socks because I was afraid of getting some bad blisters (my socks were kind of sweaty anyway) and I had accumulated empty water bottles in my kit pockets. Again, the run is pretty long for this transition area so I’m happy with this time.
T2 Time: 00:02:59
Run: Off the bike I felt great. I had my legs and I had enough time to meet my goal. My plan was to run 8:00/mi pace off the bike unless I needed to step it up because of how much time I had left to get <05:00:00. I started off at a solid 7:30/mi (with a few standard deviations) for the first 10k or so. Then all of the sudden I felt absolutely terrible. Later my doctor would say it’s a long-lasting side effect of my accident. That my brain has trouble tracking moving objects for long periods of time without becoming incredibly tired and causing me to get really nauseous. Basically I get motion sickness. So with all the people I was passing on the bike and all the runners around on the run, I ended up puking pretty heavily about this time. I used the opportunity to use the bathroom too. I got to see my family a bunch of times and I had to tell my mom to stop running with me (I was afraid of a penalty).
I felt terrible and was afraid to start picking it up because I thought I might puke again. I walked through a few aid stations to get a little food and some liquids, but mostly stuck my pace under 9:00/mi until I got closer to the end (8:00, 8:30, 9:00, 9:00, 9:00 in the middle). With two miles left I started picking it up and caught a few guys in my AG. 8:00 for mile 12 and 6:55 for mile 13. I passed 4 more people in my AG the last two miles.
I had been looking at my watch almost the entire run and doing the calculations at each mile to see if I could still make it under 05:00:00. I knew it was going to be somewhat close, but I was pretty confident the whole time that I was going to make it. My goal was 01:45:00 on the run. I didn’t quite make it, but I was so happy to crush my overall goal that I didn’t really even care.
Run Time: 01:46:30
Post Race: I headed over to the medical tent because I felt a little dizzy. I had puked pretty badly so I wanted to make sure I was okay. I rested my head on a bag of ice and got some kind of salt supplement in my drink. After I felt a little better I went to wait for Taylor to come in and see if I could see any ATC folks. Taylor came in 22 minutes after I did and we walked around together getting beer, pizza, pretzels, massages, and pictures. I felt much better after three beers and a few pieces of pizza. I even picked up a new hat that was abandoned for over an hour in the post-race area!
I got to talk with Rogue and Mark, see James and Todd on the way out, and give Nick a ride back down to transition. I saw some ATC ladies on the run but I’m sad to say I don’t know their names. Sorry! Y’all did great!
What would you do differently: I’m not sure I have much that I would do differently. I don’t mean that as a cop-out either. I gave it all I had. I think all the things that went wrong were a little bit out of my hands. I think I had an absolutely fantastic race and could only ask that my brain didn’t get in the way of my packing up in the morning and getting all sick on the run course.
Rate your overall experience with this race: A big ol’ 5. Great race, well organized, extremely helpful volunteers, and enthusiastic spectators. Fast swim, flat and rolling bike, and flat run. Augusta is a clean city with tons of options for eating, sight-seeing, and lodging. I would recommend this race to anyone.