I have had a fantastic weekend in Augusta, Georgia. It has been a weekend filled with good friends, swimming, biking, and good food. To top it off, I set a personal record and had a personal victory in my swim.
My friend Shawna came on Friday evening. We had not seen one another for almost a year though we chat on Facebook. We shared a room and caught up. Shawna won her age group on Saturday. Yay!
This was the first year for Gatorfest, which I did not realize. It was my first swim only event and the choice was either a 1.2 mile swim or a 5k swim. I chose the 1.2 mile swim. This is the same swim as the Augusta Half Ironman course. I still get nervous about open water races but yesterday I didn’t feel that nervous. I was looking at this as an opportunity to swim the course one more time. My goal for the day was to swim the course under 40 minutes since my Augusta time was slightly over 41 minutes.
The 69 degree water temperature was the only thing I was really concerned about. Capital of Dreams was 72 degrees and I had a hard time keeping my face in the water during that race. We were not allowed in the water prior to starting so it was jump in and get used to the cold as fast as possible. This was a wetsuit legal swim and I wore my full sleeve suit. Before the race I sat on the dock and put my feet in the water just to get a little bit used to the cold. It really felt cold. Once we were in it did take about a minute or so to get over the cold and a little longer to actually quit thinking “this water is really cold.” My feet were actually colder than my face.
I’ve been working a lot on stroke and following through the entire stroke. I think I did a pretty good job with that during . I focused on the swim and just went ahead and swam. There was some stuff in the river – a few weeds, some other floating stuff – but it didn’t bother me. (No alligators or snakes that I saw though.) I had some landmarks from last year and was careful not to get too close to the shore. I didn’t have a problem spotting ahead either.
I hit my watch at the start but didn’t realize that I had it on and turned it off in the first few strokes so I couldn’t check my time on the way. That may have been a good thing. I concentrated on my swim instead of trying to check my time. I “played” my usual soundtrack in my head of Wesley hymns and telling myself to stroke, stroke, stroke. These are things that calm me down and help me stay focused. Before the race there was music playing on the dock. One of the songs that caught my attention and helped me focus was MercyMe’s “I can only Imagine.” I love that song and I focused on the lyrics while everyone else around me was talking or getting ready.
My final time out of the water was 33:14 for 1.2 miles. That is about 8 minutes faster than my swim at Augusta last September. The current did help but I think the work I have put in at the pool also helped quite a bit. My bigger victory was not stopping to hang onto a kayak or a safety boat. I do it when I am tired, or trying to re-set myself, or just can’t see where I am going. I didn’t have to on Saturday for the first time in an open water swim. I was quite happy with the overall swim and plan to be back next year.
Riding the course: 32 hot miles
I had planned on riding the entire 56 mile Augusta 70.3 course but we did not get started until around noon. Even if we had left at our original 11:30 time, I don’t think that 56 miles was in the cards for Saturday. It was hot. Before we left the boathouse a group decided that 30 was enough but we pushed a little farther to make it 32 miles. Four people did the whole course but I don’t think I would have felt well for a few days if I had pushed in the heat.
We had a great group of locals from the TriAugusta group and several from out of town. This was a no-drop ride and we stopped and re-grouped several times, usually trying to find a rare patch of shade along the way. Jeff Spires and Mike McNamara led the group. They are great guys and always willing to ride with folks from out of town.
I was on my road bike on Saturday and wondered how my speed would be on it. I have been riding it more because I know that I will ride a road bike for Barb’s Race in July but I hadn’t ridden much on any kind of hills. The first part of the course has some rollers and false flats, but nothing too steep. That comes later in the course. I was happy that I had several stretches at 17-20 mph. The heat was getting to me as we headed back but at the end I was able to maintain a pretty good pace too.
As we were sitting at the stop in the photo above, a woman stopped and told us she thought she had run over a big snake in the road but to keep an eye out in case it wasn’t dead. It was dead. The snake turned out to be king snake, so not a harmful snake but one that helps the environment. Poor snake.
The rest of the weekend
After the ride most of the group jumped back in the river to be human Popsicles. I headed back to the hotel for a shower and watched some baseball before heading to dinner with the group. I had met some of the group in person and had only met others online. It was great to spend time with friends, old and new.
On Sunday morning I went to St. Paul’s Episcopal before I left. I went to both go to church and to meet Kim and Eddie Butler and their family. St. Paul’s has a wonderful outreach ministry for the Augusta 70.3 athletes. They graciously opened the church for us, fed us dinner, gave us a place to sit and drink coffee before the race, and the priest had a blessing for the athletes on Friday. This year I will stay with Kim and Eddie and their family during the race. I am truly blessed by their kind offer.
N-1: Not the normal equation
The common joke among cyclists and triathletes is “how many bikes do you need?” The answer is “N+1 or the number you have plus one more.” I am at N-1. The final event of the weekend was selling my Felt B-16 and Zipp 404s to a friend in TriAugusta. I was so happy to have it sell so quickly and to have someone I know buy it. It’s a great bike but I have good reasons for selling it and the wheels.
Here is my farewell photo to the Felt – a fantastic bike and I can tell you where to buy one.
I had a wonderful weekend catching up with friends, celebrating Katie Hansen’s 40th (which I should have mentioned earlier), racing and training. The weather was great and the drive was uneventful. All in all, a great weekend. I’m looking forward to the next trip to Augusta.