I did not quite make it to the finish line as I had hoped. 66.2 miles is much farther than I have ever gone though. There were many things that went right on Sunday and the months leading up to Sunday. I’ll concentrate on those factors for the most part.
In early June I received a text from none other than Jeff Spires, our favorite TriAugusta ambassador. Jeff wanted to know if I had a place to stay during the race because the Butler family were offering me a place to stay. Jeff connected me with Kim and we exchanged information and made arrangements to meet when I was in town for Gatorfest. I felt truly blessed by such a kind offer and even more so after meeting the family and spending the weekend at their home. This was the first race where I actually had a tri sherpa. I was so appreciative of being dropped off and having help gathering everything after the race without having to walk a mile carrying my gear. They were also on the run route cheering. Lily is quite skilled with a bullhorn 🙂
The photo includes Nick, Eddie (who ran as part of a relay team this year), Lily and Jack. I am sorry that I did not get a photo of Kim. I look forward to seeing everyone again when I return to Augusta.
Anyone who participates in triathlons knows the amount of preparation involved. There is a lot of preparation, training, revising, refining, etc. My preparation involved training for several months, figuring out the right nutrition for this year, packing, re-packing, taking things out and packing again, and, finally, the few days before the race.
My overall preparation was not as consistent and smooth as I had hoped. Early in 2014 I was sick for several weeks and my training all but stopped. In August and September my attention turned to helping my sister who was ill. I was away from home and training for almost 2 weeks. My training was put aside, other than going to some yoga classes primarily for relaxation, and I considered not going to Augusta because I didn’t feel that I was really prepared enough. I knew I had enough training overall and since my only goal was finishing, I decided to do the race.
One thing that I did figure out was my nutritional plan. This has been the most difficult part of my longer races and rides. This year I finally figured out how to carry a water bottle on the run. It is not as easy as it might sound to non-runners. It is essential for me. I also started using Skratch Labs about a year ago and switched from gels and other supplements to real food. Before I left Tuscaloosa I made a batch of peanut butter and jelly rice cakes, wrapped them up (still not as pretty as Kim Bragg, but I am getting better). I also determined how much Skratch Labs I would need, got the packets ready, and decided that I would carry two water bottles on my bike and stop at each aid station to refill the bottles with water and Skratch Labs. I decided to use not only the raspberry but also the rehydration mix during the ride. Before the race I had a bottle of mango hyper hydration mix. On the run and right before the swim I did use Hammer gels. My only nutrition mistake was taking a Bonk Breaker on the run since I didn’t have quite enough of my own stuff with me. Never again. I know I don’t like Bonk Breakers.
I also planned my breakfast and tried to pay attention to my nutrition leading up to race day. The difficult thing about not working out for periods of time is that my weight creeps up. I did put on some weight before the race and that made things more difficult overall. Getting my weight back to normal will be the focus of my training the next few months.
I can’t say enough about the wonderful friends I have made through the Augusta group. (By the way, who can name the common factor in these photos?) We ate a lot, laughed, encouraged one another, had fun. This is pretty much the way it goes with this group. On the course there were lots of shouts of encouragement from many people and to many people. There are first time half Ironman competitors and seasoned veterans in the group. There are so many more fantastic friends. This year the group was split between Augusta and Chattanoog since number of people who were at Augusta last year competed in the full Ironman this year. It was a great day in both places.
Sunday, September 28 was race day. I was up at 4 a.m. and Kim and I left the house shortly before 5. She was volunteering at the morning bag drop off but took me as close to transition as possible on the way. I set up the rest of my transition area, got my tires pumped, talked to a few folks, and headed out to the swim start – only to turn back to transition since I had my glasses on. My plan had been to say to Lisa Hughes, “Lisa, don’t let me leave with my glasses on” but I forgot to ask her to help me out. By the time I made it back to the bus line, it was pretty long so I walked to the swim start. That had been my original plan anyway. It is a good way to clear my head and get mentally prepared for the day.
On Friday there had been a practice swim that was a bit tough. The water was cold, the weeds were near the surface, and the swim was just slow. I didn’t worry a lot about it but it wasn’t the practice swim I had wanted – or many others had wanted either. Sunday morning was different though. Water had been released so the weeds were not near the surface. The river looked fast though it was not as fast as last year. I was in the 5th wave so I did not have a long time to stand around and wait. I decided to sit on the dock and wait for the back of the pack before I took off.
My swim was smooth and steady. I stayed a bit over, but not close to shore. I was fairly straight down the river and did not get hit or kicked or punched much. A few times when I was looking for my next landmark one of the kayakers asked if I needed help. No, I am just looking for a marker for my progress.
My time was slightly slower than last year though the river was not as fast. My overall swim was much better though. All the open water swims that I have had since last September have helped me become more comfortable in the water. As you can see from the swim exit, I am quite happy.
Transition was slower than I anticipated but I wasn’t concerned about that either. I took time to do what I needed to, even though I did put my cycling gloves on inside out. I had to fix that at the first aid station because they were driving me crazy.
Getting out on the bike took a minute. My shoe was not fastened and I needed to get that right before I took off. It was nice to see Glen on the hill and hear his words of encouragement. I started off in the right gear and got going pretty easily. I have ridden and driven the course so I was ready for it. Getting to the first aid station was pretty smooth. I decided I would spend around 3 minutes at each of the aid stations. (My race, my plan. Hush.) This gave me time to take care of my water bottles, get a salt tab, and anything else I needed to do. At the second aid station I let a young girl pour water on my head. She was enjoying doing this for cyclists and it felt pretty good even though it was not terribly hot.
This year what I call the washboard road didn’t bother me. I was ready so I didn’t stop multiple times, thinking I had a flat tire. The two mile hill came and went. I wasn’t fast going up but I didn’t get off my bike. I slowed enough at the hairpin turn not to crash. The steep downhill was 36 mph, but I missed getting up the steep mile 47 hill because I didn’t drop my big ring fast enough. It just made me laugh. The end was uneventful and I once again enjoyed the cloverleaf getting back to Sand Bar Ferry.
My time was a bit slower than last year but we had a head wind and I took the time to stop and take care of my nutrition at the three aid stations. I did not stop a number of times along the way as I had the first year. The ride was very enjoyable and I used the time to scan my body and make sure I was in alignment. My guess is about 2,000 people passed me. Many of my friends passed me and called out as they did. I called out to others as much as I could. The weather was beautiful and it was a great day to ride.
I made it to T2 right about the time I predicted that I would. I must have looked wobbly because one of the volunteers asked if I was ok. I was. T2 was slower than planned as well. I had a harder time with my shoes than I thought I would have. I also chose the wrong pair to wear, as it turned out. Though the shoes look the same. The pair on the left, which I wore on Sunday, cut into my right foot.
I knew my run would suffer because I had not been running. Still, I thought I had far more than enough time to complete the run, even if I walked most of it. I had my water and nutrition this year. The run starts out on a slight uphill and then the rest is totally flat. I walked up the hill and thought I could begin running once I reach the flat part. I never really ran much of the course though. I simply could not get started. This year I stopped at every aid station and took water and an orange or banana. I was making it down Greene Street in a decent, though not fantastic, time. Friends on their second loops were passing me and we called back and forth. Broad Street is the best part of this course because there are so many people out cheering for the runners. Once I passed the corner where I was pulled off the course last year I felt a great sense of relief and I kept on going. I made it down to the end of Broad and turned to head back. The course passes the finish line and continues for the second loop. I could hear names being called at the finish, including some I knew. I kept going. The most difficult part of this race is continuing down Reynolds past the turn for the finish line. There isn’t much out there and there are not spectators, at least not by the time I got there. There were a lot of people coming back from transition with their bikes and gear which only made me feel worse. Eventually I made the turn back to go to the second time on Greene Street. The aid stations were being dismantled by the time I got to Greene Street but there was still water and I moved a box to get a banana to stick in my jersey in case I needed it later.
Greene Street is really long when there are not many other runners on it. I still saw people I knew though and they were making good progress towards the finish. I was really dragging and feeling bad when I heard someone call my name. I didn’t stop because IIwas just trying to keep moving. But Allison Crow caught me and started going along with me, encouraging me and helping me make it a little farther. She had already finished. I met Allison last year and consider her one of my Augusta friends. A police officer gave me water and the medics were at the corner where I finally knew I could not go any farther. My knee was bothering me quite a bit and I had nothing else in me. I really did not want to meet the medical team again this year, but I did.
At the start of the run my back was bothering me but it quit hurting at some point and then my right foot started hurting due to the shoe problem. This was what finally ended my run. I was also having difficulty breathing but was able to visualize to help with that. I made it 66.2 miles this year, 4.1 miles short of the finish line but still farther than I have made it in the past.
Medical tent medal
I was taken to the medical tent and checked out. They gave me ice for me knee and Allison called Kim to tell her where I was. The medical tent was also being dismantled by the time I arrived but there were still people there. I saw the woman I had leapfrogged with on the bike finish the race. The medical tent volunteers had been given finisher’s medals but one volunteer came to me and handed me his. He said I had gone much farther today than he had and that I should have it. While it is a finisher medal, I know I didn’t finish the race on Sunday. But the gesture and kindness made me cry and touched me. I will cherish that medal until I earn my own finisher’s medal at Augusta next year.