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Augusta 70.3 Race Recap

by Meghann on September 26, 2011

This is my proof.

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My proof that at exactly 8:52am I swam 1.2 miles, biked 56 miles, and ran 13.1 miles.

My proof that I have the best brother and sister in the whole world.

My proof that if you set your mind to something, you can achieve anything.

My proof that I AM a Half Ironman.

This is my proof.

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And I’m never taking if off. ;)

Wow! Words can not describe how incredible today was. I was on cloud 9 right from the start and still haven’t come down.

Our alarms were set for 4:30 this morning. We packed up the hotel room and headed to the race site where we (thankfully) had no problems finding a parking spot by the swim start – love that.

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Unfortunately the swim start was a 1.2 mile walk from the transition area. There were buses running each way, but we didn’t realize that until after we already made the walk there. Luckily we were able to hop the bus back to the swim start after we set up.

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The transition area was FULL of nervous triathletes setting up their transition site ‘just so.’

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Transitions are my weakness. I never practice them during training and am still not sure what the ‘perfect’ way to set up my area is. I always sort of wing it and hope it works.

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Our bikes were set up and ready to go by 6:30. We had PLENTY of time to relax and eat our pre-race fuel before the start.

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Un-toasted bagel + almond butter = makes me want to gag, but it’s the easiest, quickest thing to fuel up with.

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Making our way to the swim start really made it feel real. I wasn’t feeling any crazy nerves – just a rush of adrenaline and excitement! I felt like I was about to burst with anticipation of starting!

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There were a total of 25 waves for the swim. The pros kicked off wave 1 at 7:30 and there was a wave every 4 minutes after that. Ben was wave 4 at 7:44 and Kelly and I were wave 21 at 8:52.

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When I first realized Kelly and I wouldn’t be starting until close to 9, I started freaking out a little. When you’re planning a 7 hour race, starting at 9 just seems way too late. However, once we were on site, the late start didn’t seem as bad.

For starters, while Kelly and I were able to relax a little, Ben had to start suiting up.

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Don’t forget to lube!

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And he’s ready to go!

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We watched Ben line up with his coordinating swim cap and make his final descent to the water.

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Ready…. Set….

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GO!

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See ya at the finish Ben!

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Then we waited

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The hour wait wasn’t bad at all. We used the restrooms, made new tri-friends, and discussed our goals for the day. Before we knew it, it was time to start suiting up!

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My plan was to use the plastic baggie on the feet suggestion (like Kelly and Ben did), but I didn’t remember until the suit was half way up. Oh well. It actually wasn’t as bad putting the wetsuit on as I was expecting. Just a few good tug and we were in business.

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Lube was my friend.

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I slathered my legs with vaseline and applied a generous layer of Body Glide on my neck and around where the sleevless suit would cut into my arms.

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No chafing here!

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This was it! We said our final good byes to the amazing Danielle and headed to the start!

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The Swim

Spotting our wave start wasn’t difficult – just look for the big group of blue caps! Kelly and I located our friend Cat (who had the same wave start) and tried to calm down our excitement by taking deep breaths, mixed with a little people watching.

Those final 15 minutes before the start flew by and before we knew it, we were walking down the ramp and onto the dock. The dock was a floating platform specifically set up for the race and I got oddly giddy with excitement stepping onto it. Kelly and I kept looking at each other going ‘This is it!”

There was no easing into the water. We both took a giant leap and headed straight in. I thought I would be shocked by the water, but it wasn’t terribly cold. It was more refreshing than anything else.

We waded for 2 minutes, then a gun was fired to signal our start.

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I lost Kelly immediately. There was NO swimming side-by-side in this race – it was each woman for herself. I was kicked and grabbed, but still intent on making my way out of the huge pack as swiftly as possible.

Within a few minutes the group had dispersed and I spent the remainder of the swim clinging to the far buoys, since that’s where someone had told me yesterday would be the fast current. I’m not sure how true that statement was, but I felt fast right off the bat. I was told you could float the swim and finish in 45 minutes, and I 100% agree with that.

The current felt fast, but the conditions in the water were only subpar. The visibility in the water was awful – I could only see a few inches ahead of me at a time – and the seaweed got caught in my watch, wrist, and around my armpit.

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Because the swim was so fast, I felt really strong with my stroke. I counted out three strokes at a time and tried my best to sight with each breath. However, my sighting skills are terrible and I’m sure I was zigzagging the majority of the swim.

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My thoughts on the swim ranged anywhere from “I wonder what the girl next to me does for a living” to “Man, I’m too spoiled here – there’s no way I’m going to be able to do a full ironman on a real swim course that doesn’t have a current.” I have big dreams of doing an ironman one day, but a 2.4 mile swim? Not so much.

The end point came quickly and – before I knew it – I was fighting fellow competitors for a spot on the narrow ramp for my run to transition 1!

Final Swim Time: 31:22 (1.2mi) Pace: 1:39/ 100M <– wowza!

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Transition 1

Right out of the water I unzipped my suit and began pulling my arms out during my run up the path. At the top I was greeted by wetsuit strippers who instructed me to lay on my back with my toes in the air. Before I could say ‘strip me’ they had my suit completely off. I’m still in awe how quickly that happened!

My entire time in transition 1 was spent wondering how Kelly did. I looked near her rack, but couldn’t see her or tell if her bike was there or not. I stalled a little putting my gear on to see if Kelly was still coming up from the swim, but I never saw her so I figured she left for the bike.

Transition 1 was pretty simple. Since the run was on a paved sidewalk, my feet were pretty clean and just needed a dry rub with the towel, instead of a full dunk in water. I easily slipped my socks and cycling shoes on, stuffed a a few Chewy Bars in each of my tri pockets, put my helmet, Garmin, and racebelt on, and was good to go.

Transition 1 time: 5:35

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The Bike

I came into the bike prepared for the worst – sharp hills, steep climbs, and being passed every minute of the ride. Luckily, it wasn’t that bad at all. The hills were more of rolling hills and only required minimum gear changes. The bike is my weakest event (especially those darn hills), but I was proud when I discovered I could hold my own. Sure, I was passed A LOT, but I did some passing too. It was an even trade.

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Not even 2 miles into the ride we entered South Carolina and spent the remainder of the 56 miles there. I loved the wide country roads and beautiful green scenery. I also appreciated that it was a giant loop, instead of a double out and back.

There were plenty of helpful volunteers blocking the roads along the way and an aide station every 15 miles or so. I skipped the first one, grabbed a water to replace the bottle in my cage on the second, and grabbed a Ironman Powerade on the third, but only took a few sips before tossing it.

Fueling for the bike went better than I thought it would. I was scared I wouldn’t have enough calories, but it ended up being great. I took a Chewy Bar every 45 minutes (4 in total) and knocked back a 20 oz bottle of gatorade through the course of the ride. I was a little nervous when it came time to take the last Chewy Bar and my stomach wanted to reject it, but it ended up being fine.

At mile 16 I overheard a radio dispatcher say the last cyclist was at mile 5. That meant he was 11 miles behind me. Must. Pedal. Faster.

Mile 40 was when my rear end really began to reject the bike. Those last 16 miles couldn’t come fast enough! We passed a guy holding a sign ‘Go home. Get off our roads.’ which I thought was a joke at first. Basically he was standing in front of his front yard letting us know how much of a nuisance the cyclists are. Ummm… we’re in his way one morning of the year and bring a ton of business to the local economy. Get over it.

Once I hit mile 50 – I did a little happy dance for a PDR. I also did a happy dance for 6 miles left! Let me tell you, 6 miles left on a bike is a heck of a lot different than 6 miles left in a marathon!

We made it back to Georgia at mile 3 and took a series of downhills to the bike dismount. I finished knowing I couldn’t have asked for a better bike portion. No flat tires, no broken bike parts, and no crashes. Woo hoo!!!

Bike time: 3:38:47 (56 mi) Pace: 15.36 mph

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Transition 2

I dismounted my bike and raced as fast I could to my rack. The bike shoes came off, the running shoes came on, and I flipped my bib to the front. Once the helmet was removed (not sure why I did this last?) I was good to go!

Transition 2 Time: 2:56

The Run

The majority of the bike ride I was day dreaming about the run. This was my strength, this was what I did well, and I couldn’t wait to get my feet on the pavement and just go.

And go I did. My first mile was 8:28. Too fast.

I couldn’t help it. The run was a double loop around downtown Augusta and – where I was coming in – a lot of the male racers ahead of me were on their second loop and struggling. It felt so good to pass someone (anyone!) that I just took advantage and zoomed by.

Of course, it didn’t take long for it to catch up with me. By mile 2 I began to feel weaker and slowed down my speed a bit. I forgot to grab my Gu Chomps during transition (doh!) and decided to rely on aide stations for fuel. I took two water cups, one Powerade, and a couple of orange slices from each station. If I ever felt like that wasn’t enough, my plan was to go for the Powerade Gus being offered. Luckily, the Powerade and orange slices seemed to do the trick in fueling me for all 13.1 miles.

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By mile 3-ish the sun was beating down hard. I was hot, weak, and decided to implement the Galloway method if I was going to finish this race. I started running 3 minutes, walking 30 seconds, and somehow managed to keep up a 10 min/mile pace.

Just passed mile 4 I saw Ben on the other side of the street. He was on his second loop, a mile away from the finish, and still looking strong. Seeing him gave me a burst of energy I was desperately in need of.

At mile 6 – I saw Danielle.

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Finally someone to ask questions to! I was racking my brain about Kelly all day and wanted to know how she was doing. Danielle informed me she was a mile ahead and Ben was crossing the finish line. Yay!

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After that, it was a quick turn around the corner and I was passing the finish line (ugh!) and heading for my final loop around the course.

The streets that seemed so full on the first lap, now seemed empty and sad. Where did all the spectators go?! The clouds also moved in, creating a nice coverage of about 10 degree cooler temps. It rained a little, but that only added to the appeal of the clouds and the coolness they brought with them.

Just before mile 9 I saw something that looked like a mirage – I spotted Kelly. I was so excited that I began to gun it to her. The lady to the right was like ‘Dang girl, where is this energy coming from?!”

“That’s my sister up ahead, she’s my rabbit!”

My rabbit that pushes me like no other – I couldn’t believe I found her! We gave each other big hugs and immediately got all emotional over it. Kelly is BIG with motivational mantras and immediately started rattling off why we deserved to finish this strong – I love her.

I told her how my running 3 minutes and walking 30 seconds was working for me and she immediately agreed to give it a try. We decided to finish this race together – just like we started it.

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Running with Kelly was great! We pushed each other through each running segment and filled each other in on our own experience with the race thus far during the walking breaks. It was nice to play catch up before the race was even over.

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The last half of the race flew by thanks to my sister. I’m not sure I would have finished without her! At one point Kelly told me we could get sub-6:30 if we kept at the same pace we were doing – I didn’t want to get my hopes up by believing her!

Once we got to mile 1.5 it became this big countdown. Kelly and I kept trading back and forth ‘We’re going to do this! We’re going to become half ironmen!’ It was very emotional pushing it through to the end.

With a half a mile left, we gave it all we had in us. The finish line was in our eyesight and we could taste it!

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We gave it everything we had and SPRINTED to the end.

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We. Are. Half. Ironman.

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Run time: 2:11:17 (13.1 mi)

RUN SPLIT 1: 6.55 mi 6.55 mi (1:00:24) 9:13/mi
RUN SPLIT 2: 13.1 mi 6.55 mi (1:10:53) 10:49/mi

Total time: 6:27:57 <—!!!!!!!!

Note the face when I realized we hit sub – 6:30;)

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I didn’t know whether to cry, laugh, or scream when we finished. It was an incredible rush of emotion from training for so long and wanting this so bad – it was a runner’s high like no other! Finishing with my sister was just icing on the cake!

If Ben hadn’t challenged Kelly and I to this back in January, I’m not sure I would have done it, but I’m so happy I did. I freakin’ did a HALF IRONMAN today!! How crazy is that?!

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The pain didn’t set in until I started standing still and then it was just my legs cramping. My goal was to keep moving and not stand in one place for too long. Honestly, the pain after finishing a marathon is much worse. This was very mild in comparison.

We worked our way through the food tent and grabbed a cold pizza to share.

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I had a slice straight from the box.

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I also grabbed a Mix1 for the road. (they were handing them out for free in the finish line recovery area)

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We had zero problems getting back to our car, but -since the race was still going on – we had to walk the 1.2 miles back to the transition area to grab out stuff, then ride out bikes back to the car with all our gear. Not cool.

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The walk there wasn’t bad, but the ride back was filled with rain. We were also all starving and in need of a real meal before hitting the road.

I ran by Nacho Mama’s twice today and it was the only thing I was craving at the moment.

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The table split a ginormous thing of cheesy nachos (yum!)

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And I had a pork and roasted potato taco (also, yum!)

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The bummer part came when we had to immediately jump back in the car and drive the 6 hour ride home following dinner. It sucks, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

And I’m pretty sure none of us will have any problems catching some Zzzzs in the back.

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Good Night, Ben!

Can I just wrap this post up by sending a huge shout of THANKS to Danielle?!

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This weekend she was our cheerleader, our photographer, our tweeter, and our number on best friend. She rocks and I can’t wait to cheer her on at her own 70.3 in the very near future!! ;)

Thank you Danielle! We all heart you!!!

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