Friday, September 30, 2011

The Strippers and such of Augusta 70.3

It's been 5 days since race day and I can say my legs feel good and tomorrow they will feel excellent.  I don't have an option as I am racing the Giant Acorn International tomorrow - I just couldn't let the season end, it went by way to fast.  Recovery week has involved some easy swims, a longer swim, and some short elliptical and core strengthening sessions along with ice, Advil, and chocolate milk.

DAY 1 - Friday
In my mind Augusta 70.3 started on Friday.  I had to catch a 6am flight to Atlanta and once there head out on the drive over to Augusta.  In wasn't a bad trip and I was able to catch some zzzz's on the plane.  Once in Augusta we discovered our hotel was not in an ideal location to the race site, but nothing we could do about it at that point.  We headed out to the host hotel on the river for packet pick up and a course briefing.  As we got to the downtown Augusta area there were triathletes everywhere!  It was pretty awesome.  We found some free parking and headed on in.  By now, as expected, it seems Ironman has this down to a science.  Stop at this table get this, go to the next table sign that, on and on until you had your race numbers, timing chip , and shirt and voila you emptied out right into the offical Ironman merchandise store.  How ideal.  I had never gotten my chip previous to race day so that was something new and interesting.  Apparently they are 1 time use chips - though mine appeared a bit dirty.  Once they gave it to you one of the stops you had to make was to get it activated which took about 1 second.  Ryan and I scooped up some merchandise at the store, including visors for the run portion of the race before heading outside to walk along the river before the course briefing.  The river looked nice and we could look down and see the swim start and some fellow athletes jumping in for a practice swim.  We stopped for some pictures and a break near a fountain and we were soon interrupted by a reporter from a local Augusta newspaper.  She asked us all sorts of questions and I was quoted the next morning in her article on the front page.  

We made it back just in time for the course briefing to start - and to our surprise it was the same guy that does the course briefing at Nation's and probably 90% of the larger races in the US...what a life.  At least we knew it wouldn't be dull.  I am definitely glad we went to the briefing as we learned about wetsuit 'strippers', water bottle handoffs, drop zones, and the penalty tent.  We weren't too concerned with the penalty tent but the moving water bottle handoffs on the bike and the drop zones spiked my blood pressure just a bit.  A moving water bottle handoff is not something you really practice, or at least I never have.  It is exactly as it sounds.  You ride to the right side of the road and there are a bunch of volunteers holding our water, Ironman Perform, Gel, bananas, etc. and you take what you need as you ride by.  The drop zone was right before and after the aid stations to drop trash, water bottles, etc.  I was most concerned about getting the water, dumping it into my aerobottle, and dropping it before the drop zone ended or else risking a penalty.  Once explained a few times my nerves were calmed and I was confident I could handle as such things.  The 'strippers' on the other were quite the pleasant surprise.  As we ran from the water toward T1 there was an area of carpeting right before the transition area where you could lie down and the 'strippers' would pull your wetsuit off in about 5 seconds.  Awesomesauce!
DAY 2 - Saturday
We had an easy going day on Saturday and headed to mall in the AM to do a little shopping and keep our legs moving.  I was even able to find a dress from Express to wear to my BFF's wedding next weekend.  I got a hold of our friend Wyatt while we were out and about to see if we could catch up, and catch up we did.   He is in school in Augusta and lives in a nice house not far from the race site so he invited us over for a football shindig in the afternoon.  After malling it up it was time to get back to race business for a little bit.  We went to a local bike shop to get Ryan some new tri shorts as his ripped during Nation's and were sent back in hopes of a new pair.  The bike shop was bouncing with triathletes, mostly whom had last minute bike issues.  After finding some shorts we headed down to the transition area to rack our bikes.  I was blessed with an awesome bike rack spot again!  2 spots in on the rack next to the main aisle.  Nice. I figured out the logistics of the transition area and practice running in and out to and fro the bike a couple times.  We took a little walk down the river back towards the car and assessed the current.  It didn't look too strong but strong enough to be helpful come Sunday morning.

After taking care of the race business we headed over to Wyatt's house. We had a nice visit complete with plenty of veggies, dip, and all the cookies Wyatt could ever want.  We even convinced him to come out to the finish line the following day!  I had previously scoped out our dinner options and knew there was an Olive Garden in town.  I know it may not be real "Italian" but it's good, it works with my stomach on race day, and I love the salad.  We had to wait about 40 minutes for a table as apparently Olive Garden was a popular choice among the endurance athletes in town and the locals celebrating birthdays.  We carb loaded to our heart's content on pasta, bread sticks and salad before heading across town back to the hotel for the night.  We were able to get the car packed, be race ready, and get to bed by about 9:30 since we would be up at 4:30 on race morning.

Wake up came early but we were ready!  I was quickly out of bed and changing into race gear.  I had been wavering all day Saturday as to what in the world I was going to wear.  It was time to decide so the DC tri top with the long tri shorts it was.  I had my usual breakfast of champions...Special K Red Berries with banana and almond milk before heading out the door.  We were warned repeatedly at the course breifing to have a parking plan.  So we did and executed perfectly.  We parked near the host hotel and took the shuttle down to the transition area.  There were plenty of shuttles coming and going so we didn't have to wait on a shuttle just waited a few minutes to get everyone boarded and we even met some nice guys with an inside scoop on the course.

We got to the transition area with plenty of time to setup and inflate our bike tires.  There were plenty of port-o-john's near my transition spot making my morning bathroom stop super easy and early enough before a line formed or toilet paper ran out.  Lesson learned by watching others - play it safe and bring your own TP to large races to avoid not having any.  Once Ryan and I were both done setting up we got body marked, I donned my black armband, and headed out of transition with our morning clothes bag.  We were given a plastic bag with our race # on it to carry around anything we may need in morning and at the finish line.  This was ideal for me as I had to wait more than an hour after Ryan started for my wave to start.  I took my body glide, power bar, and and clothes for post race including recovery socks in my bag.  We boarded another shuttle up the road 1.2 miles to the swim start.  Once dropped off we scoped out a restroom for Ryan.  Lines were forming at these, but they had enough to keep the wait down.  We then sat for a little but, got my wetsuit on and dropped off our morning bags before heading to the start corrals.  Ryan went out into the sea of athletes to catch up with his start wave and I stayed along the river to watch the pros and cheer on Ryan.  As a stood along the river watching wave after wave start I started to get a little nervous but mostly excited.  

THE SWIM - 1.2 Miles - 29:31
My swim wave was towards the end, but not the last one which was a nice change of pace.  We were shuffled along in line until finally we were in the corral watching the wave ahead of us start.  As they started they opened the gate and let us begin the walk down the dock.  We got to the starting point and mostly everyone jumped in the water.  The water was a bit chilly and I warmed myself up a bit, if ya know what I mean.  The current made staying behind the starting buoy's a bit of a challenge.  Alas, the horn sounded and we were off.  The course was a straight 1.2 miles down the river.  With such a course it seemed there was much less swimming over each other and hitting each other which was quite nice.  I put my head down and swam.  I felt like I was flying with the current helping me out!  There was a few spots of seaweed that got tangled on my arms but I just kept swimming and they fell off eventually.  Before I knew it I was at the exit ramp.  I saw many people walking so I thought I too would stand up and begin walking out of the water...but not so fast apparently these people were taller than me because I couldn't touch.  I kept swimming which was probably to my benefit as I was passing the walkers.

T1 - 3:47
Wetsuit 'strippers' were a huge success.  I layed down, put my feet up and a 'stripper' grabbed each leg and off with the westuit.  Had to be less than 5 seconds.  No time wasted in transition by wearing the wetsuit.  The rest of transition was pretty uneventful  Ran in, put on helmet and sunglasses, socks and shoes and oh yeah the race number belt - with number in back.  Unlike smaller races Ironman requires you wear a number on your back during the bike.  A race number belt makes this easy by allowing you to put it on for the bike and only twist it around for the run.  I ran out of transition and a few steps past the mount line before getting on the bike.  

THE BIKE - 56 miles - 2:47:53
An awesome ride.  I felt great the entire way.  I did not execute my nutrition plan exactly as I had planned.  I planned on a Gel around mile 10-12, a Bar around mile 30-35, and another gel around mile 50.  I got down 2 gels and about 1/2 (not even) of the bar.  I was too preoccupied with how much fun the course was.  I was able to drink 2 aerobottles full of water and almost an entire bottle of Heed - but should probably drink more.  The course was fast with some rolling hills.  If you are used to riding on very flat roads you may think that there were a couple of 'climbs' but nothing compared to Skyline Drive or even the Luray bike course.  The course was not completely closed to traffic but the lanes we were in were completely blocked off and volunteers and police at every intersection.  Not too a long ago a local man was in a fatal cycling collision with a motor vehicle while training on the course.  We road past a large white cross with flowers and I could only assume it was for him.  I shed some tears for him and my dad - may they ride on in the heavens together!  Most of the bike course actually took place in South Carolina and was quite pretty with only a stretch of not so smooth road.  Locals sat at the end of their long drive ways and cheered us on as we road by.  One local even had nothing better to do than to stand at the end of his drive way yelling some incoherent trash while holding a sign that said 'Get off the Road, Go Home'.  He wasn't too keen on the influx of athletes to his homeland, I can only hope no athlete gave him the time of day to render a reaction.  The moving water bottle hand-offs went as smooth as I could have possibly hoped for with plenty of time to fill my aerobottle before the drop zone.  I chose not to take any nutrition from the aid stations as I thought my plan was A-OK, I think next time I'll take 1/2 a banana or something.  I cruised along and was soon headed back in to Georgia and on my way back to transition.  My legs were starting to feel a bit tired but I had made it - no accidents, no flats, no issues and soon enough I'd be running.

T2 - 1:34
A rather uneventful T2.  I noticed no other bikes back at my rack or the racks around mine.  Nice, I thought just run your race and just run fast enough so no one catches you.  Well that was the plan at least.  I had previously figured myself capable of running a 1:50-1:55 13.1 - completely doable on a running day.  I changed my shoes, headed out of transition and onto the run course.

THE RUN - 13.1 Miles - 2:17:35
I started out with my legs feeling heavy but figured it would pass as they always feel a bit heavy at the beginning of the run.  The first mile seemed to take forever - I just wanted to pass an aid station have get some water.  I kept on trucking and at mile 2.5 took my first gel.  I was told there would be aid stations every mile - didn't seem to be quite every mile and I was disappointed.  Some spectators were familiar with DC Tri and gave me a good hollar as a passed by - that was a good lift me up for a bit.  I took another gel around mile 5.  My stomach started to turn, I started getting chills and thought I can't take anymore gels so I thought it would be a good idea to not take anymore gels and just take water, ice, and Ironman Perform at the aid stations.  Warning: Don't make nutritional decisions during the race - stick to the plan.  I saw a couple girl pass me during the first loop that were in my age group.  They were running great, let them go and concentrate on your race.  The 2nd loop didn't seem as bad but the decision the abort the gel intake cost me. I was much slower and got caught by another age grouper.  Ryan's parents and sister were along the run course to cheer us on which was very nice.  By the time I was on the course running the weather was hot and the sun had been out.  The run course was slightly shaded and during my 2nd loop some cloud cover offered some welcome relief.  Alas the finish chute was upon me.  I picked up the pace as much as I could and crossed the line with my arms up and celebratory fashion.  The young volunteers at the finish line seemed overwhelmed.  I stumpled a couple steps as my quads wanted nothing to do with support any amount of weight.  I got my finisher's medal and hat and headed on to find Ryan.  
We met up with his parents and said goodbye before picking up our morning bags and getting in line for pizza and other food.  No chocolate milk!?! You have got to be kidding me.  I would have really enjoyed a large bottle of chocolate milk at that point.  I slowly got down a slice of cheese pizza and 1/2 an orange as Ryan and I waited under the shelter of the food tent for Wyatt.  The skies had open up and a large storm was looming.  We heard word they might close the course for safety - what a bummer if you were almost done running and they closed the course - but they didn't!  We checked the results and got on our way to get out of the rain.

Loved the experience of racing an official M-dot event.  Well run and the weather was almost perfect.  I realize now that I didn't train for the race I had hoped for.  My longest ride was 50 miles and not near the intensity I rode during the race.  This is what cost me on the run.  I need to get my cycling legs used to longer distances at race pace - or slow race pace down, but is that really an option.  I'm glad I now have my first 70.3 under my belt and learned some valuable lessons before tackling 140.6, because who know that might be in the works ;)  I finished 6th in my age group - 3 seconds behind 5th - the last podium place.  Very frustrating but I need to be smarter about my training on the bike and how hard I push my race pace as well as sticking to the nutrition plan.  Had I got down a couple more Gels during the run it could have been a different result.  I can't let that undermine the success I did have - a great swim, a great bike, smooth transitions and overall a good rookie 70.3!

Holli Finneren

270524Lake Orion MI USAStudent

TOTAL SWIM1.2 mi. (29:31)1:33/100m139714

TOTAL BIKE56 mi. (2:47:53)20.01 mph9213

RUN SPLIT 1: 6.55 mi6.55 mi (1:01:06)9:19/mi
RUN SPLIT 2: 13.1 mi6.55 mi (1:16:29)11:40/mi
TOTAL RUN13.1 mi (2:17:35)10:30/mi9096

1 comment:

  1. Hmmm ... good to read this. I'm trying to decide if I want to do Augusta or Poconos this fall.