Water temperature of 78 degrees...no wetsuit!
First river swim!
Longest no-wetsuit open water swim!
First armadillo sighting!
First catfish farm sighting!
Successfully drank enough water on bike!
Broke the ultimate rule of race day...twice!
Longest run ever!
First half marathon!
Discovered an allergy!
Made fun of tired volunteers!
FIRST HALF IRONMAN!
Last Training Block (4 weeks)
2 Weeks Overreach
For overreach, I had little to no idea of what I was doing or how I would feel. I was told it would be fatiguing, obviously, but figuring out how much fatigue was too much fatigue was one giant experiment. I decided to stick to the training plan and back off if needed. I did skip one day of lifting sometime during overreach and replaced jump squats with regular squats to reduce impact on my knees.
On September 10th, the last day of overreach, I was scheduled to do a long brick (35-40 mile bike and 7-8 mile run). I made plans to do this workout in a different county, since I had ridden pretty much every road I wanted to ride in my home county over the past few months. I met up with a cycling buddy for a beautiful 35 miles ride and planned to run at least 7 miles afterwards. I bonked really, really hard on the run and ended up getting in about 5.5 miles before calling it quits, knowing I did not want to go into my two weeks of taper over-fatigued. Lessons learned from this tough brick were that I needed better sleep the night before, needed to hydrate more on the bike, needed to eat more before the bike and during the bike, and that I needed to train more for running in high temperatures.
2 Weeks Taper
Taper was also an experiment. I was told that "things would come together during taper." After an active recovery day on September 11th with some pretty significant fatigue and frustration from the tough brick the day before, I felt pretty good on week one of taper and stuck to the training plan. During a short brick on September 17th, I had some shortness of breath, which I attributed to damp air. During week two of taper, I felt terrible. I felt fatigued and grumpy and also had shortness of breath and high heart rate during cardio workouts that week. PMS is a cruel mistress, my friends. I also suspect that my body may have preferred a shorter taper block, but who knows. I think it was a combination of work stress, life stress, PMS, immune release following a deep tissue massage, and cardio withdrawal. During this time, I read an article about the mental exhaustion of taper and found it to be very true. Doubts start to creep in because, if you're not ready, it's too late. I slept a lot, stuck to the training plan, began increasing my calorie intake on Thursday, prepped pasta for carb-loading, packed on Thursday evening, went to bed early on Friday, and woke up early on Saturday to travel to Georgia.
I left home around 4:45am and arrived in Augusta shortly before 9:00am. I was grumpy and crampy. Mom and dad arrived shortly after and we went together to a very well-organized and busy athlete check-in. Ironman 70.3 Augusta is one of the largest, if not the largest Ironman 70.3 races in the world; capped at 3500 participants. We attended mandatory athlete briefing at 10:00am and then drove a few miles down the road to the transition area. I met up with some triathlete friends from Tennessee before going for a short warm-up ride around town. Still dealing with grumpy-cramps, I instantly felt better as soon as I clipped in and started pedaling. I rode for about 30 minutes and maintained a low heartrate. I returned to the transition area, left my bike on its designated rack space, and walked through transition to get a sense of my rack location for swim-bike and bike-run transitions. I let air out of my tires in anticipation of temperature change throughout the rest of the day. Someone who raced Ironman Chattanooga the same day said he heard a lot of tires popping on Saturday due to the high temperature. After bike check-in, we returned to the hotel and met up with my friends from Tennessee who had traveled to spectate and went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant. Then it was back to the hotel to repack for race day and go to bed early. The sofa bed had a hole at the foot of it, so I warned mom that I would move to their bed if I fell through the mattress frame during the night. I slept peacefully without incident.
I woke up around 4:15am, packed some breakfast (2 hard boiled eggs and a bagel), and left with mom and dad around 5:00am. We parked near transition so that I could go in for body marking and transition set-up. A volunteer wrote my race number on both of my arms and my age on my left calf, which mom said looked more like 85 than 25. I thought it looked like 05. I set up my transition area and double checked my supplies, mentally picturing T1 and T2. The official announcement was made that the water temperature in the Savannah River was a toasty 78 degrees, so no wetsuits. I ate my two eggs and we walked back to the car to find parking closer to the swim start. I released some tension from feeling overwhelmed by crying for a few minutes and ate my bagel. We parked near swim start and had a nice restroom and coffee provided by St. Paul's Episcopal Church. The first racers were in the water at 7:30am and I had an hour and fourteen minutes to wait before my wave began. I stretched, went to the restroom, changed my tampon, and got in line with my wave at 8:30am.
My wave started at 8:44am. I got to the front of the line so that I could go to the end of the dock toward the center of the river and left-most side of the swim area, in order to be in the strongest current area. Walking across the slippery floating dock was scarier than the swim itself, other than the bundles of prickly seaweed that whacked me in the face and draped across my throat and threatened to choke me. I saw a few leaves that looked like fishes. Or maybe they were fishes. I got water in my nose once, which has happened during a few recent open water swims. Afterwards, it takes me a few breaths to get back into rhythm. I stuck to my alternating breathing pattern and did not work too hard. Thanks, current! At one point, I saw a pair of face-up floating feet looking very dead and was quite startled until I realized she was doing a lazy backstroke. So, thanks, lady, for giving me a small heart attack. I went to the left of one channel buoy in order to avoid hitting it head-on. Swim exits are probably my least favorite part of open water swims, second only to anxious thoughts about vicious aquatic creatures. The last few meters feel the slowest and continuing to swim while not knowing how shallow it will become or how quickly is very disorienting. I made it out, there were no strippers because there were no wetsuits, and I saw mom and dad at swim exit.
Division rank: 39
After a long jog to my bicycle, I greeted Leo Lady by calling her "beautiful bicycle." My transition neighbor thought I meant her bicycle and I did not correct her. I put gels, bloks, and a tampon in my pocket and picked up my bagels with peanut butter to put in my other pocket. An ant colony had set up camp in one of the bagel baggies, so I left that one and took the other. I ate a handful of trail mix and grabbed my bike off the rack.
I saw my parents on bike out and settled in to take it easy for the first portion before any climbing.During the first few miles, I saw my first armadillo roadkill. I learned that I had never learned where armadillos live naturally. I felt good and stable and kept a nice pace and a low RPE for the first 15 or so miles and continued feeling good through mile 30 or so. It was neat to be a part of a group of thousands of cyclists with 6 bike-lengths between. Cyclists as far as the eye could see; the biggest non-drafting group ride ever. The rid was well-supported by volunteers and law enforcement officers, which made the miles fun. I saw one "wreck" during a climb: a woman laying in the lane with two others stopped to help. I suspect either poor gearing and/or overlapped wheels. I saw a catfish farm at one point. And I leapfrogged a nice gentleman named Todd a few times. I would catch him on climbs and he would catch me on descents. At aid station 1, I threw away my empty water bottle and grabbed a new water bottle while riding. At aid station 2, I stopped for a moment and grabbed a citrus gel, a new water, and a bottle of Gatorade Endurance. I had been training with regular Gatorade, but not the endurance formula, so I broke the ultimate rule of racing by trying something new. It worked out fine. Around mile 35, my feet started burning really bad. I have either gotten taller and/or my posture has changed since I've started lifting and I need to invest in a full bike fit in the near-future. I considered stopping to stretch and was given encouragement by a guy with a fancy bike said "I know" when I told him my feet were burning. I figured if fancy-bike-guy's feet are also burning and he's continuing on, so can I. I decided to stop at aid station 3 to stretch and have a potty/tampon break. I ate my bagel before aid station 3 and that helped, as well. At aid station 3, I racked my bike, peed and changed my tampon, stretched for a few minutes, refreshed my water and dumped one bottle on my head and face, and picked up a pack of citrus bloks. I biked the rest of the way feeling pretty good, passed Todd one last time at bike in, and saw my parents again.
Pace: 15.84 mph
Division Rank: 43
I jogged back to my rack spot; racked my bike; and put on fresh socks, my running shoes, my hat, and my race belt. I jogged to a volunteer to get sprayed with sunscreen before heading out. As I ran up to him, my brain said "sunscreen, please," but what came out of my mouth was complete gibberish. He stared at me blankly as I tried again: "I can't even talk. Can I have some sunscreen?" I didn't wait long enough to have him spray my back well and did end up getting some burn during the run.
I saw my parents at run out and was immediately cooking in the direct sun. I planned to run 15 minute intervals and walk 1 minute intervals and rapidly realized this was far too ambitious. I heard a girl say she was doing 4/1 intervals and I decided to do 5/1 intervals after triple-checking my math to make sure I could still finish under my goal of 7:30:00. The first 2-mile stretch of the run was a long straightaway with zero shade. I bonked pretty hard around mile 2.5, stopped to cry for a moment, recommitted to 5/1 intervals, got into a rhythm, and quickly hit 4 miles. I saw mom and dad 3 times during the run, drank water at every aid station and dumped water on my upper body. I ran or walked extra as I was able to or needed to. I peed around mile 5.5 and rejoiced that I was well-hydrated. At some point, I started carrying a cup for ice to keep me cool and for extra hydration between aid stations. I wish I would have taken a bottle with me to carry to maintain more hydration between aid stations. Around mile 8, I hollered to a nearby volunteer if his volunteer-friend who was lounging in the shade was tired. Around mile 10.5, I ate the citrus Clif Shot I had grabbed at an aid station on the bike route and discovered that I was allergic to one of the ingredients. Trying something new during the race worked for me once, but a second time was apparently pushing my luck. It was a mild reaction, just inflammation on the roof of my mouth, which I've had before from certain barbecue sauces. I wouldn't have minded so much if that flavor wasn't SO delicious. I drank some Coke and some Red Bull at some point. Around mile 11.8, I cried as I passed nearby the finish area, feeling surreal pride for my body and willpower. I considered stopping for a second pee break, but only had a short distance remaining. I rand my last 0.5 hard while crying, crossed the finish line, and cry-hugged the volunteer who placed the finisher medal around my neck.
Division rank: 43
Overall Time: 7:18:10
Division Rank: 43 out of 59
Gender Rank: 624 out of ???
Overall Rank: 1810 out of 2568
Who knows. One thing I do know is that no one warned me about the emotional fall-out following the end of a season. My training plan, workouts, and calorie intake have been a huge priority since February. Mental preparation began even before that, with registering for the race and training for and running a 10k in January. The end of this season has felt like the end of a relationship.
In the immediate future, I will be racing a Sprint distance triathlon with my mom this upcoming Sunday, which will be her longest triathlon to date, as well as her first open water swim competition.
I'm mostly recovered and went for a nice ride this morning. I have some lingering pain and tightness in my right ankle, which is likely related to overuse from the race.
On October 15th, I'll be doing the 40-mile White Squirrel Cycling Classic, which I thought was considered a race, but is not. I may ride it like a race.
For next year...I'm fairly undecided. I'm open to doing another 70.3, likely Augusta again. I will definitely continue racing Sprint and Olympic distances, probably forever. I would like to upgrade my wheels and get some aero bars. It will soon be time for new running shoes. I've played around with the idea of testing out a cyclocross race here or there. And maybe I'll be totally crazy and do a 144.6 in the next year or two. Who knows.