This past weekend was one of the two A+ races I had on my calendar this fall. Its crazy to think about this but I haven’t had a race I really cared about like this since February. The big one, still to come, is of course Ironman Florida but Ironman Augusta 70.3 has long been in my sights. Last summer when I first heard about this race, I decided then that I had to do this half-Ironman race. I’ve had my heart set on this race for over a year and I can happily say that it did not dissapoint in any way.
First, before I left, Melanie helped me pack before the race and I was 100% prepared for race day. She couldn’t make it to the race but making sure I was prepared might have been the most important part of the weekend. What more can you ask for than doing a race with all of your friends? This is by far the largest group of people I’ve ever attended a race with and was only missing Melanie. We were at the site all day on Saturday and were able to do tons of things like hit the expo at our leisure, do a practice swim in the river and have a relaxing meal. We were probably a little more active than we should have been the day before a major race but with so many people there, it was hard not to be! After a 16 person feast at Carrabas (where we had service that was excellent!) it was time to get down to business and Hugo and I hit the hotel room to pack our race day bags. This was where disaster nearly struck for Hugo since he had forgotten his bike shoes. If you don’t read that blog, in summary…it worked out. But go read that one because sometimes things don’t go right on race day and its good to remember that you should always try and make the best of it if it’s a major event.
Swim – 1.2 Miles
The Augusta swim was everything I could have dreamed and hoped for. Seriously. 1.2 miles downstream with a fairly strong current. The water was pretty clear and I could see the bottom. The wave start meant I was able to have some space (though a few girls in the wave behind me decided that the space I was using in the river was to be their space. Seriously if you’re in open water, don’t swim over other people. And yes, there is no doubt it was intentional.) I got out of the water feeling fresher than I’d ever felt after a race swim!
Bike – 56 miles
Since I’m training for Florida, I didn’t expect to have any trouble with a rolling, 56 mile bike ride. As my wave started nearly last I did have the pleasure of passing people basically for 3 straight hours. Definitely a morale booster passing people who started an hour or more before you. The course was a little windy and mostly uphill on the way out which meant on the way back it was mostly downhill with a tailwind. That is almost definitely a once in a lifetime occurance (most bike rides seem to manage a headwind both ways!) I didn’t set any landspeed records on the bike but I finished comfortably with an 18.2 mph average that I was extremely pleased with. The course overall was very well supported and absolutely beautiful farm country for the most part. I’ve been training on the same 50 mile stretch of paved trail next to a highway in Tampa for months and having such a beautiful change of pace reminded me why I love riding long bike rides. Also, thank you USAT for the 5 times I saw race monitors going after people drafting. Most times I’ve seen that in a race and drafting is such a pet peeve of mine. Stop cheating! 8)
Run – 13.1 miles
Once I got off the bike and saw my elapsed race time was 3:45 I knew that could almost walk the next 13.1 miles to a PR. And there was no plan to do that. I’ve been struggling this summer with run pacing and I think I’ve lost a little speed on my way to Ironman (which is ok…I need endurance) but with all that, I was pretty confident going into the run that I could have at least a somewhat decent time. I was really hoping for a 10:00 – 10:30 average pace which I did not hit but I felt as long as I kept my time under 2:30 I would be disappointed with my run performance. So I had my slowest half marathon in years with a 2:28 finish which is 30 minutes slower than any half marathon I’ve run this year. But it came at the tail end of a half Ironman! I am really quite happy with that time and I know where I can work to improve my race right now. My main issue was that I was on the verge of cramping the whole time but I powered my way (carefully) through it.
As far as the course itself went, it was a great little run course. It was a loop that switched back on itself several times. The best part of this was the fact that it made the run very spectator friendly. There was a pretty big crowd out for the race. Nothing like the Baltimore races I’ve done but by far the biggest triathlon crowd I’ve ever seen. The locals seemed to really embrace the event. The only evil side of this was that you did run by the finish line 4 times before you got to go across. Though because of this I actually heard them announce when Hugo was finishing.
Post Race – 70.3 Done!
Augusta is, without a doubt, the best race experience I’ve had by a country mile. The town greeted us with true Southern hospitality and the WTC really knows how to organize an event like its their business (oh wait…it is 8) ). Everyone had an awesome weekend, raced hard and had fun. My overall time of 6:18 is a full 50 minutes faster than my first 70.3 which is quite an incredible improvement. I felt like I didn’t leave anything out on the course while at the same time, I feel like I know exactly how I can get better at this distance. I also have to give a shout out to my friend Susan who came up to watch and was all over the course cheering and taking pictures of all of us. On to Ironman Florida!