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Ironman 70.3 Augusta 2017: The Swim Bike Mom Race Report

I am at a loss for words on my fourth Augusta 70.3 experience.

Augusta Through the Years! Scroll to the bottom of the post for prior race reports.

(Long pause… okay, nah. I am never at a loss for words.)

As I scooted down the last two miles of the course, I was overwhelmed with this amazing sense of peace and happiness, because I was certain it would be my last 70.3 race.

(Of course, the feelings during a race never really pan out to action.)

I do think it will be my last Augusta–at least for a while–because I have to ask myself the question: what else do you want to get out of Ironman 70.3 Augusta?  My answer: nada.  I think I have squeezed out every bit of hope, happiness, hard work, grit, disappointment and emotion out of Augusta, Georgia across 70.3 miles–in more ways than one.

I decided to participate in Augusta about 6 weeks before race day–which was a questionable idea, I knew it, and my coach (bless him) knew it.  But I knew I needed to race.  As Gerry always says, “I hate to present you with the facts, but…” … the truth was, I hadn’t swam but 1-2 times since May and biked a half-dozen (maybe), and never more than 2 hours. Wait, I may have done one three-hour ride.

But I had been marathon training and strength training, so my fitness was fine–but my swim and bike fitness was on the weak side.

[Sidebar:  so I’m not just a lazy POS regarding the swim and bike.  The car accident from 2015 has cost me some decent neck damage, plus revealed a C4 bulging disc and a bone spur, which causes numbness from the shoulder to the fingertips when I swim (as I sit here typing with a cold, dead right hand—from the race on Sunday).  So swimming 3 times a week is not as much of an option for me.  Riding the bike isn’t the most pleasant training experience either.]

Regardless, I wanted to get back on a course and redeem my 2016 race in Augusta–not necessarily in finish time, but in head-space.

Pre-Race

As I packed, I knew I had to be forgetting something. It had been a while since I had packed for a race, and once you are accustomed to packing for Ironman, it seems like you are always forgetting something at a shorter distance.

The Expert and kiddos and I headed to Augusta on Friday–which was a last minute decision. We usually go up on Saturday (race is Sunday)… and this was so much better. Having a full day to relax and do all the things took some of the pressure off–and kept the nagging/bickering that tends to happen under stress at bay.

On Saturday, my favorite boy pro triathlete, Andy Potts, came to visit our group picture. No big deal.

AHhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!

I had told the group that I had hoped to have a special guest come.  And well, he did not disappoint.

Someone in the group photo said, “Meredith, you better not be grabbing Andy.”

I said, “I have an appropriate distance!”

Then Andy jokingly hugged me, and that is when this picture was taken.

#notanappropriatedistance

Then we have the group dab.

Stella (the resident photog) said, “Now everyone DAB!”  And everyone did.

(No one argues with that little gal.)

So thank you to Andy Potts for making a very happy group of Swim Bike Moms and Best Tri Club Ever members very happy.

(You can follow Andy on Facebook and Instagram. He is a great ambassador for the sport and a really nice guy.)

Race Morning

I love race mornings. I like the butterflies, the sleepy-eyes, the race morning poop (thank you, Jesus!).  All good things.

The Expert and Swim Bike Nap and I rode to transition and then settled in to the morning.  Expert and SBN were heading off about an hour before me.  They were fighting for the “Title Belt,” which I will need a whole entire blog post to discuss the Middle-Aged Iron Wars that happens between those two guys.

#CarryOn

Race Strategy

Okay, so I snickered a little writing this header. Oh the irony. But there should always be a strategy–even if it’s just to have a good time.

SO, my big task at hand for this race was to remember that my “A” race was four-weeks away as a pusher at Marine Corps Marathon with my friend, Logan. 

Racing smart and having a good time was the name of the game.

Swim

The river was too warm for wetsuit legal, but remained wetsuit optional.  I am not one to love my wetsuit anyway, so optional did not apply to me.

  • First Timer Augusta 70.3 Tip: You can’t always guarantee a wetsuit legal swim or a super fast river in Augusta. 

The boys were off, and I waited for my wave.

I saw this girl at the swim start–Naomi, one of the athletes with the Kyle Pease Foundation–I got the biggest hug from this sweet girl as we were walking to the dock.  Made. My. Morning.

The water was chilly when I jumped in. I immediately took care of nerves with my 15 second panic cure.

[Sidebar:  How to execute the “15 Second Panic Cure”
– put face in the water and forcefully push out all the air in lungs underwater; 
– head up, take a deep breath;
– head back in the water, repeat 2-3 more times.

This prevents the hyperventilation that is caused by short, panicky breaths.  Try it if the cold water gets you, when you feel panicked or fearful.

The first moment is hard, but repeatedly forcing the breath out is a life-saver.

Then when the swim starts, focus on breathing out fully in the water, and within a minute or two, you should be good.  (Of course, if not, find a kayak, float on your side or back, or breast-stroke until you are calm.)]

Two words for this swim:  river grass. 

At one point, I had put my arms through a river grass sweater… and I was wearing it.

I worked to stay calm and not over-rotate my neck on the swim. I knew that I needed to take care of my neck if I wanted to have a decent bike and not feel like death for the rest of the week.

I followed a lot of bubbles instead of sighting, knowing that I might would be swimming all sorts of directions.  But I didn’t want to put the added strain on my neck.

I enjoyed the swim, and at one point I actually said, “Okay, I think I could do an Ironman swim right now.”

[What in the hell…  insanity abounds.]

Regardless, I was out of the water in 33 minutes, and I was just fine with that.

(Sort of makes ya question allllll that swimming from the prior year to just make up 2 minutes in the race time in 2016…  I might be falling into the Rich Roll camp on swimming theory. )

T1

As I ran up to my bike to put on my shoes, I thought:  Well, there are the things I forgot to pack!

I usually have a small washcloth or hand towel in transition to stand on or wipe my feet before putting on my socks and bike shoes. Alternatively, I might havea bottle of plain water to squirt on my feet–just something to get the goop from running through transition off my feet.

Both hand towel and bottle of water were missing, and my feet were covered in sand, dirt and grass. Ughhhh.  I had nothing to use to wipe or rinse them, so I just shoved my dirt-caked, wet feet into my socks.  That was a first.

Huh, I thoughtthat’s not so bad.  And it wasn’t.

Bike

I thought I’d include these first timer tips for heading out on the bike: 

  • Walk your bike to the mount line, but do NOT block the mount line. Take your bike 10-15 feet past the mount line, go to the far right (near the barricades) and take your time straddling your bike.  Look behind you, and make sure you are clear before you go.  Yes, you might have to wait a New York minute. Then look ahead and focus on going forward,in a straight line. Hold your line, and stay to the right.
  • Keep one foot un-clipped, in case you have to stop, or put your foot down.  It can be tricky getting down the road. You should be able to adapt and stop if necessary.
  • Once you are on your bike and riding, stay to the RIGHT.
  • Take your time to clip in the other foot once you are ready. You can ride slow, but stay RIGHT. Far right. Not middle, and never left. There are people who are ready to start the bike and go, and they would like to go. When you are riding on the left or in the middle of the road, trying to clip in, or weaving, you are dangerous. Really.
  • Then, unless you are a confident, reasonably skilled and fast cyclist, just hang out to the right. For a long while, until the ride opens up and you can safely pass people.

I rode easy and enjoyed it.  That’s all I have to say about that. I was glad that the Augusta bike course returned to “normal” and not the course of 2016.

I managed a 16.9 MPH bike on minimal training and ridiculously low wattage to try and save the legs, so I have no complaints.

I got off the bike for the first time in any race thinking, “That wasn’t bad at all.”

My M.O. is typically, “Bike Hero, Run Zero,” so I am DOA coming off the bike usually.  I know that’s not the “right way” to race, but in case you haven’t noticed, I’m not winning these things.

Sometimes racing to just have a good time really is a good thing. #whoknew

T2

Uneventful for the most part.  I did visit the Porta-Potty before I headed out on the run.  I had to pick a second one after I saw the carnage behind Porta Potty Door Number 1 (…it was all Number Two).

I was glad to be off on the run.

Run

Five seconds later, I was not so glad to be off on the run.  It was hot and I was pretty worn out–despite swimming and riding “easy.”

  • First Timer Augusta 70.3 Tip:  Yes, the run really is “that flat.”  There is one incline heading out of transition, near the railroad, and that is it.  Literally, 80 feet of elevation for the whole 13.1. Pancake. GREAT run course.  Also excellent for spectators, as you repeat the loop twice AND snake through downtown. Your sherpas can literally see you 8-10 times if they want to run/cross a few blocks.

I knew I wasn’t out for a PR, so I just decided to be out and enjoy the day.  I really smiled the whole day, raced with a happy heart, and looked for ways to help others on the course–whether it was with a bike tube or a hug.

And I can say that I did enjoy it.

About Mile 5, I was really nauseous—which is something I usually don’t deal with.  All I can figure is that I haven’t been training (my long runs) with much sugar—and I had three bottles of Tailwind on the bike. I probably overdid it on the sugar intake.

In the moment, I thought maybe I was needing salt also so I swallowed three Salt Sticks tabs–knowing that would good one of two ways for me:  1) I would feel better, or  2) I would just blow cookies.

I felt better after that, though. Whew. I made a point of talking to people that wanted to be talked to.  Hugging people who needed hugs, and stopping to hug my kids, whatever moved me.

13.1 miles didn’t seem that far in this race. I mean, it felt far–but it didn’t feel impossible or that long, like it usually does in 70.3s.  Maybe because I am up to 20 mile runs now in training for Marine Corps.  All about perspective, right?

I felt good and strong despite putting out a second-slowest half time ever.

Maybe that doesn’t make sense, but I know that it does to some of y’all.

I didn’t have a time goal–not even a secret time goal.  Maybe for the first time? I don’t know.

I literally wanted to enjoy the day, the race, and the body that got me across the finish line.

Finish

At 7:05ish on the race clock, I came up to the finisher’s chute, stopped and hugged my boy.  We dabbed.

(Are you detecting a theme? Okay, so I dabbed and James said, “Mom! Stop!!”)

Then I high-fived anyone who wanted to, fist-pumped, and crossed the line around 7:06–my third slowest half next to my first in Miami (2011), and the miserable hungover Haines City (2014).

I felt great.

And that was it.

I missed the girl child somewhere in the chute, but caught her on the other side of the finish. She was crying.

“What is wrong, baby? I didn’t mean to miss you. I didn’t see you!”

(I was thinking, Oh LORD, how did I mess up another finish line… for the love.)

“No, that’s not it,” she said.

“What is it?”

“I am so thirsty.”  I handed her my cold bottle of finisher water, and patted her head as she chugged it.

It was a good day to be a Swim Bike Mom. 🙂

Team SBM Tri folks had a great race— my athlete Tara settled her score with Augusta, Maureen had a great relay, and Amanda really kicked this race’s butt.

The Expert had a good race —not the day he wanted, but he had a good time and is always a positive light at any race. Swim Bike Nap had a great race too–his first tri of the season after several injuries.  The Expert walked away with the belt this time. (Again, that’s another story for another day!)

Oh, and yeah—it was hot out there.  Another reason, I may put Augusta off the list for a while. Head to cooler races and spaces for 2018.

Until next time,
M


Ironman 70.3 Augusta Through the Years

Click on the picture for the prior race reports.

2012

2013

2016

2017


Special thanks to those who partner with Swim Bike Mom and Best Tri Club Ever

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And because everyone is asking…

The kit I wore is the “Stella Rae” and is available for shipping soon at Tri Fe Tri.

3 Comments

  • Darra

    September 27, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    Nice to see you at check in and on the run. Your hubby’s smile is even cuter in person. Also saw your kids Sunday when they were getting their lunch with their grandma (?) but didn’t speak to them–I’m sure they would have been like “we don’t talk to strangers lady!” My man had to drop out because of his hurt foot but that was expected. He totally crushed the bike though which was his goal. It was fun seeing Andy Potts there. My husband was like “how do you even know him” and I just wanted to say “it’s Meredith’s fault!”

    Reply
  • Kris Brasser

    September 27, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Consider the Door County Half in Door County, Egg Harbor, WI as a destination race. July 15, 2018. Seriously. It’s a great race with a hill on the run that will make you want to cry, unbelievable crowd support and good food.

    Reply
  • Lynne

    September 30, 2017 at 9:15 am

    I ran my first half marathon at Augusta IRONMAN 70.3 2017 at 55 years old as half of a relay with my boyfriend. He decided last year to break away from his team of several years as a swimmer. He wanted to swim/bike. He can’t run anymore due to back issues. He’s a former marathoner. I jokingingly said,” sure Honey I’ll be the runner”, not thinking he was serious well… I had been sort of running on and off for about 5 years. Nothing serious or very demanding. Some running programs with a local shoe store but was by no means a ” runner”. I still don’t think of myself as a runner but I completed it in 3:10:57. I have to admit crossing that finish line was pretty great! Honey hasn’t stopped telling me how proud he is of me. My Daughter /Sherpa, crisscrossed all over downtown to see and encourage me, coaches Cross Country at a local High School. She told her athletes if her 55 year old mommy could sprint across the finish line at the IRONMAN they had no excuses. ?? I had covered the distance only once before and even though we live in Augusta ( I’m an Augusta native) I refused to do the course until the race. In fact I had a complete meltdown when we drove it on Friday before the race on Sunday. Another one Sunday morning. ThHe’s already planning next year.?We met Jesse Thomas, the winner, he was awesome! I’m reading your book and blog now and enjoying them very much! I hope you change your mind about coming back to Augusta, I’d love to meet and thank you for the inspiration.

    Reply

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