What a hot, humid, typical Augusta race! This was my second time doing IRONMAN 70.3 Augusta. The first was in 2016, only my second half Ironman ever. I finished in 5:50 then, and it absolutely broke me. I had to spend half an hour in the medical tent afterwards due to overheating, and just felt completely broken by my performance. I had no interest in doing it again. It’s not like we’re going to get a cool day in Augusta, Georgia in late September, but last year I went down to spectate and cheer on my teammates, and I got the bug again. The 2019 race was a TriMarni team race so I decided to add it to my schedule and exorcise those demons from 2016.
I didn’t have a specific 70.3 training block or lead up to this race since ITU Worlds (Olympic distance) were at the beginning of the month, and we spent a week in Switzerland following that. After getting back to South Carolina on September 11th, I had 2 full weeks of solid training before lightening the load in the 5 days before race day. I had injured my thumb somehow while travelling so I was also trying to help that heal by wrapping it up and icing it here and there. The thumb bothered me the most on the bike, and a bit while I was swimming so we had to adjust my workouts slightly to prevent further injury and aid in healing.
Since I live just an hour and a half away, and I’d already taken time off work earlier in September, I chose to spend only Saturday and Sunday in Augusta instead of doing Thursday/Friday – Monday like I usually do. This could work against me, but it’s what I needed to do at this point. I did my prescribed bike and run on Saturday morning at home, packed up the car, and made it to Augusta for packet pick up at 11:30. Then, athlete briefing at noon, where I also caught up with TriMarni teammates Katja, Reid, Stephanie, and Andy. Reid, Stephanie, and Andy were staying at an AirBnB not too far from the transition so I changed up my plans a bit and took them up on their offer to swing by theirs to drop my bike off in transition. One thing I really dislike about Augusta is the location of transition. There is no parking near transition at all, like nothing within a half mile, which wouldn’t normally bother me, but when it’s 100F outside in the blazing afternoon sun, walking to transition the day before and after the race is brutal. But I got my bike set up by 2pm, hung out at my teammates’ AirBnB for an hour, then headed off to check into my cheap motel room across the other side of town. The rest of the day was spent in my room, in the AC. I brought leftovers for dinner and kept my feet up as much as I could.
The alarm went off at 4am on race morning. That gave me plenty of time to eat my overnight oats, pack up the car with all my stuff, check out of my room, and head back over to my teammates’ AirBnB to get there around 5am. My room didn’t have a coffee maker, but I was able to make myself a cup of coffee at the AirBnB before we walked over to transition before 6am. Transition setup was quick and easy, and we all regrouped to catch the bus to the swim start. There, Reid and I did a little run warm up, lots of trips to the restrooms, put all of our stuff in our morning bags (which would be taken to the finish line for us to pick up after finishing the race), and then made our way over to the corrals for the swim start.
Unlike 2016 where they started us by age group, this year we were in a self-seeded, rolling start by predicted finish time. The pro men went off at 7:30, pro women off by 7:40, and the age group rolling start got going at 7:50. I learned my lesson at Chattanooga – I was going to seed myself up further than I thought I should. I did the swim in 2016 in 31 minutes so I put myself pretty far up in the 30-33 minute corral. That got me in the water at 8:07am – perfect! Not a lot of waiting around, and the swimmers around me were of similar level. I passed plenty of people easily, I was passed by maybe 2 or 3 swimmers, I didn’t get caught up in a big bunch, and I got kicked in the face only once. A bit of water did get into my right goggle and that irritated my eye a bit on the bike, but I didn’t let it bother me in the swim. The sun was right in our faces so it was difficult to sight. I wanted to stay as close to the buoys as possible since that would be where the current was the strongest, but I had to swim wide at times to pass people who had the same plan. The swim didn’t feel easy, but it wasn’t nearly as difficult as the swims at ITU Worlds and USAT AG Nationals so I came out around 28 minutes feeling fresh. It was a long run uphill and into transition, which gave me an official swim time of 30:04, 18th in my age group.
In T1 I took a bit longer than usual by putting sunsleeves on. This can be a bit faffy when you’re still soaking wet from the swim, but I find it worth it as it keeps the sun off my arms during the bike. Some people put them on in T2. This is what works for me. Once the sunsleeves, helmet, and bike shoes were on, I unracked my bike and started the long run down my aisle. Wouldn’t you know it, another athlete had unracked his bike and just dumped it in the aisle – really?? I had to pick up my bike and jump over his while avoiding another athlete figuring out what to do. Grrrr. Anyway, out of transition, to the mount line, I pulled over to the right so I was out of the way when I mounted. And after all of that, I still gained 4 spots in my age group, putting me in 14th place coming out of T1.
The first 15 miles of the bike felt really good. I passed my teammate Reid at some point in the first 15 miles and gave him an encouraging cheer. I continued passing people, and got caught up with only one group of drafters. In fact, after a bit of back and forth with these three riders, the official on the moto pulled up and stayed with them (I was off the back in a legal position). I thought, “yes, finally someone is going to get a drafting penalty for once!”. Welp, no penalty given! No wonder there are so many people drafting on these courses. It sucks for those of us who actually follow the rules.
Just like Florida 70.3, I screwed up my watch again. I had it in Triathlon mode, which switches from swim – transition – bike – transition – run when you hit the lap button, but I wanted to hit the lap button every 20 minutes on the bike to break it up in my head. So doh, I hit “Lap” at 20 minutes into the bike and it put me in T2. While riding, I stopped and saved that activity, and started a bike activity so if you’re looking at my Strava files for the day, that’s why they look like that.
Around the halfway mark, I accidentally rode over a piece of electrical tape. I didn’t think much of it but then started hearing a thump, thump, thump on every wheel rotation. It did seem to be impeding my progress, and it didn’t feel like I had a flat tire, but I was worried that there was something on my wheel that could lead to a puncture. So after a bit of mental back and forth, I pulled over at the top of a hill to inspect the situation. I spun both wheels and didn’t see anything. I couldn’t figure out what it was but luckily, I looked on the other side of my frame and found the electrical tape stuck to the side of it. Ripped it off then back on my bike to try and pass all the folk who had passed me during my 30 second stop.
I passed Reid again and a few others and kept on trucking. I was drinking one bottle of Infinit per hour, and grabbing water at every aid station to dump on my head and body. The sun was getting up there and getting hot, and the wind was starting to pick up as well. Around mile 30, I found myself really looking forward to the aid station and kinda over the bike. Reid passed me back and I didn’t think I could catch him again as my legs just felt empty. Here’s where the bad thoughts start. “I’m having a bad ride. I should be going harder than this. What if I gave up now? This road is so bumpy and it hurts! Ugh, this wind is killing me! My time isn’t going to be what I want.” And on and on. I focused on getting to the next aid station at mile 45, and since it was at a turnaround point, we got to go through it twice. Both times I grabbed water and managed to cool myself down with the double dose. As much as I wasn’t feeling great, I told myself to get to the run and at least TRY it.
As we got into town, I took my feet out of my shoes, did a flying dismount, and went a little bit slower into T2 than I usually would. I needed to enter this run with a better mindset and I used all 3:17 of my T2 to sort my head out. My bike time ended up being 2:43 with an average speed of 20.54mph, which all in all was not that bad. Unbeknownst to me, I’d ridden myself up into 7th place in my age group coming off the bike, but was down to 9th place coming out of T2.
I had a definite plan for the run, which makes it so much easier to start after a crappy bike. The plan was: don’t go hard. Coach told me “if it feels a little bit hard, you’re going way too hard.” I was going to walk for 30 seconds at each mile beep on my watch to take in my nutrition from my Naked hydration belt, and I would walk every aid station to grab water and ice to cool myself down with. This is the same plan I had for Chattanooga and it went well. I was hoping for a similar feeling run today.
First mile went great. I’m sticking to the plan. I also play a mind game to keep me within each mile. I make up rhymes like “one is fun, two you can do, three is free, four for more (fun), five I’m alive (!), six for Stevie Nicks (I really struggled with a six rhyme. It took me half a mile to figure this one out), seven is heaven (because I’m halfway done), eight is great, nine is fine, ten (I couldn’t come up with one for ten so I just thought ten, ten, ten), eleven is heaven (again, because you’re almost done), twelve is… I don’t think I had one for that. This really keeps me focused on the here and now instead of counting down like “only 10 miles to go, only 10k to go, etc.” I also thought about my form – head up looking down the road, thumbs to armpits, light feet, faster arms for faster feet. And the time just ticked by. I was surprised to see an 8 at the front of almost all of my mile splits.
I passed quite a few people. I passed Reid around mile 3 and told him he’d probably catch me back (he didn’t). People said I had good form and pace and looked strong. I didn’t know what position I was in and I didn’t care. I sang along with some of the songs as I went by. I gave a big cheer when we started our 2nd lap and said to the guy next to me “Let’s do this!!” I saw teammate Al at his mile 12, my mile 10 and gave him a cheer. And then it was time for the finish line – woohoo! I stopped my watch and saw 1:56 for the half marathon – amazing! My fastest half marathon in a 70.3 and although I was very hot, I didn’t feel like I overextended myself.
I saw some of my TriMarni teammates right away. Curtis was there and gave me a congrats. Stephanie had finished a few minutes before me and was in the tent. Coach Joe was there, and soon Reid joined us. I had no idea what my time and place was so when Coach Joe said, “you finished like me, one spot off the podium”, I was like what?? What place is that? 6th place – wow! So unexpected at an IRONMAN branded event, and the 2nd biggest 70.3 in the world! Stephanie ended up 8th in our age group so two TriMarni’s in the top 10 for F35-39!
My final time was 5:16:44, which put me in the top 50 (49th) women. Let’s call this a PR 70.3 because even though Chattanooga was 5:08, the swim was shortened significantly. This is my highest placing in an IRONMAN event, and gives me two top 10 placings at IRONMAN this year! (I came in 10th in Florida 70.3) I really wanted to build off of my Chattanooga performance in May but was worried that there was too much time between the events to see any gains, so I’m so happy that I was able to use everything I learned there and bring it with me to Augusta. While coach Joe and I both finished 6th in our age groups, Joe got a rolldown slot for the 2020 70.3 World Championships in Taupo, New Zealand! Even though my next goal is to qualify for 70.3 Worlds, there’s no way I can go to New Zealand next year so I’m glad it didn’t roll down for me to pass on it. And TriMarni came in 4th place in the TriClub award – yes!!
So, what’s next? Maybe one more triathlon at The Dam Tri in Lexington, SC, then I’ll be doing the Hincapie Gran Fondo near the end of October. After that, an off season of sorts. As much as I love racing, and I love seeing my teammates even more, I’m always ready for a bit of a break by the time October rolls around. I’d also like a break from this heat, please.