Monday, September 27, 2010

Ironman 70.3 Augusta

Yesterday was the BEST. DAY. EVER. I'm not even joking! My favorite day of my life. Was it perfect? No. There were parts of each event (and each transition) that were absolutely horrible. But, all in all, I wouldn't take back any minute of it.

Pre-Race Day

It all started Saturday. My friend Jess and I left Atlanta around 10 AM to drive to Augusta. Jess is definitely the best spectathlete ever! We got there later than expected due to some horrific roadwork disaster that is going down on I-20 East, but we still had time to do everything. We arrived around 2 PM and immediately got to work.

There's so much you have to do before an Ironman 70.3! First, I had to check in at the Athlete's Village at the host hotel. The line was so long! They give you your packet, wristband, bibs, stickers, t-shirt, gear bags, and goodies. Then, there's a 30-minute course briefing to go over the rules and regs for the race.

Next, on to bike check-in.

There was a mandatory bike check-in on Saturday evening, so I had to take my baby over there and leave her overnight! It was kind of traumatic to abandon her like that, but I knew I'd see her in the morning.

Let me take this opportunity to mention for the first time that I was INCREDIBLY daunted before the race. Standing in transition, I realized that I had, by far, one of the cheapest bikes there. I don't have aerobars, and I don't have bottle launchers (those water bottle holders that go behind your seat). I don't even have bike shoes and fancy pedals! Browsing the bikes in my row, I realized that I was a bit out of my league, equipment wise.

I had to remind myself of one of the things I learned at the Georgia Games cycling race: Better equipment DOES NOT equal a better athlete. I still panicked a bit and looked to Jess and my friend Rusty for encouragement. They talked me down from a couple panic attacks!

After checking in my bike, we checked into the hotel. We were exhausted from hiking around Augusta all day, so we ordered Chinese food and hit the hay early. Like, 8:30 PM early! I think Jess was actually asleep around 7:30 or 8:00!

Race Day

The alarm went off at 4:30 AM, and I hopped out of bed, ready to go! I was so prepared for this day! I had a step-by-step list of everything I had to do in the morning, so I had no reason to panic at this point. I had all of my things packed in separate bags for pre-swim, T1, T2, and post-run. I had a feeding schedule starting from wake-up call to finishing the run. Preparation is EVERYTHING. I live by the proverb, "Failing to plan is planning to fail."

First stop: Transition. I had to pump up my tires and drop off my T1 and T2 bags. I laid everything out carefully on a towel.

For T1 (swim-to-bike transition):
--large towel to lay out under bike wheel
--small towel to wipe feet with
--energy gel to slam before getting on the bike
--small water bottle to wash down the gel
--wicking headband
--calf sleeves
--race belt with bib affixed
--fuel belt with gels

For T2 (bike-to-run transition):
--energy gel to slam before hitting the road
--small water bottle to wash down the gel

I also got my body marked at transition in the morning. They mark your bicep with your bib number and your calf with your age. It's really fun to see everyone's ages when you're racing! That is, until you get passed by a 63-year-old, which happened to me on the run course! Ha! It was still cool, though.

Check out my body marking.

Next, it was on to the swim start, which was NOT at transition. For a lot of races, the swim course is an out-and-back or a triangle, but this swim course was a straight shot down the Savannah River, so the swim start was 1.2 miles down the road from transition. We walked down there to get my timing chip and check out the area.

After I picked up my chip, it started raining. Boo. It wasn't raining hard, but we still didn't want to stand around waiting at the swim start in the rain, so we walked another half-mile down the road to the host hotel to hang out for a bit.

Jess napped for a few minutes, so I moved to the next thing on my to-do list: Plan to distract myself during the run. I knew the run leg was going to be rough. I knew I'd be tired and sore, and running 13.1 miles without music is hard enough as it is! In normal situations, I can let my mind wander for hours and hours without getting bored, but this situation was going to require some planning.

I made a list a self-discussion topics and other mental games to play. Then, I wrote them on my forearm.

I covered all of the topics except potential hairstyles (insuffciently distracting) and my plan for the zombie apocalypse (required too much concentration.) The other athletes I showed it to thought I was INSANE, but it helped me a lot!

After some stretching, it was time to suit up! I covered my legs in BodyGlide so I could pull on the wetsuit without too much issue. It's still not an easy feat! It was still raining when it was time to suit up, so I did it outside the front door of the hotel.

I decided that was good enough at that moment! We walked down to swim start, and I finished gearing up for the swim.

There was more waiting...

FINALLY! It was time to start! One last pic.

I ran down to swim start, and I immediately started to get super-nervous! Not because anyone had better equipment than me, though. In fact, we were all essentially in the same wetsuit. I was nervous because I was about to start an epic quest, and I had no idea if I could do it! I did know, however, that quitting was not an option. I may have hyperventilated. Just a little.

They called my age group. We all hopped in the water and floated to the starting buoys. They sounded the horns, and we were off!

Like I said, the course was a straight shot down the Savannah River.

So, it was still raining during the swim, but it wasn't raining hard enough for it to really be an issue. It wasn't complicating my breathing patterns, or anything like that. It was just mildly annoying. More annoying than that was the fact that I couldn't seem to swim in a straight line! I kept popping my head up and finding myself headed for shore or headed for the buoy line! There were a couple times that I had to slow down, stop getting angry at myself, re-center myself mentally, and then push ahead strong.

When I first caught sight of the finishing gates, I looked around and realized that I was NOT surrounded by other dark green swim caps! I was in a sea of pink and yellow caps. I had no idea what that meant until later, but I now know that the pinks were the fastest swimmers from the wave 4 minutes after me, and the yellow caps were the slowest swimmers from the wave 8 minutes ahead of me!

Jess was waiting for me when I ran up the chute to transition! My official swim time was 29:58 for the 1.2 miles.

It took my 9:52 to get out of T1! It was a long run into the transition area from the water, and it took me a minute to navigate the area to get to my bike. The wetsuit strippers were great, though! There was a line of volunteers inside transition to help us out of our wetsuits, and they were priceless. They grabbed your zipper and ripped it down, and then you sat down, and they ripped the suit off your legs. Took 10 seconds! I geared up with my T1 stuff and tried to get out the gate as soon as possible.

There I go!

Oh, the bike ride. It was epic! I felt so amazing! In training, I'm lucky if I can get home with my Garmin showing an average of 14 mph. I know it's not because I ride that slow but because I ride in the city where I stop a lot, change directions a lot, dodge obstacles a lot, etc. I guess I thought that all of the stopping and starting only accounted for maybe 1 or 2 mph, though, so I told Jess that I'd finish the bike course in 4 hours, give or take 15 minutes maybe, thinking that I'd average about 15 mph. On this ride though, I averaged 17.1 mph! I finished in 3:16:57! Jess missed me at transition because I got in so early, but that's totally okay with me. I was so proud!

On the bike course, I felt like I was flying. Also, I felt like the course was flat as a pancake! Athletes from other areas were complaining about how hilly it was, but, compared to the hills in Atlanta, these were nothing. I took it a little slow in the beginning, just to feel out the situation, but I felt so powerful after the first hour that I felt comfortable turning it up a notch. At about the half-way point I was averaging 16.7 mph, and I cruised into transition averaging 17.1 mph overall.

The downside of the bike course: It RAINED the whole time. Not sprinkled. It's RAINED. At one point, it was raining so hard that if I had been driving a car, I would have pulled over to wait it out. It was kind of miserable at first! After awhile though, I just got used to it. The rain stopped for a few minutes around mile 35, and the only reason I noticed is that it suddenly became quiet. It was sort of creepy. It took me a minute to realize that it was quiet because I no longer heard raindrops hitting my helmet! But, then the rain started again, and everything went back to normal.

I was in T2 for 4:02 before I hit the road for the run. All I had to do was drop my helmet, headband, sunglasses, gloves, and fuel belt, and put on my visor. I slammed a gel and some water and headed straight out.

I felt pretty awesome through the first half of the run course! I ran the first 6 miles, averaging about 10:30 per mile. Unfortunately, I then began feeling the blisters. I was running in socks and shoes that were absolutely drenched! Blisters were forming on every square inch of my feet. I started a walk-run pattern that I kept up until the end. It was BRUTAL, but I finished!

Jess was there to see me run down the finisher's chute!

I was SO glad to be done!

I finished in 6:37:36, which I'm pretty stoked about! I was worried that I wouldn't finish at all! I'm so proud of myself, it's unreal. Even as I lay in bed today, inable of operating either of my legs, I'm still so so so so so happy that I did it!


  1. What a great recap! You are such a speedy swimmer and cyclist. I cannot believe how fast you biked without bike shoes.
    It's my goal to do a 1/2 IM one day, so this recap was so inspiring!
    PS, I'm also super impressed you are able to bike in Atlanta. I lived there for 3 years and think it's the most unfriendly bike city.

  2. Wow! Congrats! Look at that smile at the end of the event! I could never do something like that. You rock!

  3. This is so timely! I' ve been thinking about doing a half ironman next fall. thanks for this. you did an amazing job. Look at that smile! Congrats!

  4. CONGRATS!!!! You did amazing!!! You are an inspiration!!!!

  5. Great race! Well done! I'm impressed and inspired by your quick recovery!

  6. Aly you are truly an inspiration!

  7. You truly are an amazing person!!!!

  8. Wow, this is such an amazing story!! What an accomplishment! I'm an aspiring triathlete - I just did my first tri-a-tri (best day of my life!) this summer, so my goal of someday doing a 70.3 is still a long way off, but I'd love to. Thanks for sharing - and inspiring!! :)

  9. Nice work sis! I’m so proud of you and it sounds like it was a rewarding experience!

  10. What a great job!! I love that you made a list of things to help take your mind off the rough parts of the race. :)

    And I just came across your blog through the HLB Atlanta database. I'm planning an Atlanta blogger meetup and would love you to join us. Email me at if you're interested. And if not, then I'm still glad I visited and found another great blog! :)

  11. way to go Alison! very proud of you.
    Love, Aunt Lisa