I’ve somewhat gotten away from doing typical race reports. But I think this one deserves its very own report. I don’t want to forget any of the amazing details. I also foresee some more meaningful thoughts beyond these, too.
We arrived in Augusta on Friday evening with just enough time to eat a great dinner at Macaroni Grill. Rowan had a really bad cold, so rather than trying to get to the expo or any other spots, we tucked in to the hotel and got some rest. The long car ride had pushed us all to our limits of sanity. Plus, we had a busy Saturday.
I was meeting up with Tri Coach Georgia’s coaches and athletes for a practice swim in the river at 8:30. I was really excited to see them again because their camp was so amazing in July. They are the nicest, most hospitable group of people. I even made a few new friends before we drove up to the swim start, and they both happen to also be a part of Moms Run this Town– my favorite running group. There’s something about these sports that instantly connect us.
The practice swim went really well. My goggles fogged up quite a bit, so I stopped many times to deal with that issue because I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for at the end. And the current. Oh the lovely current! I finished the 1.2 mile swim somewhere around 33:00. That never happens! It took me a few minutes to get into a consistent rhythm, but I did not panic. This is huge! And I really believe it was the best decision. It calmed my nerves almost entirely about the race the next day.
We hit packet pick-up next and then the expo where I splurged on the M-dot shirt with the racers’ names and a spiffy new transition bag. Then I promptly hid them away until after the race, so I didn’t jinx myself! Rowan was being a bit of a handful at that point, so we didn’t get to spend too much more time there before taking my bike to transition for check in, which was a mile or so down the road, and we had to walk it into the riverfront area because cars weren’t allowed to park. It was a bit confusing and hectic, but it was amazing to see such a vast area for transition. I have never participated in such a huge event, but it was really interesting to never feel lost in a sea of unknown people. I have gone to races close to home and felt lonely and lost. I went to a race seven hours away, and I felt like I had so many people I knew and loved. It’s pretty amazing. I owe quite a bit of that to being brave enough to go to the camp in July and also connecting with a wonderful Facebook group of triathletes who were training for Augusta, too.
My friend Virginia and her husband picked me up at 6:00 on Sunday to give me a ride to transition, so Rowan could sleep in. She totally didn’t sleep in, but at least Jon didn’t have to drag her down into the madness. We arrived at transition, and it was unsettling to be setting up my space in the dark. They had bright spotlights, but I felt scattered. I tried to regroup and organize my space as best as I could. I pumped up my tires, helped Virginia pump up hers, and we were ready to get body marked and take the shuttle to the swim start. I am so glad we caught up with each other again; race morning was so much less stressful with a friend to talk to and laugh with! We made it to the swim start and the sun was finally coming up. It was so festive and had such a great energy. There were skydivers to celebrate the race beginning! We checked our morning bags, squeezed into our wetsuits, and made our way to line up. We said goodbye at this point since my wave was ahead of hers and just as I felt alone and nervous, I found my new MRTT friend, Olivia. We gave each other a big hug and chattered excitedly about what was about to commence. Before I knew it, it was 8:30, we were lined up on the dock and hearing a countdown to our wave to begin the swim.
My leg was shaking as we stood in line, and I kept calm by reminding myself that I had just done this swim the morning before. It would be no different. And in order to stay focused on the task at hand, I considered it nothing more than another open water training swim. The gun went off, I slid in the water, found an open space, and swam. I swam and swam. Evenly and calmly. My breathing never got out of control. My arms never got tired. I realized I was finally prepared for a race swim. All of those long hours in the pool were paying off. With only one brief stop mid-swim (I desperately had to pee and couldn’t multitask!), I finished with a huge smile on my face. I had crushed my biggest fear of the day thanks to the great current and a steady swim. And thanks to a great chat with my friend Rachael about not giving myself enough swimming credit. That was a huge component in this great swim!
Transition 1: 6:34
I saw Jon and Rowan as I left the swim, and I was so happy that he had made it into the madness with her for me. I wasn’t sure if they would wait until the run or try to see me out of the swim. He even saw my wave leave from the dock. I am incredibly grateful for such an amazingly supportive husband. He has been by me every step of the way. I got to my bike, dried off, and got ready to ride. The only thing I forgot was sunscreen. I realized it as I was riding through the crowd, and it was impossible to turn back. I shook it off and hoped for the best.
I was prepared for the bike course thanks to the training camp in July. I knew where the climbs would be, and I remembered to go easier on the first 15 miles than I thought I needed to to conserve my legs. I remembered completely fizzling by mile 40 of the training ride, and though I had put in hundreds of miles since that weekend, I was trying to be conservative. About twenty minutes in Virginia caught me on the bike. It was great to see a friendly face! Other than a side stitch and back stitch plaguing me for the entire ride, it was mostly uneventful. I had a nutrition and hydration plan and stuck to it almost exactly. Because Virginia Beach is completely flat, downhills feel very frightening, but I put aside some of that fear to take advantage of the free speed. I used my brakes a little, but not as much as I did in July. Most importantly, I enjoyed the ride. I paid attention to my time and speed for what it was, but I didn’t get ahead of myself. I knew I had over three hours on the bike. And I knew I wanted to be there for all of them. Not stuck in how long it was taking. Or how much my back hurt. Or the fact that my shoulders were tight, and I couldn’t stay in aero as much as I wanted. I came in and out of my aerobars when I felt I needed to. I took the climbs easy in the small ring. In short, I just went moment by moment and didn’t focus on the big picture too much- other than being aware that I had thirteen miles to run after the bike and needed my legs to do it. At mile 50, I knew the hills were over. I took that opportunity to power through and probably passed around twenty people. I had gotten passed by many, many strong and fast riders for the whole ride. I passed a good number myself, but it did wonders for my confidence to fly through those last five miles at a strong speed. I was expecting to get frustrated at the length of time or the distance. I never did. I felt strong. Capable. I was looking forward to riding through a beautiful, shady section of tall pine trees towards the end. I was ready to battle frustration and dark places, and I was expecting them to surface out there on those lonely hills. But I was simply happy with the ride as it was. And I came in under my goal of 3:30.
Transition 2: 8:42
I’m not really sure what I was doing for almost nine minutes! I walked in with my bike. Racked my bike. Changed my shoes. Applied sunscreen (finally). Grabbed my visor. Hit the porta-potty. And ran out of the run start. I knew that thirteen miles wouldn’t fly by, but I had a plan for my run and was ready to stay with it.
I felt surprisingly great, but I took a Gu within the first few minutes just to be sure. I was energetic and ready to run. My legs didn’t even feel like jelly too much, but that could be because my transition was nice and long. I was sticking to a 4:1 run/walk interval because I was worried about my knee issue that flared up two weeks before the race. I didn’t want to stop running after that first four minutes, but I knew I needed to be conservative. The run course is two loops through downtown Augusta. The crowd support is amazing even though the straightaways are very long. I stopped at every water station and drank. Finally at mile 3.8, I saw Jon and Rowan (who had just fallen asleep). It was the very best moment, and I stopped to say hi, but didn’t linger too long. My friend Gisela came by, slapped my backside, and told me I looked great. I caught her and chatted for a moment, but she is a beast and was on her second lap at mile ten. Just like I was on the bike, I was waiting for darkness to set in. I had a hard time believing that I was over five hours in and I hadn’t gotten frustrated or panicked or decided I hated it. I was happy and loving it. And the run was almost out of body. I just went. I know I was tired, but I don’t remember ever feeling exhausted, and I realized that all of those long training days and weeks had really prepared me for what I was doing. I finished the first loop at mile 7 and headed around for the second. Other than seeing Jon and Rowan no less than four times, I was so lucky to be wearing a Tri Coach Georgia triathlon kit. I had many, many people cheering for me, and one of the coaches saw me about four times and each time had something encouraging to say. Even if it was, “Do you think this is a show? Get moving!” as I walked through a water stop. I got moving and quickly! He also found me on Greene Street, which is the loneliest street and ran with me for a minute and chatted. I was confident and so happy to be running. And my left knee stayed happy. My right knee decided to be cranky. By mile eleven it was hurting pretty badly. I made it to mile 12 consistently using my run/walk and that is where it fell apart a bit. I ran until it hurt too badly and then walked. I rounded the last corner and a saintly women had taken it upon herself to run with many weary athletes for that last block. She pumped me up as I turned the very last corner and saw the finish chute in the distance. I ran through the pain at that point. I gave high fives to the crowd. I cried. And ran through the finish with my arms raised and a huge smile on my face.
I got my medal, my hat, a bottle of water, and turned to see my dear friend Virginia and her husband right there. I gave her a huge hug and sobbed on her shoulder. It was so amazing to know she waited there for me to finish. Jon and Rowan found me right afterwards, and we grabbed some of the post-race food before packing up my bike and heading back to the hotel.
Finish time: 7:03:39
My ultimate goal was to finish in under seven hours. I came close, and looking back, I really don’t have any regrets about my race. I wasn’t sure what to expect with a race this long, but I promised myself before I went to sleep on Saturday night that no matter what I’d enjoy the day and race with grace and gratitude because the journey here has been so meaningful. To meltdown, to proclaim to myself that I hated triathlons, to believe for a second that I didn’t belong would be to negate all of the hours and hard work I had done. And I wasn’t about to do that. I’ve made too many sacrifices to get here. My family has sacrificed for me. I held all of that closely as I raced. I smiled at all of the volunteers and all of the crowd. I threw a million thumbs up (thumb ups?). I knew the day would really be over quickly, and I didn’t want to miss a second being absorbed in negativity.
It was glorious. Every second.
And I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
For some more post-Augusta thoughts, read this.