Augusta was my first 70.3 (half-Ironman) race since earning my pro card. There's a John Maxwell quote, "Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn." I knew from the outset that I wasn't going to win, but I learned a lot from it.
In my experience, you don't magically start out at the top of things. You start out at the bottom and work your way up. That was the case with swimming. I started at age fifteen - was never really athletic before that. The first two years, I was getting my butt kicked by nine and ten year olds every day, and my goal at most swim meets was not to finish last in my age group.
A year after joining the swim team, I ran my first 5k, in 35 minutes. Ironically, I started running because in swimming, my kick was the weakest part of my stroke, and I needed to do something to strengthen my legs. After working at it for a year, I was really excited to break the 30-minute mark, and after working at it for a dozen years, I broke 20.
Making the jump from the front of my age group to the back of the pro field is a tough transition, and brought me back to a familiar goal: not placing last.
I wasn't last, I was 13th out of 16 starters, and 14 finishers. I can see I have a lot of work to do. Although when I get intimidated about how far I have to go, I can think how far I've come, and that makes it seem more possible.
The swim was awesome - 24:07! Now admittedly, we were swimming with a bit of a current, so everyone's times were faster than usual. Still, I was thrilled to be in the same swim pack as Rinny (3x Ironman World Champion, and the winner of this race), as well as Lauren Barnett, Alicia Hill, and Jessica Jones.
The first few miles of the bike were what I was most worried about. You go around a little square, where there are six sets of bumpy, sketchy railroad tracks, spread out over less than a mile. Part of my concern with the tracks was that I knew I might be getting out of the water with some of the top contenders, and I was nervous about having to deal with the most technical part of the course during my first few minutes ever of riding in a pace line with the pros. I needn't have worried about that - most of the people in my swim pack got ahead of me during the swim/bike transition. Should probably work on my transitions - and my bunny hopping skills. But on the bright side, it was less stressful dealing with the tracks when there was not someone right behind me.
Once the tracks were out of the way, it was a nice bike course. Flat with some rolling hills, and better paved roads than in Boston! I rode with Jessica Jones for a while, though ultimately she got ahead of me, and there were sections of the bike course where there was no one in sight. It's a no-man's land, behind most of the pros and in front of the age groupers. I actually enjoy going for long training rides alone - I wouldn't call it lonely, so much as peaceful and meditative. But in a race situation, I would rather have someone ahead of me to chase!
My bike split was 2:34. I was hoping for around 2:30, but overall was pleased with how I paced it. One thing I would do differently is hit more aid stations. It seemed that every time I went through an aid station, there was someone ahead, just barely within sight, that I wanted to keep up with. I ride better when I can see someone in front of me, so I was trying to make up time any way I could. That meant staying in the aerobars, and not slowing down to grab a bottle of Gatorade. I went through the two bottles of water and two gels I had with me, but definitely started the run with a caloric deficit.
Chrissie Wellington once said, "You never know if your running legs will be waiting for you in your transition bag." Well, my running legs were nowhere to be found. Maybe I shouldn't have skipped those aid stations on the bike. Maybe I shouldn't have smashed my marathon PR two weeks ago. Maybe I just had a bad day.
I went 1:46 on the run. I did fuel more once I started running, and felt slightly better the last few miles. It also gave me a boost once I started my 2nd lap, and was able to play the game of reeling people in and passing them. It was great to have so many spectators, and thank you to whoever set up the sprinklers along the course!
Total time 4:49. Not my best day, but you live and you learn. Interestingly, my first 70.3 as an age-grouper was 5:49, so this was exactly one hour faster!
Finally got some proper fueling in! After the race, got to have lunch with my parents and cheer for other participants, before going back to transition to get my bike.
A big thank you to my sponsors at n+1 cyclery for keeping my bike in tip top shape, as well as for coaching me and believing in me. Without you, this wouldn't be possible. Next up is the Waco 70.3, October 28th!