Augusta was a bit of a 'last minute' race. I knew when I did not finish Canada that I would want to do something else. Ironman Wisconsin was just too soon, and the timing for this seemed pretty perfect. The bonus was that Derick's parents live in Greenwood, SC, only 1 hour from Augusta, so I could wrap a visit in with them along with doing a 70.3 race. Always a plus! I flew in on Friday, and had a very smooth day of travel. I arrived to Augusta early afternoon, got my little Kia Rio rental car (note: bike boxes DO fit into the back seat of tiny cars!) and headed to my hotel. The rest of the day really consisted of nothing more than building my bike and laying around my hotel room. It was awesome. I had dinner with some friends at Nacho Mama, a great little mexican place in downtown, enjoying a tasty margarita to wash it down with.
Saturday I awoke to some gloomy, rainy weather, so I opted to do a short run then eat breakfast. It cleared up by about 10, so I headed out on my bike for 20-30 minutes just to loosen up the legs and make sure the bike was in working order. All felt great. I then found myself with about 6 hours to spare! Lovely! I again proceeded to lounge in the room for awhile. Watched TV, computed, snacked for lunch. I went to the pro meeting at 4:00, but opted to not rack my bike; we had an 'option' to do this. There were thunderstorms predicted overnight, which hit us VERY hard, so I am very glad I kept the Orbea safe in my room until race morning. I had dinner with Fred and Donna (Derick's parents) at Macaroni Grill (salmon, orzo, and a Peroni... same meal I had before Redman in 2007! superstitious? maybe...) and was back in the room by 7:00 or so. Feeling very relaxed and excited to race!
Sunday morning I woke pretty easily and headed to transition area VERY early. Transporting myself, I wanted to be safe with my time. I frequently have a 'transporter', that being my parents, Derick, or a friend not racing. I had to be responsible for ME! Oh so stressful. But, I made it there by 5:30 or so and got everything set up. We had a 1-mile walk or shuttle to the swim start. I waited for the shuttle at about 6:30 but it was not coming, so I opted to walk the 1-mile. BAREFOOT! I had my swim gear with me and nothing else (goggles, cap, and Zoot speedsuit) so away I went walking, in the dark, towards the start, some on dirt, some on rocks. I used to like to walk barefoot as a child; I believed it made me 'tough'. I guess I have not changed much since then.
The start was quite a scene! There was some jazz music playing, and it was very lit up and had a 'festive' feeling. They had a large dock jutting out into the Savannah River for us to start on, and the pros had a 'dive start' for the swim. How unique! When we wandered down, I tried to position myself right next to Pip Taylor and Laura Bennett, as I knew they would be the 2 fastest swimmers. We were off promptly 4 min after the men. We had a favorable current, so all you had to do was keep up with it! I was able to stay with them for a few minutes, then they gapped me a bit. I exited the swim in a comfortable 3rd place, just 20 seconds behind Laura, which pleased me considering she is an ITU specialist. Onto the bike...
I have been on a new Orbea Ordu for only 2 weeks, and I was excited to try this out in a race. I felt very strong from the start, but I did make a mistake which I knew going into it; I did not take enough gels with me. I had a Gu flask filled with 4 gels, and I had one stashed in a pocket. This is only 500 calories, and I can often take up to 700 on the bike. Stupid mistake. But, thankfully the aid stations had PowerGels, so I grabbed 2 of them about halfway through and was good to go. I held my position for awhile, but got passed by 2 women on the bike. I tried to keep them in sight, but for the majority of this 56 miles, we were all quite spread out. The course was deceivingly a bit tough, as it was not 'hilly' but not 'flat' and the wind picked up as we progressed. I really enjoyed it. There were quite a few false flats, which entailed a lot of gradual uphill work. On the fast sections, I got as low and little as possible and tried to conserve. By the time we headed back towards transition, I was (as usual) READY to get off the bike! But, the Orbea (and my legs) served me well, as I was right in the mix (5th place) coming off the bike.
I flew through T2 and was off on the run. They had a great transition area, with blue carpeting over much of it for us to run on. I came out feeling very strong, and I could see women in sight right off the bat. Yay! I had my 4 gels in hand and was ready to try to run some people down. My legs felt quite strong, but I try not to get too wrapped up in this the first mile or so...I just try to find a steady rhythm. One key thing in races is to keep your composure. (this lesson I'll learn fully in a few more miles). I plugged along the streets of downtown Augusta, which were lined with spectators; it was awesome! Great job to the crew at Premier Events Management on this run course. We did 2 loops whereby the fans could see us multiple times. By mile 6, I had moved into 3rd place. I saw Derick's father Fred at this point, which was nice to hear his encouragement. By about mile 8 or 9, I finally closed the gap on Laura Bennett. It seemed I was able to pass her feeling strong, but she is one tough girl and as I looked back, she was sticking right to me! I joked to her about 'loving sprint finishes' (but in my mind was like 'shit, she does those all the time!'). She is an awesome person and great competitor. We ran shoulder to shoulder for a few miles, which started to become rather painful. At mile 12, a small group cheered loudly for me. I have to admit, I got excited and surged. I believed that I had a 1-mile 'sprint' in me, and this was a not-so-smart move. At about mile 12.5, Laura passed me back and I thought 'damn...I went too early'. I did not give up, but by the time we turned the last corner, about 100 yds from the finish, she had a good gap on me and I was pretty waxed. I ran into the wonderful finish area, greeted by so many spectators, and despite being 6 seconds too slow today, I have to say I was one happy camper.Final thoughts? I noticed that the week of the event, a few 'big names' popped onto the list. I will not say this makes me more nervous, but it makes me realize that I will have to up my game to really be a top contender. In all honesty, I love it. I love knowing that there are some bad-ass women stepping up to the start line, and it will take a great performance to be at the top that day. I fully believe that on any day, anyone is beatable. I went into this event with my game face on, and I think the bad luck in Canada contributed to some added fire in my belly. And while the finish is awesome, and the PR is a huge accomplishment, there is nothing better than walking away knowing that I am finally seeing results from the years of work I have put in. Today, finally, I found myself in CONTENTION off of the bike. A strong run split put me in the mix for first... not the frequent 4th or 5th, due to a weak bike. I have to give a huge thanks to the other women out there racing, notably to Laura, for being a damn tough competitor who never gave up; and also good friend Desiree, as I am always trying hard to keep her behind me on the bike! We have to appreciate our competition, because if not for them, we would not have the motivation to constantly be upping our own game.
Take home lesson... TAKE WHAT THE DAY GIVES YOU and enjoy every minute. Those spectacular days of racing are sometimes few and far between, so take them, run with them and let them propel you forward. Oh, and, learn some strategy for a sprint finish; just in case you are in my position. Sit on their heels and wait for them to make a move! Don't get too anxious, like I did!