The most common way to start a race recap goes something like this: “Grab a cup of coffee and sit in a comfortable chair– you’re gonna be here for a while because this post is longggg.”
Well, there’s no surprise here… this post will be long, but it will also be awesome.
I went back and forth trying to decide how detailed to be and I’ve decided tell you everything. Heck, you might need TWO cups of coffee… and maybe even a Huma Gel! (by the way, their new flavors, chocolate, mocha, raspberry and lemonade are the BOMB! And they have caffeine.)
The reason I’m gonna be detailed is because a few days before the race, I searched for other triathlete’s Augusta 70.3 race reviews to try to get some advice and tips for this course. The more detail the better and their stories helped calm my nerves and get excited for the big day. Everyone’s race is different and the main conclusion that I came away with is to not compare myself to anyone else and to focus on running my own race.
So, like Nacho Libre says, “Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty…” Here’s the story of my journey to swim, bike and run 70 point freaking 3 miles, baby!
Usually the night before a race, I wake up in sheer panic multiple times throughout the night, worried that I forgot to set my alarm, or that I missed the race. So, when I woke up on Sunday morning to my alarm blaring Coldplay’s Waterfall, I was shocked, and thrilled, by how great I slept. I didn’t even wake up once!
First item on the agenda: coffee. I thought I was having a nightmare because the coffee maker in our hotel room didn’t work. First the car battery dies, then my bike breaks and now no coffee? Note to self: bring a French Press or make sure your coffee maker works the day before you need it.
I quickly got dressed and went up to the front desk to see if they had an extra coffee maker. They didn’t, but they had just made a fresh pot of coffee over in the breakfast nook and I gladly filled up our cups.
I’ve never had a good cup of hotel coffee and this was no exception. But I muscled it down along with my usual pre-race breakfast of whole grain toast with peanut butter and banana. It was 4:30am, and I wasn’t hungry, but I knew I had a long day ahead of me and that I needed fuel.
Let’s just get real here, we couldn’t afford to stay in the host hotel (OMG, almost $200/night?!), so we found a cheaper option that was about 20 minutes outside of town. Well, the real reason we had to stay so far out-of-town was because everything else was sold out. Note to self: Don’t wait till the week before the race to book your hotel. Whoops.
The good news was that the host hotel was a few miles from transition so they had buses that transported us there. On our way to park at the hotel parking garage, we saw this dirt parking lot right by the swim start. The best part is that it was FREE. Score! So we parked, hopped on the yellow school bus and crammed ourselves into those tiny seats. There was a nervous excited vibe on the bus and so we fit right in because we were nervous and excited. Time for a #selfie!
I always love racking my bike the day before the race because it’s one less thing to worry about. Also, I have a confession: I tried something new on race day. After reading a conversation on the Augusta 70.3 Facebook page about there not being any space to for your gear bag in your transition spot, I decided to forgo my usual backpack and use the drawstring bag that they gave us at check-in.
I’m not sure if this one of those beginner moves like wearing the race t-shirt during the actual race, but since my transition area was super cramped with insanely nice bikes, I assumed that my transition mates were pretty intense and serious triathletes, and I didn’t want to make anyone mad by taking up a ton of space with my backpack. The cool thing about the drawstring bag was that I could set up my gear right on top of it without hogging any precious space. Ironman bag for the win.
Once we got off the bus, we stopped to get body marked. The volunteers were so upbeat and energetic and it was only 5:30 am! They were pretty awesome. Except, my “2” ended up looking like a swirl. Good thing I keep a sharpie in my gear bag… simple fix!
Davey and I headed to our transition spots to set up our gear. I was hoping to strike up a conversation with my rack mates, but everyone seemed super focused and had the “don’t talk to me” look plastered on their faces. Yikes.
I proceeded to dump out my gear, mostly snacks and Huma Gels, and organize my spot. My fuel plan was pretty vague… I planned to take a bite of something every 15 minutes on the bike and every mile on the run. My fuel consisted of 1 bike bottle of water with EnduroPack electrolyte spray and 1 bottle with Lemon-Lime CocoHydro Sport. I had 1/2 a pack of margarita shot blocks, 1/2 a pack of strawberry and 1/2 pack of black cherry (with caffeine). Davey had the other half of all of those packs and we opened them all before the race so I wouldn’t crash my bike while trying to open the package.
I also had a Coconut Chocolate Chip Clif Bar and 2 pickles. The pickles were my treat and I was so excited for them. I crave pickles after every work out and when we did an organized 65 mile ride back in August, they had pickles at the rest stops and I LOVED them. To me, pickles are like spinach to Popeye– the perk me right up. I had my pickles in a baggie and I planned to put them in the side pocket of my tri shorts.
On top of that, I had 5 Huma Gels and I figured I’d eat them whenever I felt like it. Probably not the best plan, but whatever. I think it’s hard to have a set fuel plan because you have NO IDEA how you’ll feel on race day. Instead, I continually asked myself what I though I need at that moment: salt, water, electrolytes, carbs, a kick in the pants… and then I ate accordingly.
On the bus, I overheard someone say they saw a guy who had 2 slices of pizza in the back pocket of his cycling jersey and I think that is genius. I might have to try that.
There was talk about there being nests of fire ants in the transition area and I was lucky… no ants here! I decided to put my helmet on the ground this time because in Chicago, someone knocked it off my bike and it took me a minute to find it. Here’s my transition spot:
I had arm warmers just in case I was really cold after the swim, but I didn’t end up needing them.
I always feel like I’m forgetting something, but at this point, they were closing the transition area, so we had to hop on the bus to the swim start. We made a stop at the porta potties and then headed to the bus.
Transition closed at 7:15 and my wave didn’t start till 9:00. A lot of people went back to the hotel to sleep, but I was too excited to sleep. I didn’t mind having to wait for my wave… there was so much to watch and the time went by really fast. Since I ate breakfast at 4:30, it was now time for second breakfast: a Clif Bar. I sipped water all morning and that meant I was in line for the porta potty quite a bit.
Note to self: bring toilet paper. Everyone is nervous and seems to have explosive diarrhea (TMI?) on race morning and so not only where the outhouses disgusting, but they were ALL out of toilet paper. A triathlete angel came out of one of the outhouses and handed me a tissue that he didn’t use. That was a wonderful moment.
Ok, enough talk about outhouses.
The sunrise was amazing and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect. A few guys jumped out of a plane with an American flag while someone sang the national anthem and it was beautiful.
And then, just like that, the race started and the pro’s dove in and I was in awe of how fast they were going. Surprisingly, I wasn’t even nervous as I waited for my wave to start. I think it was because I decided to be in the moment and focus on my own race and just have fun.
So what if I didn’t have a wetsuit or a tri bike. I might stick out, but I’m used to sticking out since I’m 6 feet tall and having flaming red hair.
About 45 minutes before our wave lined up, Davey and I went over to drop our morning clothes bags off. Morning clothes bags are so amazing because you can wear your flip-flops, jacket, bring snacks and use your phone right up until your start the race. I hid my phone in this.
Since Davey’s wave was 4 minutes after mine, we walked over to the start together. I ate a lemonade Huma Gel and Davey had the Mocha one. Yum.
Once we were in line, we immediately made friends with another couple who was in our age group. They also weren’t wearing wetsuits and we instantly bonded. It was nice to have a new friend to talk to as we made our way to the dock.
We started in the water and so I jumped in and was shocked at how lovely the water temperature was. I was expecting it to be MUCH colder, but it felt amazing. I made sure my goggles were suctioned well to my face and treaded water till the horn went off.
I felt so great as I swam along and I tried to really push myself in the swim since it’s my strongest sport. I thought of how lucky I was to be racing and thanked God for a healthy and strong body and a beautiful day. I always have a tendency to think of the bike while swimming and the run while biking, but I concentrated on being in the moment and enjoying the swim.
There was a few patches of river weed, but not nearly as much as everyone said there would be. I loved every moment of the swim and thanks to that blessed current, my swim time was 28:42!
I felt great and ran to transition. I passed the wetsuit strippers and the sunscreen slatherers and made a b-line to my bike. I ate a shot block as I put on my socks and bike shoes and helmet, packed my snacks in my tri shorts and bike jersey, prayed that my shifter would work and headed out.
T1 time: 5:34.
I totally forgot what side of the road I was supposed to ride on and was “kindly” reminded to “STAY TO THE LEFT” by a guy with a fancy tri bike with disc wheels. Whoops!
I remember hearing someones advice to take it easy on the first 10 miles to save your legs for the hills at the end of the ride, so that’s what I did. The first 10 miles were pretty flat and I tried to maintain a speed of 17 mph. I took a bite from my Clif Bar and washed it down with a sip from my bike bottles every 15 minutes. I was really enjoying the ride and having a great time. The best part was that my bike shifted flawlessly. Thank you God!
Davey passed me at mile 5 and it was really fun to see him. He was doing so good!
The first aid station was at mile 17 ish and I had NO IDEA what to expect. I will be writing a post on how to navigate an aid station on the bike because I couldn’t find anything online about it.
The first person I saw at the aid station was the guy who fixed my bike. I told him my bike was working perfectly and he cheered me on as I went by. That was a fun moment!
There was a pile where you were supposed to throw your empty water bottles and my goal was to finish my water by the aid station so I could grab a new bottle. I threw it in the pile and grabbed a water and put it in my cage. But the bottle was too small and it fell out when I hit a bump, so I stopped.
It felt good to stretch for a minute and I walked a few feet to grab a bottle of Perform instead. The volunteer told me that it was “pretty gross” and I said, “anything tastes good to me at this point”. I took a sip and it was actually delicious.
The most challenging part of the aid station was getting back on my bike and making sure I didn’t cut anyone off when trying to merge back into the race. I ate a shot block and headed towards the hilly section of the ride.
Naturally, you yo-yo with a few people during the ride and I made friends with a few of the other bikers as we kept passing each other. One guy in particular had a red beard so I said, “Redheads rock!” and we became instant friends. We encouraged each other whenever we passed one another and it made the miles go by really fast.
The “hilly” section wasn’t bad at all and I’m glad we did our training rides on some killer hills because I felt really strong riding up them. Aid station #2 was around mile 32 and it was smack in the middle of an incline. I grabbed a water and stopped to fill up my empty bottle.
I was feeling really good and I was happy with how I was fueling. I told myself that I could have my pickle at mile 40 and started back up the hill. Note to self: practice clipping in while going uphill.
There were moments in the ride that were hard and there were times when I started to dread having to run 13 miles after the ride, but I stopped myself and refocused on being in the moment and staying mentally tough.
On one hill in particular, this one girl kept complaining about how much the hill sucked and how she hated this race and blah, blah, blah. I tried to encourage her and told her she was doing awesome– I even offered her a shot block– but it was no use, she just kept on complaining. Her negative comments were all the motivation I needed to power up that hill to pass her so that I wouldn’t start on my own downward spiral of negativity.
At glorious mile 40, I took my first bike of that pickle and it tasted like heaven on earth.
A few miles later, my lower back started to really hurt, so I took 2 Motrin that I had stashed in my pocket and tried to keep thinking positive thoughts.
Then, at mile 44, we passed this:
It gave me so much hope and a renewed energy. I loved it.
The awesome thing about all of the uphills was that the last part of the ride was mostly downhill! The last aid station was around mile 45 and it was the best one yet. The volunteers were awesome and there were cowbells and signs and it gave me the push I needed to finish the bike as strong as I could. I grabbed a water, took a few gulps and tossed it.
My bike goal was 3 hours and 30 minutes and so I knew that I had to pick up my pace these last 11 miles in order to reach it. I finished my pickle and started to pedal faster. I felt really good and I reminded myself to be in the moment and focus on everything I had to be grateful for.
I reached the dismount line at the same exact moment as one of my new friends and we high-fived each other and ran to our transition spots. My speedometer read 3:29 and I was super happy that I nailed my goal.
My official bike time was 3:31:04 and I’m more than happy with that.
Total fuel consumed on the bike: 2 bottles of water, 1 bottle of Coco Hydro Sport and 3/4 bottle of Perform. I all but one bite of my Clif Bar, 1 huge pickle, and I think 3 shot blocks. I also ate 1/2 a banana at the 2nd aid station.
When I got off my bike, my legs felt terrible and my lower back was so tight, but I just kept on moving towards my spot. After I racked my bike, I sat down and changed my socks, put on my sneakers and geared up for the half-marathon.
T2 time: exactly the same as my T1 time, 5:34!
As I ran out of transition, my legs and back started to relax and loosen up. I multi-tasked and put my hair up in a bun, put my hat on and slathered sunscreen on my face. I snacked on a mango Huma Gel as I ran. I also went over my run strategy, which was to make it to the snacks. In other words, just run to the aid station and then you can walk thorough it, but try to only walk at the aid stations.
I am not naturally mentally tough and so if I allow myself the luxury of walking too much, then my race is basically over in my mind. I learned this in the Riverbluff Oly Tri. I have to be hard on myself and if I only let myself walk at the aid stations, I stay more mentally tough throughout the rest of the race.
I felt like I hit my stride on that first mile and made it to the first water stop pretty quickly. I was still taking, uh, slurps? from my Huma Gel, so I just grabbed water and Gatorade and then started running again.
By breaking the run into single mile chunks, I didn’t get overwhelmed. I focused on the mile I was running, thanked God that I was racing and interacted with the crowd and other runners.
In between the aid stations, I asked myself, “self, what does your body need? Salt? Water? Ice? Electrolytes? A big juicy burger?”. This helped me stay in touch with my body and I think this will be my go-to fueling strategy. I honestly don’t remember what I ate when, but I grabbed some pretzels, oranges, I ate my own shot bloks, and I even tried a sip of Coke. Some people rave about how amazing Coke is during a race, but I’m not a fan.
At mile 7, I stopped to pee. I figured that it was a good sign that I was staying well hydrated. Also, even though the outhouses were so gross, it felt amazing to sit down… even for a few seconds.
I pressed on and saw Davey running on his second loop at mile 8 and we stopped for a quick kiss and sweaty hug. I love seeing him on the course!
The highlight of the run was the mile 9 water station because they had ICE and potato chips! I grabbed a cup of ice and put it in the back pocket of my shirt so it would sit on my aching lower back. It felt SO GOOD. To top it off, the potato chips were salty and exactly what I needed at that moment.
I’m totally that person who arrives at the aid station and gets way overexcited about the food. “Whatttt?! You have chips?! This is soooooo amazing and you guys are the best volunteers ever!”
It was kind of depressing to have to start on the second loop when so many other people were cutting off towards the finish, but I focused on my own race and I reminded myself that I was more than half-way done.
I had no idea what pace I was running or if I’d make my goal of finishing the half-marathon in 3 hours, but I felt like I was running faster than my normal pace. I attribute the fact that I felt so good on the run to my diligent fueling on the bike. I am so stoked that I overcame my fear of drinking from my water bottle while riding and made sure I was well fueled and hydrated for the run.
Before I knew it, I rounding the bed towards the finish chute. I saw Davey at mile 13 and he cheered me on and then rushed over to the end so he could see me finish. I pushed it has hard as I could for the last 0.1 miles and slapped a few high-fives as I ran to the finish line.
Total fuel consumed on the run: 4 shot blocks, 2 Huma Gel’s, a cup of water and Perform at every mile, a few oranges, pretzels at mile 7 and 11, a handful of glorious potato chips and a few sips of Coke.
Run time: 3:35:50
Crossing that line felt so amazing and I was thrilled with how well my race went. My hands were raised in the air and I was smiling, I promise.
Final time: 6:46:44!
I am so proud of myself for how mentally tough I stayed throughout the entire race, and I think it’s because I caught the negative thoughts and stopped them before they had a chance to snowball. This is very unlike me and I’m pleasantly surprised… maybe I am tougher than I think!
I couldn’t have been happier with the day, especially considering all of the car and bike drama the week before. I crushed my goal time by 14 minutes (my goal was to finish in 7 hours)!
Fun fact: My first half-marathon time was the same as my 13.1 miles in this race! So cool!
All in all, I loved everything about this race and I think 70.3 is my new favorite distance. I love how nutrition plays a big part and I enjoy the added strategy involved in having a successful race. I also didn’t get passed on the run as often as I do in Sprint and Olympic distances because everyone was pacing themselves. That gave me a huge confidence boost.
This won’t be my last 70.3 and I can’t even believe I’m typing this, but it made me want to do a full Ironman!
So there you have it. Every detail of Augusta 70.3 from my perspective. Thanks for reading, thanks for cheering us on and for being awesome. Go Team TwoTri!