Monday, September 26, 2016

Ironman Augusta 70.3

the swim start is under this gorgeous bridge

A few months ago I posted in the Black Triathletes Team page that I was interested in doing some more relay events. Luckily I was able to link up with a relay team looking for a third member. They were already registered for Ironman Augusta 70.3 so I was a last minute addition to be their swimmer. I've heard great things about this race and was beyond excited to have a late season open water swim. In the last year or so I've really embraced swimming and couldn't wait to have the opportunity to PR since I wouldn't have to worry about saving anything in the tank for the bike or run.
Leading up to the race I felt great. I had done swims in the lake both with and without a wetsuit so I was ready for whatever race day would throw at me. This particular swim course is a point to point swim in a river (with a current). It's always been wetsuit legal so I packed mine along but secretly I hoped I wouldn't have to wear it. I've enjoyed swimming without it much more now that I've become a more confident swimmer. Everything was planned out and I marked my calendar to count down to race day.
I couldn't find a direct flight into Augusta so I settled on a layover in Atlanta which gave me a chance to eat some dinner (and drink some beer). When I got to Augusta there was a huge banner welcoming the athletes. I felt so excited. There were no nerves this time, I knew I was ready and had pushed all my DNF demons away. Our hotel had a free shuttle service so I took advantage of that to get from the airport to the hotel. I chatted with the drivers since I was the only passenger and they told me about Augusta, the race, etc. It was pretty late by the time I got in so I went straight to bed to prepare for an exciting weekend ahead.
Saturday morning I woke up to meet my roommate and head downstairs for breakfast. I met some other wonderful women from Tri It For Life  and one of my relay team members. They made me feel at home and it was as if I had been part of their group all along. Our final relay member arrived not long after and we made our way to the race expo. We got checked in and did some shopping. I picked up a tshirt and pint glass as additional goodies, the race swag included a backpack and tech shirt.
We met up with some more Tri For Life ladies for lunch across the street. I had a beer there and enjoyed some shrimp before running a few more errands. I didn't anticipate how hot it would be so I stopped at a store to grab a tank top for after the race and a few other items. We drove by the finish line and I could feel my excitement bursting. All I could think about was my swim in the morning.
I woke up before my alarm on race morning and browsed facebook for a bit before I started getting ready. All the tri groups were abuzz that the race would not be wetsuit legal. Any athletes wishing to race in their wetsuit would need to wait for the final wave. I had brought my wetsuit but decided I'd rather swim without it. Temps were 77 and that seemed far too warm for me to want to wear it. Plus I didn't want to have to start in a later wave.
When I got to breakfast most of the Tri For Life crew was there who would be doing the relay. We ate together and then made plans to meet back at 8:20 to walk over to the swim start. This is normally where the nerves would get the best of me, or doubt might start to creep in, but all I felt was anticipation and excitement. I went back to my room to finish getting ready and double check I had everything I needed. One of the shuttle drivers that I met on Friday was in the lobby when I came down and he offered to drive me over to the swim start. I told him I was waiting on some friends so he waited for them to join me and then dropped us all off.
The swim start had SOOOOO many people. I've never been to an event quite like this. Music was playing, the weather felt great, I couldn't wait to hop in and get started. I noticed quite a few athletes had opted for wetsuits and I was silently thankful that this meant there would be a significant amount of people behind me. I'm a little bummed we weren't there at the very beginning to see the parachutes with the American flag but thankfully I saw video/pictures later. I imagine it was a really powerful way to kick off the race.

before the swim start
When it was finally our time to head towards the starting dock I couldn't help but dance along to the music. I talked with a few of the women around me and we all assured each other it would be a great swim. As we made our way down the ramp, we heard the announcer tell the athletes in wetsuits behind us that they would have to be split into two waves. Goodness, a lot of folks must have opted to swim in their wetsuit. I'm sure I would swim faster if I wore it but I wanted to feel unrestricted and enjoy the 1.2 mile swim. 
lining up on the dock before getting in the water
The dock swayed as we stepped onto it and I had to take a moment to steady myself. My friend Frank had told me that I should stick towards the middle of the river because there would be less of a crowd (and the current is stronger). I hopped in the water to get acclimated to the temperature and it instantly felt refreshing. It also reaffirmed for me that the water would have been too warm for a wetsuit, I would have overheated. I could definitely feel the current as well when I jumped in. It took some work to stay behind the starting line before the buzzer went off. As soon as it did everyone sprinted out and I stuck around the back, not feeling quite THAT confident haha.

I settled into a groove and just enjoyed myself. We swam under a bridge with tons of spectators and a huge American flag hanging from it. I can't confirm, but I think I may have had goosebumps. From scoping out the course the day before I knew that as I got closer to the swim finish the buoys would be orange instead of yellow. I kept chanting my inner mantra "be the bag of chips". The ongoing joke is that even a bag of chips can make the swim cut off because of the river current. As I passed the final yellow buoy and saw the first orange I said to myself "YES! Done with the nacho cheese and onto the spicy nacho, time to kick in the speed". Yes, everything is food related for me. It gave me a boost of energy and I kicked harder knowing I would be done soon (even though I secretly wanted to go a little slower to savor it some more). 

like little water bugs
where the swim ends

my favorite part of the course
When I tell you that I've never felt happier finishing a swim, I am not exaggerating. As I exited the water I looked down at my garmin and internally gave myself a "fuck yes!". I could not stop smiling. I was over the moon overjoyed and how fast I swam (by my standards that is). I couldn't believe I had actually swam that distance in under 40 minutes. Normally I'm happy to get it done in under an hour. Sweet Christmas. This is phenomenal. I started running so I could pass the timing chip off to my teammate and had to stop to walk to calm down a bit. I was so excited I could feel my heart racing. Man. That swim was awesome. Renee went out for the bike, then Lynn and I walked back to the hotel for food (and so I could wash off the river water). 

Pure Happiness

 Back at the hotel we ran into another BTA member and snapped a quick pic. I checked the official IM tracking to see if my swim was actually as fast as I thought it was and squealed for joy when I saw the official time. 37:21. That's right, I swam 1.2 miles in 37 minutes and 21 seconds. Nothing else has felt as sweet as seeing that. This also gave a little extra cushion time for the rest of the team. After refueling and washing up I rested for a bit before heading down to the cheer station.

#TeamBTA #theblackout
 There's a section on the course where spectators are able to see athletes 4 times. The BTA and Tri For Life tents are next to each other so this made for awesome party time. We cheered, we encouraged, we screamed our hearts off to urge our friends on in the brutal heat. It was so much fun and I'm glad I was able to both race and cheer. It was such a different experience than what I'm used to. I had never met a single person that I was cheering for or with before that weekend but by the end of the day they were family. My heart was full. When Renee and I finally saw our runner Lynn come by for her final lap we headed straight for the finish line to cheer her in. She looked strong the whole way and we all celebrated with her after she crossed. (note: post race swag includes the bling as well as a finisher's hat picture with the beer below)

at the BTA cheer tent

pre-race beer
post-race beer
sampling the local craft

 This race was an absolutely incredible experience and I hope that I can do it again next year. Holler if you're looking for a swimmer on your relay team. Between the camaraderie, venue, food, beer, etc this whole weekend was top notch. I would absolutely do it again in a heartbeat. If they hosted a full ironman race with the same swim I might even consider doing that because it was so much fun.

going home with the bling
final results for our relay team


  1. Way to go girl, you are truly inspiring and thanks for sharing with us your wonderful experience. after reading this i felt like i was along you all the way and experienced all your experience. I envy your bling but you go girl and the rest of us will follow!!!!

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