Friday night, I didn't sleep so good. Dee Dee and I drove to the Alabama state line to watch Jimmy's football game. Bremmen GA is a quaint little town, and I love them. They are truly what America is all about. I was just teasin with Dee Dee about somebody playing a banjo on the porch.
The stadium was packed. It was prom night, and it looked like the entire town turned out for the celebration, complete with fireworks. Unfortunately, Jimmy's team lost. We snuck out before the fireworks, and despite one wrong turn (bad news is dem parts), we made it out onto the road in good time. When we got back to the house, Remember the Titans was on TV. Having come from a football game, I got wrapped up in the movie and ended up watching it until it went off at 1:45 AM. I set the alarm for 9 AM and soon fell asleep.
I didn't sleep well at all. I woke up to my mind going 90 mph. I was excited about this race, and the big day was here. My body was rested when I got up Saturday. My mind was a bit fried. Not a great combination when visiting the bank to discuss their over draft charges. They charged my son seventy dollars for a fifty cent over draft and a four dollar over draft, and all they would give back was eighteen dollars. We paid the fee, and for the honor of that transaction, closed our account. Please don't do business with banks that charge over draft fees. It basically amounts to loaning money without permission. It's immoral thievery.
Now that I was angry, it was time to go home and pack. I pretty much had everything put together in no time. I'm old school with this now. Unfortunately, I am also absent minded. I left the house without my Fig Newtons and my electrolyte water. We said good bye to the kids and drove down to Augusta. The trip was painless. We stopped at Subway for some lunch, and I focused on eating healthy. We found the host hotel without any parking and managed to score a decent parking spot. We mosied on over to the pre-race meeting, arriving at 2:15 PM. The next meeting wasn't until 3 PM, so Dee Dee and I decided to check out the expo. We met Paul there, working the expo with his wife. They have a framing business for finish line photos. They really do some awesome stuff. You guys should check them out.
We decided to head back to the meeting room at 2:30 PM, and boy was I glad we did. The line was already starting to get long. They let us in and we grabbed a spot close to the front, not realizing that would put us to the back of the line at registration. Needless to say, registration at this particular race was a cluster. It took almost 45 minutes to get registered and get my race packet. Thankfully for us, our friends Kevin and Cathy stood in line to get us a parking pass, or there would have been more waiting. We browsed the expo some more before leaving, but really, there isn't anything new I need at this juncture in my triathlon career.
Off to transition to check in the bike. A lot of people were parking in the field before the turn off by the river. I took a chance and drove my car as far down the road as I could get and manage to park about a quarter mile from transition. I was very happy when I got to transition and discovered I had scored an end spot. Things were moving along splendidly. After racking the bike, we drove to the hotel to check in. Dee Dee wanted to change her clothes for dinner. We were meeting Kevin, Cathy, Molly, and Dani at Carrabbas at 6:30 PM.
When we pulled into the parking lot, I let out and "uh oh". LOL... It was a mess. Kevin had called earlier and gotten us on the list. I checked in at the list taker stand then went outside to find a seat. Kevin and Cathy showed up shortly, followed by Dani and Molly.
Waiting for dinner...
This was the first time that I had met Molly, and that, in itself, was special. We had some great conversation while we waited for a table to open up. Periodically, one of us would go back inside to check on our status. Finally, it was my turn. I went in and the lady couldn't find out name on the list at all! Eventually, she found us on a list she had put away and apologized. She thought that we had left. She gave us the table that was open right then and there, and we were off to dinner. This poor restaurant was snowed under, and it took us an hour after that to get our food. On this night, at this race, I wasn't prepared to let anything bother me. We took it all in stride.
After dinner, we said our goodbyes and drove back to the hotel. I quickly settled in and fell asleep around 10:30-ish or so. I had set my alarm clock for 5 AM. In retrospect, I probably could have slept a little later, but again, no worries. I work up at 1:30 AM again, and I think it was close to 2:30 AM before I fell back to sleep. I woke up a few minutes before the alarm clock. Got out of bed, and shut everything off.
Dee Dee and I ate our breakfast together then headed over to the race site. Our parking spot was a block or two north of the host hotel. We walked to the bus pickup. I gave Dee Dee a kiss good bye and got on the bus. I would meet her later at the swim start. The bus dropped us off right outside transition. It took me probably 15 minutes or so to get setup. I took my time. I managed to borrow someone's pump to check my tires, and everything was good to go. I grabbed my wet suit, swim cap, and goggles, and headed to the bus pickup that would take me to the swim start.
The actual swim start was a quarter mile or so southeast of the hotel, and 1.2 miles (duh!) from transition. I got there about 6:30-ish and began my walk to the river. I picked up Dee Dee along the way and said good morning to Molly who was waiting on Dani. I visited the port-a-potties then made my way down to the swim start proper.
Dee Dee trying to keep me warm! Body heat = good :-)
I opted not to stand in my "corral". Rather, I sat along the fountain near the swim start, so I could see everything that was going on.
Dani is ready to get her race on!
She smoked it!
The pros went off first, then the para-triathletes, then the age groupers started. My wave wasn't scheduled to go off until 1 hour and 24 minutes after the race started. At 8:15 AM, I ate a power bar. At 8:30 AM, I put on my wet suit and made my way to the swim start. My group had just gotten into the queue. I was at the back of the pack, but I wasn't really worried about it. When it was our turn to start, we made our way down the bridge and onto the floating dock.
Walking along the dock. I am third from the left.
Because I was in the back, I ended up closest to shore. I jumped into the water and was briefly shocked by the cold. Getting used to the water temperature is critical for a successful swim start. There was a four minute break between waves, and it went by very fast. The horn sounded, and our wave got under way.
There was a 10 yard buffer zone around the dock. Most of the triathletes hung onto the doc. Myself and a few others treaded water out at the starting line. When the horn sounded, I took off and quickly found myself in open water. Up ahead, a bridge loomed. A couple of kayaks ran interference along the inside to keep us from smacking our head on the trusses. I picked my head up to sight at one point, and I heard the kayaker yelling at me. He didn't want me to run into the back of his boat. LOL... I made my adjustments and quickly took off swimming again.
The river itself was fine. I found myself on an inside track, loosing some benefit from the current, but having plenty of open water in which to swim. I frequently saw the bottom and swam through a few weedy areas, but it was no big deal. I kept thinking when I saw the boat docks ahead that I would soon be done. It got a bit frustrating when the swim exit did not magically appear. I kept my head down and kept swimming, even picking up the pace a bit. The curve of the river meant that I was on a straight line for the swim exit. I hit the boat ramp a bit early and struggled through the muddly river bottom to make my way up. This was tiring more than anything else.
As I ran up the ramp, I reached behind me and unzipped my wet suit and pulled it half way down. I saw Dee Dee on the ramp cheering, and Molly was there at the top of the ramp, cheering me on.
Molly did some good camera work too! She is impressed with my grimace! :-)
I ran down the swim in entrance to the back of transition. They had a few wet suit strippers there. Fortunately for me, one freed up right as I arrived. I threw myself on my back, and she ripped my wet suit off in a snap. My right calf immediately cramped, and I made face. She asked me if I was OK, and I told her that it was just cramp. I'd be fine.
My transition spot was right there next to the wet suit strippers. I threw my wet suit down and proceeded to put on my HRM, my watch, my shoes, helmet, etc. Being so close to the swim in meant that I had to woggle my way across transition to the bike exit. I climb on board Aerowyn and begin spinning down the road. Just before I exited Riverfront Drive and out onto the bike course, I hear this voice.
Liz says to stick with the plan!
Acknowledging coach's instructions!
Sorry, I had to laugh. Molly had told me that Liz gave her things to say to me on different parts of the course. I raised my hand to acknowledge her then got back to riding. I had done some analysis of the bike course and watched the video. For the first time in a long time, I felt like I knew exactly what to expect.
The first seventeen miles or so are relatively flat. This is the best time to get your heart rate under control after the swim. My heart rate was showing 160. I maintained a fast by high cadence to bring my HR down. It dribbled down into the mid-fifties in about 5 minutes or so. I hit a few rollers after that, which caused it to jump back up to 160. After about 7-10 miles, it dropped into the 150-153 range, just the spot I wanted to keep it in until the end of the race. Up ahead, the first hill loomed at mile 17. In my past races, I usually spun lightly but furiously up the hills, and as a result, I got passed a lot. At this race, I decided to give the hills a bit more effort. I pedaled strongly up the hill, trying to stay in the big ring, but shifting down when I needed to to maintain my cadence. My heart rate climbed up into Zone 4 as a result.
Once over the hill, it was back to flat with a few rollers. Quite a few South Carolinians were out in their yards cheering for us. I will not forget the lady sitting in her SUV in the gasoline parking lot. She was just clapping and cheering and screaming GO GO GO...
My ride across the first plateau was uneventful. I actually got to pass a bunch of people from prior waves, and got passed by only a handful. You can hear the whirl of disk wheels as speedier cyclists over take you. At one point, near one of the left hand turns, a pickup truck with police lights went whirling by. Up ahead, a cyclist was down in the road with his neck in a brace. After making the left hand turn, an ambulance went flying by.
About half way through, I ate my Fig Newtons, which were doing their best to fall apart on me. We hit some sweet down hills and picked up some super speed. I joked with a guy as I passed him that we should go back and do that one again. As we traveled through one of the little towns, I saw a triathlete on the side of the road holding his wrist. He said, "Watch out for that hole!" as I went past him. "What hole?" I thought.
By now, I was beginning to feel the affects of my ride. I really wanted to break 3 hours on this ride and show my coach that I can improve and our training had made me stronger. I realized fully that this was probably irrational. I very well might blow myself out on the bike, but it was a risk that I was willing to take. How am I to know my limits if I never press them?
Hitting high Zone 3 was really a struggle at this point. I knew that there was one last major climb at mile 38 or so, then it was rolling until the final downward ride beginning at mile 46. I kept checking my time on my watch. I had averaged 20 mph for the first hour and a half or so, but the hills had taken there toll. The down hill on the last 10 miles was deceptive. The grade wasn't quite what it appeared on the map, but at least there wasn't a lot of rollers. I was more than ready to get off my bike as I pulled up to transition. I looked at my watch and saw 2:59 and hustled my ass across the timing mat with 12 seconds to spare. Mission accomplished.
I hobbled precariously to my spot in transition. Again, the bike-in was all the way on the other side of transition. As I racked my bike, I stabbed my knee with something, either the bottle cage or the chain ring. I felt it dig deep into my knee, and as I glanced down, I saw a river of blood running down my leg.
Holy crap, I thought to myself. Ain't this the most wonderful thing...
I tried to staunch the flow of blood with my fingers to no avail. I didn't feel a thing, and I knew that lack of pain would not trigger my clotting mechanism. I picked up my wet towel from beneath my gear and dabbed the hole. Slowly, I felt the burn, and the bleeding slowed down. When it was no longer gushing, I gave up and began to put on my shoes. I figured the blood would clot soon, and I wasn't really worried about it. Fortunately for me, it didn't take long to get my run gear, and the run out exit was right next to my spot. I walked down the exit chute, resetting my Garmin, and out on the run I go...
Down Riverfront Drive, I ran. As I made the turn out onto the race course proper, I was seized by a cramp in my left thigh. This is great, I thought. If I cramped up this early, I was going to have a really hard day meeting my goal. After walking for a couple of hundred yards, the thigh felt well enough to run. Within a couple of minutes, I felt much better.
The first three miles of the run course, I was supposed to get my legs back under me. By mile three, it was apparent that I had no legs left. I switched to a run 3 minutes walk 1 minute routine, and that carried me through the first half of the race. Every time my HR climbed above 160, I got dizzy and my legs started to tingle. Add to this the cramp that was happening in my left shin, and I was not a happy camper. As I ran past the Ramada Inn on Greene Street, Molly yelled out to me. "Liz said you had a smokin fast bike!" I managed a smile for her, but didn't have the mental faculty for much else.
One of the few times I was actually running :-(
Near the half way point, I ran into Kevin. He was feeling nauseous, but was determined to finish the race on his terms. Somewhere, during the start of the second half of the race, my left calf threatened to cramp on me. I knew for a fact that if that muscle cramped, I was done for. Basically, the rest of my run boiled down to running for 1 minute, fighting off the cramps, running for the remainder of the 3 minutes, then walking my 1 minute.
The 12 mile marker was the most beautiful sight in the world. I made the right onto 12th street and knew that my race was almost over. I just hoped the finish line wasn't farther down than I though it was. The final aide station on Jones Street had a hose, and I let the kid wash me down, and it felt good. I plodded a long, past the Marriott. I saw the cones ahead and drifted into the right hand lane. I made the right hand turn into the finish line and the chute was lined with people.
I got nothing left. The shuffle is the best I can do...
There was not going be any finish line sprint for me on this day. I barely had enough left in me to finish running to the timing mat. As soon as I cross the mat, I was done for.
What it looks like to kick your own ass for 6 hours!
The pain was shooting up my legs. It was all I could do to walk up to the kid passing out water then on to the volunteers taking off the chips. I stood in front of this old lady, waiting for her to take off my chip, as she proceeded to ignore me. With a curse, I finally gave up waiting and reached down to take off my own chip, only to give up in disgust a few seconds later. I turned to a kind gentleman next to her, and he was kind enough to take my chip off for me.
I saw Dani and Molly to the left of the finish chute. They were shouting for me. I walked over and gave them high fives. I asked Dani how she had done, and she told me well. She was being modest. She had a PR and a great race. Congratulations, Dani! I made my way to the street that runs behind the park, then back along the side walk towards the food and beverages. I was still sipping on my water, but I felt really really bad. I sat down on the stone wall there and tried to collect my wits. Dee Dee found me. As I was sitting there, the pain and effort I had put in finally caught up to me and all I wanted to do was cry. Dee Dee saw this and gave this big ole nasty, sunburned, sweaty, salty, bloody body a hug and made everything better.
Dee Dee went to stand in line for my pre-race bag while I found some shade. I joined her when it was my turn in line. I was so glad to my swollen feet out of my shoes and into my sandals. The bus to take the athletes back to transition for their bikes showed up, and I hopped aboard. I promised to meet Dee Dee at the Marriott. Just as the bus pulled up to Riverfront Drive, I had to get off quick. I felt like I was going to barf. Fortunately for me, it was just the gag reflex for my running nose. As soon as I cleared my throat out, I felt better.
The walk down Riverfront Drive to transition was painfully long. I was so tempted to go back down the boat ramp and cool off in the river for a bit, but I knew that if I took too long, Dee Dee would start worrying about me. I found my spot in transition and sat down to pack up my wet suit. This was the time my left calf decided to cramp, and boy was it bad. I let out a blood curdling scream and laid down flat on my back. You could see the cramp moving up and down the inside of my left leg. Another triathlete ran over and straightened my leg out and pointed my toes towards my chest. Slowly but surely, the cramp went away. When the guy reached down and started to massage my calf, that started the screams all over again, and the honeymoon was over. I begged him to stop.
The cramp settled down. I thanked my rescuer and another triathlete that came over and gave me electrolyte water. I packed up my bike and walked it down Riverfront Road until it cleared up enough for me to ride. I wasn't sure I would be able to ride my bike back to the Marriott, but somehow, I managed. As I turned down the road to the Marriott, I heard a car horn pooping at me. It was Dee Dee. She was just getting ready to come look for me. We packed up the car and drove over to Cathy and Kevin's hotel. They had graciously offered to let me take a shower after the race, and it was oh so good. I could not thank them enough.
Let me stop here and say a few kind words about Dee Dee. Not only did she wake up when I did and chase me all over the race course, she was there to hold my hand after the race, help me pack, and make sure that I got home safely. She is the bestest sherpa ever.
I did my best to stay awake and keep Dee Dee company on the way home. I even had a few beers when we stopped off for refueling. I succeeded. It was good to be home.
Final thoughts on Augusta later!! Thanks to all of you for your support, both on my blog and Facebook. I'll say it again. The triathlete/running community is the best ever!!