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  • Erin Rock

Augusta 70.3 Race Report

For a month, I’ve been putting off this race report.  The 2014 triathlon season was not my best, and for the first time in my brief multisport career I was hit with a case of the burn outs. In fact, since Augusta, I have not set foot in a pool or climbed aboard a bike.  That being said, I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can open a triathlon magazine without cringing and even started thinking about 2015 races yesterday.

In 2012, Damien and I completed Augusta 70.3 as our first Half Ironman.  We loved the race, the experience and that rush of adrenaline mixed with accomplishment upon crossing the finish line.  Damien even immortalized the event with a tattoo on his leg.  We tried to go back in 2013, but it filled up before we registered.  So when last Christmas rolled around you can guess what Santa Claus brought us.

Unfortunately, an injury caused Damien to attend the event as a cheerleader, so it was a little bittersweet heading down to Georgia knowing that he wouldn’t participate.  We still had a fantastic road trip to the venue, stopping in Asheville, NC for the night.  What an interesting city that place is.  The highlight of the evening was a toss-up between an incredible dinner at Plant Restaurant and an elderly hippie who had molded his hair into a rug, complete with sewn sequins and commemorative medals.

Driving into Augusta on race weekend is like driving into a triathlon mecca.  The whole place is overrun with triathletes.  Every vehicle has either a bike rack or a 70.3 bumper sticker and there are welcome signs everywhere.  The buzz is captivating.  I guess that’s what you’d expect at the biggest Half Ironman in the world.

Race morning dawned slightly warm and slightly humid, but not bad at all.  There was a nice sheet of cloud cover protecting us from the debilitating sun.

Jumping into the Savannah River is always a pleasant experience, especially if you’ve ever spent time in the Ohio.  It feels clean and crisp and cool, and the visibility is surprisingly good.  Being a downstream, point-to-point course, the current is your friend.  There’s a little bit of seaweed, and apparently there are alligators in those waters.  Other than that, it’s perfect.  I’m usually a back of the pack swimmer, but I had a 30:41 which put me well into the top half of the women.

I felt great taking off on the bike.  I was flying past people, and it felt like there was a tailwind throughout the entire race.  I later heard people talking about a strong headwind, but I never noticed it.  I flew at about 22-23 mph until the first water station, and then had an uneventful grab.  I dumped the water into my aero bottle, and dropped a GU Brew tablet into the water.  Between that and my basket of Honey Stinger waffles, I was set for the next 17 miles (when I would hit the next aid station.)

About a half mile past that first water station is when it happened.  Freakishly, the cap on the side of my aero bottle popped completely off.  I watched all my fluid drain.  I’m sure it happened fast, but it felt like it was happening in slow motion.  I felt like I could actually see the fluid in mid-air.  At first I swore, but then I had to laugh.  It’s triathlon- something always happens.

It was a long 17 miles in the heat, trying to swallow the dry waffles without any liquid.  I was sweating like a pig and there was nothing I could do about it except wait.

I finally got to the aid station and pulled over.  I tried to set up a water bottle in my aero holder, but it didn’t fit.  The only other option was Perform, which has never settled well in my stomach.  I took it anyway, and adjusted my set up so that I could carry it on my bike.  The whole time I was thinking that I’ve spent way too much time on the side of the road this season,  At least it wasn’t a crash or even a mechanical; just one of those things.  I hopped back onto my bike and headed back out…

After one sip of Perform I knew it was a bad idea.  So I didn’t drink again until the final aid station, where I pulled over and gulped a little water.

I finally pulled into transition, with a 2:41:09 split.  Despite stopping a few times and struggling with dehydration I had moved from 82nd to 6th in my age group.

As soon as I began the run I knew it would be a death march.  I had no energy, no spring in my step.  In fact, as Damien once said during a grouchy phase at the beginning of a 5 hour hike through the Adirondacks, I was “dreading every step of this trip.”

I stopped at every aid station to take in a few gulps of water, but the damage was done.  Salt was actually caked to my face in sheets.  I’ve always been a heavy sweater but my face literally looked like the salt blocks that I used to feed my parakeets as a kid.

Damien and his non-stop, enthusiastic cheerleading is what kept me going.  At one point, I quoted an Adam Sandler movie, “It’s too damn hot for a penguin to be out here just walkin’ around.”  It’s not something I remember doing, so I’d say things were looking pretty dismal about that point.

It was a miserable run.  I don’t remember talking to anyone and I just tried to maintain some form of running throughout those 13 miles.  I had hoped to go sub 1:40, but I ended up dragging my feet across the line at 1:48 (about 8:15 pace.)

Like any long course event, hanging out with friends afterwards and talking about our experiences was the best part.  I remember after Nationals, my dad (first time as a triathlon spectator) said, “You know, listening to all those triathletes talk to each other after a race is like listening to a bunch of soldiers recounting their tales after hand-to-hand combat out in the wild.”

Even though my final race time (5:07) didn’t match what it was in my debut, the hotter temps had caused slower times across the board.  The saving grace was picking up a 5th place age group award.  I never thought I’d be able to do that in a race this big and competitive.  I also was offered a slot in the World Championships in Austria, but I don’t think that would have been a wise move on the bank roll.

We finished off the day with some well-deserved pizza (vegan, of course) with friends at the Mellow Mushroom.  About 9pm I finally used the bathroom for the first time since 7am (every triathlon blog has to have at least one sentence about urination.)

I’d love to go back and do this race in 2015.  Hopefully, Damien is healthy and we can nail some new PR’s.

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