Wednesday, October 2, 2013

2013 Ironman Augusta 70.3 - Race Report

Susan and I left home for Augusta, Georgia late in the morning on Saturday, September 28th. Our first choice for accommodations, the host hotel Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center in downtown Augusta was booked up so we planned to stay at the Hilton Home2 Suites.  Our hotel was located a few miles away from the venue. We were pleasantly surprised to find that our hotel was brand new and our "suite" had plenty of room. We stayed at the Partridge Inn last year and found the room to be cramped with few conveniences to say the least.  You can read about that trip in my 2012 race report linked below.

The sitting area in our room at the Home2 Suites
Our room at the Home2 Suites
All but one of my fellow Southern Crescent Cycling club members missed the cutoff to register for the 2013 Augusta Ironman 70.3 triathlon. It was up to Greg Bush and myself to represent the club. My friend Stephanie Powell was also competing. This would be Greg and Stephanie's first half-ironman race.

Stephanie and Greg arrived well before us.  They had both already checked in at their respective hotels and picked up their race packets.

We caught up with Greg and his wife Theresa at the Athletes briefing.

Athletes briefing
Greg and I dropped our bikes off in the transition area.  Stephanie's bike was already there.  It was a sea of bikes.  Many of the bikes were state of the art with disc wheels, power meters, internal nutrition bladders, electronic shifters, and more.

Ready to put my bike into the transition area
Greg flanked by his wife Theresa at the transition area
Susan and I get officially photo-bombed
The transition area
After our trip to the transition area we went to our our hotels briefly before an early dinner. We decided to eat at Carrabba's Italian Grill for our pre-race pasta fix. Susan and I ate there last year so we knew it would be crowded. We arrived at 5:10PM and there was already a 90 minute wait for a table. Following Greg's lead we elected to eat in the bar area.  Fortunately for us there were a few empty seats. When we left at around 7PM the number of people waiting for a table had tripled.

The wait outside Carrabba's Italian Grill at 5:10PM on Saturday
After dinner we headed back to our hotel. We were asleep by 9PM, and awake again at 1AM, then asleep again, then awake, asleep, awake... We were up and ready for the day at a little before 5AM. Susan made me a bagel with cream cheese and some yogurt and fruit to get the juices flowing, so to speak. I had some orange juice too and set aside a gel packet for before the swim.

A sleep deprived Susan making our breakfast
Susan and I picked up Greg and his wife Theresa before meeting up with Stephanie who was already in the transition area. Greg and I had an early wave start. Of the 27 swim waves, Greg was first to hit the water in the 4th wave at 7:44AM. I was second in the 5th wave at 7:48AM. Stephanie would have to wait until 8:36AM for the 17th swim wave to start.

Greg, me, and Stephanie
Athletes hit the water for the swim start as other competitors, family and friends look on.

The swim start
The view of the swim start from the bridge
Swimmers in the water
Stephanie and I had been keeping track of the outflows from the Clarks Hill Dam on an Augusta Half Ironman informational website.  We were encouraged before the race to see that the water volume was significantly higher in the days before the race. However, on race day the Corps of Engineers turned off the tap and the volume fell to just above the level during previous races.

2012 Savannah River flow chart at Augusta
2013 Savannah River flow chart at Augusta
The 2013 race would be my third attempt to conquer the Ironman Augusta 70.3.  I also competed in 2010 and 2012.  The 2010 Augusta 70.3 was my first half Ironman distance race. I missed 2011 before Ironman Florida.  That was the year that it was way too hot and humid to make the race enjoyable.

The day's weather was perfect as forecast. The river was clean and clear with the water temperature somewhere around 70-degrees. It was perfect for a wetsuit swim. After the Pros, Wounded Warriors, and M55+ age-groupers (Greg's group) it was time for my wave to get started. Unlike previous starts everyone remained either standing or seated on the platform until the horn blew.  I was seated.  The horn blew and it was game on. With the wave type start there was very little touching, always a plus, but twice I got wedged between other two swimmers. The first time I changed my course and let them go. The second time I held tough and both swimmers veered away. As I neared the swim exit I could see Susan and Theresa walking toward the swim exit ramp. Susan was wearing a neon yellow jacket.  As I ran up the ramp Susan got this awesome shot.

I'm on the left
I finished the swim segment in 27:01. Augusta is known for its fast river current swim course and 2013 did not disappoint. I've been swimming a lot to prepare, over 100 miles in the past year, so that could account for some of my improved performance over my previous years. In 2010 I completed the swim segment in 28:12, and in 2012 in 28:57.  I had intended to swim in the main part of the river channel to take full advantage of the current but I ended up swimming closer to the bank.

I felt good as I ran up the swim exit chute to the last wetsuit stripper who pulled my suit off in one easy tug. I had planned on a flying mount start to the bike segment but at the last minute decided to put my bike shoes on at the rack. Even though the Augusta 70.3 in a big race it's not my "A" race for the year.  I didn't want to put my feet in any sort of jeopardy.  Running through the transition area in my socks might have put my feet at risk.

A quick wave to Susan as I start the bike course
56 miles to go
I was now onto the bike segment of the race. I had 4 GU gel packets 3 water bottles and several Endurolyte capsules with me. I also had a Clif Bar but I didn't eat it. My water bottles had either a water and Gatorade mix or a Perpetuem, water and Gatorade mix. Since the air temperature at the start was around 60-degrees I decided against using any ice in my bottles. I figured I'd be cold enough. The bike course was great. There were a few spots of rough pavement but the road surface was clear of any debris. I might have seen 20 leaves in the street on the entire 56 mile bike course. You could even see where loose sand had been swept to the roadside. There were several well stocked and well attended aide stations on the bike course but I rode right through them. I took every opportunity to keep my speed up but entered the corners with some caution. Remember, this isn't my "A" race. I've got to stay healthy for another 5 weeks. I finished the Bike course in 2:34:35 with a 21.74 mph pace. Again, that was an improvement over my two previous races. In 2010 I completed the bike segment in 2:43:26 (20.56 mph), and 2:35:34 (21.6 mph) in 2012.

Almost done!
The run segment of the Augusta 70.3 is the best.  The runners loop back and forth around the downtown area so they're able to see their family and friends several times before the finish.  You might even get the chance to see your teammates on the course however, I did not.  Greg was on the run course at the same time I was but I never saw him.  

I hit the run course feeling a little pain in my right glute muscle but I ran through it. Then my feet started to bother me. I'd later find a nice blister on my right foot. I ran through that too. Susan and Theresa were on the run course cheering me on along with the thousands of spectators that has made the Augusta 70.3 a must do race for all first timers. I calculated for a 1:50 half-marathon and that's exactly what I did. I might have hoped for more but I guess I left much of my fitness on the bike course. I finished the run segment in 1:50:08. In 2010 I completed the run segment in 1:42:30 (7:49/mile pace), and 2:01:35 (9:16/mile pace) in 2012.

In the chute to the finish
The finish
T1 and T2 were both slower than I might have liked but it was now all up to the run segment.

My finished time was 4 hours 58 minutes and 54 seconds. That's a personal record (PR) for the six 70.3 races that I've done. I was 10th in my age-group and 296th overall.  In 2010 I completed the race in 5:01:54, and 5:11:31 in 2012.

Break time!
My 2010 Augusta 70.3 Race Results
My 2012 Augusta 70.3 Race Results
My 2013 Augusta 70.3 Race Results
Finisher's medal
Greg and me
So, what did I learn from this race and how will it change my plans for my "A" race, 2013 Ironnman Florida on November 2nd?
  1. Reduce my bike bottle configuration from 3 to 2 water bottles. One on the aerobars and one behind the seat. There's no need for me to haul around an extra bottle when I can just pick one up along the way. 
  2. Rent some Zipp 808 Firecrest wheels. That's what they call buying speed. They might be harder to handle in the infamous Ironman Florida crosswinds than my 60mm Flashpoint carbon wheels but they should be noticeably lighter and more aerodynamic. 
  3. Buy some new running shoes that won't cause blisters
  4. Run and stretch more. I've got to bring back my running game. 
  5. Eat less Chicken Parmesan and more pasta.
I've got to finish Ironman Florida in 10 hours and 10 minutes, or so, to secure a slot to qualify for the Ironman Championship in Kona, Hawaii. I missed the mark by about 40 minutes in 2011. I placed 13th in my age-group with a finish time of 10:49:25. The 3 Kona qualifying slots rolled down to the 5th placed finisher in my age-group in 2011. I'm 2 years older now and my swimming and cycling are better but my running and transition are worse. Everyone knows that runners win the race. I need to be able to maintain a sub-8 minute per mile pace run in Florida. That will be a tall feat to accomplish. Of course I don't plan on winning the race, I just want to beat the other old farts in my age-group.

Greg and Stephanie both had a good race in Augusta. Stephanie was worried about the swim but she finished it in good time. She had a great bike considering she was on a road bike. Her run was steady and at a good pace considering the fact that her late wave start put her on the streets of downtown Augusta during the heat of the day. Greg's race was even across the board as well. He had a very good swim, a good bike, and an impressive run.

So, overall the 2013 Augusta Ironman 70.3 was a great race. The weather was perfect. The volunteers and event coordination were awesome. There was plenty of food, water, cold water sponges, and pizza for after the race. Of course, I started early with the old folks so I'd expect there to be plenty of supplies. To top it all off I got my picture in the Augusta Chronicle photo album (# 14) from the race.

See all of the pictures we took here.

Here are links to my 2010 and 2012 Augusta 70.3 race reports.

Thanks for reading.