Back in December of 2014, I decided that I would do “just one more HIM distance race”. I’d heard good things about Augusta and decided that it would be a good choice. I announced this decision to my husband while making dinner one night and was surprised when he said “I will end up doing the training anyway, so I might as well sign up too”. Cool! Maybe? Now I have an added responsibility of figuring out how to help him train for his first HIM. I am no coach and I am not even very organized with my training. While I to tend to train consistently when preparing for a long race, I have to admit that my “plan” is non-existent. I have nothing against them, but the idea of being constrained by a plan is just not appealing to me. However, I knew that we needed to use one. This was Chris’s first and possibly only HIM, and I wanted him to have a good experience. I’d also crossed that 50 something barrier. My muscle mass is down, my BMI is up, and I just don’t recover as quickly anymore. I was concerned. In the end, we chose Don Fink’s book, “Secrets for Half Iron-Distance Triathlon Success” and decided that we would follow the intermediate plan. Our weekly regime (ideally) looked like this. Sat – long ride, Sun – OW swim, Mon – long run, Tues – Masters and EZ recovery ride, Wed – REST!!, Thurs – Masters and tempo ride/run, Fri – run(slog).
>>Fast Forward>> August was scary. None of our runs felt good during the hot hot Summer, my rides up the hills were a struggle for me as I am still far heavier than I should be, we were stiff and sore most of the time, our once green yard had dead spots, and our vehicles smelled like locker rooms. We learned to put our pride aside and run at a truly EZ pace on our long runs adding walk breaks. Even more importantly (and harder for us to do), we started doing true RECOVERY rides. Once we did that, our Tuesday rides became wonderful therapy for our sore legs, leaving us well prepared for our more aggressive workout on Thursday. So all that stuff I have read about going slow at appropriate times to get faster is actually true. Huh. Some of us are late learners. Finally it was taper time and we were not complaining. I have to admit that we did a long taper, we really started to back off 3 weeks out. This was a good thing as our sore legs never really felt great until the final 5 days before the race.
Finally, that last week was here! We felt amazing on our bikes in that last week. Running? I wasn’t sore, but I was still not confident that I’d be able to run most of the course. We drove to Augusta on Thursday. It is a neat town with lots of postindustrial brick building and Southern charm. We picked up our packets, and visited the expo on Friday, then went back to prep our bikes. Later in the day we swam the course. On Saturday we checked in our bikes and drove the course. I was still nervous about the hills. Chris kept commenting that they looked pretty easy. I agreed as I was glad he felt confident. Inwardly I was still nervous about the ride.
Race day! We thought the wait for our swim would be long, but the time passed quickly. We hung with Kaitlin, Gretchen and Dr. E for a while. Gretchen and Dr. E went off first, then Chris went out and I had a moment of panicky worry. I’d gotten him into this and I really wanted him to have a good day. Soon it was time for me to go! The water was pretty cool and the current was definitely moving. I started out easy and immediately felt a stinging in my left eye. My left side goggle fogged badly. I took it off and cleared it, but my eye was on fire. I don’t know what happened, but I decided that I had better pull up my big girl pants and soldier on. I got out of the water in a little under 30 minutes feeling pretty good. As per my plan, this would be the first and last time that I would check time or pace today. My philosophy was that I would do what my body allowed and be happy that I became far more fit training for this race.
Off to the bike! I headed over to the wetsuit strippers and was just moving into a spot with 2 helpers when a man jumped in front of me. I looked up and there was a single helper to my left. She pulled that puppy off very efficiently. She and I giggled a little as the 2 helpers were still struggling with “important guy in a hurry” as I took off for my bike. Karma dude!
I got to my bike, tried to rinse out my eye, but it was still stinging and blurry. I headed out and started taking some deep breaths. I had a plan and it was very comforting. There’s something to this “plan” thing! Just stick to it. My Garmin was not displaying time or pace, I rode by feel and tried to be conservative for the first half checking my heart rate occasionally. The hills were rolling. I had a 12-28 cassette on back and managed to spin up them on the big ring in front. Waaay less steep than Knox Hill. The road conditions were nice and the weather was super. I’d carried 3 bottles of Skratch and ended up using those taking an additional bottle of water at the 3rd station. I’ve never used the aid stations on a bike course and was really glad we had practiced the handoffs at home. At mile 28, I decided that my body felt good and I kicked it up a notch. My vision had also improved, but I could tell that my eye was swollen. I rolled into T2 feeling the best I ever have coming off of a HIM ride despite the eye. I assumed that it probably meant that my ride was slower than it felt. So be it! You can only do what your body allows and I felt that I had a good handle on those allowances.
I racked the bike, put on my trusty Hokas and headed off for the run. This is the first time I let my mind wander to Chris. I hoped his run was going well. Wtih his asthma, it is his most difficult discipline. I wondered when I would see him and how he would look when I did. I started running and checked my heart rate. I know my threshold for endurance and wanted to make sure I stayed under that for the first 8 miles. At 2 miles, I saw Chris moving along ahead and his stride looked good! I came by and was pleased to find that he was feeling good. I “wifed” him (he calls being “chicked” by your wife being “wifed”) and kept moving along feeling much more relaxed knowing he was in good shape. The first few miles are a little boring, but the downtown area is super fun with lots of crowds. It is a two loop course, so we hit the downtown area twice. I made my way along chatting with folks a bit and walking the water stops. I held pace but started to get loopy in the last 2 miles. We ran around the longest block EVER and came around a corner leading to the finish. I was done. Boy was I done. I stopped my watch and finally took a look. To my surprise I had finished in 5:46! I’d ridden faster than I had expected. 18.3 for the first half and 18.9 for the second. Woo hoo. My run pace was also better than I had expected at 9:40. I recovered a little and headed back down to the corner wondering how Chris was doing. Amazingly I saw a man that we’d met prior to the race. His wife was doing her first HIM. He offered to look up Chris’s progress and said he would be coming around the corner shortly. Boom! There he was. He had his first HIM experience and it was a good one. Sometimes things just fall into place. Embrace those days and give thanks!
PS: guessing I got some sort of irritant in my goggle. The eye cleared up after a few days although we ran into some folks that said they saw me on the run and wondered if I was okay. I guess it looked pretty awful. I will keep some eye rinse in my bag from now on.