Friday, October 26, 2012

Ironman 70.3 Augusta Race Report

I know, I know, I race report is waaaaaaaaaay overdue.  But in all honesty I have been processing the experience.  It still seems surreal to me.  So I am sorry this post is so late, but thanks for reading and being on this ride with me.

He gives strength to the weary and power to the weak.
Isaiah 40:29

Sunday morning I woke up at 4:30 am, but didn't get up until 5.  I had butterflies in my stomach, but I was not nervous.  I was just ready to test myself and my training.  My hubby and I were out the door by 5:30 and headed to McDonald's.  My pre-race breakfast of choice was a banana and a Sausage Egg McMuffin with Cheese.  With my belly full I was ready to go to the transition area and finish setting up. 

The transition area looked very different from the day before.  On Saturday I had to bring my bike to transition.  This was the first time I had to do this, but I liked it because it gave me time to get familiar with the transition area.  Well that was the case once I returned from the hotel with my race number for my bike.  At Ironman events you cannot enter transition with your bike without your athlete wristband and your race number on your bike.  Nothing like getting to transition and being told you cannot enter.  Oh well, lesson learned.  I checked the swim start/exit, the bike in/out, and the run out.  The bike racks were numbered by rack and race number.  My rack was located by a set of flags, and my bike was at the end of a section of the rack.  I knew it would not be hard for me to find my bike after the swim.

Sunday morning transition was buzzing!  I couldn't believe all the athletes that were there.  The bike racks that had only been partially full the day before were overflowing.  I have never seen so many bikes in my life!  I get to my bike and I notice that the person beside me did not show up.  I felt bad for that person because who knows why they weren't there, but I was happy that I had extra room to spread out.  I had been monitoring the weather and I knew it was calling for rain later on in the day.  I placed my running shoes and socks in an extra large ziplock bag.  I didn't want to start my run with wet socks and shoes.  I quadruple-checked my area, took one last look around, and headed out to meet my husband. 

My husband and I walked to the swim start which was about a mile and a half away.  There were 24 waves and I was in wave 21.  I didn't mind being in one of the later waves because it gave me an opportunity to take in the sights and and watch the pros.  We triathletes have no shame!  I saw people digging into their shorts to apply lubricant and pulling in their crotches to ensure that their wetsuits fitted properly.  And guess what?  I was one of those people!

The time finally came for my wave to head down to the water.  We walked down to a floating pier.  As we walked across the pier, someone stated that there was a dead turtle on the back side of the pier.  I refused to look at it.  Even though I was still calm, I had heard about and seen the pictures of alligators that were known to reside in the Savannah River.  The river was also known to have really bad weeds.  A couple of days before the race the river had been partially drained to treat the weeds.  Once treated the water was let back in.  The Savannah River is not one of the cleanest rivers.  You can see trash floating in it and it is not that clear, and here I was getting ready to swim in it for 1.2 miles.

I slid into the water.  It is chilly, but not too cold.  I dunked my head underwater and began sculling.  I stayed in the back of the pack and waited for the horn to sound.  The horn blew, and we were off!  Then my nemesis reared its ugly head.  I had a panic attack.  My heart began beating fast and my breathing was fast and shallow.  The pack was leaving me behind and there was nothing I could do until I calmed myself down.  Since I had been managing my anxiety attacks for the past few months, I knew what techniques I needed to use to get through the swim. 

The swim had numerous people supporting it in kayaks and canoes and on paddle boards.  I knew I had to move forward so I choose a canoe and swam to it.  Once I reached it I held onto to is slightly and did my best to control my breathing.  After a few moments I spotted a kayaker several meters down the river.  As I started to swim toward the kayaker my anxiety begin to rise again.  It got to the point that I became light-headed and had to flip on my back.  I slowed my breathing back down, turned back over, and finished swimming to the kayaker.  I took a few moments to regroup and I started to swim again.  This time I didn't have a specific support person in mind, I just wanted to see how far I could go without stopping.

As I swam down the river I stayed near the shore.  I knew I should have swam more towards the center to take advantage of the current, but anytime I would go towards the center, I would panic.  As I continued down the river I ran into a very bad patch of weeds.  I had weeds around my face, throat and hands.  It was nerve racking to say the least.  I took the weeds off me and kept going.  After swimming for a few minutes my anxiety begin to creep up again, and it was more intense than before.  Once again I turned on my back.  As I did the elementary backstroke, I sung This Little Light of Mine.  I realized I was scared of DNF'ing as I did at Monticelloman.  I prayed to God and asked him to calm me down just enough to finish the swim before the caught off.

I came across a lifeguard and stopped to speak to him for a little while.  He gave me a buoy to hold on to.  There was another lifeguard with him and she offered to swim with me for a little while.  She and I swam together for about 100 meters.  By now I was 3/4 down the river and I had gotten myself calm enough to do more freestyle swimming and less of the elementary backstroke.  When I saw the swim exit I felt such great joy and relief.  I remembered being told that it is good to sprint near the end of the swim to get my legs ready for the bike, and that's what I did.  I sprinted as if my life depended on it.

The run from the swim exit to the transition area seemed to take forever.  Since I was in one of the last waves and I had to deal with my anxiety, the transition area was pretty much empty.  I wasn't upset because I was so glad that I had made it through the swim, and more importantly, it made it super easy to find my bike.  My transition was not fast, but I didn't care.  I had made it through the swim.  It was all about the swim. 

The bike portion was pretty uneventful.  I will say I am so glad that I did all of my 4 hours rides alone because for most of the bike I was riding by myself.  As I rode I focused on my nutrition, my cycling position, and my plan for the run.  I wish I could have ridden with a backpack to pick up all of the nice water bottles and sunglasses that were on the ground.  The low point for me was riding through a very impoverished area.  I saw a trailer that looked like it should have been condemned.  There was a toddler standing on a decrepit porch unattended.  There was also a young girl, about 5, playing in the filthy yard.  It saddened me so much that I picked up my speed just to get away from the poverty.
As I stated before, the ride for me was non-eventful.  I didn't have any mechanical issues and my nutrition was spot on.

As I approached the dismount line I heard a cowbell ringing and the familiar voice of my darling husband, my biggest supporter.  Somehow he found where I would be biking in, and he was determined to be there to cheer me on.  Seeing him gave me an emotional, energizing boost.  Even though I had been the one training for so many months, he had sacrificed so much for me.  I could never thank him enough for all of his support, understanding, and patience.

As I racked my bike the drizzling rain was beginning to pick up.  I wasn't concerned about running in the rain, especially since it was a comfortable 69 degrees.  I ran out of transition and there was my husband again ringing the cowbell for dear life and cheering me on.  I was ready for the run!  Several months ago I had begun doing the Jeff Galloway method of running.  My ratio was 4 minutes of running and 1 minute of walking.  I felt surprisingly well as I began the run portion.  The run is 2 loops through Downtown Augusta.  The run is as flat as a pancake, but the downsize is that you pass the finish line 3 times before you actually finish.  My run was going well until I hit mile 3.  My lower back started to seize up.  I was in pain, but I had dealt with this issue before, so I pushed through.  By now the rain was coming down hard, visibility was low, and I was soaked to the bone. 

Slowly, but surely I knocked off each mile.  The volunteers, the triathletes that had already finished, and the people of Augusta were awesome about cheering those of us that were still on the course.  I thought I would only have my lower back to be concerned with, but then my left glute began to seize up on me around mile 9.  My 4:1 became a 4:2.  When I walked I was actually limping.  My body was revolting against me.  I was tired and felt beat down by the rain.  I didn't know if my body was going to hold up.

As I was going through an intersection there was a black, female officer that I had not seen before.  When she saw me she did not smile or say a word, she just looked at me and clapped.  What was not said from her mouth was spoken from her eyes.  She was pushing me on, willing me to keep going.  I will never forget that moment.  When I saw the sign for 11 miles, I stopped and kissed it.  The pain I was feeling was excruciating.  I honestly did not know how I was going to make it through those last two miles.  My limped had gotten worse and my run was at a snail's pace.  I had nothing left.  That's when I prayed and asked God to let my body hold on a little longer; that I needed Him to get me through the last two miles because I knew it would not be my own doing. 

There were two turns to go before the finish.  As I made the first turn I started to hear a cowbell. I looked down at the corner of the second turn, and there was my husband.  Even as I type this I am getting teary-eyed.  I was so glad to see him!  As I headed towards the corner I tossed him my fuel belt.  My husband just kept telling me, "You're almost there Brina, you're almost there!"  As I came around the corner my husband started running with me on the opposite side of the barrier that was separating us.  I am known for sprinting at the end of every race I do, and this race was not going to be any different, no matter how much pain I was in.  At about 50 meters I took off!  The announcers and those still at the finish area began to cheer and clap for me.  When I crossed the finish line I did a cheerleading kick.  I had done it!  I had completed my first half Ironman!

Getting a medal was great, but the best reward was having my husband tell me over and over again how proud he was of me.  He was in awe of me!  And I was just so appreciative of him.  I could not have asked for a better husband.  But besides my husband, I have to give special thanks to my coach, Karen Holloway, my doctor, Dr. Rob Green, and my massage therapist Tricia Powell.  Karen pushed me to better a better athlete, taught me how to swim, and greatly helped me manage my anxiety attacks.  Dr. Green was essential in keeping me healthy and was always willing to give me a tidbit of training/racing advice.  Tricia was more than my massage therapist, she was also my counselor.  She helped me keep my mind in the game.  Furthermore, there were so many other people that helped me achieve this goal such as my teammates, former teammates and coaches, friends, family, and the generous people in the tri community. 

I am so thankful that I started this journey, and I look forward to where it's going to take me.



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