Thursday, 03 October 2013 03:10
By Ruth Brennan Morrey
Augusta 70.3 Race Report
Augusta 70.3: Finally, finally, finally…a race without drama for RBM. Throughout my first year of pro racing, race barriers became commonplace and each one challenged me to persevere either tactically, physically, mentally, or mechanically. Small mistakes/mishaps were magnified and every pedal stroke counted as even long course placings can be decided by mere seconds. This weekend in Augusta, GA, however, there were no stolen transition bags, no agony, no crashes, no flat tires, no 4 foot Adriatic or Lake Michigan swells, no...
getting stuck behind semi-trucks, no vomiting or swimming off course, no monumental climbs, no draft-legal errors, and no 200m sprints to grab the last podium position. These are not ‘excuses’—I don’t do excuses—just unpredictable events that had become part of a given race that certainly tested my wits. Instead, from the cannon blast to the finishing shoot, Ironman Augusta 70.3 was blissful and….gotta say it—just PEACHY!
Racing as a professional has been a drastic change in training regimen and race mentality. A cookie cutter online program was used for the first two amateur years allowing me to get fit and strong, but this year’s approach has been a whole new ballgame. Training and racing with a power meter and having a coach whose own academic research expertise and unique software examining critical power has helped tremendously with my bike skills, consistency, and confidence in the 2nd leg of the race. It has made ALL the difference.
Augusta 70.3 was a runner’s race and a weaker swimmer’s dream. Coming into the weekend, I knew my run was in good form, the bike segment would be strong and consistent, and if no unanticipated challenges arose, my ultimate placing would boil down to how many minutes back out of the water I was from the leaders. All season long, this has been my #1 question I needed answered while running out of the swim exit: How much run chasing would be necessary to creep into a top 5 finish? Going into the race, I knew that Emma-Kate Lidbury (six-time IM 70.3 champion) and Melissa Hauschildt (two time 70.3 World Champion, and winner of most 70.3’s she has entered in 2012/13) would be the top dogs on September 29.
Swim: The Savannah River flows through the heart of Augusta and greeted athletes with a perfect 70 degree water temperature and a fast moving current—a point to point 1.2 mile downstream swim. Brilliant! A fast moving current not only means that fast swim times will result, but that the actual distance swum is dramatically shortened. In the Savannah, strong swimmers are at a disadvantage because the sailfish swimmers simply cannot gain as much time on the 2nd and 3rd pack guppies. An ITU style dive-start began the female pro race, 3 minutes behind the men, on a 50-yard platform dock jutting out from the shore of the river. I positioned myself as far left as possible on the dock, where the river current would be strongest. My swim coach, Tom Walsh, would be proud to hear that my distance per stroke must have been around 10 meters per stroke. J It was awesome. Next time perhaps I will bring a tube and a cooler along. It was by far the most enjoyable swim I have ever done in training or racing. 24 minutes. In and out. A handful of pink caps were still in sight so I knew I was in good position coming out of the water. This was HUGE.
Bike: Let’s face it, ‘rolling hills’ are relative. Some amateurs said they ‘died’ on the hills, but after Switzerland’s 5500 ft of climbing three weeks ago, my memory of any inclines, mole hills or speed bumps was non-existent—it seemed flat to me. The outbound headwind wind was noticeable but tolerable. My back Hed Stinger disc FR and front Jet 6 were perfect wheel selections for the gusty conditions—I was literally sailing. Slow and fast sections of the course were observed and noted on the day prior during a course drive with the guy who introduced me to this exhilarating sport—Dr. Eric Loveless—an anal retentive, strawberry blond, orthopedic surgeon and Kona finisher with an astronomic heart for goodness from Jacksonville, FL who was racing for one of his pediatric spinal patients. Just spending time with Eric and his family made the entire trip to GA worthwhile.
The bike segment was relatively uneventful (which is good!). It was a 56 mile one loop course with decent roads crossing over into South Carolina for much of the ride. Around mile 40, I started to get a bit tired, mind drifting, and I was trying keep my power up and rhythm going. As we all know, these moments do and will occur, and our mental persistence will determine our fortitude. As for my own mental race plan to cope with the trying times, before every race I choose a scripture based mantra to keep me focused, strong, and thankful. (My friend Betsy recommended I NOT choose one about perseverance as I did at Du Worlds—if you know the story, you know that that one backfired—I needed it too often!). At mile 42 or so, I zipped past an ‘out in the middle of nowhere’ church. At the PRECISE moment I cruised past the church at 24 miles/hr, my all-time favorite mantra slowly ROARED out of a loudspeaker, Philippians 4:13, “I Can Do All Things Through Him Who Strengthens Me”. It wasn’t faded or distant. It was clear as day…. in my face—and perhaps a bit creepy. J I instantly started crying like a baby. Yep, on the bike…crying. Being very much an emotional competitor, this just caught me off guard, but it was like a sugar rush, and I felt rejuvenated and refocused.
T2/Run: My bike split was fairly solid (2:24:06, 2nd fastest of the day). I passed 6 women (and 3 pro men J) on the bike, so I knew I was still in good shape for my favorite game of Chase. I was elated when I saw only three bikes racked in T2 with one of the female pros darting out to begin her run approximately 30 seconds ahead of me. My run groove arrived almost instantly but I was a bit perturbed that Hallie Blunck was not falling back on my toes as quickly as I would have liked. Patience… patience…relax…relax… I kept trotting along, arms rhythmic, and finally overtook her at mile 4. Hallie looked strong and grooved up too. Eric’s wife, Loly, told me I was only ONE minute behind the next female runner and in 3rd place at that point. It was so early in the run, I felt so good, and the crowd’s energy was palpable. You just can’t beat a southern crowd-- “Go Ma’am!” was among my favorite cheers. I was beaming inside. No word about 1st place female until mile 7… “She’s 10 minutes ahead!” What?! Melissa Hauschildt was having yet another freakishly fast day. One of the pro men suggested that she race with them next time. After I had overtaken Emma-Kate at mile 6, I knew early on that 2nd place is where I would stay. The run was my slowest split (1:22:04) of the season by a few minutes but I felt like I could have run forever that day. I felt so good, and yes, I was thrilled with a PR finishing time of 4:15:20.
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