Sunday, July 13, 2014

Confidence Boosting Training!

This weekend afforded me a wonderful opportunity - to train on the actual Half Ironman course in Augusta! I had already planned to attend the TriCoachGeorgia Training Camp in August (it was my birthday present from my mom!), but a friend arranged for us to have this preview weekend! She hired kayakers, and some wonderful folks from the TriAugusta Triathlon Club volunteered their time and talents to take us on the swim, bike, and run courses and show us the ropes! They are a truly remarkable group of folks!

I arrived late Friday night and found our hotel. This is the same one we'll be staying at for Camp and for the actual race. I was anxious to see how it looked since it's brand new, and find out if it's in a great location for my mom (and dad - he's probably coming now!) to be able to get to everything she wants to see on the course. It did not disappoint! Yes, Augusta is pretty shady downtown, but I never felt unsafe. We were in bed most evenings by 9, though! LOL

Hotel as seen from the run course!

Saturday morning we got to the river at 7 AM to meet up with the gang and carpool to the swim start. I hadn't worn my wetsuit in a long, long time and I was nervous that the river would be 'fast and wild'. I guess what I was picturing was more like White Water Rapids. Instead, this is the sight that greeted me when I arrived.

Early morning at the river!
The water was pretty cold but I got used to it quickly. And my wetsuit felt tight around my neck but I also got used to that quickly. My goal was to complete the distance and relax. The current was swift and it was hard not to set off down the river while we waited for everyone to get into the water. I ended up hanging on to the end of a kayak and putting my feet on a bridge brace.

We set off and I was pleasantly surprised that the water wasn't as dirty as I expected. There was lots of talk of "river grass" and in my head, I was expecting something like Harry Potter battled in the lake during the TriWizard Challenge! ;) I did see some of the grass but it didn't bother me. I was able to relax and sight fairly well. I wasn't pushing hard at all, and my heart rate didn't go up at all until the very end when I saw the faster guys in our group on the dock. I had to make a right turn and try to swim to the dock and the current was fighting against me! That was the hardest part of the entire swim. I fish-flopped onto the dock and took a look at my Garmin - 25:04! Seriously, that distance would take me an hour in the pool or lake! LOL I quickly became a fan of river swimming!

Jeff, a member of TriAugusta who came to swim with us, took this picture from the place where we finished. On the left you can see the dock where we stopped. During the race, we will come around and exit at the boat ramp which is just off this picture to the left. It can be rocky and sharp so we weren't supposed to use that this weekend, but during the race, the ramp will be covered with astroturf.

Yes, I swam this river - you can't even see where we started from here!
After a rather extended "T1" where we thanked our new friends profusely, we took off for one loop of the run course. I had the turn-by-turn directions with me, but it's basically up one street and down and back another in historic Augusta. And then you do that twice. It it completely, 100% flat. Not this sort of thing where it's advertised as flat but it isn't. No, this is truly flat! The area reminded me a good deal of running in Savannah!

We returned back to the Boathouse and drove back to the hotel for a soak in the pool to help with muscle recovery, and then to take showers! Then we took our hungry bodies out to lunch at a restaurant we had passed on the run course: Farmhaus Burgers.

Double-patty burger (because I didn't read the menu carefully LOL), fries, and an Oreo milkshake!
This was the best food I think I've ever eaten in my entire life! I looked at this tray and thought there was no way I could eat it all. Well, I did - leaving only half the milkshake. Oh yeah! ;) I said I will be eating there after the race on Sunday, but in getting the link to post here, I realized they aren't open on Sundays or Mondays. Hopefully they will make an exception for race day. I may call/write and beg.

After this much yummy goodness, all we could do was go back to the room for a nap! Zzzzzzzz....

We had plans to meet our TriAugusta friends at another local favorite restaurant: Nacho Mamas. I wasn't very hungry due to such a big lunch, and I was a bit apprehensive about eating Mexican food that I'd never tried before the night before I ride 56 miles in the heat and sun! So I stuck with the very safe cheese dip and a frozen Strawberry margarita. Both were delicious!

More yumminess!!
Despite the naps, we hit the bed early again for our 5 AM wake up for the ride this morning. This was the part I was really concerned about. I am not a strong cyclist yet and I've heard mixed reports about the course. Some folks say it's hilly and others say it's pretty flat or rolling. Last weekend, my group did a 48 mile ride that was new to me and they said if I could do that one, I'd have no trouble with Augusta. And I had no trouble, so I was encouraged!

We arrived back at The Boathouse (which is the location for transition on race day - not sure I mentioned that already??) and got the bikes out. I wanted to get on mine to just check it out. On Friday I had taken Mike to the bike shop for some adjustments and they took great care of me. But I wanted to make sure that when he said he tightened my rear brakes that it didn't mean that I'd fly over my handlebars! LOL I noticed quickly that there were lots of fancy bikes around me. Tri bikes. Road bikes with aero bars and refill bottle systems. I felt way out of my league. A lady walked up with a pretty regular bike like mine, so I asked her if she does triathlons, too. She said she did and that Augusta had been HER first Half Ironman. I explained the reason for my question and she told me she was more of a "minimalist" and doesn't even own a Garmin! (I do question her sanity with that, though. How does she get credit for her workouts without a Garmin?? LOL). That made me feel much better!

We took off and I was towards the back, as I knew I would be. The lady, Shannan, who was leading our ride (which she did as part of her own 100 mile ride to train for Ironman Chattanooga!) would tell us each segment that we were going to do, up to the next meeting point. She would tell us what to expect with traffic, road conditions, and the hills, etc. It was fantastic!! I was able to focus on what my potential strategy would be for each section, as well as focusing on my hydration and nutrition intake.

The ride was fantastic! I averaged 14.5mph and I wasn't really pushing hard! My "goal" has been 14mph while leaving enough in my legs for the run after. I think that is definitely do-able! And when I got back after the ride, my "minimalist" friend told me, "You don't need a tri bike! You're strong!" WOOHOO!

After the ride, several of us walked down the boat ramp into the water to let the chilly water serve as an "ice bath" to help with the swelling! It was SO cold, but it felt SO good! I could have stayed there for a very long time, but we had to get back for our late check-out (and a couple wanted to put their boat in on the boat ramp! LOL).

I drove home full of confidence and excitement! I really feel like this goal of completing my first Half Ironman will be possible! This course is fantastic and I am really looking forward to racing it and experiencing all of the energy on race day. I am also quite excited about Camp next month, too! I will be able to test out some of my strategies and see how they play out.

Hope training is going well for all of my readers! Stay hydrated this summer during (and before and after) your training and don't forget the sunscreen!

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