Augusta was not my favorite race or even a great performance per se, but I learned 3 critical things:
- There is nothing more important than getting on the *right* feet versus the wrong ones in the swim
- Picking yourself up from crying on the side of the road to re-passing off some of the girls who went by while you were struggling with your bike is a great motivator
- How to manage my run on an incredibly hot day
I went into Augusta with incredibly low expectations (see previous post). Literally, this was what my previous few weeks looked like, with the ones before not much better:
Yep, lots and lots of red. You can see the exact red-eye coming back from a work trip to Colorado that was probably the final death knell for me. Getting the flu was no fun whatsoever but glad *that's* behind me!
I had one really solid week of lead-up to Augusta, with a few sessions (including my 123 mile bike ride the weekend before) that I thought might leave me with slightly dead legs heading into the race. Luckily, it was only a quick trip down to Augusta and a strong field so I figured it would be better to treat it as a hard training day than take it easy on myself and lose the opportunity to continue my swing back up from being knocked down.
For starters, I loved the pro women only field. It was nice to feel like we were the stars for once and the additional lead time we had on the amateur field was amazing (15 minutes, I believe!) I only got passed by one amateur male on the run and that was in the last mile so there were no guys mixing in with the women's race.
I was hopeful that having only the wiser sex would only speed things up at the pro meeting but alas we had the same series of non-sensical questions ;) I hate to be snarky but sometimes you wonder whether there is a reason some of these athletes decide to race as full time pros...
My favorite: "Could you trace the run map pretending like your finger is a runner along the course?" ....
Race morning was beautiful. It was nice and warm, but not too warm yet, and the buses from transition to swim start were surprisingly easy to navigate. I was once of the first to make it to the swim start so made friends with a number of athletes while biding time until the start.
The current was definitely noticeable at the swim start. We got to hop in and warm up, and I was surprised at how far downstream some of the other athletes went. In fact, some seemed to still be making their way back against the current when they sounded the 3-minutes to go mark! I myself was not going to risk making that mistake. We watched the paratroopers jump out for an awesome aerial demonstration, hopped in, waited for the signal—and then we were OFF!
My instructions from Brian were to haul ass and find some good feet from the start. My time out of the pool while sick showed and while I thought I made a good effort to get on some fast feet, I was a little behind the main pack where I (retrospectively) should have been.
I love this about the smaller fields of pro racing: no other waves to swim over, easier sighting, you can kind of figure out what is going on mid-swim.
Downside to pro swims? More lonely, more likely to be eaten by an alligator.
The buoys were numbered and at the halfway point when I started to realize what was going on, I passed the swimmer ahead of me and made a push to try to bridge to the pack just ahead. That wasn't fruitful (missed my opportunity at the start), but it did set me up to come chasing out of the water with a few girls and just about 30 seconds back from some targets.
The first 30 miles were great, aside from a fogged visor. After riding nearly blind and getting paranoid about drafting or getting too close to a rider ahead of me since I couldn't really gauge distance, I finally just pulled off the visor and stuffed it down my top. I love my POC, including the visor, but on some of the more humid courses, I really struggle with it fogging up. Any suggestions would be appreciated!!
Across the first hour or so, a pack of seven or so girls started to form and I sat at the back, or with them just up the road. This is my favorite type of riding—more calculated than just solo hammering alone. You could tell some of the girls weren't willing to make a move to the front, while others seemed bothered whenever I made a pass. On climbs and descents I would catch up to them and sit off the back but on some of the flats, they would disappear down the road. I played this little game of cat and mouse until around mile 30 when I was climbing a hill and decided to shift down into my little ring.
I dropped my chain and so to avoid stopping, I tried to shift it back up to the big ring to pop it back on. That was a terrible idea. There is this small metal place between my crank and my carbon frame that is supposed to act as a protector. But in pushing it back up, the crank caught beneath the plate and twisted the metal upward. I got off my bike, thinking it was a quick and easy fix, but the chain would not budge.
I yanked and yanked without any luck. A few other girls passed. I think about 7-8 athletes passed as I watched my good position on the bike fade away. Resigned, I took my helmet off and just started to cry, realizing that I might have to wait on the side of the road and SAG it back, whenever that would be. Realizing that was the last thing I wanted to do, out of sheer desperation I put my foot on the down tube, grabbed each side of the chain in one hand and pried that sucker out, risking totally wrecking my bike in the process. Dang, if I ever need my Felt warrantied, I might have just screwed myself by sharing this here...
Thankful, I got back on my bike and realizing I had lost about 10 minutes, started to pedal—primarily with the intention of just getting back to transition to call it a day. But despite no longer having access to my big chain (it just would not budge from the little), I started to catch people here and there. I fought through some super weird gearings (think cadence of 110-115+ and having to coast on not-so-steep downhills because I only had my granny gears). I think I re-caught a total of four girls and my confidence started to come back.
Still, that could do nothing about the nine minutes lost. You can also see how crazy my cadence was in the second half versus the first (yellow) as I pedaled like a crazy woman in my small ring:
I figured I would not be happy with my time or placing but given that was never the intention when I arrived in Augusta to begin with, I figured I might as well see what I could knock out on the run course. Stormed into T2 and then off I went!
Absolutely loved this run course, two loops with most of it through town and the best spectators! I was diligent with my salt, nutrition, fluid and ice and felt very in control throughout the entire race. I caught one more female about halfway through and was only passed by one age group guy, something usually rare for me on the run. I managed the heat and had relatively consistent run splits, with my last two miles as some of my fastest of the day.
Was I happy with my race? Not particularly.
Was it a good excuse to put on my big girl pants and suck it up to deal with a bad situation? Definitely.
Did I learn a lot? Hell yes!
At the end of the day I was the 15th pro female, though (wishful thinking, coulda woulda shoulda, etc) had I not had the mechanical and had people closer to chase on the run, I think I could have edged in closer to the top 10 or maybe top 12. It was a great motivator and has me excited to take on the next block of training with full force!
Thank you to...
Cuore of Switzerland - I love love love my kit! Beyond the aerodynamic benefit and comfort, the custom design is one of a kind and unique to me!
Alto Cycling - the one piece of bike equipment I trust to never fail me! I could also tell my cornering abilities versus others since some of the tight turns and twisty downhills were where I made up the most time!
BASE Performance - LOVE THESE GUYS! Using the Salt and Aminos has revolutionized my ability to "handle the heat" and I think that was obvious in my consistent run and not fading in the 95-degree heat out there on the hot Augusta pavement.
Cadence Running Company - thank you, thank you! For putting me in shoes that allow me to run happy! :)
Brian/Accelerate 3 Coaching - self-explanatory
While I had originally planned to do Cozumel after Augusta, life got a little crazy and I figured I needed more training under my belt instead of jumping into the next thing. So what's next? A fun little double and road-trip with my favorite fellow pro... stay tuned!