Mitch Miller

2018 Ironman 70.3 Augusta race report “Chafing the Dream!”

(This is my longest race and subsequently my longest report, I even left some stuff out that I can share at another time. I apologize but I promise it’s all good stuff!)

This is the race I’ve been training for all year. This has been the next big step I was reaching for in my pursuit of continually greater things, and boy was it great! This is my longest event to date and by far the biggest in terms of spectacle and attendance. Over 3500 athletes competed, Ironman really knows how to put on a great event, and the town of Augusta is incredible!

For starters, this was a huge accomplishment for me and my crowning achievement was my time, but probably not in the way you’d expect. I’m a numbers guy. I’m a math guy. I’m a statistics guy. I’m a predictability guy. I continually track and analyze my training and race data. I make spreadsheets. I went on record by telling everyone that I will complete this race in 6 hours if all goes as planned. My finishing time was 6 hours and 9 seconds. For those of you that don’t understand what it’s like to have a long time love affair with math, that’s a percentage error of .042%. Over the course of 70.3 miles through water, on wheels, on foot, in the traffic of 3500 people, I was within .042% of my target. Not to brag, that’s just how I operate. Not a big deal. You know who else operates within .042% error? NASA. And the paternity clinic that The Maury Povich Show uses. Probably. If you don’t agree, the burden of proof is on you so good luck with that.

Now for the detailed report

The swim:
As the last event of the year that I’ll be swimming, I can say that in this year my confidence and ability in the water has progressed leaps and bounds. At the beginning of the year I could complete a .25 mile swim with acceptable confidence; enough to endure the swim portion of a few sprint triathlons. Over the course of consistent training and competing in some downstream aided Olympic triathlons, I can now say I have full confidence in my ability to swim. I don’t, and may never, consider myself a fast swimmer, but when called upon I can enter the water and hold my own without panic. That is a huge victory in itself. Onto the actual event…
There was question about the temperature of the race being wetsuit legal, wetsuit optional, etc. so I made sure to secure a borrowed wetsuit (thanks Dean) and go on at least one cold water swim. Shout out to me, it was a smart move. I found out what all of the hype is about – the buoyancy makes swimming effortless. However, at the time of the race the water was 78 degrees so it was optional – if you opted to use a wetsuit you didn’t qualify for awards and you had to start last… which brings me to the swim start. For whatever reason, Ironman decided to do a rolling start instead of by age group. If you like starting your swim with comparable speed swimmers this is great. If you hate waiting, this is bad. 3500 people entered the water one by one in order of their anticipated swim times. I waited 45 minutes to enter the water so there was lots of time to think about everything that can go wrong. I digress. I jumped in the water at my turn appreciating ALL OF THE OPEN SPACE AROUND ME SINCE WE JUMPED IN ONE BY ONE AND EVERYONE AROUND ME IN THEORY SHOULD BE SWIMMING AT MY PACE. Not the case. Lots of people that are bad at guessing their pace and also bad at swimming in a straight line were also in the water. After coming to a dead stop to keep myself from punching idiots in the water, I headed towards the buoys that marked the edge of the swim area. Again, smart move by me, not to brag. Now that I’m finally a proficient swimmer I find out the real swim obstacles at Ironman are all of the people. Once I was in the clear it was a straight shot for 1.2 miles. I couldn’t feel any current in the river and didn’t notice any movement when I was watching from the start line, so I hit cruising speed and settled into my slow but effective pace. The water felt wonderful, the temperature was perfect. It wasn’t crystal clear, but it was clear enough to see if someone was near me and I could adjust to avoid them. There were also a lot of buoys, which is nice when you’re on a long swim because it gives you short interval focus points instead of seeing nothing but empty space lasting forever into the horizon. Time didn’t fly by, but after a reasonable time I was at the swim exit and climbing up the ramp, with the rest of the herd I’d been avoiding, to the cheers of a big crowd of spectators and volunteers.

 

I was told that the swim is easier than other Ironman 70.3 races, but as far as I can tell there was little to no current, so don’t anticipate much help. The new bike course has a LOT of railroad crossings and rough areas, make sure everything on the bike is tightened down and secure or your equipment will end up in the road side graveyard with everyone else’s water bottles and hydration kits. If it starts to feel tough, just hang in there until you’re running through the cheering section down Broad Street and see what happens…

T1:
Transition is huge. Massive. Big. It felt like half the time in transition was running from the entrance to my bike. It was on grass though so it was soft on my bare feet and I had enough time to regain my equilibrium which usually feels like trying to run while I’m drunk. Don’t ask. I always keep a gallon of water at my spot to wash off my feet, I’m not sure where I learned that but I highly recommend it. A few days before the race I also experimented for the first time mounting my bike with my shoes already clipped in then sliding my feet into them while pedaling. I’m disappointed in myself for not trying this years ago and finding out how easy it is and how much time it saves. I jogged my bike out comfortably instead of what I imagine running in high heels is like, mounted, then strapped in when it was convenient.

The bike:
Ironman decided to use a new bike course this year so we were all learning together. We were warned that there would be some train tracks. Some. The reality was it felt like we were in a 5 mile figure 8 obstacle track of endless train track crossings. There were water bottles, CO2 cartridges, even full aero hydration assemblies EVERYWHERE! It was pure carnage but the yard sale of a lifetime for anyone that wanted a lot of cool free stuff after the bikes went by. Once that was over it was time to haul. I planned on pacing myself since it was a long race but let me tell you StarScream (my bike’s name) came to throw down, he had a mind of his own and I was just along for the ride. The first 23 miles were generally uphill so it took a lot of work for 1-1/2 hours. There were a couple hills that would rival Sugarloaf, maybe not so much the incline but the sheer distance at a consistent incline put me in my lowest gear and gave a good burn by the summit. The payoff though was the downhill portions in the second half. At three separate times I ran out of gears and maintained over 35 mph, at one point hitting 39! It was scary, but it was a race so I held on tight and put it in the tri gods’ hands. I’m extremely fortunate since I had no mechanical failures and no mishaps on the course. I saw two accidents happen in front of me, one person was shaken up but fine, the other person couldn’t get up (luckily an aid van was right there at the time). Despite it being a race, any time something happened there were always a handful of athletes stopping to help out. The mentality of triathletes in competition is inspiring and the volunteers were all heroes in one way or another. After 3 hours that didn’t fly by at all, I was again in transition.

T2:
Remembering some wise advice about a mile out from transition, I dialed back the effort to about 50% to give my legs some active rest and get the blood flowing as much as I could. I also left myself plenty of time and space to unstrap my feet so I could leave my cleats clipped in and jump off of my bike with some comfort. That way once I got to my spot I just took off my helmet, slipped on my running shoes and belt, and then headed to the hard part.

The run:
I knew the run would be tough so I mentally prepared for the worst. As my luck would have it, my quads started locking up tight as a drum right from the start. I chugged some Gatorade and a gel pack to try and mitigate it, high-knee walked like a crazy person to get them stretched a little, then got back to it because it was going to suck no matter what so why not just muscle through it. I was a little excited and started with a pretty quick pace (quick for me) so I dialed it back to lower my heart rate since I would be “running” for about 2 hours. The first few miles were rough. It was hot. I was already convincing myself that I’d never come back to race in Augusta because it’s hotter than the pits of hell and if I want the pits of hell I’ll just race at home in Florida. The run course snakes back and forth around the finish line and as soon as we made the first turnaround to go down the main street, everything changed. Broad Street in Augusta is a pure electric factory! There were spectators EVERYWHERE! These people cheered the entire time like it was Bourbon Street at Mardi Gras. Spectators were yelling and cheering, people in costumes were carrying giant squirt guns or water hoses spraying us all down, and there were aid stations everywhere. The funny signs were great too, my favorite being “Chafing the dream!” (which was funny until my shower that night when I was reminded just how accurate that is). Everything I was feeling miserable about in the first few miles disappeared. It was hard not to get emotional at all of it, but the sheer exhaustion kept me from really feeling anything above my hamstrings. Yet another smart move, shout out to me again, was taking short walks in shady areas to maximize my time out of the sun. It helped a lot with my heart rate and body temperature. Another huge difference maker is pouring the ice from the cups of iced water from the aid stations down the front and back of my kit. I hated having to wear it in the heat until I experienced how much ice it can hold against my core and I took that all back. After grinding out a long, tough, and steady 13.1 miles, I was crossing the finish line to “First timer from Ocala, Florida Mitch Miller!” and I already couldn’t wait to hear that announcer call my name at my next Ironman event. Next on the list is the full Ironman 140.6, but first a nice long shower and pizza. Lots of pizza.

I was told that the swim is easier than other Ironman 70.3 races, but as far as I can tell there was little to no current, so don’t anticipate much help. The new bike course has a LOT of railroad crossings and rough areas, make sure everything on the bike is tightened down and secure or your equipment will end up in the road side graveyard with everyone else’s water bottles and hydration kits. If it starts to feel tough, just hang in there until you’re running through the cheering section down Broad Street and see what happens…

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1 Comments:

  • Wife September 26, 2018

    ♥️♥️♥️

    Reply

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