Race Report: 2011 ESI Augusta 70.3 Ironman

A lot can happen in a year. In 2010, I embarked upon tackling my first half Ironman / 70.3 event. The christening event was the ESI Augusta Georgia 70.3 Half-Ironman on the last Sunday in September. I’ll be the first to tell you, I track loads of training data, but I never really analyze it. (It’s a little thing called time!) Thus, selecting to do the ESI Augusta 70.3 Ironman triathlon on September 25, 2011 was a big deal for me. I was going to see how far I’ve come.

If you just want the race day report, jump down to the ****

I’m still very young in my triathlon “career”. Swimming and running are my weaknesses, but this sport is so fun, I make do and try to improve. My time last year was 5:48:17. Swim: 35:01 T1: 4:53 Bike: 2:54:04 T2: 1:53 Run: 2:12:21. The ranking out of all the competitors: 1507 of 2581, 129 of 186 age group.

Results-wise, nothing special. Individually and personally, awesome. While it is a race against other people, at the end of the day you’re in your own head for the entire race battling fatigue, managing pain, and craving to go faster. However, you have to conserve energy and the only person you have to prove yourself to is yourself.

Augusta is about a five-six hour drive from my stomping grounds. After last year’s debacle of having to wait in line for check-in/registration because we left early Saturday morning, we left Friday night and drove half way. Saturday morning we were up and at ‘em. We arrived in Augusta around 9:45am and registration was set to open at 11:00am. We scoped out the hotel around 10:10 and saw no one lined up for registration. We walked around the river and came back around 10:40. Yikes, the line had formed. Once again I had to wait (at least not as long this time). I will get it right for 2012. This time they had more volunteers and restructured the check-in process. It was streamlined. GOOD JOB WTC.

Riding in hallways & wearing spandex.

After I was checked in, I needed to get a brief swim, bike, and run done. We drove to the hotel first to ride and run because I wanted to clean and prep my awesome Kane for the next day’s battle after I rode. I donned my Endurance Films kit and did my bike and run. I felt decent.

After my steed was clean, we packed her and my wetsuit up to drop off at transition and to go swim. I, unfortunately, left everything else.

Upon arriving at the swim start area, I realized I forgot my goggles, swim cap, sandals, and boxers. Noooooooo! I suited up anyways and did some mediocre swimming. I really just wanted to briefly re-acclimate to my wetsuit. Then, we drove the bike course to refresh it in my mind, even though it was the same as last year except no boxers this time. Hunger pains started to creep in so we went to where every other triathlete would be, a pasta restaurant. The Olive Garden was packed and was an hour wait. We called ahead to Carrabbas and only had to wait thirty minutes (call aheads are a must during race weekends). We devoured our food. I was dying for a beer, but resisted temptation throughout the meal. We wrapped up dinner and headed back to the hotel. It was now time to start getting in the zone.

Goals are a very personal thing; what may seem like a piece of cake for one person can be a huge deal for another. The two goals I wanted to achieve for this race were: 1) Run the 13.1 miles in under 2 hours. (I failed beating this mark earlier this year in a different half) 2) Sub 5 hours 30minutes overall. I assumed I would be a little faster on the bike and achieving goal 1 would be right at that mark.


Quick Things to know About Augusta

You take a shuttle up to the swim start. They have plenty of portable toilets and ample places to sit down and chill. They have water to drink as well. You are given a plastic bag to put your sandals or shirt in to retrieve after the race. The river has a nice current.
They have volunteers who strip off your wetsuit. It can get a little muddy in the transition area. Lots of grass too.
Great pavement for the most part.
Same as any other T2.
Plenty of aid stations with water, coke, gels, etc.


I woke up at three am to drink a Slim Fast and went back to sleep until 4:30 am. 4:30 am came too quickly at first, but then I was up and ready to go! We loaded up the car and drove to the transition area. I was pumped. I was rocking out to 311, old school Linkin Park, and Eminem, finding my vibe. I knew I was prepared, so I was poised. Weather-wise, it was very warm and very humid. Two things you don’t want during the wee morning hours. I quickly set-up my transition area and boarded the bus to the swim start. Then I waited for about an hour.

Tranquil. That was how I would describe how I felt. I wasn’t psyching myself out nor was I zoned out. I had been swimming more all year and I had done structured swim drills/training the past nine weeks, so I knew I was in much better shape. The Savannah River has a moderate current to help slow pokes like me. Aside from my training, the biggest difference was my 2XU R:1 wet suit. Thank the Lord. This time I started in the middle of the group, maybe third row. No back corner for me this time. Last year, I was quickly shot out the back of the swim group and swam by myself for quite a bit. The photographer was able to locate photos of me. I got passed by a few racers from the next wave! My placing last year was 2,275.

However, THIS year, was different. I was with the large group for a longer duration this time. My heart rate was a little higher than I wanted once I settled down into my rhythm, but my form was horrendous. I haven’t raced enough in my wetsuit to feel truly comfortable. The water temperate was 74.2 degrees, which felt great. It did get a little warm in my upper legs/lower torso. While the better swimmers pulled away, I was with a decent pack this time. I even caught and passed people from the earlier wave! I was super stoked. There was a decent amount of debris (seaweed, twigs, etc.) in the river which caught on my goggles. I only had one mouthful of water this time!!! I kept my focus and kept going. As I entered the inlet for swim out, everyone else was standing up sooner than they should have. I kept swimming until I could easily touch the floor with my hands. Placing was 876.

I quickly got out of the water and ran up the ramp. I stripped off my cap and goggles and rolled them into my wetsuit sleeve as I took it off. I looked down at my watch; 28:44. I thought to myself “AWESOME”. I spoke to myself “this is going to be a good race”. I went to the wetsuit strippers (This is a family event!). It was nice having my wetsuit bottoms pulled off for me. (Ooo la la). I walked/jogged to my rack and got to business. I’m a sock guy, so I had to wipe off the mud and grass from my feet. I put myself together and ran out of T1. As usual, 98% of the people trying to mount their bicycles don’t have a clue (Seriously, Triathletes?!) I forced my way through and kept running ten yards and did a running mount. I was off. My Kane and I were on a crusade.

This is my baby. I’m a cyclist first as I mentioned in my Washington, NC Olympic race report. Ego sometimes gets in my way. As I weaved my way through the bike shoot start and got onto the road, I focused on my bike goal: PACE myself. Set miles per hour stats aside (despite what Brier Bear says) and realize you’re trying to be faster on the run. So, instead of hammering on every downhill, I would lightly push myself, soft pedal, stretch, or coast. The extra 5-10 mph for ten seconds isn’t worth the energy expenditure in the grand scheme of the race.

I started off really easy. I felt like I was chillin’, but I was still pushing 20 mph. About six miles in a rider and I were cruising along side by side talking. He was from Charlotte, which is where I lived prior to Jacksonville, so we talked for a couple miles. He hadn’t heard of Jack Kane bikes before, but he said he was in the market for a new road bike and would check us out. (Here’s hoping he remembers after punishing his body and mind for a few more hours!) This was a complete change for me. Typically, I’m more focused and trying to push my pace. This was more fun.

One thing I always do at every single race I compete in is say “Nice job” or something along those lines as I pass riders on the bike segment. You never know what state a rider may be in and saying nice job may give them the motivation they need if they’re in a bad spot. I like that Ironman-branded events put people’s names on bib numbers so you can call people by their name. It’s more personal. Now, I’m no speed demon, but I’m not slow, so when I get passed on the bike, it’s typically a pretty good rider who is passing me. Very very few say anything. (Luckily, my bike drew some comments!). To me, this is perplexing. Let’s be positive. You’re an age grouper just like me. Get over yourself.

This was a fun time for me. Last year I had a road bike / clip-on bar set up, which is totally fine, but now I was on my super fast and light Kane triathlon bike. Regardless of passing or being passed by riders, it is always the same bikes with the same generic designs. Please understand I am not taking about from the craftsmanship or quality, I simply have a particular enjoyment in knowing my bike is constructed just as well, but is the only one designed like it is.

Back to the bike portion: My only concern during the bike split was the hills. Jacksonville, NC is pancake flat. However, we are “constant cyclists” meaning, we’re always pedaling, no coasting down hills. It is a trade-off. Thus, on the hills I knew I didn’t want to simply power over them and zap precious energy. I kept moderate paces on the hills and kept myself under control. I even, *gasp*, used my 23 cog. I was trying to be smart.

The overcast skies gave way to the sun off and on. When the sun reared its rays, they were hot. Not unbearable, but not ideal! What was even more unbearable were all the people drafting. Why? You’re only hurting yourself in the long run. You’re not getting better by making it “easier”. Don’t do it.

On the last portion of the bike split, the roads were calling my name, I was cruising along at 25-30 mph for a few minutes and it felt effortless. For the last couple miles, I slowed down and tried to just cruise as I prepped for the run. As I came into the closing yards of the bike, I slipped off my shoes and soft pedaled. I did not even really look at what my bike time was. I thought it was around 2hrs 40min. Last years splits: 2:54:04. Overall rank: 1,618. This year’s splits: 2:39:10. Overall rank: 508

Click for my Garmin stats

Racked my bike, said, “Good work” to her, put on my shoes and visor, and was prepared to tackle my final challenge. But first, I stopped at the Port-o-Potty. “When ya gotta go, ya gotta go” ~Ian Malcolm, Jurassic Park

I wanted to do well. In the half I did earlier this year, I started off at 8:15min/pace, which is way too fast (at this point in time) for me to sustain for a 13.1 distance after swimming and biking. I did not fare well in that race. However, the stars aligned for me this time. The first two miles I was doing 8:14min/miles. I physically could not go any slower. My body wouldn’t let me. It was the craziest feeling I’ve experienced in a long time. My strategy was to walk at every aid station (except the first one). After the first two miles, my time started to creep up. While I was minutely saddened, compared to last year, I was sprinting. The first lap flew by. I was amazed. I kept my core temperature as cool as I could. I was pouring ice down my jersey, stuffing myself with sponges. The downside was that my shoes were soaked and squishy. (I need to get some shoes with better drainage. Suggestions?)

At the half way point, I finally checked my overall time on my Garmin 310XT. 4hrs 10 minutes! I ran the first six in 54 minutes. The biggest smile came across my face. I was jubilant. I realized I had a chance to break 5 hours. But, as the way triathlons go, the second half of the run, especially the last quarter are the worst. I started to slow down a decent amount. However, I never once went over 10/min miles, even while slowing to walk at the aid stations. Last year I was doing 11min/miles at one point.

I mustered up the physical strength, but more importantly, mental strength to finish strong. With 200 yards to go, I dumped out the ice, zipped up my jersey, and put my glasses on my visor and sprinted to the line. I was the only athlete in the shoot. It was surreal. I crossed the line and raised my arms and yelled. Last year’s split: 2:12:21, 1507 out of 2581, age group 129 out of 186. This year’s split: 1:57:57, overall rank: 387 out of 2782, age group rank: 49 out of 189. I DESTROYED my time.

2010: 5 hrs 48 min 12 sec, overall rank: 1506 of 2581, age group: 129 of 186
2011: 5 hrs 11 min 41 sec. overall rank: 387 of 2782, age group: 49 of 189

Knocked off 37 minutes and climbed 1,119 places.

Click for my Garmin run stats


[bulleted_list style=”check”]
  • ESI and Augusta put on a GREAT race. I cannot wait until 2012! If you live in the Southeast, you need to do this race.
  • My Jack Kane triathlon bike rocks. She left me feeling fresher at the start of the run than I expected. Not to mention the massive amounts of time I knocked off. She is fast.
  • Pacing on the bike. Throttling back my effort just a little more than I would think and seeing the benefits on the run.
  • Making a point to have a yearly repeat race to be able to track progress
  • Strong run fitness helps in those final miles. (Duh!)
  • Walking at every aid station doesn’t affect your time as much as you think and you’ll stay fresher longer.
  • I would have been up a creek without my race Sherpa. Thank you Scarecrow.
  • It is very frustrating putting my ego aside at times while training and only chipping away at speed. However, “slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” Thanks J. Shilt! I proved it.
  • Absolutely loving that my life permits me to tackle these types of events. It won’t always be this way.

Mention this race report and receive $250 off a Jack Kane bike!

(More race photos at bottom)