Embrace the Suck – The FST Does Augusta 70.3

Well it is over. My second half Ironman is in the books, along with the last one of this season. It has been a season of amazing firsts. My first Half Ironman in May (Florida 70.3) and 4 months later another one completed. Both very different in how they ended and how they progressed, but in the end with the same result … holding the medal and hearing the famous “JC Harris … Welcome to the Finishing Line”. So without further adieux, here is the race report for Augusta 70.3.
We left from Tampa Thursday afternoon after the obligatory last visit and tune up with the Massage Goddess. Feeling all loose and limber we piled into the car with all of out gear and headed North to Augusta. The trip went pretty smoothly. We mapped it out and chose the shortest route, which turned out to not be the fastest, but still saw some pretty country. Jennifer saw cotton growing in fields, which she had never seen before (I know right?). Her actual comment was “it grows on trees??”. So the trip was educational as well. 🙂
We rolled into Augusta around 9:30 PM and got checked in and unpacked and managed to get to sleep around 11 or so. It was a good decision to come up a couple of days early, because the next two days were calm, and we could take our time with registering on Friday and then all day Saturday to check out bikes and get them checked in on sight, and then drive the course. The check in was quick and well run, and it was nice that the Expo was inside the Marriott. Made it a whole lot more comfortable. Some pics from those two days below:

This could be bad
I live in van down by the river

Rock Star 
The river seemed so peaceful that day

The joy of coming early … no lines

How much money can we spend? Go!!!!
Welcome to Augusta
Race day started bright and early, around 3:15 AM. We had packed everything up the night before so all we had to do was get up, grab our stuff, and head out. After seeing transition, the plan was to park there early and wait until it opened at 5 AM. Very smart move on our part. There was plenty of parking, so we grabbed one close and kicked back in the car, dozing until 5:30, then headed in to set our stations up. Ran into Summer and Beth inside, everyone full of nervous anxiety, but everyone ready to go. It’s amazing how easy transition set up has become over the last year, and how little it seems we have there compared to when we first started. It always feels like we are missing something.
After checking and rechecking I left my glasses and using my goggles to see left transition and headed with jenny to the bus to take us to the swim start. We quickly found a spot to sit and waited out the last hour or so until my wave was due to start. We found Sherrie Mauzy and she sat with us for awhile. The time went fast and before I knew it I was wriggling into my wetsuit. As usual I was very nervous before the swim. I still struggle with this, even knowing I can do the distance. I have a year now to try to finally conquer this. I found my start wave and after saying good bye to everyone and getting my good luck hugs headed in.
The Swim
I headed down with the group of other Wave 5 men to the floating dock and jumped in the water. The temperature was actually not that bad, an announced 76 degree, but felt warmer to me. Didn’t matter. I was on;y in the water 45 seconds when the horn blue and we were off. I hit my Garmin, planted my face in and … 
…. lifted it right back out again.
DAMMIT!! This is NOT happening AGAIN!!!
I kept telling myself “John, you’ve done this, it is nothing, just man up and do it” but each time I tried the same result … could not breathe.
OK….DEAL with it!!
Onto my back I went. The river had a current of about 1.5 mph. I can float this for awhile …  get on my back maybe. At some point I’ll be able to get going. After about 1/4 mile I headed over to a kayak and grabbed on. The woman was outstanding. She told me it happens to her all the time, just to stay on the nose until felt I could breathe, and then head to the next boat. They are 100 yards. “Just keep thinking that you just need to make the next boat”. Best advice all day. 
So I boat hopped for awhile, stopping for a few seconds at each one, then headed to the next. At .6 miles in I asked the kayaker where the exit was … she pointed and said “It’s right there”. I could see the finished 1/2 mile away. OK…now or never…so when I let go of the nose I decided to try it again, and lo and behold, I could breathe. YES!! Head in the water, stroke stroke stroke ….I was moving fast and was at the end quickly. So I think much of my issue is not having much time to acclimate to the conditions. Same thing happened at FL HIM and some sprints. If I have the time to get in the water and get used to it for 20 minutes, I am fine. Unfortunately the HIM’s don’t like giving people this time, and this is when I have issues.
I ended up swimming a 51:00 1.2 miles, which is OK if it was a normal swim, but with the current I expected MUCH better. I will take it though.
The Bike
This is normally my strength, and we drove the course the night before so I was comfortable with what was ahead, so I hot this leg feeling confident I would be OK and could make up the swim time. But, as with most plans, there are sometimes outside forces that will take care of you when you are confident. Such was the case here.
I noticed an issue right away. I was on a decline right out of the blocks but it felt like I was not going as fast as everyone else. Even when peddling it seemed like I was pushing too hard with my legs. My first thought was I had a flat … a pain in the ass yes but something I could fix rather quickly, so I pulled over.
Nope … tires were fine … OK … maybe it is in my head.
I headed back out and fought it for 18 miles until I saw the first aide station. I always follow KC’s advice and pull off to get water, but since I was there I decided to look the bike over to see if something was up … 
I spun the front wheel and no issue. I picked up the rear when and spun it … 
It came to a dead stop … 
Oh no … what’s going on??
I looked it over but couldn’t see the issue, but luckily there was a mechanic on site so I walked it over to him. He put it up on the rack and discover the rear when was becoming off center. He told me that it was probably because I am a bigger guy (a nice way of saying fat) on the bumps it was moving the tires in the skewers. he said I was probably going to have the issue all race, and that if it felt like I was pushing too hard to check it and recenter it.
So, 20 minutes after entering Station 1 I was back on the road but I was moving faster again. I was having back issues, but I was managing that OK, so I thought I would be OK the rest of the race as long as nothing else went wrong.
And it did … 
My left cleat started coming unclipped every time I pulled up on it. I had this issue once before and it was due to losing a screw in my cleat, so I hopped off the bike hoping I could fix it. It was in fact a loose screw so I grabbed my kit and tightened it up. It could have been worse. I could have lost the screw which would have been a problem. About this time Beth came past and yelled “what are you doing??” Great Question!! LOL
The second aide station I knew I had to stop again to check the tire, but some genius in an otherwise well though out race course had decided that it would be fun to put the aide stop on an incline. Who thought that one up?? So after finding the mechanic and see the same issue again (only this time being told I was probably too heavy for the bike I was riding) I headed back out. I was more than half way done now, so thought I could power through to the next station, get checked, and that should get me through to the run. The next station would be on an incline would it? Would it??
No … it wasn’t … it was on top of the most God awful hill I had ever seen. And to make it worse, it teased you with a downhill right before it that I actually hit over 40 mph going down … I knew the hill was there from the ride, though it didn’t seem as steep in a car, so I thought if I got going fast enough I could get up the first half easily and then just power up the last 20 feet. The first part worked fine, 40 mph ….
… I never lost speed as quickly as I did when I hit that last twenty feet. I dropped to 10 mph so fast I thought my Garmin broke. I have ridden San Antonio and the bridges and have NEVER had to come out of my seat to get up a hill. That has now changed. I was in the easiest gear and was standing to power up that last 20 feet. You could tell the aide station people were having fun watching it too, but they assured us that was the last bad one, that it was “easy rollers from there on out”. And they were mostly right. There were some climbs but none too bad, and the last 10 miles I started actually passing people (which I had yet to do in the previous 46 miles). I had lost an hour off my bike having to stop, but I got through it. I dealt with it. The time was 4:30 with the stops. So now to get to my worst leg …
The Run
The run has always been my hardest leg and it proved true again. I am sure it wasn’t aided by the hard bike, but I can’t blame it totally on that since it is my Achilles heel. I will say though that I was able to run right away, so the tri bike does help with that. There was walking, but I could do my 1x:45 splits right from the start.
It was a bit disheartening to see everyone out there already on their second loop and heading to the finish, but I knew at this point I was going to finish even if I had to walk, so I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. I got passed by Summer, the last of my team to go by me, around mile 4 (she was on mile 12). At mile 6 it started POURING rain. It had been overcast and spritzing all day (even felt cold on the bike) but now it was a steady rain. I HATE running in the rain, but I kept plodding on. I saw Jenny after the turnaround (I thought she was ahead of me) and she was dealing with her own issues (she’ll write about that on her blog Run Run Bunny Run Run) I started slowing up a bit to see if she could catch me. I figured my race was shot as far as pace goes, so it would be fun to finish with someone, especially the one I trained with every day. That’s worth more than bragging rights, and besides it is more fun. Run time was right at 4:00:00 🙂
We finished together and gathered our medals. We were both a bit disappointed in the results, but we had finished. After my swim debacle at Florida I felt I had really earned this one, so issues or not I am proud of this race. 
The Day After
Another reason for taking time before and after was being able to recover and see the city a bit. During the run I had noticed a music store (after passing it 6 times) with Gene Simmons picture in the window so I decided to check it out. the name of the store is Rock Bottom Music (after the KISS song Rock Bottom). I walked in and immediately noticed all the KISS stuff. Very cool. I told the clerk that I noticed the picture of Simmons on the run. He told me that the owner was a huge KISS fan … so after looking around a bit someone asked me “so who’s your favorite member of KISS?”.
“Well, if I had to pick one I’d take Ace Frehley”
The guy who asked me was the owner, Jonathan Karow. Now finding ANYONE that knows KISS like I do is one thing, but he also knew about other faves of mine, from Black -n- Blue, to Sweet, to Thin Lizzy, to KIX. He was amazing. We talked to him for at least an hour. He showed us all of his collectibles, and even took me into his office where he had a guitar that was smashed by Paul Stanley during the Lick It Up tour (picture will be on Jenny’s blog). If you EVER have the chance to get to his store in Augusta please check him out. I have never ad an owner take the time to just talk like he did. Maybe it’s the Georgia thing, but it was great. You can also find his Facebook page here (http://www.facebook.com/groups/120427394703180)
I’d to add one more thing before I close this out. Our friend Summer was injured during this race. She broke her toe in TRANSITION ONE before getting on the bike, yet finished the race. That is seriously BAD ASS. She continued when most would have quit. She mentioned on Facebook that she had some people question her decision to keep going. This is the difference in what an Ironman is and what one is not. Competing in a race where the weather is perfect and everything goes your way, while still hard, is not challenging. ANYONE with the training time in can complete a race in those conditions. TRUE Ironmen keep going when the odds are against you. When mechanical issues throw you behind an hour, there is NO quit. When an asthma attack hits you in the water, as it did Jennifer, there is NO quit. When you BREAK your toe there is NO quit in an Ironman. Summer is the true definition of an Ironman. She was and is an inspiration. Even with a confirmed break and now in a boot, with her full Ironman race in 5 weeks, I know she will toe that line (pun unintended) and compete at her very best. I also had the privilege to run a few meters and speak with Scott Rigsby, the author of “Unthinkable“. This man is a true hero and inspiration as well. When anything hurts, all you have to do is think of these people who compete against all odds. Makes your aches and pains seem small.
I also will be rethinking my strategy. I am proud of my accomplishments of completing these two Half Ironman races this year, but they are expensive, and I am no longer content with “just finishing”. This was my last of the 2012 season, so until next year I will be focusing on getting to the point that I can do more than finish. This will entail LOTS of running. LOTS of LONG rides. And most of all … WEIGHT LOSS. Although I have come far in this area, most of my issues are no longer the cardio ability to do it, but more the pounding my body takes from carrying 245 pounds 13 miles or up 40 degree hills. I know my races would improve just by losing weight. This will be my focus for 2013.
The rest of the year sees Disney Wine and Dine in November and maybe a Century ride at some point, then hello 50-54 age group. 
I embraced the suck and dealt with what was thrown at me all year. I will do the same next year. Thanks for reading, and I hope in some way it has helped you also. I will keep it up for my own purposes, but if it helps others along the way, then that’s even better.
Thanks for joining me on the ride. 🙂    

6 thoughts on “Embrace the Suck – The FST Does Augusta 70.3

  • October 4, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    I know Jessica! Jennifer told me you were looking for me but I had already gone to the start. Figures eh? LOL

  • October 4, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Congrats on finishing a HIM. You did a great job even with all the things that went wrong. Also, I can't believe I met everyone else including Jen but didn't get a chance to meet you.

  • October 4, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    Congrats on finishing a HIM. You did a great job even with all the things that went wrong. Also, I can't believe I met everyone else including Jen but didn't get a chance to meet you.

  • October 3, 2012 at 12:08 am

    great post!!!! So happy to hear about your experience!!! I am so envious and so proud of all you have accomplished since I met you last year! One day we will get you through that swim panic free! When is your next 70.3?! You may have another recruit

  • October 2, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    You and Summer both faced adversity on race day and you both kicked in right in the nads. I'm sorry I yelled what are you doing. LOL! I was so tired that's all I could think to say. I'm so proud of you! You keep getting better with each race and I can't wait to continue watching your journey. Congrats again JC! You're awesome!

  • October 2, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Thanks for writing about your experience! I know that it didn't quite turn out the way you wanted, but the mere fact that you pushed through instead of giving up makes you IRON STRONG. I love that you and Jenny finished together!

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