On September 25th, I conquered my first ever half Ironman triathlon, IRONMAN 70.3 Augusta, held in Augusta, GA. This was a 1.2 mile open water swim downriver, followed by a 56 miles bike course and rounding that off with a 13.1 half marathon run.
This was also my first triathlon where I was not the only paratriathlete. We had about 6 paratriathletes in total, but I really know about the other three hearing blind competitors–one other male, and two females.
Jonathan Blackley was my guide for the race, with Tanya Jackson acting as communication access for my weekend stay in Augusta. The race went as expected and I did manage to hit my goal for this one–to finish within the time limit of 8:30:00, as I finished in 7:24:45.
This was the first time ever that IRONMAN 70.3 Augusta was not “legal” for the use of wet suits. It was still “technically” legal since the water was between 76 and 83 degrees–that’s the gray zone for wet suits at IRONMAN, where you are still permitted to use them, but if you are using the race as a qualifying event for a championship, you won’t qualify.
The para divisions were part of the second wave.
The swim began off a pier. Everyone in the second wave started lined up against the pier and we all kicked off at the same time. At first I thought we had to sit on the pier itself (which was at water level) but apparently, we had to thread water while holding onto the pier until it’s time to start. I think doing it in the form of a starting block would’ve been easier!
As I trundled down the river to the boat slip finish line, my hands kept running into floating tree debris and pulling it under as I went for the next stroke. There was one point where I was bumping into someone in a wet suit on my left, so I had to get Jonathan to move to the right.
I finished this part in 37 minutes and 59 seconds.
Before the race, the farthest Jonathan and I trained on the road was only 30 miles, and the longest I sat on the saddle on the CompuTrainer at Podium MultiSport in Cornelius was 2 hours. However, this course was pretty easy despite the minor, long hills they added tis year. I kept getting saddle sore so had to keep re-adjusting my position, but otherwise managed to pull through in 2 hours, 59 minutes and 51 seconds.
Before this race, I’ve only trained for this distance at Sally’s YMCA East Lincoln Community Garden, which is more like a track form of training environment–you run down to one end, turn around and run back to the road black; repeat, repeat. Each full loop of the Garden was a 0.6 mile loop. So, during this half Ironman, this was also my first half marathon run outside of training and on the actual roads.
During this run, we had to keep me cold and hydrated, so eventually we stuffed sponges down my front and back of my trip-suit. At every aid station water was usually dumped on me to keep me going in addition to drinking more water or Gatorade. I said if you can keep me cold and hydrated I can finish, and I did. It just took me 3 hours, 29 minutes and 41 seconds to finally cross the finish line.
Two miles prior to the finish line,I began to be looking for that inflatable finish arch, so every time a set of trees or building would come into focus as an “arch” in the distance, I would put on a new burst of speed, but when they came into full focus, I realize it wasn’t the finish line and kept slowing down. Finally I crossed the finish line, and realize there was no arch to speak of, but there were giant yellow arrows on the ground.
I completed the full race in 7 hours, 24 minutes and 45 seconds! This was well within the deadline goal of 8 hours and 30 minutes. I ranked 3rd in paratriathlete division with Jonathan 4th. In overall, I ranked 1870 out of 2568 athletes with Jonathan coming in at 1871.
A Hearty Thank You
A hearty thank you should go out to Jonathan Blackley for guiding me in this race and giving up his busy schedule to train with me when he could. And to Podium MultiSport — North Carolina in Cornelius for allowing me to train on their CompuTrainers this past year (that made quite a huge difference!). And to Jake Blackley for allowing me to borrow his bike again for this race–though I now have my own thanks to all the contributions to my Athlete Development Account. My bike only arrived on September 21st, so I did not have enough time to “break it in”; however, now I can use it for next season–so thank you all who contributed again!
Now that I have my own tandem bike, I am planning on continue to compete in IRONMAN races, as well as working my way to USA Triathlon’s Para National championships (which requires that I finish a sprint triathlon within 1:28). I also hope to be able to do a BikeMS Tour for the National MS Society.
In terms of running, I hope I can get my half marathon time down from 3;29 to 2:20 or less.