Fast forward to the last couple of weeks before Augusta. I was doing my final training for Augusta, and Lake (Ocean) Michigan was not cooperating. The plan was to complete a swim race called Big Shoulder. It is a 1.5 swim “race”. The goal was if I could comfortable swim 1.5 miles in Lake Michigan I would be fine in the Savannah River. Well, there was a National Service alert the leading to the day of Big Shoulder. There were waves from 7 to 10 feet. I decided not to do the race as Augusta 70.3 would be nowhere near those conditions. The race was canceled anyway, but I missed the chance do swim my 1.5 miles. My last few swims in the lake were choppy. One day I literally felt sea sick due to the choppy waves. My last swim was slow 3:15 min per 100/yards. I was disappointed and that was for about 800 or 900 yards. I was thinking that would be cutting it close. I worried my coach, he said my last swim was good that if I kept going I would be fine. That my time was a reflection of my stops too. I said okay.
I thought oh no, I needed to swim to calm my nerves. There was an organized swim the following day so I just changed my plans and tried to stay calm.
I drove the course, it did not seem too bad in the car. There did seem to be allot of turns, although I was not worried about it. Friday morning, I got up to run for 30 minutes, then headed to check in. I said to myself wow this is for real. I met a couple of people in line from Florida. One had completed a few full Ironman races. One was a virgin like me. I got all my stuff, checked out the merchandise. I was paranoid about buying anything until I completed the race. I did buy a shirt with all the athletes names on it. I figured that would not jinx me. Athletes briefing was next. All the run/bike instructions were reviewed, they announced the water temperature- 78 degrees. In order for the race to be wet-suit legal it needed to be 76. Wet-suit optional was what it would most likely be on race day. It was highly unlikely that it was going to drop. The problem would be that it would be the very last wave if I decided for wet suit option It would cause dehydration and the key to making it on Sunday was to be well hydrated.
The pre-race organized swim was next on the agenda. I used my swim skin, it does not give as much buoyancy as wet suit, but is helps with gliding and I feel like I swim better with it. There were two options for swimming 700 yards or 1.2 miles. There were only two exits. They had support kayaks out, but I still swam with my swim buoy. I got in and I was calm. The water felt good. I started swimming and saying my mantras. I had several the best one that I struck with that swim was just Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. I did not see the first exit, and was feeling good. So, I just kept going. Stroke, stroke, stroke and breathe. There was debris in the river, but I just kept stroking though it. Forward movement was the goal. I saw what I thought was the end. I thought yes, but it was not. I just kept swimming but I started to think, where is the end. Stoke, stroke, stroke breathe. Finally, I see the end. There was a dock. I grabbed it, and stopped my watch. I could not get out. The person in from of me, helped me out. I looked at my Garmin and it read 50 min. I said praise God that was the fastest 1.2 miles I had ever swam. I thought yes, I can do this thing. I texted my coach and said I know I was supposed to only swim 30min, but I swam 1.2 miles in 50 minutes. He said strong work. He told me to only bike and run on Saturday that I was good with the swim.
I headed back to swim start and grabbed my stuff and headed to the Black Triathlete (BTA) Meet and Greet. It was great to see some family faces, and meet some new triathletes.
Saturday I woke up and the plan was to ride for thirty minutes, and then run twenty minutes. Ten o’clock was bike check in, and I had planned to finish around 9:30am then drop off my bike. The ride started great although my legs were a little sore. I said would ride a few miles of the race course. I ride for 15 minutes but get caught by a train. There were others riding in front of me waiting for the train. They knew a bypass route so I rode with them They were from Florida also. One had done the race a few times. He loved the race, and told me strong work as I told him it was my first 70.3. We rode and got back on the planned course and get caught by yet another train. It was over my 20minutes so I was just try to head back to my car. I finally made it back and ended up doing 30min. I then started my run– 15min out and 15min back. It was nice decent pace for me run. Following the run, I grabbed my bike, and got in line for bike in transition around 9:50am. I thought get there early so I can get a key spot, not knowing that we had assigned spots.
I headed back to hotel and got my bag all ready for race day. Everything but my final water bottles. My hotel did not have a refrigerator so I bought a cooler so I could keep my water, Gatorade and some food items cold. That was one bad think about my hotel Ramada Inn.
Dinner was my traditional pre-race food Pad Thai noodles. It worked from my marathons, so I figured would be good for this race. I headed to bed about 8:30pm.
I woke up at 3:30AM got dressed, and ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I was unable to have my usually pre-Triathlon breakfast … as no freezer to keep my Sweet Earth vegetarian breakfast wrap. I then drunk a bottle of scratch. I had to force myself to eat. I was not hungry. I grabbed my bag, some other nutrition/fluids as my race would not start until around 9 am. I drove to the Marriott hotel. They had shuttles that transported athletes from the Marriott to the transition area. There was a parking lot for $7.00 and free parking on the street by the Marriott. I got in line for the shuttle, there was only one person waiting. It was 4:30 AM, and the shuttles started running about 4:45AM. I met another person from Florida who had done the race last year. I got to the transition and set up my items. I put air in my tires. I was told the heat would cause them to expand and pop, so I let most of the air out them when I dropped off my bike the day prior. I changed my set up after my first three races, after looking at some videos. I put my helmet and my cycling glasses on the handle bars. My transition mat was set up first with some space for my swim items. I then had a towel with some water if I need to wash off my feet. Then I had my cycling shoes with my socks in them. I had already put some baby powder in them to help with smell from the moisture that could result. I then had all my nutrition set up as dictated by my race plan. I had placed them in bags and had them set up in the order then I would consume them. I had an extra bag with base salt, pickle juice, and some lip gloss. I then had my run items outs. I had my shoes, visor, and race belt, and another pair of glasses. I secured a gel, and a package of block to my race belt with safety pin. I then secured a honey stinger chews to my frame so I could quickly eat while running out of transition. I then caught the shuttle to swim start.
While I was setting up in the transition area, I talked to an athlete that had done the race in the past. She mentioned that Ramada was the idea place to stay, because it was right at the swim start, and that some of her friends had even taken a nap after setting up at transition. I thought why not I could use a nap, and get rid of my transition bag. My bag was so big and transition was tight.
So, I went back to my hotel although and took an hour nap from 6am to 7am. I then walked over to swim start, and dropped off my items at bag drop. The swim start was seeded on your estimated time. I originally wanted to swim with the hour group, but someone said I should go a few minutes before the optional wet suit wave as they might swim over me. I decided to go with the 45 to 50 group. I met so many people in line. Many newbie, virgins like me and some experienced athletes. I even met a random person from Chicago. She thought I was cute, because I had eyeliner on before the race. I told her I liked to be cute. It makes me feel better, and I figured I as a result would race better.
We had to walk out to a platform and jump in. I jumped in and sank and freaked out. My heart rate skyrocketed. I tried to stay calm and keep moving. My goal was forward progress no stopping. I started doing triple switch drills, and elementary back strokes. I still was a mess, but I kept moving. The route was a point to point route, and I passed by two bridges then down to dock. The buoys were on the left, except the last red one that was positioned on the right. I made it to the first bridge, but my mind was saying to me that I would not make it. I could not get a rhythm. I saw a kayak and the lady asked was I okay. I said yes, but I was not. I grabbed the kayak and had a come to Jesus moment. I continued to say my mantra “I am a great swimmer, I can do all thing through Christ who strengthens me, trust your training, trust your race plan, you got this. The kayak lady said if a bag of Doritos can float down the river in 40 minutes that I could. (There is a video with a bay of chips floating down the Savannah river). So I moved on, and I continued my mantras, and one of my favorites was just Jesus, Jesus, Jesus then I breathed. I started doing freestyle, but would break it up with an elementary back stroke. By the second bridge I was okay, my rhythm was down. I felt confident. I thought to myself I could not swim June of 2017, and now I am swimming down a river. I saw other people who had grabbed the kayak and thought I was not the only one. I did hit a few waves in the center, I thought I can do this. Lake “Ocean” Michigan prepared me for these little waves. I ran into some debris, but just keep stroking. We had plenty of space, when I was sighting I noticed more kayak then other swims. Every now and then I would see a person. I kept swimming at first there were yellow buoys. Then they were orange buoys. I thought praise God I made it to the orange buoys. I saw one swimmer’s feet, and I thought he or see needed to lean, that he or she was not horizontal. That person was moving though so I actually drafted off of the person. Usually people pass me and I don’t ever draft during a race. I kept up to the end. I saw the red buoy I turned and kept stroking until I got to the volunteers that were standing up. I assumed I could too. I then run, and try to stop my Garmin and realize it was not on and did not capture my swim
Goal pace—55 minutes
Actual time Swim– 52:56 minutes
I ran to my bike strip off my skin suit. Quickly put on my bike gear. Stuffed my bags of nutrition in my back pockets. I then grabbed my honey stinger chews. Then I ran to the mount line.
Actual time –8:14
I saw a few friends from BTA who were cheering on as I passed by. I tried to pick up the pace. My legs were a little sore. I wondering was it because I kicked too much. I thought let me just get into a rhythm. So, I kept pedaling. My soreness improved, but I began having back pain. I thought that was unusually I hardly ever get back pain. When I do get back pain, it is toward the end of a century or longer not at the start of a ride. My goal was to average 15-17 miles. I started off good, first few miles I was averaging 16mph. I tried to listen to my coach and not use it all, so would have some left for the run. I was not liking my numbers though. I passed the first aid station. I had enough fuel and hydration. The course had allot of railroad tracks. They did the best to pad them. It also had allot of turns, and the hills. The worse hills were at between miles 20 and 45. There were not the rolling hills that I liked. I often say the best part of climbing is the descent. There were not many nice descents where I could coast and roll at 25 to 30mph. After the worse climbs, it leveled off. I screamed this is not right. I kept moving, and talking to a few people as I passed them or as I was passed. I made sure to eat and hydrate per my race plan. I even had pickle juice and I drank it just for preventative measures. I did not have time for cramp. I accidentally littered. My top went flying off my pickle juice bottle. There was no way to stop to retrieve it as it flew into the bushes. I thought thank God no officials were there. I stopped at the second aid station. I was almost out of water. I placed Ultima in my water, and grabbed a Gatorade for my second bottle. I ran into one of athletes I met from Florida. I stopped just long enough to fill my bottle and I pedaled on. I was so over the bike by then. I starting having side stitches that I only have ever experience running. They are so bad I started literally screaming. I keep pedaling but I had slowed down. I was glad no one was around because I would have scared them. Then I decided to sing, so people would not think I was crazy or scare people. I was in so much pain, and almost started crying. I wanted to quit, and I knew I had to get it together. I was close to 50 miles by then. Just keep pedaling I thought and stop worrying about the race time goal. The stitches went away but then I had bloated stomach pain. Something did not agree with my stomach. I thought I had not different fuel I had used on my training runs. I continued to drink although it seems like it my stomach hurt worse. I was so over the bike. I wanted to speed at the end because it was flat, but I did not have it in me. I finally make it back to transition. I thought praise God the dismount line. I see my Tri friend Natalie. She asked how I was and takes a pic I tell her like death, but smile.
I walked fast, I had no run in me not in my cycling shoes. My feet were actually hurting. Not bad but they hurt. I placed my bike on rack, threw off my helmet. Then grabbed my race belt with gel, and block, visor, and my shoes with elastic shoe string. I stopped by the porta potty. I walked out of transition to try to loosen up the legs.
Goal time —8 min
I then started to run. My stomach was better after finishing the bike. I thought I am tired and I really am not feeling this run. I run intervals so I just thought concentrate on running five minutes, and then you can rest one minutes. I told myself to not think about the whole 13.1 miles. My goal was to run five minutes. I started and my pace was my usual. I thougt great, just keep moving. I see some familiar faces on the run. People I knew, some of the people I passed and had passed me on the bike. I met a few people on the course. The crowd support was awesome. Everyone was cheering, the kids, the volunteers. People didn’t know my name they would try to pronounce it, call out my race number, or call me sunshine. They had rest stop about every mile. I stopped at all of them except the very last one. I needed the hydration. I also mixed the water with the Gatorade. I also had the coke/red bull combination. It gave me a boost. I kept moving and soon I was half way through the first loop. I ran pass my hotel and thought I could stop and just sleep, but kept going. The BTA crew was pass my hotel. They were cheering, yelling, and gave me so ice to cool myself. I kept running. I would slow and then speed up. I had my idea pace from my plan and just finish pace. I was successfully in maintaining something in between the two. I then her someone yell Major Taylor- the name of a African American cycling legend It is the name of my cycling club. A couple of my cycling friends had drove over two hours to come cheer me on. It warmed my heart. I waved and they took a couple of pictures. I then ran back by the BTA tent. Von from BTA yelled your coach says to speed up then she takes some pictures. I speed up for a few minutes. I still tried to keep a twelve minutes per mile pace, but no slower then 15 min per mile. I kept moving. I finished the first loop. I only have 6.6 miles left I thought. I got this. I had no idea what my time was or even if I made the swim cut off because my Garmin did not capture my swim. I kept running the worst case numbers in my head and I thought they I should be good. I just had to keep running. I started to slow down around mile 10. I was running a 16 min miles. I had to speed up. I passed my Major Taylor friends, and the BTA tent again. I saw the finish line and had a little over 1 mile to go. I keep running. I stopped at second to last aid station. My legs were so tired. I walk longer than I was supposed to after the station almost half a mile. I then start running. I ran by a officer who said I had 400 yards left. I thought about my speed work and how it was hard sometimes but I pushed to make it around the track. I ran, and ran. I hear people saying that the finish line was near. I actually stopped, and put some lip gloss on and fluffed out my hair. I had to look nice as I ran across the red carpet. I was told the video would be shown forever. I then got my strong running stride, and smile on my face. I saw the end in sight. They announced my name “ Ouida Brown from Chicago first 70.3” I made it. Yes, I finished but I had no idea if I made the cut off time. I see some of the BTA crew in the food area. I then see my Major Taylor crew and thank them again for coming. They say that they tracked me. I ask if I could see, and saw my time. I said praise him I made the cut off. I then looked at my swim time if was 52. I said praise him again. I felt like crap and my stomach was hurting. I felt like I could throw up so I did not hang out too long. I grabbed my bag. I turned on my phone and the first text was from my coach. Two pictures and “Way to Rock”. I guess Von from BTA was his spy.
Run time– 3:03:59
Well I did it, and it was the hardest race I have ever completed. I have run nine marathons, but this was so much harder and longer. I did not meet my goal as formulated by my race plan but I finished before the cut off, I did not drown, or die so I made my ultimate goal. I recommend Augusta 70.3 especially for a first time 70.3 racer because the swim is great for beginners. The current, the support, the point to point swim made it idea. Sighting was easy all the buoys were on the left, except the last one on the right.
My first triathlon season was awesome. It was hard, no doubt. I had some major challenges along the way. The scariest thing was when I literally could barely see after swimming a mile in Lake Michigan. I figured if I could make it pass that and still race I can do anything. That and manage my fear of water, I have yet to totally get over it. It is a work in progress. Not in my wildest dream would I think that I would successfully complete the four races that I have completed. Looking forward to planning for my next season.
“With God Nothing Shall Be Impossible”
“Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy. Ask if they are crazy enough”