My First 70.3 as a Spectator!

After the debacle of a season I’ve had, it was all I could do to not come home from Eagleman and register immediately for Augusta 70.3 to try and save face on this season.  My level-headed coach, however, advised me that a 70.3 just two weeks before my “A-race”, which happens to be an Olympic distance race on the other side of the world, was not ideal. Boo…but I knew she was right.

From that moment, I knew I wanted to go and watch the race, which I’ve never done!  It’s hard to be a spectator when you’re always racing yourself.  There were tons of people that I knew from Charlotte racing, including 5 athletes that I coach (one that I used to coach) and I was so excited to be a cheerleader!!

I was able to make it to Aiken in time on Saturday after a monster workout (and monster nap of course) to have dinner with three of my friends / athletes.  We ate at a wonderful little Italian place and my choice of sea bass and Pinot Noir did not disappoint!  We had a great time at dinner and everyone seemed to be in good spirits – which was a relief.  I was definitely feeling lots of mixed emotions about not racing.

I got to sleep in a little more than those who were racing – kinda nice – and made my way to the race site with no issues. On my own workout schedule for the day was a lovely little 10 mile run with miles 4-9 at descending intervals starting at marathon pace, essentially, and descending down to an “all out effort” for mile 9. Yowzers.  I parked right near transition / the swim exit and just as I was walking to the site, the Timex race clock was pulling out meaning the lead pro males would be close behind.  I hopped on top of the bridge to watch all of the men roll out and stuck around until my friend and first year pro, Kelly Fillnow, came cruising out not very far behind some pretty big named pros!  This was the first time of many that my eyes welled with tears throughout the day!

Being the multi-tasker I am and given the point to point nature of the swim, I decided to get some of the 4 easy miles out of the way jogging back and forth from where I parked at the exit to the swim start to greet my friends.  I was gladly able to find each athlete before the race, wish them luck and send them on their way.  I then jogged back down to the swim exit where you could see everyone coming out of the water! I love killing two birds with one stone.

Watching the swim exit is a great way to determine the “goals” of each athlete.  MANY-a-people walked out of the water, stopped and kissed their ________ (kid, husband, mom, dad, etc), grabbed a cup of water as they walked by the aid station, heck a few even turned around for a refill, before making their way slowly into transition trying to catch their breath.  Those that are there racing the clock, however, did none of the above.  They flew out of the water with a purpose, tearing at their cap and goggles, ripping their wetsuit down to their waste as fast as possible, blowing by the aid station in a hurry to get on their bikes stat.  I can certainly relate to the later, but it’s nice to be reminded once in a while that it takes all kinds – “different strokes for different folks” is so so true.  Something I remind myself of quite a bit when I wear my coaching hat.

After everyone was off on their bikes, I had a little over an hour before I wanted to be back to transition to see the age groupers out onto the run so I finished up the rest of my 10 miler.  By the last ~3 miles of my own run, the pros were filtering out onto the run course and I stopped and cheered for every one as they came by.  The race is much different as a pro, as I witnessed.  There was hardly anyone on the course cheering, they’re just running on desolate streets, pretty much alone. Much much different than running in the age groups with the crowd support cheering much of the way! I saw Kelly twice in a very deserted part of the course and cheered as loud as I could with some words of encouragement – she said later she was appreciative and that made me happy.  🙂

I finished up my run and was changing by my car just as I saw Sebastian out of the corner of my eye fly around the turn headed into transition.  I hurried up to get back as I knew others would be doing the same very soon!  I saw everyone out onto the run course and positioned myself at mile 1 which is also mile ~7 so I could see everyone!  Specating for one person is hard enough – as my sister/parents often remind me.  Trying to see like 15 people who all started at various times from 7:35am till 9am, is really tough!  Every time I looked down to my Iron Tracker to see when I should be expecting someone, there was someone else coming through!

Being out on the run course was truly awesome!   After I saw my last athlete come through the 1 mile marker, I headed backwards from mile ~7 to miles 6/5/4 in hopes to catch everyone again as they came through on the first, and some 2nd, lap!  It worked!

I got to see Carrie Andrews on one of the less spectator-filled parts of the course and cheered like a lunatic as she started the 2nd lap of a really strong race!  I got to see Sean Doherty coming through on his way to complete his first 70.3 just 6 months after completing his first triathlon (in 5:17!).  I saw Jenny Leiser and have her as much encouragement as I could as she went on to dominate and take the first amateur female title.  I saw TJ Milewski, Julie Kelada, and Mark Hillen all pushing through to put out impressive races!  I got to see Chris Johnson on his way to his best 70.3 performance yet and Sebastian as he flew by me at a pace I might be able to run for 1 mile on his way to a Vegas qualification!  I saw Drew Brashear amidst not such a great day after a sleepless night doing his best to put the sick aside, I saw Gary Pierce casual as ever as if half Ironman was “NDB” to finish with a PR ½ marathon – stand alone and 70.3 included!  I saw Devon Doherty, despite having some hip pain leading up to the race, plugging along finishing 26 minutes faster than her first 70.3 at Eagleman just 3 months prior!  …And I saw countless other people I didn’t know having good and not so good days that I tried to encourage along the way.  I got teary eyed no less than 20 times as people came by and nearly lost it at the finish line as I snapped this photo.

Devon, Mark, Gary and Sean. The best 🙂

I also hadn’t had anything to eat or drink since I ate breakfast at 6:30 am – despite a 10 mile run, 7 hours of spectating, walking, and yelling!  I was famished, dizzy and dehydrated by the time I hit the finish line…and I didn’t even race!  Thank you Sean for saving me!

My takeaways from the race are these:

  1. A LOT of people make it look much easier than it is.
  2. Our sport is really really hard
  3. Spectating is rewarding and really fun!
  4. I’m ready to tackle Ironman Los Cabos training
  5. My friends / clients are inspiring and really really fast.
  6. Do not attempt endurance spectating without food and drink
  7. I am a sap, just like my Daddy.

Congrats again everyone!

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