Friday, October 05, 2012

Ironman Augusta 70.3

(The James Brown statue at the Augusta Commons as racers pass in the background.)

Last weekend, I drove up to Augusta, Ga., to watch the Half Ironman in Augusta. I'm considering attempting a race of that distance, so I thought I'd go up and watch to see if the Augusta race would be a possibility. First, if I can afford it (Ironman branded races are crazy expensive), this would be a perfect race for me. It's only a 3-hour drive from my house and the race seemed to be insanely well-run. Part of this is the fact that Augusta doesn't seem to have heard of the concept of paid parking. The street parking is free downtown and the lots used for participants and spectators were all free, or at least the main one race directors sent me to was free. And, despite the fact the person I e-mailed the week before told me to get to the lot early before it filled up, the parking never got full. I was able to park right in the middle of it all for free and still come and go as I liked. Also, the course, even though it covered 70.3 miles, was really easy to navigate for spectators and, with the exception of the bike course, it was compact enough that family and friends could easily see you for the entire race for the swim and multiple times in the run.

Since I'd be there for most of the race, I took along my good camera and a telephoto lens and decided that I'd spend my time taking a pictures. What follows is the best of what I got. A bit of a disclaimer. The entire day was heavily overcast and it was foggy early on. Combine this with the telephoto lens and the fact that everyone was moving and not all of my photos are perfectly focused. Also, it made editing the photos a little more difficult than usual and editing is not my strength in photography. Also, if your number is visible in the photo, I went to the website and looked up your name and used it here. If you are mentioned here and wish to be removed, let me know and I'll be happy to remove the mention of you from the site. I just assume that if you ran this, you're proud enough of your accomplishment to actually want the recognition.

One last thing. The photos are no exactly in chronological order. I missed the professionals starting their swim by 3 minutes and most of my swim photos actually were taken up to an hour after the pros were already on their bikes. I ordered the photos by leg of the event to make the flow make more sense.

Racers started in the shadow (if the clouds and fog had allowed shadows) of a railroad drawbridge that paralleled the 5th St. Bridge. This is actually one of the later men age groups. By this point in the race, I'd already trotted down to the swim finish to watch the slowest pros and the executive challenge participants exit the water and get on their bikes.

After maybe a hundred yards of swimming you pass under the 5th St. Bridge. There was a fairly sizable crowd watching from there. It's hard to see in this photo, but there are also a lot of swimmers. The scuba divers along the course gave me the creeps, a little, though.

 The swim leg was at the Augusta Rowing Club and college crew teams from around the country have tagged the supports of one of the bridges along the course.

I really wish there were a more interesting way to photograph the swimmers. This was the last women's age group start. The 18-29 year old racers would have been the last leg if not for the relay teams behind them.

A couple of racers were there as part of the Scott Rigsby Foundation, which was founded by a double amputee who finished an Ironman race and helps others achieve similar goals after traumatic injuries. Above is one of those guys. I heard that the two guys I saw were military veterans who lost limbs in combat and since the Scott Rigsby Foundation was there to raise money for Operation Ironfreedom, which supports veterans, this would make sense.

This is the same guy from the previous photo. His name is Jason Gunter and the guy finished the half-marathon run leg in a time that I would currently struggle to keep up with on my two good legs. I'm also impressed the guy put in a really good amateur swim time with only one hand. The pros finished the 1.2-mile swim in 19-21 minutes. Gunter did it in 23. Guys like this make me feel bad about myself. Here's a video on Vimeo about the guy.

The Ironman (movie and comic book one) is a common pun for families cheering on loved ones.
I got to see several of the fastest pros coming out onto the bike course. This guy, AJ Baucco, came out of the water in 7th, but doesn't seemed to have been able to finish the run. I love the skull tri helmet though.

This is the other amputee that I saw racing. Jeffrey Nolan. Can you tell from the last two photos that there seemed to be a lot more tattoos on the Ironman Augusta racers than in the general population?

Most of the top finishers came in a fairly tight pack all at once, which I missed because some dude convinced me I overestimated how fast they'd finish the course so I went to get a quick snack 100 yards down the road. This was one of the pros as he turned off the main road and onto the little street heading back into transition, but I can't place which guy he is.

This is Ryan Rau, one of the professional men in the race. He was in ninth place after the bike and this is his start of the half marathon. For some reason, I was convinced that he finished in the money and he's even the 5th photo of my shots of the men's top finishers. (The top five finishers of each gender won prize money.) Instead, it appears he finished in 8th, and out of the money. I LOVE this tri shirt, though. If anyone ever sees something like this for sale, please forward me the link. Rau is the only pro man that I saw start the run. I had been watching from someone I'd talked to on Reddit when the race leaders headed out and I just caught Rau before heading down to the finish area to wait for the winners to come in.

It wasn't long after Rau headed out that Jason Watson followed him out onto the course. Watson finished 12th.

Maxim Kriat was this year's winner. He had come in second in last year's race but stomped the competition this year. He looked spent as he crossed the finish, but he had the second fastest run leg.

His official time is actually 3:49:14, so I guess he had to step past that painted section for the clock to stop.

Remember how I said that Kriat looked tired coming down the chute? Patrick Evoe may not have pushed hard enough. He actually looked peppier than this in the other photos I caught of him coming in third. Honestly, I can't figure out how I missed the guy who came in second. Also, I'd hate to race this guy, even if I was just as good as he was. Could you imagine running next to a guy after a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and most of a 13.2-mile run and seeing him grinning. It would crush all hope inside of you. It's like how I imagine riding with Chris Horner would feel like. Also, please keep in mind that when I talk about hating these guys, I actually mean I'm in awe. I don't really feel any jealously. I wish I could perform like they do, but I don't resent their abilities at all.

Nick Waninger of Santa Claus, IN, is the guy I somehow missed of the moneyed finishers on the men's side. Sorry about that Nick. I think you may have been invisible.

 James McCurdy finished in 4th. He looks more like you'd expect a guy finishing in the money at a race like this would look. He looks healthy, but crazy focused.

I'd like to apologize to Ian Mikelson. He finished in 5th, the last money spot for the men, and he was one of the guys who really interacted with the crowd as he finished. Unfortunately, I didn't catch the peak coolness of his hang-loose as he ran past me. He doesn't look ridiculous (believe me, I caught some really awkward faces in my action shots), but he doesn't look as upbeat as he did in person.

Yes, I only have a photo of the first place woman while I have photos of four of the top five men. This is not a sign of a preference for men's sports. In fact, I wouldn't have take a photo of any of the men after winner if I hadn't been waiting for the first-place woman. I really didn't have to wait very long as she beat half of the pro men. Most of them if you count the men who didn't finish.

Of course these races aren't all about the pros. In fact, I'd bet most of the spectators were there for some specific age grouper who had no chance of even finishing in their top of their category. That's one of the cool things about sports like this and distance running. The guys who do it for fun are on the same course at the same time as the guys who get a check for their efforts. In fact, I went for my own training run not long after filming the video of the first-place woman and by the time I finished my not-so-pleasant 8-mile run, there were still age groupers coming in, many of them still going strong.


Courtney said...

Very cool, especially about the double amputee. Do you know if he was in the Paralympics? Sounds like he's fast enough.

Julie said...

I think if you get to this level of competition, you deserve the iron man posters. And probably the Halloween costume, too