It was a hot Race with a fast swim and a brutal run and 5 hours and 3 minutes later, Ryan eared his fourth Half Ironman medal. We could not be more proud!
Ryan’s previous 70.3 races have all been special in their own right. His first race in Wrightsville Beach was incredible as he tackled this huge goal for the first time. His second Half Ironman was one he did alongside me, my dad and my brother-in-law as we completed the relay on the same day. His third Half Ironman in Roanoke this year was huge because the course is known to be one of the most challenging. The Augusta Half Ironman race was a new one for him but quickly became another memorable one because he completed it with my brother-in-law.
As you may remember, Ryan “gifted” me, my dad and Ross race registrations into a relay slot in the Wrightsville Beach Half Ironman last year. We were reluctant participants initially (to say the least — haha!) but the race truly ended up being the biggest gift for our family. It was incredible and apparently sparked something in Ross because before we knew it, Ross was registering for a Half Ironman himself!
Augusta 70.3 Half Ironman
Race day began dark and early on Sunday! My dad and I volunteered to drop Ryan and Ross off at the race shuttle pickup on race day morning and left our rental house around 5:30 a.m. It was chilly enough to warrant sweatshirts in the morning but the cold start to the day soon faded to the back of our memories when we were baking in the sun along the race course in the afternoon.
Dropping Ross and Ryan off helped us get a feel for the race course and my dad and I scoped out potential parking spots as we had a better idea of the race-related road closures in downtown Augusta. We then had about 30 minutes or so back at our rental house to pick up my sister, Chase and Ryder before heading back out to make it to the bridge overlooking the Savannah River so we could see the start of the 1.2 mile swim. (My mom was wonderful and volunteered to hang back with the littlest members of our family so they could continue sleeping.)
It was stunning to watch the swim begin as the sun rose over the horizon and we all got extra excited when the Ironman tracker app told us Ryan officially entered the water! We tried to find him swimming under the bridge where we stood but so many people in black wetsuits made that a little tricky.
Once Ryan was about halfway through the swim, we figured we should hop into the car and head to the transition area so we didn’t miss him begin the bike portion of the race. About 27 minutes later, he was off on the bike after crushing the swim!
Soon after Ryan began his bike race, the tracker app told us Ross was in in the water and officially beginning his race! The swim portion of this triathlon was the area that most intimidated Ross and he seeded himself a little ways back from Ryan, hence his later start. I have so much respect for the effort and time Ross poured into training for this race but also for the way he approached the area of the race where he didn’t feel as confident. He took his swim training seriously, even hiring a man to help him with his swim stroke during a few one-on-one lessons, so when we saw Ross completed the swim in 34 minutes, we knew he’d be so thrilled!!!
We cheered like crazy when Ross came running past us and our vantage point on the Riverwalk allowed us to watch him enter transition before we took off running toward the transition exit so we could see him set off on the bike.
For those who aren’t familiar with Half Ironman races, there are two transitions that occur during the race, one between the swim and the bike and one between the bike and the run, but this is the only race Ryan has completed where both transitions took place in the same spot. This felt like a logistical gift to spectators and Ryan and Ross said it was great, too.
Despite only one transition spot, we were still running all over the place and throughout the race day I made four trips to and from our rental house shuttling people around so we could see the guys as many times as possible.
After dropping my sister, my dad and the big kids off at the house while the guys tackled the 56-mile bike course, I checked the tracker app and saw Ryan was flying through the bike portion of the race. (He averaged 21.3 mph!) This meant we had about 30 minutes of downtime at the rental house before it was time to head back out to watch Ryan begin his run. Since Chase and Ryder were more interested in swimming at the pool at the house than watching the race again so soon after we got back home, they stayed back with my family while Rhett joined me for some one-on-one cheer time.
Rhett and I had a BLAST together and he loved cheering for the athletes as they ran by! He waved his sign and repeatedly yelled out, “GOOD JOB!” His role as the third kid in our family paid off big time because this child has been learning to project his voice over noisy brothers since day one and knows how to yell with some serious volume.
Rhett actually caught the attention of a woman from a local news station who filmed him for the local 10 o’clock news! (You can see her camera off to the side of the above photo.) It was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it recording when we saw it the next morning, but Rhett made his TV debut nonetheless and was thrilled!
As we walked back to my car to make the trip back to the house to pick up the big kids so they could see the race finish, I checked the tracker app and the race map and realized we were parked close enough to see Ryan around the three mile mark of the half marathon portion of the race. Since Rhett was happy and we had a nice shady spot to wait, we hung out for a little bit longer and cheered for Ryan again before heading back to the house.
My mom, sister and sister’s kids left to see Ross on his run just before I arrived back at the house to pick up my dad, Chase and Ryder. We quickly turned around and parked in the exact same spot I used before to cheer for the guys! (Major shout out to the police officer at 7th and Ellis who was so kind and accommodating and helped us twice with crazy race day parking!)
Our location had us in the perfect spot to see Ross on the first lap of the half marathon loop! Our spot was a great one and the rest of our family joined us in our shady curbside spot where we camped out until we saw Ryan as he ran toward the finish line.
As Ryan approached, Chase asked me if he could run with Dad to the finish line. I told him that wasn’t allowed but said he could run with Ryan to the crosswalk before heading back to us.
This quickly became one of my favorite moments of the day because Chase was absolutely beaming as they ran by us together.
After a quick high-five from Ryan, Chase ran back to us with the biggest smile on his face. We then high-tailed it to the finish line to meet Ryan with water, a change of clothes and sandals. Ryan was clearly spent after the run and sat on a bench for about 5 minutes before he started to feel more like himself. Once he caught his breath, he said the run portion of the race was absolutely brutal. It was hot and intense and he said he could not seem to get his heartrate under control. He still absolutely crushed the race but I think he felt a lot better after talking with Ross and fellow race participants and learning many others felt the same.
We then walked the two blocks back to where my family was waiting to cheer again for Ross and joined them in the shade.
I love this picture I snapped of our crew on Sunday because I feel like it accurately captures the craziness of spectating a long race with a lot of young kids. Our kids were all major troopers and fueled by the snacks, activity books and Dollar Tree surprises that kept them going. As I am sure you can imagine, having my parents on hand to help me and my sister wrangle 6 kids also made a huge difference. It allowed us to split up when we needed to and give the kids breaks from spectating when they needed them which made all of us happier!
While we waited for Ross close to the finish line, my sister and I made an attempt to see him along the course that involved us sprinting several blocks and looking like crazy people but seeing spectators sprinting from place to place throughout the day during these races is not too abnormal. It’s a lot of “hurry up and wait” as you try to see your athlete on the course! Unfortunately we missed seeing Ross but we also were well aware the Ironman tracking app on the run was oddly running early. It had Ryan 2 miles ahead of where he was at one point but we didn’t want to risk missing Ross closer to the finish, so we jogged back to my family and soon saw him running toward us!
I scooped up one of my nieces and joined my sister in cheering for her husband with her kids! They were so, so excited to see their dad and kept clapping long after he ran past us toward his big finish!
Ryan and my sister met up with Ross at the finish line and our two Half Ironmen walked back to us as we congratulated them on their incredible accomplishment!
While I don’t have an interest in doing a Half Ironman myself right now (never say never), I loved hearing all about the race and really enjoyed listening to Ryan and Ross talk about the course and its challenges. They both praised the swim and the bike but agreed the run course (which we believe was new this year) was “soul-crushing.” Ryan also said the run had him feeling concerned for the run portion of the full Ironman he’s registered to complete in Panama City this November. In the same breath, he also said maybe it’s a good thing the run kicked his butt so much as it’s serving as a much-needed reminder to pour more effort into the run portion of his full Ironman training.
To touch briefly on Ryan’s training, I can only say I am constantly in awe of Ryan and his dedication. Training for an endurance race of any kind, let alone one that involves covering 70.3 (or 140.6!) miles, takes an incredible amount of determination. It’s a huge goal, and one I’m so proud he can say he’s accomplished four times now, but honestly, watching him cross the finish line of one of these races isn’t what fills me with the most pride. It’s the Saturday mornings he sets his alarm for 3 a.m. to get in a 4+ hour training session before the boys and I are ready for family time. It’s the way he juggles a demanding job and young children and a family who loves him without ever dropping the most important balls in his life.
Ryan’s first full Ironman is 6 weeks away and it’s a BIG goal for him. His training is about to kick into an even higher gear and we’re excited to support him through this crazy-long athletic endeavor. He certainly crushed this last one!
Despite the difficult run, both Ryan and Ross seemed solid after the race and were happy to spend the rest of the day in the pool with our family back at the house. We ended the day with a birthday celebration for my niece, plenty of post-race food, lots of talk about the race and family time which will never not be my favorite thing in the world.
It was an exciting and memorable weekend and we could not be more proud of our two tri-guys!
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