Tuesday, October 12, 2010

2010 ESI Augusta 70.3 Race Report


~~~Facing the Giants Spoiler in this video! ~~~’

I refer to the movie Facing the Giants a lot. I think this movie taught me that God can be present even in sports. I have tried to really let God use me when training for and competing in triathlons. All I have to do is give it to Him. There is one part of the movie, at the end, where the coach comes in and asks team members, “What is impossible with God?” The response… “NOTHING!”

Nothing is impossible with God!

This is significant for me because knowing this got me through Augusta!


We drove up to Augusta, Ga Saturday morning. I checked in immediately and the line was ridiculously long! They only had 4 volunteers checking in athletes. Other than that checking in was a non-issue. I hit the expo, checked-in my bike, and I was in bed at 7pm. I wanted to get up by 3:15am and be out the door by 4am. I always have stomach distress before a big race. I wanted to have time to relax if that was the case in the morning and I figured it would be. At 3:15am I woke up and immediately took 2 Pepto Bismol tablets. This is a little trick I learned from the tri athlete social website www.iamtri.com. I took in applesauce but wasn't really in the mood to eat.

We arrived at the race site and it was total chaos! Let me just tell you the logistics used in the set up of this race left much to be desired. The parking situation presented a HUGE challenge. At 4:45am, I was the first athlete in the transition area. In fact, I arrived 15 minutes before the transition area even opened! I mean I beat EVERYONE there… even the body markers! I needed that time, though, to feel settled. That also meant I was the first person in the green giant (porta-johns). I’m sorry, but every triathlete knows you cannot talk about triathlon without mentioning the porta-johns! I then took another dose of Pepto!

After trying to come up with a plan amidst the chaos, we decided KP would park at the swim start. Unfortunately, she would miss the swim exit and the bike start/finish. She would, however, have a parking spot and be in position for the run. Let me say, if you have a significant other who wants to watch this race in its entirety, having a bicycle for him/her might not be a bad idea. Parking and viewing access are a huge challenge for the first two legs of the race. You may have to do what we did and have your spouse miss the swim exit and bike start/finish. The hardest part of the race is usually the swim start and the run so we opted to park at the swim start. Having KP at the swim start was really neat. I don’t know why but I still get very nervous before the swim...every time! The spectator view of the swim start is about 100-150 yards away on top of a hill. Poor planning, I think, by the organizers! Your significant other will barely be able to see the start. As time wore on more and more spectators were making their way down that hill. (shhhh KP was one of them lol)
My wave was the first age group wave to start. Pro males, followed by Pro females, then physically challenged. Finally, my wave would start; the first wave of age group 30-34. I did see Scott Rigsby in the transition area. Talk about motivation. I have seen his interviews and know that he has a strong faith in God. Scott Rigsby was the first double amputee to complete Ironman Kona. Kona is the Holy Grail of triathlon.


At this point there was a light, off and on, rain with heavier rain forecasted for later in the afternoon. It looked like the rain was going to be pretty heavy during the mid to late afternoon. I would later learn that would surely be the case. I took plenty of time to put on my wetsuit. I didn’t want to have issues with my wetsuit like I did in the Lake Logan Olympic distance triathlon. As usual, I engaged in nervous chatter with other athletes. Can I just say there were A LOT more African-American triathletes here than in New Orleans. That was pretty cool to see, too! I walked over to the side and I prayed. I gave this race to God. I admitted I was afraid. I admitted I felt like He wasn't with me like I did in previous races. It was because I was too consumed with the unknown. And so I prayed, and I prayed and finally, I felt like I was with God but still had some trepidation. I admitted I was afraid, but felt at that point, I was still giving the race to God. So all I had to do was have faith.

The two minute warning sounded as we approached the water. My heart rate wasn't peaking, but I was still nervous. 1 minute warning. Everyone was getting excited. The announcer really had the crowd going. I could hear the cheers. We were the first Age group and I could hear the crowds screaming with anticipation. HORN!!!!!

I started my Timex watch so I could keep track of my race time. I put my head down and I started swimming. I was feeling really good. The swim is the place where my mind plays the most tricks on me. It’s where I have to struggle to listen to the Voice of Truth. I still continue to struggle with sighting on swims and found myself zigzagging at the start. Finally, I was able to see the buoys. The river was murky like every other body of water I had been in. There was A LOT of natural debris in the water which got really annoying after a while. One time I saw what I thought were fish scales and it turned out to be leaves. It’s all fun and games until I’m screaming like a girl underwater!

I remember sighting the swim exit and thinking, I never did feel the downstream current everyone was talking about. I was thinking my swim was probably about 40 minutes, which isn’t bad, but as I approached the timing mat I looked at my watch…33 minutes! NO WAY! That swim really set the tone for my race. Not because it was a fast swim, but the fact that I felt comfortable in the water…that is what set the stage for me!

Transition 1: Swim to Bike

I decided in some of my early races that I will give these events the respect they deserve! I jogged (instead of walked like KP told me to do lol) to my bike but first I had to visit the green giant (porta john). I was happy to relieve the effects of my hydration in transition and not on the bike. Then I ran to my bike and boogied on out of Transition. I made sure to turn on my Garmin and Bike computer prior to leaving transition. I forgot to do that in New Orleans! I was pleased with my transition considering how far the run was from the swim exit to the transition…350 feet! I went to grab my Gas-X strips and they had melted in the rain! I opened the strips ahead of time for easy access, but it turned out to be a bad idea in the rain.

Bike: 56 Miles

I remember reading race reports going into Augusta that stated, paraphrasing here, the first 12 miles are super flat but don’t let that fool you. At mile 12, they said the hills come. My heart rate was 165bpm coming out of the water and transition 1. My goal was to wait until my heart rate was about 140 to 145 before I started to take in fluids and find my race. I headed out of transition and my cycling computer wasn’t working. I checked it the day before and it was working fine. I guess when I put air in my tires I must have moved the tire sensor. I stopped twice before I finally had it working correctly. My goal for the bike portion was to race within my heart rate zones. I had to keep reminding myself, the hills are coming and I want to be able to run ten miles of the run.

Twelve miles into the ride and there were still no hills. I remember looking at the elevation map of the bike and thought at mile 17 I saw a sharp hill. I did face a hill at 17, but it wasn't anything scary. Now I don’t pretend to be good at reading elevation maps, however, I recall telling myself between miles 17 and 37 is where the tough hills that everyone was talking about were going to be. While there were some hills, the course I train on at home is A LOT tougher than this route was. At mile 37, the profile showed the route would start trending downhill and it did. It was awesome to ride this course. At one point I hit 40 mph going downhill!

Being the first wave, I knew there were going to be A LOT of people passing me and there were several. Two of those fast people were David and Ashley; two Fellowship of Christian Athlete Team Endurance members whom I first met in New Orleans. I saw them again while volunteering at a triathlon for Team FCAE at Lake Norman; small world! I forgot they told me they would be in Augusta. I saw Ashley at packet pickup on Saturday and David at bike check-in. They both were super strong on the bike. Ashley actually qualified for Clearwater. Clearwater is the 70.3 version of Kona.

Being passed by so many people wasn't all bad. Other Team FCAE members would pass and it was like a 2 second praise fest. Other random cyclists would pass and make mention about God, Jesus, and the Ichthus Fish. It wasn't a bad thing at all! I did have the opportunity to pass a few people in my age group on the bike which is a VERY rare occasion. I kind of felt guilty, because it felt good to pass them! On the other hand, I did encourage them as I passed. I started to play leap frog with a guy named Timothy. I seemed to do really, really well going downhill while Timothy was better at climbing. I would later tell him that we will likely leap frog most of the day as climbing was my weakness and sure enough, we did! I would pull ahead of Timothy and then have to stop to refill my water bottles. I’m getting better at moving around on the bike, but I just can’t seem to get to my water while on the move. I’m still working on it though! I hate stopping for 30-45 seconds to refuel but it is a necessary evil for me right now. Eventually I will be able to grab water bottles and refuel on the move. I will say this, this has motivated me to strongly consider using a Speedfill bottle in Cozumel.

One time I stopped and Timothy checked on me. I was ok, just refueling…again. I was able to catch up to him and he stopped. I asked if he was ok and he waved me forward saying he was fine. I didn’t see him again.

The first 20 miles of the bike ride were great as far as the weather was concerned. The last 36 miles were in the rain which was EXTREMELY heavy at times. When riding downhill against the rain, I would get pelted in the face and it would hurt (ok I’m a big baby)!

The home stretch of the bike ride was relatively flat, no big climbs, but some small insignificant rollers. There was some wind at times on the flatter portions of the road but really no big deal. I recall cycling and thinking how badly I needed to save it for the run and kept racing within my zones. I felt like I did a pretty good job of that. The Infinit Nutrition on the bike was the best thing I could have done. The first hour it seemed to taste bitter but by the second hour it wasn't bad. For the next batch I will have them tweak the sweetness a bit. One last thing on the bike…. I made progress by being able to grab a gel from a volunteer while on the move! I WAS SO EXCITED! LOL! I was able to rip the tag off and take the gel! Maybe by Ironman Cozumel I will be able to grab a water bottle on the move.

The last five miles I started to feel some slight cramping in my left calf. I was hoping it was just my mind playing tricks on me. I was going to have a personal best on the bike, so even if I did cramp and had to run-walk the run course I was still going to have a personal best! I was excited and nervous about the next part of the race. The Run…

Transition 2

By the end of the ride the rain started to clear up and the sun was starting to make an appearance. I did the shoe-less dismount off the bike for the second time in a race!!! I LOVE doing that! Makes me feel like the professionals :) …it also makes for faster transitions. It's easier to run in transition barefoot than it is in cycling shoes. The transition area was extremely muddy because of the heavy rains. l jumped off the bike and took my Timex watch off. Unfortunately, I broke the strap in the process. I looked at the time and realized I was going to be able to complete the race in under 7 hours! I threw on my Vibram Five Fingers and hat, then it was time. Time to ask myself the most difficult question every triathlete asks themselves. Do I have running legs?!

The Run: 13.1 miles (Half-Marathon)

I prayed…”Thank you Father, I have running legs”!!!! I might just be able to run ten miles like I promised myself the night before. Even if I had to run-walk I was still going to hit my goal of finishing in 7hrs15min.

Secretly, I had a bigger goal… a goal I didn't think was really possible. I wanted to run the full half marathon in the half Ironman. In fact, I told myself I would not sign up for another full Ironman until I was able to run the whole run. In the New Orleans Half Ironman, I run-walked the run course. And by that I mean I pretty much walked most of the run course because I was dead. That was a very short 20 weeks ago. Running the whole run course didn't seem likely. But maybe, just maybe I could run 10 miles.

I set out on the run. I successfully made it ten feet out of transition before having to stop for the green giant, then I was back on the run course. The run is always the best and worst part of the course. The run is the hardest part but also the same place where you get to meet other tri athletes and see your family. Early on I met Paul. This was Paul’s first Half Ironman. He had knee issues and had suffered from a type of respiratory infection two weeks before the race start.

As I started to run, I realized at the end of the first mile that I felt like I could keep the pace I was running forever. I noticed right away that there was already tons of support from the cheering crowds. The first mile passed and I looked at my pace; 11min. Body check-in... am I running too fast? How do I feel? What is my heart rate? I was running with my heart rate between 155 and 160. I was running MY race based on MY heart rate and it was working. Three miles passed and I was still in the zone both mentally and physically! Man, I was loving it! The miles seemed to go by quickly (for me 11 min miles beats the 14:30 miles I was run-walking in New Orleans). More importantly, I was feeling good! I was enjoying it!

At about that point, I made my first pass through Broad Street. The run on Broad Street is why I, Hassan Samuel Peterson… will be returning to the Augusta Half Ironman! I felt like a superstar! Our bibs (race numbers) had our first names on them so people were calling our names, hitting our hands, just going crazy! It was awesome! I got chills running on Broad Street. I’m getting chills right now re-living that experience. When people were cheering me by name I remember thinking, “this must be what the pros feel like” and “Wow! I can’t believe people are pronouncing my name correctly!”

SIDE NOTE: I just want to thank the terrorists for this! Before those idiots, the name “Hassan” was nearly an unheard of name. I cannot tell you how many times I have been called “who-sane.” Really people?! But now nearly all of the FBI’s most wanted terrorist have Islamic names! And so a fortunate result of this for me, is that I get to have my name pronounced correctly! Unfortunately, I also get stopped EVERYTIME I fly internationally! Even in MEXICO! I expect it will happen when I go to Cozumel as well. And if you were wondering there is a Hasan (spelled with one s) on the terrorist list! But, I digress.

Broad Street was a pretty long stretch. We went down one side, made a u-turn then ran up the other side. I saw KP and I was so happy! I wanted to tell her how awesome I was feeling! After seeing KP, about a half mile up the road, I saw my coach, Lance Leo! I didn’t know he was going to be there! It was a welcomed surprise! All I could yell was “I think I am going to PR!” He was excited for me and his excitement was genuine. About a quarter mile beyond that I saw his wife Ann! She is AWESOME too! An Ironman herself! These people really are the best!

Paul (the friend I made early on) and I continued to run and I told him, If I start to slow you down leave me, this is your race! He said the same thing to me. I guess I needed to hear that from him because I started to see his knee injury and upper respiratory infection starting to take its toll on him. At mile marker 4, I walked through the aid station to get drinks and starting running again. I looked back and Paul was still walking. I yelled “Paul I will see you when you catch up to me!” He waved me on and I continued moving forward.

I ran up alongside the opposite side of Broad Street and heard KP but didn’t see her. Then the course leaves Broad Street and you pass the finish line. The right lane was for finishers and the left lane was for the mere mortals starting the second lap. I saw the race time and it was 5:15 ish. I had about 6 to seven miles to go and I was feeling really good! As you pass the finish the run course goes by the transition zone. The road gets really quiet for about two miles on the backside of the course in between the finish line and the transition area.

I guess I needed this “alone time.” It was at this point I started my run with God. I remembered, I’m not supposed to be here. I remembered how close to death I once was….afraid of killing myself and afraid of living, too. During that time, I was “here” but usually drunk. I would fake it for 8 hours at work. You know smile, crack jokes, but deep inside I was afraid people might find out who I really was. I am grateful for the days I spent in the dark and even for those lies I once believed. It makes me appreciate the light and the Truth so much more. So here was this recovering alcoholic, fat boy, as I was once called (232lbs 4 years ago), ex-smoker, running in a Half Ironman in the name of Jesus (Whom I had hated just a few short years before) and enjoying it! Now you TELL me what is IMPOSSIBLE with GOD! NOTHING! It was that day in Augusta that I learned that Truth! And it was THAT Truth that got me to the finish!

I was coming up on Mile 8 and my promise was to get to mile 10 still running. I only had two more miles to go before I could walk. Every step was becoming more and more difficult. I always say when it starts to hurt that is when the race begins for me. I told KP while on the course that at mile 8 I was going to feel it and I did. Well my race was in full force! With every difficult step I asked myself, What is IMPOSSIBLE with GOD?! And answered, NOTHING! And I would keep running.

As I made my way back to the transition area I met another triathlete. Susannah McLeod. This was her first lap in her first Half Ironman. She had spirit! This woman was on her first lap and just so happy to be in this moment! I needed to be around that and she was a pleasure to run with. As we approached Broad Street I was telling her how powerful it was to run down that street. She took pride in that because, coincidentally, she was from Augusta! What a treat to do your first Half Ironman in your hometown.

FINALLY MILE 10!!!! OH Yeah! I kept my promise!!!!!!! I could finally walk!!!!!!! Now… let me tell you why I didn’t! KP told me the night before the race, when things were getting tough and I wanted to give in and walk, to think about what I wanted to be able to say and remember when it was all over. Was it “Yeah I ran 10 miles of the half marathon?” Or was it “I ran the WHOLE half marathon in the Half Ironman?” You KNOW which one I wanted to be able to say.

I remembered lyrics from some of my favorite Christian bands. One song was “Every Time I Breathe” by Big Daddy Weave. The lyrics say, “Now how could I, after knowing One so great, respond to You in any way that's less than all I have to give…” another song was “Sing A Song” by Third Day. The lyrics are “I want to sing a song for you Lord. Lord for you I want to sing a song” it goes on to say “With everything that's in me Lord, listen to me sing, I want to sing a song for You, I want to sing a song” Well, unfortunately I can’t sing so my song is triathlon. And I wanted to sing that song with everything that was in me… so I kept running.

Soon I was back on the other side of Broad Street. It was really cool! The people that cheered for me on the first lap got even louder when they saw me on the second lap (just got chills again!). It was unreal! There was HUGE support for Team Endurance (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) on the course. They had a tent setup with noise makers and drums. Every time I ran through that group they went crazy! There were a lot of other participants from Team Endurance on the route offering encouragement too. It was funny I would hear people scream “Go Team!” For the longest time I thought it was for me or Team Endurance. Toward the end of the race I realized it was Team In Training. So to all the Team guys I’m sorry I poached off your cheers! Lol.

I was nearing the end of the race. I knew I was going to finish. I knew I was going to have a personal best time. But most importantly, I knew that Nothing is Impossible with God! I just didn’t know how sweet it was going to be (wow I’m actually getting a little emotional here). I was coming around the corner and I saw the finish. I raised both of my hands in the air and I was screaming! WOOOOOOO! Like I was Rick Flair! I was so happy that I had just run the whole half marathon! And I was so happy it was over! I had set two long term goals for the Half Ironman Distance. One goal was to have a 6 hour and 30 minute time and the second was to run the whole half marathon in the Half Ironman continuously. I decided I was not going to sign up for another Ironman until I was able to complete these goals at the Half Ironman Distance. I thought maybe I could complete these goals next race season; a year from now.

I did BOTH in the Augusta Half Ironman! I even got one better LOL! My time was 6 hours 29 minutes. LOL! A minute faster than my LONG-TERM goal!

Although I wanted it, I never prayed for God to give me a 6:29 time. Honestly, I was just hoping to have 7:15. I have learned to give my races to God. This is His race and what happens, happens for His Glory! Look what I received in return, I was able to praise Him on the course, and had a race I thought might be possible…a year from now!



  1. Great report Hassan (FYI, I knew how to pronounce that pre-terrorists, but I loved your side note above lol)! I have a friend named Farid who has the same problem when traveling - people are super ignorant sometimes eh? If you think the crowd in Augusta was amazing, just wait for Cozumel! It's gonna blow you away! Congrats again on exceeding your goals and getting to experience what a truly great day out there feels like. It's a great lesson to learn that it really does become a battle of the mind and faith, the body will do what it's willed to do. You're gonna have a great day in Cozumel, I can see it already :)

  2. Great race Hassan!! 6:29 that's awesome! You're going to ROCK Cozumel!