Last weekend, I had the pleasure of racing in my backyard – CHICAGO! – in the Age Group World Championships. And I have to admit it was a good weekend! There were admittedly some nerves leading up to race day, but I kept reminding myself that any pressure I was feeling was being applied by ME! I kept coming back to PROCESS + EXECUTION. All I would be able to do was do what I do everyday in training and lay it out there, so that’s all I focused on.
Thankfully, my mom came to Chicago to watch me race and to help with pre/post race logistics, which are always a pain in the butt. She and I travelled to all of my figure skating competitions when I was younger, so this felt like a throw back to then! Dinners out, pre-race/competition dinner in the hotel room with a movie (Our choice = Inside Out! Sooo great!!). It was also nice having her to commiserate about city traffic, etc. I have apparently very quickly shifted into smalltown mode, where a line up of 5 cars is “traffic,” so you can imagine how I felt about Chicago traffic!
The day before the race, check-in schedules and race rules (e.g., wheels allowed on race day) were getting switched around left and right. I kept my head down and, to be honest, stayed away from the race course to avoid the hoards of anxious triathletes that I knew would be frantically figuring out their wheel situation, and I just focused on what I had to get done: packet pick-up, pre race workouts (run, swim, and bike), hotel switch (I decided to do the race super last minute, so we had to split our time there at two hotels – rooms were scarce in the city!), eat, and perhaps most importantly, relax/put the feet up. I got to enjoy running along my old run routes in Chicago, and I was so appreciative of the use of MOX Multisport’s CompuTrainers and mechanical support (for last minute wheel change!).
Race day was an exercise in flexibility and calm in the midst of craziness. I woke up to find out that discs WOULD in fact be allowed and a conversation in which coach said he wanted me to get a swim warm-up in before heading over to the course since I would only have my swim cords at the swim start. My plan for the morning had to be switched up right then and there. But, I told myself, the elite women had had their race moved up 4 hours the day before, so this was nothing! I focused on checking off each thing I had to do. My keywords were CALM, FOCUS, CRUSH.
It’s also always hard to know how long everything will take on race morning – We hit every green light walking to transition (“A good omen?!” I had to ask myself!), there was ZERO line at the wheel change station (gasp!), and there was only one athlete ahead of me at transition check-in, so the whole set-up process went a lot quicker than I anticipated! Everything at swim start was much calmer and more relaxed than I anticipated – they only called us to the starting corral 15 minutes before our start, versus the 30 minutes they had said leading up to the race. And to top it all off, there was only ONE person in front of me in line for the porta-potty (GASP, again!). when you combined all of this, I had more time than I anticipated, but I would always rather have a little bit more time and be able to chill versus being stressed and running around to get things together. My race day morning ended up being:
As for the race itself....
Once they called us to the start, things moved quickly! We hit the water (BRRR, just as cold as people said!), and I barely had time to hit my watch before they blew the starting horn. We were off! My starting speed was not quite what I would have liked and I couldn’t quite get out of the fray as I would have liked to. But all of our open water practice this summer paid off. In the midst of chip, kicking feet, and flailing arms, I kept my head down and just turned my arms over. I was confident in my ability to swim straight and I focused completely within, pushing the pace as best as I could for the first 400m or so. Once we turned around, I saw there was a pack just up ahead so picked up the kick and put in a surge to bridge the gap. Once I got on the feet of the group, I focused only on those feet. We moved pretty well through the chop and I knew that I was moving better than I would if I tried to go it alone in the messy waters of Monroe Harbor, so I found my rhythm and, as I look back on it, turned off my head.
LONG run to T1 for us. Coach yelled that I was a minute back from 1st and to gun it. So I did. I passed 4 or 5 women between swim exit and my bike and after a smooth wetsuit removal crushed out of transition on the feet of Alycia Hill.
BIKE (59:35, no watts/pace available)
The course was intense, with drastic light changes between the morning’s increasing sunshine and the darkness of Lower Wacker and with lots of turns. My Stages was acting up so I didn’t have power, and GPS didn’t work in much of the underground portion of the course. So I was challenged to keep an honest effort without getting too carried away. With so many people on the course, I was extra paranoid about keeping a legal distance between my competitors and me, as I knew the referees would be keeping a close eye on the frontrunners. This got harder to do in the 2nd lap, when there were many more racers out on the course. With all of these things going on, my mind was completely blank other than the following queues cycling over and over:
- "Aggressive turns!"
- "Keep it aero!"
- "Am I legal distance behind him/her?" If the answer was no, then, "Drive past them now!"
- "No fear - push for more!"
Another long run to transition, and I got a bit held up behind an Aussie whose bike was 5 away from me – what are the odds! – but I kept it smooth and moving throughout and was soon out to the run course. The long transition was good to flush the legs between a solid bike effort and a run that I knew was gonna hurt.
This was the first day since my return to running a year ago that I can honestly say I felt light on my feet. I didn’t pay super close attention to pace at first – just let it rip! I heard Coach yell “TRUST IT” as I passed him, and I quieted my mind, focusing on doing just that. The first two laps went by quickly, and each time I started a lap, I would tell myself, “just like your first lap!” I ran down a number of women in my age group and then soon had no idea where I was – catching women? Lapping them? Who knew! So I just had to go. As my legs began to fatigue in lap three, I turned my focus to keeping my pace down as best as I could. The last lap and a half were definitely a test of mental strength and self-talk: “QUICK arms,” “ Keep driving,” and “Push it through the finish” were cycling on repeat!
I finished 20 seconds short of first overall, which was a bummer, but I’m proud of the effort and to be 25-29 Champion and overall silver medalist! Moral of the story? Focus on the process, on executing the things you can control, and good things will come.
I am truly grateful to my Coach and Team IE teammates who have pushed me in training and racing, to Mox Multisport for their amazing bike support and for getting me to the starting line at Chicago, to Northeast Site Contractors for supporting my day-to-day training (aka where the magic happens!), my better half (Adam), and all my friends and family who support me day-in and day-out. I couldn’t have reached this point without any of you and can’t wait to continue growing together, as this is only one step in the course of what I anticipate to be a long, exciting journey! Seeing the elite men and women race in person was truly inspirational, as I’m sure it was for most people, but you never know! Maybe that’ll be me someday soon! Lots of strokes and track workouts for me between here and there!
From Chicago, Adam and I drove north to Madison to get away for a few days for a much needed change of scene! It’s been a crazy summer between graduating from business school, moving to South Bend and moving in with Adam, training and racing, starting my own consulting business, and – oh yeah – starting the sponsorship process! Phew! Adam has also been working his butt off this summer and just finished off his season with a great race in Houston, so the timing was perfect. Both Ad and I had a little business to deal with on the first morning (ahem, filing my elite license application!!!!) but then had 72 hours of glorious time to enjoy food, the outdoors, and each other! We loved the B&B that we stayed at – The Livingston Inn – and agreed we hope to make this an annual tradition! Now, back to work for my first pro race down in Puerto Rico (eek!). Here’s a short video with highlights from the long weekend.