The last couple weeks have been reminders of three key D’s that I know to be critical (in both good ways and bad) when it comes to high achievement in all things, but especially for sport: distraction, details, determination.
When New Orleans World Cup was cancelled, Coach Jarrod decided I should do Escape Surf City in Huntington Beach instead. While it was a non-draft race—meaning that people race on time trial (TT) bikes and cannot draft in the bike portion of the race—versus the draft-legal races that I am training for, it was just an hour north of our base in Carlsbad and a great opportunity to put in a hard 2-hour effort (it was an Olympic distance: 1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run) in race conditions. (And on the personal side, it was a great opportunity to visit some of Adam’s family who live in the area!)
Leading up to the race, there was a lot of back and forth as to what bike I could race on: my S5 that I use for my ITU races or a time trial-specific frame. In general, a time trial bike is faster than a standard road setup; it is engineered strictly to move the solo rider from A to B as quickly as possible by minimizing drag. So I sought to find a TT bike that would allow me to take advantage of the superior aerodynamics afforded by these kinds of bikes. Nytro Multisport was kind enough to loan me a Cannondale Slice, which I was so incredibly grateful for (all you San Diego/Encinitas athletes—recommend these guys hands down for anything cycling/multisport!). However, after countless “fitting” sessions (read: Adam and me tinkering on the trainer) I couldn’t seem to get comfortable on it, and like we’ve seen in Cinderella: if the shoe doesn’t fit, it’s not meant to be.
So a few days before the race I decided to just stick to what I know: my trusty S5! But worrying about the TT bike, I realized I had gotten completely distracted by a bottomless pit of gear possibilities and forgotten about my primary objective: just “going hard.” By focusing so heavily on my bike equipment, I completely overlooked what ended up being my real challenge on race day: the skill of getting through the surf. The waves humbled me, brought me back to reality, and reminded me that on race day the best gear can make a difference, but ultimately it’s simple: the fittest, strongest athlete, who is laser-focused on performing to their potential, is the one who will have the best outcome.
Having been reminded of the importance of focus, I had just that going into Chengdu World Cup two weeks later. I was proud of my training block heading into the race and eager to express my newfound fitness on race day. I headed across the Pacific confident and—for the first time in a while—excited to race. I knew if I executed to my potential, I could certainly make the final and improve upon my best World Cup result to date: 18th at Yucatan World Cup last year.
My body was feeling the travel the first couple days in Chengdu, but I took each session one at a time and patiently let my body come around. In the meantime, I did my best to get all the nutrients I needed via a combination of food that I packed and food from our hotel. By Thursday I was finally feeling good in the water and on the bike, so I knew my running legs would follow closely behind! Alas, I slipped in my eating, and a stomach bug snuck up on me. I think of myself as very resilient person, and as an athlete, it can often be easy to think, “I’m invincible!” Despite all of my food passing straight through me, I didn’t concern myself too much with it, and just tried to take in as many calories as I could. As I write this (with my stomach finally back to normal one week later), I realize how empty I felt on race day. I felt good in the water but just had zero power in my stroke, and I came through T1 dizzy and seeing stars. I thought about pulling out a number of times over the course of the bike and nearly halted to the walk a couple times on the run but then reminded myself, “you came all this way!” (Plus a few expletives!) I couldn’t give up, and so I fought the whole way, down to a sprint finish for 16th, missing out on the final by 2 painful seconds.
Heading into race day, I had been pretty careful but for some reason felt silly to be paranoid about everything. In the process, I let crucial nutrition details slip. To get to this level from my background, every part of my preparation has had to be turned to 11, and it was foolish of me not to apply that approach to my eating, particularly on the other side of the world. I lost that for a split second, and I paid the price. I’ve definitely learned my lesson that I have to have a healthy dose of paranoia when it comes to food overseas, even if it seems weird to others. It was a valuable lesson, and I’ve made some major edits to my international travel packing list so that I’m more than prepared next time!
Clearly, it’s been a big RE-learning month! Given my goals, I am hard on myself, and given the caliber of athlete I’m going up against, I have to be. But it can be easy to beat up on yourself and focus only on the negatives. In that sense, I love this quote from Olympian Silken Laumann because I think it’s true, to a certain extent, about high-performance anything: “I never felt good enough, fit enough. I simply didn’t feel ‘enough.’” It’s easy to fall into this trap as someone always looking for more. So I’ve been conscious of looking for the good amidst the not-so-good. One thing I’m giving myself credit for is my determination throughout these experiences. Grit can help you overcome a lot, and it is something I do feel I showed, regardless of my outcomes.
While I have yet to express the fitness that I’ve worked so hard to build this spring, I’m staying the course, putting faith in the guidance of my coach, and embracing each day, each race as an opportunity to get better for the next one. I’m re-focusing now that I’m settled in my next destination, beautiful Astana, Kazakhstan; I’m paying more attention to every detail than I did before; and I’m trusting that with my continued hard work and determination, the results will come! My next opportunity will be next weekend at Astana World Cup. Can’t wait!