Engage

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

~Winston Churchill


It’s a good feeling to stand on the start line with no fear of what’s to come—you’ve done the requisite preparation and you’re confident that you’ve earned the right to be a player in the race to come.

That’s exactly the feeling I had as the announcer called my name last Saturday morning. No fear, ready for battle. The women’s field for Weihai World Cup was strong and deep, but I knew I would be competing against the formidable course as much as I would the 43 other women lining up alongside me.

 The “flat, less technical” portion of the course! :P Source:  Lori McCarney

The “flat, less technical” portion of the course! :P Source: Lori McCarney

Our swim was in Half Moon Bay (the Yellow Sea). The water was quite protected, so I knew it would be a fast swim. The 6-loop bike course included a grueling climb and technical descent. And the 4-loop run was uphill out, downhill back. While it rained the first couple days we were there, the sun was beaming on race day. The course and weather conditions were such that everything—mind and body—needed to be firing on all cylinders.

 Swim course in Half Moon Bay

Swim course in Half Moon Bay

How do you react when your physical or proverbial “legs” don’t show up? I think this cuts to the core of a person’s resilience, and—fortunately or unfortunately depending on how you want to look at it—I had the opportunity to find out in Weihai. I made a tactical error in where I lined up for the swim and got stuck in the mayhem around the first turn buoy but was still able to come out of the water with a group of women—Ueda, Dennon, Miller, and Kovacs, to name a few—who I knew to be strong cyclists. I just had to stay in the group and, if I executed that for 40k, I was confident I had developed the running legs to earn a strong finishing position. But ¾ of the way up the long climb in the first lap, it became clear that my legs still hadn’t absorbed and bounced back from the big training block leading up to race week. I could hold threshold all day, but couldn’t seem to find that next gear.

But that didn’t change my mindset. There was no panic. I had come there for a fight and I wasn’t backing down, no matter how it played out. I kept giving it everything I had and was fortunate to find Kirsten Nuyes and my teammate, Sophie, in order to pick up a bit of momentum in the 2nd half of the bike. I ran okay – not horrible, not great – and crossed the line in 30th. This result was quite the disappointment for me, as it is far below what I know I am capable of based on my training leading up to this trip.

But I am not upset, as some might think. Why is this?

To answer that question, I come back to the question: how do I react when my legs don’t show up? This weekend, I summoned the inner strength to stay composed, confident, and aggressive when the chips were down. I engaged the challenge of staying in the race and fought harder the more my legs protested. Crossing that finish line, I knew I had given everything I had on the day. And that’s all I can do. That grit is how I measure myself as an athlete, and more broadly as a person. That, combined with my confidence in Jarrod’s training program, is how I know deep in my bones that the best is yet to come. It’s a feeling I wish for everyone to have; with it, you are unstoppable.

Jarrod and I have already identified key changes to make for faraway races on the heels of big training blocks. And so I come away from this weekend with valuable lessons learned, mental and spiritual strength developed, and experience gained, and now I’m gearing up for the next battle: Super League Jersey, in the Channel Islands. Of course I know I still have much more power, strength and endurance to develop to achieve my goals in the sport. But for now, I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to have competed in such an epic race and to have seen a beautiful region of China; I’m continuing my journey around the world confident, motivated, and excited for my legs to show up next time around!