Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Wearing the Stars and Stripes

After completing my first two races I was given two options, to go to a Continental Cup in Barbados or go to the San Diego WTS race the same weekend. It took me minimal time to decide that I would rather go to San Diego to compete against some of the best triathletes in the world. Why is this a big deal? Racing a WTS race is a big step for me, rather a large infinite leap! Normally the order of events is compete in a Continental Cup (my first two races), then a World Cup and then compete in a WTS or World Triathlon Series race with the best of the best. And often you do multiple races at each level before moving on to the next.

By skipping the World Cup level I’m probably getting a bit in over my head. I justify my decision because I’m very aware of that. I know that I shouldn’t be expecting to win this race (or come anywhere close) but I also know that doing this race is going to be a huge learning experience. I figure if I’m already uncomfortable why not just completely throw myself into the highest level of professional competitions and see what I can do. Not to mention I'm hoping with all the depth I'll get to be in a bike pack for this one :). I am excited to learn from the more experienced triathletes as I did in both Clermont and Sarasota and see what it is truly like to compete in a world-class event.

The race is to take place at Mission Bay Park, a place where five years ago I competed in one of the biggest races of my collegiate career at the time. I was a freshman in college racing at Junior Cross Nationals. Now I am returning to do the biggest race of my triathlon career so far. In my head I am competing in my own little Olympics (though I was assured by Hunter Kemper that I may be the only one thinking of this race in that way). In all there will be 53 athletes who competed in the 2012 London Olympics, 24 of them being women in my race. It’s a pretty exciting event from what I’m told. I haven’t even gotten there yet but so far USAT and the race venue are really spoiling me.

I think one of the things I am looking forward to most is wearing the stars and stripes suit. A few months ago I was reading Lopez Lomong’s book Running for my Life and he talks about what an honor it was for him to represent his country, the United States of America. Until this race I had never really felt that, or been able to really grasp what that feeling would actually be like. Going to the race this weekend and being one of seven women to represent USA, three of which have been to the Olympics, is something I really look forward to doing.

This is even more meaningful to me considering the recent events at the Boston Marathon. The incomprehensible acts of another being to maliciously hurt innocent people is something that truly and deeply saddens me. However, the will of Americans to work as a community to support and grieve with the families who were affected is something I find so honorable and comforting in a time of sadness. This is something that unfortunately we have gotten to see time and again, with September 11th, the Aurora shootings, the Newtown tragedy and now the Boston Marathon. But I can’t help but be proud to be an American in a country where so many people reach out to those affected. How right away people put their own lives in danger for the sake of others. And how in the aftermath there are millions of people reaching out and remaining American strong. You see this on the television watching people come to the aid of others, but also all the support to the victims on Facebook on Twitter. Acts that show that we care for the families and that we will be keeping them in our thoughts and prayers.  I could not be more proud to wear the stars and stripes of the American flag on my uniform this weekend. I hope to represent the strength of America and the ability of all of us to stay resilient and unified during times when someone tries to hurt and damage our American hearts.  

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