Monday, July 29, 2013

In Change There Is Power

Photo by Paul Phillips
"It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure. But
there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful.
There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement
there is life, and in change there is power"
-Alan Cohen
After getting 35th in Hamburg, Germany my coach Melissa Mantak sent me the above quote. For me it was a perfect description not only of racing in Germany at the WTS level but also of my entire European adventure. When I was given the opportunity to train and race in Europe for five weeks there was no way I was going to turn down the invitation. That being said there were also parts of the trip that I found intimidating and definitely placed me out of my comfort zone. Having never traveled off the continent the European way of life was something I would need some getting used to. All of a sudden I was wishing I had kept up with my español, knew more about the Euro currency and had somehow prepared myself for late schedules of Spain (dinners at 7:30, oh boy). 
However, as Cohen suggests I have found that every time I have wandered out of the seemingly secure I have been presented with a multitude of opportunities to better myself as an athlete and human-being. In Hamburg I competed in one of the most competitive draft-legal races of the season. I swam in a ravenous pack of girls where I came closer to drowning than I've ever experienced (that is only a small dramatization). Then biked a hard technical course, though missed the front pack and finally completed the race with the 11th fastest run of the day. What did I learn? That complacency is not an option, besides knowing that I want to work to be stronger and faster in each portion of the race. I learned that there are things I need to change in order to reach my goals of being competitive with the top girls. It is when I make these changes that I will be able to race on the level that I know I am capable of. It means taking the time to work on skills on the bike so that when a race is technical (like Hamburg) I will be able to hang with the girls and put myself into good position throughout the corners to prevent myself from yo-yoing off the back. As Jono (one of the coaches here) puts it, it is building my racing vocabulary so that no matter the course, no matter the weather, no matter the competition I am able to respond to the elements in order to succeed.
In traveling to Europe and racing on the European circuit which offers a higher level of competitive races I am building this vocabulary. My race in Hamburg was one that I finished feeling pretty neutral. I wasn't necessarily disappointed with my result but I wasn't happy with it either. I wanted to be better and I knew there were plenty of places to improve. Had I not accepted the invitation to come to Europe I would not have had the opportunity to win a world cup only to be followed with a performance in Hamburg that left me feeling unfulfilled. By traveling to Europe my eyes have been opened to where I am at, and where I need to be thereby driving a hunger to continue to improve and succeed. It is in making these changes that I will be able to consistently have the results that I desire leaving me with the power that Cohen describes. A perfect equation for success.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Puzzle Success

With each race this season I have known that I had the pieces to have a stand out race, but haven’t had a race where they had all come together. After getting 11th in Edmonton I went into the Palamos World Cup with the goal to correct some of my past errors and do everything I possibly could to set myself up for success. In Edmonton I had missed the front bike pack due to an ok swim and then a transition that lacked the sense of urgency that was necessary. (Although I didn’t blog about this race on my personal blog you can read the blog I wrote here: USAT Blog). In this race I was set on making sure to try my hardest in the swim, bike and run and have aggressive transitions so I would have no regrets regardless of the outcome.

At the start of the swim I found myself in a good position. I was out of the chaos of a large swim pack and right at the tail end of the front swim pack of four. At the end of the two loop swim I came into shore right off the back of the front pack. The distance from the swim to the transition was about 200 meters, and I ran hard to make sure that I didn’t miss the front pack again. If I were to choose a critical moment of my race, I would say this was it. I grabbed my bike and made the pack!

Our group consisted of five athletes including myself and Erin Jones, a fellow American. After doing the bike course preview on Friday I knew this would be my type of course. Like Edmonton there was a relatively long hill and a long downhill that we would be doing seven times throughout the race. We were led by two very strong riders from Great Britain and our group worked relatively well together! Enough to increase a 45 second spread to a 1:15 by the time we got off the bike.

As soon as we got off the bike and started running I realized I was running away from my group. At this point I felt really relaxed and remember thinking is this really happening? Am I actually leading a World Cup race? I knew better than to settle in; knowing even with a 1:15 cushion there were very talented and speedy runners in the pack behind me. I made sure to work the hills during the run and never get too comfortable. Coming down the final stretch to win I couldn’t believe it, and even now it is difficult for me to comprehend that I actually won a World Cup!

It was so exciting to be on the podium and be the reason that our national anthem played in Palamos, Spain on Sunday. It was an incredible feeling to know that I accomplished something that I never fathomed would be possible so early in my career as a triathlete. Originally the plan had been to compete in my first world cup in October/November of this year. However, as you learn in everything in life, goals are ever changing and evolving. Next up is a WTS race in Hamburg, Germany this Saturday. A WTS race is a step up from a World Cup and although it is more competitive my goals will be the same; to race as hard as I can in an effort to further exceed goals that I never thought possible for myself.