Tuesday, February 25, 2014

No Reservations

Blog featured on usatriathlon.org...
A year ago I was preparing for my first professional race in Clermont, Fla. Not only was it my first race as an elite, but it would also be my first draft-legal race. I remember being so nervous and intimidated. How was I going to stay on someone’s wheel? Was I going to be able to do the 180-degree turns? I’m going to be racing against Olympians? All these things were going through my mind leading up to the race, but the gun went off for the start and all reservations were forgotten. I hung onto the lead bike pack and placed eighth.
This past year has taught me how crucial that “jump right in” attitude is to success. Throughout the rest of the season, I continued to have one new experience after another. Just like Clermont, they seem daunting at first, but ultimately every challenge made me stronger both mentally and physically. In only my third ITU race, I raced at the San Diego WTS. The World Triathlon Series exposed me to the highest level of racing and all the challenges of racing against the fiercest competitors. I traveled to Europe to train and race for a month. In my training there, I was pushed to new levels. I even ran my fastest all time 1500-meter during training. I remember talking to one of the USA Triathlon coaches before racing in the Palamos World Cup. I was asking him what place he thought I should aim for.  At that moment, I realized his response really didn’t matter. No matter what he said, I was going to go out and race my hardest.  If I did that, there was no losing. The next day I won my first World Cup race.  
I came back from Europe confident in my ability and the processes needed to achieve my goals. It was no longer about the outcome. It was about the steps to get there that became most important. To have a goal is one thing, but ultimately it is more important to have a plan for achieving that goal. I’ve learned to be reflective. In triathlon I find it is easy to be reflective because there are so many different components of the race. In each race, I have been able to celebrate a part of my race that went really well. However, after a season of racing, I have found a bazillion other things to work on to make me better. I have also discovered the best news about triathlon — you can always be better. 
I was ready to make the changes in my life and my training to assure the momentum I felt returning from Europe didn’t dwindle. In November, I was given the opportunity to remain in the Collegiate Recruitment Program as a resident for one more year. USA Triathlon moved the Resident Program from the OTC in Colorado Springs to Scottsdale, Ariz., for a variety of reasons. The most relevant to me of which were the lower elevation and more consistent outdoor riding opportunities. Fellow resident athlete Chelsea Burns and I headed south to be joined by four other triathletes on this new journey. During our time here, we have been provided with all the necessary tools to succeed. I have continued to be challenged and have achieved things I never thought possible. A couple of weeks ago, I ran my first 100-mile week in addition to swimming and cycling. Every Tuesday night we take part in a ride called the Underground Crit where I get to compete against the boys while getting to work on my bike handling skills at speed, and in the dark with headlamps.
We’ve had the opportunity to work with some of the best bike specialists at Cyclologic in order to find every avenue for free speed via bike position and body mechanics. We also work with a great team of physical therapists at Endurance Rehab who implement strength programs to hone in on our weaknesses as well as prevent injury. I am also excited to have the continued support of Team Psycho this season as well as a new partnership with Coeur Sports and Brooks Running Being part of such amazing communities of people has played a great role in helping me achieve my goals. Knowing I am in the optimal environment here not only makes me happier than I have ever been but also makes me more confident going into this season.
Now I am going into my second season as a professional. My goals for this season are drastically different than last year’s. This year I am preparing to compete against the best in the world. Instead of going to the Clermont Continental Cup, I am traveling to Australia and New Zealand to focus on the higher level of WTS and World Cup races. My goal is not only to compete in them, but to be the triathlete that I feared going into Clermont last year.   

Why Choose One, When You Can Choose Three!

A blog that was featured on Coeur Sports Website! Check it out here! **Apply title of post, when picking out some new cute endurance apparel ;)
Growing up, I was a competitive swimmer. I identified with that sport from the age of 5 through 16. I also played soccer and lacrosse. During my sophomore year of high school, I decided to stop playing lacrosse. While looking for something to help me stay in shape for soccer, I decided to try spring track. I ended up having a knack for running and ultimately, by the end of my high school career, I was deciding whether I wanted to run in college or swim. I remember looking at schools where I could potentially do both, but ultimately I decided that I had to focus on one if I was going to be successful. Thus, I went to Syracuse University and ran for the next 5 years. It was the best decision I had made in life and a decision I definitely will never regret. 

Last week a new option became available to young women choosing colleges. It is an opportunity that I never had. Triathlon has been cleared as a NCAA Division I emerging sport for women. Starting next year, varsity programs will be initiated in schools across the country. Now girls who have grown up doing triathlon or girls who have a background similar to mine won’t have to choose just one discipline to focus on in college. They will be able to compete in triathlon throughout college. They will continue to refine their skills and get them ready for their post collegiate careers. Not to mention, the chance to continue doing all the sports they love rather than choosing one! 
As a college graduate and professional triathlete, I see this movement as an amazing opportunity for our sport to grow. The first race I ever qualified for my elite license was at the Nickel City Triathlon in Buffalo, NY. That same weekend, at the same venue, the USAT Elite Nationals race was held. It was sad how few spectators had come out to watch the race. That race consisted of the best triathletes in our country including Olympians! The lack of hype that surrounded this style of racing was disappointing. This was the same style of racing that I have fell in love with this past year during my first year as a professional triathlete focusing on the ITU/draft legal racing style. There is a speed, intensity and strategy that make ITU racing exhilarating, challenging and most of all fun!  
Check out the spectators in the back! It was so awesome!
When I traveled to Europe I discovered what was missing in the USA. Crowds of people were lined up at all the races. There was support and excitement that was lacking at home. People want your autographs and pictures. The race itself is a big deal with celebrations leading up to the race and continuing after the race. Most importantly, on race day crowds of people are there supporting not only their fellow countrymen (and women), but also every other athlete in the race. It is truly an incredible experience. 
A lamp post when racing in Tizzy!
This is something that I would love to experience when racing at home. By adding triathlon as a DI sport, I feel our country has taken a gigantic step towards increasing the popularity of triathlon. Not only will this make racing on home soil more exciting, it will also help the US in its quest to become an international triathlon powerhouse. With increased popularity and support, the triathlon field is going to become larger and stronger in the United States. As the competition within the United States becomes fiercer, we will be able to take on some of the more dominating countries in triathlon. I am so excited to be competing in triathlon in the US at a time when it is experiencing such a reform. I can’t wait to continue to be a part of its growth and look forward to all the positive effects that are going to come from its inclusion in NCAA athletics!