St. George 70.3 North American Pro Championship was a race that will be remembered uniquely (and differently) by each racer who started it. I say “started” because many athletes unfortunately did not finish (DNF). It’s been hardly a week and I’m learning just how diverse the outcomes really were: for some this was a terrifying race, for most it was a crazy weather experience, for too many it was a DNF, for a few it was their first ever 70.3, and yet for others it was just another day of racing. The differentiator of this race turned out to be the crazy weather – an unusually frigid and torrential St. George Spring day determined so much about individuals’ results. Hats off to everyone who still lined up to start the race and gave it their best, finish or not. Also, a huge thank you to all the volunteers who braved the weather with us!
St. George 70.3 was my second race as a pro. The competition was stacked, and I found myself up against many of the top long course triathletes from around the world. For this race, I tried alleviating my nerves and anxiety by not putting too much pressure on myself. I tried to just go out there and give my best, accepting what comes of it. But my desire to perform well worked in spite of that, and I did feel some nerves going into St. George. I knew I did not want to settle for a “newbie pro, middle of the pack” attitude. I’m not here to be that athlete.
Race morning came routinely as it always does. I got to transition, got all set-up, enjoyed the “pro only” porta potties, got a warm up run in, then went down to the water. The weather seemed pretty nice so far, and I felt 100% optimistic that the weather would be perfect all morning. My weather app even said so.
The water felt great and seemed decently calm for a good swim. The cannon went off and released our wave’s sprint off the start line. I pushed hard, heart beating plenty fast, and I focused on on feet or at least close to them. I succeeded at my goal until the first turn buoy, when the water transformed into a choppy mess. At that point, I found myself mostly alone on the swim, except for one athlete who swam slightly ahead of me for the remainder of the swim. While alone, I used each buoys as a personal check to see if I was pushing hard enough. I got out of the water and noted my time of around 31 minutes. Disappointment immediately struck because I knew I am faster, but also acknowledged that the choppy water didn’t help. I so badly want my open water swims to reflect the swims I am capable of in the pool; I’m working on figuring that out. In transition I worked to get over my disappointment and focus on what laid ahead.
I jumped on my bike and within the first 5 miles I passed a few girls, but kept pushing as hard as I could knowing there were even more ahead. My coach Wes and my family would be on the bike course around mile 27, so I looked forward to seeing them. Weather was not an issue at this point. Sure, it wasn’t bright, sunny, and happy outside, but Mother Nature certainly wasn’t freezing my extremities or otherwise dumping rain.
At mile 27 I saw my family, coach, and of course, my dog. My coach told me that there was a whole pack of girls just a few minutes up, and instructed me to go get them. Everyone else cheered. The only “person” I actually acknowledged was my dog :). Apparently it’s hard to get attention from me during a race unless you’re an adorable, furry, four-legged variety named Winston.
I nearly cried seeing my family. I don’t know if these emotions were induced by the importance of my family’s support, or if the grueling reality of the race hit me hard. Either way, I then thought about how badly I wanted to be doing what I was doing at that very moment. I thought of how hard I had worked to be there; of the things I had changed and given up in my life in order to be racing pro, and how I was out there trying to earn a name for myself in triathlon where many of the women racing already had done just that. In that moment, my mental game changed. I felt an added amount of motivation and desire to actually GO catch the other women. Don’t get me wrong – I was pushing hard and trying to catch anyone I could, but I the reality check of WHY I was out there took me to the next level. As I write, it sounds so common sense; but putting yourself through so much physical and mental strain doesn’t always lead to common sense mental practices (just ask my husband).
Later in the bike, the complete DOWNPOUR of rain began. The rain itself didn’t really bother me, and I didn’t seem to lose too much speed or power due to it, other then taking corners a little more gingerly. Once I got into Snow Canyon, the rain petered out for a bit. I rode aero as long as possible through Snow Canyon and was able to pass another female pro. I took the descent into St. George as aggressively and safely as possible in the rain, and arrived in T2 before I knew it.
And then the rain actually got to me. Once off the bike, I realized just how frozen my hands and feet had become. Getting my run shoes and socks on turned out to be a relatively slow and painful process, but I got the job done and went out on the run.
I felt great starting the run! I generally always feel great starting :). I passed another female within the first mile or so, and my coach was there to let me know she was 11th place. I felt confident I would be able to hold 11th, but could I pass another? Would anyone else catch me? I took the first few miles quite conservatively as they were all uphill. During this time I saw another female pro who had obviously decided to drop out of the race. I was sitting at 10th place and I knew it. Again I nearly cried at the thought of a 10th place finish. (I promise I don’t just cry all the time. I put A LOT into this sport, so it means A LOT to me emotionally).
I felt good throughout the run. I dismissed pains in my legs and pushed on the uphills and even harder on the downhills. Before the race, I decided with my coach to walk the aid stations to make sure I got proper calories and water, and to help the legs through the run. I quickly walked probably 9 of them, and I think that paid off.
With about 4 miles left in the run, there were a couple females who seemed to be fairly close behind me (closer than any other part of the run). Ninth was out of reach; but I would not be losing my 10th place, so I upped my intensity and kept shoulder-checking. Whoever it was, I pulled ahead and they disappeared. I cannot express how happy I was to crest the FINAL climb on that run. Despite feeling great the whole run, running up steep hills is never easy. Being on the homestretch and cruising to the finish line filled me with gratitude.
I finished the race in 10th and was THRILLED! My coach excitedly greeted me at the finish . My husband Matt ran over and gave me a hug and HE started crying, so then I really had no choice! We’re just a bunch of bawl babies over here. But really, we both invest so much into this crazy dream of mine, so to see success unfold just calls for a good cry sesh, am I right? 🙂
After all was said and done, I finished well and got on my first pro podium (Top 10 at a regional championship means money and podium). St. George was the confidence booster I needed to get my head where it needs to be. It’s been a mental shift for me to accept that I actually can become a successful professional triathlete (I always believed I could be, but REALLY accepting it and realizing it is another story). Having a good day in St. George has helped me believe not just that I CAN be successful, but that I AM successful. I just have to keep working hard and believing :). Every race is another opportunity to push limits and learn!