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photo: Jeremy Allen
Tough Days Make You Stronger
After a tough first World Triathlon Series race experience in Chicago three weeks ago, I wasn’t sure what my thoughts would be going into the Toronto Continental Cup. All I knew was that I loved to race and I couldn’t let one bad day ruin all the hard work I had put in this year. I got on the plane to Toronto still not sure where my confidence had gone. I had proven over and over in workouts that I was capable of racing with the best triathletes in the world; I just had still been struggling to put it all together in a race.
Toronto was a lot colder than I expected it would be. It was hot in Arkansas so I assumed the same would be true in Canada. The temperature outside was between 65 and 70 degrees. It was nice but definitely not the hot weather I was expecting. I was fortunate enough to have my biggest fan, my mom, there to help calm my nerves. I decided that I would wear my full-sleeved wetsuit after watching other athletes jump in and react to the coldness of the water temperature. I had never worn a full-sleeved wetsuit before, but my mentality was that I would either go for it or I wouldn't. If you know me, then you know the answer was definitely that I would go for it. I jumped in and swam about 750 meters and practiced running out of the exit ramp which was extremely slippery. My feet and my hands were extra puffy and red because of the water temperature, and my head felt like I had a never ending brain freeze.
The course was nice but had a challenging hill right out of transition that we were going to have to climb seven times on the bike and four times on the run course. As the next morning quickly approached, I would be lying to say I wasn’t nervous after coming off a DNF in Chicago, but I knew this was an opportunity for me to push past that race and prove that I was ready to race again.
I was racing number four, meaning I was the first American that got to pick their spot on the pontoon. I choose the right outside edge. As everyone else continued to pick their spots, the other three Americans lined up side by side next to me. The gun went off and my adrenaline kicked in quickly, making me forget about the cold water. I exited the water in third position and quickly got out of my wetsuit much easier than I thought I would. A front pack of four took off early and Michelle Mehnert and I found ourselves working together the best we could to catch that pack. Michelle and I have raced with each other numerous times and encouraged each other throughout the bike leg as we took turns taking quick pulls.
With three laps to go we caught two of the girls who had been dropped by the front two riders. Our small group worked together but found the third pack of seven girls on our wheels as we went into T2. The first four miles went pretty quickly on the run. I stayed right behind Summer Cook, who is another strong CRP runner in our program. The front two cyclists were three-and-a-half minutes in front of us out of T2, but we quickly started to make up approximately 30 seconds per lap. With a half-mile to go I knew if I was going to want a shot at a podium finish I had to do a surge to get ahead of her. My legs were tired but I looked down and decided to give go. As I looked back, I noticed she started to fall back. As I got to the blue carpet I wanted to cry. I was so tired but this was the moment that I had trained for - a spot on the podium. As I got pulled aside for drug testing, I quickly went over and hugged my mom over the railing. I am so thankful for the support USA Triathlon, my coach, and my friends and family continue to give me on this journey, because if you can’t pick yourself up for the tough days you never get to experience the amazing ones.