Sometimes I like to think that someday I’m going to have a future where my triathlon season never ends. It’s the fantasy of waking up every single morning and getting to train and continue to compete as my job, but for right now it’s still a dream in the making. Every year I have to say, “See you later,” to a sport that I really love and something that brings me so much joy which seems to get harder every single year. All I want to do is keep improving and working harder, but it’s always nice to know that there’s another year and another season. Although it seems far away until the next competition, there is always something to work on in the off season, and there is always something that keeps you motivated throughout the year. One thing that I know for sure is that it’s never goodbye.
Triathlons basically take up my entire summer as our family tries to fit in at least 10 in a year. It’s my only focus and priority for the summer, but as the school year comes along I have to balance a start to a cross country season and an end to a triathlon season. I don’t get to have the entire focus that I usually get in the beginning of the year for my last races, but I still try to fit in time to train for them between practice and school. With the business of the school year I had not thought much about my last race going into the weekend. There was a little bit of worry in my head because I did not get as much time for biking and swimming as I would have liked, and I also did not mentally prepare like I usually get to in the summer. I also thought of these disadvantages as advantages because even though I had not biked in a while maybe that meant my legs would feel fresh, and even though I didn’t focus on the race the day before maybe that meant I wouldn’t stress as much. With everything spinning through my mind I tried not to worry or stress so I just pushed all of my thoughts aside.
The night before my race I got to pack my bag again and I got a little sad because I knew this would be my last race in Minnesota for a while. I tried to just enjoy every moment and then I tried to get some very needed sleep. Waking up at 6:00 didn’t seem so bad after having to get up early for school each morning, so on the day of the race I felt awake and ready. The drive was fast and easy, and when we arrived the sun was shining, the music was blaring, people were laughing, and everyone was enjoying their last pre race fun of the season. I got to talk with friends that I had made in the tri community and I got to enjoy the atmosphere of everybody having a good start to their day. The weather was absolutely perfect because there was a little bit of a breeze and because the race was in the morning it was still pretty cool. It did not take me long to set up my transition area after a whole season of mastering it, so I took the extra time to get in the water and warm up for my race. I had a feeling as I was entering the water that day that I would break through a barrier in my race.
I shortly learned that it was a time trial start, so I got to the front of the line so that when I started I would not have to swim through as much traffic. I had no time to think or stress because all of a sudden they said go and I was running into the water. The swim was much better than the year before I actually knew where I was going and the sun was not shining directly in my face so I could actually see the buoy. There were some waves, but I did not notice them and it actually worked as an advantage because on the way in the waves were basically pushing us to the end of the swim course. The water was very shallow so as I tried to power walk through the water to the beach I could see that I was losing ground on the people around me. It was too shallow to swim but too deep to walk, so instead I decided to do a awkward half dive for the rest of it so that I could at least finish the swim with a reasonable time.
I finally got out of the water and was excited to get started on the bike because I knew the course and it was very beautiful. My transition was slow because I was very lightheaded, but I just kept going with it and finally got to hop on my bike and get started. The first portion of the bike is always frightening when you have cars so close that you can reach out and touch them, but once you get to the roads with more of a shoulder it’s a course full of scenery and enjoyable rolling hills. I felt really good that day on the bike because my legs felt fresh and I felt like I could power up all the steep hills. The sun was shining and the trees were starting to change colors and for a moment I felt like I was in a movie scene because everything felt so perfect and everything looked so gorgeous. Even though all of the hills put some strain on my legs, I could feel that I was much stronger than I was at the beginning of the season so I wanted to take advantage of it. I pushed so hard in the bike and was reaching speeds that I never thought I could especially when I was going down a hill and hit 30 miles an hour. It was just the beginning of the breakthrough that I wanted and I was going to keep it up for as long as I could.
When I came to the last part of the bike it really hit me that this would be my last race in Minnesota for the season so it would also be my last chance to show everyone what I could do. I got off the bike with legs that felt like bricks, but I wanted to get to the run as fast as possible so that I could make up any ground that I had lost. When I started the run something felt very different then when it did in my past races. I felt like my legs were ready to run instead of having them feel like they couldn’t go anymore and my lungs felt strong and fresh and I started to realize that it was from my cross country training in the last three weeks. Cross country had started to feel like a distraction to my triathlon training because I wasn’t able to train the way I usually like to. It was five days a week of running in the heat and doing workouts that involved lots of interval training, which I like, but it took away time from my biking, swimming, and strength training. It was one of the main reasons why I did not feel confident going into the weekend, but as I started running I realized that it would help me a lot for my race.
Many people had said that the heat was awful, but after running at three in the afternoon for five days a week in the heat, it did not seem that bad. I did not have the usual side cramp and low oxygen feeling that I usually do, but instead I felt much stronger and confident in my running then I had in the past. I started at a fast pace that seemed impossible to keep for three miles, but I just kept telling myself to keep going because I would be frustrated with myself if I did not leave it all on the course. I kept my pace easily for my first mile, so I picked it up and tried to stay confident and positive for my last two miles. At the turn around point I went around the water stop, and right as I started to run back in the other direction, I saw my competition. I was quite a ways behind her, but instead of thinking that it was impossible to catch her, like I normally would have in the past, I picked up my pace again and kept my eyes focused on her. My stride started to lengthen and my arms started to move faster and I could feel a sense of determination in me. When I wanted to accomplish something and if I truly put my mind to it I knew I could achieve my goal, and today I wanted to come across the line first.
On my last mile I caught up to a guy that had remembered me from the year before, and I wanted him to stay with me so that he could help push me to the finish line. He was super helpful and encouraging and he gave me a sense of confidence that made me believe in myself for the last mile where I normally would have slowed down. As we continued to talk in between breathes, I could see that the finish line was coming up soon. I didn’t realize it, but as me and my new friend were talking we had came up on my competition and I only had so much time left to make my move. It was coming up quickly, my last chance to prove myself for the season. I started to speed up and I could see the finish line in the distance. I had pain in my legs and determination in my mind and as I passed my competition I kept sprinting as fast as I could just to stay ahead of her. My legs were completely numb and as I crossed the finish line I didn’t know if they were still there or not. A sense of joy overwhelmed me and it made all the pain and all the training worth it. I went over and said good job to my competitor who I figured out was the amazing Arianna werts and she was so kind and happy when I said good job to her.
I felt on top of the world. I felt like I had truly pushed myself to do things that I never thought that I could and I was ecstatic. As I went over to check the results I saw something that changed my mood significantly. I had not actually beat her. I was confused why my results were 8 seconds slower than hers, but then I remembered that it was a time trial start. She must have started behind me and even though I crossed the line first I wasn’t the one ahead. I was disappointed in myself at first obviously, but then I realized that this was one of my best races ever. I had raced that day with a new competitive spirit and a new sense of determination that I didn’t have in the past. I broke through barriers that seemed impossible and I knew that this new confidence that I had would carry through into my cross country season and really help me out. I was also very grateful for my competition because without Arianna I would have never been able to achieve those times I hit that day especially on the run. Even though I did not quite reach the goal that I wanted to that day, I knew that this was something that is going to keep me motivated and hungry for the rest of the year and for the next season. I am ready to take this time to continue to break down walls and continue to be the best athlete that I can be. Minnesota thanks for the best season of my life. It’s been a fabulous adventure. See you later!