When I first started doing triathlons my goal was to just not be the last person to finish, but as I got older those goals changed. As I started to improve I wanted to try to make it on the podium for my age group, and then the goal changed to wanting to win my age group. Once I was able to win my age group a few times I wanted to get an overall podium spot, and once I finally accomplished that I wanted to win my first race. All of those goals were things that I really wanted to accomplish at the time, but they all led up to making an overall win seem achievable. In my last tri season I knew that it might be possible to get my first win soon, but I didn’t know when or what race it would be at. All I knew was that it was a goal that was always in the back of my head every time I raced this year.
Throughout the season I was able to make the top ten in most of my races, but I had not gotten an overall podium spot yet, and it kept fueling the fire for me to push even harder at my next race. Going into my weekend racing at young life, I had just came off of racing at nationals and I still felt fired up from that, which seemed to benefit me. I knew that I had placed well the year before, but I wanted to do even better this year and I still had the goal of an overall win in the back of my head. Nothing felt different leading up to the race except for the fact that my racing partner (also my sister) was off at college doing cooler things and I missed her a lot. I knew that the race would feel weird not seeing her in transition, or seeing her fly by me on the bike, and especially not hearing her obnoxious cheering as I finished, but I knew that I would still enjoy my time competing.
As I got out of the car on the day of the race, I was excited to see lots of volunteers, familiar faces, the sunshine, and people who were energetic and ready to race. When I was walking into transition that day I felt especially cool as I got to roll in a new bike that our family was eagerly waiting for throughout the summer. I carefully put it on the bike rack because I had never ridden anything that looked so cool, and once I finished that and all of my other transition preparations I had a little bit of time for some fun before the race. I always love to talk to people or dance before my race because it gives me a chance to forget about my nerves and instead focus on the fun things that I am currently doing. When they called us over for a pre race meeting I really enjoyed hearing about the good cause that the race serves, and I also loved hearing that there were so many volunteers helping out that day because then I knew that it would be a well organized race.
After all the information was said I headed down for the water and as I got in I was waiting for it to get deeper, but for some reason I still felt like I was in shallow water far away from the beach. I figured out from another racer who was done doing a warm up swim that a lot of course was full of weeds, which explained why I didn’t feel like it was getting any deeper. When we were about to start the race I remember what the person had said about the weeds so I would not dive in the water too early when it was still shallow. With excitement in me I knew that we were about to start and as the air horn went off I ran as fast as I could into the water. I ran much farther than I normally would have in a race, but with there being so many weeds I kept running until I could finally sink lower into the water. The swim course was really easy to follow and it was also very good conditions as there were no waves or wind on the water. It felt much shorter than most of the swim courses that I had done prior to this race, but I had no complaints as I was able to get out of the water very quickly. With the long run up to transition I knew that I was doing pretty well coming out of the water, but I knew that if I wanted any shot of winning that I would have to work very hard on the bike. I was very excited to start the bike as I mounted, and I was very curious to see how my new ride would feel.
As I got up to speed I felt like I didn’t even have to pedal to achieve the bike time that I would normally try to stay at. I continued to increase my pace until I felt like I was at a speed that I could carry throughout the whole bike course, and it was much faster than what I usually did. What seemed like the first time ever, I was passing people on the bike instead of getting passed. With a new feeling of confidence I continued to ride as fast as I could because I knew that if I could carry the speed that I was biking at, that I might be able to be towards the front of the pack when I would start my run. I passed by mile markers that seemed to take forever the year before, but this year they seemed to fly by when I would go by each point. There seemed to be only a few hills, small amounts of wind, and the only thing that there seemed to be a lot of was happy volunteers directing traffic and cheering all of us on. When I got to the last straight away before the dismount line, I prepared myself for a painful run because I knew that if I wanted to catch first place that I had some ground to make up and it would not be easy.
With determination in my head I hopped off my bike and ran it into transition at a pretty fast pace. As I dropped everything off, I started my run and I felt so tight compared to all of my other races. Then I remembered that I had pushed much harder on the bike than what I was used to so my legs were a lot more tense which was going to make this run even harder than I had planned on. I tried to keep a consistent pace for my first mile so I wouldn’t die off at the end, but my legs were not loosening up and I still felt like I was trying to fight them the whole first mile. Once I finally saw the turnaround point my legs had loosened up a little and I felt like I could pick up the pace and lengthen my stride. I saw my competition ahead of me and I knew that I had to push really hard if I wanted to pass her because she was going along at a very quick pace.
I had a mental argument with myself for about a whole half mile because I would tell myself to try to beat her, then I would say that I was totally fine getting second place, then I would go back to saying that all of my training wouldn’t be worth it if I got second, and the debate seemed to go on for a long time. I tried to convince myself that she was a relay runner so I wouldn’t have to worry, but when I saw that her hair was wet and that she was wearing a triathlon suit, I knew that I had to at least try to catch up to her. I was running out of time to make my move, so finally I sucked it up and picked up the pace so that it became extremely uncomfortable. I made my pass, but I knew that she was a strong runner and would not slow down at all so I tried to sprint as much of it as I could. I could feel the faster bike ride catching up with me as I came down the last corner and straight away, but I tried to just keep pushing through until the end. I finished very pleased with how I did, but I did not know what place I had ended up for sure because there was a wave that had gone three minutes after me, and I did not know who was in what wave or if they had made up that three minute gap.
I walked around after the race getting to meet really nice people and also hang out with some friends. I forgot to stretch which I usually do after a race because I was distracted afterwards, and I really regretted it later in the day. When the announcer said awards would start in five minutes, I headed over there wondering if I had accomplished my goal or not. When they got started they where announcing the awards and when they got to the overall finishers I was really excited. They announced third and second place and my name was not called for either, so when they announced my name for first place I was so excited. I went up to grab my award and came back feeling like I had accomplished a big goal that I had wanted to do for so long. I know that if I did not have the other athletes around me pushing me to my limits, I would have never gotten the times or place that I had that day and I was so grateful for all the people out there on the course competing. I knew that it was just a triathlon in Detroit lakes on a Saturday afternoon, but it was also the race and the day where I got my first overall career win and I couldn’t have been any happier that day.