World Champion. It all just doesn’t seem real. I feel like I am living in my own fantasy world and it’s awesome! I don’t know where to start to explain my journey and thoughts on winning the 2014 ITU Championship.
Leading up to the Edmonton WTS Grand Final, I wasn’t my normal, driven self. I was still getting up every day and getting the work done, but since the Chicago WTS, my motivation wasn’t the same. I wanted to finish the season with a bang, but my bed was looking better and better every day. I had no excuse, as the weather was nice and my training was going well (besides a few really bad swimming sessions). But it had been a season full of long haul travel, emotions, work, and sweat and it was all catching up with me.
When we arrived in Edmonton, I was impressed with the atmosphere and promotion of the race. Everywhere I looked I saw signs for the triathlon: “This is going to be EPIC.” I loved it! However, the more signs I saw, the more nervous I got. I put unneeded pressure and stress on myself. I wanted to not only become World Champion, but I also wanted to win the race. (The ITU World Champion is decided based on points earned throughout the season. I had an 800+ point lead going into the Final; however, the winner of the Final received 1200 points. In order for me to secure the World Championship title, I needed to finish in 16th place or better).
Race morning was very typical: a wake up jog, breakfast, a little rest and recovery, a swim in the pool, and ride to the race venue. And then, before I knew it, the gun sounded and the race started. The swim was rough for me. I was giving it everything I had, but I felt off. I was just off the back of the front group. I knew the rest of the day would be a lot easier if I could exit the water in the top five; however, physically I couldn’t do it. I exited the water in 17th. I felt heavy and slow. I was struggling to take deep breaths. I was nervous as I mounted my bike, but I could see the leaders in front of me.
I put my head down and tried to catch the front girls. I was riding solo until a small chase pack with Sarah Haskins caught me. I’m not sure if I was still tired from the swim, or if I put in too big of an effort trying to catch the front pack solo, but as I started going up the first hill, my legs were burning with lactate and I could see the women get further and further ahead. I didn’t panic. My day wasn’t over, but I knew it was going to get a lot harder.
On the second lap of the bike, I started to ride better. I was more aware and alert. Haskins did a lot of work. As we started the hill on the second lap, Jodie Stimpson attacked Haskins. Thankfully, I was able to respond; however, Haskins got dropped momentarily. As our group formed again, Haskins, Stimpson, Flora Duffy and a few others worked hard to try to close the gap to the women up the road. We ended up coming into transition a little over a minute down on the leaders.
I started running and my legs felt like they were made of bricks. I thought my muscles were going to give out and I was going to collapse to the ground. Thankfully, my muscles held strong as I focused on remaining calm. After lap one of the run (out of four), I felt like I hadn’t gained time on the leaders. I had no idea how many women were in the first pack, but it looked like more than 16. I stopped thinking about what place I was in; instead, I ran as hard as I could remembering my original game plan: to cross the finish line in first. I started to pass some women, and soon I saw the three leaders: Sarah Groff, Andrea Hewitt, and Nicky Samuels. I had no time to think, instead, I focused on trying to catch them. I was battling when I caught Samuels and Hewitt; I wasn’t quite sure what to do next. I was hot, tired, my legs were still heavy and I knew I had another full lap to go. I tried to make a move, but I felt like I didn’t increase my pace enough. Thankfully, I was able to form a very slight gap I was able to build upon.
As I was running down the blue carpet towards the finish tape, I didn’t relish the moment. I didn’t think about what I was accomplishing. I was just running. It felt like any other race. I never thought “This is it! You are the World Champion!” It’s a strange thing, racing.
I crossed the finish line and wanted to give Patrick and Jamie a hug. I wanted them to know this was for them. There are only a few people who know how hard Patrick and Jamie work for me. I didn’t want to celebrate. I wanted them to celebrate.
Winning didn’t fully sink in until a day later on the flight home with Patrick. I was relieved, happy, and gratified. I have woken up every day since feeling amazing. I had no idea how much pressure and stress I was putting on myself (and for how long I had been putting stress on myself – which is likely why I was unmotivated). It was silly.
Thank you to my sponsors and partners: USA Triathlon, Mark Holowesko, Do Naturals, Red Bull, David Hobbs Honda, Specialized, ASICS, HED, Oakley, ROKA, Project Clothing Compression Wear, Ceramic Speed, Motorex, Sport Crafters, Shimano, Mobile Warming, and the New York Athletic Club. I couldn’t have become World Champion without your support, help, and belief in me. Thank you as well to Haskins for her help at the Edmonton Grand Final.
Thank you to the Gong Wizards, who push me, motivate me and put a smile on my face every single day. I’m so fortunate to have such a supportive training group of friends who are happy for others’ successes.
There are so many others to thank: my family, my friends, my agent Heather Novickis, the Lemieuxs, Patrick, Jamie, and my fans. Thank you. When I lack motivation, you are the ones who keep me going and get me out of bed in the morning.
It was a great day for USA Triathlon. Sarah Groff and I went one-two in the Series overall. For the first time ever, Americans earned gold and silver. In the U23 race, American Erin Jones brought home the bronze medal, and Jarrod Shoemaker came 7th in the men’s Elite race.
Although the season is over, I will continue to do a bit of training so I can take a break during our wedding and honeymoon. :) A season review update will come soon. Thanks for reading!