“What would you like to order?” the Vietnamese waitress asked me.
“Wonton soup, please.” A nutrient-dense meal that reminded me of the Pho soup I ate for dinner the night before Ironman 70.3 Texas.
It is Monday night, the day after my second pro triathlon. I just completed the 10.5 hour drive home from Houston and met my husband, Grayson, for dinner at one of our favorite Branson restaurants, Thai Thai.
It is common for us to go out to eat after I return from a race to catch up about our time apart. We talk about everything from work, to how George the Dog is doing, to family happenings, to all the details about the race experience. During our conversation, Grayson asked me, “what did you learn?”
Great question. I hadn’t thought about that.
Let’s rewind time to find out.
• • • • •
It’s Wednesday before the race. My vehicle is packed, bike firmly secured on my kuat rack and I’m ready to start the trek to Texas after work. Since Grayson could not make the trip, I ventured alone and split the drive up, staying with good friends in Dallas and Houston on the way down. It was so special to reconnect with friends I haven’t seen in years. Even more special that both sets of friends attended the race on Sunday!
Friday morning, I picked my mom up from the Houston Hobby Airport and we made our way down to Galveston. When we arrived, I rode the bike course to get acquainted with the infamous Galveston winds, picked up my race packet, and then got checked in to our AirBnB at Casetta Di Pace e Felicita where we met the incredibly hospitable Melodi and the famous Black Dog. Melodi recommended dinner at Trattoria la Vigna and oh..my...goodness. Amazing. Their traditional Italian pasta is freshly made and prepared by a joy-filled little Italian lady whose years in the kitchen is marked by the lines in her hands and face. The food is full of love and perfect for pre-race fuel.
Saturday morning, after a shakeout run, I met a group of teammates at Stewart Beach for a choppy, adrenaline pumping swim. At this point, I was ready for pancakes from Miller’s Seawall Grill, rest and hydration for the big day.
Sunday morning, race day. The temps dropped to low 50s/high 40s and wind shifted direction from the day before which meant a tail wind on the way out on the bike, and headwind on the return. The weather was perfect for me since it mirrors the conditions in which I have been training in Southern Missouri. The question of the morning was, “will the swim be wetsuit legal?” The answer? Yes. Water temp dropped about 5 degrees overnight to 68 degrees F (cutoff for pro athletes is 71.5 degrees F and is 76.1 degrees F for age group athletes).
After bathing in Vaseline and sliding into my wetsuit, I make it down to the start line where we have a deep water start. The water feels good and I’m ready to fight it out for as long as possible. I relax my body, gently sculling the water as I allow my feet to float to the surface behind me and wait for the start. 3...2....1. GO.
The swim is fast and furious. I hang on to the group for as long as possible but gradually disconnect finding myself swimming alone...again. The last 100m of the swim I start feeling a bit discouraged and mildly defeated. After I get out of the water, I see one of the four age-groupers that passed me in the water running up the ramp ahead of me. As he peels away his wetsuit, I see a flash of red and an SBC logo! It’s my teammate Trevor Croley! I sprint toward him, we give each other a big high-five and I sprint towards my transition area with renewed energy, focus, and strength.
I quickly slide my wetsuit off and make a fast transition to the bike. It’s time to go to work. The majority of the bike course was a long straight stretch. Because I started the bike about 3 minutes behind the next closest competitor, I could not see anyone out in front of me. I just had faith that if I kept my speed up, I would eventually catch someone.
After what seemed like forever, I see a speck on the horizon and I realize that speck is my first target. A few more minutes pass and I catch her. “One.” That moment gave me confidence to go catch the next person. “Two.” I keep my head down while scanning the horizon for the next speck. “Three.” The wind is at my back, cadence high, and speed dialed in. “Four.” I remind myself to eat and drink. Because the temps are cool, it’s easy to neglect nutrition, but that’s not a risk I want to take knowing I still have hours of racing ahead. “Five”. Headwind now, but confidence is growing. “Six.” Keep pushing. Everyone is facing the same challenging wind. “Seven.” I start doing mental math. “Based on my current bike speed and if I run low 1:20s on the run, I will end up with a finish time in the low 4:20s. That’s a solid time! I’m in this! There’s number eight. Go get her!” “Eight.” I keep repeating the mantra, “I’m in this.” “Nine”. A few more miles to the second transition and I can see one more girl ahead of me. “Ten.”
I dismount the bike, disregarding my frozen feet, and make another fast transition.
“You are 13th!” My mom tells me. I keep my run speed up eventually catching 12th....then 11th. It occurs to me, “I could place in the top 10.” As I round a corner, my good friends from Houston with whom I stayed a couple nights before were just arriving at the race course. With impeccable timing, our paths cross, we exchange a big “Hello!”, a wild wave of the hand and I continue my charge with another sense of renewed energy.
The run course is three loops with several turns and blind corners. I use these turns to evaluate where the next closest person is in front of me. I’m impressed with how strong these women are and how fast they are running. It’s not like I’m chasing down people that are running a minute per mile slower. They are running just seconds per mile slower which makes catching people more difficult. I constantly search deep within to find some extra gears. As I round another corner I see a young boy that looked just like my coach’s son holding a sign that read, “you were born for this.” This unlocked another door of motivation that pushed me into the top 10.
The final moment of inspiration was found running down the homestretch. As I approached the finish line, I thought, “I want to give someone a high five!” Then I see a big band sticking out from the crowd, I run towards it and then realize it was Casey! One of my Houston friends! I leap towards him with joy and we exchange the best high five ever that leaves both hands stinging and I finish the race in 8th place with a time of 4:23.57.
Monday night at Thai Thai:
Back to the original question, “What did you learn?”
“I learned not to let one wave of self-doubt, fatigue, or worry define the race. Rather, if I keep my eyes open, I will find moments of inspiration that keep me connected to my joy reminding me of my “why”. This unlocks those deep reserves of motivation allowing me to push beyond my limits.”
• • • • •
Big thank you to all the friends and family who came to cheer in Texas! Dianne Bradley. Casey, Kathryn, Caitlyn, and Cameron McPherson. Kenneth and Lucy Hintzen. Alexa Royston.
Thank you to all my supporters who continue to make it happen:
Active Life Chiropractic
Law Offices of Doug Fredrick, LLC
Eric and Melissa Belk
And many more.
Onward and Upward!
Left to right: Kathryn, me, Alexa - all former Baylor cross country and track and field athletes. Sic ‘em bears!