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Pro debut: CDA 70.3

I knew this year of racing would be rather underwhelming, probably frustrating, definitely humbling. Yet my optimism for growth in the sport propelled me to toe the line at CDA 70.3 anyway, even when I knew my body did not quite prove physically ready to perform at its best.

I have spent the last two months trying to incorporate the run technique Jay Dicharry taught me back in Bend at the end of April. My body has seemed to pick up on the different run form, and my knee seems to respond well, for the most part. Yet continued pain persists, and an overarching lack of power and run fitness has left me falling well short of my typical race paces and capacity for sustaining said speed over longer bike rides and runs. My head has not found great confidence in mediocre training days.

While I have remained consistent in the pool, enjoying the sunny days at Witter Aquatic Center with my coach, Derek, and other training friends, Sunday morning's race start exposed a serious shortcoming that served as Lesson #1: develop the strength and aerobic capacity to swim so fast you feel like death but don't die. Instead, stay on the feet of faster swimmers, and don't get dropped.

I got dropped before 200m and settled into my own pace thinking I swam as the last woman out of the 14 who showed up to race. I kept swimming thinking the race is not lost in the swim. Upon exiting the water, about the only thing I lost were some choice words/thoughts for the slower swim that I had hoped to put forth. Lesson #2: swim faster.

Photo by James Richman
Out on the bike, I reeled in two ladies after turning around at Higgin's Point, only to have another professional woman overtake me out on Highway 95. I secretly started to contemplate how I might leave this race upon getting back into transition when the headwinds falsely made me feel like I worked harder than what my power meter said I did. This year's power output hardly compared to that with which I raced the previous two years so that I learned upon entering transition, Lesson #3: get stronger.

I congratulated myself for not falling off my bike at the dismount line like I did last year, but I knew when Bryan shouted at me to, "Get to work," I at least had to move forward for a bit into the run. Actually, I thought a 5k off the bike would suffice for a decent training day. So I racked up my BMC Time Machine and donned my trusty Topo Magniflies before finding the run exit.

Photo by James Richman
Go figure; I couldn't even excuse myself from the run for knee pain. None existed. No numbness that has developed recently in my right leg made me limp and slow to a stop. Instead, I spotted my parents, who urged me onward, and I grabbed some water at the first aid station. A volunteer shouted I ran by as 12th woman, and at the time, I did not have the mental capacity to question her. I don't ever remember passing any other women on the run, but I do remember an amateur woman who did. It took me back to last year's race, when I, too, felt like a million bucks for passing some of the slower lady professionals.

I made the turn around, headed back into the park, and I watched Trevor Wurtele do exactly what I wanted to do: pull off and go get a shower and food. At that point, however, my mental strength to persevere through discomfort seemed to kick into high gear. Why now, brain?! My feet guided me onto the second lap at the decision point, and the farther away I got from the park, the more inconvenient it became to quit. Lesson #4: just go for it.

Photo by James Richman
Watching the top ladies in this race inspired me for their efficiency in running form, strong bodies, and brutal mental fortitude. When I didn't have these ladies to watch while running through the last miles of the run, I concentrated heavily on my own run form. My energy waned considerably with two miles to go, but my reemergence in the park brought on such a wave of relief I managed to forget about how slow I raced on this day.

Regardless of how painful it felt and looked, I found Sherman Avenue and let memories of running down this street in past races overwhelm me. Two weeks ago, I didn't think I would start this race. One week ago, I thought I might start the race, but I doubted I would finish. Thirty minutes ago, I knew my feet would find the finish line. The stubbornness to finish certainly carried me through to the end, but I strive to tackle all the shortcomings of this day to build into the next race day. Lesson #5: be patient; be resilient.


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