Starting the 2013 Season

By Kyla Chapman | March 13, 2013, 12 a.m. (ET)

kylaI kicked off the 2013 season last weekend in the Sunshine State. The other collegiate recruits and I traveled to Clermont, Fla., for the Clermont Draft Legal Challenge. The Clermont Challenge was my first draft-legal race and I went into the race with a lot of nervous energy. Clermont has been on my race schedule since October of last year and although I had plenty of time to prepare mentally and physically, I was definitely still nervous for this race. When I envisioned the race, I was very anxious for the swim. All of the flailing arms, fingernails, rough waters, and bodies everywhere just made me cringe — it’s been over 6 months… had I forgotten how to open water swim in a pack? When it came to the bike, it was a totally different dynamic than any race before. We would be allowed to draft, and supreme cycling skills are a must to make the pack setting a little less stressful.

I had prepared for this race (and this 2013 season) long and hard for months on end, but that still didn’t wash away the nervousness. Along with the race itself, I felt pressure to do well because I have been targeting Clermont as the race to earn my elite license; a feat that requires a podium finish. Going in with that additional pressure really got the butterflies flying. The day before the race we visited the course and biked it in its entirety, including 180-degree turns, mounts/dismounts, and biking through the transition area. We swam in the lake, studied the water depths to find the best starting position, and practiced our dolphin diving for the start. By the end of the morning I was starting to feel a little better about race day. The rest of the day I tried to keep it laid-back and “normal.” I formed a rule for myself when I was in college that I don’t think about the race AT ALL in the hours leading up to it. I learned in college that when I brooded over races and let my nervousness get to me I would totally bomb in my race. So the rest of the afternoon I pushed all the thoughts away and just hung out with my teammates and enjoyed being in Florida.

kylaRace morning always flies by and before I knew it I was standing on the start line waiting on the official’s command. The horn went off and I dolphin dove to a spot in a pack where I was swimming along and catching a decent draft. I felt great during the swim and maneuvered my way up to faster feet. I came out of the water about 40 seconds behind the first swimmer which was a bit further back than I wanted to be. The good thing about this was that there were a couple of girls up ahead to catch up to and a huge pack of girls coming up right behind me. All of us joined together to be a good working pack and we starting gaining on the leaders. By the fourth and final lap of the bike we were about 10-15 seconds behind the lead pack. Riding in the pack had been so much fun and I felt great during the entire bike. So far in the race I hadn’t approached that “red line” and I knew that I had a lot of energy saved for my run. I came off 20 seconds behind the leader and cut down on that time to eventually put 20 seconds on her and secure the win.

It felt so good to grab the finish banner and hold it up over my head. My goal going into the race was to win, and so I had been envisioning this moment for the past few weeks. The race was not perfect, but it was pretty darn close. I was so thankful for everything to have gone so smoothly and in hindsight I realize that there wasn’t much to be nervous about. A lot of what we stress about are the unknowns and the uncontrollables. We put in all the hard work to control what we can, and so there is no point stressing over what we can’t. I know that is really easy to say and really hard to practice, but this race taught me that I am doing everything that I can to be good at this sport and trusting in that hard work will only make me better.

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