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Making the Jump to the Professional Ranks

By Renee Tomlin | Aug. 06, 2014, 12 a.m. (ET)

Last Sunday officially marked my first race as a professional triathlete and I can’t be more fired up for the next one. The 13th place finish at the Banyoles ETU Triathlon European Cup certainly does not meet my standards of excellence, but I couldn’t be more grateful for the learning experience and wake-up call this race provided.

To give you a bit of background, I’m one of the newbies to the CRP resident program that is currently training in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. I joined the group last April, which solidified the transition from track and field to triathlon. As a middle-distance runner at Georgetown University and later with the NJ/NY Track Club, I specialized in the 800-meter and 1500m distances. Thus, moving up to the Olympic-distance in triathlon seemed almost crazy at first. But the more I reflected, the more excited I became to take on a new challenge and grow as an athlete.

After a two-week introduction to the sport itself, I decided to jump into the Richmond EDR and kick off my triathlon journey. By securing my pro card early on, I was able to set myself up for the remainder of the summer racing season. I competed in a couple of non-ITU races—Monroe EDR, San Sebastian Sprint Triathlon and the Bilbao Aquathon—in order to get a feel for a hard, multisport effort. These provided the perfect opportunities to practice transitions, to learn longer racing and to be more competitive.   

I took everything I learned in those races with me to the ITU Banyoles Triathlon European Cup.

Race day started early with the sound of my 5:45 a.m. alarm clock. The normal pre-race routine ensued: shower, breakfast, travel to race site, check-in, transition set-up, warm-up, deep breath. Next thing I knew I was lined up in the transition area with the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song blasting before introductions. Having no points and ranked 29th out of a field of 33, I was in the ultimate underdog position.

The gun went off and in we dove for the two-lap box swim. Following the race plan, I got out hard and tried to settle into a more aerobic effort. Heading into the second lap, I was able to gauge being in the lead pack of 10. Sticking to the plan, I stayed relaxed and composed pressing on the feet ahead of me. The first transition went without a hitch. In fact, it might have been my best transition to date. But that immediately went to waste with the lack of 'urgency effort' that followed. All was lost in that first kilometer on the bike when I missed crucial wheels. It happened so quickly and, in that moment, I was a bit scattered lacking an understanding of what would happen next and how to respond. Instead of just being competitive, I started thinking about feet in shoes, whether or not I could survive an hour at some wildly high start wattage. Little did I know the pack settles down eventually, especially once you are attached. Thus, putting out a higher effort right at the start, or going beyond what you can maintain for an hour for just a short bit, will set you up in the proper position for later in the race. Coach said it best: "You have to put yourself in a little bit of trouble in order to avoid the real trouble." Let’s just say: lesson learned.  

After two solo laps, another small pack came up and I hopped in with them. Not knowing how my body would react from bike to 10K, I played it rather conservatively in the pack of four. I came off the bike about four-plus minutes behind the lead group—just too much to chase down. However, this provided the chance to practice working solo into a long, consistent effort based completely off of feel versus logistical pack racing. Working into it gradually, I was able to catch about 11 girls. As I neared the finish, I reverted back to my 1500m days for the final kick. The speedy finish reminded me that I have much more to give in future competitions.

I’m pumped that my next chance comes up soon enough! I’ll be competing in my 1st World Cup in Tiszaujvaros, Hungary on August 9-10. Looking forward to applying the lessons learned and taking a stab at being more competitive!