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Chasing My Pro Card

By Molly Higgins | Aug. 20, 2014, 12 a.m. (ET)

After our six-week training block in Vitoria, Spain, Kirsten Kasper and I arrived in Detroit, Mich., on Tuesday for the Detroit EDR on Saturday. We were greeted by our host family, the Evensons, whom I cannot thank enough for essentially adopting four triathletes all week as their own. It is experiences like these that make traveling around the country so special, as a reminder of home away from home. 

Coming into this race, the goal was to earn my pro card, by placing in the top three in order to move up to the ITU circuit.  I competed in my first EDR back in June in Monroe, just two-and-a-half weeks after I began training. After the intense training camp in Spain, honing and challenging both my skills and endurance, I felt more confident for this race. 

The night before the race, we were lucky to hear Barb Lindquist speak about her journey from swimmer to Olympic triathlete to mother. Her words hit home when she spoke about treating second chances as a gift and knowing that God and those most important to you will always love you despite the outcome of any given race. As a recent college graduate and runner, this is certainly my second chance at competing at the highest level, one which I will forever be thankful for as I try to make the most of every opportunity. Barb’s words touched me and lit an extra fire as well as provided comfort going into the race the next morning. 

The alarm sounded way before the crack of dawn, at 4:50 a.m. to be exact (thank you again to Kirk, AJ, and Kylie for enduring that early morning with nothing but smiles), and we were off to Bell Isle for the race. Once our warmup began, it was essentially non-stop movement until we were lined up on the beach start and gun went off. 

We hit the current and choppy water maybe 25 meters out from the first buoy. I lost a set of feet at the buoy after getting swum over and pushed backwards, but that is part of triathlon. I came out of the water in fourth position, right with another swimmer and we exited transition together as the first chase pack. However, just as I mounted my bike, my rubber bands snapped, my shoes started flipping and I floundered. It took too long to fix this blunder, and my partner out of transition pulled away and was chasing after another rider ahead. I rode hard to try and catch up, knowing I wanted to get my feet in my shoes in order to sprint faster out of my saddle to catch them. But one shoe unclipped and the other strap was twisted. More fumbling, and more lost time. Once I got out of my saddle to sprint, the gap was too big to close. I settled in, tried to get in a rhythm to ride the rest of the three loops solo. 

Coming off the bike into the run, I knew I was about two minutes back from third place. I tried not to be discouraged and focus on getting into a good running rhythm. About one-kilometer in, I felt really good and began looking ahead to chase. Just after the first lap, I caught one of the girls ahead of me. Barb and Kirk were great with telling me how far back I was, keeping my fight alive. Despite kicking hard to the finish, the gap from the bike was too large to overcome. With a DQ ahead of me, I finished fourth overall. While one of the girls ahead did have her pro card already, I still was not within five-percent of Kirsten, who won, which left me short of achieving my pro card. Needless to say, this was a very disappointing finish, especially given that the outcome was not necessarily fitness based, but a 10-20 second skills mistake that led to a two minute deficit on the bike.

ITU races are the unity of skills and fitness and one mistake can be costly. No matter what happens, you race all out to the finish, and hope it is enough. On Saturday, it wasn’t enough for me. This was a hard result to swallow, knowing that my hard work hadn’t come to fruition yet and I would probably not be able to compete in some bigger races this season; I still felt like I had so much to prove. However, reflecting now it lights a fire for each day of training, to improve my skills and get stronger, to gain a sense of patience and respect for the sport. Anything worth having is worth waiting for and fighting for. After Detroit and entering this next training block, I have the patience to wait, but also the will to fight.