USA Triathlon News Blogs Collegiate Recruit B... Everything Happens f...

Everything Happens for a Reason

By Erin Dolan | March 13, 2014, 12 a.m. (ET)

The last two years have certainly taken me on a path I never could have imagined. Two years ago I was swimming in my final Division II national championship with no idea what was next. After winning the DII national title in the 1000 and the 1650 and having a great senior season I left the deck that day being forced to make the decision to either continue training for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Swim Trials or celebrate a successful four year college swimming career alongside my teammates. Knowing I didn’t have a chance at making it past the trials, I decided to hang up my suit. To my surprise it was one of the hardest decisions I ever made.

It didn’t take me long to miss training and competing so I began to run. Shortly after competing in my first half marathon, I was offered a scholarship to graduate school in a sport I had never competed in before, cross country. I ran track as a freshman in high school but had only run since then to help with my swimming. At first I found it hard to average much over 25 miles a week and having not much of a running background my coach was very careful adding the miles on. As the season progressed, so did my confidence. Once again I fell back in love with the competition and found it hard not to smile as I ran. I knew I only had one year to compete for the school I loved, Drury University, before the five-year college eligibility rule would force me out of college athletics. I worked hard to make sure I would be able to finish my masters degree in that year while the swimmer's body I once knew changed to a more lean runner's body.

Graduation from graduate school approached in May of 2013 and I knew I wasn’t ready to quit competing. The time was now for me to prove that I could bike with the rest of the pack and turn my attention to the triathlon. After slowly increasing my biking mileage week by week over that summer, I qualified for my elite license in August at the Age Group National Championships in Wisconsin. Even though I didn’t have any professional race results backing up my resume as a professional athlete, I took the risk to apply to my first World Cup. I made the start list for the Cozumel World Cup in October, placing 23rd.

Last year I raced the Clermont Elite Development Race and finished sixth, missing earning my elite license by just under one minute. This year the same race opened my season, only this time racing as an elite. Having a swimming background, I made the front pack going out, but after the first quick surge on the bike unfortunately I found myself quickly alone and ended up sitting up to wait for the chase pack. After the third loop the chase pack made an attack and I fell off the back. I think this was what cost me a top-10 finish. Even though I am a strong runner, I had lost a lot of time trying to time trial that final lap. I finished the race 16th. With only a week before the Sarasota ITU Race I told myself I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.

Lining up on the dock in Sarasota I felt more relaxed, the nerves I had the week before grew into energy. I knew I was capable of a top-10 finish as long as I didn’t give up on the bike like I had in Clermont. I took my position on the dock confident. I had worked harder the last couple weeks on the bike than I ever had before and I knew I was capable of keeping up with the other girls. Coming out of the water in second position after Sara McLarty, I was right where I wanted to be. However, within the first couple miles I found myself in the same position as I was in the week before. As the chase pack came up on me this time, I wasn’t letting go. I stuck like glue. The laps went by quickly with the group and once we hit the second transition I knew I had a shot to make up some serious time. I told myself I was a runner. My coach and I had done a lot of speed work and with each pace session I continued to get faster. On the first mile I looked down to see my watch beep with a 5:34 mile. I crossed the finish line with a sixth place finish, running the third fastest 5k split of the women’s race with a 17:32 just seconds off the top runner. Now having the first two races of the season under my belt, I am excited to see what is to come the rest of the year.  Two years ago, if you would have told me where I would be today, I wouldn’t have believed you. I believe everything happens for a reason.