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Breakthrough and Breakout Aren’t Synonymous

By Summer Cook | Oct. 01, 2014, 12 a.m. (ET)

This past weekend I raced my first World Cup in Alanya, Turkey. Alanya is a small town along the Mediterranean coast that took more than 25 hours to travel to. Due to the travel and big time change (10 hours from the Pacific time zone), we left on Sept. 19 and didn’t race until the 27 (the men's race the 28). Arriving at a race so far in advance felt very strange, especially since we were in a vacation hot spot. It didn’t feel as though we were there to race until the pre-race briefing.

Every day leading up to the race was beautiful – sunshine, clear skies, calm water. Alanya is famous for its perfect weather that  the slogan "Alanya: where the sun smiles” was printed across several banners on the race course. However, mother nature had a different idea of what Alanya would look like on race day. About two hours before the race – as we were leaving for the course – a thunderstorm brought pouring rain and hail. We rode to the course through the storm and huddled under a tent for awhile before the doors opened. While at check-in, the rain stopped for the entire race.

Even though the rain cleared up for the race, the storm left gusts that made the sea very choppy. Swimming into the waves was like swimming uphill. I led a small group of athletes out of the water. Over the duration of my triathlon career, the bike has been the piece of the puzzle that has been missing. My race in Monterrey, Mexico, earlier this month was the first time that I successfully stayed with the lead bike pack for the entire race. I’m happy to say that Alanya was the second. Even though my competition made up the deepest race I had ever been in, I got onto the bike and wasn’t intimidated, even when our 15-woman pack was caught by the chasers and became a 39-woman pack. After being dropped out of the pack in my Elite Development races a mere seven months ago, I consider hanging onto the group in a World Cup race with some very accomplished athletes to be a massive breakthrough. When I came off the bike with the pack, I figured I could run myself into a pretty good position. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a runner that day and wound up 33rd. As a runner, I’m disappointed in my final result, but I also recognize that my progress on the bike is the most important part of my development at this point in time. Progress is sometimes two steps forward, one step back. You can’t always have everything you want all at once.

My next race is the World Cup in Cartagena, Colombia, on the October 12, where I will wrap up my season. I’m excited to get another racing opportunity and look forward to embracing the challenges that inevitably accompany racing.