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Let the Racing Begin

By Renee Tomlin | April 01, 2015, 11 a.m. (ET)

It’s hard to believe that it’s now been a full year since starting the sport of triathlon. Although I’ve traveled and competed across the U.S. and internationally before, this past year marked an all-time high in terms of miles covered and countries visited. I’ve traveled, trained and raced in seven foreign countries in my inaugural year — Spain, Hungary, Sweden, Mexico, Cuba, New Zealand, Australia — and moved across the country from beachside South Jersey to the desert of Arizona. Over the course of this time, I gained valuable experience racing, built a novice base and skill-set of an endurance multisport athlete, and learned how to live life on the ever-constant move.

This ever-constant move is both a part of the triathlete’s lifestyle as well as the training program. “Oh, another six-hour day of training? Normal. Oh, another flight path from Phoenix to LA to Auckland to Melbourne back to Auckland to Brisbane to LA to Phoenix? All in a week or two.” Bottom line: movement, transition and change are inherent both in and around competition. And the ability to adapt along the way is essential for success within it.

In my last blog entry, I detailed the first leg of my trip to New Zealand and the training stint in Australia. For this entry, I’ll pick up where I left off: heading into final preparation for the Mooloolaba World Cup. As the day neared, I couldn’t have felt more race-ready and excited to compete. After a solid swim and the luck of joint bike packs, I found myself in perfect position upon dismounting my bike. However, I knew immediately something was off just 200m into the 5k run. My body wasn’t responding properly to the task at hand. I went from sitting tucked right in at third to holding on for dear life to make the top 10. After chatting with Jarrod, USAT CRP Coach, and Lindsay Hyman, USAT Sports Science Advisor, we figured I made a few mistakes in hydration, nutrition and in handling the heat. These mistakes come at a heavy price, but the payment results in a better understanding and awareness of how to change in preparation for future races. Coffee

Needless to say, the result in Mooloolaba was not what we were shooting for. However, with back-to-back competitions, it wasn’t something to dwell on either. It was a wake-up call to pay closer attention to detail and to adapt or react to changing weather or body conditions. With these lessons learned, we made our way to New Plymouth, New Zealand, for another swing at a World Cup Sprint. To shake off the doubt that surfaced in Mooloolaba, in New Plymouth I paid closer attention to the body’s needs (which may or may not have included special edition salted caramel Tim Tams paired with good coffee…) and also went into the race with a more relaxed approach (courtesy of a glass of red).

Renee Tomlin WinRace day came up quickly and before I knew it I was sprinting off the black sands of the coastline into the chop of the Tasman Sea. And what a completely different feel from that in Mooloolaba! The swim went smoothly and the bike felt comfortable, albeit an honest effort. When I got to the run, I was an entirely different person compared to the previous weekend. I started to work gradually into each lap and raise the intensity every 1k. By the final lap, I placed myself in striking distance of the win. Teammate Kaitlin Donner had the stronger showing that morning and held off my kick by a couple of strides. We crossed the line in a USA 1-2 punch and hugged out the result. I couldn’t have been more fired up with how I felt during and after the race! I snagged my first World Cup podium finish, popped champagne, and rocked out to the Boss’ “Born in the USA.” I was stoked to finally be in the game and to execute what Jarrod and I had been working on since November.

Of course I celebrated the day’s result, but it was back to business as usual the next morning with the following weekend’s WTS Olympic Distance in Auckland. This race consisted of a top-level field on arguably the most challenging course on the WTS circuit. With a bit of naiveté, training partner Kirsten Kasper and I were in for an experience. Although the weather predicted rain, the sun gods shone through on the Auckland harbor and the roads dried out just in time for the big dance. With the sound of the horn, we were off yet again. This being my first Olympic Distance of the year, I was conservative off the pontoon, thinking it would serve me later in the race. Yet again, another lesson learned. The lack of hustle landed me outside of the proper chase pack, placing me well outside the top 20 coming out of the water. I ended up in the 3rd group of riders and hung on by charging down the hills at 60K per hour to stay attached. By the final bike lap, my legs and lungs had had enough of the hills. Once on the run, I caught my breath, settled into a rhythm and pressed up into the top 20 over the final 5K. Feeling surprisingly springy by the end, I kicked it in hard to place 16th overall. The result was a solid step up in the process, although slightly off the mark due to swim positioning. All in all, I started to see the pieces coming together.Renee Tomlin Swim Transition

Renee Tomlin RunThe final stop on the competition tour of the Southern Hemisphere landed me back in Australia at the Gold Coast WTS. Fortunately, I had a down weekend post Auckland to recover and top-up for the final race. These last two weeks abroad rounded out my two and a half month training and racing stint away from the USA. I was ready for one more go before heading home. Taking all of the lessons learned from the previous three races, I sprinted off into the water to get into proper positioning on the swim. Heading out of T1, however, I had a bit of a run-in with a fellow competitor costing precious time to make the proper bike pack. Anything can happen in triathlon and you have to be ready to react without fluster. I got back onto my bike and powered up to make sure to get in a pack. Our group lost time on the leaders, which when heading into the run leg, I knew I would have to make up to salvage the race. I went out hard and worked to the very end to kick into 20th. Although this was not my goal result, so much of the race had gone well enough that I was satisfied with the effort. Nutrition, hydration, and weather conditions were handled properly. The swim hustle was there. Riding technically sound and running a solid 10k were checked off. Now I just have to make the right bike pack and I’ll be in the game.