Entering my second full season as an elite I would be lying to say I wasn't envious every time I watched highlight videos of fellow athletes running through the finish line grabbing the tape and throwing it up over their head. This is the moment when all the pain you had just experienced seconds before completely disappears.
For me that moment came for the first time this last weekend at the CAMTRI in Bridgetown Barbados. In every race you have decisions to make that can make or break the end result. The first decision I made as the gun went off was to lead the swim... Something I would normally make an effort not to do. I usually like to find some good feet and stay calm in the draft, but the water was clear and my "calm" felt too easy. So after the first turn I decided that I was not only going to lead the swim, I would be the first one out of T1. Then I would get a pack and rest before hitting the run.
The five laps went by fast on the bike. I had been training with a power meter for the last couple months which has done amazing things to my bike strength and confidence. This is something I lacked last year. I hit T2 feeling relatively fresh. I decided I was confident enough in my run to make a move early on and within 100 meters of the start of the run I took the lead and never looked back. I made a 20 second gap the first mile and held on. Honestly I don't remember much else except seeing that orange tape and hearing the announcer yell, "Here comes our winner, Erin Dolan from the USA!" As I saw the orange tape I grabbed it and threw it over my head. I almost started to cry.
I can't explain to you the feelings that hit me after I grabbed that tape or even tell you when I realized I had won. I don't even think it hit me until hours later. In fact I'm not sure if it has hit even yet. I keep looking back and thinking, “wow racing at this level and wearing the flag of the stars and the stripes is amazing” I have so many women to look up to who continue to positively impact and teach me through their actions and continued success. After all, when you are representing the same flag as Gwen, Sarah, and Katie, there is so much to learn. I feel like I'm in never-ending-triathlete school, but I am so excited and honored to have the opportunity to learn. When I graduated college, I was sure winning a race for my university in swimming or track was as good as it would get. After hearing the national anthem play as the flag raised behind me on Sunday..... Now that is something I had only dreamed about.