“Look, we’re going to Cuba at the end of January,” said our coach Jarrod Evans over speakerphone right before Christmas break — i.e 48 hours after the announcement to lift the travel ban. There was a moment of pause, darting eyes around the kitchen, and then big smiles and laughter broke out among our Collegiate Recruitment Program training group.
Training partners Nick, Josh, Robby, Kirsten and I were in for an adventure unknown to most Americans, let alone American athletes. We were to be the first group of professional American athletes to travel and compete in USA uniform since the 1960 embargo. “You’re going to be a part of history,” my mom told me over the phone while sitting at my departure gate. CNN and BBC news channels were buzzing in the background with depictions of the newly instated ambassador to Cuba. The night before departure Kirsten and I were getting a lesson in how to change our tires while President Obama delivered his State of the Union address: “When what you’re doing doesn’t work for 50 years, it’s time to try something new.”
Needless to say, the opportunity to travel and compete in Cuba was an experience to cherish. I couldn’t be more grateful for the support from USA Triathlon and USA Triathlon President Barry Siff for his work in organizing the trip. Not only was I able to see a part of the world hidden from most, but it was also an exciting way to kick off the 2015 season with my first podium finish under the support of Team Psycho and blueseventy.
Last year I entered the CRP midseason, transitioning to triathlon with my high school swim background and run experience from my time at Georgetown and post-collegiately with the New Jersey New York Track Club. After last year’s whirlwind of an introduction to the sport of triathlon, I knew that the start of the 2015 season would be an important one. I would be lying if I said I was happy with last year’s results. However, that said, I recognize that last year’s season was crucial in the overarching learning process and has offered invaluable perspective on racing, training, recovery and patience. These ‘lessons-learned’ coupled with a large aerobic training base fostered the perfect combination to kick off this year’s competitive racing season.
After extensive travel and tons of excitement, it’s safe to say Kirsten and I were pumped for the arrival of race morning. Together we made our breakfast, gathered our equipment and greeted the day by riding down to the start at Hemingway Marina. Everything from warm-up to the horn blast ran as smoothly as expected. Once in the water, the game plan to race “calculated and measured” began to play out. Kirsten and I worked together in the swim and bike packs in order to position ourselves in the top four heading into the run leg. At 3k, Jarrod told us to raise the intensity and finish the race off strong. As I neared the finish line, I felt a rush of positive affirmation that everything I had worked for last season and this past fall would start to pay off.
I couldn’t have received a warmer welcoming to Cuba or to the start of the 2015 race season. I look forward to the challenges ahead, but in this moment I’m celebrating the work accomplished on race day: “Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today,” (Hemmingway, For Whom The Bell Tolls).