The feeling of finishing off the 2015 season 44th in the World Cup in Cozumel did not sit well with me. In fact, after May 2015’s breakthrough race at WTS Yokohama, every one thereafter resulted in a missed opportunity, a non-performance. I finished off the 2015 season with a handful of podiums paired equally with a handful of deep, double digit finishes. How did I manage to climb so high and then fall so hard? By October, I welcomed the break from training and competing. It was time to let my body and mind soak up all of 2015’s race experience, rest and hit the ‘reset’ button. There was really no answer to the aforementioned question. That’s just how the sport of triathlon can unfold sometimes, especially when placed on the fast-track to achieve certain targets within a short timeframe. And at the end of the day, that’s OK—that’s sport.
During the season break, I went back to the basics. I reflected and synthesized all that happened in 2015 and put together a goals and expectations outline for the 2016 season. This exercise built the fire up pretty quickly: I redefined how to set my goals and the process of achieving them. Shifting from a results focus, I now define the success of a race around the feeling on the start line. Every time I walk onto the pontoon, if I’m happy and healthy and confident that I’ve done everything possible to put myself in the mix, the race is already a personal win. It might sound simple, but shifting to this ‘line-up balance’ versus ‘end result’ interpretation of a race is actually challenging to hold oneself accountable to. Points, place finishes, splits, numbers: these are the outside factors that many—including myself—use to judge a race as a success or a failure. This year, though, I’m learning that if I cross the line with a smile, it’s a personal win. If I sprint to the finish, knowing I laid it all on the line, I have to hold myself accountable to be satisfied knowing I gave it my all.
I feel so fortunate that the first two races of this 2016 season have gone off without a hitch. Back-to-back top-5 finishes, one at the WTS level in Abu Dhabi and the other at the World Cup race in Mooloolaba, AUS, position me in the top-13 on the ITU points list and top-5 to-date on the WTS points list. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t stoked on where these results have placed me holistically. But what I’m holding close to me from these two races are the smile and the fire that were felt at both the beginning and finish of each race, respectively.
Abu Dhabi went smoothly—the swim felt decent, a step in the right direction. The bike felt comfortable, in control. The run felt strong, but not extraordinary. Together with transitions, I put together a well-executed race and found myself in the right place at the right time. I’m fortunate to have avoided the crash that unfolded heading into transition on the last lap as well. Many of the women involved could have made the end result of the race play out differently—wishing them a speedy recovery!
All-in-all, race day itself was one full of positive energy and balanced excitement. But I have to say the lead-up shared with US teammate Joe Maloy was the best part of the trip. Joe and I arrived on Monday night of race week in downtown Abu Dhabi. Upon landing, I received a text from him: “Where are we staying again?” and I knew immediately he would be an easy-going travel companion. After some much needed, post-travel sleep, we took the next couple of days to soak up as much as we could before race day. We took our bikes out for a spin on the Formula 1 Grand Prix track under the lights, ate at some awesomely dirty hole-in-the-wall curry joints, cruised out to a high-end Souk for a steak dinner with surprise fireworks, and enjoyed the endless cups of coffee down at the hotel breakfast over light-hearted political banter. The hang time with Joe paired with a group dinner organized by a friend of USAT, Omar, were definite highlights of the trip and maintained a positive pre-race balance. I owe a lot to this South Jersey triathlete: Joe was one of the first whom I contacted about pursuing this sport at the professional level. He always has a positive demeanor, knows what he wants out of life and has fun doing it. Everything I emulate.
Jumping across the Indian Ocean one week later, it was time to line up once again for the World Cup race in Mooloolaba, Australia. It felt like a homecoming—I was back in the land of sunshine, waves and good coffee. Race-wise, I knew that if I had a solid swim leg, I would again be in the mix to do something special. Unfortunately, the NJ lifeguard in me did not execute the swim leg to the level of competition and found myself about 30 seconds away from the lead pack heading onto the bike. Some days the ocean can play to your favor and some days she takes away all control. And at the end of the day, that’s OK—that’s nature.
T1, bike, T2 and run were all executed to a high degree; however, our chase pack lost time on the leaders. That Saturday I crossed the line knowing I gave all that I had to secure 5th—and I had to learn to be happy with that. Initially I was not satisfied with the end result, especially since my main goal surrounded the swim leg, but I’m learning to settle with this effort as a work-in-progress and another step in the right direction. The fire that grew within from this race alone has helped fuel the current training block leading up to my next race, Gold Coast WTS.
For now, as the CRP and a handful of National Team members base ourselves in Geelong, Australia, my head is down in the water. Focused on the road. And zoned-in on the trail. Goofing off with flat mates, Hilary Krein and Molly Higgins, keep the training regimen light and entertaining. Not to mention the views along the Great Ocean Road help envision the path to realizing the impossible. As always, this journey would not be possible without the support of USA Triathlon, Team Psycho, NYAC, Blueseventy, friends & family, and of course, coach Jarrod Evans.