Leading up to the USA Triathlon Collegiate Recruitment Program departure for Australia, I had quite a bit of anxiety. The leading cause of this was that I had never truly left the United States before. I have walked across the bridge at Niagara Falls to eat at the Hard Rock Café in Canada, but that doesn't really count. That anxiety was also fueled by excitement to get to see a new part of the world and experience a different culture. As the end of the trip approaches, I can honestly say I have not been disappointed.
The trip is technically a “training and racing” trip, but I would add “learning” in there as well. While we have done a fair share of racing and training, the purpose of both has been overlaid with learning. As I am still green in the sport of triathlon, insightful experiences are frequent. In terms of racing, we have done three races thus far, two being draft-legal, but none have been ITU races. There are no world ranking points on the line. Because in essence the only thing on the line is a few bucks, it has allowed me to focus on skills and tactics and experiment with different things without a focus on the end result. I have taken third in each of the three races and they have unfolded differently. We have one race left where the goal is to build on what I have learned from the previous races and maybe even earn a better result in the process. I can't say this is much different than normal racing, where each race is also a learning experience, but due to the proximity of the races (four in five weeks), the knowledge acquisition has been prolific.
In addition to the racing, I have had a multitude of learning experiences in training as well. Training doesn't simply include the sessions but also includes the training environment as a whole. What I do when I’m not training is just as important as the work itself. That being said, one of my biggest weaknesses is bike handling, so at the outset of the trip, Coach Jarrod laid out one of the primary goals for me — to master the local crit cycling track which has about 10 turns of varying degrees and directions in about 1,100 meters. Doing daily rides there has been invaluable without the concern of cars. Moreover, while cycling down the coast in more mountainous areas, I have had the opportunity to descend, which is great for cornering at higher rates of speed. These are just some of my biggest learning experiences which have, without a doubt, made me a better triathlete over the course our trip.
In the midst of training, I have been able to experience some Australian culture which is nothing like Outback Steakhouse makes it appear. I have seen the kangaroos which are surprisingly more ubiquitous than I had anticipated. I have been on real coffee shop rides and experienced several true barbies (short for barbecue). And I have been to an Australian Football game which is distinctly different than its American relative. The best way to understand Australian culture is to spend time with Australians. Luckily, two local elite triathletes have done a decent amount of training with us. This both adds some variety to our training as well as adds to my learning about Australian people through everyday conversations. All in all, it has been nothing short of an epic trip in which I have learned a lot and developed as an athlete. The trip wouldn't have been possible without the support of the USA Triathlon Collegiate Recruitment Program or Team Psycho, so I am unspeakably grateful for this opportunity.