A mere 2 years ago, I watched the Hy-Vee Triathlon in awe, dreaming of one day competing in the race as a pro. Finding myself in Des Moines, IA, as a professional triathlete was a dream come true. #21, a “favorite number” of mine as a volleyball player. A hotel room of my own. Toeing the line alongside Olympic medalists and world champions. A welcome bag that rivaled all other welcome bags. Ever. I had to pinch myself that it was really happening. I’d qualified for and was about to compete in a race with the biggest prize purse in triathlon, a race filled with the best athletes in the world of our sport. Yikes! Exciting! Scary! … Fun!
Well, you know those dreams (some might call nightmares) where you’re suddenly naked in front of everyone? Oh wait, not that one. Those dreams where you fall down while everyone stands there and watches? Yeah, that one. Well, that is sort of how this dream at Hy-Vee (unfortunately) played out.
After a tough – and I mean really tough – swim,* I was off to my Specialized Shiv ready to do what I had prepared to do: fly! And in the moment, with all that nervous energy, I crashed. Literally. One of those silly, slow-moving, not-all-that-exciting, mostly-embarrassing crashes – more like mishaps – that actually really hurt.
My ankle turned into a bloody, painful, inflexible mess, and I struggled to complete the basic task of putting my chain back on. Those watching the race on the live feed missed the “crash” part and saw me trying to untangle my chain as if it was the world’s most complex puzzle – a painstaking minute and a half of me having live-streaming quality time with my chain. It felt like hours. Gone was any anticipation of riding up the field; gone were the hopes that I could find my running legs. It was pure survival mode from that point on.
But survive I did, albeit barely. It wasn’t how I pictured my first race on such a stage, but such is life in sports sometimes. What a race! What a crowd! Lifted up by the positive energy of the crowds lining the street (seriously, this state is full of some of the nicest, most genuine people: I’m officially a fan!), goaded on by the lure of prize money and encouraged by some of my fellow athletes and friends on the course, I overcame the pain, heat, embarrassment and frustration and finished that darn 40k/10k! With the caliber of the race and the number of people surrounding the course, there simply was no place to slink off unnoticed anyways… A combination of stubbornness and will would dictate that I finish with my head held high, being proud of what I’d accomplished to be at that point and with a new resolve to have another go at it next year. :)
Hy-Vee has to be one of the most well-organized, outstanding races out there. From the moment I flew into Des Moines, I could sense the City’s pride in the race, the energy of its volunteers and the amazing organization of the event itself. Signs in the airport leading me to the shuttle, the first-rate hospitality of the Embassy Suites staff, the diligent course volunteers who kept the course safe and traffic-free, and just the overall vibe of the race: all point to one of the best race experiences I’ve yet had. I certainly wish that my personal results had been different, and that I’d be spending this week preparing for my next race, 70.3 World Championships, instead of lying around with my foot iced and elevated. But, as with many things in life, there is reason behind everything, whether or not evident at the time. I am incredibly grateful and proud for having the experience and opportunity to race at Hy-Vee Triathlon and represent my wonderful sponsors on such a stage.
And Des Moines, Iowa: what a nice city! One of the side benefits of being an athlete is visiting places that you may not ever see otherwise. Who knew that this ranch girl from California would like exploring Iowa’s State Capital so much?!
Highlights include the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park, hanging with my friend Leanda in hunt for a good coffee shop and grocery store, going into Rassmussen’s Bike Shop and getting all set up and race-ready, running along the river and discovering the most decadent brussels sprouts ever and phenomenal food with some of my favorite friends Alicia and Jenna at Centro Restaurant (shhhh – it’s our secret; don’t tell). I did miss finding an actual grocery store; the QT was a poor substitute for the shopping trip to Hy-Vee that I was craving. Next year.
Funny how dreams and expectations change as you realize their realities. Last year, I thought: When I get there [qualify for Hy-Vee], I will have “arrived.” But then, after “arriving,” I both see how far I need to go and how far I want to go.
I have a renewed commitment to a) not ever having a cankle for anything other than temporary/out-of-my-control reasons and b) to continue striving to be a contender at such a level in triathlon. There’s a lot of work ahead to achieve that goal, but hey, a girl can dream and make it her reality… ;)
*The swim: I did my first Master’s swim sessions in 2010, and since 2011, I’ve ben working very hard with purplepatch’s Matt Dixon and Tower 26‘s Gerry Rodrigues and have vastly improved my technique, speed, endurance and open water tactics. I consistently now swim 1.2 miles faster than I used to swim 1.5 kilometers, and I’m fast enough to be able to actually swim at 70% effort even in the first group at Tower 26. But even with this total overhaul of my swimming ability, I realize that there’s much more to do, and T26 will continue to dominate my mornings. :)
Hy-Vee, race organizers and volunteers: I know that I speak along with my fellow athletes (age groupers and professionals) in giving a huge shout out to Hy-Vee, all the volunteers and race organizers for their commitment to this race. Its success goes far beyond the prize money – from the race announcing, to the outpouring of support from the community to the dedicated work and positivity of all the volunteers, it truly is one-of-a-kind experience, one that makes me wish I had a local Hy-Vee at which to do all my grocery shopping (and we triathletes eat a lot…).
Rassmussen Bike Shop: Thank you so much for helping me out with some last minute race necessities! This Specialized shop in West Des Moines knows how to take care of an athlete; THANK YOU for your Iowan hospitality, kindness and support!
Specialized Bikes: Not only is the Shiv my superhero bike, but Specialized itself is a great company, with an energy and vision that’s empowering and fun to be a part of. I’m looking forward to much more ahead, and am so thankful for the support along the way (which, thanks to the Specialized Truck, I benefited from even before I was lucky enough to ride a Specialized!?).
Scheels Bike Shop: I wouldn’t have made my flight after the race if it weren’t for the guys at Scheels packing and shipping my bike for me. They were on top of things, helping out us professionals, in addition to all the age groupers.
I especially want to say, as always, thanks to my coaching support in purplepatch’s Matt Dixon and Tower26′s Gerry Rodrigues; the vision and guidance on this journey is key in my progression thus far.
And a huge thanks to BlueSeventy – love the PZ3TX swim skin for fast warm-temperature swimming (though I must admit, I absolutely love wearing the blueseventy Helix every race opportunity I get; that thing makes me FAST!); Rudy Project; Endurance Shield (no sunburn for me out there!); Garmin and my fantastic support out there!
Whether ensuring my bike got to and from my race, sending me positive messages and support, loving and caring for me or any and all the ways I am truly blessed by your help, I most certainly couldn’t do it without each of you!