Through the course of the day leading up to the Age Group nationals I faced a roller coaster of emotions. Most of the day I was sick with anxiety over the thought of not being able to compete due to my missing bike. That anxiety was replaced with an overwhelming sense of joy and gratitude over the response I received from the triathlon community. After the smoke cleared, I became aware of a few stories that were very moving.
My plea for help in locating a bike directly reached well over 25,000 people through Twitter and various email lists. The topic also came up on irc and several forums reaching thousands more. And some of these threads were quite touching. One discussion was a group of Burlington cyclists that were trying to piece together enough of their own spare bike parts to build a complete bike that I could race on. Several friends at home were trying to find ways to air mail a bike to me overnight. But the one that touched me the deepest was from a group of knitters on a craft forum that were trying to raise enough money with the help of a Vermont yarn supplier to purchase a bike for me.
The crazy thing about this ordeal is that I feel very fortunate that it happened. Happy that I lost my bike and almost couldn’t race? Yes actually. The public outpouring over my plight was the biggest display of caring and support that I have ever seen, and being the recipient of that outpouring was an experience that I am unable to put into words. And while that would be enough, the thought of almost not being able to compete really hammered home just how lucky I was to be there, and just how much being in that race meant to me. I was able to lay my head down to sleep that night without an ounce of pre-race anxiety.
The next day I met up with my new racing buddy, Hannah Gerber. We had met in the taxi the day before while previewing the course. Since we were both competing in the sprint, we were able to team up through the weekend. Typically I go to races alone, and this was the first time I had a partner in crime to travel around with. Hannah Is a current member of Team USA and has major big race experience, with her I was in good hands. We got to the race just early enough to get our bearings before transition opened. Once it did, it was a mad dash to get set up as we were only given one hour before race time to prepare which really gave us no chance to do a proper warmup. In no time at all it was go time.
I would love to tell you how I blazed through the course, but in truth I really struggled this day. The lead pack in the swim stayed very tight resulting in a lot of contact the entire way. This was followed with a surprisingly technical bike course that made it difficult to maintain momentum. The run started with a fierce climb up depot hill after which my legs were completely cooked. This challenging course coupled with a lack of sleep and unexpected high temperatures, left me fighting for every minute.
Perhaps this was how it was meant to be, getting to this point was never easy. It was probably fitting that on a tough day I had to count not on the strength of my muscles, but the power of my will to continue. And fueled by the well wishes of strangers and thoughts of my friends and family I pushed on. In the end, It took every bit of the love and support that I had received over the year to keep me moving to that finish line. The effort was good enough for a top 10 age group finish, fulfilling my dream of earning a spot on Team USA for the 2012 world championships.
After the race, Hannah and I rode back to the hotel then head out to the awards ceremony where we both accepted our spots on Team USA. We finished off the evening with dinner at a little spot called Leunig’s. We toasted our achievement and spent our meal laughing and smiling while comparing war stories about the day. I was really fortunate to have found such a great person to share this amazing day with.
This amazing weekend would not been possible without the help of a handful of incredible people. Thanks to my people at Lifecycle and the Eugene Running Company. Thanks to Wendy Meyer and Lindsay Wyskowski for getting my message to the world. Thanks to Rachel Basolo and Robert Howe for standing by me through my training. Thanks to everyone at Horizon Realty advisors for their generous support. Thanks to my teammates at Multisport Advantage for always pushing me. And especially, thanks to Dave Connery and the people of Burlington. I can’t wait until I see you all next year!