The first race of the season is always an exciting one! I was extra excited to start the season at Abu Dhabi this year as it was a new location for me and starting things off in the big leagues. Previous years I have started at continental cups to test my fitness, but going into this race I was confident I was fit and ready to perform.
I flew to Abu Dhabi a week before the race to ensure I had enough time to adjust to the 11 hour time change and to get over the long travel (17 hour flight!). Leading up to race day, I could feel the nerves building. The first race of the season always brings extra nerves, but this was also a season of changes for me. New coach, new training group and new goals. The winter training was solid and consistent. I had to take confidence from the work I had completed and trust in the process.
Race day arrived and it was all routine leading up to the start. The swim went off and I got out well and settled on feet. Unfortunately, the feet I settled on may not have been the best choice as we rounded the first two buoys I didn’t realize quick enough that a gap had formed. As we swam back to the swim exit on the first 900m loop, I tried to swim around and bridge the gap. I realized quickly that I was using a lot of energy to do so and decided to settle back in and assess my position going into lap 2. As I dove back in for the second lap of 600m, I was in about 7th position and not going to be able to close the gap to the speedy leaders. I was fortunate to come out of the water with two other girls, Backhouse and Betto. Backhouse and I worked well together on the bike and managed to catch the lead group halfway through the first lap. I was excited to test myself on the highly anticipated bike course. The technical bike consisted of 10 laps of 4.1km on the Formula 1 course making it both fast and challenging. I felt confident riding my new bike, Trek Madone, and was assertive on the corners and in the pack. Unfortunately on lap 9, I heard a loud pop going into a corner and quickly realized I got a flat! My mind was racing and I couldn’t believe it. Right before I flatted, I was mentally preparing myself for the run and thinking how excited I was to be in a position to be in the hunt for the win. Conveniently, I flatted about 100m in front of a neutral wheel stop. The wheel change was not pretty and took me longer to change my rear wheel than I had hoped. I lost 1:45 on the leaders and had to go! I rode the last 1.5 laps solo and pushed all the way.
The run was mentally challenging as the course made it hard to see those in front of you. I focused on my form and kept self-talk positive. On the final lap of the run, I caught a girl and was gaining on three more. I ran out of territory, couldn’t catch that group and crossed the line in 17th overall. I don’t believe my result represents my fitness or ability on that day, but I was faced with a challenge and was happy to walk away knowing I did everything I could. No one ever wants to flat in a race, but that’s racing! It’s a lesson learned and only makes me that more excited for the next race.
Aside from the race, I was also excited to be in Abu Dhabi because I was reunited with one of my best friends, Renee Tomlin. Renee and I go way back and have known each other for about 8 years as we both ran at Georgetown University and trained together the past 2 years. We both made a change in training groups this past winter and it had been about 6 months since I had last seen her. The day after the race, I experienced some of the local culture with Renee and got to visit the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. The “grand” aspect of the mosque did not disappoint. The beautiful architecture and design was immaculate and I toured the grounds in awe.
After a long journey home, I am now back in Phoenix AZ preparing for my next two races New Plymouth World Cup and Gold Coast WTS. A lot of work went into the off season and I was fortunate to have an amazing team to help prepare me for the year ahead. I am grateful and excited to be working with Jono Hall as my coach as I have already grown significantly as triathlete under his guidance. Every time I toe the line I am proud to represent the United States and to have the support from USAT and my sponsors Team Psycho, ROKA, Endurance Rehab, Cyclologic, BiPro, Oakley, and Nuun. I have an amazing team on my side and I am excited to see what else the 2017 season has in store.