Usually the airport is a mixed bag of emotions...there's the joyous reunions at baggage claim/passenger pickup and the frowns when news of flight delays/cancellations are relayed through the speakers. However, there are a couple gates in every airport terminal where you can count on seeing more smiles than frowns. I'm not sure whether it's Mickey Mouse, Shamu, or the warm (usually) weather that makes Orlando the happiest destination on earth, but there is definitely a special magic about it. This past weekend, I was among the smiling faces who hopped on the plane to Orlando as nearby Clermont served as the host for the USAT Sprint National Championships. Like last year, the Clermont sprint race served as my season opener.Although this was the exact same course as 2010, it was a completely different race in regards to the way each discipline panned out.
The Elite women had an 11:45am start and unlike last year, we were not dealing with freezing temperatures for both water and air. The water was just barely warm enough for a non-wetsuit swim which I was honestly thankful for because I haven't had a chance to practice in my new X-terra wetsuit yet... we will spend some quality time together in the near future I'm sure :)Anyways, once the gun went off for the start I ran for a good 200ish meters before the water was deep enough to swim in. Due to the shallow water, it was a short and sweet swim with probably only about 5 minutes of actual swimming. Coming out of the water, I was excited to glance over my shoulder and see that I was in the middle of a huge pack of girls and knew I needed to have a good run up to transition and transition to solidify my place in what I saw would be a fairly large bike pack. Only about half a minute separated my pack and a group of the 5 or so in the lead pack.
As I exited transition and hopped onto my bike, I red-lined it for about half a mile to make sure I was in the middle of the group before settling in to put my feet in my shoes and take in some fluids. This was by far the largest group I'd ever biked with and I had to be on guard at all times with people trying to get around from all sides of the lane and u-turns proved to be tricky as well. I had no trouble staying with the group and finished the bike portion of the race ready for what I knew would be an intense run with some amazing athletes in our pack.
I began the run just as I do for any race and tried to push the pace and give myself some room to breathe after weaving through much of the traffic coming out of transition. At the first turnaround after a little over half a mile, I realized that as much as I wanted to, I wouldn't be able to hold this pace throughout the entire 5k portion of the run and had to back off a little and try to relax. At this point I could still see my goal (top 10) within striking distance and tried to limit my losses as much as possible and think positive thoughts. By halfway through the 5k, I was in serious pain (the good kind) and knew I had to hang on for just about 9 more minutes. As the finish line approached, I was involved in a 3-way sprint for 16th place. For the final 20 meters or so, I just closed my eyes and went for it. I ended up tying the 2 other girls in total time, 58:03, but by chip time ended up losing the sprint.
I ended up finishing 18th overall, not exactly the result I was hoping for but not too bad for my first race of the season. After suffering through injury for most of last year, I am thankful that God has given me the focus and strength to recover and come back firing on all cylinders and look forward to what the future holds for me in this season and beyond.
On a side note, I am so incredibly proud of my Tri4Him teammate Natalie Kirchhoff! Natalie won the age group draft legal race a couple hours prior to mine and secured her pro card! So great to see her faith and focus pay off! I am excited that I'll be able to have a teammate out there racing with me in future ITU races...God is good :)
Now that my first race is in the books, I am busy preparing (training and logistics-wise) for my next couple of races which happen to both be in Chile (Santiago and Valparaiso). I'm currently training in Tallahassee with one of my former FSU teammates (Shannon Coates) for the week and will take off for South America next Thursday. It's exciting to be back in my old college town but now I just need to resist temptation...sweet tea is one of my weaknesses in life and I am surrounded by places that offer it :)
Wishing everyone all the best for Spring and don't forget to set your clocks forward tomorrow!