It was one year and two weeks since my first-ever triathlon. On the start line of 70.3 World Champs, my first triathlon seemed like a lifetime ago. Amid the beautiful Austrian setting of Zell Am See, it was easy to feel romantic looking back over the past year. So many things had changed. So many things hadn’t changed.
I was nervous the entire week leading up to the race, that was something that hadn’t changed. I was worried about where I needed to be at what time and with what, that everyone else had nicer bikes, about the possibility of finishing last. From my nutrition strategy to my swimming skills and everything in between, I was feeling insecure about everything. Other things had changed. I had an aggressive race strategy and the ambition to attempt it. I had come a long way in a year.
Quickly, I realized there was nothing romantic about this race. Any feelings of nostalgia were replaced by a combination of fear, determination, shock, and dehydration. At 12:05pm the start cannon fired and it was a sizzling 33 degrees. After a physical deep water start (which I can only describe as aquatic MMA) and a decent swim, I had gotten off to a great start on the bike but, at only 30km into the course, my cheeks were on fire.
By the time I had reached the first aid station on the bike after just 20km, I had already drank a full bottle. Another ten kilometres later, half way up the long climb of the course, I could feel the heat radiating from my face. Red hot cheeks were a sure fire sign I was overheating. Not good.
I took immediate action. At every aid station I tried to grab two bottles: one juice bottle to drink, one water bottle to pour right over my head. I clawed my way up the rest of the steep climb to reach the 35km mark and the breeze on the descent was magic. The rest of the course was flat with some technical sections through towns but my race was against the heat. With 15km to go, the heat caught up to me and I and started losing time quickly.
Into transition, I knew I had to have the run of my life to rescue my race. I realized pretty quickly that wasn’t going to happen. My brain wasn’t convinced so there was a constant pep talk repeating in my head but my legs were stubborn. I was stuck on slow.I watched my splits slip by, my goal time come and go, and I started to lose heart. I was absolutely frustrated feeling like I wasn’t taking advantage of all the preparation I had done but I was just so hot. I desperately longed to jump in the lake a meter away. I desperately wanted to go faster. I desperately wished I could start this race over.
With a few kilometres to go, I found a better rhythm but my race was over long and salvaging what I could just felt unsatisfying. I crossed the finish line disappointed, disheartened and very dehydrated.
Anniversaries are to celebrate how far you have come, and part of me was proud of that, but anniversaries are also supposed to celebrate what’s ahead. I was heartbroken I hadn’t raced my best but that means my best is still to come.