It has been a crazy couple of months, but I am finally sitting down to write up another blog! First off, a bit of an explanation for the lack of updates on my site. If you are reading this, you probably know that my results in middle of the season were not very good. My training was great leading into Hamburg and Rio, but I performed well below my capabilities. It was extremely frustrating to continue to underperform, and writing a blog was the last thing I wanted to do. When you are struggling, it gets harder to write about what is going on, and I felt like if I did post a blog, it would read as an apology letter with lots of excuses. I also wanted to focus on understanding why my racing was not reflecting my training.
I found that I was putting a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself without really even knowing I was doing it. Instead of writing blogs about my problems, I addressed what I had discovered. I took a step back and made sure I was having fun. I took time to focus on some other things besides triathlon. I enjoyed putting in the work after Stockholm, and began to see improvements in my training. In fact, I had some of the best training of the year leading up to Chicago. I arrived in my hometown confident, relaxed, and ready for a great race!
Having the Grand Final in my hometown was one of the coolest things I have experienced as a triathlete. It is always an honor to race in the Grand Final, but what really blew me away was the interest everyone took in the race. I received support from people who I assumed never even heard of triathlon. It’s weird to think that there are so many people behind me, and every message, cheer, good luck, etc. from people meant, and still means so much to me. I have always known that I had a great crew consisting of friends and family, along with my sponsors, but leading up to Chicago the amount of people and their support really just made me excited to have a great time racing in the city that I grew up in.
My strategy for the race was pretty straightforward. In fact, it really hasn’t changed over the years. I wanted to swim at the front, watch for a break on the bike, and see what happens on the run. My plan didn’t get off to a great start. I had a terrible dive, it was more of a belly flop, and then immediately the pack collapsed in around me, and I was spit out the back with goggles full of water. I emptied them out, and just threw myself back into the pack. I somehow fought my way towards the front of the group by the first buoy, and just tried to find some good feet. I had trouble seeing where I was going for most of the swim, but trusted the feet in front of me. I was pretty sure I was near the front, and was pretty content with my position (even if it was just a guestimation of my actual position). The rest of the swim was not too bad, just a bit rough. I exited about 15th and could see that I was close enough to make the lead pack (there were also big names around me that I figured I could follow to the front).
From there, I knew that we had a fairly large pack, so I wanted to work my way up to the front to avoid the mass chaos in all of the 180s on the course. It took a couple of laps, but I was able to get up into a good position and stay there for a majority of the race. There were a couple of times that I found myself off the front. Usually, it was to stay out of trouble and just to shake things up a bit. I knew early on in the bike not many people would be willing to go, so I never fully committed, and never went harder than I would pulling at the front. However, I was confused when Jonathan Brownlee attacked and I followed that there were no responders. I had just put in a decent seated effort (basically pulled through) going into the corner before Buckingham Fountain, and when I looked back, I had a huge gap. So I put it in cruise control and waited to see if anyone would come with me so we could fully commit to a breakaway. There were about 4 laps to go, and nobody was interested, and by the end of the lap I was back in the group. At this point, things really started to slow down as people were thinking about the run. This let pretty much everyone back into the race. Once that back pack caught us, there were only a couple of laps left, and Colucci and Salvisburg went off the front. It was a bit of a weird attack since they didn’t really accelerate. They just kind of rode away. I saw that they had a gap, and started to think that it might be a good idea to bridge up since there was a good chance they would stay away with only a lap or so left to go. Van Der Stel had the same idea, and was off the front before me. I was able to bridge up to him, and then we worked together to reel in the front two with about half a lap to go. The gap behind had grown to something at least noteworthy (30-40sec), and I tried to keep the group motivated into T2. I made a bit of a push going into T2 and was off the bike first to some crazy cheers (thanks to my crew at my transition spot!).
I left T2 right near Salvisburg, and we immediately separated ourselves from the other two in the break. There was a bit of back and forth before I realized I had the opportunity to lead the Grand Final in my home City! So I picked it up a bit, and tried to set a pace I could maintain. I felt pretty good, and I knew I was running at a solid pace, but I could see the huge group behind closing. Leading for the first lap was one of the coolest things I have done so far. The crowd was amazing! The noise ranks up there as some of the loudest cheers I have gotten, especially as I ran around Buckingham Fountain. The chants of USA out on the course motivated me more than anything. I tried my best to hold onto each group as they went by, but slowly fell back. I ended up finishing 20th. While the end result is on the back end of what I wanted to accomplish, my run split was the best it has been all year! I feel like I did everything I could this race, and it has motivated me to put in even more work over the winter so that I can improve on a race that I felt was my best of the season.
I just want to thank everyone for making this such a special race. I am super happy to come away with a good result, but I was even more excited about the support I received from friends, family, and strangers. A special thank you to my coach Adam Zucco and mentor Ryan Bolton for being with me from the beginning. Also, I have to thank my parents, and especially my Mom for gathering so much support out on the course! They really rallied the troops! To all of my friends who came from around the country to race, you are the best, and it made the race that much more special that you were there! Finally, a thank you to my sponsors for making sure I have the best prep and equipment in the sport! Be sure to check out my sponsor page…here is a link to make it easier- SPONSORS.
My season is just about done now. I traveled to Kona to watch the race (recon for down the road?...maybe waaay down the road) and also train for my final World Cup of the season in Tongyeong, South Korea. Then it is a bit of rest before the final push of Olympic Qualifying! It is going to be an exciting year!