Monday, October 29, 2012

A World Championship, a threepeat and kiwis.

It's only a month and here I am again. Yes, be impressed. The last month has been an exciting one so I wanted to get it all down before I forget.
Last night I got back from 2 adventure filled weeks in New Zealand and the Paratriathlon World Championship. So this is what some may call my race report, with some vacation thrown in there.

We had a great group that traveled the distance to
New Zealand from Chicago. 4 dare2tri athletes, myself, Hailey, Diana, MaryKate and coaches and support staff Stacee, Keri and Brian. My Brian. After a not so bad 13 hour flight, we all got to New Zealand 5 days before the race. The US team of 31 all stayed a the same hotel in Auckland and we were within walking distance of the wharf and the race start where most of the activities took place. The days leading up to the race were spent training with the team, getting to watch the pros and elite athletes race, hoping the rain was going to hold of for our race and going over our races in our head. We got to see and explore Auckland a bit but stayed close by for training purposes and not wanting to exert ourselves too much. There was a total of 130 Paratriathletes from around the World which was the most any championship had ever seen.

As the race got closer we learned that they were going to shorten the swim due to cold water temperatures. Typically our swim is 750m but there is a rule that if the water temp is under 60 degrees, that it's shortened to a 300m swim. I was not too fond of this ruling as the swim is my strongest part and I get a good mental advantage by getting out on the bike ahead of my competitors. But it was was it was, and it was set to 300m. Let me say here that swimming in sub 60 degree water temperatures is COLD. Think ice cream headache cold.

Race morning came and I was pumped. I woke up ready to race with a smile, not too stressed, just happy to be there with my teammates representing the USA. The race started at 3pm which is hours after a typical race would start so the hours leading up are always a wonder of what you should be doing, going over the transition bag again and again,, etc. But the hours passed and at 3pm we all found ourselves on the dock, waving as they called our names out ready to go.
We are lined up on the dock next to our class so my competitors, one being my good friend Hailey also from dare2tri and Jen, the other USA Tri2 were to my right. The horn sounded and we were off. Since this was only a 300m swim I moved my arms as fast as possible to try and get that advantage out of the water. At the swim exit I was given an aide to help me hop (not fun) to my running leg and then run to T1. T1 is always a welcoming place as not only is my trusting handler and best friend Keri there but there was Brian and all the other dare2tri supporters and coaches cheering me on. A few minutes, a switched leg and a bike, and I was off for my 12.4 miles of bike.

Typically the bike is my weakest of the 3. But thanks to TREK bikes, I got this custom USA painted TREK Madone bike days before I left for NZ and I was feeling freaky fast on it. My other bike was 6 years old, which is ancient for a road bike, so this one was lighter with better components, a different shifting system and it was red, white and blue so of course it had to be fast. Whether it was the bike, the hours spent training on my other one, or maybe a combo of both and just having a good day, I had my best bike splits ever. There was a crazy wind so on the way out there was a tailwind, then a headwind for our 3 laps. I kept looking down at my new bike with the words 'USA, Inspire' as I headed into the wind and pushed myself. I had a goal time on the bike and as I went into T2 below my goal time and still leading the pack I was pretty pumped. I'm not one to smile much in races as I get in the moment and way too serious, but I knew I had it, and I gave a big smile to Brian and told Keri how great I felt. T2 was over in a minute and I was out on the run.

Over the past few months I have developed a love for running and have never felt faster or more confident with it. As I started out on my 3.1 mile run, I was expecting to feel light and fast as I had the past months. I had a goal time I was very capable of and as I started out I was overcome with a heavy on my feet feeling which is not something you want during the race. But 4 laps it was, I could see my competition, and I knew all I had to do was stay ahead. As I rounded each lap I could hear Keri's loud USA and even though the goal time didn't happen, I came across the last lap first and there she was there to hand my a big American flag to run across the finish with.

And that I did. Running down the finishing chute, holding that
flag high over my head. I crossed, I did a little dance and held that flag high realizing that I had defended my title as World Champions. A three peat, a hat trick or whatever else you call it. And as I came across I saw Brian, my coach Stacee and there were hugs all around. A feeling that never gets old. A few minutes later Hailey crossed and I couldn't have been more proud. Here's a girl with a similar injury who got into triathlon only 1.5 years ago and she was competing on the Worlds stage. To have her as a teammate, as a competitor, as a friend and to see how far she'd come led me to a few tears. These are the moments that really make this all worth it. And to have Jen cross 3rd it was, like last year, a USA SWEEP! And we were the Tri2 ladies of the day. And it was awesome.

We got to see 3 flags raised, hear our national
anthem and not even the cold rain could curb our
enthusiasm. A gold medal, a World Championship, a USA sweep, New Zealand and all that comes with it. Diana had a fantastic race, winning the US portion and coming in 4th. MaryKate, our youngest elite athlete, had unfortunate mechanical issues on the bike. But she hung in there longer that most of us would have showing her drive and determination and we were so proud. A great day all around for dare2tri and the USA!

So what do we do after all this, we celebrate of course! There was wine, there was dancing and there was quality time spent with all our teammates celebrating our accomplishments.

The following day, 12 of us flew down to Queenstown on the south island to start our week of adventure, and over indulging in coffee, wine and cookies. If you haven't been to NZ, the south island is so beautiful it takes your breath away. As we flew in it was truly the most remarkable place I have ever seen.

To avoid making this post much longer I'll give a brief overview of our time there.
We jumped off a cliff, well I back flipped of a cliff, into this canyon swing, we jet boated through a canyon doing 360's on a dime, we took a gondola up to the top of Queenstown, we took a helicopter through the mountains to the spectacular Milford Sound where we took a cruise and saw dolphins, and penguins and got to land on a snow capped mountain on the way back. Standing on top of the world, literally. Brian and I then rented a car where he quickly learned to drive on the wrong side of the road, we drove to Lake Wanaka, drank too much wine, then drove 5 hours through the majestic mountains of NZ (we saw hobbit shadows), stopping at a Salmon farm and eating salmon caught only 3 hours prior. Then we drove into Christchurch, which is still devastated by the earthquake last year and quite sad to see. That of course didn't stop us from finding tasty wine and food and a beach to be content with. We finished off our south island adventure the following day at a wildlife farm where we saw an actual Kiwi! Who, if you didn't know, are nocturnal.
As we flew back to Auckland that afternoon we couldn't pick our favorite moment as they were all just as good as the next. We did fly back north satisfied that we had seen the south island and had experienced much that it had to offer.
We took advantage of our last day in Auckland by taking a ferry over to a close island, renting mopeds and going to some wineries. Yes, more wine. I have to say that I was initially terrified or the mopeds. With Hailey on my back and both of us missing our left legs it was crucial that we only stop leaning right. Pair that with driving on the wrong side of the road and it was a little scary. But persevere we did and we got to those wineries, we drank that wine and enjoyed our last day in the beauty of New Zealand.

 And after the much too long flight back, I found myself home, full of love and full of life and full
of way too much wine and cookies. All that with Jake by my side once again. A Jake that somehow managed to gain 5 pounds while we were gone.

 So there you have it. Another few weeks well lived and another World Championship in the books. Now there's the joy of some time off before it all starts over again. So as usual, until then, hug your loved ones and PEACE OUT!