5150 Giant Eagle
I last blogged following my race in NYC, which took place two weeks before my hometown race of the year: 5150 Giant Eagle. Unfortunately, when I returned from NYC, I got very sick. After losing eight pounds in three days (breaking my post-2010 Collegiate Nationals record of six pounds in three days) and eating only rice for the next week because of intense stomach pain, I wasn’t sure whether I was in any condition to perform at the Giant Eagle race. Nonetheless, the race was in Columbus, OH, my hometown, and Tim and I were looking forward to visiting my family. I decided to head home and make the decision to race closer to race day. I ate a full meal for the first time two nights before the race and decided that was good enough for me – I was racing.
The swim took place at Alum Creek, the site of my first ever triathlon in 2004. Alum Creek is where I raced my first junior elite triathlon, won my first junior elite triathlon, earned enough points to gain junior All-American Honorable Mention status, and swam with my sister one last time before my wedding a year ago. On top of that, I had a number of fans show up for the swim – my aunt and uncle, my cousins, my dad and Tim, and my former neighbor who was one of my earliest triathlon fans. Standing at the starting line, I felt these memories and fans near to my heart, and I really began to feel like the race was MY hometown race. I managed to get into the second pack of swimmers and felt pretty relaxed swimming in that group.
I’ve had a frustrating season on the bike. My coach consistently gives me achievable wattage goals on the bike that I just haven’t been hitting. It’s been a blow to my confidence, and my confidence was even lower going into Giant Eagle because two weeks of illness had worn my body down. Nevertheless, I actually had a good bike, which I attribute to two reasons: knowing the course and an emotional connection to the ride.
I rarely have the opportunity to drive an entire course before a race, but my parents and I were able to drive the entire Giant Eagle course. I had also studied the course and had a good sense of it based on my experiences growing up in Columbus. Knowing the course made an immense difference for me, especially since the course was not particularly well marked. I knew every single turn and how long I’d be on each road, which really boosted my confidence. Knowing the course contributed to my success on the bike that day, but the emotions that I experienced on the course played an even more critical role.
When I think back to my best college races, three come to mind, two of which were very similar – my first race, and my last race. I never thought much about what motivated me in these two races, but I recall feeling the same underlying emotion in both races: pride – not in myself, but in who, and what, I was representing. When I raced for the first time at the 2007 XC conference championships, I was so proud to put on that Richmond jersey and to have the opportunity represent my school and my program. I felt similar emotions at my last 10K race at the 2011 NCAA D1 East Championships. I was extremely proud to represent my coaches, who had transformed me from a ragtag runner to an athlete prepared to break a school record. At both races, I blew away my race day expectations.
When I was on my bike at Giant Eagle, I felt a similar sense of pride in the ways in which people in Columbus have influenced, inspired, supported, and shaped me. As I biked out of Alum Creek, I recalled the time I got lost in a race in that very spot. My mom chased me down on her mountain bike, shouting at me to turn around. I passed the first triathlon shop I ever frequented, the driving school where I spent long hours watching movies about organ donation, and the deaf school where we often rode our bikes on family outings. I passed family friends cheering for me before heading to church. By the time I turned onto High Street and entered the campus of Ohio State, which I attended for two years in high school, I was overwhelmed with emotion and choking back tears. I saw the bus stop where I suffered through bitterly cold winters and imagined going to school in the South. The parking lot where my parents picked me up from class to go visit the University of Richmond for the first time. I entered the Arena District, where my boyfriend nervously asked my father to go to breakfast the following morning. Both knew full well of his intentions to ask for my hand in marriage. The people of my youth made me who I am today by giving me opportunities to learn, grow, and chase my dreams. I was so proud to be racing there, in that city, representing that place and those people. So I pushed and pushed, harder than I thought my exhausted body possibly could, and you know what? I had a great bike ride that day.
I had a reasonable run given the circumstances and maintained my third place position. I was so honored at how many people came out to cheer for me. In addition to my immediate family members, I had two aunts, one uncle, two cousins, a grandma cheering me on during the run. Upon my finish, the announcer said something about my PharmD/PhD program and concluded that I must have brawn, brains, and beauty. That was definitely the best finishing remark I’ve ever gotten. More importantly, though, for the first time after a professional triathlon, I was genuinely happy. I had raced amidst friends and family and felt confident that I had pushed my mind and body to its best performance considering the circumstances.
Aside from two running races, I haven’t raced since Giant Eagle because my schedule has been complicated by a little thing that I like to call “pharmacy school”. I’m finishing my last year of PharmD courses. In the coming year and a half, I will complete my PharmD clinical rotations and begin my PhD coursework. For those of you who were following my advisor situation, I’ll let you know that it worked out extremely well for me. My new advisor understands me, my interests, and my motivations in a way that only my very best mentors have, and I am so excited to work with him in the coming years.
My school, professors, and pharmacy friends are all incredible, but life isn’t all peaches and roses, either. I study long hours and memorize more information in a shorter period of time than I ever though possible. On top of that, I’ve been attempting to train for my first half ironman next weekend.
My feelings surrounding my 70.3 debut go back and forth nearly hourly, but I think that I had a mental breakthrough last Thursday. I sat down that morning to study for my therapy test. I had exactly 4.5 hours until I had to leave for class. I thought to myself: which would you rather do: memorize disease pathophysiology and treatment regimens for 4.5 hours or swim/bike/run for that long?
I think you can guess my answer. Bring it on, Augusta.