The trip to Des Moines couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Monday before the race, I just completed a huge week of training and was exhausted. For once, I didn’t want to fight Siri when the schedule had an easier week of pre-race tune-ups and recovery. But the race came at a bad time for Des Moines. There was flooding downtown at the race site and in various areas around the city. Many residents across Iowa and the Midwest were all dealing with flooding and much bigger issues than a triathlon. The race organizers deserve a tremendous kudos for working around the clock to find a new race venue and working hard to ensure that the race was a triathlon not a duathlon. I wasn’t too keen on doing a duathlon after my experience last year so was considering skipping the event until mid-week when the triathlon option was 50-50 and am so happy that I decided to race. And having the race be a triathlon made it easier for USAT since this race would be determining the final member of the Olympic team. I was out of the running for the team but was just excited to be there and see it all unfold for the women and men still in contention.
On Thursday, I flew into Kansas City and drove up to Des Moines not only was the price right, but it also gave me a chance for a quick visit with my Kansas cousins and aunt after the race. The only downside was the 3 hour drive through some areas; it reminded me of my Alabama drive earlier this year. I was very fortunate to get a home stay in Des Moines. My host family was amazing, and I really enjoyed getting to spend time with them and appreciate their kind hospitality. The new race site in West Des Moines was great especially considering the organizers found and designed it in less than 2 weeks. All the athletes that I talked to were so impressed with the new course and event set-up; the volunteers and race crew deserve a huge round of applause.
Friday and Saturday were uneventful just some training on the course, the race meeting, and lots of down time for stretching and relaxing. The night before the race I had a completely outrageous dream where I was in 2nd place in the swim way ahead of the front pack; this is not a likely scenario in real life. But I took it as a positive sign better than the dream where I miss the race start or forget my goggles. The race morning was beautiful not a cloud in the sky warm but not hot and a decent breeze to keep things interesting on the bike. The late start, 1:30pm for us, is tough as there are too many hours in the morning that need to be filled up before heading down to the start. Finally, race time came.
The swim was rough considering there were only 31 women in the field; I had a very aggressive person hitting me each stroke and sending me off to the left for the entire first leg. Luckily, I was able to escape her around the first buoy. The rest of the swim went okay but I finished the swim at the back of the front pack making it hard for myself to catch the front group of swimmers on the bike. In the transition, things were going great until a girl mounted right in front of me and about 20 meters before the mount line. In her defense the mount line was not clearly marked and none of the race officials were showing us where to mount. In my shock, I almost ran right into her but managed to veer off my course and came to a dead stop waiting for her to stop wobbling. I cried out but none of the officials even seemed concerned that she mounted in transition but that is racing for you. Once on the bike, I missed the girls that exited the water with me and was dismayed to see that a front pack coalesced very fast maybe a half mile into the bike; once a big group forms it isn’t as easy to catch them. I paid for my poor transition and rode the first 6 laps of the bike course solo trying desperately to catch the front pack. I was 30 seconds down the first lap and narrowed the gap on the 2nd , 3rd laps only to see it grow larger again on the 4th and 5th . Then during the 6th lap, I made up a ton of time and caught the girls at the end of the lap. It was such a huge relief to finally be with the front pack, but the damage was done . I could tell that my legs were fried from the 34K time trial. I tried to recover a bit during the last two laps on the bike and surged to the front on the last lap to be ready for any breakaways knowing that my fried legs wouldn’t respond as well as fresh ones. When I started the run, I felt exhausted immediately. I tried to focus on my cadence and do my best. I managed to hold on and felt stronger during the second half of the run. Unfortunately, I was passed just before the finish by two surging athletes and didn’t have a response; I was 12th but was only 8 seconds out of 9th as we all crossed the line within seconds of one another. Overall I was very pleased as 12th is my best world cup finish ever but definitely know that I can improve my run especially if I don’t have to time trial almost all the bike.
And it was very exciting to see Sarah Haskins and Hunter Kemper win the last two spots on the US Olympic team. They are both such talented athletes and will do an amazing job representing the US. I can’t wait to watch the games this summer and cheer on all the athletes that I know and have raced against.