Friday morning I rolled into the airport bright eyed and bushy tailed excited for my first trip to South America. I felt prepared, confident, and ready to take on the world in my first race as a professional!!! I arrived, practiced my spanish with cab drivers, strolled along the beach and dreamed of the race only a day away.
...Then I walked into my first pro race briefing.
I felt like it was my first day of high school all over again. People knew each other and I knew no one, well, except from reading their blogs, following them in Instagram, etc. I tried to act cool, as I practially ran to a chair in the back of the room hoping someone would want to sit next to me.
Suddenly it was real. Only 8 more hours until I would toe the starting line with these ladies who I have followed for so long and looked up to for years, and they all had their game faces on. The confidence and preparadness I had felt in the airport? Gone. I was scared. They all looked so fast and fit and now I was supposed to race them?!
When I got back to my hotel after the meeting I called my mom and nearly cried on the phone. I messaged Siri about how good all of the girls were and how nervous I was. Both of them told me that I needed to focus on my own race and do the best that I could on that day.
Then, 4am on Sunday: "Boom, boom, boom," the bass of my first of four race day alarms went off...not that I had been sleeping anyways. I scrambled out of bed, downed two cups of coffee and headed to the race.
Body marked. Transition assembled. Walked to the dock for the swim start. Sit on the dock. Delay. Trying to relax looking at the media, competitors, and spectators lining a massive ship.
The Colombian Armada has a beautiful vessel that travels the world and for the IM 70.3 Cartagena, they arranged its schedule so that it would be in the port for our swim. It was incredible and they even shot of the cannons for the men's and women's starts. The cannons were so loud that they had to arrange the ship in a way that it would not blow out the windows of the convention center!
One of my biggest fears was getting dropped in the swim and coming out minutes behind everyone alone. And guess what? I got dropped in the swim after about 300 meters, came out minutes behind everyone alone, and it was incredibly embarrasing (I know what I will be doing A LOT of in the off season!!).
Onto the bike and with no one in sight until 35km. It was kind of strange. I was riding alone in a foreign country through small villages and through gorgeous landscapes. It was hard not to get lost in my mind without someone to focus on in front or behind me. I just kept telling myself to give my best effort each pedal stroke.
Then finally I could see life ahead! One tiny speck of a rider in the distance. A rabbit to chase! Slowly I could see a small group of riders appearing closer and closer. "I'm back in the race" I thought to myself. Maybe I can get a top-10 finish, how cool would that be?!
Despite what appeared to be a flat course profile, the last 10km to the turn around and the first 10km after the turn around were rolling. Well, at least according to Miami standards. I was coming up on the group and because I was so afraid of any kind of drafting penalties, essentially sprinted up the hills to pass. We u-turned, had a nice little downhill, some rollers, and then were heading back into town and onto the run.
The run course was incredible. It wove through the streets of the walled city. Up and down narrow, cobbled roads lined with thousands of spectators and volunteers. It was also HOT. As in, "feels like" 101F with 86% humidity hot, and that was the weather measured at the airport...where there is actually airflow. It felt even hotter than that in the old city where breezes are shut out at its walls. I was so thankful for the aid stations every kilometer!
While the run course was incredible, my run was not. I was having some breathing problems and it felt like I was trying to suck air in from a straw. After the first loop of the run I realized I was actually in 6th place! I did my best to keep plodding and shuffling along and luckily was able to hold onto that podium spot until the finish line.
While my race might not have been the best, I gave the best that I had on the day and I was ecstatic that it was enough for 6th place and the podium in my first professional race. It was a beautiful race course and the amount of support by the police, armada, and volunteers made the day truly special! Also, it turns out the other women I competed against are incredibly nice and welcoming!
Thank you to A4C Bike shop for making sure I was fully equipped to race, Aminorip for providing recovery products that allow me to train day in and day out. Thank you Siri for preparing me for my first pro race in only three months of training; Nicholas for helping me actually get to and from the race so I didn't have to think about it; Gunter for telling me it will all be okay or to toughen up when I need it and for being the best training partner. Finally, thank you to all of my friends and family for the motivation, encouragement, and support.
Now it's time to take a break, drink beer, and refocus for next year!
Professional cyclist turned professional triathlete living in Boulder, CO.