Thursday, September 19, 2013

Vegas Baby! Shall we Dance?

In June, when we made the call to accept the slot for Vegas I never dreamed that it would be the last race of my season.  Yet the one thing that I have learned through my life as an athlete is that the best laid plans can sometimes go very awry.  In spite of this fact, I have also learned that anything can and will happen especially in the face of adversary.  Two weeks after accepting the slot for Las Vegas 70.3 World Championship, I had an freak bike accident that resulted in my collarbone ending up in five pieces.  Now as a triathlete, we need that little bone for most of our activities.  While our initial goal was to continue on to the Ironman in Louisville we knew it would be questionable as the accident was exactly 6 weeks out from Ironman.  Las Vegas would give us an extra two weeks and we realized that every minute of those additional two weeks would be needed in order to be able to toe the line.

So why not just let it go?  Why not step out of the season and let the bone heal and come back with aspirations for next year?  Experience has taught me that anything can happen and I am an athlete at my core.  Inherently competition defines an athlete so with the support of my coach, Hillary Biscay, Dr. Richard Steffen, Dr. Justin Martindale and Nick Milnor, DC entire team and many amazing friends, I showed up in Sin City.

I knew that this would be my usual reunion time.  I have been in the sport long enough that one of the most favorite parts of racing is getting to see my friends from all over at races.  I have been fortunate enough to train and race with some of the very best age group athletes in both sport as well as spirit.  I'm thankful for social media and email that allows us to develop some very special bonds and I look forward to any chance to reconnect in person.  I knew that I was going to have a blast with many friends on this course and looked forward to it.  My good friend and professional triathlete, Robbie Wade was to be my roomie for the race.  We train together in San Antonio so it was great to spend some time out of the pool talking about our race.  All of this social time proved to distract me from the still moving bones in my left shoulder.

Race morning came with rain showers that made things interesting for 2/3rds of the race.  I had a great time meeting up with everyone in the rain. This ( I kept telling myself) is the essence of triathlon - playing like kids in the rain.  We get to chase each other in the water with a bit of "marco polo", play "king of the hill" on the bike and then have an epic game of chase after the bike.  Clearly I was in my element and thrilled to even be there.  I lined up with one of my favorite competitors, Sue Aquilla.  Sue and I have raced against each other several times and she is just one of the coolest chicks.  Our coaches are besties and that lets us have fun with them as well.

The swim started with a fair amount of questions in my head.  The goal was to swim as hard as I could with the shoulder.  I had about 6 swims under my belt going into the race and knew that I had seen some painful numbers that were close to what I would normally swim but not for the distance.  Again - this is about seeing what is possible on race day and anything is possible.  I was with the front pace of women in my age group but as we swam into the men's group in front of us I decided on caution.  Having played "tag" in the water with the men before I thought it prudent to protect what bone had already developed.

Out on the bike I was ready to settle in.  I have often said that the only flat part of this race is the swim and based on my swim times I  am pretty sure it isn't flat either. The first 25 miles I spent in the mental space of "it's raining stay off the paint and don't crash" to "we are racing".  Shortly after the turn around I saw a jersey that I determined would not gain on me.  That is about the time that the fear turned around.  I determined that if I was going to go down again at least I was going to do it on the biggest stage I could be on at the time.  This was not the time to hold back because I was afraid.  This was the time to look what demons I had and get on with it.  We had a wonderful battle and I am forever grateful for my competitors for without them I would not be given the opportunity to have this experience of myself on the edge.  I just cant get there without them.

As I transitioned to the run - "The Jersey" came into transition.  It was non other than Colleen DeReuck. Now that chick is a running stud with a resume longer than most.  A formidable opponent for sure and I was thrilled to be out there with her in spite of my collarbone.  The run was the giant question mark, but also this was the time I was going to get to see everyone!  I was happy camper most of the time.  It was hard, but getting to watch for high fives from friends kept my mind occupied for 9 miles.  By then I had seen everyone and chased as much as the shoulder would let me. At that time, well it got ugly in the hurt box. This is when I got to decide exactly who I am - yet again.  See I am not nor will I ever be a "wade in the shallow end" type girl.  I have always been a " dive in the deep end, push the limits, drive fast and jump out of airplanes" type girl.  That means that I do this stuff to bump right up against my limits and fears and shake hands with them and then see what kind of dance we do.  Sometimes its a tango and sometimes its a jive - either way we are going to get after it.  Every time I get to learn about myself and every time my fears get to be confronted.  The cool part about that is I am the one that chooses to look that fear square in the face and question the validity of its existence instead of waiting for it to rear its ugly head when I least suspect it.  Don't get me wrong, it has happened (more of late that I care to admit) but I have developed the tools to bob and weave around it through squaring off on my terms as much as possible.

All in all it was a perfect day.  I got to go as hard as I could, see my friends do the same, play in the mud,  ride my bike screaming down hills, play tag, stand up to my inner bully and giggle most of the time and shed a little tear at the end.  On the back side, I can't wait to do it all again!

Thank you so much to everyone that helped get me there - especially Gu Energy, Britton's Bike ShopRudy Project, Vega Nutrition

The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses - behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.
Muhammad Ali


Damie said...

congrats sweet pea!!!!!!

Jennifer Harrison said...

Impressive Dawn!!!