Whelp, here we are, the week of World Championships! Here. In Chicago. Can you say EPIC?!
The past month has been a great one. Not a lot of travel, some solid training, a great family reunion with Brian's family up in Michigan, some Ironman Madison spectating and my first triathlon win of the year at ITU Detroit. Now, I need to follow up that 'win' statement with the fact that not all my competition was at this race. My PT2 classification has gotten pretty competitive and exciting over the past year, and only a few of my competitors were in Detroit. But it was a win, it gave me the maximum number of points for that type of race and it felt amazing to be on top of that podium, with that gold medal, regardless of who was and wasn't there. Not to mention that this was the first race that Dallas has been at. Brian, Dallas and Jake, all made the trip with me and I got to see all their smiling faces as I went by on both the bike and the run. Plus, that feeling of being on top has stuck with me, and as we head into World Championships in 4 short days it is thought of often.
So, yes, World Championships is here, in my town, in my backyard, in the sweet sweet city of Chicago. When they announced this two years ago it seemed forever away, but here it is only days away, and I couldn't be more pumped. This is the biggest race of the year for more reasons than one. First, it is World Championships. The winner can call themselves the PT2 World Champion and going into a Paralympic Year that is a pretty big deal. Second, at this race we earn significantly more points than any other race we will race in. At an ITU race like Detroit, the max # of points you can get is 300. This week, its 750! To qualify for Rio next year points are critical. In order to get 2 country qualification slots for Rio, you need 2 US athletes in the top 6 in the world which is determined by points. To avoid getting back into the all too confusing Paralympic qualification just know that the higher we place, the more points we get. And we all need points. I will say that this race will not qualify me for Rio next year. That race will come early next year in March. But I need the points regardless. Third, this is the most competitive my classification has ever been and it is so exciting. We have 9 competitors in the PT2 class and most of us are pretty competitive with each other. There are athletes from all over the world and a few that I have never raced. I have, of course, stalked their times from other races and I know that this will be a good race. Some are faster swimmers, other faster bikers or runners and the added excitement that anything can happen on race day. It is going to be a good race, I can promise you that. Fourth, this is my city. I have my parents and some of Brian's family and friends making the trip in to watch the race. I have friends, and co- workers, and sponsors that will all be out on that race course cheering me and all the other Team USA athletes on. They believe in me, they have supported me through all my adventures and seeing (and hearing) them out on the course will be pretty dang amazing. To say I'm excited is an understatement.
Last year at this time, I was 7.5 months pregnant hoping that I would have a healthy boy and be able to get back on track on the #road2rio. My healthy (and extremely handsome) little boy is going to be 9.5 months in a few days but the road from then till now has not been an easy one.
If any other mothers out there are reading this, you can attest to the fact, that getting back into well, anything, after having a baby can be a little challenging. It changes your life, your body, your priorities and things are never the same. When I was in labor and was told I needed a c-section, my first thought was that it meant more recovery and more time away from training. I wanted a family, my boy, but I also wanted this life of an athlete on the Road2Rio. It was a challenging waiting period, but I finally ran my first mile 6 weeks after having Dallas. It had been months since I had run and it was a slow, 16 minute mile. 1 mile. 16 minutes. As happy as I was to have my running leg back on, I remember thinking that this wasn't what it was supposed to be like. I was supposed to bounce back, I was supposed to be back at things weeks after I gave birth and I started having doubts about this whole Rio thing. Maybe it wasn't meant to be.
However, something I didn't expect after having Dallas, was an added level of patience. I went home after that slow mile, saw my baby boy and suddenly a 16m mile didn't seem so bad. Maybe I could do this. Days, weeks, months and some slow progress later, I could see my body changing, getting back into the shape it was in before I got pregnant. My times were dropping. Slowly, yes, but they were dropping. And the impatient Melissa I once was, of wanting to be back to where I was yesterday had turned into a patient, taking it day by day Melissa. The realization that Rome wasn't built in a day, and I wouldn't bounce back in a day. And every time I had a bad run, a bad bike or wondered if I could really do this, all I had to do was come home, see my boy and make the decision to keep on going the next day.
9.5 months later I can proudly say that my times are faster than they have ever been and I am back on the Road to Rio. My swim feels amazing, my bike (although always needing improvement) has never felt better and recently, I am surprised at my own run times and seeing my pace on my watch. As I go into Fridays race, I know it's going to be a good one. My training is on point, my mindset is where it should be. I'm confident, I'm honored to race for the USA and a huge bonus to be here in Chicago. When the going gets tough and when I hurt, all I need to do is think about why I race in the first place. For my country, for my family, for those that believe in me and for myself. And I truly feel that when you race in honor of others, you honor yourself. And that is exactly what I will do.
So. Friday at 715am, when that horn goes off, I am racing to show a certain 9.5 month old boy that dreams can come true. And for Brian who sacrifices things in his own life to help make my dream become a reality. And like everyone else out on that course, I am racing to win.
If you live in Chicago, come on down to Buckingham Fountain to see all of us in action. This race? It's going to be epic. I can promise you that.
GO USA AND PEACE OUT!