Rio! We went, we saw, we raced, and now are all back home after the excitement of hopefully being back next year. Makes the reality and possibilities of it that much more real to be there and see the course, the country and get a feel for what could be.
We got to Rio early Wed morning after a 10 hour flight from Houston. Myself, coach Stacee, 4 other Dare2tri athletes, my bff (and Dare2tri Executive Director) Keri and a good number of other Team USA athletes. It was a nice sight to get to our hotel and see that it was literally right on the famous beach in Copacabana.We met up with the rest of Team USA and started the preparation for the race that Saturday. We did runs up and down the path along the beach, we swam in this amazing outdoor pool where we could see the Christ the Redeemer statue, got our bikes tuned up and started to mentally prepare for the race.
If you have never been to Rio, it is beautiful! The ocean surrounded by these huge, gorgeous mountains. Everyone we encountered was friendly, the food was delicious (think rice, beans and meat. lots of meat.) and we didn't have any run ins with the locals trying to steal anything from us. It was so cool to have the city bustling with all these triathletes, to see the blue carpet and the race course go up and to have the USA on our backs. In the days leading up to the race, many of you may have read about the water quality in Rio. Being over in Rio, we would read the news articles, look out at the ocean we would be swimming in, and they were nothing alike. The water that was shown in the many articles is not the water that we swam in. The water had been tested multiple times, it was deemed safe to swim in by the ITU and by the US Olympic Committee and we really didn't think much of it. Plus, we were there to race and had enough on our mind.
Race morning came and I was pretty pumped. I was feeling good in training and I knew I had the potential for a great race. The course was flat and it was going to be fast. My competitors from Japan and Spain were there, a woman from Brazil and then my fellow US teammates Hailey and Alyssa. My realistic goal going into the race was a 2nd place finish. I had been beaten by Japan back in May and wanted to take that title back. If you read my last blog you may remember that the all too confusing points system starts over from now until next June. So this was my first chance to get some much needed points leading into next year.
The gun went off at 930am and we were off. I did my best to find the feet of the girl from Japan, hoping to draft off of her but in the mass of people that didn't work. I ended up out of the water 2nd in my category, about 50 sec behind Japan. Japan and I came out of T1 together and I passed her early on in the bike taking over the 1st place spot. I kept expecting her to pass me again but that never happened. The bike was three laps so I could see my competition and eventually saw where everyone was. The bike is still my weakest part of the race and has room for much improvement. With my strength in the swim I get on the bike and just do my best to try and hold everyone off as long as possible. I could see that a few were slowly gaining on me and at mile 8 Hailey passed by. I stayed in 2nd, trying to keep her in my sights but Hailey is a speedy one on that bike! I came into T2 and she was on her way out for the run and I knew that 3rd wasn't all that far behind me. I changed into my running leg and set off for that I hoped would be a good run. The week before, at a local triathlon, I had the run of my life, and was hoping for that same feeling. I knew early on that was not the case but trucked on as best I could. I saw Stacee, Keri and the other Team USA coaches. The crowd cheered USA as I went by and it kept me going. I was there, in Rio, racing and representing the USA. How cool was that?! With 2 loops of the run, I could see my other competition and knew that I was holding a solid 2nd place. As I neared the finish I was pretty pumped to claim that 2nd place slot, about 1:48 behind Hailey and a total time of 1:26.25 and one of my fastest times to date. Perhaps one of the best parts of the day was seeing our teammate Allysa come across 3rd meaning that just like in May, back in Mexico, we had a USA sweep! Pumped was an understatement!
Team USA finished out the day strong with a total of 8 medals which is pretty incredible. 6 athletes got what they call their 'provisional' slots for the Paralympics next year. If you were the first USA athlete and within 5% of the winners time, you earned a personal, provisional slot. So basically as long as your classification earns a country slot, which is done by either winning worlds or being ranked in the top 6 by next June, then you make the Paralympic Team. I still get a headache when I think about the process but I am understanding it more and more. This does not mean that I cannot get my slot, I just need to make sure I am in the top 6 and the top two US athletes next June. This means doing well in the rest of the races I race in, especially World Championships where we can earn the most points.
So the race went well and as I had hoped. It was a cool moment at awards to see all of Team USA get their medals and think about how I was a part of the best team in the World. And as much as I wanted my name on that list of 'provisional spots' for Rio next year, I am remaining optimistic and just taking it race to race. That was my plan from the beginning and I'm sticking to it!
Since our race was over we got to enjoy the next day and a half in Rio. We got to cheer on the pros and eat at a Brazilian steakhouse. Like, a real one. We got to do a little sightseeing at Sugarloaf mountain and ride up a gondola to see the beautiful city we were in.
One of the absolute favorite parts of being a part of Team USA and Paratriathlon is the people that are a part of it. The coaches, the athletes and some of the greatest people I've ever met. When that gun goes off in a race, we all want to win and we are all fierce competitors. But off the course, we are all friends, we enjoy each others company and have many laughs as we travel around the world together. I truly do love my team.
We got home on Monday and I couldn't wait to see my boys. As much as I hate being away, seeing the smile and excitement in Dallas when I see him again is always a reassuring sight. Face time is great and all but being able to hug my biggest fans in person is always the best part of getting home.
On Monday night I went to bed thinking about the rest of the races this year. ITU Detroit which was a short 2 weeks away and World Championships here in Chicago on Sep 18th. Two more races that I needed to do well in and I was ready and up for the challenge to see how much faster I could get at each race.
On Tuesday morning i woke up not feeling so well. I took it as a day or rest and was in bed most of the day with a fever that seemed to be on the rise. By that night it got so high that Brian and I went to the ER. They ran some tests, gave me an IV and sent me home. I wish I could say that was the end of it but after 6 days in bed (I'll spare you the details) and another trip to the ER I am writing this in hopes that I am finally on my way up! The full results have yet to come back but we do know that it was some sort of virus that meds won't help and I have to let it run it's course. And of course everyone seems to be speculating that it was the water in Rio. Although that is a possibility, i'm not sure we will ever know for sure. And the facts are that we were told the water was safe, it was my choice to swim in it and that I did.
So while I'm slightly concerned about racing Detroit after being in bed for 6 days, I will do what I can do. And hopefully I can get 5 solid training days in this week.
So, there you go. Rio take 1! And still on that #road2rio in hopes there is a take 2 next year. Think healthy thoughts for the rest of the week and fast thoughts for Detroit next Sunday. I know I can do this and that's half the battle right? And of course a huge thank you to everyone who has helped get me on my path. My family, my friends, Coach Stacee, Dare2tri, USA Paratriathlon and some pretty great sponsors that I feel lucky to have on my side. THANK YOU!
Until next time.
And ps. I may or may not have tried to fit Dallas in my bike box.