Well, my day didn't go as planned. But that doesn’t mean I’m out. It just means a bit of a waiting game. And honestly, it adds that much more fuel to the fire.
I woke up on race morning still confident. Confident I could pull off the race I knew I could have and earn my slot. I got to the venue early, I warmed up and even got to hug my Team Melissa fans before the race. Seeing Dallas in his GO MOM GO onsie, seeing Brian, my parents, my coaches and much of Brian’s family helped to ease the nerves a little. As I got closer to the start time, the nerves came but in a way that seemed manageable. I was excited. It was going to be a good day.
The horn blared and my wave was off. I got a good start and within a minute I was on my own in the water, which is often the case. Not fast enough for the few super fast swimmers but faster than the majority of the pack. I got into a groove, I was working hard and I felt like I was making good time. I came out of the water first, stripped my wetsuit and made it into T1. I was working my way towards the bike when I heard the cheers for Allyssa out of the water. In other races she was 90 plus seconds behind me. Today, she was out 45 seconds behind me. I was nervous as I mounted my bike and I knew I needed to have a great bike and run to hold her off.
The bike was three loops and I gave it everything I had. I saw my family, I saw my coaches and on every lap I pedaled as hard as I could. I kept telling myself that I was the one to catch and I was going to make them work for it. I heard the splits and for the first time ever, I was actually increasing my lead. I finished the bike and came into T2 with my fastest bike split ever, thanks in part to lots of time spent on the bike but also my sweet new Trek bike. Not only was if fast but it looked dang good.
I left on the run a full minute ahead of Allyssa. Now, I know immediately when I start my run if I am going to have a good run depending on how my legs feel. I took off and I was somewhere in between. It could have been better, it could have been worse. As I left on the run I heard Brian yell, you need the run of your life, GO, GO, GO. So I went. I went as fast as my legs could take me knowing that the run was Allyssa strength and she was trying to chase me down. As I neared the halfway point I could hear Allyssa coming up behind me. The sound of a prosthetic blade against the pavement is an unmistakable sound. Not only that, but there is a difference in sound from an above the knee amputee blade and a below the knee amputee blade. It’s the pattern and the speed, and this time, I knew it was Allyssa. She caught me and we rounded the turn around point together. I told myself to just stay with her. I stayed on her heels for about ¼ a mile and she started to pull ahead. I tried to go faster but my legs were going as fast as they could go. We saw Hailey who gave us a cheer, we saw Sarah, but there I was watching Allyssa pull further and further away. I crossed the finish line about a minute behind Allyssa with a second place finish. I had the best race I could have had, my times were the fastest they had ever been, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.
I immediately found Brian who had Dallas for a tearful hug as he told me how proud he was. My parents and Team Melissa followed soon after. I found Allyssa and congratulated her. I found Hailey and gave her a hug. I congratulated Sarah. Everywhere I walked there was someone there to tell me how strong I looked and to give me a little pep talk. They told me I had come so far, they told me not to worry, they told me I would get the invite slot and I would be in Rio.
I stood at the podium with Allyssa and Sarah, I was proud of my race but not the outcome. It was (and is) a tough pill to swallow. Regardless of my outcome, a big congratulations to my Team USA and Dare2tri athletes. There were so many great races and slots earned for Rio. Yay USA!
The next day couldn’t have been planned any better as it was spent at Busch Gardens with Brian, Dallas, my parents, Brian’s dad, and his brothers family. It kept my mind off the race as we went on roller coasters, met Cookie Monster and climbed a tree house. It wasn’t until the end of the day that I allowed myself to check the actual results and updated rankings. When I checked the rankings I was pleasantly surprised that I had moved into second, behind Allyssa, and that mathematically, my ranking was there to stay. I told myself that could only help with the invite slot because why wouldn’t they take the #2 ranked athlete in the world, right?
So now what. Well, now I wait. I wait until July 8th when the invite slots will be announced. As I’ve written previously, there are 8 invite slots awarded to the female classifications and I am hoping that one of them has my name on it. I’m using this as fuel to the fire that was already there. I will continue to train as hard as I ever have, staying confident that there is an invite with my name on it. I will get stronger, I will be fitter. I will continue to believe in myself as I always have because all of you continue to believe in me. I am still a Paralympic hopeful and I am still in the fight. This #mommyroad2rio isn’t over yet.