Zell Am See - Kaprun, Austria is absolutely gorgeous. I got to the venue a week and a half in advance to prepare and get used to the time change.
Before I knew it race day came and I felt great. I had the normal jitters but I knew I had prepared and unlike my previous two 70.3s I was not coming in injured or tired. Today was my day.
Swim - I'm not first?!
The swim start was to be expected for a World Championships - hectic. We lined up to get into the water behind three other waves. When they ushered us forward to the next line the girls in my wave would literally RUN. This took me completely by surprise as I casually walked to the next location eventually being pushed to the back. These girls were not joking around.
So, by the time we got into the water I made the decision to just stay on the far right - even though it was a much slower line I wouldn't be in a hectic mess of people because these girls were clearly itching to start. Usually this works fine for me as I am a strong swimmer.
Unbeknownst to me there was another girl who was an equally strong swimmer. When the cannon shot I found myself easily out of the pack but spotted another girl cruising along the same speed as me with the perfect line. Immediately I got super upset at myself. I was yelling at myself in my head: "What the heck Laurence! You are so dumb. Ugh I'm such an idiot!"
As I took my diagonal in I could see her creeping ahead. When I finally got onto the good line I could see her about 3 body lengths in front of me and I vowed to just keep trying to catch her. Unfortunately, this is when we hit the waves of people and I lost her in the crowd. That's when I buckled down and said to myself "Use this. This is your race and the only thing you can control is you. You know what to do. You got this. Lesson learned". So I put my frustration in my back pocket and just kept swimming.
Bike - Getting in a dark, dark place
Though I put the majority of my frustration on the swim in my back pocket there was still some lingering as I hopped onto my bike. I felt a bit shaken up - out of my element. I'll be the first to admit that I am not the fastest swimmer out there and I ALWAYS assume someone will challenge me on the swim regardless of if it happens or not. The difference was this time someone did and I didn't come out the victor. This was an unusual place for me and it was hard for me to wrap my head around for quite a bit of the race.
But, the bike, not being flat, quickly took my mind off of things. As most people know there was a 9 mile climb 19 miles into the ride and it was TOUGH. The first 3 km were at 5% and the last mile was at 14%. Yes. 14%. My race plan was to kill the climb and boy did I try. All I thought about was "push - pull - push - pull. You've got this. Come on." At the last mile people around me were walking their bikes and I wanted to get off mine so badly. But I made it and began the last 30 miles of the course.
This is when, as they say, shit hit the fan for me. On the descent I lost not one, but both my contacts. With a -3.00 prescription I was pretty much blind. I saw blobs in the distance and that was it. Having ridden the course 3x before I didn't freak out and remained calm. There was nothing I could do but keep riding. Yes, I almost crashed when I couldn't see a turn coming if the fence was the same color as the background, when I didn't see there was a curb and would hit it, and when I couldn't see the pot holes. But I made it out alive with a descent time.
To be completely honest I got into a very dark place on the bike course - the darkest I've been in a race. This is very hard for me to admit but something that I think everyone goes through and it is comforting to know that. There was a good 30 minutes when I questioned my ability completely as a triathlete. I questioned why I ever thought I would be good enough to become a competitive professional. I wondered what people would think of me if I quit after this race. I wondered if I should just not show up to practice or call up my teammates and tell them. Usually when I start getting low I look around at the scenery and remind myself how lucky I am. Without my contacts, however, the scenery was notttt looking very nice so I was left in my little hole on my bike.
Sure enough, though, I crept out of it. I used all the cheering fans and volunteers to remind me how amazing racing is and how lucky I am. I got off the bike tired but ready to run.
Run - Thank you crowd support
Happy to be off the bike I was excited to be on the last leg of the day but really feeling that bike course. It was devastatingly hot but this was no surprise and I didn't let it affect me. I knew there was plenty of aid stations and I would just have to be smart. Immediately the crowd support was superb and hearing my mom and dad cheering for me was all I needed to keep going.
I concentrated on things we had been working on in my run and trying not to trip over bumps in the rode that I couldn't see. I took in coke every aid station and splashed water all over my head. With people cheering literally every step of the way it was hard not to feed off their energy.
I finally arrived at the finish line spent happy the day was over and ready to drink a beer.
Afterthoughts - What just happened?
Again, a moment of brutal honesty. I had no idea how to feel about my race after the fact and it has taken me an entire week to figure it out. Being thrown off on the swim overshadowed all of my thoughts on the race and I sat down afterwards writing down all the things I can improve on (in a good way). I am also extremely harsh on myself as an athlete and will often not realize I have accomplished something great until years later.
But, I can now say that I am very proud of my efforts. I am 3rd in the world in my age group and I realize now that that is not something to just brush off. I've worked hard for this and I am very happy. It was a tough tough day out there for every athlete and we were all pushed to our limits physically and emotionally.
I am super excited to work on my weaknesses the rest of this year and though it is not an easy journey, it is one that is so incredibly worth it.
Thanks to all my support group (Guillaume, Jeremie, MP, Zach, Matt, purplepatch community) and sponsors (freeplay, Salming, HUUB, Rudy, Fluid, Nature's Bakery, Temple). But especially I must thank my Mom and Dad for supporting me 110% and being the BEST support crew and BEST parents a girl could ask for. I wouldn't be able to do any of this without you.
Now for Santa Cruz 70.3!