I’ll have to admit, I’ve been dreading Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 for weeks. I had a lot of fun training in the early season but for the past 6 weeks, my job has kept me really busy and it’s felt like training has taken a major back seat. Knowing that the weeks leading up to the race would involve a lot of time on my feet and extra hours working, made it feel even less motivating. I started the season with some big goals and now those seemed out of reach. I was looking forward to having the race over with more than anything.
I spent the two days before the race working the expo, updating our social media accounts with real time feed, running all over the city, and taking care of the teams. The night before the race, I was kind of hit by the sadness that I had not planned to have a single friend (Sherpa) or family member show up for my first 70.3 in nearly 6 years. Feeling tired and a little ‘people hungover’, I slipped out of dinner as soon as I could. I ended up walking back with Bethany who told me a group was meeting at 4:55 to walk to transition. ‘Okay, this is a little more fun’, I thought as I went to my hotel.
Having never raced a big race with the club as a participant, I had no idea what to expect. Meeting up with a group to walk to transition started the day off on the right foot. I felt like I was part of a family, not an individual out there racing. There were lots of laughs and photos in transition before starting the walk to the bus. Suddenly we were a sea of red being stopped by ATC spectators who had shown up before the sun rose to cheer us on. We got on the bus and I remember a man saying, ‘wow there are a lot of you’. Our red and black kits took up a good third of our school bus. Many more laughs occurred on the way to the swim start.
Usually my least favorite part of a race is waiting for the start but surrounded by my crew, the time flew by. We scoped out the swim, we shared hugs, we laughed more, we shared strategies and hugged some more. The time flew by and before I knew it, we were in the water.
A very fast swim later we were out and I felt like my name was being called at every turn. Photos and waves – shouts of encouragement. I felt like a rock star. On the bike course, it was the same. Every time I saw an ATCer, there were jokes and shouts of encouragement.
I had been dreading the run for weeks. I knew of all things, my run was the weakest and had taken the biggest hit with my training schedule. I also knew at the end of the first mile, there would be an ATC party. I was determined to get up that massive hill strong. I was greatly rewarded at the top with cheers, giant hands for high fives and lots of encouragement. Out on the run course, I saw not only ATC teammates, but Team Podium folks and former Team in Training teammates. I can’t say the run was my favorite thing but I looked forward to feeling like a rock star every time I saw my people.
Much to my surprise, while at the awards ceremony getting photos for work, I was awarded a roll down slot to the 70.3 World Championships. I heard a massive cheer go up from the stand and the next thing I knew teammates were hugging me.
I know that there are people who are much more hard core about this sport than I am. They come with goals and they don’t want anyone to get in the way of those goals. They believe that triathlon is an individual sport. That is what makes them happy. For me, this sport means nothing without a team. Ironically, earlier in the week I had read that the latin root of ‘to compete’ actually means ‘to strive together’. At the start, when the swim course was shortened, a man next to us was very upset about it. I turned to my group and said, ‘today may feel like it’s about you but it’s really not, it’s about everyone here’.
I think most of us would say that one of our greatest desires is to be a part of a community that celebrates us and makes us better. That may be our community here at ATC/Energy Lab or maybe it’s another one of the awesome communities out on the course. Whatever community it is, I would encourage anyone to start to race as a part of a team. Find a place to strive together with other individuals who will make you a better athlete and make you feel like a rockstar on race day!