This morning, October 8th, I woke up in my own bed, and it felt great. Even though I was only home in Davis for a total of eight and a half hours, it was exciting to be back. Even more exciting was the reason for my trip- competing in my first triathlon race of the season. Due to factors such as the travel distance, the time commitment, and the fact that we have only had one week of official training, only four of my teammates (and one graduated teammate) were competing today. Nevertheless, I was glad to have them there and excited to get to Berkeley to cheer them on.
As I arrived at the Berkeley Marina, I saw Katie Hosch bike by, starting the second leg of the women’s draft-legal collegiate race. I had missed the start of her race, but there was still time to cheer her on for the second half. When I saw her again at the bike-to-run transition, she seemed to be doing well and working hard. Only when I congratulated her on her race later would I find out that she had been bravely pushing through pain from an injury during her race. Nevertheless, she raced with awesome determination, and I was excited to do the same.
As I began preparing for my 11 o’clock race, I went to go talk to my older brother, Trevor, who was competing for Stanford University in his first triathlon ever. I was and am super excited to have him try my sport after years of being a runner (which he still is). Trevor, as well as my teammates Marcel and Justin, was competing in the draft-legal race at 9:30, so I got the chance to cheer on all three as I warmed up and prepared for my own race. Trevor and my teammates did phenomenally, and I was both proud and inspired to do the same.
Finally, it was my turn. Dustin, Charlie, and I did a quick swim warm up in the Marina. Then, as we lined up along the dock to start the race, Justin arrived, just minutes after completing the draft-legal race, ready to take on the course for a second time. When the horn went off, I got a good start despite my normally slow reaction time, and I was able to sprint to the lead before settling into the pace which I intended to hold for the approximately 750m swim. The entire swim felt smooth and controlled, and as I finished and climbed onto the dock, I was slightly sad that my favorite part of the race was over.
Running to the transition area, I looked behind me and saw that I had a decent lead on the competition, and I mentally prepared myself to try to keep that lead on the bike leg. The bike was a three loop course with a total of six U-turns. My goal was to maintain my lead until the first of these six turns. I had been ahead after the swim in past races, yet leading the bike leg had always proven to be a short-lived experience. Somehow, though, I managed to hold a lead around the first turn, then the second, soon the forth turn, and my goal of prolonging my lead turned into a goal of staying ahead for the remainder of the 12-mile ride. When I finally dismounted my bike, the competition was right behind me, and during slow bike-to-run transition I was passed by graduated teammate Charlie Chen and one other athlete.
Trying not to worry about how many people would pass me in my worst discipline of the triathlon, I took off on the run focusing on setting a solid pace which I could hold for five kilometers. Thinking I was doing just that, I soon learned that I was mistaken. As I got a side ache, Dustin pulled alongside me, offered some encouraging words, and proceeded to pass me on his way to completing a phenomenal run split to finish his race. Meanwhile, I struggled. As every athlete knows, racing is a painful and mentally challenging experience, and I have a lot of work to do to improve how I run under those conditions. Luckily, the pain eventually eased, and I was able to regain a steady pace and finish the final mile of the race on a positive note.
Although my overall time and place were not what I had hoped, I was still very content with my race. This race proved to me the extent which I need to train for my running, and it provided me a focus to work towards for the season. Mostly, I was happy because of the energy in the air. The entire team seemed to be happy, but more than that, everyone at the race seemed to be giving off a positive vibe. Competing teams cheered on each other, competitors shouted encouragement to fellow competitors on the course, and even those who had gotten injured on the course or not had the race which they were hoping for maintained a happy outlook on the day. If this race was representation of this season, I am excited for the year to come!