Des Moines 70.3 turned 41.4…My first race in the professional field. But what does that mean? To my non-triathlon friends the difference may be confusing as I have competed in World Championships before, so…isn’t that like the top level? Well yes but those were World Championships at the amateur (age-group) level; every race prior to this one I was competing against other amateurs and people who do not solely train full-time as their job. Now to be fair, most pro-triathletes do not train full-time because unless you are one of the top athletes you do not make enough money through racing/sponsorships/etc, to support yourself. So, what does this mean to race in the Pro field? It means that I had met some of the qualifying criteria to race in the elite/pro field of triathlons. This also means that I now race a field of women in which some may still have jobs and/or families and are super strong athletes, but I also race against full-time pro’s who are the best in the world. For me, going into this race as a first-time pro I had no clue what to expect. I was seeded last so I only one place to go anyway, right?
I attended the virtual pro-briefing Friday night and didn’t say a word. They discussed course changes, aid stations, and possible plans if weather took a turn for the worse. It did. Even before going to bed the night before the race, we received a text saying race start would be delayed an hour. In the morning my alarm went off, I glanced at the radar and concluded there was no way we were racing. They sent another text instructing us to wait for further updates in about an hour. To be honest, I think this worked to my advantage because I was not getting any race-day nerves/anxieties. I thought there was no way this race was going to happen. Then came the text update saying that the race was on and for us to report to transition by 8:45 - pro’s go off at 9:30. Lol what…Ok, I still didn’t think it was going to happen, I mean maybe we’ll get through the swim but they’ll have to pull us off course for the impeding storm. Anyway, we left quick to beat the crowd and I went about my usual transition set-up. My power meter was not calibrating, and I didn’t have time to wait for it. I figured with the shortened bike it was not a big deal and would just go based on feel. So, no worries there.
The Pro transition rack is off by itself, and it was nice to have a little more space setting up. The women were chatting and seemed to be perfectly friendly, no one expressed a “don’t talk to me” face, at least. Off I went to the swim start, unbothered (and still thinking they were going to cancel the race). Next thing I know I am warming up with the pro’s and slowly realizing that this race may happen. They announce that they will cut the bike in half to make up for the 3-hour start delay. It’s on… 10 minutes later the Pro men go off and I look around at the women on either side of me, “Hmmm, maybe I should invest in a SwimSkin” I think to myself. The cannon goes off and I mad dash into the water so that I don’t get caught up in the flailing arms and legs around me. I find some toes and latch on. I only see 3 people in the group by the first buoy and assume I am in the top group. Little did I know Holly Lawrence actually took off and had created a 45 second gap by the swim finish. Whoops…
I start the trek from swim exit to T1, which was horrible. The run to T1 was about half a mile, barefoot, and on slippery concrete. I thought it was never going to end with the amount of zig-zags they had us going through. I had a pretty quick T1 compared to most women, probably because I did not have a swimskin to take off. I hopped on the bike and held a consistent effort, getting passed by two women quick. I stay with them and eventually pass them and take a turn in front. The half-way turn comes along with an aid station, and I slow down too much and end up falling off pace. I am now solo for the remainder of the bike. I come into T2 and get ready to run. I am grateful that I decided to put my visor down prior to race “just in case the clouds clear” because by now the weather has done a 180 and it’s full sun, hot, and humid. I am from the south, I’m used to it, so all good there. I take off on the run course and start on the path towards the main loop. A sea of spectator’s line either side of me and up ahead is a distracted bystander on the phone walking in the middle of the run course. Some women spectators start yelling at him “off the course! Runner up!” and he eventually catches on. But not before I could jokingly motion an “elbow-check” as if I were to knock him out of my way… Me and the women spectators had a good laugh after that. Great way to start this run. The first loop of this two-loop course seemed never ending with turns and running between tall buildings in downtown Des Moines. I had made some passes in the field, and I think at one point I was fifth Pro female. The course was pretty empty the first loop, just the pro’s, spectators, and volunteers. As I finish off lap 1 and start onto lap 2, the age-groupers/amateurs have started to fill the run course. I love this because I get to pass people which gives a little confidence boost, but also they are typically less serious and are feeding good energy to those around them. The aide stations took a bit longer this loop with the water->gu->water-> ice, method being put into place. I make my way back to downtown and see the banner giving me indication that the finish is near. I turn into the final stretch on the red carpet, see Sam (my boyfriend) and give a high-five with a smile on my face. I knew I had qualified for a Worlds slot and squeezed into the top 8, receiving my first pay-day as a pro-triathlete.