Monday, November 30, 2015

What a Year

           This past year has been a big one for me, in both sport and in life. So much has happened, and it feels like it has all been so fast, yet even just this March feels like it was years ago. You never know where life might send you, and I honestly never thought that I would be where I am today. Just sitting down to write this blog and reflecting on everything this year has really shown me what a ride life can be sometimes, but it has also made me feel incredibly thankful for all of the people in my life and all of the experiences I have been fortunate enough to have. So, here we go—my attempt to put everything I have learned this season into a few minutes of reading.

Possibly for the first time since I’ve been a professional, this March, I finally felt like I actually belonged to be there. I had a great, breakthrough performance at the Sarasota Continental Cup with a 3rd place putting me on my first podium. ITU racing had not gone too well for me in the past, so to finally have a taste of success was incredible for me. It gave me the confidence in myself and everything that I was doing, that if I really gave it everything I had, I could do it.

Next up came Collegiate National Championships. Now, I know there are much more prestigious races out there, but this race was special for me. I always took a lot of pride in being able to get through school as well as I did as well as train as hard as I did. But mostly, ever since I did my first triathlon back in 2009 (a horrible, painful memory), and I learned there was collegiate triathlon, that was the race I wanted to win. It was a goal that would take years, and I knew it would be an incredible undertaking, but I think for the first time in my life, I had something that I wanted to dedicate all of my energy, discipline, and motivation to. My sophomore and junior years when I thought I was ready to battle for a title, I had two very poor races. They were heartbreaking to me. I always felt so angry about it, because I felt like I just had days where my body said no, and I was completely flat. But at the end of the day, everything happens for a reason, even if it seems hard to find that reason in the moment. Going into the race my senior year, I knew I would look back at myself and never be happy if I didn’t do everything I could to win. People say you can’t stress yourself out and tell yourself that you have to win, but I think those thoughts are only human. You can’t just switch them off. The key is finding your own way to deal with them. Mine was to prepare as well as I possibly could. If I truly did everything I could and raced as hard as I could and still didn’t win, then it just wasn’t in the cards.
                The opening race was the draft-legal race on Friday. I don’t think many people gave me much of a chance starting the run as we were about a minute back, but I took off at a total suicide pace. If I lost, I was going to die trying to win. I don’t think it’s really the race I will remember, but the moments after the race that I will cherish forever. Mom and Dad were there to watch me race at nationals for my final year, and after I got off the ground I just gave my mom a big hug and couldn’t believe it. Every time I think about this moment I start to well up in tears. Everything about it was just so special. All the years it took me to get there made it all so much worth it. I’d take my single win the way I had to get it than any number had they been easy. It’s something that will be special for as long as I live. I was once a kid with big dreams, and all of a sudden, I was now a kid living his dream.

                Just a few weeks after, it was time to graduate. Earning a college degree is something that should never be overlooked. It’s a great accomplishment, and I’m pretty proud of how I did it, with a 3.96 GPA. It was a wild four years, and I could never put all of my memories and experiences onto 1000 pages.

                About 3 days after commencement, I started the wonderful 24-hour drive from State College to Boulder. It was about to be a big change for me, and while it was a good change, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I was going to be broke, training during the morning and afternoon and working in the evenings—not your most fun schedule. This wasn’t going to be the easiest career to go after, but if you love what you do then you really can do anything. I had a couple of good races towards the beginning of the summer, but eventually everything started to catch up to me. I was worn out physically and emotionally. The change was all taking its toll on me. I didn’t know if I could keep up what I was doing and I didn’t think it was all going to be good enough. Some nights I would lie in my bed at night and just cry because I thought I couldn’t do it anymore. There were certainly some rough days. The only thing driving me was the hope that all of the hard work would pay off. Nothing worth doing is ever easy, so I just kept on working.

                I traveled home for a couple races in New York City and Magog, both of which were not so good for me. I was exhausted and just not myself anymore. Even though the races were bad, the trip home did everything for me. It gave me a chance to hit the reset button. When I came back to Boulder after that trip, I was back to being myself again. I was building up for two final races of the season, and regardless of breaking my wrist going down in a crit, I was getting back to training well—as I like to put it, smashing everything.

                Des Moines went decently well, and then I was able to get my first win in Puerto Rico. A win was really special to me. For the rest of my life I’ll have won a race as a professional. I think that’s pretty darn cool. The season was supposed to be over, but with that win I was one podium away from getting onto the national team. What happened next was a little risky as I sat down on Tuesday night and booked a flight to Colombia on Thursday morning. Had I told myself a couple years ago that I would be doing that I would have punched myself in the face, but it was worth the risk. I had $53 left in my account after booking everything, so I guess I needed to race well huh? I raced well, won the race, and got the job done. This meant I would now be a member of the USA National Team. This was another incredibly special moment for me. As a kid, I always looked at being on Team USA as something truly remarkable, and now I had accomplished that after so much hard work and struggle. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the season. It will be another massive step forward in my career, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me. I don’t think it’s the races themselves that I’ll remember, but the journey that they provided that I’ll never forget. 2015 though, has been a year to remember.

                Thank you to everyone who has been there to help me this year who I couldn’t do it without. Grant, thanks for dealing with every time I start to get pissed off about bad sessions and every other thought that comes to mind that bothers me, and also for making me capable of doing what I have done. Bria, thanks for being there through some of the toughest days I’ve ever had and being the best friend that I would ever want to do all of this with. Mom and Dad, you’re the reason that I am what I am today, and I could never be thankful enough to you both. My support crew is who makes it all happen for me. Now, let’s go make 2016 even better!

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