Wow and wow! I am exhausted. I didn’t get a nap in today and boy, was it a full day for me. Woke up and went to swim with the resident USAT team at the Olympic Training Center (OTC). Got to see the likes of Sarah Haskins, Hunter Kemper, Ben Collins, Brian Fleischmann, Joe Umphenour and some U23 elites. It was awesome swimming with that crew!
I love the atmosphere of the OTC. Going into the pool you pass a wall of fame showcasing photos of Olympic greats in swimming, synchro and water polo. You have your Janet Evans, Tom Dolan, Mary T. Meagher, Rowdy, Misty… It’s awe inspiring and a bit emotional for me. The last time I visited the OTC was on a training trip with the Rice University swim team. I came as a swimmer. Now I come as an Olympic hopeful in the sport of triathlon. How cool is that? Lesson: you never know what your future holds.
After the swim and a short break for nutrition and equipment change, I hopped on my bike and took off with a group of about 40-50 guys (all guys except for me) for a 50 mile ride. This group was made of up amateur and professional cyclists and triathletes. Some of the guys on the USAT national team were there and even a former Tour de France rider, Michael Creed. I was warned going into it that these guys will put the pedal down and take off. I was going to stick with them as long as I could (thinking that would not be long–hopefully I could swing a couple miles at their baller pace). I knew Joe Umphenour had my back and he’d drop back with me when I started to fade. So I didn’t have anything to loose.
Well after about 5 miles “warm up,” sure enough they took off and I went with them. I had no idea how fast we were going, I just knew I was pedaling as hard and fast as I could and my heart was pumping. I didn’t look up at the Colorado scenery and have no idea where we really went. My focus was on the tires in front of me. I just kept telling myself to stay on the guy’s wheel in front of me.
We got to this one hill and the pack accelerated. I was struggling and huffing and puffing and then I felt this magical surge from behind–either I just got faster or an angel gave me a push. Sure enough, there was Joe right behind me giving me a little boost and some encouragement saying you got this. That was wind in my sails! I made it up the hill and over and got on another wheel. It was eat, smell, breathe rubber. I barely had time to hydrate. Everything was happening so quick and fast around me. And I knew one mistake in a pack like this and it could result in lots of riders going down. I had to be on my A+ game!
During the ride I thought of my friend and triathlete mentor, Jill Murphey (Kona Ironman racer in the 80s) who told me on my first group ride last summer to get on the wheel in front of me and stay on it for dear life. Go as long as you can, she told me. Well I took that to heart and that’s exactly what I did today.
This intense drafting and jostling for position went on for about 20 some miles. Finally we came to a set of train tracks (the turn around spot) and the surge was over for the most part. It was at that point I look down and see I averaged 24.8 mph for 26 miles! Now that’s a PR for me! And I’m at altitude! I impressed myself.
We turn around and start heading back at a more modified pace (still in the 21/22 mph range so I was still working pretty hard just now my heart rate dropped about 10 beats!) The funniest moment to me (and I wish I had a picture) was when Joe and I were riding side by side and I realize we are leading the pack. Me, leading a pack of 50 guys? Get out of town! I dropped back and got on someone’s wheel knowing I needed to conserve energy as much as possible to make the full 50 miles.
Well we reached the 50 mile mark and I was still with them! I didn’t just survive it, I thrived. I did it! I impressed myself. It was one of those lessons: you don’t know what you got until you try. And although “sink or swim” situations can be scary, they help us dig deep and fight to stay afloat. But you wouldn’t have that opportunity unless you go out on a limb, put yourself out there, jump off the high dive, make a change in your life…do the uncomfortable thing! Yes, it’s scary and you may only be able to keep that pace for a couple miles, but the point is you try. You don’t know what you are capable of until you go for it. Put yourself out there. Greatness awaits!
So that was all done by 1pm–full morning for me! I ate at the OTC with some pentathletes (the sport involves running, swimming, shooting, equestrian and fencing) then moved in to the OTC. I was sad to leave the Lyon Training Center, but also so happy to be officially “on campus.” After that I headed back to the pool for a loosen swim and filming (we get our film analysis back tomorrow–I’m excited to get the feedback. I’m learning how open water swimming technique is different than fast “pool” technique). Then it was shower, dinner, meet and greet with the coaches and fellow campers (there are 13 of us: 8 guys, 5 gals) and now snooze time.
Thanks to Joe and Ben Collins for looking out for me on the ride today. You guys are awesome!
Stay tuned for my Colorado OTC adventures to continue tomorrow. The dream lives on…