Before and Now.
Yesterday, I had the biggest race of my career. REV3 Florida was the season finale and the decisive race for the Pro REV3 Series Title. Before the race, people kept asking me how I was dealing with the pressure. There was the title and 30+K on the line- and the title race was all coming down to whether Lauren Goss or I had a better race on that single day. Lauren has been having a really great year and I knew the day was going to be tough. However, I am not sure I felt that much pressure. I have everything I really need in life right now. Greg and I set the goal of winning the REV3 Series way back in January and it was something that I really wanted- but I knew I would be ok, more than ok, if it didn’t happen either. I have been overwhelmed this year with the support and love I have received from people in Charlottesville, people connected with the Ulman Cancer Fund and REV3 and other folks around the country. It has been humbling and deeply satisfying to connect with people over triathlon and to be given so much from these people all the time. I have been given so much this year. My sponsors have really stepped up to support me this year, and I am so thankful for that. Thank you Profile Design and Rudy Project, thank you- I am so lucky to have these superior products (ie: Altair Wheels, Wingspan helmet, Wahoo wetsuit, best sunglasses EVER, profile drink systems, ect..) and so thankful to be associated with two companies so deeply dedicated to the sport of triathlon. Also deepest thanks to Quintana Roo for my super speedy CD 0.1, Hammer, Champion System and Computrainer. I have an amazing local team in the Ragged Mountain Racing Team. They are a rock in my life and have supported me in everything I have done this year. Dana Thiele and Mark Lorenzoni have created a great community of serious athletes that has been so important in so many lives, including mine. I am so grateful to REV3 and their sponsors for making the sport of professional triathlon possible. I am so proud to be associated with REV3 this year. REV3 treats the professional like real professionals; they are absolutely great to us, and to all of their athletes. They do things the right way for the right reasons and I am continuingly impressed by their commitment and conviction to do the right thing by all of their athletes. Lastly and, most importantly, I am so thankful to Greg Mueller (and Lisa, his better half =) ). His passion and drive to be the best triathlon coach in the world and to make his athletes the best in the world is contagious. He really has a gift- and it is mostly his passion for what he does and the love and dedication he gives to his athletes. I trust him for advice in so many areas of my life and I know he is committed to helping me achieve my dreams, both in sport and in life. He is a different kind of elite triathlon coach, he makes you love the sport more- never any less. Thank you, Greg, for getting me here!!
I didn’t feel pressure this weekend because I really have so much already, never did I think I would have so much in life. I have lost a lot in thirty years of life so far with losing people I love and some other really tough challenges- but I seem to be getting it all back in different ways now. How could I have felt that much pressure on Sunday? I have what I need; more than I could ever want- to even think of it is crushing. I have had nothing to lose this year and, for that, I have been given even more.
Sunday, The Race.
Due to Hurricane Sandy and a Riptide warning, the swim was cancelled. We started the race with a 1.5 mile run. Like most of the group, I went out conservatively and just tried to tuck in from the wind and relax. I knew the day was going to be long enough. Coming into T1, Lauren had about a 10 second lead on the field but I had a quick transition and was with her pretty quickly on the bike. Alicia Kaye and Becky Lavelle rode by us hard and eventually Malaika Homo made her way by us as well. I rode with Lauren until about mile 30, when we made a sharp left hand turn directly into the headwind (did I mention the winds were 25-28mph). I had an instinct that this would be a good time to try to put a move on and I committed to riding hard for the next 10-15 miles. I put my head down, hammered on the pedals and tried not to look at my watt meter. At mile 45 there was an out and back so I could see that my move had worked and I had put something of a gap back to Lauren. At mile 50, I started to suffer really really badly. I have never suffered so badly on the bike and it took every ounce of my will to make it to mile 56, the pain was really really bad. Coming into T2 I was very concerned about having to run a half marathon. My legs were so shot that I had a hard time standing out of the saddle on the last rise over a drawbridge on the bike. I couldn’t imagine being able to run at that point, nevermind race. I grabbed my run gear and tried not to think about it. I started the run very conservatively (not that I had a choice) and started running at 620-630 pace, instead of the usual 555-605 that I have been starting out at. I tried to keep my miles in the 620 range for as long as I could and I just hoped that it would be enough to hold Lauren off. Then, interestingly, I found myself in second place all of a sudden. It seems as though maybe I wasn’t the only one suffering the consequences of such a hard bike in the wind. I came within about 30 seconds of first place with 3 miles to go but I was suffering so bad at that point. I didn’t want to make any moves that might cause me to walk or cramp and risk the series title win. Becky (in first) pulled away from me pretty hard after she saw me at the last turnaround and put some time into me in the last 3 miles. I finished second, sealing the series title, and was thrilled. I was very happy for Becky, she is such a great athlete and a true professional through and through. I was, and still am, overwhelmed by winning the series and still not sure it has sunk in yet.
Something I did well on Sunday was being able to focus on the race in front of me the whole time. Anytime a thought about the series or what winning would mean or the amount of money came into my head, I tried to block it immediately and just focus on exactly what I needed to do at that moment in the race. This is something that Greg takes about a lot- being in the moment. The idea is to not think about what you still have left to do or in the next 7 miles or winning or anything like that. Just think about the moment in front of you and what you are doing in that moment. If you can do that at all points in the race, you will have done all you could. I think the same probably applies to life- what can I do in this moment, right now, that will move me in the right direction? Do that and just that, without worry for the rest of it.
Finish Line interview:[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/52339669[/vimeo]
After the race, I talked in the car with a friend who came down from Charlottesville to watch me (again, I am the luckiest.) We talked about the fear of failure and I think that is a big piece of why I have been able to win 4 races and the series this year. This goes back to the beginning of this story but I think I am becoming less afraid to fail- which is an easy thing to say but is actually very difficult to move toward in my core (I imagine I am not alone here.) Having so much unconditional love and support right now from people around me and having my health and a future I look forward to makes it hard for me to feel like I have anything to loose; I have it all already. Certainly I can lose these things, but it is not going to be from failing to win a triathlon series title. Somehow that frees me. For that, I am thankful.
Thank you everyone again, time to party!
Pro Re-cap video is below:[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/52378429[/vimeo]
To follow Nicole and her tirathlon lifestyle, visit : http://nicolekelleher.com/