It is the tragedy of professional athletics that often our best performances are crushing disappointments. While I finished as the 3rd US athlete and recorded a 15th place finish at one of the most competitive triathlons in the world, I missed out on qualifying for the Olympics by a mere 19 seconds in a 2hr race. Although I had the fastest run of my life off a difficult bike, when the results are pass or fail there is no consolation prize. All that you win from that breakthrough performance is the knowledge that you’re on the right track. Unfortunately, the right track is not always where you want to be. There are platforms when you want to disembark the train to collect your reward.
In the weeks leading up to the San Diego Olympic trials I was training better than ever and I knew I was in for a special race. My swimming was good enough, my riding was strong so that a hard bike with an incredible amount of surges wouldn’t roast my legs, and I had finally discovered a new level of running. Come race day, everything came together and I dismounted the bike right there with a chance to qualify. I knew that I could run with and possibly beat the best US guys. I knew that I could go to London.
I started out the run with Kemper and decided that his old man wisdom would trump my often incredibly poor pacing skills. After about 3k, though, I got impatient. We were still in about 12-15th place and Huerta was in front looking to lock up the top American spot. I thought to myself “I don’t think Hunter’s going to make up this distance. After all, this guy was doing algebra while it was still okay for me to go into a women’s bathrooms.” I mean, really, how was I supposed to know that Hunter would go on to absolutely dominate the second 5k of the run? Old man wisdom clearly trumps youthful exuberance. Anyway, I tried to make up the ground between our pack and Huerta’s. Unfortunately, my version of a surge works in a world cup or continental cup race, not in a race where literally everyone is running around 30:00 10k pace for at least the first half of the race. I didn’t make it, and over the next bit I’d fade from second American down to 4th, behind Shoemaker, Hunter, Huerta.
I recovered after a bit and ran strong over the last 3.33k lap. I passed Shoemaker and finished 3rd US at the Olympic Trial. I felt awesome and left everything out the course. I found a little bit of speed as I almost kicked down Tony Moulai and Courtney Atkinson in the finish chute.
I couldn’t have tried harder and I am happy for Manny and Hunter, two guys I like and respect. They earned their spots with the best US performances that we’ve had in a long time. I’m glad that the selection process isn’t going to discretion, because it means that the US is performing well enough to earn its stripes. I’m thrilled to now be a part of what looks like the start of a revitalization of US performances.
Finishing 15th, however, is not why I represent the US. I want that American flag to fly. And right now it feels like I can make that happen. I’m not just improving myself anymore, I’m getting better compared to the moving target of international triathlon. It’ll take gallons of blood, sweat, and tears along with some more breakthroughs, but I’m excited to see where I take myself over the next four years. I know I’m on the right track, so I’ll keep fighting until I can finally step onto that platform of success.