I am so so excited to share with you a post from Victoria. We became friends via social media 10 years ago and have had the best emails/texts back and forth ever since. I was so happy to finally get to meet her in Utah last year and introduce her to Cafe Rio. I’ve always been so inspired by all that she does and her story so I feel extra lucky that she wrote a post for today! Enjoy!
Hello HRG readers! I’m Victoria, a nuclear engineer living with my husband in Washington, DC, and while, like Janae, I like to run, I really like triathlons. I’m going to share with you today my journey to qualifying for and competing at the triathlon world championships.
Like some of you, I’ve been reading Janae’s blog for a decade now (!) and love how open, friendly, and inspiring she is with her tales of running and life. One of the highlights of my 2019 was when we actually got to meet in person when I passed through Utah for work. As a bonus, we got Café Rio and she gave me a pep talk before my speed workout the next day. It was magic and I nailed my intervals. It was either the pep talk or the Café Rio, maybe both.
Also, we suspect we are long-lost relatives because we were born with the same last name. Still working on tracking through the family trees to find the connection. In the meantime, I’ve invited myself to the next family reunion, once we can all travel and gather again.
I took up triathlons in 2011, and while I have a background as a swimmer, I was not all that great at biking and running. I usually finished in the middle third of the field at races, and was in awe of people who qualified for national and world championships. How cool to go to nationals or worlds in a sport you love?
In 2013, I was determined to qualify for nationals for 2014 because it was going to be in my hometown of Milwuakee, WI. To do that, I would need to be in the top 10% of my age group at a USA Triathlon-sanctioned race. I found a race that had a large field so there would be a lot of slots, and qualified in the last spot for my age group. I was so happy!
I planned for nationals to be the highlight of my 2014 season, even though I was sure I’d be near last there. I wound up injuring my foot shortly before the race but still competed because a physical therapist told me it was just a ligament strain, set a PR and came in right in the middle of my age group. I also broke my foot during the run. Don’t be me.
For redemption, I was determined to heal up and qualify to return the next year. I actually won my age group at a race that fall so I qualified to compete in 2015. That year, I was focused on having a fast race at nationals, and came in 50thIn my age group! That was out of over 150 people, all of whom had qualified to be there, and I was floored at how well I’d done. The top 18 people get to go to world championships, and I was about 6 minutes away from that. In a 2.5 hour race, that seemed like something manageable, so, I set my sights on qualifying for worlds at 2016 nationals.
In the lead up to 2016 nationals, I trained more hours than I ever had before, and, knowing that it was going to be in Omaha, NE in mid-August, made sure I was ready for hot and humid conditions. I did so many midday runs at home in DC to ensure I knew how to manage those conditions – it was brutal, but I was focused on my goal. I was unsure if I’d be able to do it, since the field at nationals was so fast. Going into the race, I didn’t think I’d gained enough speed over the past year to make top 18, but would give it my best shot. I got lost on the swim (sighting in open water is hard), had a slower bike time than the year before, and had several moments where I was ready to abandon my goal. Each time I considered giving up, I reminded myself that the race wasn’t over until the very end and anything can happen, and got back to work. I finished the bike and my husband yelled to me that I was in 10th place. Since there were 18 spots for worlds, I still had a chance.
Starting the run, at least ten people in my age group ran past me in the first two miles. It was discouraging, but, it was hot, sunny, and humid, and I knew what I needed to do to manage my race in those conditions. I kept my effort level appropriate for what was happening, took in my salt and hydration, and focused on my own race. Halfway through, I started passing back women in my age group as they struggled in the heat and humidity. I was getting pretty delirious from the hard effort and the heat myself, and wasn’t sure what place I was in with two miles to go, but I knew I was close to a spot for worlds, so I gave it everything I could, crossed the finish line and immediately fell over.
Eventually I was able to stand up, sat in an ice bath that had been set up for the athletes, and my husband checked my finishing place. 19th – which sounds awful when 18 people qualify for worlds, but the slots roll down and I knew at least three people ahead of me who did not plan to go to worlds the next year. I was in!
Being on Team USA for triathlon world championships is pretty cool. I got to go to Rotterdam in The Netherlands along with our elite athletes (I was competing in the age group race for women 35-39, I was NOT competing against Olympians or anything like that). I got to wear the Team USA uniform, race some of the fastest women my age from around the world.
After proving to myself I could do this, I qualified for worlds in a few other events, including aquabike (swim-bike), aquathlon (swim-run) and duathlon (run-bike-run). My husband has also qualified in aquabike and aquathlon and we got to compete at worlds together in aquathlon in 2019! That was a real treat.
I don’t think any of this is an extraordinary athletic accomplishment – what I’m most proud of is that I started out mediocre and slowly improved until I was able to qualify for world championships in my age group. Diligence and hard work can help you improve when you stick with something, and even if you aren’t awesome at the very beginning, you can do things that used to seem impossible with enough time and dedication.
Have you ever done a triathlon? Do you want to? If you want to and haven’t, what do you need to do to make it happen?
Have you accomplished anything that you previously never dreamed you could? How did you make it happen? Brag away, you earned it!
Anybody else done an international race? How was it?