I woke up feeling a bit nostalgic this morning. This wonderful journey was coming to an end and the five weeks flew by. By the end of the day, we would be heading back home to Indiana and though I was looking forward to seeing our friends, family and beloved pets, I had mixed reactions of being back home and on a routine. I loved that I had no expectations. I loved that every day afforded me an opportunity to see something new, truly new. This trip has been good for my soul. To connect with God, nature, and my family. To face challenges, obstacles and come out smiling. To appreciate even the subtlest of expressions in my children’s faces as the gaze upon an interesting rock formation or piece of moss nestled into a cliffs edge. It definitely was not always easy travelling for extensive periods of time. There were many days it was physically demanding but somehow we all figured out how to support, love and get along with one another….most of the time. I have absolutely loved the opportunity to see so many different parts of the country with my family. And though it was on a very high level and there were many trailheads and lakes unexplored, I can no sit in front of the Travel Channel wishing to see such wonders. Even the tired, cold and rainy moments will be missed. It was beautiful, all of it and I would not trade those memories for anything but the day needed to start and I could not stay in this state of reflection forever unfortunately.
Due to the high humidity in Des Moines, Scott and I had decided not to attend the Women’s Junior (16-19) race in the early morning, and let the kids sleep in and stay out of the temps as long as possible. Though it would have been fun to watch and we knew Kenzi would want to be there, we made the executive decision to keep them protected in air conditioning as long as possible. If the temps yesterday were any indication of what today would hold, we were in for a hot one.
We arrived at the park with time to spare as most unusually they were running almost 25 minutes behind schedule with the Junior Men’s race. The kids had been on pins and needles that we would be late and in their defense, we were running a little tighter than normal as we had decided that morning to pack up and not extend the hotel check out time. Both like to run the course at least once but today would not allow Kenzi that opportunity. We claimed our shaded spot and called it camp as Kenzi and Scott went to athlete check in. Jay, the head USAT referee, shared in the race meeting the day before that there would be two bike lines in the morning-those with standard and Zipp wheels and then everyone else. Both Kenzi and Zach currently ride on ITU compliant aero wheels, Kenzi using Profile Design and Zach using Forza Cirrus Pro wheel. As sponsors become more available, we will see what they stay in, but currently both are happy with their set ups.
The lines moved quickly and Kenzi was able to get set up minus shoe powder which I ran back to the car to get. Unfortunately transition was closed when I returned but having never used before, it did not bother her. I was more bothered as I knew with the high humidity, shoe change may prove more challenging, but these are all things to continue modifying as we progress in the sport.
The races somehow managed to get back on the correct start time and the girls were being called to the water. As the sun was beating down and melting everyone, I tried to semi successfully shade her with a large beach towel. From years of outdoor swimming, I knew the sun was an energy magnet and I was trying my best to protect her until the last few seconds. Once called, she took her place. Like Monroe, the youth men’s start was FAST…really fast. From my opinion, I was not even sure the athletes were set and Scott and I felt terrible for not helping Kenzi train for such a start. We have worked on many things and tweaked different elements in each of the disciplines, but had not foreseen that there would be a repeat performance as in Monroe.
Kenzi looked strong in the water, though it hurt her not getting out in front. Her goal was to be out with the lead pack but that was not going to happen today. Her transitions were smooth but she ended up carrying a young rider the entire bike portion, tapping her legs and energy, until the young rider eventually feel off at the end. Later the coach, father and athlete came up to Kenzi to thank her for pulling her along and Kenzi graciously acknowledged them but quietly frustrated with her performance. Again, all learning lessons in preparation for Nationals. She finished fifteenth overall which was obviously not where she had planned, but goes into Nationals ranked fourth in the women’s youth elite category and knows what needs to be accomplished for future races. We strongly support all athletes to experience as many race venues as possible. It is not in the training, though crucial for success, but in the race where the preparation of mind, body and course collaborate to hopefully produce the results one has trained for. You can plan and prepare and give your best effort and sometimes things fall into place; others times they do not and it is in both the wins and losses that character, perseverance, courage, strength and fortitude are cultivated, and today was no different.
While we were finishing up with Kenzi and getting her in an ice bath, Zach was headed to the lake. Kenzi soon followed to share her experience and help with line placement. Zach benefitted greatly from Kenzi’s guidance. A stronger swimmer than his sister at the moment, he had the advantage of getting out and swimming in “clean” water after he broke through the elbows and shoulders. Fearless and determined, he does not concern himself with bumping body parts with his fellow competitors as he maneuvers his small frame through the sea of testosterone filled flesh. Zach finished third out of the water and quickly transitioned to the bike, but the other 15year olds had a good ten second lead, though he made an admirably attempt to hang with the big dogs.
Speaking of dogs, what was I thinking??? After complaining of neck issues the last couple of nights, I was not sure why I approached the 14 week old lab puppy after I lost sight of Zach during the bike course. As innocent and cute as that pile of black fur appeared, the audible crack when he bounced up on me and under my chin made me rethink my decision to approach. Instantly I knew from the ringing in my ear and pain in my jaw, I had completely thrown out my neck. I rubbed it out as best as I could and headed to the penalty box to look for potential violations. I did not have time to concern myself with pain. The race would soon be over and I knew eventually it would work itself out as these things typically do.
Finishing with a strong run, Zach placed 5th overall, with the top of the field being two years his senior. He would have to wait until Nationals for hardware. With no podium acceptances, we headed to the car and out of town but not before stopping at Chipotle for lunch. In seven hours, we would be home and back to a normal routine complete with regular training, summer physicals and preparation for state swimming and hopefully a pain free jaw. If lucky, perhaps we will find some time to sleep before switching gears.