Best moment – Podium in Alanya! The middle of the year was one giant setback and it was great to find my way out of it with my best result to date at the end of the season. I’m really glad that I kept going and worked through the difficult periods because my October races – highlighted by Alanya – made it worth it.
Favorite destination – Yokohama, Japan. I really fell in love with Japan. Some of the adjectives that I would use Yokohama are: clean, respectful, vibrant, friendly, and colorful. I highly recommend a trip!
Best hospitality – Catania, Italy. It didn’t matter that we didn’t speak Italian and very few people spoke English; everyone I met was warm, friendly, and welcoming. My travel buddy, Alex Libin and I had dinner with some of the local tri club members our second day. They helped us out immensely from advice on where to train and things to try to information on what to expect on race day to transport for the race briefing. I loved getting to know members of the local triathlon community and learning more about them and their city. When I left Catania I felt different than I do when I typically leave a race; I felt as though I had a connection to the city even though I had only been there a short time. This experience made me think that it would be pretty cool if races found a way to link the local athletes with pros in town to race, even if it’s a casual dinner setting or something similarly low key. I know that I would love to hear more about the places I visit from the locals and I think that the experiences, backgrounds, and different cultures of the elite competitors could bring something to the table for the locals.
Favorite training session – Recovery swim with the fishies the morning after Cozumel. I could get used to swimming in the crystal clear -and warm- water there!
Most absurd training session – After red eye travel to Catania and an almost immediate bike build, Alex and I decided the best course of action would be to get our ride over with ASAP. We scoped out where we wanted to go on google maps prior to departing and figured that we would be all set since there weren’t really that many turns we needed to make. Everything was going well until we hit a two-lane, six-exit roundabout with lots of fast moving traffic. We had seen the roundabout on the map but it didn’t look that intimidating on the computer screen. There were a few signs in Italian but with the traffic and condition of the road, looking around at signs wasn’t really an option. It was definitely a sink or swim situation – either you nailed it on the first try and kept repeating what you did before or you screwed up and tried again next time. We screwed up and ended up on a road that is basically the freeway with a very poorly maintained shoulder. Not a fun time. Since you can’t just flip a 180 or get off wherever on the freeway we had to commit for a few miles. We found a parking lot to map to find a freeway-free route back to the hotel. We figured out the next day that the key to the roundabout was to get in the inside lane, turn into a gas station in the middle of the roundabout, and then cross the other side of the roundabout to a path to get us to the road we wanted. Yes, it was as just as complicated as it sounds.
If you bike on the SP55 you are going to have a bad time
My dumbest moment – When I decided that racing in Canada in September would be a good idea.
Favorite adventure – visiting the pandas in Chengdu. I’m hoping to get the opportunity to return to the reserve in the future and I’d like to visit during the hours when the pandas are most active.
Most absurd travel moment – On race day in Catania, Europe ended their version of Daylight Savings time. Since I was traveling home with a short (60 minute) connection in Istanbul the following day I made sure I did my research and ensured that Turkey was also ending DST and I wouldn’t be landing at the same time that my second flight was departing. I was supposed to land in Istanbul at 12:25 and depart for Houston at 1:25. Everything is going fine until I notice shortly after takeoff on my first flight that my boarding card for Houston listed a 2:25 departure. Since the airplane has TVs with a map showing current time in Istanbul as having left DST, I assumed that my flight time has changed and since I hadn’t checked my flight info since the ticket was booked I missed the memo. It wouldn’t have been a big deal, but my flight into Houston was scheduled to land around 8 pm and I didn’t want to overnight in Houston so I booked the last Star Alliance (United) flight (booked separately from my Turkish Airlines flight for cost and logistical reasons) into Denver – meaning I had an 80 minute connection. Hey, I’m more of a risk taker than people give me credit for! If my flight time had changed by an hour, my connection would be 20 minutes; not really feasible for even a domestic connection. I spent two hours on the airplane thinking that I was totally screwed. As soon as I landed in Istanbul, I immediately texted my mom asking her to google the current time in Istanbul and find out how long I had until my departure while I took the bus from the airplane to the terminal. She sent me updates saying that it was 12:30 in Istanbul but my flight was leaving in 55 minutes. Still confused and not sure what to believe, I decided to assume that my flight was leaving within the hour. I sprinted across the sprawling international terminal and found my flight boarding.
At that point I knew that I should be ok for my connection in Houston as long as I was ready to do some more fast running and I didn’t get held up with secondary baggage screening or in a crazy line somewhere. However, I was still confused about what time it was in Turkey. The lady next to me on the plane said that she had been getting repeated email updates changing the flight time back and forth between 1:25 and 2:25. She had been told that Turkey left DST and her phone had changed.She arrived at the airport ridiculously early just in case it was 1:25, which is the time the flight departed, if DST was the recognized time. About half the seats on the plane were empty and I’m not sure if the flight was underbooked or if people got screwed by the time confusion. Anyway, I’m still confused about what exactly happened with the time change and who exactly messed up. Meanwhile, I apparently sent so many panicked and confused texts to my mom during my layover in Istanbul that AT&T decided to suspend my phone service even though I have an unlimited international texting plan. I turned on my phone in Houston after my 13 hour flight to find that I had no service and one text message that was sent during my flight saying that I had to call AT&T immediately to avoid having my service suspended. My phone did allow me to call AT&T (and only AT&T) but their offices were already closed. No texting, no other calls, no data. Once I was able to connect to wifi in the terminal I was able to facebook my parents so I could tell them if I made my connection or not, but I was exceptionally agitated because this was going to make things harder if I got held up for whatever reason and missed my flight. I somehow lucked out with the easiest and fastest immigrations and customs experience that I will ever have in the U.S. and had time to spare at the gate but I think I will avoid booking such short connections again!
Coolest unexpected thing that happened – Being nominated for USOC Best of October female athlete. Although my October results came from World Cups and a European Cup, I take a lot of pride in coming back from my mid-season struggles to put together three strong results in such a short period of time. I felt really honored to be recognized among athletes who have achieved at the highest level of their respective sports.
Worst language barrier moment – Our first day in Chengdu, my friend and fellow U.S. teammate Erin Jones and I decided to venture from our hotel to the grocery store in search of fresh fruit and interesting (but not exotic) snacks. The hotel workers spoke relatively good English and got us a cab to the grocery store. We didn’t ask the cab driver to wait for us because there were a lot of cabs outside of the store and didn’t foresee any problems. However, once we left the grocery store (where I’m fairly certain that I found a bag of cat jerky, but I digress) we figured out the flaw in our plan: the cab drivers did not speak English and we did not (and still don’t) speak Mandarin. They had no idea what we were saying when we were asking for the Chengdu Jintang Henda hotel.
We noticed a pair of women passing out fliers advertising the triathlon and went to grab a poster in case the hotel or hotel address was on the poster. No luck with either, but apparently people figured out that we were part of the triathlon and a crowd of loud, pointing people began to form around us. However, nobody was actually helping us and nobody spoke any English. While Erin tried to find different ways to say where we wanted to go, I used my phone to find the hotel address on the ITU website. Again, no luck. Since the address was in English and not Chinese characters nobody understood what I was showing them and I’m amazed that my phone didn’t get stolen. Eventually, a high school girl named Anna, who is studying English, wandered by and translated. She was able to tell the cab driver where we wanted to go but a second cab driver had come over and was telling the first cab driver not to take us since he assumed that we didn’t have Chinese money. He also didn’t shy away from shouting in our faces; China is not a place where personal space is a thing and it definitely made the situation a little scarier. It had become pretty clear that we weren’t going to get a cab back, but Anna took pity on us and convinced her father to give us a ride back to the hotel. Again, shay-shay Anna and Anna’s dad. I’m not sure what we would have done without you. Also, pro tip that I learned later: if you get lost or need to tell someone you can’t really communicate with where you need to go, show them your room key card. They usually have an address or a phone number for the hotel.
- Swim – Chengdu – I was still coming back from the car accident and to be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure I could do an entire 1500 at race effort until the day before the race. Surprised myself with a great swim and led out of the water
- Bike – Chengdu – Some steps in the right direction under less than optimal circumstances
- Run – Alanya – I finally got to use my run fitness that I had been building up for awhile!
- Race – Alanya – Came back from mid-season struggles to a World Cup podium.
Most dysfunctional podium picture- Dallas Conti Cup. Clearly we are all great at poppin’ bottles. (image: Sugar & Spice Photography)
Thanks to everyone who made this year possible. Paulo + The Triathlon Squad, my family and friends, USA Triathlon, Equal Earth, Off the Front Multisport, Team Psycho, and Roka Sports. Bring on bigger and better things in 2016!