I would be returning to Lynchburg, Virginia to race the same course I had raced as my first triathlon over five years ago. I was fifteen. Over a fourth of my life I have doing these multisport races and since then I have done in the vicinity of fifty of them. My goal five years ago was to win and not only that but beat the course record, held by Michael Harlow, a triathlete who would become my coach a few months later, a man I would realize is VERY hard to beat.
Nevertheless my goal remains to beat Michael Harlow. However, after five years I would get another chance to accomplish my goal of winning Angels race triathlon. And that was the plan from the beginning when I ended up 13th overall instead of the desired top step.
When I showed up in Lynchburg the day before the event it was an eerie high seeing the course that I had raced on and remembered so well. I remember how I felt then, overwhelmed. I took it so seriously. That race, that day felt like the world to me. It was everything, Angels Race 2006, nothing else mattered. I remember being asked before the start about my swim cap, if it was new. It was. My aunt Margaret had bought it for me for Christmas and I had not had an opportunity to wear it yet. It was the same swim cap I will be wearing tomorrow out of coincidence. I wonder if the question will be the same.
But when I jumped into that water to start my race on Sunday morning, the question was “Who are you racing for today.” This race has an emotional purpose for everyone competing and volunteering beyond what a normal race provides. For Angels race triathlon, we race for angel’s, not ourselves.
“Virginia Tech” I responded, meaning the students who died in the April 16 incident.
I took the swim fairly easy to conserve energy that that I would use to invest on other legs of the race where it could mean more time. Having started pretty late, in 20th place, I passed three people in the pool. But on the technical and hilly bike course, I felt strong and put the hammer down. I reeled in all but one last guy by the beginning of the run.
With a 30 second lead on me, I could see Jon Anderson of Fairfax, Virginia just up the road from me at the start of the run. Last time I was in the situation to still be chasing by the start of the run I made a major mistake and went out too hard. I looked down at my Garmin and saw I was running 5:17 minute/mile pace. I held myself back for a second, knowing I could not hold that pace, to recognize that once I caught him I would essentially be two and a half minute ahead of him because he started in tenth. I settled in at 5:22 pace and soon cruised by him to take the race lead.
My friend Edie, the crazy fast girl on the triathlon team happened to be working the race and was the lead bike for the run course. As I was running the 5k course she would look back and not knowing whether it was alright to cheer or not because of her status as an employee for this race would whisper congratulations and cheers. Soon I was headed back towards the finish and knew the race was mine. I eased back on the reigns slightly knowing I had a hard workout tomorrow and many, many more races where I would need to save whatever nub of the match I had burned today for the end of the season races.
When I hit the last kicker of a hill a half mile from the finish I pulled my sunglasses up and cruised to a victory. I began my celebration early wanting to embrace every second of it. I finished the race off with a 17:13 5k, to win by over two and a half minutes.
I finished with a time of 1:00:43, setting the course record by over two minutes, a record “that would stand for a decade” according to the host of the award’s ceremony. Finally after waiting five years to return to Lynchburg I could come with confidence and go home with the win.
I watched my teammates Aaron Bradner and Zac Cates from Virginia Tech come in 7th and 14th overall respectively and Chrissie Esposito take 4th overall for females. Angel’s race had established a long running collegiate competition and with our powerhouse team showing up, once again established VT triathlon dominance in the Mid-Atlantic. We took home the Collegiate Cup and will return to defend it again next year.