After NYC Tri I was very unsure about whether I qualified for Hy-Vee or not. One spot away from an automatic qualification left me with nothing but false hope. How could someone not accept their spot to such a prestigous race?! If only I could go...then the email was sent; I WAS IN! I had nothing but high hopes for myself at this point. I was finally back on some good training form after being sick for 3 weeks and having to gain my race fitness back. NYC Tri gave me a little pop in fitness but then the next 3 weeks of "kick my own butt" training got me ready! I really was psyched about how good I was going; it couldn't have come at a better time, so I thought.
Upon my arrival in Des Moines Airport, the fun began. I couldn't get over how nice and helpful everyone was. Not to mention how important the Hy-Vee team made me feel; I actually felt like a true professional! All the little extras were much appreciated; care package, loaded credit card to use in the Des Moines area, shuttle services, snacks and a whole case of water (right up an athletes alley), hotel accommodations, escorted practice ride on the course, breakfast, Gin Blossoms concert, I could go on forever...Like I said, I actually felt like a real professional! Sure hope triathlon follows the lead of Hy-Vee.
Not only were there a ton a perks to make our stay that much more comfortable, the venue was unbelievable. From my experience there isn't a better race than Hy-Vee Elite Cup Championships. Race day alone, made me extremely proud to be apart of such a great high caliber race. The field was crazy fast and intimidating; I was amongst the best of the best. Just before race start we were introduced and escorted to the barge, I was lined up between Sara Groff and Laura Bennett; the nerves really kicked in then. Unfortunately, the nerves only got worse.The foghorn sounded, diving into was a bit of relief; the race has begun. Swimming to that first turn bouy was rough. Swimming against the currant was bad enough, having to make it around the first turn bouy without any mishaps was brutal. Of course it resulted in some bloody noses, groaning grabbing, black eyes, etc. All unintentional I'm sure. It was merely impossible to avoid when you have 30 athletes converging into a small turn, trying to cut the corner tight and fighting against the push of the currant. Then we had free sailing for a little bit; I was flying when swimming with the current. Just to be rudely awakened by yet another battle against the current after we reached the second turn bouy. Now this was when my brain decided to take a small vacation; aka brain fart. Swimming towards swim exit, knowing good and well I needed to get out and dive back in for the second and then the third loop. Well, that just didn't happen. I was leading the second pack of woman, no one to follow (I guess I can make that and excuse :)) I do remember thinking why are the other girls swimming way off to the right? Of course they should have been, that was where swim exit was. I however, continued my course of action and swam past swim exit rolling right into my second loop. I was thrilled where I was sitting; mid-pack. Then the screeching words from one of the officials, "Mandy you have to get out of the water!" I can still hear the tone of his voice ringing in my ear. Just like that, from mid-pack to last. I played catch-up the remainder of the race. I managed to pass two girls on the swim, two girls on the bike, and gave it my all on the run. By the time it came to the run, I was spent. The cost of having to play catch-up took its toll. As soon as I took that first step, I could tell it was going to be a long run; it was!
Racing against the best of the best in the world and not finishing last, even with a huge rookie mistake, is something to be proud of. I have got to tell you all, that without the support of my sponsor (Specialized, 2XU, Right Stuff, Profile Design, Smith Optics, First Endurance I wouldn't be where I am today. Without the amazing bikes, gear, nutrition, etc. triathlon wouldn't be possible for me, especially at this level. My coach, fiance, friends and family also play a huge role in my success; their guidance and support is greatly appreciated. The tough days are always made easier when surrounded by positive energy. Thank you ALL!