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The Victory from Within

June 5, 2018

 

June 3 The day came and went just like any other day, except this day was special, it was my pro debut. Like my good friend and coach Brownie (OG’s new nickname for him) says you only have one first pro race. To define the day, it was nothing like I would have dreamed. I recorded my worst time ever but had my biggest victory.

 

The day started at 4am. Wake up, coffee, eat, coffee and repeat. Raleigh has its own flair to it and is a point to point race which means we had to catch a shuttle super early out to T1. The catch here is the fam bam couldn’t go. They couldn’t guarantee the pros their families would make it back to the finish before they would (buses weren’t allowed to leave until after the last athlete got on the bike). Thus I dropped my run bag at T2 and physically boarded the shuttle alone.

 

The shuttle seemed like forever, I don’t know if it was because I didn’t have the hooligans to distract me or if it was because I was nervous, but an hour we rolled into T1. Off the bus, body marked, into transition I went. The other pros were super cool. We all chatted about life as we prep our bikes and are bodies for the race to come.

 

After a quick 10 min call with Staggalious, I started my warm up. * side note* Stagg had me cracking up. Nothing outside the norm of the two of us, but he really helped me take my mind off what was coming. His last advice was “have fun”.  

 

The Swim: Was awesome, well kinda. The best part was standing in the water during the anthem. Hear the crowds cheer for you (well maybe not just me but you get it). The gun went off and down my head went to find some feet to stick on. That lasted all of maybe 2 buoys, lost the feet and I was alone, first head check. “You’re ok, you’re going to get gapped but you’re going to make it up”. Swimming isn’t my strongest leg, but I have been swimming rather well lately so I didn’t lose faith and kept pushing.

 

Out of the water, I knew I was one of the last pros. Frankly, it’s quite obviously to everyone (all the bikes are gone). Second head check, “you’re going to be ok” and a bobble with my helmet, I was off.

 

I had no idea how far I was behind but I knew I need to push to catch up, not seeing anyone up the road to catch is mentally straining but I didn’t have an option. Luckily, there was a quick out and back section I turned right on to and boom, there was the group. Quick math calculations I was about 5 min down. A gap that I was very prepared to close. Third head check “you’re in the fight now go get em”. I hammered on the pedals, or what felt like hammering. Brownie said it would take about ten miles for my legs to come around so I kept moving.

The problem with that, is they never came, I hit 20 miles in 48 mins, my HR and power was all over the place. I immediately knew something was wrong. It was to long later that the first of many “timely releases” came. The day was no longer about competing with the other athletes but instead a battle between my ears. I got passed by the last place pro around mile 43, I stood on the pedals to make a move with him and nothing came. My focus shifted to beating Meredith to the bike finish “do not let her catch you is all I kept telling myself”.

 

 

I finally finished the bike and just as I was swinging my leg over the bike at the dismount line my leg started its first cramp of the day. I swear it took forever for it to go away as onlookers asked what they could do to help. As I walked into T2 I debated on running. I knew this was going to be ugly and I wasn’t sure if I wanted it. After a 30 min debate in my head that was condensed into 2 mins, I slipped into my running shoes and went. After all I didn’t want to DNF my first pro race.

 

The fam bam was about half a mile into the run. The sight of the hooligans jumping up and down was breathe taking and a jolt energy went through my body. The wifey knew something was wrong but just told me to keep running. After quick hugs and kisses, I did just that.

 

The run was more of a walkathon. I couldn’t hold anything in and my body said no despite my multiple “Dad talks” with it. I still didn’t let that defeat me. I had to thoughts running through my head. The first from Stagg “have fun” the second was from Brownie and it was “don’t be that pro”. Those thoughts keep me happy. I laughed, cheered, danced (well in my head I was) the first lap of the run. Honestly it was a blast.

 

The fam bam was at the start of the second loop. Boom, more jumping up and down, they hadn’t really seen daddy all day. Hugs and kisses and words of encouragement from the flood of people who reached out to the wife. I told her I was going to finish and I was in a good place. Mile 9 to the finish was the darkest. At that point, I could no longer walk run. I was cramping just from walking and I questioned if I was going to make it up right. I had a couple of awesome people on the course walk with me for a bit to make sure I was good. My favorite part about this darkness is I kept trying to run. I don’t know if it was just being tired of being out there, the fight in me, or the thought of a nap, but I kept trying. I never quit

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The finishing shoot was amazing. Everyone cheered, so much that I couldn’t say thank you fast enough. I found the fam bam in the shoot more kisses and hugs and walked across the line. I gave the course all I had and that’s all anyone can ask.

 

At the end of the day, I am super proud of my accomplishment. Many may doubt the “stupidity” of continue the path, but I needed that day. I needed to prove to myself that I could win with everything going wrong. I need to dance, cheer on others, hug my hooligans and go through the struggle to get better. I didn’t quit, I didn’t back down and I live to fight another day, which is the biggest victory of them all.

 

 

 

Keep Grinding,

JL

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Greenville, SC, USA

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