Sunday, November 30, 2014

Rookie Year in Review: 2014

As 2014 comes to a close, I’ve had time to get lazy – both physically and with this blog. Along with some offseason weight, I’ve gained some perspective. I’ve had time to reflect on my season and I’ve started to look forward to the years of racing I have ahead of me. When I made the decision to race as a professional, I thought it would somewhat of a “good experience” year. But the races were so different and hard (and fun!!), that I’m really looking forward to 2015 and 2016 and the seasons ahead. I believe I made the right decision to race as a professional and despite times and placing that left me a bit unsatisfied, I don’t believe there is any age group award that would have filled my void. I’m healthy, I’ve had amazing racing experiences, and I continue to make friends no matter what level I’m racing.

To give you a brief recap, I raced 2 full Iron-distance races (Coeur d’Alene and Penticton) and 2 half-Iron distance races (Wildflower and Austin).  Among the professional women, I was 17th at Wildflower, 7th at Coeur d’Alene, 9th at Penticton, and 8th at Austin. I would have won the W30-34 age group at all these races. If you told me these results at the beginning of the year, I would have been quite pleased. But I felt like my performances were a little stagnant this year. I even felt like I was somewhat depressed after Coeur d’Alene when I didn’t have a “breakthrough” type performance. My training was harder this year and I was definitely more focused, but that doesn’t always translate to results, so I had to learn (still am learning) to be patient with it.

The professional races are different. It’s hard to explain without experiencing first hand, but racing against 20 really fast women versus racing against the age group field requires more mental toughness. It also doesn’t allow for any weaknesses. Even with a good swim (for me), I was coming out of the water minutes behind the other girls and I found myself biking in no man’s land as the other women put more and more time into me. Yet despite the gaps between me and the race leaders, I found myself trying to claw my way back. Even if it meant moving from 10th place to 8th place in a race that only pays 5 deep, I did my best to fight through every single mile. This gives me hope for future races – the fire still burns!

At one point during the year I joked, “if you can’t beat ‘em, find the small fields with big prize purses that pay deep.” My schedule lined up with Coeur d’Alene and Penticton that happened to pay nearly all the professional women who showed up to race. I didn’t make the leap to the professional ranks to make my living, so I’m not necessarily plotting my season based on prize purses. However, with the coming changes from the WTC, I believe it will be more difficult to make a paycheck for the new and up and coming professionals. With this in mind, I am happy with my 2014 triathlon earnings and I know it’ll take more in 2015 to make some prize money.

2014 was tough and challenging and fun and exciting in every way I wanted my rookie year to be. I rubbed elbows with some really fast people, had wonderful homestay experiences, and made some new friends with the professional women I now race against. 2015 will bring some changes and I believe a fresh outlook to my training will help set me up for new success.

Thank you to everyone who supported me and cheered for me this season. Part of the reason I love this sport so much is because of the wonderful people who make it possible:

My competitors – thank you for pushing me and being tough. Thank you for the kind words of encouragement and showing this newbie the ropes this year.

The race organizers – thank you the people of Tri-California, WTC, and Challenge Penticton for putting on safe and organized races.

My coach and team – Kainoa got me to every start line happy and healthy. She was the tough love I needed to finish a hard workout and the cheerleader after every race. Thank you for providing a network of talented athletes who help make workouts fun and fast.

My family – thanks Mom, Dad, Stephanie, John for caring about my races even when we are several states away. I look forward to a Knutson family vacation when you all watch me race (just kidding).

My boyfriend – Gerry, thank you for being a super Sherpa at some of my races and the phone calls when I was traveling on my own. Thank you for biking with me, encouraging me, and making more breakfasts than I can count.

My friends – thank you to all my friends in this sport and those not in it; you all keep me balanced. Not every workout, race, or day of training leaves me happy, but I have a lot of people who can shoulder tears and make me buckle over in laughter. Thank you for all that you’ve done this year.

I look forward to seeing you all at the races, in the water, and on the roads in 2015. Thank your body and all the wonderful people who help you get to the start line.

With Heart,

My first pro podium - CdA
Words of encouragement from my favorite Sherpa
Hanging out with blog twin Alyssa at Wildflower

My patio turned into a bike shop a couple nights this summer
The final carpet at Challenge Penticton

My mom on FaceBook - there's a story behind "BIG HEART"
that I'll share another time

The final training rides were solo and soggy