Challenge Florida Win and Pro Career Reflections

LaurenRaces

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The 2015 race season is over. It is ironic because I cannot tell you how ready I was to be finished racing. Now that I just finished Challenge Florida I am a bit sad and ready to start preparing again for another race. I guess it is true- we always want what we don’t have.

Challenge Florida was my last race for the season. I included it on the schedule as it was a good chance to get to Clermont to see good friends of mine and it also gave my parents an opportunity to see me race. My dad historically is bad luck, but he really wanted to be there so I gave him the OK.

While training in Clermont the Thursday before the race I had a pretty bad bike crash. I came away with zero road rash but I hit my head pretty hard. I decided to race anyway…why not! I am the hardheaded kid so skipping the race was not an option.  Race day went exactly how I wanted it to go. I swam and rode conservatively and ran my way to the win. Even though my “social off season” pretty much started after Silverman 70.3, I was able to pull off the win – and log the fourth fastest run of all the athletes – men and women.

This year has hands-down been my best year professionally. This was my 5th full season racing and as cliché as it sounds, I truly am thankful to be where I am right now. I raced ten times this year and finished with six wins, two 2nd places, one 4th place and one DNF due to illness.

In Boulder I spend a lot of time with athletes who are in their early 20’s and just getting their athletic careers started. It makes me reflect on how I got to where I am now and how many times I failed in the process. I believe that luck and opportunity along with work ethic will get you where you are in life.

I had no idea what a triathlon even was until I met a guy in a bar when I was 21 who told me about the Ironman he was training for. I immediately was intrigued by triathlon and from that night (March 17, 2009) my life changed completely. If I did not go to that bar on that night and met that guy I would have NEVER done a triathlon. It just was not where my life was heading…an athlete for a living!? Absolutely no way. My family is not athletic, I did not own a bike until I was 21 years old, and I was a sorority girl. I remember when I told my parents I was going to pass on Physician Assistant school and instead I was going to be a “professional triathlete”. Mom freaked out and insisted I use the degree she just spent her savings on. I insisted she give me a few years just to see what happens. I gave the classic “well in 20 years I do not want to regret not giving triathlon a try”. So, I packed up the books and had some training to do!

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from my very early triathlon archives 

The first two years were not glamorous. I was so broke and living off of selling things on Craigslist. I floated around the US in different cities training under a few different coaches and met some really awesome people along the way. I was barely making enough money to get to the races but I just kept my head high.

I met a few special people who gave me various things to help me out- bikes, power meter, running shoes, body work, a few flights, and places to live. Without these people maybe I would not have continued with triathlon. Who knows. But I for sure was lucky to have these folks in my life. I could no longer use the excuse that I did not have the equipment and I had everything I needed to be successful.

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With Sara McLarty and Kelly Whitley in 2012
 

In 2012 the Rev3 series was getting bigger and it gave an athlete like myself an opportunity to make some money and get my name out. I took full advantage of it and raced almost every single race in 2012 and 2013. I was consistently on the podium and my name was getting out in the triathlon world, which ultimately led to sponsorships. Without the Rev3 series would I still be racing? Probably not, to be honest…the money I made there was crucial to keeping my head above water and being able to pay for the resources I needed to get faster.

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With Sara McLarty in October 2012
 

In 2013 I moved out to Tucson and worked with Cliff English. Cliff was a great coach and convinced my current manager, John Jones, to represent me. John represents Timothy O’Donnell, who Cliff also coached at the time, and he agreed to take me on. John helped me learn the business side of triathlon and taught me the things I needed to do to form business relationships. Since then, I have created very good sponsor partnerships with remarkable people that I hope to have the rest of my career.

During the last two years, 2014 and 2015, I have really considered triathlon to be my career. I finally made a decent living doing sport with solid sponsors and consistent results.

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IRONMAN 70.3 Silverman, September, 2015

Life is much easier now and the results finally represent my athletic ability because I do not have the stress like I did in 2011. I am not wondering where I am going to live or if I will make enough prize money at a race to cover the cost of getting there. Don’t get me wrong- I still have a LONG way to go. But as I mentioned earlier, as I reflect on this season I think back to the luck and opportunities I had that made 2015 possible. This season means so much more because of the challenges I went though in order to get to this point. Results don’t just come. It takes patience, humility, luck, opportunity, dedication, hard hard work, and the support of others including my family, friends, and incredible sponsor partners!

Never settle- keep on going until you find what makes you happy.