It is very cool to look over my last post and see where God has brought me since then. Two months ago I would have never believed that I would have had the race I did at Worlds. It was a good reminder to just keep pressing on even when things get rough. Having a stress fracture certainly changed expectations for the year but looking back I see that it was part of God's plan all along.
I competed at the USAT Age Group National Championships for the 4th year in a row and it was anything but a great race. I raced in the sprint and the olympic just like I did last year. My Olympic was terrible. I had a bad swim which just set me up for a rough remainder of the race. I did have my strongest bike performance in an olympic distance race but I equaled that out with one of my worst runs. I had bad cramps on the run and they just never went away. My goals changed from getting to the finish line as fast as possible to just get to the next aid station so you can get water. It was truly up in the air if I was going to be fit enough to race well anyway. I had really only been running for several weeks and I only had one significant speed workout. I did my best to block this race out of my mind and go into Sunday with motivation to qualify for Chicago 2015.
I had a decent swim on Sunday followed by another good bike. I needed to be in the top 20 in my age group to qualify for Worlds for the 4th year. I finished somewhere in the 40s on Saturday which was my worst showing at nationals ever. After a sub-par run I finished 8th in my age group and qualified for Chicago! I left Milwaukee highly motivated to do what I needed to to get my run back and still swim faster. I had Worlds in Edmonton Canada in 3 weeks and had some work to do if I wanted to make the trip worth it. I told Michael Harlow (EF Founder) that after nationals I felt like I had no right to be going to a world championship. My fitness just did not seem to be where I needed it to.
It is very important to not let your emotions guide your actions. Emotions can typically lie to you or make you do something stupid. Mine told me to run more and once again my leg started hurting every time I ran. I was sure I either had bad shin splints or another stress fracture. I went to my PT, Clarke Tanner who was a miracle worker. The week of Words my shins hurt so bad that I felt like the races were going to be worse than those at nationals. Clarke told me he has a jedi PT trick and after doing some therapy on my shins I was amazed at how good my legs felt.
The trip to Canada was simply the best trip I have ever had. It was a blast and the perfect way I would have ever wanted to spend a "vacation". I was around a ton of people that loved the same thing I do but they were from all over the world. My parents once again came with me and showed me unbelievable support. I think they care more than I do about my races now. Haha!
Our trip would not have been a Parker Spencer trip without unforeseen drama taking place. I told a friend that we could give him a ride from the airport to his hotel. This was at 1am Edmonton time and 3am Richmond time. The problem was that none of our GPS's worked and we did not have a map. We basically drove into town and found a cop who told us where his hotel was. By the time we found it and dropped him off it was 2am when we go to our hotel. I could not wait to get to bed! I had to get my packet by 8am and have my bike built and checked into the transition area by 10am followed by a day of Team USA meetings and opening ceremonies. We walked up to the front desk only to find out that the hotel had over booked and they did not have a room for us. They told us they could pay for us to stay at another hotel or clean a room that was on a floor under construction. We chose the floor under construction. About that time a couple from the UK came into the hotel. They were told the same thing we were. Oddly none of us got too upset with the staff. Neither of us yelled or complained. We just excepted the circumstances and waited. I was proud of my dad for not going off on anyone...he is getting soft in his old age!
We waited for another hour and still did not have a room. I decided it was time to start building my bike in the front lobby so I did not have to get up any earlier than I already had to. The guy from the UK came over and started helping me build it. I thought it was really nice of him to help me at 3am and under the current situation. I asked him how he got into triathlon and he said that he found it was a great avenue to raise money for charity. He is a CEO of a company and he recruited 30 other CEO's to help him raise a good amount of money to help other people. Later I found out he was the CEO of Cisco UK which is one of the largest wireless internet companies in the world!
I also got to meet some the best triathletes to ever compete in the sport. I met Simon Whitfield who won the Gold Medal in the 2000 Olympics. I also met Sarah Groff who was 2nd overall in the World Triathlon Series this year and I also met Mark Allen who was one of the best professional ironman triathletes to ever do the sport. The coolest people I met had to be Robert and Peggy. They are both in their 70s and have qualified for the Age Group World Championships for that past 20 years. I asked Peggy if she was done for the year and she said she still had Kona left this season. Then she told me it is her 12th Kona! Then I found out Robert has done Kona 17 times. WOW!!
The excitement of all of these things made for a great perspective going into both races. I use to let races really get to me. I would always get very nervous and worry about everything that could go wrong. I soon realized that what happens on that day is going to happen but it is the way I react to the circumstances that truly matter. I am more relaxed going onto a race now. Do not get me wrong. The adrenaline rush is still there and I still get butterflies but not the anxiety that use to come with them.
The sprint was just amazing. I had a great start and was able to get myself in front of the main pack in clear water to the first buoy. Once I got there the faster swimmers started to pass me. I moved to the back of their pack and drafted the rest of the swim. I cam out of the water in 8th place! To put this in perspective, I came out of the water is 96th at nationals 3 weeks earlier. That should not happen! I had a great bike on a very technical and hilly course. The run was still a struggle for me but not terrible. About half of the run was in the woods on dirt trail which makes for a slower time. I had no idea where I finished. My parents told me that they knew I finished in the top ten. I text Andy Welch and asked him if he knew. Andy is an incredible friend and always follows the races I do online if he is not their yelling for me. He called me and told me I placed 5th!!! WHAT! I was ecstatic! That was much better than I could have ever expected going into the trip. I enjoyed the rest of the day and started mentally preparing for the Olympic race two days later.
My swim in the Olympic did not go quit as well. I had a bad start and got stuck behind the main pack of swimmers. It was a brutal wrestling match the entire swim. I cam out of the swim in 43rd. The bike was good but also tough. It was in the mid 40s outside which made everything go kind of numb. I still made up a ton of ground on the bike and finished the bike in 20th. I felt so good on the run. I did not run my best time but it was much faster than I had expected and I ran two minutes faster than I did on an easier course just three weeks before. I ended the race in 16th. I am still very happy with this.
I look back on the last month and think about how amazing the journey I have been on is. I feel extremely blessed to do what I love everyday. What I do is so fulfilling. I enjoy my races but I enjoy helping other people race well just as much. Knowing that I get to make an impact on someone and watching them succeed gives me comfort in knowing I am where God wants me. If my life was all about my own ambitions and all about Parker Spencer then that would be a lame life. What we do day to day needs to have an eternal purpose. 50 years from now no one is going to care if I swam, biked, or ran fast. They are going to care about what I did with the opportunities I had because of those things and the people that became better because of them. I do have high ambitions for the future. I want to win my age group at nationals and worlds next year. Why? Because that would be cool but more importantly because it brings the potential to meet more people and hopefully show them that if they race with purpose, life becomes much more fulfilling then winning a silly race.
1 Corinthians 9:25-27 (NLT)
25 All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. 26 So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. 27 I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.