It is such an incredible opportunity to go to a race as the defending World Champion. The only thing better than that is to get a chance to go BACK as a World Champion having already experienced that situation and get the opportunity of a "do-over" if necessary. To take all that I learned the last time around to the start line with me is absolutely amazing. I feel I am mentally so much better prepared for this race, better than I ever have been. However, I am always humbled by how unpredictable Maui is. 2003 was epically hot, 2004 I melted under pressure, and 2005 I had something to prove. This season is a combination of all three years. The competition will be hot since we have no idea the strengths of the Europeans, except to know they are strong. There is pressure again for me as the returning champion with all eyes looking to see if I lose the title. And again, I have something to prove. This is how I see it and frankly, I am loving what I see.
The other night we had some non-triathlete friends for dinner. After some wine (not too much!) and chat about our upcoming Hawaii trip, Ross suggested they watch one of the Xterra videos to see what the sport was all about. Anyways, we searched through our renovation mess to try and find either 2003 or 2005 Maui videos (the obvious first choices) but couldn’t find them and had to settle on the video from 2004. I am SO happy that this was the video we watched.
First off there are two words that come to mind when I watch that video: WARDROBE MALFUNCTION. I wore a swimsuit in that race that unfortunately was not made by Speedo. The swim was all good but then about 10 feet into the bike the dreaded crawl began. I think my suit spent the entire race up my butt. The worst part of it was that it happened on the right hand side, the side on which the lead motorcycle camera was riding. So, as they caught porn footage of my butt cheek, periodically I would decide it got a bit too far and pull it down. Horrible! It is very difficult to stay focused on hammering on the mountain bike when you are worried about how much of your ass is going to appear on national television. This was an UNPREDICTABLE that happened, and on the day, it was a problem.
That was the funny part. The not-funny part of 2004 was my attitude. I was so exhausted from racing World Cup mountain bike races all spring, cramming tons of training in the winter with no break during the summer that by the time October rolled around I was physically done. Instead of being fired up to win I was afraid. Afraid I didn’t have it to repeat. I wasn’t having fun anymore preparing for the event or even being at the event. Once I stop feeling like it is fun I can’t handle the same workload and I don’t pay attention to details. The details are what go into a World Championships win. I am confident when I come to races prepared because I know what I am capable of….
During the bike in 2004 I was telling myself the whole time I was not fast enough. I came off the bike with a 3 minute lead on my most dangerous competition and convinced myself I did not have it to win. Beating myself up the whole time on the run I ended up going backwards and losing the race to a much more fired up and motivated Jamie Whitmore. Lesson learned. It ain’t over until it is OVER people!
I said something in my interview in 2004 about having nothing to prove. This is a pile of crap. Every time I toe the line I have an opportunity to show I am one of the best at this sport. You are only as good as your last race so it is so important to make every race situation count. Have fun and make the most of this moment, right here, right now, because you don’t know when you will have that opportunity again. I am fortunate to be able to go back and replay this situation. I get the opportunity to watch myself deal poorly with the pressure. Now I have an opportunity to thrive under it. How many times have I won when it really, really counts? Now I think this is when I am at my best. I don't think I would have the skill to deal with pressure the way I do had I not experienced how NOT to deal with pressure. I think not winning in 2004 taught me how to win a lot of races that I never would have thought myself capable of.
The islands of Hawaii have spirits guarding them and there is no way to prepare for any plans those spirits might have for you. All I know is I have taken steps to prepare in a way I don’t believe anyone else has or was capable of. This is power. I am confident I have done everything I needed to do to put on the best performance I am capable of. We’ll see what that is on Sunday. Win or lose, I am just excited that I have the opportunity to challenge for that elusive third title. It is definitely going to be fun. So to all of my fellow competitors, have fun on Sunday and git er done (go like ya stole sumthin)!