You could hear the chants of USA, USA, USA... Go USA, every where. It didn't matter if you knew the people or not, but to hear them calling out my country and knowing they were there to support me and the team was a heartfelt experience.
The entire trip was more than I had anticipated. Competition is competition and racing is racing, but the difference is you are at the World Championships where the best athletes from the world come together to compete.
The host city of Aviles was overly excepting of all the foreigners coming in to their town. The locals were quite friendly and hospitable and not to forget patient with my lack of Spanish.
The team manager had scheduled several group rides for the team to ride the course before the race. While out on the course, we had a police escort blocking and slowing traffic for us. This gave us an opportunity to really let loose on the technical parts of the course.
The parade of athletes (nations) and the opening ceremonies was also something I'll never forget. There were spectators everywhere cheering for all the athletes. Another really special part was that Stefanie was able to walk with us during the parade. We got to experience this together which made it even more memorable.
Many of the previous USA team members said this was an extremely large crowd for the event. As we entered the main area for the opening ceremonies, each country was announced and the crowd cheered.
There were a few moments, I have to admit, I got a little emotional. It was hard not to while remembering all the struggles and hard work to get to this moment. It was finally here!
I woke up on race day a little before my alarm. I had one of the best nights sleep since being in Spain. I was relaxed and calm. It was "just another race." Stefanie and I walked to the venue early. There was hardly anyone out on the streets. It was quiet as we made our way down the old cobblestone streets. I went to transition first to make sure everything was set up and to go over my pre-race checklist. Nothing left to do but warm up and get ready for racing.
This was the first year for draft legal racing in the age group divisions. This made the race special since it was the first. The three sprint groups would go first. I was in the second of the three.
As they called our group up the start line, i remember thinking, this is it. "Give it everything you have today buddy!"
The race went well for my first Worlds. I had set goals for my run, which I didn't quite reach, but I did hit my bike goals. Looking back now, I know what I need to work on to make my runs faster.
One of the many moments that will stick with me is one motivational speech from Tim the team manager and COO of USA Triathlon. He said, "There are lot of people who can't do what you do and would trade places with you in a heart beat if given the chance. Don't take this opportunity lightly!"
With racing aside, this experience allowed me to meet people from all over the world. In such a short time, I was able to connect and build friendships that will last well after the race is over.
Stefanie and I are truly grateful for the opportunity we had and for the many many of you who donated and sponsored me on this journey.