two triathlons in two days

THE COUCH // CHICAGO — I’ve been a triathlete for 6 years, but there’s a lot I still don’t know about endurance sports. For example: When I raced the USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships at the beginning of August, I finished the olympic-distance race with a time 13 minutes and 17 seconds faster than my previous personal best. “That’s a really big PR,” a teammate told me after the race. “Why do you think you were able to do that?”

My initial answer: “I don’t really know. I’m just faster now?”

I’m not really “just faster,” I don’t think. This season, I’ve set personal records almost every time I cross a finish line, which tells me that I haven’t even begun to figure out just how fast I am. It tells me I have a lot to learn about my limits, how much I can push myself and where my strengths and weaknesses truly lie. That’s very exciting.

The day after that big PR, I went at it again in the sprint race. I did the same thing last year, and somehow I PR’d on the sprint course and qualified for the sprint world championships, despite being exhausted. As I prepared to do that again this year, I remembered how I started that sprint race in 2014 thinking “WOW my arms are toast.” (As it was the year before, my swim pace was much faster in the olympic race than it was on the shorter course the next day.)

I didn’t expect much out of the sprint race — the goal for the weekend was to crush my olympic PR and leave little energy for the next day — and when I checked my watch throughout the sprint, it seemed like I was nowhere near my 2014 PR.

Turns out, I’m not good at reading my watch when I’m very tired. (In my defense, it was my first weekend with my brand new watch {{{with which I am IN LOVE}}} so confusion is understandable.) When I crossed the finish line and saw my time, I was shocked: I went 5 minutes faster than last year. My sister had a huge PR, too, and so did some of my teammates. My “just for fun” race day turned out to be exactly that.

Of course, it’s easy to feel good when you nail back-to-back PRs, but it was really the whole experience that made me happy: hanging out with teammates before and after races, cheering as we passed each other at different points on the course (it’s good motivation to start running faster when one of your fastest teammates sees you on the course and yells, “I’m coming for you, DiGangi!” — thank you, Kelly), taking time to enjoy pre-/post-race team meals, and of course, spending time with my No.1 fan and secret weapon to race success, Mama DiGang.

It is no coincidence that I’ve made so much progress this year: It’s also my first on a triathlon team and my first time working with coaches. I can’t overstate the value of having supporters who not only truly enjoy watching you succeed on race day but also take time to encourage you to put in the daily work necessary to meet your goals. That sort of energy and accountability is a huge part of why I made huge gains over my performances at last year’s national championships.

I met the INTENT crew at that race in 2014, and I thought, “Wow, look at all these happy people hanging out in a tent and talking about triathlon things. I want to hang out in a nifty tent with fun people who like triathlons.” That is not a joke or an exaggeration. I joined because I liked the idea of having instant buddies that come with joining a team, and I really loved the whole tent business. (I raced a few of my first triathlons with my car key safety pinned inside my shorts, because I drove to races alone and had nowhere else to put my stuff. My, how sad that sounds in retrospect.)

This season has been full of fun and learning experiences. With two races left, I hope the trend continues — a couple more PRs would be pretty nice, too.

race details // USAT Age Group Nationals [olympic]

august 8. milwaukee.

  • swim (1,500 meters): 26:35
  • bike (40K): 1:10:10
  • run (10K): 50:49
  • total: 2:31:42
nutrition

pre-race: Endurolytes Fizz (grape)

bike: HEED (strawberry — until I dropped my water bottle at mile 14. stupid.)

run: I keep a gel in my suit pocket just in case, but I didn’t need it. post-race: the athlete food was kind of gross, which was a bummer, because I remembered it being really good the previous two years. I had some pretzels but made a mental note to pack an extra Hammer Bar for the next day. Not sure why I didn’t in the first place.

race details // USAT Age Group Nationals [sprint]

august 9. milwaukee.

  • swim (750M): 14:44
  • bike (20K): 36:44
  • run (5K): 24:51
  • total: 1:20:35
nutrition

pre-race: HEED

bike: technically, nothing, but I’m pretty sure I sucked down a decent serving of protein with all the bugs that were living in the fog I rode through. I was covered in gnats.

post-race: Hammer Bar (cashew coconut chocolate chip)

{image: INTENT after the sprint race. photo cred to Mama DiGang}

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