Interview by Kristen McFarland
Special thanks to Jay Prasuhn of Triathlete magazine for the Olympic photos!
“I had typical pre-race nervousness, but in spite of the fact that it was the Olympics I felt really relaxed. I was excited to race. I knew that my preparation was exactly where I wanted it to be. I was definitely excited to go race and see what I had in me.”
Was your body injury free?
“Several days before, my hamstring had been letting me know that it wasn’t perfect, but nothing had hurt. I hadn’t had to not do any running workouts or strides or anything. So I felt I was 100% ready to go.”
How did the swim go?
“The swim went pretty much as good as I would have thought it would. I was really happy with how I got out. On the pontoon there was [positions] 1-58 and I was in the middle at like 24th. And I got out and usually I’m like elbowing with people right off the bat but I just got out so well and I had kind of clear water for a good part of the distance to the first buoy, which was about 400 meters. At one point I looked over and I was next to Sheila [Taormina, former Olympic swimmer and two-time Olympic triathlete] and I was like, ‘Yeah! This is great!’ Then, as we got close to the buoy all the people that were all spanning out in their little sections kind of merged together and there was maybe like ten of us and that’s when I did get a little elbowing. I got behind someone and I got around the buoy and then I see that right in front of the girl I’m behind there’s a gap to the leaders… So I went around her and was leading the next, second, group. And then with maybe 400 meters to go I dropped them…I was 9th out of the water, which I was really psyched about because I was kind of within striking distance of the other girls.”
Watching on TV, it seemed like you were better than that in transition. Did you pass people into transition?
“Yes. I had the best transition of my life. My helmet went on right and all I had to do was buckle it and go. I probably passed a couple of those girls in the transition. And then I got on the bike and just started hammering and passed a few more. I remember passing Jill Savage and Rina Hill before the first big hill. When we got to the big hill basically it was just Loretta [Harrop], Barb [Lindquist], and Sheila ahead of me, and I saw that Barb was starting to fall off Sheila and Loretta…I thought, ‘This is awesome. Barb and I can work together and we can go catch Sheila and Loretta.’
Then I got a little too excited. Because then we had this steep downhill and I think with the excitement I didn’t break soon enough. I had too much speed going into that tight left turn at the bottom of the hill and I had my crash… The way the course is there’s kind of a slight turn in the road so you can’t really see that technical turn until you’re pretty close to it. So if you hadn’t started breaking yet and then all of the sudden you see that turn then it’s too late. So I braked hard and my back wheel slid out. I thought those boards looked pretty soft, so I tried to side swipe them and stay on my bike but I didn’t get enough turn… It was scary, but once I got back on my bike its like I almost forgot it. I was afraid that the group of people that had already formed a pack behind me would catch me as I was on the ground but they didn’t.
On the hill on the last lap Sheila fell off of Loretta and by the time we got to the bottom of the hill Sheila came back to Barb and me. That was kind of the highlight of my race, getting to ride with just the three Americans. For me that was very special because I’m not used to being out there with those girls. They’re usually way ahead on the swim and they stay ahead on the bike.”
So you got into second transition in fourth?
“I had the best transition from swim to bike and the worst transition from bike to run. I couldn’t get my shoe on. This part here [the heel] was getting folded under and then the insole was getting all bunched up and I couldn’t get my foot in…and right in front of all the fans… It seemed like forever but it was probably only like seven seconds longer than the others, but that can be a pretty big gap…
I felt pretty strong on the run. I just tried to stay controlled. It was three loops. I passed Barb pretty much right away and then I caught Sheila a little bit later on in that first lap and she ran with me for the rest of the first lap. And then coming out of the transition area after the first lap my hamstring tightened up again and that just really freaked me out after what happened at Worlds in Portugal where it just got worse and worse and worse until I couldn’t even run… Then there was kind of an uphill and it didn’t hurt as much…after that it didn’t bother me again.”
So Sheila and Barb both blew up a little bit?
“Barb was just having an off day from the beginning. She typically is one of the strongest cyclists out there and she couldn’t keep up with Loretta and Sheila at the beginning. That right there told me she’s not having a good day. And then on the run she suffered a bit. But Sheila apparently was getting really bad cramps and she fell off after that first lap of the run.”
At that point it was just you and Loretta?
“Yeah, Loretta was first and I was in second… Kathleen Smet was moving up on me but when I saw her at the turnaround she still seemed a safe distance. It wasn’t like she was right there breathing down my neck…So I’m running towards the finish thinking I might get a silver medal and this girl goes by me and I see on her rear ALLEN and I’m like ‘oooh, that’s Kate Allen. She’s a really fast runner.’ And by the time all these thoughts went through my head she was already 200 meters ahead of me. She was flying. So I was feeling ok, I was still in the medals. I was actually surprised that she even ran down Loretta. But I was obviously pretty ecstatic to finish third.”
So what was your experience overall in Athens? Was the security overwhelming?
“I was expecting security to be everywhere you looked but I was surprised at how little security I actually saw. There was probably a lot of undercover security that they didn’t want you to see… In general the Greek people were really, really nice, and I felt very comfortable there the whole time… There’s some cool history there.”
After the race you went on a cruise?
“My husband Tim, my daughter Sydney, my mom, and a friend of my mom, the five of us went on a four day cruise. That was pretty spectacular, too… Some of the islands have those white-washed walled houses with the blue roofs all over them and it was really pretty. We got to see ruins of a city that were 3500 years old.”