Erin Jones continues to climb the ranks as a professional triathlete in her ultimate quest for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Earlier this month the 2009 Hood River Valley High School graduate, who now lives and trains full time in Colorado Springs, finished third in the U23 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
She made the podium after completing the 1,500-meter swim, 43.2-kilometer bike and 10-kilometer run in a time of 2:06:59. Germany’s Sophia Saller won the event in 2:04:52, followed by Australian Gillian Backhouse in 2:05:25.
For Jones, a world championship medal is the highlight of her career thus far, although she has experienced increasing success over the last couple seasons. Earlier this year she was named USA Triathlon’s U-23 Athlete of the Year for the 2013 season, in which she battled back from a hip injury to post top ten finishes at three ITU World Cup events. She then spent the summer training in Vitoria, Spain, before traveling to Edmonton for the finals. Although the end of the official collegiate triathlon season, for Jones and the rest of the world’s best, the hard work never ends.
“There is no off-season when Olympic points are on the line,” she said recently in her blog title Triathlon Life (www.erinjonestri.blogspot.com). “After the Grand Final there are still continental, world cups, and non-draft races all over the world. I had a late start to my season, so I’m happy and fired up to continue racing.”
Jones continues in her blog with the following first-person account of the race as she experienced it.
It was pretty cold that morning, but I had a later race around 3:30 p.m. so I figured it would warm up. I did the usual pre-race morning shake out, morning breakfast, morning rituals. Laid around in bed, biked down to the course, got my warm-up in, and was feeling good, ready to go. There were three of us U-23 American women: Johanna Gartman, Kirsten Kasper and me. These girls are some of my best friends and I’m so happy we got to experience this together.
I was ranked number 6 going into the race. I got to choose my spot on the pontoon and choose the farthest right spot, the 1st spot. I like having that clear water. I think it is from years and years of swimming in a pool.
The horn went off and I shot out into the water. I was second or third around the first buoy 200m away. Then I got tossed around a bit and dunked under, so I decided to tuck back onto some feet. I came around the first lap right around my teammates and then we were headed back out for the second loop. The next 750m just felt sluggish so I tried just settling in. It was a long 20-minute swim, so I didn’t need to make it any harder for myself by fighting.
I came out of the water 5th, not bad, but my run to transition was awful. I couldn’t pick up my feet, had trouble getting my wetsuit off, thinking about a million other things and not focusing. I had one of the slowest transitions times by 10 seconds. I jumped on my bike, put my shoes on, but was a bit off the front pack. Going up the first hill I was stuck between the first pack and the second pack. Eventually a group of strong cyclist caught me, so we worked together to try and close the gap, but the front group was riding hard because we went from 30 second down, to 45, to 60, to 70 seconds down.
When we came into T2 I was in the back of our pack, I didn’t even see the lead group leave; they were that far ahead. I put my shoes on as fast as I could and sprinted out of there. I was last out in my pack of 5 and there were still 7 girls in the first pack. I started to work into it, but knew I just had to go. I passed the first three girls right out of transition and then my other USA teammate, Kirsten Kasper and I were working together for the first 2.5km.
After the fist lap, I finally got a chance to see where everyone was. The second lap felt great, I wasn’t getting tired, and I knew I just needed to keep pushing it. I was no longer thinking about running, and I switched my focus to racing, just catching the next girl. I was competing. This was my element. I was getting so much support from the fans, spectators, and crowds, it all just continued to fuel me. I came through the 5k with one of the fastest splits, 18min, then I knew I was on a roll. The next lap I caught 3 more girls. I was one away from the podium. By the 4th lap, I had run myself from 12th to 3rd place. I had 2.5k to go and I finally came back to reality, did that just happen?! I crossed the finish line and I was almost in tears. Then to have Kirsten Kasper 4th and Johanna 10th from team USA! It was such an amazing feeling to be a part of getting a medal for team USA this weekend. It meant so much!