First-Time Team USA Athlete Prepares for Worlds

September 8, 2015 by Jordan Flores

No, I do not wear my Team USA uniform around the house. No, I do not look at it all the time just because it has my name, the Stars and Stripes and the letters “USA” emblazoned on it. I am, in fact, NOT wearing my Team USA kit right now. OK, OK. I’m totally wearing it right now. Was it that obvious? In a couple weeks, I have the honor of representing my country at the ITU Grand Final in the World Paratriathlon Championships. This is a far cry from where I was about two and a half years ago.

I remember calling my brother saying “I want to do a triathlon. Yeah, I know I don’t know how to swim or bike, but do you think I can do it?” We spoke for a while, but I just remember him saying, “If anybody can do it, you can.” Was that the brotherly thing to say? Maybe. But in the end, that’s all I really needed.

Five months, a ton of learning and a lot of training later, I was ready for tri No. 1. Here’s the fun part. I hadn’t really done any open water training to that point. I remember warming up in the lake that morning to get a feel for it, but something didn’t sit right. It was dark. It was scary. I didn’t like it. So I warmed up for all of five seconds and got the heck out of there. But I told myself, “It’s OK, Jordan, you’ll just ‘get’ it when the gun goes off. Adrenaline will be flowing, and you’ll be in race mode. You’ll be fine.”

The gun goes off and 10 strokes in, I took the singularly most direct flight to Panic City humanly possible. I found the nearest support kayak and clung on for dear life. Am I supposed to quit? Am I supposed to keep going? The lady in the kayak told me to float on my back and stayed close by. I suddenly found myself — let’s call it — “jellyfishing” through the water. It’s a very inefficient stroke, I’ll say that much. Amidst all the panic, cramps and general awfulness of the whole ordeal, I had to ask her this key question: “You’re not gonna let me die here today, are you?”

“Absolutely not,” she said.

That turned out to be the perfect response. Once I knew my life was in safe hands, I had the confidence to jellyfish faster than anyone’s ever jellyfished before. And one eternity later, I finally reached the shore. (I hear a 20+ minute 400-yard swim is pretty good, right?) About 1:20 later, my first tri was in the books! Look at the bright side: I set a 5k PR that day. And I was still alive. So thank you mystery kayaker, wherever you are.

And now I sit here with 11 triathlons to my name, blogging about the journey to my first WORLD Championships. I’ve never even raced beyond the local level! But don’t tell them that. Needless to say, I’ve undergone countless hours of training, racing, coaching (Go Kerry Simmons Tri!), and yes, even open water swimming since that day. And no, I don’t like it any more than I did back then. But I’ve just got to do it. Simple as that.

Of course, there is a part of me that wishes this was my eighth World Championships and not my first. See, there will be a ton of racers there who have already “been there and done that.” But for me, as race day draws closer, I’ve discovered there’s a ton of administrative and logistics work that goes into races of this magnitude. You can’t just show up on race morning ready to jump into the water. There have been emails, appointments and forms galore! If you were to ask me, I’ll tell you that I just want to race. I’m good at that. Ask me what’s the best way to get my bike there in one piece? You might want to ask the other guy about that one. ** Please, please, please let it get there in one piece.**

Well, it looks like I’m running out of words here, and I haven’t even broached the subject of paratriathlon specifically. I guess that means stay tuned!

Safe travels (bike),

Jordan

P.S. A big shout out to my boy Chris K for letting me know about this whole blog thing. I may not have even been here to share this awesomeness with the world without him!

For more coverage from the 2015 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final and World Championships, visit usatriathlon.org/events/2015-itu-world-triathlon-series.