|Running strong around the half marathon at IM WI|
Motivations to race professionally?
There's been a lot of focus on this recently, due to the changes instituted by WTC and some of the comments made by their CEO, Andrew Messick (his Aug 8th interview with Slowtwitch can be read here). I've now spent exactly 13 months as a professional, and feel I can address some of what I've learned and why I wish to continue to train and race at the professional level. First off, since this was a professional decision, I will speak to the financial reasons. Am I currently making boatloads of cash? No. I don't think there are many who are, and quite frankly if we reduced the professional ranks to those that were making a quality living, financially, I think we would have a lot of boring and empty races. There are 595 individuals on the PGA Tour that have earned money this year (a number which is comparable to the Male Pros earning points in the KPR); the last I checked, over the summer I was ranked 338 in the KPR - the 338th ranked golfer, on the money list, is currently Colin Montgomerie, a former champion. Sprinkled around him are up-and-coming 20 and 30-somethings. While my cash earnings have been slightly better than non-existent, by making the decision to race professionally, when I did, I reduced my racing expenses by over 70% while increasing my race schedule and travel radius. I was also aware that due to current landscape of professional triathlon racing, that I would have a developmental season or two before I could legitimately contend for a reasonable cash income.
This brings me to my other motivations for racing professionally - to challenge myself against the best, on the same playing field, and see how far I can push myself mentally and physically. While I think there are factors beyond our control, I firmly believe that anyone has a chance to achieve a high level of success though years of focused practice and dedication. I could write a book on this, so I won't go too deep. Suffice it to say, with this belief and having been athletically minded my entire life, as well as having amassed thousands of hours of endurance training by my early 30's, I felt reasonably comfortable making the decision to pursue this path fully. [For more information on these topics - this introductory article by K Anders Ericsson from 1993, and this recent TED talk by David Epstein offer good starting points]. I knew I was entering the professional ranks with a weak bike, and that needed to be my focus for a couple years. In the Age Group field I was never close to my competition. I typically won my wave by a wide margin, and was competing against people who started way ahead or way behind me. I didn't feel that this was challenging myself as best I could; I may never finish top-10 in the most competitive races, but I'd like to give myself the opportunity and experiences to know there was nothing else I could have done to achieve that level.
So when I made the move to racing professionally I had a feeling I would be near the front of the professional races on the swim and wanted to see where I could stack up in the race after that. It has been an adjustment learning to swim with a pack. The swim is much more tactical, as I can no longer jump out in the first 400m and then cruise at a comfortable pace. In Wisconsin I tried that, couldn't hold the top two guys, pulled a massive group for a few hundred meters, then had to battle for position in the pack for the majority of the way. way too much wasted energy, even though it wasn't a terrible result. Those little mistakes also lead to bigger gaps on the bike, that I can't afford as well, and are probably why I haven't been able to put together a solid run - or at least one that indicates my fitness and training.
|A little LCM training session at UW|
My last motivation for racing professionally Racing, learning about the industry and being exposed to a wider range of races and athletes allows me to hone my coaching skills and knowledge as well as gain exposure to different race management styles. So in a sense racing professionally serves as constant professional development. Because of the experiences I have had as a professional, the industry experts I have met and the different races I have been able to travel to I am a better coach to my athletes and am able to offer a higher quality of service to my clients.
Focus for 2014 Season:
Competing in the professional ranks allows me to compete more frequently. I knew that an important aspect to racing professionally would be recovery and the ability to bounce back and race frequently at a high level. I wanted to make this first professional season all about racing and recovery. Entering 2014 I had completed 2 IM races (May 2011 and Oct. 2013). I tentatively put 4 on the schedule - Challenge AC in June, IM WI in September and IM Lake Tahoe two weeks after that. If I was happy with my recovery, I would add Beach to Battleship in late October. While I didn't have the race I was hoping for in Wisconsin, I couldn't be happier with my recovery.
I had a couple early mishaps on the bike and made some significant mistakes (read - power spikes) in the first third of a very hilly course that resulted in my struggling for the remainder of the day. And while I ran well for 17 miles, I had GI distress and nausea for the first time (some have said this could have been a reaction to 3 bee stings I experienced on the bike), but this is all part of IM racing. Sometimes the body doesn't hold up as you would like. I was happy that I was able to push through and run the last five miles for the finish. After my previous 3 IM races I experienced significant stiffness for days, and knee pain/soreness for weeks. The stiffness was gone after a couple days and I have not experienced any of the knee pain. My workouts have felt good, and I feel like I am more rested and operating at a high quality heading into Tahoe.
As a result, Sunday will not be my last race of the year. I am excited to return to Beach to Battleship for the second year in a row. They put on a great race last year, and I look forward to competing on that course again, especially as my buddy Rob Duncan makes his IM debut there, and one of my former Fairfield Univ. swimmers, Tommy Peters, makes his Half IM debut.
This is both the best and worst part of professional racing. First, I have no desire to break down my bike and reassemble it every time I go to a race. Thank god for Tri Bike Transport! I can drop my bike off at a shop near me, and then pick it up directly at the race venue a few days before the race. It is mindless and super convenient - and never more obvious to me, how great, as during my trip to Wisconsin. My bike made it no problems; me - had multiple cancelled flights/rebooking for the last leg from Chicago to Madison - ended up being re-ticketed four times and getting in almost 24 hours after I was supposed to.
When my buddy Ryan and I finally arrived we were greeted with the most amazing homestay. Joann Peck was an incredible host, picking up thins for us at the grocery store, allowing us to borrow her car to drive the course, getting me to the start line exactly when I wanted and patiently waiting for me to bring a gear bag back to the car at 5am. Not to mention introducing us to two amazing members of the ultra-running community - Timo and Ann, all of whom spent the day cheering. Their support, as well as the incredible crowd support all along the course was an extremely motivating factor and much appreciated! The best part of racing and traveling is being able to meet so many wonderful people and experience communities I would otherwise never go to - Thank you Joann, Timo, Ann and the entire Madison community!
For the past week I have been able to recovery, acclimate to altitude and train in South Lake Tahoe. It is absolutely gorgeous. I am very fortunate to be able to train in different locations and look forward to my travels over the next few months as well which includes time on the Eastern shore of MD for my buddy Christian's wedding, NC for Beach to Battleship, Portland, OR for my cousin Linda's 50th, Kona, HI to crew for my buddy Nick's Ultraman race, and an extended time down in Austin, TX from December through February; thanks to my buddy Jason for offering up his place down there! Looking forward to the adventures ahead!
|Views from the IM Lake Tahoe bike course|
Thank you to everyone who provide encouragement, especially my parents and sister who consistently provide support. And for the second straight year my sister will be joining me at a race, as she flies into Tahoe tomorrow, despite her recent surgery for a broken wrist. Thank you to all my product sponsors - Quintana Roo, ISM saddles, Gray Wheels, Karhu shoes, Aquasphere wetsuit, Rudy Project for my super aero and comfortable helmet and sunglasses, Champion Sys for my racing and training kits, Swiftwick socks for helping with my recovery, especially while travelling and Perfect Fuel Chocolate for the best pre-race/training energy bites! And of course thank you to Push Potential Marketing and the PFC elite team for their support and inspiration all year.