For me, it literally means that I have a USAT (USA Triathlon) Elite license (which you can obtain by meeting certain criteria. For explanation see here). It means that I will start with the elite field in any race and be eligible to earn money. Unfortunately, it does not mean that I will earn money, but that's a whole different story. For me, it means that I will become a bit more serious and detail-oriented in my training, because I am officially balancing two jobs. So, nope, I am not quitting my job as a school psychologist". I am, however, working 4 days per week, so I have one extra day to train, travel, or work with my sponsors....
I recently contributed to an article for 3/GO Magazine that will be published in the next couple of months. 5 rookie pros from my age group also contributed, so my verbose answers will be snipped to just one or two sentence contributions, so I posted the complete interview below. Above, I talked about what being "pro" IS for me, and below is a bit about what it means....And I also let some cats out of the bag (wait? who puts a cat in a bag anyhow?) as to some big changes for me next year...much more on those soon!
|Chatting with my fellow rookies...Photo by Larry Rosa|
- How did you get your start in triathlon? I feel like adult “late bloomer” triathletes start as either ex-college swimmers or rowers with big engines, or injured runners. I was the latter. I began running (without a plan or any knowledge of endurance training) in 2007 and promptly ran myself into a femoral fracture and was on crutches for 5 months. Before the doctor allowed me to run, I was permitted to “spin on a recumbent bike” and run in the pool. Sounds like triathlon to me! Of course, being oblivious to proper healing and recovery, I took this to mean that I should go buy a “real bike”, learn how to clip in , and start “training” for triathlon before I was even allowed to walk. I distinctly remember crutching it down to the beach and hopping on one leg through the whitewater during my first (terrifying) ocean swim with the San Diego tri club. Needless to add, I eventually healed up and did my first Sprint Tri in May 2008. I placed 3rd amateur overall and was officially hooked.
- What’s your athletic background? In high school, I was quite sporty. I played varsity field hockey and lacrosse. I did swim on the swim team for a couple of years. I use the term “swim team” loosely. We never won a single meet. I was actually quite good for our team standards since half the team was actually learning to swim. College was a different story. I was on a strict training regimen of beer, Wendy’s, and (gasp!) half a pack of cigarettes a day. I used to heckle the girls in my dorm for working out and didn’t comprehend why anyone would do that. I slept past noon at least 3 days per week. I may or may not have gained the “Freshman 15”. You’ll never know because I destroyed all the pictures. I never in a million years imagined I would become a pro triathlete at age 31.
- What’s your strongest discipline? Well, running is what got me into this whole “mess”. Straight away, when I began running in 2007, I was not bad. After one month of “training”, I ran my first ever 10k in 40 minutes and 30 seconds. So, I literally took that and ran with it. Running myself into the ground. But it all sparked a belief inside me that I could be “good”. Since then I’ve worked on my run and in 2010 I ran a 2:59 standalone marathon and a 3:10 marathon off the bike in Kona.
- Which discipline do you think needs most improvement now that you’re joining the pro field? How do you plan to tackle this? It’s a good thing I can run ‘em down because I have a lot of improvement to make on the bike and the swim. Although I’m no fish, I still see that I need to make the most improvement on the bike because that is where I’ll see more “bang for my buck”. In the past 3 years, I’ve improved about 3 minutes on my Half Ironman swim times, and about 30 minutes on my bike times, so clearly, the return on investment is highest for the bike. I know that if I keep working on my bike fitness, I can be better and I finally believe in my ability to improve. For a long time, I felt like I put in the work, but wasn’t seeing the results. Now, I know that it just took a couple of years of building up some mileage in my legs and I’m starting to reap the benefits of hard work and dedication.
In order to maximize my output on the bike, we are also going to work on my TT position with a bike that fits me. I know that to compete with the pros, you need attention to detail. In the past, I’ve ridden whatever bike I was available, regardless of fit, and never spent much time on my position. 2012 will be different. When looking for a bike sponsor, I was clear that I would rather have no sponsor at all than to “settle” for a bike that wasn’t perfect for me. I am one of the tricky “in between sizes” women and I knew there were only a couple of 700cc bikes that would fit me perfectly. I lucked out and I’m going to be working with Cannondale Women’s bikes. The Cannondale Slice is my “goldilocks” bike. I rode a borrowed Slice briefly (for one race) in 2010 and haven’t felt a connection like I did with that bike since then. I’m also going to be working with Retul fitters at Studeo DNA to tweak and dial in a position that is fast and aero. My previous TT position was the butt of many jokes on our Saturday rides… Apparently I looked like a “monkey [doing something unmentionable to a] football”. In 2012, I will have no excuses about my bike or position…Now, just to prepare the rider.
- What made you decide to “go pro”?
For me, “going pro” was a really tough decision. I felt like I had reached the top of age group racing but I still felt as though there was a gap from that spot to the pro field. But, I’ve never been one to live life with any “woulda-shoulda-coulda’s”. I’m 31, so for me it was now or never and I’m ready for the challenge.
- Will racing as a pro change how you plan your season? If so, how?
For me, racing as a pro is going to allow me to plan my season much more organically. With races selling out for age groupers a year in advance, you sometimes get “stuck” in a schedule. Now, I’ll have the flexibility to race when and where I want to. If training is going well and I feel prepared, I can race a lot. If my base needs more work, we can back it off.
- What do you expect to be the challenges of competing in the pro field?
First, of course, I’m nervous about the swim. Aren’t we all (Except Jess Smith :) ) ? As an average age group swimmer, I’ll have my work cut out for me even more in the pro field. I’ll be honest- I’m scared of swimming and biking alone in no man’s land for an entire Ironman. I tend to daze off on the bike if I’m not around others who are pushing and motivating me. I may be doing lots of talking to myself and finding that “inner” strength (or crazy depending which way you look at it).
- What will you not miss about being an amateur?
I won’t miss the trepidation that comes before and Ironman mass swim start where you know you are about to get clocked by 2000 of your closest friends. I also won’t miss the drafting packs in age group racing.
- What concerns you most about your decision to race as a pro?
I’m aware that just because my mind and my USAT card say that I’m a “pro”, my body will have to make the jump as well! I’m not delusional and certainly don’t expect to be the next Chrissie Wellington in 6 months, but I hope that I can make myself and my supporters proud by sufficiently stepping my game up.
At first, I was worried that by keeping my day job, I would be at a disadvantage to those true professionals who are able to make triathlon a full-time career. However, I’m starting to believe that the balance may in fact be good for me and I’m looking forward to the challenge of balancing two day jobs.
How will your training change in the coming year as you prepare for your first season as a pro?
Contrary to many rookie pros, I actually may end up doing less volume than in the past. My former coach, Dirk Aschmoneit, helped me reach the point where I’m at now, and we did lots of volume (and I loved every minute of it!). I have him to thank for getting me ready to take this next step to “pro”dom . In 2012, I need to focus on getting FAST, so we are going to take those base miles and long days and translate them into a platform for speed. I need to mentally prepare myself for the fact that my workouts might not be as long, but they are going to HURT.
I’m doing more group riding out of my comfort zone and I’m lucky to have a group of cyclists that put me in the hurt box on a daily basis. As luck would have it, my next door neighbor is Pete Coulson, who has coached and mentored several Ironman World Champion athletes and is currently working with the phenomenal 70.3 pro Heather Jackson. Pete has taken me under his wing and Heather is a great model to look up to and chase in training. My husband, James, is also a huge support and gets me through our training rides. I feel very lucky that I get to go out and ride my bike with this crew and I know that I’ve got the best “team” out there. They even send someone to pull me back to the group when I chicken out on the descents .
- What has been your favorite/most memorable triathlon experience to date?
My first time competing in Kona at the Ironman World Championships in 2010 will always be very special. I wasn’t close to winning my age group (I went 10:13) but I enjoyed every second of that race and all of the experiences surrounding the race itself. The Kona “vibe” is one-of-a-kind and the whole week is a true celebration of the best things about long distance triathlon. Swimming in Kailua Bay out to the Coffees of Hawaii boat for an espresso the day before the race with friends & family might be my favorite triathlon “experience”. That’s what I love about triathlon….It’s not always the race itself or the finish line that is the most memorable.
For me, I want to remember the entire journey. I happened to start a blog right when I was learning to clip into pedals in 2007 and have documented the good, bad, and embarrassing since that time. I love being able to look back (and I just did so to find out the date/times from my first triathlon for this article) and laugh and reminisce. I also love sharing my experiences with other aspiring triathletes because I’d say that I’ve learned 50% of what I do in triathlon from reading blogs and testing things out and I hope to be able to help others in the same way.
- What question(s) do you wish I had asked you? And what is your response?