Advice based on my first professional season

It’s been too long since I’ve posted. I think that’s a cliché that has been worn through by too many bloggers (including myself). Sharing on here takes a back seat, though, until I can hold a balance in my own life. Needless to say, things have been hectic. I’ve got a new job (that’s responsibilities increase on a weekly basis), a new training focus, and a new wife (if you’re new to my blog I’d like to point out that I’ve never had a wife before, this is my first time being married, I just like to be a smart-aleck about things).

In the past I liked to wrap up my season by delving into the finer points of what I need to do better during the coming season. I’m going to attempt to change that up this year and, instead, recap my year in the form of advice for someone entering the sport of triathlon and someone looking to or currently turning ‘pro’.

First and foremost you NEED TO BE CONSISTENT! There is simply no substitute for getting workouts done day in and day out. I learned that the hard way this year when Christa and I moved to Richmond, VA from Buffalo, NY. It was really hard for me to stay consistent when I was being pulled in so many directions. If you are newer to the sport this doesn’t mean you give up your social life, lock the kids away and say goodbye to everything until October! What is does mean is that you need a schedule (it can be flexible) and you NEED to stick to it. Goal are attained after consistent work is done, if the work is shotty the end result will suffer and you will fall short. To give this more meaning I might put it this way; say you have time for 2 runs, 2 bikes, and 2 swim every week but even that feels tight. To be consistent it means you adjust your alarm to run for 10 minutes if that’s all you have time for. You need to keep doing work to make the triathlon experience a good one. And TRUST ME (no seriously, trust me) if you stick with it you will savor that 10 minutes if it’s all you can get. Don’t let excuses get in the way. In the words of so many, you need to do you to do other people (no don’t take that the wrong way ;) ).

If you are turning pro or want to be a pro triathlete being consistent means a lot more of those things I listed above that “normal” people should not give up. If you want to be good, be viable, and keep this lifestyle and sport from driving you into debt you need to focus all of your energy on it (and finding a sugar momma helps too…). You can’t be out late nights drinking, you need direction, you must surround yourself with a supportive network, you need to understand or be coached by someone who understand the difference between a triathlete.com training plan and what needs to be done while training over 20 and 30 hours per week. Your training should not look like the age-grouper shooting for the AG podium. What make that person fast and what makes you fast is a whole different world of stimulus.

Both the newbie and new pro NEED mentors (or whatever name you want to call someone with experience who isn’t just a blowhard). For the newbie it’s about keeping you grounded. I’ve watched too many new triathletes over-think the living daylights out of everything. When you are just getting started, and even for the first few years (unless you’re a genetic freak) it’s the simple things that keep you injury-free and improving. Things like consistent workouts, knowing your training zones so the easy days are easy and the hard days are hard, planning a race schedule that plays to helping you improve while giving you a small challenge (ie. I don’t ever recommend an ironman right out the gate or some suffer-fest hill climbing race… you can and will get there and once you do it will worth your while to have taken your time). Both the new pro and newbie both need help creating and adapting OBJECTIVE, REASONABLE GOALS. Holy jeez did I fail at this while I was new to the sport and in my first season as a pro. For the new pro you need to realize (again unless you are a genetic freak) that this new, big pond you are jumping into is another planet of fast racing. Here is a good phrase to sum it up: “You think you know but you have no (freakin’) idea”. You will learn a new definition of “hard” for both the newbie and new pro and it’s imperative you have someone around who can talk you down and talk you through it.

Bridging off my last point both the newbie and new pro need to be reasonable about everything and anything when it comes to racing. I’m taking about everything from your first flat in a race to racing, literally, all alone for an entire day without another soul in sight. I’m talking about panicking during the swim to dealing with unforeseen conditions on race day (ie. weather so cold you can’t unbuckle your helmet). You need to understand that next to consistency I would value any form of patience you can muster to be the second most important aspect of this sport and lifestyle. This is a game that rewards a drive and tenacity that comes from time and progress only gained from a relentless pursuit of perfection for the pro and the relentless pursuit of fitness and enjoyment (plus some perfection) from the newbie. It takes time and you will not be the person who figures it all out right away. You won’t learn how to do it all right away, you just won’t. But that is part of the incredible beauty of this sport and lifestyle because when you do finally learn it comes with a feeling of pure bliss. And at that point, damn it will feel good to be a gangsta ;) .

This one is more for the new pro now. You need a solid swim or run, without one (or both) you won’t be finishing too far up the standings. The saying that “you don’t win it on the swim but you can lose it” couldn’t be more true. Also the saying that “you win it on the run” is always completely true (in the vast majority of races). Very, very few people can win a pro race on the bike and 9 times out of 10 they also have a solid swim split (Starky is a prime example of this with his lack of true run speed). I’ve got a top 5 age group swim in any race and that just means I’ve got a bottom end pro split. So I start the race chasing and never stop. Also, fast age group run splits are not even mediocre pro splits most of the time. You want to be viable in a 70.3 pro field you need a run split faster than 1:20 and in a competitive field you need to be around 1:15 or faster. We are talking sub-1:15 stand-alone half marathon splits. Get that run training volume up!

I guess I will get a bit more personal here for a moment. I’m not entirely sure what I expected from my first season as a professional triathlete. I can and will admit that I wanted too much though and because of this I was disappointed in myself entirely too much during this season. I enjoyed this season tremendously but because of a lack of consistency and being a bit short on patience I tried to do much more than I was capable of handling. I’ve learned my lessons (I hope) and I’m enjoying the process of looking back on how silly I was at times. This ride I’m on is amazing and I couldn’t ask for it to go any other way but the way it is right now. This season was a bust in terms of results but the knowledge I gained blows every other year out of the water except my first year in the sport. And you know what, I got to race 9 times this season in some fantastic venues all while being accompanied by my amazing wife (even though she was my girlfriend, then fiance through the season… the wife part didn’t come until after, ha). I’m fortunate to be able to enjoy a life filled (and consumed) with triathlon. Now I just need to work on getting faster!

With that said, I need to thank my wife Christa and my sponsors USPRO Tri and FreeSpeed Sports for all there support this year. I could not have done this with out you. Mostly, I couldn’t have done it without Christa… but the sponsors really, really help the cause!! :) I’d also like to thank my family and all the friends who checked in on me, came out to my races, and have supported me all along. It’s always reassuring to know I have people in my corner who believe in me when I start to doubt. And thank you to all of my random readers, if you read this (and actually get this far in the post) let me know if I can ever do anything to help. I’m always willing to talk shop!

Today is a good day!

2 thoughts on “Advice based on my first professional season

  1. Look at this past season as a springboard onto greater success. You’ll get there, Nick; you have the right attitude for as long as I’ve known you. Congratulations to you and Christa on your marriage!

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