Chapter 1: Trial By Fire
The other day I was having a conversation with one of my old coaches about my pursuit for my pro card. After a few minutes, he asked. “why do you want your be a pro?”…
It was an important question for me to hear. I didn't answer right away, and I’m glad I didn’t because often the answers we give off the top of our heads aren’t true reasons, they are justifications. They aren't the root of our actions, they are the fruit of the rewards.
Since that initial question, I’ve actually been asked the same question, or close to it, from multiple people. So, here is my honest answer:
I want to be a pro for ego reasons. I’m hungry for the fruit of the rewards.
There are obvious benefits from being a pro: the status, getting to race alongside the best, the prize purses, the “fame” (endurance athletes are famous within the endurance athlete community, so its not true fame, more like recognition).
My reasons also run deeper to the roots of who I am.
I also want to be a pro because it is a tangible representation of potential.
I want to be a pro because training and racing is where my soul is on fire. I love the process, the trial by fire. Forging myself (or others for that matter) from an athlete with potential and doubts into one who is actually strong and confident is incredibly rewarding.
I want to be a pro because it’s a test of my own methods. Although some coaches might be wonderful from the sidelines, I want to be on the front line, leading the charge. If others are going to trust me to get them from where they are to where they want to be, I need to be able to trust myself to do the same.
Motivation is interesting. Sometimes the fire comes from a burning passion in our gut. Sometimes the fire is in our eyes, sparked by the rewards we see. It’s okay to have both.
With all this in mind, I want to share my journey in more depth as I push for my pro card.
First things first, the pro card is just vernacular I like. Technically its called the elite license, and the qualification for it can be found here: https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Triathlon/Membership-Services/Elite-Membership/Qualification
For my purposes, I have one route that make it possible for me to qualify in 2019:
CRITERIA G: Achieve a gender-graded Race Score of 104.420 or higher at two (2) events with 300 or more total (male and female) participants. (Race Score threshold is determined annually and represents the most recent value required to be within the top .5% of all gender-graded Race Scores achieved, For additional information on USAT Rankings, including the definition of Race Score, please consult the USAT Rankings Criteria page: http://www.usatriathlon.org/rankings/rankings-criteria.aspx#Definitions
You can find your score for your races using your USAT member number or name here: https://rankings.usatriathlon.org/RaceResult/AthleteResults
So, my potential path to pro = get a score > 104.42 (my 2018 Chattanooga 70.3 was 99.4) at one of the following races:
Ironman 70.3 Florida - April 14th
Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga - May 19th
Ironman 70.3 Wisconsin - June 9th
Ironman 140.6 Wisconsin - September 8th
Triathlons are an interesting sport because each year can be wildly different in terms of time and who shows up on race day. A score of 104.42 means I have to smash it out of the park in at least one event (for me, the run) with two others being strong efforts.
Therefore, the plan and goals reflect past results, but generally sub 4:10 in a 70.3 should do the trick.
Swim - 0:30:00
Bike - 2:15:00
Run - 1:15:00
+ transition and a little bit of wiggle room = 4:10.
There is no perfect predictor, but I use the following race estimators to help dial in an estimate and strategy.
Jack Daniels: https://runsmartproject.com/calculator
Best Bike Split: https://www.bestbikesplit.com
With 8 weeks to go until my first race using a variety of combination from the approaches above to estimate my potential time, I am guessing I'm capable of 4:18 on a good day. This process also gives you a good idea of where you can get the most low hanging fruit. But it will take more than just training to get me those extra 8 minutes.
How can I cut time down aside from the normal program?
Focus on course specifics. Download the resources, train on the course when I can.
Handle the heat. Use the sauna to simulate the humidity. Florida, Chattanooga, Wisconsin all have potential to be HOT!
Cut out alcohol. This is a big one. I haven’t had a dry season since I graduated from college and it was against the rules to drink during season. I’m making an 8 week pact to see if eliminating this makes an impact on my weight and performance consistency.
Recover well. It’s challenging to put in as much volume as the best age groupers without breaking down. Plus, it can be tempting to push workouts to the pros seemingly superhuman levels. However, the best workout is the one you can recover from. If you can decrease your recovery time with these kind of tools and good nutrition, you can train more consistently at a high level.
Overall it will be quite the trial by fire to see if I can reach that next level and I am excited to share the journey.