Each week I am posting a number of questions I have asked pro triathletes from an old media business I use to own.
I was part of the Australian Institute of Sport program when I was a junior and living and training in France in 2001 & 2002 gave me a taste of going pro full time. In 2003 I traveled to the USA and based in San Diego and found I was more competitive at the Non-Drafting format and switched my focus from ITU and Olympic selection aspirations to ultimately Half Ironman and Ironman.
Everyone has different reasons for going Pro. Unfortunately being top 50 in the world doesn’t make you rich like in some sports! Pro status doesn’t mean you can tell your boss what you really think and throw away the stilettos. Most Pros work or focus on generating sponsors and this takes a lot of time also. For some people the style of racing age group suits their strengths and they can win as an age grouper but perform poorly when incorporated into the pro race tactics.
For me it was about the competition and opportunity to race a lot and see the world. In my first Ironman I placed in my age group at Kona, and then raced Ironman Australia and won my age group by over half an hour. That was enough for me to want to race in the Pro category, even if it meant getting hooped occasionally! I think the level of competition in female triathlons has dramatically improved in the last 3-4 years.
A small percentage can make a living out of it. Some prize money here and there and building a reputation definitely helps fund the lifestyle. A lot of athletes who gain their pro licence are lost in the numbers for a while, but having to wait 2 years to switch back to age group again is a deterrent.
Triathlon is not generally a sport you can become the best overnight, and I think more age groupers who are eligible should step up if they are mentally ready for the challenge of racing pro and the self-inflicted pressure. At the end of the day, the sun will keep coming up each day, and it’s what makes you happy.
My parents always pushed school so when I got the chance to join the ewz power team and get my first team paycheck in 2002 I was far from making a living out of it but I was starting as a pro. During the next 9 years I all ways studied next to training and racing. Also I worked my way up inside the team with wins at Ironman Zurich. So I really just turned full time pro last year when I finished my Bachlor in Communications. Because of my free time now I started with a bit of coaching now because I really like to help athletes reaching their goals and sharing my experiences.
My very first half ironman (Gold Coast Half IM) I raced elite and won beating many top pro triathletes so the decision was not a hard one.
I had gotten to a point (and trust me I say this not to boast) where I was doing pretty well at most races and just figured the step up in the competition level would do me good. I had qualified for my professional license early in 2009, but I really didn’t know it or even think about it. After racing Kona that year, it became much more of a reality to me, and I decided to give it a shot. It was not really that tough of a decision for me because I was still working full time as an attorney. So I didn’t have the pressure to “make a living” from the sport. I thrived on the competition and loved racing so it was somewhat of a “no-brainer” for me. Making the leap to full time training and racing, and leaving the desk job behind (& steady paycheck) behind was a much weightier decision.
I started with the short races and then within a couple of months I was up to doing a standard distance race and the second one I did I won. I got a coach and started training around 15 hr a week while still working 3 jobs (as a high school maths teacher, teaching the violin, and playing in the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra). The next year I did a whole lot of racing in the standard distance event and won most of them. I started to think I could maybe foot it with the professionals, and left my job as a high school Maths teacher but continued with my other 2 jobs. I knew it was a risk but for me I want to live my life without regrets. My goal turned towards doing an ironman (1st one was March 2007). In New Zealand there is no professional licence as such and so I just believed that I could get in the top 10 and wanted to win some money for my efforts so entered as a pro. I came 5th. After that I raced always as a pro and still worked a bit on the side. My first ironman win came in September 2007 and now I have 9 iron distance titles and am looking for my tenth.
I did Ironman NZ in 2010 as my first ironman and won my age group and finished just outside the top 10. After that a few people told me to consider getting my pro licence. After NZ I really wanted to do Ironman WA at the end of the year but hadn’t signed up. But by getting my pro licence I would be able to do it. So I applied and it went through. Unfortunately I couldn’t do the race because I got injured before. Looking back it might have been a bit early to get my pro licence but I recon I’v gotten more long term benefits from the extra experience of racing in the pro field instead of doing well in age group.
I always wanted to be a professional sportsman, and in my late teens I started to see promising signs that I had something, and knew what I wanted.
I first chose to go pro in my early 20s after quitting my job I moved to the gold coast to train with Col Stewarts squad which was jam packed with all the big names at the time. I figured that I was young enough to have a good crack at living the dream and it was totally my decision. Being a professional sportsperson has always been a dream of mine so it wasn’t a hard decision.
I had a few consecutive age-group wins, had qualified and raced at the Hawaii World Champs a couple of times. It was a tough decision to make the step up but it had always been my dream to race Ironman as a Professional. My theory is you never know until you try, I have had a few top-10 finishes in my first Pro season so I think I have validated my decision with some good consistent racing and continually learning and improving each time. I’m only 28 and the top guys are pushing hard right up past 40 now.
Not really, i won Ironman Uk and 70.3 UK in 2009 whilst i was in my 2nd year of university so after finishing my 3rd year of my History degree it was the natural path to take.
As a kid, I always wanted to be a pro athlete. After my brother introduced me to triathlon, I knew that was what I wanted to do, but I joined the military right after that so I didn’t get to chase that dream until 6 years later. It was an easy decision to go pro, but it took me 10 years as a pro to become successful. The hard part was surviving as a pro.
Not to sound condescending or anything but I don’t really consider myself professional. Being a pro means making a good living, and that’s something that has become few and far between amongst Australian athletes. While I don’t have a full time job and I dedicate all my time to sport (apart from part-time study), I think acutally ‘turning pro’ is a few years away. I have some loyal sponsors, and I’m currently building on these relationships. At the moment, I’m doing okay, but as I said, I wouldn’t call myself professional just yet.
Aside from this, I’ve always been at the pointy end of high performance sport, be that swimming or running when I was younger, or Triathlon in latter years. It was an organic decision to dedicate myself to racing at the highest level.
I had talked to my coach Russell Cox about it last season. When racing I was placing well in races and beating pros. The real turning point, I came off my bike 3weeks out of IM Wales. I was sat in a Spanish hospital after breaking my collar bone. I made up my mind at that point thinking, what have I got to lose.
After school I went directly to university to study Mathematics and I started to train more and improved really quickly. That time my girlfriend and me decided to start a family. After finishing 7th at the Ironman European Championships and completing a bacchelor I just wasn’t able to handle all three family, university and my sporting carreer so I quit university and concentrated on triathlon. And I was absolutely happy to spend a lot of time with our little taughter Paula and see her grow up and discover the world every single day.
Funny you ask I just ran a seminar on this the other week.
•Choosing the right time
•Getting a results database
•Age group/ pro racing are very different
•Be smart, keep working, Patience. you can still work and race, you don’t have to drop everything
•Start planning now.
•The plan to go bankrupt slowly isn’t a good one. ie: saving up to turning pro isn’t going to pay the bills
•Other things to consider: Sponsors, cash flow, travel
I had been getting faster and scoring some wins in my local triathlon series, in the Open Elite category, so once I had finished my university degree I guess the competitive nature I have inside me got the better of me and I just wanted to try and see if I was capable of making it as a professional.
To be honest I did not think I would be going pro for a long time, as I did not think I could be at that level for a long time considering all my other commitments. But after my race at the Coles Bay 100 I decided to apply for my pro licence which I got granted the next week. The decision to go pro was one of the easiest decisions I have ever made, as I had always dreamt of racing against the other pros that I had looked up to for so long and getting the pro licence was the only way to race them.
It took me seven years of racing in the age group ranks before I felt that I was competitive enough to race pro. In fact, several of the guys who I was beating in my age group had turned pro before me. I wanted to make sure that I was not making the move prematurely. I had some success at the top of the half ironman ranks – from an overall amateur standpoint – and even entered T2 at Kona within the top 20 overall. But even those successes did not give me the confidence that I could contend in the pro ranks. I finally made the jump after determining that racing head-to-head with the best was going to be the best way to make myself better.