Reflection is sometimes the best way to truly learn. Without looking back on what has happened, we don’t always realize what we have learned. While this is really for my benefit, it may also prove helpful to age-group athletes (especially those with pro aspirations) or just give insight into my first year as a professional triathlete.
Here are 10 lessons I learned during my first year as a pro (in no particular order):
1. The little things really do matter. During my 6 months as an amateur triathlete, I was not concerned about what I thought were the little things:
· The exact amount of cals/hour to take in during the race (+/-200 cals doesn’t matter right;))
· Changing my nutrition setup in transition the morning of the race (yes this happened in Kona)
· Core workouts
· Fueling correctly before, during, and after workouts
· Aero…what’s that? I’ll just stick a water bottle in my loose jersey.
2. The professional race is much different than the amateur race. It’s the same course but an entirely different race. This has been debated widely in many forums, but I believe I have some first hand experience here. In 2014, I was the first female amateur across the finish line at the World Championships. Many people commented about how close I was to so-and-so pro triathlete or how I was the 25th female overall. While I would love to say that I would have placed the same had I started in the professional field, I know that would not have been the case. As a pro you generally face a much more tactical race with fewer people around you on the course. I remember that during my first race as a professional I didn’t see another competitor for several miles on the bike course. Finally, professionals are not racing simply to finish another IM. They are racing to earn money and/or points to Kona (world championships) so they may be more likely to not complete a race as it becomes apparent over the course of the race that they are out of contention for prize money or significant Kona points.
3. How to pack a bike. You can learn anything on YouTube. My first time I packing my bike took me an hour, but now I can get everything done in less than 15 minutes. Also, if you don’t put your CO2 in an obvious spot, you can usually get away with traveling with them. Here’s
a short video that should help out some!
4. Liquid nutrition is a great idea. When I raced as an amateur, I was racing at a lower same intensity than I am now. At a lower intensity, your body can process solid food better. When you are racing at a higher intensity liquid nutrition is a must!
I use XRCEL
for my liquid nutrition. It’s great because its formulated to not cause GI distress and your body will absorb more of it so you can race harder, longer. If you would like to try some or have any questions about it just contact me!
5. Make your slow workouts/rest intervals slow. The key to doing this is to make your fast workouts/intervals so fast that you HAVE to do your slow workouts slow. If you are pushing yourself like you should during your hard workouts, you should cherish the time you get to go easy.
To give an example of what my recovery in my intervals is versus my HARD intervals it would be under 100 watts compared to over 300 watts or around 5 minute/mile pace versus 10-11 min/mile pace.
6. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is stupid. Change things up every now and then. Learn something new and make some more progress. There are so many experts in this sport; learn from all of them, but don’t believe anyone 100%.
7. Recovery IS as important as your workouts, almost. Obviously if I only had time for a workout or a recovery boot session, I would workout, but when I am building up for a big race and have high training volume, I make sure that I am just as diligent at scheduling recovery as I am workouts. If you don’t recognize the importance of reovery, you won’t set aside time for it and it won’t happen.
Some of my favorite recovery techniques are: go to my PT and get some muscle releases done and sit in his recovery boots for 30-60 minutes, go to my chiropractor and get my body back in sync and alignment, go to my massage therapist, read book with Emi or other family activity, roll out with a foam roller, and take one day OFF a week. HERE
are some other pro’s recovery ideas:
8. Strength conditioning is a very important component of training. I have seen the benefits of strength conditioning in helping me hit challenging workouts, manage the overall health of my body, and prevent/mitigate injury. Check out my post on strength conditioning for more details HERE
9. Maybe I should have waited to go pro for another year. I don’t regret getting my pro card (I qualified for it in both the IM races I did as an amateur), but I now realize that some things may have been easier had I waited a year. At the awards ceremony in Kona all the women were chatting with each other like best friends. Almost all of them had competed at Kona in previous years. Many of them had a couple sponsors and were known in the sport. Because I was so new to triathlon, I didn’t have any of those things, which made an already steep learning curve even more challenging. Having another year in the sport would have made the pro transition a little smoother.
10. Long-distance triathlon racing IS a team sport. If I didn’t have my family, coach, friends, sponsors, physical therapist, chiropractor, massage therapist helping me and supporting me on this wild adventure, I couldn’t even get to the start line.