I’ve taken a leap of faith…
I’ve left the comfort zone of the not-quite-age-grouper but not-quite-professional-triathlete and have signed up for an Ironman pro licence. For the past few seasons I’ve felt like a bit of an inbetweener – stuck between being a good amateur and a mediocre profesh… the epitome of the “elite amateur triathlete” I suppose. Last season this label was particularly appropriate. I competed as an age-grouper at UK70.3 and IMUK where I placed 4th and 5th overall respectively, in the top couple of AG spots and just about good enough to get in the “pro prize money” as meager as it is. In domestic races I was regularly top female and placed in the top 10 overall including the men (always take pleasure in handing out a good chicking.) I got selected to race for the GB Elite team at the European championships, I met the “elite amateur” requirements of training more hours a week than I worked and yet I didn’t feel comfortable with identifying myself as a profesh triathlete.
In a Q&A at the 220 Triathlon Show last weekend I was asked why I’d waited until now to make the switch to racing pro even though I’d satisfied the “criteria” back in 2013. Thought provoking.
In triathlon I’ve always found the concept of having to buy a licence and declare yourself “pro” a bit of a strange one. It sits uncomfortably with me. What kind of statement does it make? In the running world it’s not quite so black and white. The first 10 over the finish line are the top 10 in the results regardless of status – end of. You are professional if you can earn enough money from your sport to live off. You represent your country internationally if you meet strict qualifying times and selection criteria at trial races. In some races like the London Marathon there is an “elite” starting pen but it doesn’t exclude those not starting in that wave from winning prizes in the overall results. It’s an even playing field.
Then there’s the big fish, small pond scenario… I’m an incredibly competitive person. I like winning, who doesn’t? Competing as an age-grouper allowed me to keep winning. And as they say winners are grinners. I was grinning but did not feel fulfilled.
The biggest underlying issue for me was lack of self-belief. This has always been a factor in my life and it’s a facet of my personality that I’ve learnt to live with and at times use to my advantage. Fear of failure is a very powerful thing. But in this situation was it making me overly cautious? I wasn’t ready to put my hand up and declare myself “good enough to race pro”. I was scared of being labeled as deluded. I often asked myself the question, at what point is it “acceptable” to turn pro? When you go sub-10, sub-9:50, or sub-9:30 for ironman? When you dominate age-group competition? When you win a big race outright? I think the answer to this is different for everyone. The results need to be there of course but importantly the mindset needs to be right. For me, the goal posts kept drifting ever upwards, I didn’t feel fast enough. Not yet.
So what changed?
The European Championships at Challenge Almere at the end of the 2014 season was my game-changer. Representing GB in the elite race gave me a buzz. Instead of letting self-doubt cloud my race, the step up in competition stoked my fire and focused my mind. Despite a very sub-optimal build-up (detailed in a previous blog if you’re interested) I carried that positive vibe though the race. I had a solid swim, strong bike and ran myself onto the podium. That bronze medal proved myself to my own worst critic, myself. For the first time since dabbling with elite racing, I felt like I belonged in that elite field, and I wanted more of that. It’s now or never…
An important result of stepping up to race pro is that it gives me the opportunity to represent my sponsors better. Choosing not to race as a professional last season had an impact on visibility. The TV coverage of Ironman UK focussed solely on the top 5 Pros and failed to show or even mention the age groupers who finished in the top 5. In the recap at the end of the show the age-groupers were missed off the overall results. In fact 5th pro finished about 2hrs behind me. Not a big deal but it does cause confusion and chip away at the credibility of the sport.
This season I will be strengthening great relationships with existing sponsors as well as adding new weaponry.
Brooks running are kitting me out in the best racing and training gear for the third discipline. I was a brand ambassador for Brooks as an elite runner and I’m incredibly excited to renew this partnership. I genuinely love the product and have run in Brooks shoes for the past few seasons – because they work. My go-to racing and training shoe is the Pure Connect – cushioned enough for long distance training but light enough for race day. A winning combo.
Neolaw are a London based law firm. Simon Murray, Neolaw partner and CEO, is a keen triathlete himself and swims with SwimForTri, which is how we met. I am delighted to have the backing of his company who are contributing towards training and racing expenses, travel and essentially allowing me to give the professional athlete thing a proper go. It is invaluable to have this stability so I can focus my attention more fully on training and racing. Thank you Neolaw.
RaceForce is a brand new partnership. I met the RaceForce team out in Mallorca at my final race of the 2014 season. The race itself was a disaster for me but something great came out of the trip! The RaceForce mechanics did a top notch job of getting my bike race ready and the whole team were out on the course cheering everyone on – giving out a really good and genuine vibe. I was delighted when they contacted me offering me the opportunity to be a brand ambassador for the 2015 season. RaceForce will be looking after my bike transport and assisting with travel/accommodation booking for my key races. This is a massive asset for me and takes away the stress and worry of travelling to races. Their mantra ” together we race” means I will feel part of a team when I travel to races solo. They travel to all the major European races and offer packages from just bike transport to a complete travel and accommodation package including race entry. Check them out: RaceForce
And for training camps (and races that RaceForce aren’t travelling to) I have a Scicon Aerocomfort triathlon bike bag. It’s revolutionary design means you can pack safe, ride fast. No brainer.
It’s no real secret that swimming is my weakness but Speedo are helping to make swimming more colourful and dare I even say fun?! I will be racing in the Elite wetsuit and Fastskin elite goggles this season, equipment that has proven itself time and time again in previous races. Finding the perfect race goggle is a very important quest and one that I have successfully conquered! Having a stress free start to your race cannot be under-estimated in my opinion. The fact that the elite goggles are being offered in new bright colours this season is a bonus of course and didn’t sway my opinion at all. haha
InDurance launched at the 220 triathlon show last weekend and offers comprehensive blood profiling to athletes of all levels. I worked with InDurance behind the scenes last season and experienced first hand the impact that keeping my engine running smoothly had on my race performances over the year. Read what I have to to say about it here: InDurance, the inside scoop.. I’m very excited to have this level of feedback on how my body responds to training, ground breaking stuff.
NEW STUFF FROM EXISTING SPONSORS
My relationship with Simon Smart and the whole drag2zero team strengthens each season and I’m very happy to be riding for team drag2zero again this year. As well as helping out with a bike, Enve wheels and race suit for the season, in December I had a mind blowing bike fit in the D2Z wind tunnel. I learned that small changes in position resulted in significant drops in drag. As well as being more aerodynamic, my new position is also more comfortable, a win-win for both my time-trialling and triathlon aspirations this season. What dropping drag means to me is – hold the same speed as last season with less effort or put in the same amount of effort but go faster. YES!
My racing and training will once again be fuelled by Powerbar. I first starting using Powerbar products as a distance runner at Florida State University back in 2001. As my training has evolved so has their product range meaning that pre/during/post training and racing fuelling is taken care of as well as hydration needs and supplements to maximise training gains. My favourite new flavours are the jaffa cake protein plus bar (click on the link to win a box!) and the extra-caffienated cola hydrogel.
Business advice and support from my financial guru and Possibility race team founder IronTarsh. Thanks for your continued input helping me chase the dream!
along with CONTINUED PARTNERSHIPS with
SwimForTri, Rotor, Birlem Oil, Dryrobe, Tridynamic.
Bring on 2015!