Thursday, January 9, 2014

Going Pro: Part II - as in Finally Going For It

I’ve thought about this topic a lot. In fact, it was on my mind nearly every day in 2013 and multiple times per day since June 23rd. So it’s about time I write about it. I’ve made my decision to race as a professional triathlete in 2014. It’s big, it’s scary, but based my lists of (+) and (-) it’s the right thing to do.

Sigh of relief to have this in my hand.
Also, holy crap! Is this real life?

Over a year ago I wrote about “Going Pro: Part 1 – as in not Going Pro” and realized I wasn’t ready at that point in my life and my triathlon “career,” (kind of weird to be calling it that, I guess). And that was the best decision for me at the time. 2012 ended up being a bit rocky and I learned a lot about recovery, the importance of rest, how easy I need to take my easy days, and that you can’t just sign up for every triathlon or marathon out there because it “sounds fun.” We all have breaking points and that year I found mine. I was humbled in 2012 with my okay performances and glad I could hide them in the age group field.

But 2013 was different; it was smarter. I learned to listen closely to my body’s needs and knew when I needed a rest, some yoga, naps, better nutrition, or when to say no to triathlon’s most prestigious race in order to maintain some life balance. I was also more patient with my coach’s workouts. If I had a rest week, I took it easy. If I had a long run, it didn’t mean 18 miles of tempo. In July and August when everyone was training hard and I was having a mid-season break, I didn’t get too antsy (even when there were some mid-season blues). And then in September when friends were wrapping up their seasons, I was once again building and focused. I learned, and this is something I need to carry over to this year, to be less “results driven” and more focused on what I’m doing to improve, because my participation in this sport is for the long haul. Of course there’s no guarantee that 2014 won’t have bumps along the way; I’m sure there will be plenty. But I’m stronger, wiser, and more experienced than I was in 2012. The past two years have been excellent for my growth and maturity. 
In June 2013 I laid down a really solid race, one that boosted my confidence and reminded me that 2011 wasn’t just a fluke and I did, in fact, deserve the chance to race as a professional. A lot of people have asked what does this change and the answer is: not much. I’m keeping my job in financial accounting and staying with the same coach. A professional license doesn’t mean I have sponsors knocking down my door. Just like any other season, my past success doesn’t guarantee anything. I plan on working harder and smarter than I ever have and being strategic in deciding when and where to race. I’m sure there will be age groupers that will beat me, but I can’t worry about that. As an age grouper, I beat women in the pro field at most of my races. Perhaps the girls who beat me are the age groupers on the fence of turning pro, just like I’ve been the past couple years.

For anyone wondering if I'm a list person...yes, I am.
There’s been a lot of debate in my head making my decision. There’s the practical side: more flexibility in signing up for races, cheaper registration fees, homestay opportunities, pro sponsors through Ironman, or a tax write-off as a business expense [my dad’s suggestion “oh, I figure that would be the main reason you’d do it,” he says]. And there are also motivating factors: faster fields, potential for prize money, lining up with some of the top pros, and a lifetime opportunity. But the biggest gain is that “Going Pro” truly makes me excited! When I think about 2014 and all the races that seem realistic for my travel budget, they all just seem more exciting if I race against the professional field.

My friend Sarah gave me this card before
 CdA last year. Very fitting for IM athletes.

Right now I don’t have the desire to chase an age group world championship, which I won’t lie, was a tough decision in itself. And for the races I picture myself doing, I want to go head to head with the best, even if it means a good shellacking by some of them. My goal in this sport is to be the best athlete I can be. So why wouldn’t I try to push myself by lining up with the best athletes in the field? If I end up putting too much pressure on myself as a professional and start losing the fun in the sport, I can always go back to the age group lifestyle that has treated me so well over the past several years.

It’s a bit surreal. A few years ago I didn’t really see myself having that much athletic talent – my marathon times were in the 3:30s and biking and swimming were still pretty new and daunting. But I liked to work hard and set goals. And eventually every small goal became a stepping stone to me becoming fast enough and strong enough to earn the opportunity to race as a professional athlete. So I’m going for it and hoping to turn a new set of small goals into something remarkable, even if what lies ahead is only remarkable for me.
Thanks to everyone who has supported me in making this decision and helped me become the athlete I am today!
With Heart,

The fine print: I would have applied for my elite license in November, but elite licenses under the USAT expire on December 31 no matter what. So I decided to save my $45 and wait a couple more months before officially pulling the trigger and making this announcement on the Internet. This decision was made a long time ago, but it’s nice to finally have this well-earned piece of paper in my hot little hand and this big news off my chest.
Also, saying no to Kona in 2013 was the best decision that year. I’m not saying I’d make that same decision every year.
Right now, I’m scared shitless. But I’m using scare tactics to as a means of motivation. I’ll find my confidence between now and my first pro race.


  1. I am SO excited for you! Way to put it out on the line - and absolutely love your pro and con list. I think you've made a great decision and am so excited to cheer you on in 2014!!!!

  2. I am exactly in the same boat! Here is to a great 2014! And I still have to write that blog post... But I waited just like you for the new year and don't have my card in hand yet and you never know what's going to happen... I hope to see you at the races and wishing you the best in 2014!!!

  3. Congratulations!!! It sounds like 2014 is going to be a very exciting year for you. All the best of this new adventure!

  4. Thrilled for you, Cathleen! Big things ahead for you :) Can't wait to cheer you on!