Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How I Qualified for my Pro Card & Why I Will Still Race as an AG'er

17 April 2013-

10 days ago I raced the Nautica South Beach Triathlon in Miami Florida.  I qualified for my pro card there and mentioned I would elaborate on why I will continue to race as an Age Grouper.  In my race report which can be found HERE I mentioned I would talk about why I am not going to turn pro.  Going to try and keep this short but it might end up being a little lengthy.

I got into triathlon in 2008 and did my own thing for the first 3 years.  I raced quite a bit but had no structured training or coaching.  December of 2010 I signed up for my first IRONMAN and got a coach and power meter.  Scott Defilippis has been coaching me since then and we have seen steady improvements over the last 2 seasons.  I moved back to the US at the end of September 2012 and was excited to be able to put together a solid schedule for 2013 in the US.  I sat down and put together a schedule with some of the bigger short course races in the US on the calendar and started prepping for the 2013 after a short break after Austin 70.3 last October.

I showed up to the start line in Miami feeling really good and that the winter training had went well, minus a few hiccups of illness and a little bit of travel.  I ended up finishing as the 2nd Amateur behind Jake Rhyner, which qualified me for my pro card.  USAT Pro Qualification Standards are listed HERE, and with South Beach having a $40,000 pro prize purse that meant I qualified under Criteria F.

Even though I qualified for my pro card I still feel I am not ready and below are the reasons why I am going to continue to race amateur.

(These are compared to Nautica South Beach)

- My Swim- I was 4:56 down on the lead pro swimmer and 3:00 down on the top amateur swimmer.  I have known from the beginning that the swim is my weakness and I have not fully committed to fixing that.  I have sought out instruction from some top swimmers and they think my swim stroke/technique is not bad, although we are adjusting a few things.  The biggest thing is I need to swim more, so that is an area of focus in the future and something that is being addressed.  I need to start swimming with fast people and swimming with a group, however with my work schedule it does not line up.  I am going to try and figure something out to make that work.

- My Bike- The one area I am not as concerned about.  I had the 8th fastest bike split at South Beach and was 4:25 down on the top bike split and 1:47 down on the 2nd place bike split.  For Olympic Distance I feel confident I can bike with the pros, but for HIM/IM I feel I am still quite a ways off and over time that gap will close.

- My Run- I was 4:52 down in terms of the top run split.  My run is progressing quite a bit and I am happy where it is headed, but 4:52 is a lot of time over 10K.  I PR'd the 10K run by over 30 seconds compared to past open 10K, so things are looking good here but still a lot of work to do.

- Overall- I lost to Jake, the top amateur by 5:41 and to the top pro by 12:49.  The USAT Criteria talks about 8% within the winning time at 3 events with over $5,000 in prize money to meet criteria A.  8% would be approximately 8mins30secs, so as you can see I am a little ways from that as well.

(Other reasons)

- The Pro Women / Amateurs- I have used the pro women's times as a gauge of knowing when I am getting in good race shape.  Kind of a crazy way to judge things, but usually when I am finishing right up with the top pro women I am finishing towards the top of the amateur ranks as well.  I know there is a decent amount of pro men that get chicked now and again but that is good indicator in my opinion that if it is consistently happening it is a good sign you should be staying in the amateur ranks.  Helle Fredericksen won the race and beat me by 2 minutes.  I also don't want to be the guy that is always getting beat by amateurs.  I think that is also a good sign that you are not ready to be a pro or that you should consider going back to the amateur ranks.

- Timing- I am still serving my country in the US Air Force on Active Duty and am committed to that for another 16 months.  I plan to apply to OTS in December and that is the main priority right now.  I would rather serve my country in the capacity of a leader and officer for the next 10 years rather than turn pro in triathlon.  However, if that falls through I plan to get out and pursue a masters degree and/or turn pro in triathlon.

- Listening to Mentors- I still feel like I am new to the sport and have a lot to learn.  I am surrounded by some amazing people and have some great mentors in the sport and outside of the sport.  I have spoken to all of them about the decision to turn pro and they all agree with my decision and think it is best to continue racing as an amateur and focus on the areas that need improvement.  All of them believe in me and know that I have the ability to turn pro, it is just a matter of time.

- The Big Picture- Obviously being a professional triathlete sounds like an amazing job looking in from the outside.  However, there is a lot that the outsiders do not understand.  The money is not great in the sport and that is not a reason to make the jump to the pro ranks.  It would take a lot of sacrifice for me to make this jump, but I believe following a dream and going for it is something that I would never regret.  When I decide to make the jump I want to go into it 100% and make it my focus.  I want to walk away from this journey one day knowing that I gave everything I had to being the best that I could and not questioning the decisions or ways I went about it.  I want go all in and see what can happen and where I can go with giving it everything I have.  Right now I am not ready to do that while holding down a full time job and full time student status.

Above are the main reasons on why I am making the decision to continue racing as an amateur.  I was talking with Jake when we were down at South Beach and we both agree that everyone turns pro for different reasons.  I have heard a few of those reasons from others such as: "Free" race entries, home stays, getting to start at the front of the race, the chance to compete for money, etc etc.  Everyone does it for their own reasons and I don't knock them for that.  When I make the jump, I want to do it because I am ready to compete at that level and want to be competitive not just another pro in the field.

I can't thank everyone enough that has continued to support me through this journey.  There have been some key people along the way that have helped pave this road.  There are some that have believed in me from the beginning and there are some that are probably in a little bit of shock that I have progressed the way I have.  The support that I have received this year has been amazing.  Special Thanks to: Honey Stinger, FRS, Ft Worth Cycling, Zoot Sports, HED Cycling, ISM Saddles, and Clever Training.  And as always my family and friends have been a huge part of this journey and their continued support is amazing.  I was talking with my Dad the other day after South Beach and asked him "Did you ever think you would have a son that could be a "professional" athlete? " He just laughed and said "I have told you and your brother from day 1 that you can do whatever you put your mind to."  So with that being said I have focused on triathlon and continued to work hard, so we will see how far that hard work and dedication can take me.

Going back to my "Post Race Kona Thoughts" from 2011 I mention not rushing things and looking at the pro thing come 2014.  Well things sped up a little bit in terms of results and here I am making the decision now.  But I would have to say that October of 2014 will probably be a good time frame to re evaluate this decision.


Anonymous said...

Hi, a very well thought out response to a difficult question. follow your heart brother.

kelly williamson said...

You're a smart guy! You'll know when the time is right. If you ever wanted to chat on it, don't hesitate to let me know. :)