Monday, July 12, 2010

The PRO card application has been submitted...

Well I pulled the trigger…Why the heck not. My PRO card application is in the hands of USAT. I have to admit, this is something I’ve considered for the last two years, but for many reasons I never really believed it was the right move for me.

Originally I was planning to do it after my first Ironman World Championship back in 2008. I had to check that KONA box, but after the race, I realized how much fun I had just being out there…not racing anyone, no pressure or expectations. I wanted more of that, so early in 2009 I had plans to step back from all the racing (I think I raced 16 times in 2008), to seek out new adventures and challenges.

Well my Love for the sport shined through, and I found myself on the start line weekend after weekend as soon as the season started. It was still one race at a time- I had no real goals aside from doing the best I could each week. I don’t think I even registered for AG Nationals until about 3 weeks before, and I ended up wrapping up the year as the 2009 USAT Amateur Triathlete of the year (although there were plenty of other amateurs whom I believe were more deserving).

So again, in 2010, I longed for something new. I barely swam all winter, and when I got my ticket into Leadville (100 Mile MTB), it was all about the bike. It was just the change I needed. Then I decided to enter a few early races just for the speed workouts. Everyone kept saying that although Leadville is a 12 hr race, you need to do LOTS of threshold work as the altitude (10,000+ft) induces threshold like feelings all day long! So the season rolled around - It was late May, and I decided to sign up for my first race of the season- The Gear West Duathlon. My goal was Top 5, but I ended up surprising myself and defended my win from the prior year. So one by one (and typically just days before each) I would register for another race. With my 2010 racing goals being “survive Leadville”, all self imposed pressure to perform at a high level was removed. I raced to give myself the best training day possible. I was much better off-Both physically and mentally. It was a completely different mindset from previous years and a very welcomed change.

Over the last few years, most of my hesitation with getting the Pro card was simply that I love my current lifestyle. Having a full time job enables me to do more of the things I love; such a travelling with friends, eating high quality organic food, frequent massage, buying new gear, supporting others etc. I love my current training buddies and my ‘whatever goes’ approach to group training/outings. I felt the only way I could do the Pro thing was to give all that up. Had to FOCUS AND BE DISCIPLINED! I’m very realistic (I’m no Olympian or World Champion athlete), and I just wasn’t ready to make that kind of sacrifice just to call myself a Pro triathlete.

So since early May, I’ve been focused on surviving Leadville, and all thoughts of getting my PRO card had disappeared- Well, that was until this past Saturday.

I was racing in my 9th Lifetime Fitness triathlon, and after finishing the race, I hear my biggest fan (he’s every triathletes biggest fan), Jerry MacNeil announce that I had won my 5th straight LTF race. Although I was running VERY scared (I’ll try to do a race report soon), and I never took it for granted, I felt sort of embarrassed by the announcement, and thought to myself-TIME TO MOVE ON.

When I think about why I race, it’s truly about the experience and doing the best that “I” can do. I’ve been very fortunate in my 9 year amateur career to have picked up a few wins and special awards, but that stuff is not as important or motivating to me anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it and it feels good, but it’s not what gets me fired up. Personally, I don’t feel like I have any unfinished business in amateur racing. In fact, I sort of feel like a schmuck staying in the amateur field. Although there will always be faster racers coming through the amateur ranks (I can easily name 10+ amateurs that could crush me), I still feel like I’m expected to win or else I’ve ‘LOST’. I remember last year after the 1/100 second come from behind photo finish at GW duathlon, someone (who I know didn’t mean any harm by it) said, “wow Cathy, I heard you almost lost…what happened?” HUN- I was pretty darn proud of that race… Now I realize that it will always be that way if I stay in the amateur ranks.

I race to be the best that I can be, and more importantly to enjoy new experiences. With that said, turning pro will provide more unique racing situations and new challenges. For instances, getting into closed WTC races, priority start times, priority transition locations, VIP treatment etc. and meeting the best athletes in the World. I know racing as a Pro is a whole different deal, especially at the long WTC races, when the AGs have the benefit of thousands of other athletes all around them on the bike course. I know where I stand (very scary) and I’m ready to thrown to the wolves in an attempt to get better, to learn, and to experience something that I have the unique privilege to do.

So yes, I’ve come to the conclusion that I can still race as a pro, AND keep my job and my lifestyle just the way it is. I have no concerns about finishing at the back of the pack as long as I have a good race, as long as I’m improving, and most importantly as long as I’m having fun. Life can be taken from us at any moment, and there’s been too may reminders of that lately-SO yeah, NO Regrets. Today I did something that was unexpected and a little scary…USAT now has my application.

I expect IM Wisconsin will be my first pro race…. 4 weeks after 'Racing Accross the Sky" in Leadville. YEEE HAWW!