Eleven years ago, I raced my first triathlon. Eight years ago, I made the commitment to myself that I would be a professional triathlete someday. One year ago, I finished up my masters, started supporting myself through coaching, and went all in. And finally, I reached my goal. This year, at St. Anthony’s, I became a professional triathlete!
I chose to make my debut as a Pro at St. Anthony’s for three reasons. The first is that I love the race’s history. The race has been going on for over 30 years and was once a qualifier for the Ironman World Championship in Kona. Second, the race always has a stacked field. This year, the race had big names such as Timothy O’Donnell, Matt Reed, Greg Bennett and Cam Dye. I’ve looked up to these guys for years and have been eager to toe the line with them. Third, my Olympic distance 10k run PR was set on this course. I have been looking forward for the chance to break it.
Race morning beated to its normal rhythm—I stick to the same race day morning routine so I don’t have to think about anything if I don’t want to. 4:15 wake up, breakfast, drive to the race start, set up transition, warm up jog to the beach start, warm up swim with a few pickups, get to the line. It’s quick, fast, and mindless.
The race began with a bang and we went out faster than I’ve ever started a race before. I chose to line up on Tim O’Donnell’s feet to ensure that I got a great, fast draft. That first surge was manageable and I was glad to see a few guys pop off the back. Around 400 meters, the pack relaxed for about a minute. Not realizing that they eased off of the pace, I swam right into O’Donnell’s legs. I relaxed my effort just a little to readjust my position. In hindsight, this was a huge mistake. At that moment, there was another surge from the front and I lost contact with O’Donnell’s draft. Knowing that losing the draft for only a second could end my chance at staying with the group. I surged. The burning in my lungs started to build and my form started to break. I didn’t catch the draft in those crucial moments and never made contact again.
In Olympic distance (.9 mile swim, 40k bike, 10k run) racing, it’s crucial to stay with the main pack through the swim and the bike if you want any chance at placing. A swim pack almost always moves faster than an individual. The bike pack, even though this was a non-draft legal race, works in a similar way. And, the race is won within seconds, so every bit of energy you save when your in the pack counts. Prior to the race, I had mentally prepared for the possibility of losing the pack. I knew that I had to readjust my mindset to plan B and continue to make the most of the day.
I regained control over my breath, evened out my stroke, and swam through the course. I quickly transitioned and jumped on my bike. I road with a controlled effort, picking off a few male pro’s who got dropped by the bike pack later on in the race. I transitioned and then started to chase my run PR. By the first 2 miles, I knew it wasn’t coming. I stuck with the same effort and finished out my day as the 26th male Pro.
I think that when we break through an invisible boundary and find ourselves in a new world, whether it is our first days of college, a job promotion, or moving up a level in competition, there are new rules and new skills to be learned. Once those rules are understood, and skills mastered, the possibility of success is unlocked and we go on to do extraordinary things.
Although I’m a highly skilled athlete, right now I feel like I'm a freshman just learning how to function in his first semesters of college. There are rules and skills I need to learn--especially in regards to moving in and around the pack-- in order to get myself up to speed with some of the fastest triathletes in the world. It's going to take time, but I’m confident that I will eventually be able to stick with them. The final step will be figuring out how to win.
As for my experience at ST. Anthony’s, it was absolutely amazing. Crossing the finish line allowed me to celebrate my entire triathlon career and left me with real sense of satisfaction with my life. Looking forward, I know that I will never have to regret not committing to this goal. I am ecstatic to have accomplished my dream of becoming a professional athlete.
**A special thanks to Zane's Cycles, CT Cycle Center, Southern CT Muscle and Joint Chiropractic, Silverline Athletic's Coach Holden Comeau, Amber Hackeman, my parents, and all of the athletes that I ever coached. I couldn't have done it without all your help and support!