Feature photo credit: Autumn Sonnichsen
I’m creating this blog to share my experience of turning professional as a triathlete. It was a whirlwind first year of chasing my dreams, from the decision to turn Pro, to leaving my job and financial security, to packing my car and driving cross country to train with a coach and team in Boulder, CO. This is my story of taking the plunge, a giant leap of faith into the unknown.
I raced for three years in Ironman Triathlon before I had the incredible opportunity and made the life changing decision to turn professional. What started out as a lifelong dream to become a professional athlete suddenly became attainable in 2015 when a whirlwind season left me at the top in the overall rankings on the podium at every Ironman and 70.3 race I entered. I was no longer judging my results by how many age groupers finished ahead of me, but rather by how many pro athletes my time placed me ahead of. I felt that I was ready based upon these results. I remember attending a session set up by Hillary Biscay in Kona, precisely for those age group athletes that were considering turning pro. Hillary and the female pro panel hammered the importance home of being physically prepared to turn pro (finish mid pack in the pro field and not dead last), having savings to float your ass as sponsors are not about to come running towards you just because you turned pro, and having the mindset to approach training and racing as your job.
At first I thought I could turn professional and continue my career in Marketing at a Financial Services firm, and pretty much continue the rest of my life as normal. I found out within a month though that I would have to choose careers. I had been offered a great promotion and wonderful opportunity at work, however that would require 110% of my effort and attention . . . or I could choose the pro athlete career and fully embrace it. I followed my heart and left the Washington, D.C. job behind. Packing my car up with my belongings, I moved cross country to Boulder, Colorado to begin a new life as a pro triathlete coached by Michael Lovato along with his Boulder based team. It wasn’t smooth sailing. It was the opposite.
Physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally, my commitment to the pro athlete dream was put to the test that first year. The dream quickly became a nightmare. I was physically pushing my body to the limit every day, barely able to work between training sessions and struggling to make ends meet financially. Lackluster results at races made me question the sanity of my decision. I had nothing to show for the struggle, effort, and sacrifice. I felt a sense of zero progress. It left me questioning my motives, purpose, and most importantly, if I had the talent to make it. By the end of the year, I decided I was either all in or out and thinking likely out after the season. In a last ditch effort, I gave it everything ahead of Ironman Cozumel, my last race of the year. I paid meticulous attention to not only nailing the training sessions, but reigning in my social life, placing more emphasis on recovery, making changes in equipment, and wholeheartedly giving triathlon my all in one last ditch effort. It was all or nothing. The effort paid off.
At Ironman Cozumel, I had not only a solid placement in the prize money, but an enormous PR, going sub 10 with a finishing time of 9:43:26. I was a much stronger swimmer, biker, and runner across the board. I had finally learned what it takes to go pro. I had taken the step off the ledge and let go, learning to leave normal behind, and to fully embrace this new lifestyle.
They say that “Life will only change when you become more committed to your dreams than to your comfort zone.” Amen sister. I had been tested in every possible way and forced to discover, and to reaffirm, Why I Tri.