>What it Takes

>I was watching the movie “What it Takes” today while on the trainer, and there was a quote from Bob Babbit that gave me inspiration for today’s post:
A lot of people think, ‘Oh, wouldn’t it be cool to make a living as a professional triathlete?’ They have no idea
I thought it might be a good idea to do a post on the “non-sexy” side of making a living in triathlon.  Please remember, I’m not trying to complain.  I’m just trying to give you a glimpse into the parts of the lifestyle that you probably don’t hear about very much.

1)  The first, and most important, thing to remember is that there is very little money in this sport.  It’s not like you just shout to the world, “Hey!  I wanna be a pro triathlete!”, and sponsors start lining up to give you money.  Nothing could be further from the truth, actually.  There are maybe 50 athletes in the world who can make a good living from this sport purely by racing & sponsorships (I’m including male & female, short and long course).  The rest of us?  We scrape by, making our money by other means, believing that there’s more to life than money (in other words- we’re not exactly impressing girls with our salaries).  I’ve gotten into coaching.  It doesn’t cover my monthly expenses, and my bank account is much smaller than when I moved out to Colorado two years ago, but it’s better than nothing.  If I continue to bust my ass, maybe I’ll be fast enough one day to make a living from just racing.  It’s unlikely, but not impossible

2) From John Duke: “To be motivated to put in 300 miles a week on the bike, run 50,60,70 miles, and swim 30,000 meters a week.  That’s a hard thing to swallow when you wake up on Monday morning.”  I’m sure all of you have been to training camps, or had a week off from work, and you put in tons of miles, and it was exciting, and you thought about how fun it would be to do it every week.  Of course it can be fun if you put in the big weeks on occasion, but if you’re doing it every week for 10 straight months, it can also be very mentally, physically, and emotionally draining.  My volumes for each week this December are – 21:55, 23:16, 24:24, and 24:24.  By February, I’ll be putting in 26-30 hour weeks regularly.  Is it the worst thing in the world?  No.  I do it because I love it and I want to be the best.  But before you get serious about this sport, you need to ask yourself – are you prepared to spend that much time staring at the black line on the bottom of the pool, and that much time staring at the wall while doing 4-hour trainer sessions?  You’d better love this sport and “the journey”, otherwise, you’ll give up after 2 months.

3) Probably the hardest single thing to deal with is the isolation.  I live by myself.  I do 90% of my training alone.  And when I’m not training, I’m usually too tired to be social.  As a result, I have very few friends in Boulder.  The vast majority of my friends are people I keep in touch with via Facebook/Email.  I haven’t been in anything even slightly resembling a relationship with a girl for over 2 years.  Most of the time, I’m ok with this.  But one or two days per week, it really gets to me.  Lately, it’s been getting to me more often, and I’ve been getting into some really “down” moods.  If you’re alone, and something isn’t going right, then the only option for therapy is going on a 6-hour ride, or a 2-hour run.  Sometimes it helps, or sometimes it’s just a really crappy 6 hours on a bike saddle.  Luckily, I’ll only really have to deal with it for another 6 weeks.  I have a 2-month training trip with Ethan to Florida coming up in February, and then AJ is coming out to Boulder for the summer.  Both of them are fast, and tons of fun to go to the bar with to shoot pool and (usually unsuccessfully) hit on girls.

Is there more to it?  Sure, but I’m just writing a blog post here, not a novel.  What it all boils down to is one question –  Are you willing to give up everything to chase a dream, with very little chance of actually succeeding?  If you are, then maybe you have what it takes.  If you succeed, then you’re officially “living the dream.”  If you fail, then you’re just some dumbass who gave up everything to chase a dream, and came up short, with nothing to show for it besides an empty bank account and zero relevant work experience.

When I decided to leave grad school and move out here, it’s important to note that I had accomplished absolutely nothing in this sport.  To that point, my best finish was 138th at the 2007 Ironman Lake Placid, and I was just coming off a 2008 where I had to take 6 months off because for a broken femur in May and shoulder surgery in August.  Essentially, I was just some random NTAC.  But I had faith in myself, and I knew I had potential (even if no one else knew it).  I’ve taken the plunge and risked everything.  I still don’t know if I have what it takes to make it to the top, but I guess we’ll find out…

Until next time… keep training hard, and resting harder,
Doug MacLean

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