Friday, August 8, 2014

To Pro or not to Pro

Here's your little story for the week.  I couldn't just let it lie at a video, could I?

Weekend of Trails from James Haycraft on Vimeo.

Shameless embed.

Now on to the original topic.  Triathlon is a fairly unique sport.  It accepts all comers. EVERYONE can find competition and the fulfillment of personal goals in triathlon.  The only requirement is a decently thick wallet and a willingness to work hard towards your goals.

I like that about triathlon.  I like that you get out what you put in.  People that don't reach their goals simply don't understand the right way to work and have consequently created a barrier or they just don't want to work hard enough.


Ashley zips me up B2B 2009

Want to qualify for Kona? Well, you gotta work your butt off. You may need to get a little lucky.  You need to have everything go right on one, long day.

Want to set a PB at an oly? Well, choose the right course and train hard.

Want to lose 30 pounds? Well, work your butt off and eat smart.  (or my philosophy: work your butt off and "if the furnace is hot enough ANYTHING will burn!)

Want to race as a professional against the best endurance athletes in the world?

White Lake Half 2011

Well, you can.  You've got to get really fast and then choose the right race and qualify for your elite card.

I qualified for my pro card at a race back in October 2011.  That year I had done a combination of things:

1) I trained, a LOT.
2) I picked good races
3) I got lucky

I was pretty happy, to say the least. When I first started working with Brian I listed racing as a pro as being one of my main goals. The dream of being able to "realize your potential" in the sport is a fairly tantalizing one.  Brian, in that year, had taken me from a decent age group athlete to a better than decent age group athlete who qualified for his pro card.

Being a "pro" in triathlon simply means that you can race in the professional field at a race that has one and that you are eligible to compete for prize purses.  So at your "regular" or "local" race where there is maybe an "open" division or just "age group" you are a pro but you race against everybody.  In a bigger race where there is a pro field you compete against the likes of Terrenzo, Starykowicz, McDonald, Limkemmann, etc.

Augusta 70.3 2011

You basically have three years of "eligibility" when you are a professional.  You renew your USAT Elite license every year just like a normal license but you have three years where your qualification results mean you don't have to "requalify." Now, most pros generally "requalify" without really thinking about it. The pros that make money in races, anyway.

Little old me, however, has NOT re-qualified to race as a pro (yet).  I have done relatively few races as a pro in my three years, due in no small part to the fact that it's just really expensive to travel around and race beyond our little "sphere."

2012 - Giant Eagle 5150, Rev3 Andersen SC, Rev3 Florida
2013 - New Orleans 70.3, Rev3 Williamsburg, Rev3 Florida, Ironman Cozumel
2014 - New Orleans 5150, Challenge New Albany, Miami 70.3?

Rev3 Florida 2012

As you can see, there are a few things in common here:

1) Races within driving distance (according to my standards of driving distance anyway)
2) Races in my hometown
3) Races in our region
4) Races that offer free entry to professional athletes
5) Races that are cheap to get to
6) Only 1 or 2 "IM" events in a year so side-stepping the exorbitant WTC Pro Fee (many hundreds of pros pay this but how many pros actually GET prize money, hmm?)

I DNF'd at Giant Eagle, Rev3 FL '12, IM Cozumel so obviously did not re-qualify there.  I have set personal bests at the half distance at Rev3 FL '13 and CNA '14 in non-wetsuit legal races for pros but didn't re-qualify at either of those (thanks Jesse Thomas and Eric Limkemmann!! haha). I beat all of the elite amateur racers at CNA '14 (who also got to wear wetsuits), all of whom qualified to apply for their pro card.

Shipwreck Sprinternational 2012

I have gotten to the point where I am not intimidated by racing anyone from North Carolina. I am confident in my strengths and weaknesses and how far I've come.

Yet if nothing changes after this year I will no longer hold an elite license.  I will be racing as Male 30-34 in every big race I enter. I can potentially qualify for Kona. I could qualify for 70.3 WC. I could qualify to race as a pro...again.

But...why?

Rev3 Florida 2013

At this point, with the changes announced recently by WTC, what is the POINT of me racing pro?

Let's start by listing some pros of racing pro (haha, see what I did there?)

1) First to start and first to finish - easily the best part as the course is the cleanest and I am done the quickest.
2) Best spots in transition
3) Ability to sign up for races as late as desired even when sold out (this only really holds relevance for Ironman events)
4) The prospect of free entries for elite athletes (really the only races that are truly "free" now are Challenge races and an odd race here or there depending on race director).

Cons:

1) Racing alone
2) More pressure on yourself
3) More pressure from others to live up to "pro" status
4) Having a relatively difficult time with "goal setting"

That last point is kind of nebulous, but in my mind it basically means that generally as a pro it seems difficult to establish concrete GOALS.  That's part of what I like about it but also part of what I don't like. I like just getting better, but sometimes it's hard to maintain direction, focus and motivation when there is nothing CONCRETE to your year.

I am sure I am forgetting some but those are some points that have been on my mind recently.

I am almost 100% positive I am going to sign up for and do Miami 70.3 because I would like to give myself the CHOICE of racing as a pro or not in 2015. I don't want to feel forced into one decision just because I resigned myself to my "fate."

IM Louisville 2010

At Miami (which has a prize purse greater than $5000) I will have to come within 8% of the winner's time to be eligible to "requal" for my pro card.  My guess is that will require a very, very fast time (the winner last year went 3:41 which would mean to be within 8% of that you'd have to go about 3:58 or so).  Is it realistic? I am not sure. Can I go 4 hours? I do believe that it's possible. If you think I am blowing smoke up my own ass, then you are welcome to that. I genuinely believe that if I put a good swim, bike and run split I am capable of doing at or very near 4 hours.  Then I just have to see where the chips fall!

If you COULD race pro, would you? I'll leave you with that.

3 comments:

Mark Carbone said...

I'd still call you a PRO bro regardless of category you raced in. Kick ass in AG, I am sure PRO will still be your description to others. What YOU feel is the deal on being PRO is up to you. Won't change my opinion of you as a triathlete.

landon cassill said...

you'll always be PRO to me James

xoxo
LC

Andrew lerner said...

Are you having fun? I reached a similar point in my pro career/life. For me long had passed the days of actual enjoyment, I was always cold, always falling and just missing the cut for the big dance. I was a twenty something unmotivated decently talented KID much more interested in chasing girls and partying then whet everyone expected me to do, ski race. It was not until I was giving a great piece of advice from a friend- “Why do it if its not fun?” that I kept touring myself and quit alpine skiing. So I will ask again is it fun? All the detailed work that goes into racing at your high level, the mental challenges, the races,the equipment, the travel, the pay, the time training away from family and friends,etc. Its takes a lot. I have no doubt that you will continue to race at super human pro levels for a long long time but make sure you are enjoying the trip as well.