Becoming a Professional Triathlete

author : Kyle Pawlaczyk
comments : 8

The goal of this column is to provide a unique, first-hand account of the long and challenging "process" of trying to make it as a professional triathlete, a process that often remains unseen.

By Kyle Pawlaczyk  

If you’re an American male, chances are you went through a “wrestling phase,” religiously watching professional wrestling, dressing up in some dorky outfit, and almost killing yourself trying to do an elbow drop off of the deck railing at your friend’s house. Most kids go through this phase when they’re 10 or 12. I was 24. Whatever the age, I’m glad I went through this phase, because being a wrestling fan taught me some important lessons. Really. And I learned a lot of my greatest lessons as an athlete from a guy named Mick Foley.

For those of you with jobs, good taste in entertainment, and fully functioning brains, let me offer some background information. Mick Foley is a professional wrestler who most famously appeared as “Cactus Jack” and “Mankind” during a 20-year wrestling career. Mick is also a bestselling author, thanks to a series of autobiographical books about his wrestling career.

I came across Mick’s books at about the same time I got into triathlon. I read his book Have a Nice Day and began to really admire the guy. Mick had a dream of being one of the very best at what he did. Before becoming a WWE Wrestling champion, he drove 12 hours round-trip every weekend to train at a legendary wrestling school. He wrestled for 10 bucks a night in high schools and convention centers, sleeping in his car between shows.  His outrageous wrestling style cost him the health of his knees, many of his teeth, and a piece of his ear. He became a legend in the wrestling business, but had to make sacrifices that few others were willing to make to get there.

My name is Kyle Pawlaczyk, and 2010 was my first season as a professional triathlete. As a professional triathlete, you may wonder why I’m writing about professional wrestling in my first column here.  As it turns out, wrestling and triathlon have a great deal in common at the “professional” level, and the similarities go beyond the spandex outfits that most people wouldn’t be caught dead in. For every wrestling legend like Mick Foley or Hulk Hogan or Ric Flair, there are countless anonymous wrestlers around the globe, risking their necks at wrestling shows for 10 bucks a night or YouTube fame. These guys often have nothing more than a hideous pair of wrestling tights, a sincere love for what they do, and a dream that one day, they will reach the top of their sport.

Professional triathlon is the same way. For every Chris McCormack, Craig Alexander or Chrissie Wellington dominating the pages of our sport’s magazines, there are dozens of relatively anonymous guys like me. The distance between me and those guys on the magazine covers seems vast in some ways. I am “professional” in name only. I work part-time to make ends meet. I can’t afford a high-priced coach, a massage therapist, or plane tickets to exotic training locales. I have about $200 to my name right now. I decided to cast aside my seven years of post-secondary education to see if I could make it as a professional in a sport where it is awfully difficult to do so.

I knew what I was getting into when I decided to do this. The path to success as an athlete will be far from glamorous. Everyone always sees the product of hard work and sacrifice, but never the process. Wrestling fans everywhere probably remember Mick Foley raising the WWE title belt above his head when he became a champion. Few actually saw what it took to get there. He slept in his car, watched his severed ear get tossed into a trash can, separated his shoulder flying off of an 18-foot cage, and wrestled six shows per week when his wrecked knees would barely support him.

The goal of this column is to provide a unique, first-hand account of the long and challenging “process” of trying to make it as a professional triathlete, a process that often remains unseen or forgotten. One of the most rewarding things about this sport so far has been having the opportunity to grow, share success (and failure), and contribute to the contagious enthusiasm that surrounds this sport. That’s what I’d like to do here.

Ask questions. Make comments. Share with me. I’m looking forward to sharing the process with you.


Follow more of Kyle's journey at his blog: Kyle Pawlaczyk - Pro Triathlete

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date: December 2, 2010

Kyle Pawlaczyk

After a collegiate distance running career, Kyle Pawlaczyk began racing triathlons in 2009. Kyle recorded two top-10 finishes in the Ironman 70.3 series in 2010, his first season as a pro. He resides in Charlottesville, VA.

This column will follow Kyle as he faces the challenges associated with becoming a viable professional in the sport of triathlon.

avatarKyle Pawlaczyk

After a collegiate distance running career, Kyle Pawlaczyk began racing triathlons in 2009. Kyle recorded two top-10 finishes in the Ironman 70.3 series in 2010, his first season as a pro. He resides in Charlottesville, VA.

This column will follow Kyle as he faces the challenges associated with becoming a viable professional in the sport of triathlon.

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