Maturity

author : Kyle Pawlaczyk
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How triathlon and professional racing helped Kyle grow up -- within the fantasy world of being a pro

By Kyle Pawlaczyk  

You might find it funny that a pro triathlete is writing a column about maturity. For most pro triathletes, pursuing a career in this sport requires a conscious refusal to yield to maturity, putting "adult" things such as home ownership, a real job, and a "stable" lifestyle on hold for a more adventurous (read: poor) existence. Sort of like a modern-day Peter Pan. And, much like Peter Pan's Neverland, I live in a seemingly imaginary world: one in which a pro triathlete can someday make a living.

Since writing here last, the theme of maturity been especially relevant in my career. After withdrawing from Ironman 70.3 Florida, I earned my first professional payday against a competitive field at Eagleman, finishing 8th and running down former world champion Terenzo Bozzone in the process (Terenzo was having a pretty bad day, but I still share this fact with anyone who will listen.) Two weeks later, in Coeur d'Alene, I recorded my first top-10 finish in an Ironman. A sign of becoming "mature" as an athlete? In some ways, I think so. As I continue to take this sport more seriously, my mantra has been: "Handle the highs and lows." I rebounded from one of my worst moments as an athlete to record two of my best moments just a month later. Sounds like I am beginning to take my own advice.

Let's use Ironman Coeur d'Alene as a case study. Physically and psychologically, it was one of my most challenging days I've experienced as an athlete, full of highs and lows. I found myself on the verge of completely blowing up no fewer than three times. The Kyle of a year ago would not have held it together for the entire nine hours of racing. The Kyle of five years ago would have bagged it halfway through the bike and started drinking at noon (or 3 P.M. Eastern Time, which isn't too bad). To make a long story about a long day very short, on a day when things didn't seem to quite go my way, I held it together and managed a respectable finish, crossing the line as the only person under age 30 in the top-10.

A sign of maturity beyond my years? I hope so, but these recent events have also shown me that I have a long way to go yet. Most of the guys that finish up the road from me are well into their thirties, and possess an athletic foundation that is only attainable through years of hard work, and experience. My "pro" career is just over a year old, and I still feel very rough around the edges. I still make those "rookie mistakes," and though my training and racing have shown me that I can be one of the sport's best, I still have that not-quite-there-yet feeling that tells me there is still growing up to do.

I began this edition of the column with the idea that my triathlon career is a way to avoid "growing up." Ironically, this sport has provided me with a lens through which I have been able to see myself mature tremendously over the past several years. Maturity, for me, has come to mean different things: the ability to handle the highs and lows in sport and in life, finding the hunger and resolve necessary to reach the top someday, and sometimes, simply the ability to keep my head down and do the work as time keeps ticking.

Or is that just the crocodile?

Completing Ironman Coeur d'Alene and reaching the unofficial "halfway point" of my season has given me an opportunity to reflect on where I am in this sport and what has gotten me here. This process comes complete with a whole range of emotions, however, the overwhelming emotion I feel is one of gratitude. Ironman racing is regarded as one of sport's most supreme individual accomplishments.

The irony is that this accomplishment is often impossible without support and sacrifice from those around us. Thank you to Brad, Amy, and all my new friends in Coeur d'Alene for a wonderful week. Thank you to everyone on BeginnerTriathlete.com who has taken the time to read this column over the past months. It has been a privilege becoming a part of such a large and supportive community.

Thank you to Ryan, the boys of USPro Tri, and all our generous sponsors, who have given me a team that I am proud to be a part of. Thank you to the gang at Endorphin Fitness in Richmond, the best group of triathletes I have come across. Thank you to the two women in my life, Gail and Anna, who have [inexplicably] put up with me for a combined total of 30 years.

Finally, and most importantly, thank you Mom and Dad. The phrase "I couldn't do it without you" is such a cliché, but in my case, it is quite literally true. I can't put into words everything they've done for me over the years, nor can I ever hope to pay them back for everything they've done. Thanks again, guys.


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

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date: July 18, 2011

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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