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.
For a pro, racing when you aren't 100% is counterproductive.
By Kyle Pawlaczyk
I remember getting ready to make my debut on the track in college. I had been battling a calf injury, and sat down with my coach to hash out a plan for my first collegiate race. I mentioned the possibility of wearing my trainers instead of my less-forgiving track spikes for the race. His emphatic reply: "No. We're not going to half-a*s racing."
I'll admit to half-a*sing certain things in my life. Undergrad, Graduate School, and personal hygiene come to mind. But, when it comes to my athletic career, I've been unwilling to give it anything but my best. I've gone at it full-a*sed, if you will (insert snarky comment about double-meaning here).
I recently had to remove two races from my calendar this year. They were races that I wanted to do. They were races that I could have done. But, they were races for which I was not quite prepared to give my best, and one of the things I've learned in my first year and a half as a pro is that you can't head into any race with half-a*sed preparation. It's a mistake I've made a couple of times, and I've paid for it, notably at Ironman Lake Placid late in July. I came off of Ironman Coeur d'Alene with a few aches and pains, and raced, basically, for the sake of racing. In doing so, I aggravated an Achilles injury and set myself back several weeks. All that because I went into a very demanding race half-a*sed.
So, the events of the past couple months taught me an important lesson. Opportunities to truly make a splash as a pro triathlete are limited, and taking advantage of these opportunities requires complete readiness. Success as a pro is a goal that is reached over a period of years, and "success" does not necessarily depend on whether or not you race one weekend. As I've learned (the hard way), the possibility of a payday, the fact that a race is within driving distance, or the simple urge to "get out there" are not valid reasons to toe the line if you want to be successful in the long-term.
So, how do I know when I'm ready (really, full-a*sed ready) to race? The short answer is: "I just know." To me, being ready to race is not about filling the squares in a training log, receiving a pep talk from your coach (which I don't have), or sitting down with your sports psychologist (which I also don't have). Being ready is about knowing-just knowing-that you're ready to go.
Sounds simple, right? Maybe it is, but in a sport that is over-thought and overcomplicated at every turn, simple is good. Leading up to a race, I can spend all week worrying about what the field will look like, what the water temperature will be, and whether or not my bike will get me through the race. As I've learned, the key to success is simply to focus on what you can control. That means simplifying, in a way.
Success in triathlon depends, in many ways, on one's ability to balance. For me, successful racing involves a balance between meticulous, thorough, almost neurotic preparation, and the knowledge that at some point, I have to let certain things go and take what the day gives me. From there, the only real challenge is keeping my head out of my a*s (my entire a*s) for four hours or so.
Follow more of Kyle's journey at his blog: Kyle Pawlaczyk - Pro Triathlete
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