Life as a pro

In the midst of my PhD, when I was imagining life as a full time athlete I wondered if I would get bored. Surely I’d have hours to kill with nothing to do. I’d have time to do all the things that previously have felt a luxury; time to read novels I’ve never got round to, luxuriate in hot baths and have decadent long lunches with friends.

I expected to have hours to sit around twiddling my thumbs, waiting for the next training session. I would be training a bit more than when I was working but not massively more so surely that would equate to masses more free time.

In fact, as I’m discovering, life as a pro is pretty busy. At one stage I even felt I was busier than when I was working. OK, I admit that was planned to some extent. Being fortunate enough to have effectively qualified for Kona early I had deliberately planned to use the month or so after Lanzarote to do my sponsor commitments and catch up with friends with the hope that this would leave me much freer later in the year to really knuckle down and focus on training without too many distractions. So I’ve had a very fun but also somewhat hectic 6 weeks, cramming quality training around a variety of other things which I guess I can legitimately call work. When I was telling my former boss how my days have been filled I think he was strangely surprised by some of the things I’ve been up to.

So, to those of you who think life as a pro consists mainly of lounging around intermingled with a bit of training I thought I’d give you a rough idea of what I’ve been up to since Lanzarote.

Week 1

Fly home. Visit school friends. Watch Lanzarote video. Cry in front of Lanzarote video. Sleep a lot. Eat a lot. Try to sort out accumulated admin from 6 weeks away. Respond to lovely congratulatory emails from friends, sponsors and people I don’t know. Bit of exercise but no real training.

Week 2

Radio Cambridgeshire drive time. Photo-shoot with Watt bike (I’m very excited to have been announced as one of their ambassadors!) Catch up with coach in Nottingham. Run 5km in tri247 relay team at Hyde Park and half marathon in TFN relay team at Outlaw. 24hrs training.

Week 3

Mega run week (unplanned). Blenheim sprint triathlon (yup – I did a drafting race though my race constituted a distinct lack of drafting and a whole lot of towing). Catch up with friends in Oxford. 28hrs training.

Week 4

Photo shoot with 220 triathlon magazine. Afternoon kidney cancer conference in Cambridge. Run a training session with Hillingdon tri club as the prize for an Erdinger competition. Epic hilly ride in the Peak District. 30 hours training.

Week 5

PR radio work with P20 sun protection in London. Great East 5km swim. 30 hours training.

Week 6

Cholmondeley Castle triathlon (middle-distance). 25 hours training.

So life has been pretty full! I’m very fortunate to have generous and loyal sponsors who ultimately make my sabbatical viable. Without them (particularly Erdinger Alkoholfrei and Chain Reaction Cycles) I’d be living off baked beans and underperforming at too many races trying to pick up the odd bit of prize money to pay my way.

But sponsorship depends on so much more than the odd decent result at an Ironman. As I’m learning it’s about developing a brand and this takes work. It’s important to make the most of any media opportunities that come your way. After all you’re only as good as your last race. And though many people would argue I’m stupid for factoring in so many training races there is method in my madness.

Firstly I really enjoy them and I know keeping triathlon fun is absolutely key for me to perform at my best. Secondly, they’re an excellent way of getting a hard training day in on tired legs and if you do end up getting your arse kicked it’s a good way of staying motivated for the races that count! And thirdly I believe they’re all of value to sponsors; my kit gets shown off, I may get a bit of media coverage and I get to meet and chat to a diverse bunch of triathletes I wouldn’t meet if I just raced Ironman.

However, I am aware that such a busy lifestyle is not sustainable forever. I need to use my additional time to sleep more, stretch more and maybe find the odd hour to sit in the sun with a novel. So from now until October my calendar looks emptier. Hopefully that will equate to a bit more time on the sofa and perhaps a few more novels. Having said that, more often than not I’m so tired from training that even a trashy novel is beyond me and I resort to a box set. My brain may well go to mush over the next 2 years….

So what’s next?

First off I’m off to the Alps in a week for a bit of a training camp in Morzine and then a crack at one of my bucket list races, the Alpe d’huez triathlon. I’ve then got time for a solid focused build towards Kona, probably with another 70.3 race thrown in at some stage. In the meantime I’m off to the gym.

Happy training and racing!

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