My first Triathlon was the Ironman Orlando 70.3 in May of 2007. It was my first half ironman. I had no training. This was my first time riding 56 miles. I rode a rented Raleigh bike and I wore tennis shoes—no clip-in biking shoes, no nutrition plan, one waterbottle—other athletes were asking me if I was okay, and I wrecked my rented bike. Even after all that, I knew I wanted to do another one. Plus I did finish, my time was 5:50.
Learning To Bike
That summer I bought a new Giant OS2 road bike and started learning how to ride. I knew if I was going to get better, I first needed to figure out how to bike efficiently. I ran and swam competitively in my past, but had never attempted to ride or race a road bike until I did Orlando 70.3.
My next triathlon was later that summer in Michigan. It was the Steelhead 70.3 where I finished with a time of 5:09. After the Steelhead 70.3 race I wanted to figure out how I could do triathlons full time. I had two immediate goals I needed to accomplish before I headed down that path: 1.) Finish college, which I did in 2010 and 2.) Complete my first full ironman.
My First Ironman
To prepare for my first ironman, I hired a local coach, Michael Smith. He had a lot of experience helping athletes compete in triathlons. By following his great advice and program, I finished my first full ironman with a time of 11:45 at the 2010 Louisville Ironman, on August 26.
I loved doing ironman and training. When I looked at my swim and run times, I was within reach of a pro time. It was the bike time that was slow; but because I only had two years of cycling experience, I knew with focus, determination, and the right coaching I could become a pro triathlete.
Full Time Training
I decided to train full time, work part time in 2011, keep my expenses low, and hire an ironman coach. I hired Dan Smith from LifeSport Coaching (lifesportcoaching.com) and told him my goal was to go pro. He immediately changed my workouts from training by distance and time to heart rate training. This was very different for me because although I had been an athlete most of my life, I had never used heart rate training.
We put together a game plan for me to attempt a 10-hour Ironman. We knew that if I could complete a 10-hour Ironman I was on the path to getting my pro license. I bought a 2011 Argon 18 triathlon bike. I did some half marathons and Ironman Muncie 70.3. I won my age group at Muncie with a time of 4:45. I felt great and was ready for Louisville.
Louisville…A Proof of Readiness
Louisville, Kentucky August 28, 2011. I was ready! My goal was to get to the Hawaii World Championship. The weather was almost perfect. It was going to be 85 to 90 degrees that afternoon, but I run well in hot weather. My swim went great. I did it in 53:45 and coming out of the water I was in 5th place in my age group—then on to the bike, my adversary!
When I got on the bike I was in 5th place in my age group, when I got off the bike I was in 9th. Yes, I went from 5th to 9th place! If I was going to Hawaii, I needed to have a great run. This is when my heart rate training really paid off. My goal was to keep my heart rate in my zone 2. That was easy enough in training, but in 85 to 90 degree heat after just completing a 2.5 swim and 112 mile bike, it was anything but easy.
My focus for the next 3 hours was to stay in my heart rate zone 1- 2 and finish strong. I had a 3:21:17 marathon and had the third fastest female marathon time for the day. I averaged a 7:40/mi run pace. My fast run took me from 9th to 2nd in my age group, and earned me the title of third overall female amateur. By taking second place in my age group, I earned that trip to the World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. To my incredible surprise the 3rd place overall female amateur finish earned me my professional triathlon license. What a day!
Now The Work Really Begins
I have earned the opportunity to race as a professional in 2012; although that won’t earn me enough to live on—yet. I still have good swim and run times as a professional, but my bike time needs improvement if I want to start winning as a professional triathlete. My coach has me focusing on 70.3 and Olympic distance triathlons in 2012, in addition to attending some training camps, and gaining race experience.
The goal for 70.3 and Olympic distance races is to improve my full ironman distance time. I am going to spend 2012 getting professional racing experience, working as a swim coach and swim instructor at Lifetime Fitness, learning the business of being both a swim coach and a professional triathlete, improving my bike time, and talking to sponsors. If you or someone you know would like to become a sponsor, I would love to connect.
So that is my story of becoming a professional triathlete. I hope I see you at one of my races, and if you see me first, please be sure and stop me and say hello. I love Ironman and the people that do them—they’re a very special group of people.