I would like to preface this post by saying, when it comes to the sport of triathlon, my belief is that there is a distinct difference between being a "professional athlete" and "racing in the professional category". As a young athlete, I have chosen to take the step up to racing in the pro category as a step to one day hopefully being able to make enough from the sport to be a full-time professional athlete.
In the meantime, whilst I may not win professional races I will aim to uphold a professional attitude and standard and emulate what I have seen the most professional of athletes throughout all sports do, to the best of my ability.
As it stands, I live at home with my fantastic parents, am a university student, and, have the support of fantastic sponsors who have put a lot of faith in me and my journey and for that I am forever grateful. Luckily I can make a bit from the sport as it stands and for now I am content with that. Anyway, I digress.
When stepping up from the age group ranks into the professional category one thing becomes very evident, the importance of the swim is far greater. Miss the front ‘pack’ by too much and any chance of a top result becomes that much tougher and in many cases, the podium can be up the road after the first leg.
The level of swimming at the half-ironman distance especially is ever increasing as is the amount of talented cyclists getting out of the water near the front of the race. Having only raced as a pro for the last year, this is the only way I have ever seen it. However, from what I gather, the Half-Ironman distance used to be ‘closer to Ironman’ as opposed to now whereby it is probably a closer reflection of an Olympic Distance race.
As an age grouper I was lucky enough to often be one of, if not the first out of the water, now as a pro I’m having to fight hard to make the front pack, and often not, despite my pool swimming suggesting it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. A clear indication that any weakness, in this case open water ability, is quickly magnified when racing against such talented individuals.
Racing mostly over the Half-Iron distance, I’ve found the bike to be a slightly more tactical affair with more surging, jockeying for position, and, a much harder first 45 minutes before it begins to ‘settle down.’ I have never raced with power but it would definitely be interesting to see how a file would look as I imagine that first segment would be quite a bit higher than the rest.
In any case, I suppose when racing age group I was more interested in monitoring my own output, whereas now I am a lot more conscious of what others around me are doing and ensuring that they don’t get away, regardless of how that may affect my race. In saying this, however, the level of age group racing (especially in Australia) is now at such a level that the bike is often a very similar affair as there are so many strong athletes out on course together.
This is a true testament to the level of age group triathlon and I have so much respect for absolutely everyone out on course, but especially to those who are able to manage full time work, family etc.. yet still achieve such amazing results.
I suppose the crux of this little piece is this, the step up from age group to pro has been like moving from the top of primary school in grade six to again being at the bottom as a grade seven starting high school. Sometimes it can be mentally tough getting beaten up at races but at the same time I am able to meet, race against, and, learn from athletes that I have looked up to since I started this sport and that is a truly amazing experience.
To anyone considering racing in the professional category, know that while that does not mean you automatically have a right to make a living for the sport, it is a step in the right direction and in any case will allow you to develop as an athlete in a multitude of ways, not just from a performance point of view.
Lachie is sponsored by Jaggad, Cannondale, Enve, SRAM, Fizik, Bell and Tri-Bal, supported by his parents and cheered on by Transitions members.
Keep an eye out for Lachie at Noosa, introduce yourself and wish him well.