For some athletes, going pro, or racing in the elite field is a life dream. The ultimate test of ‘could I’?
But, it may or may not be the best move.
With so much to consider, I asked some current pros Grace Thek, Steve McKenna and Caleb Noble on how they successfully made the leap to the pointy end of the field.
It’s not just about you
“Make sure you have a good team around you,” Grace Thek advises – fresh off a 4th placed finish at the ITU World Long Distance Champs.
“Although it’s an individual sport it takes a team to get you to the start line happy and healthy.”
This also extends to considering your life and family situation. Steve McKenna – one of the sport's rising stars and multiple 70.3 winner, admits this is a constant challenge.
“If you’re not fully committed you may never succeed. Having very little on your plate (aside from sport) is a must or you’re wasting your time. Investing 18 months is wise and then reassess whether it’s impacting you and your family’s life too much in a negative way to continue the pro pursuit.”
“Success doesn’t happen overnight. Be patient with yourself” recommends Grace.
“Step up when you feel it’s the right time for you. It can be easy to be swept up in what others are doing or saying but going pro needs to be on your own terms and in your own time. Because it’s hard – but fun!”
Grace, Steve and Caleb all reflected on the necessity of this quality and setting your expectations.
“If you’re stepping up, expect to be humbled for a long period of time and leave any expectations behind.” Steve said.
“Accept a period of time learning your craft in the elite field.” Grace agreed
“While you may be competing against stronger, faster athletes, it’s important to always focus on yourself and what you can do on course. Going too hard too early in order to stay with faster riders can come back and bite you.
“Stick to your own race plan and don’t get too excited too early!”
Know your stuff!
While it’s a continuous learning exercise, getting your equipment and nutrition dialled in are key.
Caleb Noble, a still relatively new but exciting pro prospect, and 2022 Australian Long Course Champ, reflects on his journey.
“Stepping up into the pro ranks can be exciting and scary at the same time. One thing I highly recommend is trying and testing out race nutrition as the dynamics in the pro fields are red hot with surging and tactics, try what works best and don’t change on race day. Getting used to this will teach your body to absorb what you train on and replicate that on race day.
“Equipment is something I am still learning about and testing!”
It’s a steep learning curve where small mistakes can really add up.
“Things don’t always go to plan, every race is an opportunity to learn something new and work on improving for the next one.” Grace said.
Be willing to hurt like never before:
While it’s tempting to compare your times from the age group ranks to those at the elite end of the field – don’t forget that dynamics and conditions are different.
The racing is harder and faster, warns Grace. Caleb echoes this sentiment when it comes to hurting.
“Be willing to suffer from the start as the swim really determines a good position to start your day and keep pushing to the end – set a good example to the age groupers coming behind!”
Be realistic, be kind and have fun:
Grace delivers some ultimate words of wisdom; “you are enough, whether you win races or you don’t, being a pro athlete shouldn’t define you. You’re more than just an athlete, at the end of the day it’s just sport. Make sure you are always having fun!”