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Of Pushups and Pro Cards

Posted Nov 05 2008 4:59pm

First, the pushups. Oh my. You know, it was kind of funny. Cathy and I were discussing the pushup thing and she mentioned that doing the routine made her abdominal muscles sore. I thought that was sort of odd. Abs sore? I mean it's your arms doing the work right? And at first, only my arms were sore. But then we (we being both O and I) started into the real routine on Monday where you have to do a lot of pushups. I don't think my abs have ever, in my whole entire life, been as sore as they were on Tuesday! Holy cats! Clearly your arms are NOT the only muscles working hard during pushups! :) But it's all good and I have to say, doing this with O is fun. We take turns and time each others rest interval and keep Roxy away from the one doing the pushups (as soon as you lie on the ground, Roxy thinks it's play time). We tried doing our pushups together but we invariably made each other laugh and we quickly learned pushups and laughing do not mix. Ever. :)

Second, the issue of the pro card. Now I know that some of you will consider it laughable that I'm even bringing this topic up. While I do consider myself a competitive short course amateur and really tried to seek out the best possible competition this past season that I could, I am realistic about the fact that the best short course pros are a good 10-15 minutes faster than me (about 3/4 of which is due to my ugly swim :). They routinely go 2:00-2:05 in an Olympic distance event whereas I'm more in the 2:10-2:15 range. And it's not as if I don't have plenty of competition in the amateur ranks! In fact, I didn't win one Olympic distance race this year! But I do get asked about it often enough that I wanted to mention it. I think any time something is at least possible (as in I could if I wanted to), you at least have to give it a little thought.

So think about it I did. In fact I thought a lot about it. And I did some research. I asked just about everyone I could think of about the topic - first year pros, elite amateurs that have decided not to go pro, seasoned pros, my coaches, my family. You name it, I asked. And here's what I learned:

1) Racing pro is very, very, very different than racing age group/amateur. Yes, it's still swim/bike/run but other than that, pretty much no similarities exist. As most everyone knows, pros have different rules - water temperature for wetsuits (seems like they never get to wear wetsuits) and drafting rules on the bike. But beyond the obvious just about everyone told me that the pro race in and of itself is essentially a whole different ballgame. Different dynamics. Small fields. You get lonely out there. Etc, etc, etc... In other words, if you, as an amateur, are racing in the same race as a pro you can't necessarly compare times and be like "wow, I would have beaten the 6th pro!" because really you weren't in the same race. Not a fair comparison at all.

and...

2) People turn pro for different reasons and the decision to do so is very personal. This is why, when I hear people making critical remarks about other athletes' decisions (whether they went pro or not), I cringe a little. Like when you hear people say "I can't believe SHE went pro - she will never be competitive!" Because really, you have no idea what that person's goals are or WHY they are competing as a pro. Maybe their goal isn't to win. Maybe they know that they probably won't ever win a race as a pro, or even come close. But their dream was to turn pro so when they could, they did. And that's it. Nothing more do it.

I think for a long time I was thinking that there had to be some set of arbitrary rules for when I could/would turn pro. Like...if I win THIS race or place in the top 5 of that race or run this fast or swim under 21 minutes for a 1500... But now, I think I understand, that it's not going to be like that for me. I think when I get to the point where I do try my hand at pro racing, I'll just know when the right time is. And for now, I still have many things I would like to try to do in the amateur ranks first.

Eventually though I will want to see what pro racing is like. I liken the pro decision very much to my decision to run at a division I school in college. I wasn't a hugely decorated high school runner. I didn't have multiple state championships under my belt. I wasn't a Footlocker qualifier. I didn't run 10:30 in the 2 mile or under 5 minutes in the mile. And I probably would have made for a very solid division II or III runner. But for some reason, I never even considered that. I just knew, despite the fact that I would probably never be an All-American or heck, even be on the varsity team, that running DI was what I wanted to do. I only applied to DI schools. And you know what? I never regretted that decision once. Not through all the struggle and disappointment and self-doubt that I had through college, did I regret going to Penn State to run. And in fact, it was probably one of the best decisions I ever made. Because I ran against the very best. I trained with the best. I learned from one of the best coaches in the nation. I saw, first hand, what big time athletics and big time athletes are like. And I learned that just because you aren't in first place, or even close to the front, that doesn't mean you still don't have a race to run. I learned that by challenging yourself to perform at a higher level than you thought possible, you will achieve more.

So one of these days I will apply for an elite license. And I will enjoy every second of the opportunity and challenge that it presents. Even if I am last out of the water...again... :)

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