Often I get the question about being PRO and why I have not taken that path. When I was in the pits at IMSA recently, looking at the bikes in transition and the gear we all had on the day BEFORE the race, I realised we are all PRO in some way. I remembered the first time I became aware of PRO riders / triathletes and how in awe I was of them. Most likely it was Conrad Stoltz. He had the latest gear, the fastest transitions and the that killer efficiency I am still hunting.
As access to toys has become more readily available to the guy on the street, that side of being PRO has diminished. Rock up at IMSA and you`ll see more pimped out bikes in the age group section than among the PRO guys. I was unable to spot anything truly custom among the pro bikes. All stock, all pimped, but stock. I, on the other hand, arrived with a custom-painted helmet and wheels. Sure, I am not rolling top of the range equipment (SRAM Force, 3T Team kit, etc) but I was one of few with what would have traditionally been called PRO gear.
Roll up to the Cape Epic and the guys for 400th have the same bikes as the guys coming top of the pile. They wear the same compression gear, use the same recovery fuel and get a massage from the same person.
So what is PRO?
I have always stated that being PRO is having the freedom to being paid to rest. Between sessions, when you and I are at work, solving problems, creating others and managing stress levels of all those around us, PRO athletes are home napping like champions. They are feet up, resting, etc. PRO comes with much more pressure on race day. I race because I love it, not because I need the paycheck to pay my bills.
I believe the single-mindedness of PRO athletes being able to focus solely on being as fast as possible is where their economy comes from. Sure, in my sport they train double what we do (30 hours per week versus my 15-16) but I believe that single-tasking their way to the top of the world is their freedom. We`ll never understand that and what that takes. Obsessing over the details, the worry when niggles turn to injuries and the frustrations that come with not being able to train.
Another key difference is that they look PRO all the time. Sure, we can try emulate a little here and there, but being PRO requires you to look PRO all the time. Think of the commitments to sponsors, to teams, etc. If you are a PRO cyclist, you are likely to get enough team gear to never ever appear anywhere without the full ensemble. This is one of the key differences.
Then we can talk about the aura. Proper pro guys have that aura. Unapproachable, fast every moment, winning always. That confidence, the casual confidence that leaves them slightly dangerous all the time. People walk up to me in transition, 30min before IMSA, asking for tips for the run course that I may have missed in a blog post. Clearly, I have yet to pick up that steely confidence. In the interim, please don’t stop asking questions. To the guy who asked me about swim technique with 8min to go on the beach and referred to an article I wrote earlier in the year – you blew me away. Never scared to learn. Love it.
But on some level, we are all PRO nowadays. We roll the same gear, the same course, the same conditions. We aspire to look or be on top of the pile of athletes at the finish. We emulate. We straight off the top copy their words, their body language, their training schedules where possible. We are all PRO at some level.
…and I think that is pretty awesome.