Sunday, January 22, 2012

Going Pro And VIP#5

Hello blog readers! Sorry it has been awhile since my last post (almost 2 months!). Life has been crazy trying to get through the holiday season at work, traveling to Iowa (brrrr – although not has brrr as normal this year) to visit my in-laws, negotiating with new sponsors (details to come!) and getting back on the training to prepare for the upcoming season. I have been back at the hard work for about 3 weeks now and I think one word can some it up – OUCH! Coach Matty Dixon is definitely layering on a new level of intensity and I LOVE IT! I’m feeling faster already!

On my way to losing miserably at the Team Sheeper Annual Donut eating contest. I gave it my best effort but I went home with nothing but a BAD stomach ache

Big 5 hour ride day w/ MBK, Hailey and the "Boys" - Keith, Aaron, and Bryce

So I’m totally going to cheat and be a copy cat all at the same time with this blog. About a month ago I did an interview for an upcoming 3GO article about “going pro” with a few girls in my age group who are all making the leap to the pro field for 2012. My buddies (and favorite competitors) Beth Walsh and Sarah Piampiano both posted their complete interview on their blogs, so I’m stealing their idea and doing the same. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery! I'm told the article will be in the March edition that will be released online towards the end of February. Make sure to check it out!

Name: Jessica Smith
Age: 30
Occupation: Inventory manager for Williams-Sonoma, Inc.(Pottery Barn Kids division)
Where do you live?: Stanford, CA

1. How did you get your start in triathlon? I think I was 12 the first time I saw Ironman Hawaii on TV. After watching the race I knew some day I was going to be an ironman. It wasn’t until a couple years after college that I finally joined my first triathlon team. It was the first time in my life I didn’t have a sport and decided I needed a new challenge to keep me motivated and in-shape. A year later I completed my first Ironman in Coeur D’Alene and was instantly hooked on Ironman racing.

2. What’s your athletic background? Growing up, I was a distance swimmer. Even when I was little my coach knew I was destined for the mile, probably because my starts were too slow to ever be a sprinter! I dabbled in cross country in high school, but quit after my coach said I had to choose between running and swimming. By the time I got to college I was ready for a change and joined the crew team. It was fun to participate in a more team oriented activity, but endurance sports are definitely where I belong.

3. What’s your strongest discipline? When I first started it was definitely swimming. Over time I have been able to develop my biking and running so now I think at this point my strength is my consistency. I might not ever be the fastest swimmer, biker, or runner in the race, but I do okay putting all three together. Now I just hope I can make all three significantly faster!

4. Which discipline do you think needs most improvement now that you’re joining the pro field? How do you plan to tackle this? Running is my biggest weakness right now. I think developing my run will happen gradually over time, but my plan is simple – run faster. I focus more on quality runs than quantity of miles and I’m sure the intensity will only increase as I progress in the sport.

5. What made you decide to “go pro”? I decided I wanted to “go pro” because I’m always setting new goals and looking for a new challenge. When I started in triathlon my goal was to finish an Ironman. Then it was to qualify for Kona. After that I realized maybe I could race as a pro. Now I want to win as a pro. Before getting there I had to prove to my coach I was ready to race. Winning my age group or the amateur division at a couple races wasn’t enough. We had tentatively planned on Ironman Arizona being my first pro race at the end of the year, but that was contingent upon how much I was able to progress throughout the year. Each time we’d chat I’d get a “we’ll see”. Finally when I won at the Vegas 70.3 World Championship my coach was convinced. I know I still have a long way to go before I’m winning Ironmans, but I can’t wait to get started on this next challenge! Of course the cheaper race fees and chance to earn back some of the money I’m putting in doesn’t hurt either.

6. Will racing as a pro change how you plan your season? If so, how?
Racing as a pro next year is definitely going to change how I plan my season. Before this year, I pretty much signed up for 1 Ironman per year and hoped I could add a second by qualifying for Kona. I might throw a few other local races in the mix, but with my husband in school, racing more than 5-6 times per year just wasn’t in the budget. This coming year I’m hoping I can race as much as possible. I will be looking for races that can help me get points for Kona, where I might have a shot at a podium finish, and of course don’t break the bank (Ironman Australia might have to wait a couple more years)

7. What do you expect to be the challenges of competing in the pro field? I think racing as a pro will be challenging because the race will always begin when the gun goes off. At any point I will have to be ready to swim, ride, or run outside of my comfort zone to stay in it. After just one pro race I have already realized there is a lot more strategy involved at this level and I still have a lot to learn!

8. What will you not miss about being an amateur? I will definitely not miss the swim start. Goodbye 2,000 people kicking and hitting each other while desperately searching for clear water. Swimming might be one of my strengths, but it is still my least favorite part of the race.

9. What concerns you most about your decision to race as a pro? I guess I really don’t have concerns about racing pro, I’m excited about it. I am already further in this sport than I ever expected to be when I started. How can I do anything other than completely enjoy the ride?

10. How will your training change in the coming year as you prepare for your first season as a pro? Ha, that’s a good one for my coach. I’m still working a full-time job so the amount of time I have to train won’t increase much. I think we’ll probably just layer in a new level of intensity. Every year I get a little stronger and am able to crank out training sessions that I wouldn’t have thought possible the year before. I’m hoping that trend continues.

11. What has been your favorite/most memorable triathlon experience to date? I have so many great memories from competing in triathlon, it’s really difficult to pick my favorite. I do think one memory that will stay with me forever is from Ironman Arizona 2009. Going into the race I remember looking at past year’s results and the times it would take to qualify for Kona. I thought there was pretty much no way I would ever get there – unless maybe I kept racing until I was 80. I ended up running about 30 minutes faster than I thought I would that day and passed a girl in the finish chute. I didn’t realize until I saw my husband after the finish that the girl I had passed was second in my age group and I had been third. Passing her (and beating her by less than a second) meant that I had grabbed the last spot in my age group for Hawaii. Of course going to Hawaii was an amazing experience, but this moment sticks out in my mind because it was the turning point in my triathlon career. I decided after that race it was time to get a real tri-bike and join a triathlon team to take my training and racing to the next level. It was one of my teammates who introduced me to my coach, Matt Dixon, and under Matt I have progressed significantly and am now racing pro. I like to think all the success I have had in the last two years is because I always try to sprint to the finish.

VIP#5 From Down Unda
This person definitely could have been my VIP of VIP’s this year. He has really given so much time and energy to helping me succeed as a triathlete and I can honestly say I wouldn’t be where I am without him. He has been an amazing friend and always seems like one of my biggest fans. He likes to joke and tease me any chance he gets (calls me Shorty even though I’m pretty sure we are the same height), but I know he’s always there for me if I need him. He’s actually that way for pretty much everyone he knows.

My next VIP is MIkey Osmond!

I met Mikey, the Team Manager for Team Sheeper pretty much as soon as I joined the team. I actually met this Aussie the same night I met two English (Bob and Leigh) and one Irish (Mark) team members and wondered what crazy international tri team I had gotten myself onto! Mikey was so welcoming and instantly made me feel like a part of the team. He talked to Coach Tim Sheeper on my behalf to assist in furthering my career and I would probably still be racing on the Le Monde road bike w/ aero bars if it wasn’t for this guy. Thank you Mikey for all you do and being who you are! You would have been VIP#1, but I wanted to make you sweat it a bit  I’m so lucky to know you!

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