Morgan Pearson: What Makes an Elite Triathlete?
What makes a truly elite triathlete? What makes an athlete great? Is putting 100 percent of yourself into your sport the best way to achieve greatness? Or is having a balanced lifestyle the best way to get there? Is it better think of sport asa passion, something that I truly love, or is being an athlete a job for me, something that I enjoy at times but at other times just need to put in the work? These are just some of the questions that I have been asking myself as I enter the second part of my rookie triathlon season.
I made my ITU debut last month at the Mooloolaba, Australia World Cup where I finished 7th place. I followed this up with a 14th place finish at the New Plymouth, New Zealand World Cup. In both races had positive and negative segments. In Australia, I swam really well, had a great first transition and start to the bike; however, I rode in the back of the lead pack for the second part of the race and went out too hard on the run - I believe this cost me what might have been my first WC podium spot. In New Zealand, I swam too timidly and had an awful first transition, costing me a position in the lead bike pack. Despite this, I led the second bike pack going into transition two and posted the fastest run split in the entire field.
I am new to triathlon. I anticipate a learning curve and that I would make mistakes in my first two international races. It is motivating to me get my butt kicked! Nevertheless, as a face the second part of me season, I find myself questioning if the decisions I am making on a daily basis are going to maximize my chances for success. Finishing 7th and 14th is not good enough for me; where do I need to improve physically? Where can I improve mentally? What other skills do I need to learn in this sport so that I can be the one breaking the finishing tape?
For one, I need to improve my race day decision making. My first running kilometer at Mooloolaba was probably around 2:40, that 13:20 5K and was just stupid. I let the adrenaline take over instead of focusing on my pace. In New Zealand, I tried getting on the feet of a strong swimmer at the start of the race instead of focusing on getting to the buoy in straight tine and as quickly as possible. Another less than ideal choice but one I believe I can avoid making twice, especially with more race experience and confidence under my belt.
The physical improvements I need to make are more obvious. I need to become a faster swimmer, biker, and runner... but how do I get there? What are the choices that can I make outside of training to help me get there? Do I need to change my diet, should I be going to bed earlier? What effect will this have on my mental health? Are there other adjustments that I should make durning training? For example, should I be going easier on easy days, should I be going harder?
How about skills I need to learn? I believe I can improve my bike handling skills, and that will come with time, but is there anything else I can do to accelerate that process? I will talk to anyone who can help me learn how to take my wetsuit off faster! It’s truly embarrassing.
These are the types of questions that are going through my mind following my first few triathlon races. My guess is that as I continue to train and race, some answers will be revealed, while other new questions will arise. I need to make meaningful decisions day in and day out, and search for ways to improve no matter what level I am at.
In the words of legendary American basketball coach John Wooden, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”
Cannot wrap this up without giving a shout out to the selfless people in my life, especially those helping me pursue a pro career in triathlon; Family, Coaches, Sponsors, Friends, and of course the incredible athletes that I am surrounded by each and every day. If only I could learn this way:
Nahhh...half the fun is the suffering! Anyway, my next couple races will be Chengdu World Cup on May 5th, 6th and Yokohama WTS on May 12th.