Why Go Pro?
After his dominating win at the Asia-Pacific Ironman Championship over the weekend, I don't think Craig Alexander is shaking in his boots now that I have the ability to line up against him on the Ironman circuit. Why would someone with a pretty demanding full-time job (and a decent appetite for burgers and pizza) try to play with the Big Boys?
1. It's about competition. The age-group format of triathlon racing is very important to the sport, it provides comparative results across demographic groups at each races, provides motivation for racers of all ages, and creates a unique and exciting environment at the various world championships offered in the various disciplines of triathlon. However, the sport is still providing a racing format, and in the end everyone is racing everyone else, regardless of age. I've experienced many races where at the pointy-end of the age-group race, guys have asked me on the run what age group I was in, and if we were in different age groups, they were unconcerned about beating me. I've always taken the approach that a race is a race, and want to place as high up in the overall standings as possible. This opportunity allows me to hit the start line with the fastest guys and see just how far behind them I really am.
On the same topic, Steve Boyd has an interesting take on the de-sportification of running and it's impact on world-class (or lack thereof) performances from North American athletes in recent years: http://www.nzrun.com/article/11404-The-De-sportification-of-running
2. It's about ease of race entry. Triathlon is a niche sport, but it's still a popular one, where for especially the Ironman distance races, supply often outstrips demand. People sign up a year in advance for races. I hardly know what I'm doing later this week never mind next year. For most races, professional entries are accepted up to a month before the race. I do believe that providing as much notice as possible is the 'professional' approach to setting a race schedule, but when 'life' gets in the way it's nice to have flexibility.
3. It's about the economics. Economics? I have no illusions of making a living from my racing results. I do, however, love to race, and racing gets costly. Last year I raced one half-marathon and five triathlons, which combined cost $1,800, or more than double the Ironman pro membership fee. My economic goal for the season will be to win enough prize money to cover my pro membership (so I can then write it off against winnings on my taxes, I am an accountant after all).
4. It's about testing the hypothesis of the following graphic. Does it hold true?