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What It’s Like To Be A Professional Triathlete

  • By Jené Shaw
  • Published Jul 29, 2013
  • Updated Jul 29, 2013 at 3:06 PM UTC
Illustrations by Leigh Guldig.

On sponsorships:

“I do have great relationships with the majority of my sponsors, but there are always a few that stick in your mind after a complicated experience. You’re trying to get behind a product and believe in it, even if you don’t like it—which you can’t tell them because they get pissy with you. You have to blog about products and tweet about them, and you feel like such an idiot. It’s so transparent. How many likes do I get when I say, ‘Oh I just had a bottle of X sports drink’? About two. Because people want to get to know your personality, and through that, they’ll see the product association.”

“At times I’ve given up slightly higher paychecks to remain with my loyal sponsors. I think people need to do that more. It has to be reciprocal too—you want your sponsors to be there when you’re having an off year and having some injury or illnesses, but that’s what you need as an athlete. You don’t want that pressure every time you line up at a start line.”

“Nothing surprises me anymore in the negotiation dance between triathlete and sponsor. The problem is that what you are offered is all about timing, which is out of your control. I have seen companies throw incentives at athletes, but I have not been able to participate because I was under contract with a competing company. You go back to that company a year later after your contract has expired and they are over budget or do not sponsor triathletes anymore. In reality, it is a business and, no matter how great the relationship, you could get dumped in a heartbeat!”

“Sponsors all want you to do Ironman, which is built up by the community. ‘Are you going to do an Ironman?’ That’s like saying to a marathon runner, ‘Are you going to do the 100-meter sprint?’ No, because that’s not my specialty. Maybe I’ll try one but I don’t particularly enjoy it. They never say that to ITU racers.”

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FILED UNDER: Features / InsideTri

Jené Shaw

Jené Shaw

Jené Shaw is a senior editor at Triathlete magazine, a four-time Ironman finisher and a USAT Level 1 certified coach

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