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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 races:

“Prize money is a disgrace. WTC keeps throwing it out there that there’s a big pull, that there’s more money to be won. But there are three times as many races and you can’t race three times as many times. Some of the prize money has gone down at races—there should be no reason for an event to go backward. Some of the smaller races are $3,000 to win, [such as] Ironman Lake Placid. … I’m training for an Ironman now and turning up is barely worth the effort. It’s garbage. It’s three months to train, a month to recover, and that’s four months of the year.”

“I think we looked at Providence [the equity firm that owns WTC] coming in and saying what direction Ironman was going to take, and they went and acquired all these other events. They obviously have one mission: to make money. I think the soul of the races is gone. These independent races used to have character, and each race director had their own style, and it was fun. There were other ways to make money, with appearance fees, etc., but those opportunities are gone. If there are any, they’re limited and controlled by Ironman. There are some really healthy things that have been wiped out. There’s a lot of support, but it’s diluted by the amount of registered pro athletes. At the end of the day the whole thing now is a spreadsheet and the bottom line. I don’t think it’s been a positive thing for the sport.”

“People like Rinny [Mirinda Carfrae], Chrissie [Wellington] and Craig [Alexander] get looked after, but now you get a stipend, which doesn’t even cover your bike fees—and that’s only for a couple of athletes for an event. Back in the day, you could have your expenses covered, you’d get an appearance fee and you knew you were starting ahead, and you had a great rapport with the race. To me that’s when the sport was headed in the right direction. Right now, it’s just driven by the investors. It’s a shame because all the new people wouldn’t know any different. The sport has been fantastic to me, but it’s sad people don’t know what has deteriorated. New athletes come into the sport and history disappears very quickly.”

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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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