Lessons Learned

author : Kyle Pawlaczyk
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My 8th grade Social Studies teacher, Mr. Nassoiy, used to write famous quotes on the board every week or so. Sometimes they’d be related to what we were studying in class; sometimes not. We’d copy the quotes down in our notebooks, and at the end of the quarter, we’d get extra credit if we could come up with the “quote of the day” from a particular date. A ploy to keep grade-mongering middle-schoolers from tuning out during class? Maybe, but that notebook full of quotes represented one of the most useful sources of wisdom I received during my school years. One of my favorites from that notebook was:

“A day spent without learning something is a day lost.”

I’ve put my second season of pro triathlon in the books, and this came to mind. Perhaps, more appropriately, the phrase “a year spent without learning something is a year lost” came to mind. As I typically do at this time of year, I reflect on what was, what might have been, and what I learned along the way. These lessons came from a variety of places, some of them pretty unlikely.

I’m still a “rookie” pro.

In sport, being a “rookie” usually gives you a lot of leeway. Expectations of you are relatively low. Everything success you experience in your new line of work is viewed as a bonus. Any true "success" is regarded as a pleasant surprise. As soon as that "rookie" title wears off, the accompanying "rookie mistakes" are supposed to evaporate. Those growing pains that made the sport such a challenge give way to a sense of confidence that leaves an athlete empowered and ready to become a sporting legend.

Or not.

One of the things that frustrated me during my second season was the fact that I repeated several "rookie mistakes" that I made during my 2010 campaign. I did a poor job structuring my racing. I struggled to balance the demands of training for three sports. I made some of the same racing blunders, several of which cost me time and money.

Growth as an athlete isn't always linear, and certain things don't fix themselves just because you're a year older and wiser. One of the important lessons I learned in my second year in the sport is that triathlon takes time to figure out. Fellow pro Jordan Rapp, a guy I've admired from afar and a multiple Ironman champion, had this to say about his most recent win at Ironman Canada:

"…this was my 7th Ironman, which seems like a lot, but it's not really. And it's "only" my 7th year as a pro…"

Jordan was talking about what he had learned about his body in his first several attempts at Ironman. At first read, I was like: "Dude, really? Seven years? I'll have this thing figured out way before then." After taking a closer look, it turns out Jordan's right. I've learned so much every time I've gone out and raced. Perhaps even more importantly, I've learned how much I still need to learn. For me, triathlon is equal parts methodical training, thoughtful analysis, and the simple willingness to "live and learn" in certain situations. Maybe that learning takes place over a period of years. In Jordan's case, that learning is still taking place seven years in.

It's a "rewarding" career, often in unexpected ways.

Early in the year, I imagined that my triathlon career would be very rewarding. I had dreams of big podium finishes, prize checks, and sponsorship deals. I worked hard, hoping that these things would come. In most cases, they didn't. But I learned to appreciate the very special rewards that did come my way. I had a number of great races. I got the opportunity to meet some great people and see some great places. I became a member of a team, USPro Tri, which I am proud to be a part of. On top of all that, I proved to myself that I have a bright future in this sport.  Maybe my travels this year didn't bring me fame and fortune. Maybe 2011 didn't turn out how I imagined it would, but it did provide me with countless successes, both small and large, which will hopefully lead to ultimate success I hoped for.

I owe a great deal of thanks.

Since this column is being written in November, it only seems right to express thanks for all the good that has come my way this year. I'd like to thank Ryan, the boys of USPro Tri, and all our sponsors, for a great year.  I'd like to thank my second family at Endorphin Fitness for allowing me to become part of the greatest community of athletes ever. Last, but not least, I'd like to thank Gail, Baxter, Anna, Mom, and Dad. Being able to share all of this with you has been truly special.

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date: November 17, 2011

Author


Kyle Pawlaczyk

After a collegiate distance running career, Kyle Pawlaczyk began racing triathlons in 2009. Kyle recorded two top-10 finishes in the Ironman 70.3 series in 2010, his first season as a pro. He resides in Charlottesville, VA.

This column will follow Kyle as he faces the challenges associated with becoming a viable professional in the sport of triathlon.

Author

avatarKyle Pawlaczyk

After a collegiate distance running career, Kyle Pawlaczyk began racing triathlons in 2009. Kyle recorded two top-10 finishes in the Ironman 70.3 series in 2010, his first season as a pro. He resides in Charlottesville, VA.

This column will follow Kyle as he faces the challenges associated with becoming a viable professional in the sport of triathlon.

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