My not-quite-meteoric rise as a pro

author : Kyle Pawlaczyk
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By Kyle Pawlaczyk 

Athletes of all levels draw inspiration from the performances of other athletes, particularly those at the highest levels of sport. As a pro myself, making a solid 4-figure salary from my sport, it might surprise you that I am inspired by the stories of other professionals.

You're probably wondering, "Who?"

Lance Armstrong, who overcame cancer to dominate cycling's biggest event for seven straight years? No.

Michael Phelps, who has proven unbeatable in the pool in two consecutive Olympic Games? Try again.

What about Jan Ullrich, who endured a vicious cycle of ups and downs during his sometimes-brilliant, sometimes-disastrous career? Bingo.

Aside from his alleged association with an unscrupulous Spanish doctor, I identify with Jan a lot. Both of us have German ancestry. We could both be considered total porkers by our sport's standards. Both of us destroyed our cars during our athletic careers. (Jan's Porsche was damaged when he crashed into a bike rack while under the influence; my Saturn recently succumbed to 150,000 miles of stop-and-go driving.)

Ancestry, appetite, and driving habits aside, I learned a lot from Jan Ullrich, whose career was once called "a parable of unfulfilled promise" by author Daniel Coyle. After winning the Tour in 1997, Jan disappointed, redeemed himself, and then screwed up again. If you told the 1997 edition of Jan Ullrich that his career would include a DUI, dismissal from his team, and weight issues that were followed as closely as Oprah's, he'd probably be disappointed. But, he'd be missing the fact that despite all of this, he had a great career.

The story of Jan's career appealed to me precisely because it wasn't perfect. I've now been racing as a pro triathlete long enough to have what I consider a "body of work" as an athlete. Truthfully, my resume doesn't look how I wanted it to look when I got my pro card last January. This resume includes a fair amount of promising, if unspectacular results. It also includes a fair amount of disappointments, missed opportunities, and plain-old screw-ups. I recently closed out the first half of my second season as a pro. With this came a bit of reflection on how things have gone. I found that my ability to move forward depended on making peace with what has happened (or hasn't happened) in the past year and a half.

At some level, I guess I thought I would enjoy a meteoric rise to the top of the sport, followed by subsequent years of dominance. It's clear that that hasn't happened, and such stories are the exception, rather than the rule. The proverbial road to success is almost always filled with ups, downs, and challenges throughout. But it can be navigated if you avoid bike racks.


Follow more of Kyle's journey at his blog: Kyle Pawlaczyk - Pro Triathlete

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date: August 15, 2011

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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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