Swim 2.4 miles. Bike 112 miles. Run 26.2 miles. That’s your standard Ironman triathlon. The king of all Ironman triathlons is The Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. This year on October 10th, more than 2,000 athletes will attempt to be crowned the ultimate Ironman. One of those competitors is LifeProof Athlete Andy Potts. We chatted with him about his #1 eating rule, what he can't start a race without, and "cupcake season."
You didn’t start training for triathlon until after college—and it only took you 18-months to get good enough to make the 2004 Olympics team. How were you able to get so good later in life—in such a short period of time?
AP: Success in most things boils down to ability and effort. It’s very rare that ability can trump effort at the highest level of sports as things are usually pretty close and so I have always put a lot of stock in my effort and approach.
With that said, I am extremely fortunate to have great genes (thanks, Mom & Dad) and also a lifetime of great coaching, direction and athletic experience. My years of swimming, and then track, gave me an athletic base to work from despite the fact that I was really out of shape when I started in the sport. Since I got into the sport, I have been like a sponge, finding the best coaches and mentors, which really accelerated my learning curve. In the end, if I am honest with myself, my success has been driven by my attitude and the sweat equity I put into my training.
Do you have any advice for men who want to start a new fitness pursuit or sport post-college?
AP: The first thing is listening to your heart. Find something that you enjoy and will challenge you no matter how far you take it; triathlon, cycling, running, obstacle racing, CrossFit, tennis, etc. all fit the bill. The next step is to make a commitment to yourself by eating right, gaining strength, and learning about your new pursuit. The last step would be to reach out to trusted people to find out how you can get more engaged and dive in.
How does getting older impact your performance and how you train? What are the benefits that come with age?
AP: We are all getting older every day; I look at it as I am just getting wiser. Those who continue to improve are the ones who are able to diagnose their deficiencies and seek to eliminate their weaknesses. I don't recover as quickly as I used to but I'm much stronger physically than ever before. I help recovery by spending more time stretching, getting massage, and I use my Compex Muscle Stimulator daily. I've attacked the weight room the last couple of years to make sure that I'm gaining strength. I use lifting as a way to supplement my swimming, biking, and running.
Equally important, as I get older, I have a greater perspective and more to ‘fight for.’ When I go out to race, I am not just racing for myself - I race for my family, my children, my corporate partners and my fans. When I am training, it takes time away from my family time, so I make it count. Sometimes I still end up doing double duty - last week, I was on the bike trainer, sweating buckets as I was testing my son for his spelling exam.
You’ve won many championships, but never the Ironman World Championships. What do you think it’s going to take to win this year in Kona?
AP: Winning Kona takes a special day by any athlete. There are so many factors that go into a race like Kona, I can only focus on the things that I can control such as being fully prepared come race day (physically and mentally) and performing to the best of my ability on race day. For me, it’s all about attitude and effort. If I can get those things right, I give myself the best chance to be in a position to win the race.
A full Ironman can take almost half of an entire day to complete. How do you push past the mental struggle of simply having to push your body for such a long period of time?
It’s pretty funny - if you were to ask many Ironman racers and their families, the day is longer for the spectators than the racers. That said, in a race this long it’s inevitable that you are going to have a few ‘low’ moments and the goal is to minimize those lows by staying focused. Focus has a lot to do with your physical preparation but it also has a lot to do with your nutrition. If you can stay in the moment over the course of an all day endurance event then that tells me that you are on top of your nutrition and hydration. By staying in the moment and focusing on the task at hand you actually make the event less daunting. I try to break it down into manageable parts so I don't get overwhelmed on race day.
I stay in the moment by constantly going through a mental ‘checklist’ in my head, focusing on technique, pace, hydration, position, etc.
Equally important, there are a few key things that I do prior to an event that which prepare me for race day. Specifically for Kona, I made a playlist that I play for all of my really tough workouts. As I am going through these workouts, I am envisioning the race, so when it comes to race day, I will have these training sessions and the musical cues to come back to.