Today, we’re profiling athlete Andy Smith. Over the last three years, Andy has progressed from an 8 hour 70.3 finisher to a 5 hour 70.3 finisher. What are some of the factors that have led to his success and what keeps him tri-ing? Read more below:

Andy Smith has been an Energy Lab coached athlete since November, 2014 and has progressed from an ~8 hour 70.3 finisher to a 5 hour finisher. He has seen very steady progress over the years which can be attributed to “mixing the ingredients of passion, drive, and competitiveness.”

Several of the factors that have made him successful include arranging a lifestyle that supports training, making triathlon a family affair, and desire for ongoing challenge (ie believing training to be fun).  See more about Andy’s journey and progress below:

My View of Triathlon:

For me, Triathlon is a HOBBY and an avenue to challenge yourself to see what you can do and what new limits you can reach!  I’ve pushed my abilities (physical, mental, etc) to limits I never thought I’d reach.   My first two 70.3 events resulted in an 8 hr finish (just ahead of the closing bell) and I never dreamed I’d participate in a full Ironman.  I see and meet so many people where triathlon has changed their lives!  What a sport!!!!

Athletic Background:

I started at a very early age playing baseball, basketball, soccer, and any other sport that was in season.  I loved them all, but I despised anything associated with the conditioning aspect (i.e. running).  I was never an endurance athlete and can’t remember running more than 2-3 miles until I was well into my 20’s….  My early years were spent training in Zone 1 (standing around) or Zone 5 (game time).  Anything in between (i.e. Zone 3) was considered loafing!

I rode my bike A LOT, but always for enjoyment and as a mode of transportation to friends’ houses…  I didn’t really even know competitive swimming existed or that kids participated in that until I got older and had kids!  I thought pools were there for fun and swim lessons only.  Last year, I joined a Master’s swim program where I was exposed to the micro cosmos of swimming and found out just how many kids participate and how fast they are!  Now I am an old person trying to be a kid swimmer again…

Can you give us tips on how you arrange training to best fit into the rest of life?

By nature, I’m a planner!  Sadly, I am very structured as well.  This certainly helps both in pre-planning the TP notes for the week and also in thinking ahead about the week and how to fit family, work, training, and all other activities in…  I look forward to getting the workout schedule each week and almost always plan out (usually mentally, but sometimes formally) how I’ll structure the week.

While I’m able to enjoy a flexible work schedule, I do choose to prioritize the family schedule.  This means I try to be home in the morning with the kids before school and most evenings are consumed by chaufering duties…  My wife and I (especially her) go above and beyond to accommodate each other’s workout plans during the day.   She is adamantly opposed to doing any workout together so we adjust our schedules to make sure we are able to fit it all in with some limits of course!  I routinely travel for work so I’ll always make sure ahead of time that I’m able to stay in proximity to a pool since running is easier to accommodate.  I even do this when we take family trips.  But, as we all make appointments for doctors, work, activities, family, etc, I simply give a high enough priority to training (i.e. my hobby) that it gets fair treatment in the busy life we all live…

How do you bring the family into the fun?

My daughters (ages 11 and 7) and son (age 4) have always enjoyed participating in the fun runs at the triathlon events (mile or ½ mile).  Recently, the girls broke away from their dance and gymnastic focus and participated in their first dip and dash (100m swim and 1 mile run) event at Ironman 70.3 Florida.  Learning to swim and the excitement of setting up and planning a transition overwhelmed them with excitement and joy.  They are exciting to keep participating in what they call swim, bike, run and we’ll see where it goes from here!

How do you incorporate recovery?

Rest and OFF days are the hardest part of the training schedule for me to accept…  Because I love the sport and read a lot about it, I become consumed by “I need to be doing more like everyone else is…”!  While I don’t feel I do anything special to recover well, I do take a few things seriously… (1) Sleep (2) Trust Your Coach (i.e. Coach Bethany) and (3) Proper Nutrition.  Point 2 being the most important obviously…

(1)     I try to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.  I will get in the bed between 9:30 and 10pm and always wake up at 5:30-6am.  I keep this pretty regimented – more because I am a morning person and certainly not a night person.  I don’t know how important this is exactly to my recovery, but it doesn’t hurt…

(2)    Coach Bethany has found a balance of satisfying my appetite to avoid “OFF” days and also keeping the intensity at the right level for that particular day/week/cycle.  This means some days we just do an easy recovery swim (never called that) or an easy trainer ride (usually denoted by a TrainerRoad “workout” at a certain low TSS…).  She does a good job at camouflaging these recovery activities as real workouts to keep me thinking I’m training like a pro, but her really knowing the point is to recovery.  It seems to work for both of us…    But, I had to learn over the last 2-3 years to simply trust the process and how other people are training (specifically pros or the Strava studs) doesn’t impact ANYTHING wrt how I should train…  This remains a challenge and is easier said than done, but trusting the Coach and Process is certainly less stressful for us Type A weirdo’s…

(3)    Proper Nutrition…  I’ll always use my “race day” nutrition on any workout greater than 1 hour.   I don’t know that this helps anything, but it’s a constant struggle for me to balance the macro’s (carbs, protein, fat) with body weight and workout quality…  To keep it simple, I just stick to the race day nutrition!   This way, I think, I go into each new day ‘ready’ and not depleted.

I still stick (mostly) to Illana’s plan today and it totally changed how I did things.  I still today notice if I eat a carb w/o protein or vice versa…  I dropped quite a bit of body fat % when I started the Ilana plan.   Plus, I had a calculated hydration/fuel plan for workouts and races…based on my sweat rate, body composition, etc.

How do you continue to enjoy training? 

For me it’s all about the journey and the process.   I look at each session as a small building block to that big race far in the future where you accomplish all your goals and dreams.  I don’t know that I’ve defined that goal or dream or time horizon in triathlon yet so I just keep pushing to get better and better.   Plus, I’m loving all three sports and the associated mix of sports (i.e. strength training, mental toughness, and nutrition).  All still seem so new and there is so much to learn!  Mixing the ingredients of passion, drive, and competitiveness is probably the simple answer…