Since turning professional in 2003, Andy Potts has established himself as an American powerhouse in the world of triathlon. The 37-year-old has many momentous achievements on his athletic resume, including competing in the 2004 Olympics, winning the 2007 Ironman 70.3 World Championship, taking 1st place in the Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon on six separate occasions, and being the fastest American (7th place overall) at the 2012 KONA Ironman World Championship.
Read on to find out how he gets psyched for races, his favorite tri gear and the invaluable advice he has for first-time triathletes.
The Active Times: What is the allure of triathlon racing, and how did you get into the sport?
Andy Potts: The biggest thing triathlons offer is a chance to challenge yourself and improve as an athlete and hopefully as a person as well. I did my first triathlon when I was 26 years old and I've been hooked ever since.
What is the greatest joy you get from racing?
One of the best things of trying your best at something is the feeling you get at a job well done. I prepare the best way I know how, I'm diligent in my training, and the smile that I have at the end of a race is genuine because I did my best.
How important is nutrition?
Nutrition is something that takes time to learn, you need to learn what your body needs in varying conditions. Since everyone is different, we respond differently to our body's needs. The best advice I can give is to listen to your body and try to answer the signals it is providing you— feed your cravings.
How do you psych up for a race and then keep yourself motivated for an endurance event?
I don't need a lot to psych me up for a race. However, staying motivated to push yourself at hour five or six of an eight hour day is tough. I try to focus on small things to make it seem like I'm accomplishing a lot of tiny goals to reach my ultimate goal of getting to the finish line. If you break down the race into digestible parts, you'll have an easier time staying motivated.
What is the one mistake you’ve learned the most from?
I learn from all of my mistakes. Learning along the way is part of the process of being the best you can be. I'm in a constant state of change because I'm always trying to improve.
Anything particular you wear for a triathlon that you wouldn't for say, a marathon?
Tri gear is unique because you need to do three different sports in the same outfit. It needs to be snug enough to not drag in the water, compressive enough to allow you to be aerodynamic on the bike, and designed just right to allow you to run without any chafing. TYR has been making my Tri suit for years and I've had some great results because their suits allow me to focus on the race and not what I'm wearing.
What advice would you give to someone trying a triathlon for the first time?
The best advice I can give to first-timers is to build into each leg of the race so you can finish with a flourish. Build the first 5, 10, or even 15 minutes of each discipline to a pace that you think you can maintain for the rest of the day. It will be a challenge but that is what makes it worthwhile.
What is the one piece of kit or equipment you’d never be without?
I love my TYR wetsuit! I got to add my input while we were designing the suit and I think the final product is awesome. It has great range of motion in the shoulders, which is imperative for swimming, and buoyancy in all the right places. I don't race without it.
What is your recovery routine after a race of that distance?
Recovery is a subject like nutrition that I could talk about for days on end. However, the basics are pretty simple and most people know them. Allow yourself a cheat meal or two as a reward after a great race but then try to eat healthy. When you put good nutrients into your system, you'll give your body a chance to recover faster. Sleep is when your body is doing its biggest repairs so be sure to give yourself a couple of days with 8 hours of continuous sleep, if possible. Next is to pay attention to your motivation. When you can start dreaming about your next race is a good signal that your body is ready to resume training.
What's next on your schedule this season?
Up next is the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii
Any bucket list races you still want to do?
Oh, there are a lot of races out there that I want to do. I'll continue to put races like ‘Escape From Alcatraz’ on my schedule because it is my favorite race, but one of the great things about triathlon is that we are forced to race in exotic locations. Not hard for me to put together a long list of races that I want to do—lots more to accomplish in my triathlon career!
Head to Andy's TYR athlete page to learn more.