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How becoming a pro changes your life

Columnist's note: This is the fourth in a series of columns on local professional triathlete Katie Zaferes (née Katie Hursey) and her journey to becoming a pro.

SL: What was the first thing that happened after you turned pro? How did becoming pro change your race goals and how you race? How did it change your life?

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KZ: When I first turned pro I was at the [Colorado Springs] Olympic Training Center and was being coached by my first tri coach that USA Triathlon found for me. However, it wasn't long until we were assigned to a resident coach and thus began my time in the USAT program under USAT coaches. I was very lucky in that before my group came along [USAT] didn't really have a resident program for developmental athletes. Through the Collegiate Recruitment Program we were given a lot of opportunities and resources that most triathletes that are just getting started do not receive.

Once I became pro I don't think my race goals necessarily changed. I [was] still learning so much that my goals were really process oriented. I still go into races with the goal to get out fast in order to make it to the first buoy at the front of the pack, [and] I focus on quick transitions. On the bike my goal is about positioning—making sure I'm at the front of the pack. And on the run just giving it all I've got. The main change in how I race since becoming a pro [is] the style of racing. Going from non-draft to draft legal was a really big learning experience for me.

Triathlon has changed my life in so many ways. I never thought I was going to be successful as a professional athlete. It was something I thought would be fun to try, but never something I thought I'd be able to support myself with financially. I met my husband through triathlon and that in itself is the greatest thing triathlon can ever give me. As an extra bonus we now travel together and that's huge because I am currently only "home" for three months out of the year. I've gotten to travel to so many amazing and beautiful places that I never would have known to visit had it not been for triathlon. In addition, I've gotten to meet so many wonderful people from all over the world. I've always thought I was the luckiest girl in the world, but with each year it just gets better and better.

SL: What are the best and worst things about being a pro triathlete?

KZ: The best [part is] traveling and seeing new places, pushing myself and achieving goals I would never have thought possible, doing a job that keeps me fit and healthy and lets me explore [and] meet new people.

The worst [part is that] rest days are not frequent. [Most] people look forward to the weekend but my weekends are the hardest training of the week. Being on the road—as awesome as it is—it's sometimes tough not having a "home." When I travel I bring one suitcase, one bike bag and a backpack for up to nine months of travel. One of the hardest things for me to figure out was what to pack, and that less is actually better. Because whatever you bring you need to be prepared to carry for the next long while, and if it's heavy traveling is not as pleasant. Laundry in the shower.

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