ESF’s ENDURING ATHLETE OF THE MONTH – FEBRUARY
By Pete Williams
A year ago, Mandy McLane was coming off a finish as the top elite amateur at the Miami International Triathlon and starting to think about a pro triathlon career.
That was before finishing as the top female amateur at the St. Anthony’s Triathlon, ahead of a number of pros, and being honored as the USA Triathlon Age Grouper of the Year, capping a year that also included capturing the women’s 30-to-34 title at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Clearwater and winning the USA Triathlon Age Group Nationals.
Unlike a lot of athletes who reach the elite levels of the sport quickly, McLane (mandymclane.com) does not have a background as a college swimmer. Nor does she have a day job as a triathlon coach, physical therapist, or nutritionist; she’s a self-employed speech language pathologist who competed in track in college at Clemson.
The Orlando native seems to thrive in Florida, though like many elite triathletes she now spends much of her year in Colorado. Having turned professional for 2011, the stunning, dominant, 32-year-old American might be exactly what pro triathlon needs to break into mainstream sports coverage. We recently caught up with McLane between workouts.
(Note: An audio version of this interview can be found at The Fitness Buff Show.)
Q: How does one make the transition to pro triathlon?
A: It goes according to rankings, race times and how you finish in certain races. With nationals and the world championship, if you’re top three overall then you qualify to apply for a pro card. St. Anthony’s, MIT (Miami International Triathlon) and Eagleman are races that if you finish in the top percentage of your age group and overall top three, then you qualify for that pro card. Then it’s up to you if you’re ready to make that leap and begin racing.
Q: When did you know you were ready?
A: After Eagleman. I had a great St. Anthony’s and MIT. Those are Olympic-distance races and I needed another half iron to feel confident I could race both distances competitively. I finished well at Eagleman and that’s when I had the confidence, but my coach and I decided it would be a good idea to get a national or world title under my belt and it all unfolded as planned.
Q: Do you think you’ve proven that a native Floridian can be competitive at the highest level in triathlon?
A: Absolutely. I have an advantage over many triathletes in that I’ve always been able to tolerate heat. The athletes that come from mountain areas have an advantage over us flatlanders but you can simulate that kind of stuff on the treadmill or on the trainer and increase elevation and resistance. It’s definitely very possible for people from Florida or any region where it’s flat to be competitive.
Q: Have you left Florida completely?
A: I’m pretty much between the two. During the summers, I’m definitely going to be in Boulder and that’s mostly due to the fact that it’s hot with the altitude and the climbing. In the winters I’m coming back to Orlando for two-week periods, mostly because it’s warm, and you’re going back to sea level. It’s imp for me to teeter totter back and forth.
Q: You swam competitively only from the ages of 5 to 11, but you’re very strong in the water. Why is that?
A: Once you’ve created that muscle memory it’s very easy to draw from that and like anything else as you train and put intervals and effort into anything you’re making progress. The early years of my swimming have given me a strong base to work from.
Q: It’s a struggle for many pro triathletes land sponsors and earn recognition. How do you approach that challenge?
A: That’s a good question and it is a challenge. One of the biggest things that have been helpful for me is to go to conventions such as Interbike and give out business cards and resumes and talk to people so they can put a face to your name. I follow up with an email and then to be brutally honest you have to be almost annoying. You walk a fine line of touching base, following up on regular basis and sometimes they get right back to you and sometimes they get caught up on other things.
Q: Doesn’t it help that you look good on magazine covers?
A: It has helped, but what also helps is that I’m on Facebook and Twitter and am proactive trying to market myself and products I believe in and moving in that direction to where I’m doing a lot of talking and blogging and making everything as public as possible. That definitely helps.
Q: What are your goals for your first year as a pro and what would make it a success?
A: I would like to have a couple of podium finishes and be top five in a large percentage of races. So I have high expectations. I know it’s a totally different world out there but at the same time I think I’ll rise up and go with the flow and push myself a bit harder to hang. I’m real interested to see how it unfolds but I strongly believe I can have a few podium finishes at both distances and be top five in a large percentage of races.