The digital footprint of a professional athlete is a strange animal. What do I mean by that, you ask? When we start talking about endurance sports, these athletes spend a huge portion of their week doing the absolute minimum to stay competitive at the pointy-end of a sport (things like: working out, recovery, eating, sleeping, traveling, and competing). But that’s not how they make a living. You can’t make a living off race winnings unless you are really good. Just as an example: you can spend 3 months training for Ironman Australia, spend 8 hours killing yourself on the course to win (putting yourself out of commission for the next week or two in the process), and take home the 1st place prize of… $5000. It’s gonna be hard to feed yourself on that twice a year.
So how do these folk actual making a living and sometimes even support a family? Sponsors. And keeping sponsors happy is partially about being the best athlete possible, but also about attending events, helping advertise, and generally pimping the product. And that all takes time too. [If you’re interested in all this money and sponsorship stuff, Slowtwitch did a great two-part series on these topics as it relates to triathlon here and here.]
Anyway, the point I’m loquaciously trying to make here is that by the time an athlete has taken care of the minimum responsibility for earning a living, I would venture that there isn’t much time left in the week (though I’m not a professional athlete, nor am I friends with any, so chime in if I’m totally off-base here).
What does that have to do with digital footprints? Well, it seems to me that because these athletes are busy actually being athletes and putting food on the table, their websites become more an arm for marketing and a means of keeping sponsors happy than a way of revealing who they are and giving us fans a glimpse into a world we can barely comprehend. These websites (and blogs, twitter feeds, facebook pages, etc.) seem like they are outsourced to a run-of-the-mill PR firm. And I don’t fault them for this at all. A day is 24 hours long and my interest is not high on their priority lists.
But there are some athletes who do take the time and really give their fans a unique, interesting, and startlingly honest take on their experiences as professional athletes. Athletes who are willing to admit they are regular people that have good days and bad days, strengths and weaknesses just like me and everyone else in the sport. These (in no particular order) are the five pro athletes with blogs for which I will stop whatever I’m doing and read what they have to say. I guess this is my way of saying thank you for taking the time to let me into your world:
- Chrissie Wellington: When one of the most dominate long course triathletes ever speaks, you listen. But all you have to do is read her post about winning her 4th Ironman world championship after a vicious bike crash 2 weeks pre-race to see that her blog isn’t about how insanely dominate she is at her sport. By the time she crosses the finish line in the recap, she’s made you reconsider every bad race, every training setback, and every time you’ve found that next gear. I just wish she wrote more often 😦
- Jordan Rapp: I’m a big dork. I mean scientist. I’m a scientist. So I have an appreciation for smart folk who over-analyze everything. Enter Princeton Engineering-trained Jordan Rapp (a.k.a Rappstar). The guy has an amazing story: rising star in triathlon who, in 2010, was hit by a car while training and quite literally left for dead on the road. After a full recovery, Rapp is once again a rising star in triathlon. He’s fast, honest, and takes blogging seriously. After red-lining at Ironman Hawaii and literally stumbling over the finish, he had a race recap up within 24 hours. Not to mention he’s also probably the most accessible A-side pro as he’ll respond to your questions on Twitter or on the Slowtwitch forums.
- Allie Kieffer: Here’s a question. What do Galen Rupp, Mo Trafeh, Lopez Lomong, Jenny Barringer, and Ben True have in common? Embarrassingly, I know the answer: they all ran in the 2003 Foot Locker National Championships. You know who else did? Allie Kiefer, who you may or may not have heard of. But if you want to experience the emotional roller coaster that being a professional athlete can be, read her blog. There’s wearing your heart and your sleeve and then there’s Allie describing what it’s like to work for four years to have a shot at the Olympics and pull out of Trials pre-race.
- Jesse Thomas: Once upon a time, a former steeplechaser bought $10 aviators, borrowed a bike, and decided that’s all he needed to win one of the most storied triathlons in the world on his first go-round. That guy is Jesse Thomas. A second year pro with a cult following (though with his monthly article in Triathlete Magazine, you could probably argue that he’s way mainstream now), Jesse says things like, “I want to throw up, scream, cry, poop, and laugh all at the same time.” It’s stream-of-consciousness awesomeness about anything that pops into the head of someone who’s relatively new to triathlons. And his race recaps are the best around. I’m also taking a two-fer-one here: his wife, badass pro runner Lauren Fleshman, has a great blog too. If she made such informative graphs, she might have been the lead story with Jesse being the two-fer. They both have hilarious Twitter feeds as well (here and here), so give ’em a follow if you haven’t already.
- Michal Kapral: Oh man, am I taking some liberties here. I’m not sure if he’s a “pro” so to speak, but he’s a world record holder, so that’s good enough for me. We’re talking about joggling. Joggling is the best. Can you run a 2:50:09 marathon? Yeah? Well can you do it while juggling three balls the entire time? That’s what I thought. Now chew gum while you do that too. I’ve spent hours upon hours of my life reading every single blog post on this site. If you don’t find Michal’s blog with his insights into joggling fascinating, I don’t know if I want to be friends with you anymore. It’s as simple as that.
This list is obviously not all encompassing (notable exclusion of Jens Voigt here because he deserves 1000 words all to himself), but these five blogs are well-written, entertaining, make me appreciate the world of professional athletes, and have managed to keep my gnat-like attention span for quite awhile now. So give ’em a read because they’re pretty awesome.
What’d I miss? What pro blogs do you read?