Kona Ironman World Championship
PowerBar athlete Andy Potts will be among the 2,000 competitors competing in this year’s Ironman World Championships. One of the most iconic triathlon events, triathletes from across the globe will meet in Kona, Hawaii to compete in a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run. We spoke with Andy as he heads to Kona about his excitement surrounding this year’s race, how he brings out the best in himself and what it means to be an Ironman.
As a lifelong athlete, can you talk about what it means to live a healthy and active lifestyle?
Being active and living a healthy lifestyle is about more than just sport. For me, it is about getting the most out of myself. As an athlete, I perform at my best when I am eating right and getting outside every day. Living a healthy lifestyle means I am doing the right things for my body and my mind in order to be the best dad, husband and man I can be.
What does being an Ironman mean to you?
Being an Ironman transcends sports and competition. To become an Ironman you have to endure the rough times, persevere through the unexpected times, and embrace the best times. Ironman racing is the platform that allows me to compete with, not against, the best athletes in the world, where we collectively push each other to find our own bests. Make no mistakes, I am racing against my competitors, but it is also important to recognize that my competitors are part of my formula to find what is possible within myself. Ironman is my quest to find my absolute best.
You swam for legendary coach Jon Urbanchek during your collegiate career at the University of Michigan. What about that experience has stuck with you as you continue to train and compete in triathlons?
I have taken all the lessons I learned in my swimming career with Jon and my high school coach, Todd Kemmerling, and have applied them to my career as a triathlete. People talk about how the lessons they learn as an athlete apply to different aspects of their life. For me, there was a direct transfer of traits I developed working with these great coaches to the challenges I face in the triathlon. The mental toughness, the perseverance, how to get the most out of myself when I am not feeling my best and what it means to dedicate myself to my sport; have been invaluable lessons to my life as a triathlete.
You’ve done something that’s uncommon in the athletic community by having a successful career as a triathlete and a swimmer. How did you effectively make that transition and how have you grown as an athlete from those experiences?
There are a lot of similarities between swimming and triathlons, although most swimmers are not known as being good runners. For me, the difference is that I have always been an athlete first. I have the mindset and willingness to work through the growing pains and indignities that come along with learning something knew. I am driven by improvement and finding my potential, and that has made all of the difference. Every time I struggled, I thought back to my swimming experiences. Anytime you learn something new, such as learning a new stroke or a new technique, there are challenges that come along with it. I have been able to reflect on how I handled these challenges in the past and realized my new challenges are not very different, they just happen to be in running and cycling. That is not to say that there have not been setbacks along the way, there is always a challenge to overcome and ways to improve. But as they say, it is what I learned about myself during these times and how I overcame these obstacles that has helped me grow stronger as an athlete and as person.
What initially sparked your interest in triathlons? How did you get started?
Triathlon was not something I knew much about as a kid; the sport was just taking off. With that, ever since I was little, I was a good runner and swimmer and my bike was my mode of transportation. I biked to school, to my friends, and to swim practice; it was how I got around. So, I guess you can say I was a triathlete even before I knew I was a triathlete. When I finished my swimming career, I needed a new outlet. For a long time, people said that I would make a good triathlete and one day, while on a family camping trip, I decided to give it a ‘go.’ We had just finished climbing a 14er’ and when we came down, we were driving through Colorado Springs and we saw that there was this triathlon in the area. So, I signed up, got 28th place and figured I would become a professional triathlete. Through a lot of learning and growing pains, the rest is history.
Kona is a large part of the conversation when it comes to triathlons. Can you talk about your experiences at Kona and what that place means to you?
Kona is legendary in the triathlon world because it put the sport on the map and it is kind of the Godfather of the sport. Success in Kona means a lot because there is something dynamic about when the best athletes in the world show up, on the same day, and lay it all on the line. I have had some success there but I am ready to continue to climb the ladder to see how high I can go.
We just finished the Olympic Games, were you watching religiously or not tuned in at all?
I loved watching the Olympics. I watch the Olympics every two years, Winter and Summer Games, and I’ve realized that I enjoy watching it even more now. Everything is better when you can share it with others and I am so fortunate that I can share watching the games with my kids. They are at a point where they are starting to “get it.” They understand the importance of its history, they recognize the value of the world coming together and how the triumph of the human soul wins the day. I love that.
What’s the best piece of advice someone has given you?
In regards to triathlon, the best piece of advice is to make the big thing, the big thing. Meaning, if Kona is the big thing, focus on Kona. If the Olympics are your thing, then focus on the Olympics. If you are a terrible cyclist, make it a priority to improve. Whatever the goal is, make it both a micro and macro focus.
What do you look forward to most when you wake up in the morning?
There are a few things that I look most forward to when I wake up. I have my biggest meal in the morning, where I can eat until I am full, and that always gets me excited. With my kids, they are happiest in the morning. My wife and I talk to them about waking up with a good attitude and teach them that they are in control of their attitude. Because of that, they have always woken up with the mindset of ‘today is a new day and let’s make it a good one’ and that is really refreshing and great to see on a daily basis.
What do you think sets you apart from your competition?
One of the main things I believe sets me apart is that I know that I do not know everything. I am willing to seek out answers and I am constantly learning. It’s that humility, willingness and desire to understand and to improve that drives me.
What’s going through your mind as your approaching the finish line at Kona?
Without fail, whether a good day or bad, it has been “man, I have given it everything I have and boy was it hard… no regrets.”
What’s your post-race celebration?
It is usually a really long shower, a hamburger, ice cream, a hug from my kids and a kiss from my wife.