On Friday, January 8, 2016, close to 40 people spent a good portion of their evening at Criterium Bicycles in Colorado Springs to see Andy Potts. Andy is a local favorite with an impressive race result resume. Most recently he came in 4th at the IRONMAN World Championships in Kona.
When I walked into the shop, there was a guy on one of the computrainers completely focused on the task at hand. Nic Ponsor, the owner of Criterium, had set up a time trial challenge that was about 3 miles in length.
The fastest male and female throughout the weekend would take home some prizes. That person on the computrainer was Andy, and when he finished, he had to date the fastest time (though he wasn’t in the running for the prizes.)
While Andy got cleaned up we all moseyed over to the food and drinks and to find a seat in the far corner of the store that had been set up for his presentation. I was a little bummed I had just eaten a big dinner, as there was a really nice spread of food and beverages, and included mini-cupcakes (yay cupcakes! And yes, I did have a couple.) from Cupcakes Girls, a local bakery co-owned by Andy’s wife Lisa.
(The other owner is Andrea Fleishmann, wife of triathlete Brian Fleishmann.) It didn’t take long for Andy to change and then start in his presentation – a little on his history, some of his motivations, followed by a very thorough Q&A session.
If you weren’t able to attend, here is a summary of what was talked about (It’s a bit long, and still not everything he covered.)
As a child, sport was his passion, and he got his start in swimming. Matt Biondi and Janet Evans inspired him as he watched the 1988 Olympics, so he set his goal back then on swimming the mile in the Olympics. (Andy went to the Olympics in 2004 in triathlon.)
Andy held a variety of jobs before he was a full-time professional triathlete. As he was trying to figure out what his passion was. He was once a nightclub bouncer, and he joked that was 45 pounds ago. He also spent some time in sales where cold called for a payroll services company. Quite a diverse skill set!
Over the years, a big focus of his is to add to his toolbox to make daily improvements. “I can be better today than I was yesterday. Tomorrow I can be better than today.”
He challenged us to have mentality where we can evolve and continually get better at whatever it is we are doing.
Q&A: (Questions are paraphrased)
Tell us about your new coaching/club program.
His goal with this new venture is to empower athletes to be their best selves. In order to see physical improvement, athletes need to know how to read their body and figure out how to respond so that you don’t go over the edge.
Why did you switch bicycle sponsors?
Andy recently switched to Cannondale. In his determination to become a better athlete, he wanted to learn more about the bike…what he didn’t know. He was in search of a team that could help him with more details and a bike that might save him minutes out on the IRONMAN course. Also he told us, “with confidence you can race better. The knowledge can be empowering.” Cannondale had what he was looking for.
How do you race in Kona – do you ride in a “pack” or do you just race your own race?
Andy went on to explain the drafting rules of IRONMAN World Championships and how the pro men’s race plays out on the bike, and how’s it’s changed over the years. His first Kona experience in 2008 his goal was to execute his specific race plan. But now racing is more tactical, and Andy explained reflector drafting. The top men try to stay just outside of the legal draft distance, which is the distance between road reflectors on the Queen K highway, as while that is not drafting per the rules, there is still a small advantage at that distance.
He races to win, so he needs to stay in this main “pack” to have a chance at winning.
Can you tell us a little about your experience with the Nathan hydration system you helped develop?
Andy has been involved in a couple product launches. He helped with a wetsuit with Tyr learned a lot on what goes into making products. He also approached Nathan about developing him a fueling/hydration system to be an aerodynamic benefit. So he first explained to us why this is important….to go fast you have to produce less drag.
Tip: put your bottles in “clean” air, not “dirty” air. Clean air is where there is little or no turbulence, such as between your aerobars and behind your seat. Dirty is on your down tube and seat tube.
What are your tips with working with sponsors?
Be value add – think about what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.
Andy’s racing nutrition tips:
As athlete, your job is to listen to your body. When you go through an aid station, you should know what’s there and the order (at least in IRONMAN races it’s published), so as you approach it, have a goal. What does your body need? You body gives you signals when it needs calories. For example, if you lose focus, you need to eat. Answer the cravings.
Andy’s personal nutrition:
Five gels, one serving of Powerbar Perform go into a bottle then it’s diluted with water. He uses one bottle for the 70.3 distance, two for a full. He’ll also have extra Perform on his bike. Andy had 24 gels in his first Ironman, so when he got home, he threw away all the gels that he had at his house. (Who can blame him?!)
If the race is 2 hours or less, he’ll usually just stick with water.
Tip: Stay away from bars with fiber, and he learned this lesson while racing in Mexico. He told us a rule – if it’s for the win, it’s ok to go to the bathroom on yourself. If not, find a bathroom! But to help avoid the problem, don’t eat bars with fiber.
Do you have races you won’t do again? Which ones do you really like?
He won’t go back to Dubai because he prefers not to support that culture – namely how they treat women. But for the most part, his “go back to” races are the ones he does well at. If he has a poor race, then he isn’t a fan of that location, regardless of how great a place it might actually be!
He loves Lake Placid and tells us The Breakfast Club great place to eat. (Random trivia: a restaurant of the same name in the Black Forest area of Colorado Springs just closed.)
He’s a big fan of IRONMAN Hawaii. Not because of the course but because of the atmosphere.
How do you stay motivated to push through rough spots?
If you’re lacking some motivation, sometimes inertia is all you need. Once you start the workout, you’ll feel better to get through it. And always remember why you are doing it. Andy talked about the vision board he made last year so he could visually remind himself every day of what he was working towards. He is invested in his journey.
Andy told us that sometimes we have to make our own luck, fake it if you have to…no one cares if you feel bad (or mostly no one!), so maintain a positive outlook.
His mantra is “you’re ok.” If it is a rough day, give yourself the chance and it might turn around.
An athlete preparing for IRONMAN Texas asked how do you manage racing in the heat?
Keep certain areas cool such as the groin, back of neck, wrists.
Have a coping mechanism. His is that everyone else is suffering, too.
Plenty of fluids, salt, and listening to your body.
In his final remarks, Andy explained that visualization has been in a big part of his career, ever since he was a young swimmer visualizing his race events. He creates goal and vision boards, imagines where he wants to be and executes a plan to get there. The final thing he left us with was that we as humans are in control of two things, our attitude and our effort.
Andy’s stories and tips were full of humor. He’s very relatable, down to earth, and knowledgeable. His drive to be a better person in all that he does is very apparent.