There are triathletes who specialize in a specific distance, and then there's Andy Potts.
After earning All-American honors at the University of Michigan and a spot on the national team as a swimmer, Potts switched to tri, turning pro in 2003. He excelled at draft-legal, Olympic-distance racing, competing at the Athens Olympics in 2004 and finishing third in the 2006 ITU World Cup rankings.
When the multi-talented Potts moved to longer-distance racing, the success didn't stop. He claimed the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in 2007 and was named USAT Triathlete of the Year. In 2008, Potts was again recognized by USAT, this time as Long Course Triathlete Athlete of the Year after a seventh-place finish at the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
Potts began the 2009 season with a second-place finish at Ironman 70.3 California, setting the swim course record in the process. Just three weeks later he won St. Anthony's Triathlon, the first of five wins on the season. He finished this year with his second top-10 Ironman World Championship finish in a row.
Active: First off, congrats on your finish in Kailua-Kona. You looked pretty pleased when you crossed the line.
Andy Potts: You know, I was pleased because I fought. I didn't reach my goals, but I was pleased that I fought through the day and kept on battling, and that was what made me appreciate the finish. It's hard not to be happy after you complete an Ironman.
Andy Potts finished the 2009 Ironman World Championship in 8:30:15, in ninth place overall. - Photo: Jesse Hammond/Active.com
Was that your last race of the season?
Andy Potts: Yes. It was a good way to finish up the year. It was a great year for me. I'm super-thrilled with how the year played out. I took some downtime and I'm actually already back at it.
How long do you normally take completely off?
Andy Potts: It depends. I took three weeks off. That was my biggest break since after the Athens Olympics [in 2004]. I usually take about a week—anywhere from five to eight days—and then we're back at it. My season usually ends later, too, so you kind of have to prepare for the new year a little bit later. Since my year ended earlier, I was able to take a bigger break.
What kind of training are you doing now?
Andy Potts: I'm just starting to get back into the swing of things. I'm just trying to build up my volume to an acceptable level. I find that rushing back into things is a recipe for injury.
The biggest thing is kind of setting the bar pretty low and then reaching that bar every day as you get back into it. I remember my first run back was 15 minutes. I definitely don't overdo it, and that way I'm excited to work out the next day. I'm not totally burned, saying "I started back in too soon. I'm not having a good time with it." My first swim workout I didn't even reach a mile and I said, "Hey, that's it. I'm getting out."
I think my first bike ride was 40 minutes long, and I coasted for about half of it. It's really good for your mind to know that you are achieving some of the fitness aspects of getting back into it, and getting excited about getting back into it, while waiting for your body to tell you, "Hey, I'm ready to go here!"
When do you move into more high-intensity training?
Andy Potts: This year is going to be a little bit different. In previous years it was basically: Take a week off. The next week back, don't get any coaching, just do what feels good. And then by the second week I'm already getting coaching.
This time around, because of the longer break, I'm going to do my own thing for two weeks and then try to build my volumes up to where I want them to be, and then spruce it up with something exciting.
Today, I was riding outside and my workout was "Let's go find some hills and go up them." It wasn't "climb" them, it was just "go up them." And then cruise the downhill. My mentality at this point in the season is "Let's go ride bikes," or "Hey, let's go run. Let's go check out this trail." It's a lot closer to that than it is to doing repeats. I don't wear a heart monitor. It's all about the fun aspects of triathlon at this point in the game.