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How can you go pro and get your pro card in triathlon?
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Going Pro: Bryce Burchi’s Pursuit of a Pro Card

Bryce Burchi would tell you he came humbly to triathlon from nothing – the ground floor. His passion for triathlon (and talent for it) quickly blossomed from interest into something a much more serious. This season, he’s set his sights on becoming a true “Pro”, which in the triathlon space means earning the Pro Card.

In this multi-part series, we’ll follow Bryce in his progression toward earning his Pro Card and document the experience along the way. We will dive into his nutrition, race strategy, training, mindset, and more. For the first stop, we caught up with Bryce after one of his early season test events: Cactus Man.

Q: How did you reach the point you are at today in the triathlon world?

My buddy Eric, who's training to be in the Paralympics, got me into triathlon four years ago. Then, I re-tore my knee, the ACL/ MCL the second time, and it took me down a bad path. I didn't know what I wanted to do.

It was another surgery. I was just kind of in a depressed state. Everything got taken away from me that I liked to do and where I was heading. All I knew was that I enjoy the art of triathlon, the hard work, and what goes into it. With the help and support of others, I hired a coach – I signed up for my first 70.3.

I learned a lot that day. I learned how hard it was going be for me for my first one and I was like, “I should probably train more for this right?”. So the coach I hired is Pedro Goms. He's been in the triathlon space for 15 years and is a professional triathlete as well. He has been exiting the triathlon space and moving into the ultra-running distance world as a professional. So I raced my first 70.3 in 2021 at Galveston and then I qualified for a world slot at Utah in that same year.

I was very ecstatic about just all the work in the short three-month, four-month block I put in with my coach to go a 4hr 39min, which qualified me for a slot. He (Goms) was like, “Holy shit, that's amazing. Like, how did you…?”. I responded, “I have no idea.”

I'm barely a year post-surgery. This was just kind of something that I feel like I naturally fell into – and then from there I was like, “I love this”. I love the hard work. I love pushing myself, pushing the mind, pushing the body, figuring out what we're made of, as well as just the community behind it. So from there, I trained for the World Championships.

I did like a 5hr 2min. It wasn't my best time. It was actually my worst race ever. You know, just one of those days. That was when I committed to telling my coach, “Okay, I want to take this seriously and go pro.” So since two years ago, we've been kind of molding me and building me every single day into a professional, elite athlete…which I'm going to become this year.

Seeing it so close and [coming to] fruition is quite amazing.

What will the rest of his season look like? How do you go about chasing a Pro Card? Bryce breaks down the details of his plan and what that process looks like this year.

The way it's set up is to plan one to two races that are my main focus to train for later in the season. So we put in a lot of endurance blocks [to build for getting] the card. We've chosen IRONMAN Tron Blanc in Canada in August and Arizona 70.3 in October. So there are two local races before then that I'm doing –that was Cactus Man– and then Mountain Man. They're local Olympic distance races to really build the speed work and get the cobwebs dusted off, test out all the equipment, make sure things are firing correctly, see what can I do to take off a few seconds in my transitions, etc.

I'm moving in the right direction. Mountain Man will be another Olympic distance [test event] and that'll be my last race during my building block from now until August 20th. So my goal, or methodology behind it, is to take the time, starting May until August, to do a massive aerobic endurance block with some good speed work; not only to qualify for the pro card at IRONMAN but also to perform really well there, right? Feel really good, build the confidence going into it. And then the goal behind having 70.3 Arizona behind that race two months later is to take that eight weeks and dial in the speed work from my aerobic block into a really fast engine.

Going into Arizona 70.3 in October the goal is to win the whole overall.

Q: How did your recent “test event” at Cactus Man go?

Cactus Man was great. I've done a lot of building into Cactus Man; I did a 200-mile bike ride for charity in one go in like 9hr and 50min). So we've been doing a lot of aerobic and endurance work and not much of the speed work. As an Olympic distance event, (a 1500-meter swim, 25-mile bike, and a 6.2-mile run) it's very fast. It's all high-intensity. So I was interested in going into this race because I haven't been primarily focused on the top-end speed.

I just wanted to see what that would turn into – I was fired up for it. I felt really good and knew my nutrition was on point [because] I've been using The Feed.

It was a different race than the Ironman distance, but very good to keep up with those guys and have fun. It's a hard course and is a lot more punchy [compared to] the longer distance IRONMAN. It was a different race style than what I'm used to but also fun to just race it and see how hard you can go. So, after coming out of the water third, I pushed the bike, had a fun effort, got off the bike, and then started the run and was able to track down a couple of people on the run. That's where I feel I can put together a really good run off the bike.

I managed to squeak my way into a podium spot for the age group and top 10 overall.

Bryce touches on what has made the difference for him, since this same event last season, and how he’s grown.

I think mindset [has made the difference]. Nutrition and attitude are the two things that you can control in a race every single time, let alone every single day, right? But especially in a race. Everything else could go wrong but if you have a good attitude and you can consume the right amount of carbs and sugar and salt per hour, you can have a pretty good day no matter what happens.

I think that carried me through this race – yes, I wanted to win overall, but it was probably the most competitive this race has ever been. Given that it's the start of my third season and where I was, I’m very satisfied with the results. This is leading me to confidently build up my season, knowing I'm doing the right things.

Q: What are some products that you use and lean on in training and racing and, specifically, what's your fueling look like leading into a big event?

My goal is 1000mg of sodium and 100g of carbs per hour, every hour, and I might plan to ramp that up another 20g of carbs and 100-200mg of sodium when it gets warmer. if an Olympic distance is around two hours, that is 2000mg of sodium and 200 grams of carbs over the course of the race that I've prepared for and have trained for with fueling in workouts.

Primarily, what I've been using right now is the PowerBar ISO Active for my hydration (usually two scoops of that or ~400 milligrams of sodium + 40 grams of carbs). I do two bottles on the bike and I'll always have a thing of base salt with me – which is about an additional 300 mg of sodium.

On lighter sessions, I don't go as heavy, maybe about 750mg of sodium and 70–80 grams of carbs. But anything two and a half plus hours I'll mimic race nutrition to help train my gut. It's a lot of PowerBar Iso and Skratch Labs Super High Carb in the bottles, so I play back and forth between those. On the bike, I do PowerBar Gels and switch between PowerBar Hydro and Original Gels. Recently I’ve been trying NEVERSECOND C30. Those have been really good on the run and on the bike.

I use a lot of PowerBar, SwissRX, and Honey Stinger [in training] as well. When I’m done with a workout I will use the PowerBar Recovery Max and creatine from the feed to help retain water weight and build leaner muscle.

Fueling within a triathlon can be one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle for a successful event. Here’s a typical plan for Bryce:

I go for one bottle per hour + one gel every 30 minutes. On the run, I do one gel every 30 minutes as well. One thing I have been doing as well the night before and the morning of is using Osmo. I'll do two scoops of Osmo the night before with 24 ounces of water that'll prehydrate and one scoop of Osmo in the morning. I think it's 3000mg of sodium, but it's not just about sodium, right? It's the electrolytes that help break down into the system for the glucose [uptake] and ensure that you can perform better the next day I've seen that rehydration has been amazing for me especially. I don't cramp, I don't bonk, I don't blow up – I haven't blown up. I just raced IRONMAN Arizona and used Osmo Hydration with base salt and then pulled on my [fueling] plan and it was a perfect race.

Q: What are you looking forward to specifically in this season as you approach the Pro Card?

I'm looking forward to seeing all the work that I've put in to accomplish the Pro Card. I really am looking forward to [reflecting] back in these next few months and saying, “Well, I've put in the time, I've shown up for myself every single day.” I'm looking forward to the relationships that come along with it as well. You can't do this alone, that's why I have a coach. That's why I work with the team and the sponsors that I have as well.

Being able to look back and see that I've been able to accomplish my dream is what I'm looking forward to most. It doesn't come easy. It takes a lot of hard work and there are a lot of outside factors that weigh on you, but I think if you persevere and push through any uncertainty or any doubt that might come in, you can reach your goals no matter what.

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The Feed. / Tuesday, June 20, 2023