Pacing to the Finish: Jason West's Quest for the Olympics

A lot of people think you’re joking when you say you want to be a professional triathlete.

That’s how many people reacted when I announced my decision to go pro. It probably seemed even more ridiculous considering my lack of experience in racing.

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My background in wrestling hardly prepared me for my first triathlon, but that didn’t stop my dad and I from signing up for one when I was 16. I raced well considering my lack of training, which made me realize that running was something I might be decent at.

Since that first triathlon with my dad, I never looked back. My career as a runner quickly gained momentum; in 2015 I won the collegiate nationals and soonafter decided to work with Apex coaching based in Boulder, Colorado.

After graduating from college in Pennsylvania, I packed my bags and said goodbye to my lifelong home. I had never been to Colorado before, but I had a good feeling about making it my new home base.

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I managed to avoid any serious injury until last year when I broke my foot. A few days before a race in China, I felt an unfamiliar dull pain and soreness overcome my foot. This was the first time I ever felt anything in my foot so I banished any worries that crept up to the back of my mind.

It was the day of the race. Biking and swimming felt completely fine. Then, 400 meters into the 10K run, I felt something snap in my foot, followed by searing pain. For 100 meters I thought I would have to drop out of the race. Then, something amazing happened. My stride came back and I fought through the pain and finished the 10K. After the run, the pain was so severe I couldn’t walk, but still I made my way home. By then, the pain was so intense that I headed to the emergency room. The X-rays of my foot didn’t look good, and the doctors determined that I needed surgery the next day.

After almost a year of healing, I once again rose to triathlete status. Since then, I have successfully competed in a number of races and am currently training for the 2020 Olympics.

The slow healing process reminded me of the importance of patience in training and in running. In running, it’s easy to be your own worst enemy by pushing yourself too hard too fast. Even when it’s the last thing I want to do, I err on the side of caution and remember that when I’m hurt, I can’t run at all.

I had to remind myself of that when my coaches took track workouts out of my training. The track is where I felt in the zone- there, I would run super hard and fast, sometimes so much it would lead to injury. My heart sank when my coaches nixed those workouts.

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It took so much patience to accept that I couldn’t do my favorite type of workout and instead do what my coach prescribed. As it turns out, not running on the track made me more successful than ever.