Friday, May 14, 2010

Pro triathlete and Orlando native Andrew Hodges returns for Disney 70.3

If you’ve ever dreamed of being a professional triathlete, here’s a little advice: Don’t quite your day job.

But don’t give up, either.

Andrew Hodges hasn’t done either one. And the Central Florida native is already a pro triathlete.

Hodges was one of the top 25 cross-country runners in the state when he competed for Edgewater High School nearly a decade ago. Yet he still didn’t make the University of Florida squad when he went there in 2001 — so he joined the triathlon team instead. At first, he said, he “just started splashing around in the pool.”

Turns out, he was pretty good at splashing. He wasn’t bad on the bike, either. In fact, he wound up helping to lead the UF tri team to a top 10 finish at the Collegiate National Championships his senior year. He then knocked out a 4-hour, 15-minute half-ironman in hilly Lake County and qualified for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, when he did a 9:45.

After graduating, Hodges turned pro — which means he gets a lot of very pricey equipment, including an Orbea time-trial bike — for free. He also gets a “small salary” from Timex, which sponsors the team on which Hodges competes.

But at 26, he still works full time for a NASA contractor in Huntsville, Ala., where he is a materials scientist. His boss, he says, is nice enough to let him take off for races.

This coming Sunday (May 16), he’ll be competing at the Rohto Ironman 70.3 Florida, a half-ironman, at Disney. He says he’s aiming for a top-10 finish but would love to crack the top five. The way registration works for pros these days, it’s hard to know who the competition will be until race day. He’s not intimidated — just practical.

“Usually it’s one of the most competitive races [on the pro circuit],” he says. “I could have a great race and still finish 12th. But my family is going to be there, so that’s extra incentive.”

As for what it takes to be a pro, Hodges says there’s no secret formula.

“Ultimately, its staying consistent and hard work over time that is going to get you to the next level,” he says.

If you’re near Disney this weekend, give a shout out for the home boy.

Full story here.

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