The life of a Professional Triathlete


Ahhhh, the life of a professional triathlete… get up and do what you love everyday and get cool gear, right?

There’s so much more than that – that’s why we interviewed professional triathlete Heath Thurston.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.  

 I am 33 years old and have been a pro for about 4-5 years. I Grew up in Payson Utah which is a small town about 50 miles south of Salt Lake City.  I was an extremely out going child, my mother actually put me into swimming in the hopes to wear me out a bit.  That only lasted about a week where I actually fell asleep in the car on the ride home.  I started swimming when I was 5 years old.  I would have started earlier but I had tubes in my ears and couldn’t get in the water.  My whole family swam, I had one brother and three sisters and we were the swimming family in our small town.  Because we lived at the pool almost.  My mother was the coach for the high school swim team and the leagues in the summer as well so I lived in the water from the age of 5 on.  Swimming also came extremely natural to me, most sports did.  I did many other sports growing up but swimming was the one I really excelled in.  I started right off on the swim team with the older kids, No Lessons needed.  I was a very visual learner so I had picked it up easily while watching my other siblings at practice all the time.  So sports and swimming is just about all I new all my life.  I remember watching the 88 Olympics and watching Matt Biondi swim Butterfly and thought man that is what I want to do.  I swam very competitively all through high school and was ranked nationally and was on the 1995 Utah Zone’s Team.  I placed 2nd in State Swimming in the 500 freestyles two years in a row and 3rd and 4th in the 200 freestyle, my Jr. and Sr. year of high school.  After I graduated I was very burnt out and needed and took a break.  I actually didn’t have a lot of hunger to swim in college at the time because I had been swimming most of my life, even though I had numerous colleges wanting me to swim for them.  I got my first road bike and did my first triathlon in 2001.  I hadn’t swam in years, I had been kinda running because I had done the St George marathon a few times which were not very fast and hurt really bad.  I had only been on my bike a few times before my first race but I was hooked even though when I got off the bike I wasn’t even sure my legs were even there still but I was able to slug through the run. 
Then in 2004 I got really serious with my training and by 2006 I was able to qualify and get my Pro/elite card to race in that field.  My wife and I have our own coaching business.  I do a lot of private swim lessons and coach a lot of local trathlete’s here in Utah.

Who or what inspired you to start racing

Not sure that anything really inspired me or got me into racing.  Racing and training was just what I did from such an early age that it just came natural to me and its what I liked and did.  I was never good at school so I knew for a long time that I wanted to do something in the sporting arena and be some sort of Pro athlete.

Now its my family and my kids that inspire me each day.  I am married and have two beautiful little girls.  But it is my oldest that really inspires me in how hard I push and what I can do when I race.  Because my oldest  daughter has cerebral Palsy and has the spirit of a champion.  She is the strongest kid I know both physically and mentally.  She will do something till she gets it and she will not give up.  She brings people together with her spirit and passion.  She always brings a smile to my face.  She inspires me now when things get tough out on the course or in training I just think about how tough life is for her.



How many hours a week do you train?

Right now I train about 12-18 hours a week.  During my higher intense months and weeks I will get up to about 22-28 hours a week.  It is a little different for me as a pro because I have a family and kids so training sometimes gets sacrificed for other things.

What do you wish more people knew about being a professional triathlete?

I wish more people new how difficult it is to race as a pro on the mental side of things and how hard it is to make a living and to try and provide for a family.  As far as the mental side of racing it is drastically different than racing as a amateur.  As a pro you are only racing the other pro’s and the other pro’s are all some of the best in the sport in the world.  As a pro triathlete you have to learn to race for the absolute love of the sport and the love of pushing yourself to your limit.  There is very little money in the sport unless you are at the very top end and have some amazing sponsors.  The Prize money is very very poor right now, all the pro’s are hoping that things will change over the next 5-10 years.  There is plenty of money in the sport it is just not going to the Professional athletes.  So as a 2nd 3rd teir pro myself I have to really rely on my coaching and the great support I get from sponsors.  Those that give products or some finacial support are a huge huge help in helping me do what I need to do to train and support my family.
Introduce us to your family
My wife Mahogani pronounced just like the wood.  We have been married for, wow going on 12 years in January.  My wife is the brains behind our opporation she does everything to helping to coach me and putting up with the ups and downs from that. To putting together most of the training programs for our athlete’s she is an amazing coach and really knows her stuff.  To taking care of our two beautiful girls in everday things.  She is the most amazing mother to our girls.
Then we have our oldest Kida(pronounced-keeda) she is the one with cerebral palsy and is just absolutely amazing in everything she does.  She takes after me in just about everything, looks and stubborness in sports and activities.  She just loves life and everything and everyone around her.
Then we have our little drama queen and girly girl Scout.  She is my wife in looks and most everything else.  She is really smart and witty.  But she has all the drama, but she is probably the sweetest little girl you will ever meet.  And she is a huge huge help with her older sister Kida in helping Kida do things and to stay calm.  She loves helping others.
One of my all time favorite things to do is to just lay and snuggle with my girls in our bed.  My little girls and my wife our everything to me and they are the reason I keep going and work so hard at trying to get better to be the best I can be in this great sport of Triathlon.
You can find out more about Heath at

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