Jojo Baxas caught up with Melbourne based, newly turned pro-triathlete Levi Maxwell to talk about the differences between racing as an age grouper vs racing as a pro.
What was your background coming into the sport, before you got into triathlon?
As a kid, I played cricket, footy (Ausse Rules Football AFL) and golf. Along with many other sports as recreational fun.
What was your first triathlon?
It was the 2008/09 season, I believe. It was the Sprint distance Tri at the Gatorade Triathlon Series in St Kilda, Victoria. I had to borrow a lot of gear including a Tri suit, which was a Australian team suit. No pressure.
When did realise you had serious talent?
I always had big ambitions. Even before I did my first triathlon I knew I wanted to be pro which was a bit naïve but I am an all in sort of person. I think the real turning point was 2014 Ironman Melbourne where I had a discussion with the people close to me about giving it my all for a few years and I am only here because those people have backed me.
“The swim is more important than I originally thought.”
When did you turn pro and what prompted it?
I took my Pro license after the 2015 Ironman World Championships. I successfully defended my age group world title and had a 4th place finish overall at Ironman Cairns earlier that year. I was consistently in the top 3 overall age groupers and with the confidence of the 4th at Cairns and the backing some the people close to me, we decided that it was time to step things up.
What have been the main differences and difficulties making the swap?
The importance of the swim. I was aware of how important the swim was in the pro field before I raced pro but it’s more important than I originally thought. Unless the bike course is very hilly you are significantly disadvantaged if you are 90secs back in the swim as the pointy end are in that group working together (legally) and you have to work your butt of to have any chance of catching them. Which is slim as they are all just as strong as you, if not stronger.
How different is it racing as a pro?
Chalk and cheese. You are in the big leagues now, you go from podium overall age grouper to lucky to be top ten pro. Its like going from club level footy to the AFL.
How hard is it to make a living from the sport as a new pro? Do you work as well?
I offer my knowledge to a select few athletes through personalised online programming. I only allow myself to program a small amount of athletes as I put a lot into my programs to make them truly personalised. I also manage myself, which is a whole other job in itself!
Making a living from the sport is insanely difficult! It costs you money to be a professional license holder and there are so many great pro athletes that any support is very difficult to get. As I said earlier, I am only here because of the support I have from my sponsors. Without them, I couldn’t do what I do. If you are relying on prize money alone you might as well forget about it unless you are going to top 3 podium at every race you do. For example my last two races there were 30+ Professional men racing with prize money going to 6th or 7th place, which wasn’t enough to pay for the travel to the race.
Who is your coach?
Jarrod Evans has been my coach and/or performance consultant, mentor and sounding board for all things triathlon for over 5 years now. When Jarrod took me under his guidance he didn’t take the most experienced athlete but one who had big goals and at that early stage not much of an idea how to achieve them.
At the time he holistically outlined a path for me and continues to direct how I need to go about being a professional in all aspects of this sport, both in training and ‘pro’ life.
How many hours a week do you train?
I guess it depends on what you class as training. If you count, stretching, massage and training itself it would be around 35-40hours in the big blocks. But most of the time it would be around 25 hours.
Your go to workout?
I have always enjoyed long aerobic sessions exploring. Otherwise you can’t beat a good hour of power whether it be a sprint tri or team time trial.
What’s your favourite discipline?
If I absolutely have to pick one its running. But I enjoy all the disciplines of triathlon.
Most memorable race so far as age grouper or pro?
As an age grouper, it would have to be pretty close between both of my wins at Kona. As a professional, my 2nd place at Challenge Half Vietnam.
Your goals – is it Kona?
My ultimate goal is to be a long course world champion. Which at the moment the pinnacle of long course racing is Kona. But before I get anywhere near that I have a long list of things I want/need to achieve like a Full long course win. To be able to achieve any of my goals I need to ensure I can be in the sport for many years though financial support and looking after my body.
Who’s your favourite triathlete of all time and why?
I really don’t think I can choose one. There are so many incredible athletes who are very different.
(I’m sure he meant to say Macca)
Levi Maxwell would like to thank his sponsors: