A few months ago, the closest Logan Franks came to luxury was a blueberry bagel.
He slept in his car and got up to run a half marathon with a $30 entry fee and no prize money, and he had just enough cash left for a light breakfast.
“I budgeted it perfect so I’d have enough gas money to get to the race and back and have a bagel at Dunkin’ Donuts that cost a dollar,” he said. “I had one dollar. I thought, ‘All I need is a blueberry bagel — the honey is free.’ ”
Being a professional triathlete is, as Franks put it, “not a glamorous lifestyle.”
But he’s fully committed to it anyway.
Franks has a second job now, so he can afford a full breakfast. But even if he reaches his goals in triathlon, he knows he still won’t make loads of money.
“The luxury is being able to swim, bike and run for a living,” he said. “I get to do what I love. That’s my luxury.
“It’s definitely worth it.”
The 24-year-old former Keeseville resident will be in the field at Sunday’s Ironman Lake Placid. The race includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run. The professional purse is $25,000, with the top six finishers in the men’s and women’s divisions earning a paycheck.
Franks said a payday is probably a ways off for him. He started competing in triathlons in 2010 and turned pro last year. He said his career is on track, but he’s on a long-term plan.
“I learned from last year’s mistakes. It’s not about what I want now. It’s about what I want in five years, in 10 years,” he said. “Right now I’m just playing. I’m learning. I don’t think I’ll do anything significant until five years. I’m hoping for a top 10 in the (Ironman) World Championship then, and maybe in 10 years I can win it.”
Waiting for that success isn’t easy. At his most recent event, Ironman 70.3 Syracuse in June, Franks said he had a great swim and wanted to go all-out the rest of the race and try for a top finish. His coach, Jesse Kropelnicki, had other plans.
“He said, ‘Logan, be smart about it.’ It is extremely hard. Jesse has to reel me in sometimes,” Franks said, noting that endurance athletes don’t typically peak until around age 30. “I have to pace myself or by the time I get to the point where I’m supposed to be winning these things, I’ll just be burnt out. I will end up hating the sport.”
Right now he loves it enough that even when things were financially tight, he was just worried about whether or not he’d be able to keep competing. His sponsors provide all of his gear, but he has to cover other expenses, including travel to races.
“My budget was pretty low, and I was thinking ‘How am I going to afford this sport? I got nothing,’” he said. “I was scared I wouldn’t be able to do what I love.”
He moved to Syracuse and took a job with J.P. Morgan, where he works four days a week and swims during his lunch breaks. In the 2010-11 school year, he attended Plattsburgh State and trained in his free time, but he found himself sitting in class drawing pictures of bikes and calculating swim split times.
He left school to focus on triathlon, and he also changed the way he trains and approaches races.
“Before it was always me just trying to muscle the sport. Not having tactics; just blindly going as hard as I could,” Franks said. “I didn’t know how to train smart.”
This year he narrowed in on improving his swim, which has always been his weakest event. He said he used to come out of the water last among professionals — “and it wasn’t by just a little.” But after swimming 18,000 meters in a pool every week under the tutelage of Kropelnicki, he said he’s holding his own during races.
Franks suffered an Achilles tendon injury in April that disrupted his training and race schedule, but he said he has completely recovered. He worked on his run during the Syracuse race and is looking to be strong in each discipline in Lake Placid.
“Now I have to put all three together and have a clean and fast race,” he said. “My only goal is have fun in the course of the day and get to the finish and have nothing left in my system.”
While in the past he might’ve aimed for a high finish, he’s instead approaching Sunday’s race as one more important step toward eventual success in the sport.
“When I was sleeping in my car for that half marathon, I remember sitting there thinking, ‘Tomorrow you’re going to race, and there’s no money involved in it. But you gotta go out there and do your best because this is how you intend to making a living,’” he said. “When I show up at Ironman Lake Placid, I want to make a living (eventually), so I have to show up and perform or I’ll never make a living.
“That’s a little bit of pressure.”
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