(He considers up to 60 miles a week “fun”)
STORY By Lisa Allen
Jack Felix didn’t jump into competing in triathlons with both feet. He nibbled around the edges, first running track and cross country in high school, then adding in some bicycle racing.
“I went to Hilton Head High, and the coach, Bill Wrightson, encouraged me to run cross country. He ignited a love in me for endurance sports.”
He was a track walk-on at the University of Tennessee, and then a couple years later when he transferred to Clemson, he earned a degree in health science in 2016.
It wasn’t until his last year in college that he tried a triathlon. “I had done running for so long, I wanted to try something different,” Felix said. “I already ran and biked. I just added swimming.”
He took to a triathlon like a duck to water but didn’t take to swimming like a duck, or any water fowl for that matter.
“I like cycling the most because of the intensity and speed. And I’ve always been a runner. But swimming did not come naturally to me. My younger sisters, who are both competitive swimmers, absolutely smoked me. They made me a better swimmer.”
Once equipped in all three sports, he perfected his triathlon techniques to the point that he was offered a spot on Team USA.
“After college, everyone else I knew at Clemson was going to work or grad school. I was moving to Arizona to compete in triathlons, having done it for only one year.”
Risky, yes, but his parents supported the plan, knowing Jack had thought it through.
He competed in both sprint and Olympic distances. Sprint distances include a 750-kilometer swim (about a half mile); a 12.4-mile bike ride and a 3.7-mile run. Olympic distances are twice that.
Races took him to South and Central America, Europe, Australia and Canada.
He trained for about 28 hours a week, adding in stretching and other exercises, which meant 40 hours of his weeks were devoted to his sport.
“Then Queens University in Charlotte offered me an athletic scholarship for my MBA. I couldn’t turn that down.”
He continued to compete professionally and collegiately. While at Queens, he was both the individual national champion and team national champion for men’s triathlon. He represented Team USA at the FISU World Championships in Kalmar, Sweden, all while completing his degree. (He did the same thing in high school. He was a star athlete and a National Honor Society member.)
“Being a professional athlete, the lifestyle is unbelievable,” Felix said. “You get to be outdoors all the time, and I loved the travel.”
But after a few years, he realized his sports career had maxed out. “I was competing at the very top, but in Europe the top athletes were kicking my butt. But I was proud to be at the starting line with them.”
His last triathlon was in Canada in July 2019.
“I don’t regret stopping. I was able to leave on a good note. There are times when I miss it and times that I don’t.”
A year ago, he became a financial advisor, just as the pandemic hit. “I love that I’m learning so much. Anything I do, I go all in,” Felix, 27, said. “There is no way I could do both things at once.”
That means that his career is his focus now.
He said his experience as a professional athlete transfers to his new job. “Meeting new people, being sociable and having the ability to adapt are what you have to do in any career.”
While he still works out, the intensity is less. “My colleagues tell me I work out for all of them.”
He enters local amateur bicycle races and clocks 6- to 8-mile runs on weekdays, up to 20 miles on Saturdays.
“I try to take one day off a week.”
He encourages people to consider triathlons. “It’s a very welcoming community. It’s open and warm community. And like any sport, you can make it expensive, or you can get by on a budget.”
And to pay it forward, he and his dad, Nick, are volunteer coaches for the Hilton Head High School track teams.
Once a jock, always a jock.
How to train like a professional triathlete
GET UP Drink almost dangerous amounts of coffee.
8 AM Out the door for a two- or three-hour run or bike ride
11 AM Stretch, rest, eat, drink more coffee. Some gym work.
2 PM Second two- or three-hour session, often swimming because it’s warmer in the afternoon.
4 PM Depending on earlier sessions, either a light run or ride.
5 PM Eat. A lot.
EVENING Rest and prepare to do it all over again the next day.