In life and in sport, not every race goes directly to plan. When faced with unmet expectations, how do you overcome and adapt? For endurance sport, unmet expectation can feel like a massive loss and hit extremely heavy. Depending on the experience, desired achievement and weight of the outcome, the time it takes to process and understand what occurred will vary and, sometimes, we don’t know how to understand or work through it. Endurance sport requires such devotion and effort to achieve our goals, when these goals are not met when we expect them to, the result can be confusing, difficult to comprehend and weigh us down. However, what can feel like a massive failure or disappointment at the time can be your biggest path to growth or lead directly to your next PR.
July of this year, I had my first (non-virtual) triathlon post-pandemic. This was a long course olympic distance triathlon. I was ultimately training for Timberman 70.3. I was using this race to get back into a racing rhythm, develop smoothness in transition and ascertain my current capabilities in the olympic race distance to greater understand what I could achieve looking ahead. My training at the time was in excellent shape and I had high hopes for a PR. Not to mention, numerous AME athletes were competing in the various events of the day. I was eager, excited and determined heading in.
As can happen in life, this race day was far from a PR. In fact, the suffering began midway into the bike and all the way through the run, resulting in my slowest triathlon run ever. I gave this race everything I had. In fact, looking back at my race report, I literally wrote “my legs felt like lead,” “I constantly felt the need to puke” and “I had to stop and walk at least 10x throughout this run.” Running is my strongest leg, so for me, this race was exceptionally atypical.
I always recommend completing a race report for every event, those that go well and those that do not. This provides opportunity to reflect, learn and make sense of what occurred, how we did and why. Not only that, but reflection can help us understand why the outcome affected us the way it did.
Sometimes we are hit with curveballs, things completely out of our control which derail our results. Aggressive water conditions, heavy headwinds and lack of aid stations to name a few. Other times, when we take a deeper look, we realize there are areas we can work to fine tune, grow and perform better the next time. Regardless of the situation, there’s always something to learn and apply looking ahead. For this specific event, I realized through reflection, there were several variables outside of my control, as well as mistakes I made that led to the final outcome.
New lessons in hand, my training continued straight ahead to Timberman. Again, I headed into this event excited, determined and ready. I executed race day perfectly and set a PR. Even with an aggressive headwind for a portion of the bike, I managed to perform at my absolute best.
Sometimes, what can feel like a massive failure or disappointment at the time can be your biggest path to growth or lead directly to your next PR. To sustain growth, it is crucial we first recognize not every race will go as planned. Everyone has experienced a race that feels like a disappointment or setback in some way, shape or form. Second, we must reflect on the variables that lead to each outcome, work to understand it and apply the lessons learned. This is critical for the wins and the losses.
So, keep training. Dig deep into your purpose and keep consistently giving it your best. Celebrate the victories, learn from the losses, apply the lessons and always #AMEhigh!