Gather a group of triathletes and runners together and very quickly the conversation will turn to racing. Races you’ve done, races on the horizon.
Have you ever noticed that hardly, if ever, does that talk center around races you’ve done great at. Usually these conversations revolve around shared struggles, whether at the same event or another. Or the same event under various conditions in different years.
I mean let’s face it, you just aren’t going to PR every time out. And as you continue to advance in age groups, well, hitting your late 40s and closing in on 50 doesn’t at all mean you shouldn’t be out there, but it does mean those blazing fast splits of your 30s and early 40s are harder and harder to come by. And OK folks let’s be real about something else. The vast majority of us are not Olympians! Wins and podium finishes might be rare and may never happen at all, so some might ask, “Why bother?”
That’s the easiest answer of all. Because it’s fun and about the journey!
Of course I have fond memories of my best events, my big PRs. But the details of those races aren’t as vivid. It’s the struggles, the big challenges that I still feel. It’s the final climb at Mountains of Misery, the experience of Savageman, the heat at Rocket’s Landing and all the folks I met along the way. And when I recall the tough ones it is always with a smile, a sense of accomplishment and pride. Overcoming the tough stuff, finding your way through it is ultimately what shapes us as athletes and more importantly, people.
I can give you a lengthy list of why I knew going in that my portion of our relay at Giant Acorn wasn’t going to be stellar…the past two weeks have been crazy busy, which sends my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Lyme Disease into overdrive, my training focus had been on others instead of myself, I spent the race weekend itself, planning, cooking, taking care of everyone else.
Five or so years ago I could have pulled a speedy 10K out of my hat. And mentally I expected to be able to do the same on Sunday. So while my head was fully in the game, my body quickly reminded me it wasn’t quite ready for the race my head was running. So I smiled at the dogs along the way, talked to the beagle who wagged his tail at me on the first lap, and was sleeping soundly on my second lap. I breathlessly thanked volunteers, cheered for my peeps when I saw them. Said to myself that I wished this was just a 5K, something I have never in my life wished for! Laughed because this trail-runner-at-heart shifted into a different gear for the brief period on the course that we were in the woods, it’s a reflex action! Then at the finish I passed a couple of guys with just yards to go and encouraged them to come with me. One of them did and he pushed me hard to the finish. We high-fived, laughed and hugged at the finish like long-time pals, because in that moment we were athletes sharing a triumph.
Those are the moments I will remember from Sunday. Not that it was the slowest 10K I have run in my entire career! I joke about that because I am OK with it. I gave the best effort I had on Sunday and I had fun along the way. So when you have a less than stellar day, especially if you expected a better outing, I want you to ask yourself two very important questions…
Did you give it everything you had on that particular day?
Did you smile, have fun, make some new friends, create memories along the way?
Answer yes to both of those questions at EVERY race and you have won the most important battle!