We all have expectations for ourselves, in training, in racing and in life in general. But what happens when we don’t meet those expectations. When, in our minds at least, we have performed badly and in some way ‘failed’? I guess what I am trying to say is. How do you cope with not reaching your goals?
For me my response, attitude and approach to perceived ‘failure’ was put to the test on Sunday at the Columbia Triathlon. I had a number of reasons for wanting to do the race. To test my short course speed, to visit a part of the USA that I hadn’t been to before, to support the Blazeman Foundation for ALS (one of the nominated race charities) and to break out of my long course comfort zone.
Like any race I enter I went into it wanting to win. Not expecting to win, but aiming for the top nevertheless. And what happened? I felt flat for the whole race. I never got going. I saw the splash of feet as the main pack got away, and when it came to the bike I urged my body to break into the next gear. It wouldn’t respond. And on the run. I pushed through. But again, my speed and time didn’t equate to the effort I felt was putting in. I crossed the line in 6th. Smiling, but inside incredibly disappointed. So the question is….how do you deal with this?
For me the answer is to look back at the reasons I did the race in the first place…. And then try and make a more objective judgement call on winning and losing, success and failure.
I took myself out of my long course comfort zone, and yes – it hurt. But that’s a good thing.
I visited a part of the US that I had never been to before, saw some beautiful scenery that reminded me so much of being at home in the UK.
I met some fantastic people, before and after the race, and had the opportunity to put medals around the necks of amateurs of all abilities.
I was able to meet Robert Vigorito - the race organiser I had heard so much about and now, having met him, I have immense respect and admiration for.
And looking back I can see some of the mistakes I made. And learn from them. Not getting enough rest on the days before the race; not giving myself the space I need to focus my mind; not swimming fast enough at the outset to get on the feet of the front pack; not wearing enough clothes for the cold/wet conditions. These are all practical lessons to carry forward and learn from. Of course I also need to deal mentally with not winning. And I think that is the biggest test of all. Coping with perceived ‘failure’ is hard. Many of us are perfectionists, and set the highest standards for ourselves. And so we should. But I have to look at the bigger picture and see the race as a rung on the ladder. Look forwards. The world won’t stop turning just because I have a bad race. If anything it will make me even more determined to improve. So I will learn, bank it, move on…with even more fire in my belly!