Monday, August 18, 2008

2008 - Year of the Should

I'm getting comfortable and ready for watching the men's triathlon at the Olympics - I have my hot take out and cold beer on hand. However, I have an hour to kill before the race so I have some time to put in words some of the reflecting I've been doing on the '08 race year.

My initial disappointment yesterday and at various other races this year got me to thinking about a joke I'd made last year, that when I stopped having a PR at every race I'd quit triathlon. I definitely didn't PR every race this year but I think I'll stick around!

I am out of the rank novice stage as a triathlete. I've learned all the easy ways to drop time, I've developed varying levels of competency as a swimmer, biker and runner and any further improvements will take a lot of work. I'm past the point where merely completing a race is a victory. I did the race distance escalation - sprint to Olympic to half iron to full iron, where each year the focus was always on some longer distance and with completion being the key goal. I had back up goals in case my first time goal didn't happen, I was prepared for a DNF or a flat or GI distress and knew that anything could happen on race day to mess up my plans.

This year was my first year with my A race being a distance I'd already done and it came with a significant change in mindset. There was no back up plan, no willingness to accept that outside factors might mess up. Instead of going into a race with a time I wanted to achieve, I went in with a list of what I should be doing.

It may not sound like a major difference but shoulds are pretty insidious beasts - no wiggle room between hitting the should sweet spot and being a failure. Shoulds don't offer flexiblity for race day conditions or outside factors. Shoulds are unforgiving of the fact that you may have had a bad day or that your expectations were too high. Shoulds take the thrill out of achieving your goals because they were expected and therefore not exceptional.

In the context of the Olympics (the men's race starts in 16 minutes!) I can't imagine the pressure on some of the athletes. How can they compete when they have an entire country (or more in the case of Phelps) pressuring them with shoulds? Forget their physical prowess, they are monsters of mental fortitude for not crumbling under all those expectations.

I don't have a punchy, meaningful wrap up or conclusion. I'm still thinking this through and trying to figure out how to deal with high expectations and the reality of things going sideways on race day. Any feedback is welcome.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


You ask a pretty fundamental question as you look back on your 2008 race year..."why am I racing".

I think each person asks themselves this question every day, every race and each post-season.

Results of the question may vary, but the analysis is often the same and include:

1. I achieved my goals and the next level will take too much committment.

2. I need to focus on other aspects of my life.

3. I've been doing this for x number of years now and it's time to refocus.

4. Training time is selfish vs. self-less.

I am sure there are so many more questions that can be posed.

Again, you need to ask yourself "WHY do I do this"? There are so many other things your could spent your time and energy doing so WHY this?

Are you doing it to achieve another PR...another distance...another big race?

Are you doing it to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

Are you doing it to help others (e.g. charity, mentor, etc.)?

Are you doing it simply because you love the sport?

If you can answer the might just find enough reasons to continue to race....indefinitely.

As one of my favorite quotes suggests...."There are 2 types of people...those who say I can't and those who say I can." followed by:

"you can quit and they don't care, but you will know this is the ironman."

So when you address the WHY...find the purpose, find the longevity in it and make it work for you.