Ironman Arizona - The Race That Never Happened
Earlier this month, I was supposed to race Ironman Arizona. My training leading into the event was spot-on. I was feeling very confident in my ability to lay down the best race I’ve ever had and was looking at a projected time in the high 8:30s/low 8:40s. I can say that with a high degree of confidence based on past experience, training data and the conditions that existed on race day. In short, I was ready and prepared to dominate the age group race.
Then I got sick the day before the race. Less than ideal timing, you might say. Consequently, I spent race day on the couch and in bed, taking a couple of naps and watching football while tracking the race online.
Over the past week, I’ve had some time to reflect about what happened and basically file it away as an experience that I hope not to have again any time in the near future. But during this time, I’ve had people ask “well where are you going to qualify for Kona now…you’ve got some great fitness that you have to cash in on”.
Let me just say that where I am in my individual triathlon journey does not focus specifically around qualifying for Kona. Yeah, I’ve been there six times and have had a couple of very successful races on the island. However, it’s not my annual quest to go there and leave a piece of my soul out on the lava fields. Honestly, I’ve left plenty of it there already.
What I would like to do with my racing is continue to target excellence; prepare for, and execute my races to the best of my current ability. When I do this, it takes any kind of pressure off of my racing and I can just focus on the things that I can control. More often than not, it ends up with very strong results.
I feel too many athletes target arbitrary times, places, qualifying for championship races, etc. and in the process of doing that, lose sight of what is involved with becoming a strong, fast and confident athlete. By focusing on these things and almost trying to force fitness and race results upon themselves, it places an additional level of stress on race day/week that isn’t necessary and can even put a mental stranglehold on some athletes in the middle of their races.
You’ve heard it before and you’ll continue to hear it from the best coaches and athletes; it is a long an arduous process in becoming a consistently strong performer on race day. It’s the process that often gets neglected by the athlete in the quest for results. It’s like they want results yesterday rather than paying their dues along the way.
It sometimes takes years for this to soak into an athlete’s head, but once it does – great things start happening; PRs, podiums, confidence in one’s ability, consistently finishing in the top of their age group. Once you get there, you want to stay there and you get hungry for the training, the racing and the continued success. These are the people that you continuously see at the top of the podium; the ones committed to learning the ins and outs of the sport, the training, the racing and the fact that it’s not always about the numbers. These are the athletes that you see putting up the performances you see on our results page.
What I’m getting at is that there are a lot of athletes out there that are focused too much on the destination rather than the journey that is required to get there. My season didn’t end with a KQ, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a successful year. I had a year with some great racing and training that can be built upon for what I have ahead of me on my schedule next year …and that matters more than one race result or DNS.