>Expecations, handling disappointment, and the big picture

>This past weekend, I raced an olympic distance race in Aurora, CO. It was my first race since Coeur d’Alene, and the field was relatively small, so I approached it as a low-key fitness check. Coach Tim and I developed some goals for the race, and I went out to see if I could hit them.

Going in, I expected to win fairly comfortably. Then I saw Gordo Byrn in transition before the race. Goddamnit. No such thing as an “easy race” in Colorado. I knew a win was unlikely. Not impossible, but very unlikely. (for those of you unfamiliar with Gordo Byrn, just know that he is a HUGE beast, and has many sub-9:00:00 Ironman finishes under his belt). Oh well, no sense worrying about it too much. All I could do was to go out and race my race. Wherever that put me compared to Gordo, well… that’s where it put me.

Going into the race, the advertised distances were 1500m swim, 24mile bike, and 6.2 mile run. When I was out of the water in 19:05, and then off the bike after a sub-54 minute ride, I was pumped. And I mean PUMPED! I thought I was KILLING it out there. I finished in 1:54:45, 5 minutes behind Gordo, and good for 2nd place overall. I started texting some friends and Coach Tim, telling them about my sweet race. Life was exciting!!

But then I saw the results online… It quickly became clear that the course was not as long as advertised. The swim was probably more like 1400m, and the bike was about 22 miles. So, my performance would have brought me in at about 2:03 or 2:04 on a “regulation” olympic distance course. That would only be a 6 minute improvement on my PR, which I set the last time I raced olympic distance (April 2009). Depression quickly set in. My main thought was, “I’ve been doing nothing with my life except living triathlon for the last 2 years, and all I can do is shave 6 minutes off my olympic distance time?!? What the hell?!? You’ve got to be kidding me!”. Not only was I disappointed about the overall time, but I gave up 5 minutes to Gordo in the water. I’m very sensitive about my swimming, because, honestly, I suck in the water. I’m terrible. I thought I was getting faster, but then all the confidence I had was smashed this past weekend. Gordo built up his entire winning margin in the first 20 minutes of this race when we were in the water. After that, I held even with him. So I guess holding even with him on the land is something positive from the weekend, but unfortunately for me, this was a triathlon, not duathlon.

I entered a 36-hour funk, and I’m just starting to come out of it now, as I write this post. Leaving the funk has largely been aided by talking to Coach Tim and my friend Ethan (aka the DB Express). They’ve helped me to put some perspective on things. This is the first “bad” race I’ve had in over a year, and I just didn’t know how to handle it. DBE reminded me to go back over my training logs for the last 6 weeks. Based on the fact that I’m coming off an Ironman, and I’ve only been doing low-intensity aerobic work for the last month, it shouldn’t be surprising that my “top end” speed was not in peak form. Saturday was just not a good day – these things happen. It’s no reason to panic and think that my training plan is not working.

Tim has helped me to improve by leaps and bounds, and so there’s no reason to think my improvement is going to stop anytime soon. When you underperform in a race and your confidence is shaken, it’s easy to have the knee-jerk reaction of losing faith in your training program. But that’s where trust has to come in. Following a coach requires a leap of faith by an athlete. When the athlete takes that leap and fully commits to a good coach, there will be success. I know that Tim is going to show me the door to a great race at Kona. All I have to do is open that door…

Until next time, keep training hard and resting harder!
-Doug MacLean

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