Disappointment. That is one word that most people would rather not feel after finishing their race. Yet, it happens. But, why? What is happening out there on race day to cause some people to feel bad about their race? Now sometimes there are things that happen beyond anyone’s control, like a cancelled swim leg of a triathlon, or a weird mishap that result in twisting an ankle or something. But, beyond the unavoidable, how is disappointment avoidable? Let’s take a quick look at that as the race season is coming full swing since the negative race experience usually comes due to a shallow, wrongly focused, and /or ill-timed race goal.
Pick a goal with some POP to it
That means to pick a goal that really means something to you and helps get you motivated to not only train, but to actually reach the goal during the race when the going get really tough. My favorite definition of endurance is “to hold firm within oneself”. So, what are you holding firm to? That is the most important question any athlete of any age or level should know the answer to. What’s it all for? Do you really care about what you are doing? Does the place, time or event matter enough to you to have that goal propel you through the turbulence times that come predictably and try to loosen your grip? So, the next time you decide on a goal of some kind, then be able to picture yourself passionately holding firm to that driving force from within. If that is hard to imagine, pick a different goal that POPS out at you, grabs you and that you just can’t shake because it means that much to you.
Bring reality into focus
Be honest with where your current fitness is at or what your current life demands take out of you. If you want to make a time prediction, then do some workouts before the race that may help you understand where you will actually be. There are tons of pace charts and workouts that will help you know more about where to set the time goal if that is what matters to you. And then you have to take into consideration what your life stresses are. It is okay to be at peak race fitness some years and not in others based on your how your life is going outside of exercise. Be okay with altering your time goals if you just know that you are not ready to emotionally or physically give what you have in the past. If you can’t handle that adjustment, then stay home.
This is also true about place goals. Reality is that you cannot control anyone but yourself in a race. So to say that you want to be top 10 in your age-group or top whatever can sometimes set you up to fail. This happens most often when people have done small events and then move up to bigger ones with more competition and have no idea what kind of competition is really out there. Now, I am not suggesting that picking a place goal is obsolete, but to really make it stick and not be disappointed, then consider getting to know better those you race against before making judgment. There are a lot of fast fishes in the sea and they may or may not be swimming in your school on race day. Therefore, as you get to understand who is around, you may be able to broaden your goal to different scenarios like being top 5 in smaller races, but being happy with top 10 in bigger ones.
When the time is right, go for it.
What’s the rush? Too many people trying to go too far or do too much in a race too soon. Slow down! Don’t speed up progress so fast you end up crashing in bright red flames. The daily exercise grind should be happening the rest of your life so let the bigger, faster, longer races come in their own time, not your time. I have heard this best described as picking a goal that helps you establish a feeling of flow. Your next goal or race should be something that get you excited, fits in your life, challenges you, but doesn’t overwhelm you. If you keep all your athletic pursuit inside of the flow parameters then you will find that happy medium between pushing yourself without the race(or life) pushing you back. Getting yourself into the right flow of things well set you up nicely on race day to accomplish the goal that is completely and totally within your realm to reach at that time
Now is the time to rethink your race goals. When you do this, ask yourself the following, Does my goal really grab me? Is it realistic? And is it time to do this? If you answer no to any one of these three, then adjust your plan. You need to say yes to all 3 questions in order to put yourself in the best and most gratifying position possible on race day. And if you answer the first two with a yes, but not the last, you are in good company. Sometimes you know you are passionate, you know you are capable, but you must be patient. Racing isn’t everything. Always a good thing to remember when you get to the starting line anyway.
What to say to yourself during the race—Race self talk article