Updated: Dec 10, 2021
This is a repost of a blog I wrote back in 2013. At the time, I was speaking solely in the perspective of triathlon training. Yes, it still applies in the context of training BUT we find ourselves today in the midst of a fight that is unprecedented in human history. Never before has the entire globe been both affected AND united in quite the same way. We don't know exactly when we'll reach the end of this fight but one thing I'm sure of- we won't give in. The words of Winston Churchill ring as true today as they did in 1941.
Originally posted on August 26, 2013
One of the great things about coaching is that observing my athletes in training and racing can provide an outlook and give me reminders that I often neglect or forget. A few weeks ago I had an "aha" moment of sorts if you'd like to call it that. Actually, it wasn't a new realization, it was a lesson I had learned before but it was one I needed to hear again.
I had two athletes racing in two separate races. Both of those races were important to them for different reasons. Jeremy was racing the USAT Age Group Sprint National Championships in hopes of qualifying for Worlds next year. Horacio was racing the Degray lake sprint triathlon to try and earn some much-needed points to vault him atop the regional rankings. Both of them have had some ups and downs this year. Poor luck with races being canceled, missed training, busy schedules, kids, dogs, school, work, a lot of changes for both them. (As a side note: I've also learned by watching myself and my athletes that you cannot separate the personal life from triathlon and pretend they don't affect each other. They do. They are inseparably related and you MUST treat them as such.)
All that was behind us now and both of these guys had the right mindset going into their races. Both were focused on the task at hand and ready to give it everything they had. But for both of them, the race didn't play out as expected.
For Jeremy, it started when it didn't start. His wave was delayed for nearly 2 hours while officials looked for a swimmer who had taken his chip off and failed to notify the volunteers. Finally, they were allowed to start and it was game on. A mediocre swim, mediocre bike, and subpar run led to a result that wasn't what we'd hoped for and a missed opportunity to go to worlds. It wasn't that he stopped fighting, it's just that his body didn't deliver what his mind asked of it.
For Horacio it was a missed turn on the bike, going off course then getting back on. Coming off the bike and being told he had 1:45 to the leader. If this was Ironman then 1:45 wouldn't be anything to worry about but we're talking about a 3.4 mile run. After a brief moment of despair, Horacio put his head down and ran as hard as he could, caught the guy, dropped him, and cruised in for the overall win.
Talking to these guys after their races I could hear the disappointment in Jeremy's voice and the excitement in Horacio's. Having to deal with highs and lows is another part of a coach's job and dealing with the lows definitely isn't fun. There are just no words that can take away that bitter taste you get when you know you didn't perform your best when you really needed to.
As I reflected a bit on that weekend I realized something. THE RESULT DOESN'T MATTER. That's right, the placing doesn't matter. You're going to have crap days. Bad races happen. Good races also happen. The important thing is that you never, EVER give up. In training, in life, in racing that principle holds true. You put your head down and you work. Why? Because you never know what's going to happen. You never know if the guy in front of you is going to blow up. Crazy things happen in racing just like in life. I was immensely proud of both Horacio and Jeremy after that weekend because both of them kept fighting even when the odds were stacked against them. Sometimes the toughest thing is to keep fighting when you think you're going to lose. But you never know... sometimes things come around and you come out on top. Just don't give up.
"Never give in--never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy." - Winston Churchill, 1941
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