How do you determine a season’s success or lack thereof? It probably involves going faster or placing better at one or more races throughout the past year. I’m sure there can be much more to it than that, but let’s assume that we all want to be a better athlete by season’s end and race results will be the deciding factor.
For the first few years of triathlon I never needed to think too much about what I would have to do to achieve success. I could knock seconds, minutes, and even hours off my times because consistent conditioning was leading to consistently improving results. This is often the case for any novice athlete (that likes to train) in their first few years in the sport.
Around my fifth year in triathlon I took on a coach who actually made me write down goals, refer to these goals and train to achieve these goals in races. This was a little bit foreign to me because I was accustomed to simply training lots, then seeing what would happen when I raced. However, I took on to this new constructive line of thinking and my ‘A’ race of the season went like clockwork. I had set goals, trained with these goals in mind, and then achieved these goals on race day (and throughout the season leading up to it).
The following year I had a similar plan of action. Write down some goals, work/train with these goals in mind, and then race to achieve these goals.
It did not work out.
In fact, things really, really did not work out and I was left looking back at the past year/season and scratching my head. This is not to say that I had never had bad races. I had plenty of sub-par, or even downright ugly, races, but never when it mattered to me. I could flop along all season at lower priority events and then nail the day that really mattered.
But not this time. I didn’t really know how to deal with this, because of all of sudden the season had ended and everything had not worked out like I had planned. In my mind, I had trained all year only to go slower. It was wrong of me to let one day (or one race) define me, but without precedent, I took it rather hard.
What followed the next season was the opposite of what I might have expected. I worked all spring and trained sporadically, I had a family emergency overseas midseason and took a multi-week break, I contracted giardia when open water swimming leading to several weeks of illness… and then I finished the season with a major breakthrough race. Everything about the season was ‘wrong,’ but the result was right.
I like to provide this example because sometimes we don’t get the chance to realize our goals on the day (or even year) we hope to do so. You might be sitting here relating to all of my story, or maybe just the first part — “the hard part.” Don’t let it get you down. This sport is like a roller coaster ride and I always have to get through a (new) valley to get to the next peak.
Stick with it.