It happens to many of us. We train hard and long for our “A” race. We spend hours at the gym, on the bike, on the trails and in the water getting ready for an event which is important to us. We put everything we have into our training in the hopes of a podium finish, a personal best, or a victory over our main competitor. It all looks great in Training Peaks- the workouts are perfectly written by an experienced triathlon coach and the plan has been executed.
But sometimes things don’t go as planned. Even the most perfectly thought out race plan can go wrong with unexpected events. A flat tire that takes too long to change. Panic while in the water. Dehydration on the run. A 2 minute penalty for drafting. These are all things that can happen during a race, and it can be devastating to an athlete.
So often athletes put a lot of pressure on themselves and have a lot riding on the outcome of a race. We have so much invested both physically and emotionally and when a disappointment happens it can be a tragedy. So below I am sharing with you some tips on what you can do to overcome and move on from a bad race and get back on track with your training.
1. Realize that you are human and where humans are involved there is always a chance for a mishap. Sometimes things happen that you have ZERO control over such as glass in the road that causes you to have a flat tire. I've seen people hit a pothole and go over the handlebars. I've seen people accidentally get off course and run an extra 3 miles. I don’t know any athlete that has a perfect record of ZERO incidents or mishaps while racing.
2. You can only control so much. I remember getting off the bike and into transition once after it had poured rain during a triathlon I did in South Carolina. I was so overwhelmed that my shoes were soaking wet that I forgot to put on my race belt and left T2 without it on. I realized after about 200 yards that I had to go back and get it! This cost me a 1st place finish to a 4th place finish. I was devastated!!
3. Choose to focus on the good parts of the race. This is like seeing the glass as half full and not half empty. For example, maybe you had your fastest run time so far, or maybe you overcame a challenging swim. Try to pick out at least one thing that went well and be thankful for that.
4. Pick another race. If time permits and works into your schedule, find a race close to the one that went bad and focus on that instead. Nothing feels better than setting a goal and taking a step towards it. When you’re down about a disappointing race the best thing you can do is roll up your sleeves and PRESS ON.
5. Go all in on improving your weaknesses. If you had trouble sighting in the open water, hire a coach and take a few lessons on sighting and open water swim strategies. If your bike time wasn’t where you wanted it to be, think about how you can improve your ride. (Have you downloaded my TIPS FOR A FASTER BIKE RIDE?) Pick one or two things that you really want to improve and attack them.
Do not beat yourself up over a bad race. It’s ok to be upset for a day, but the longer you carry on with a defeated attitude the longer it will take to move on from it. I hope these tips help you and inspire you to get after it at your next race!
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