As our triathlon season comes to an end, it is a normal–and encouraged–habit to reflect upon the last year’s worth of training and racing. During this time of reflection, we can identify weaknesses and strengths, and learn how to manipulate those to become better people and athletes in the coming training cycles.
I have the unique opportunity to reflect on this past year as both an athlete and a coach. As I look back on this year from a coach’s perspective, I can’t help but recount the times I was obsessively refreshing race website pages, only to see the heart-wrenching news that the event had either been drastically changed or out right cancelled. The triathlon weather policy can really irk us sometimes, but it is what it is, and there are things we can learn in spite of the frustration it brings.
While my gut tells me to mourn over the hours my athletes spent training for one specific race, I feel the need to go against this gut reaction and call to light the reasons why we can still rejoice over a season spent training hard, regardless of whether or not we come home with that finisher’s medal.
What you’ve accomplished even if you didn’t cross the finish line of your planned race.
First, we have made large strides to a healthier lifestyle. For most, we are running an uphill race against a culture whose health is on a steep descent. Not only are you working towards better health for yourself, but you are showing those around you the amazing feats the human body can accomplish, and how to challenge it in a positive way.
Second, you committed and stuck to a goal. Do not take this for granted. Sure, you may have missed a workout (or two) here or there, but you stuck to an overarching plan that spanned the course of months. Whether this was your first huge training cycle or tenth, we gain strength in our ability to stay committed to any cause when we practice it. This benefits us in both our sport and our relationships.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there are countless times that we bust through the daunting “There’s no way I can do that…” thought that pops into our heads when we see a certain workout. There are also times that we fail despite giving that workout our all. Both are valuable for shaping us as humans and athletes. We learn how to have confidence in ourselves when we succeed, and grace with ourselves when we fail. Our coaches and teammates cheer for us when we succeed, and bring us to the light when we struggle. We drink some recovery drink, get some sleep, and try again tomorrow. It may feel nice when training comes easily, but it is through the fire of our challenges that we are refined, and no race course change or cancellation can take away those hours and hours of refining that you have undergone.
If you had the opportunity to cross your originally planned finish line-swim, bike, run and all-CONGRATS! I still encourage you to think about these things, because there is still more to your year than just that finish line. However, if your finish line looked different, or wasn’t there at all, I urge you to spend some time reflecting on these points. Write down the ways you saw yourself grow as a person and an athlete over the course of the last year. Perhaps you can even make yourself a finisher’s medal of your own, with a title on it that has the potential to be way more personalized and valuable than you ever could have imagined.