We all have them, bad races. This is when the old adage “You can’t win them all” rings loud and clear. It is frustrating to not meet our own expectations or others but I truly believe the experience is only wasted if we don’t learn something from it.
In my younger (and less wise) years I used to get really upset when I raced badly and in turn would bring everyone down around me. I didn’t realize that I was doing this at the time, but I have since learned that my actions didn’t help the situation and really just made it worse. When I was in high school I traveled to Wisconsin to compete in the Cross-County National Championships. I remember after the race one of the girls from my home state of Colorado had won it, however it was apparent that she was not pleased with her time and was pouting about it. To all of us that didn’t win it seemed really “selfish” and “silly” that she would make such a big deal about not running the time she wanted. She won it! And she was missing out on celebrating her win because she was wrapped up in doing even better. I must admit I have been there before. It almost seems comical to me now complaining about getting second place and being disappointed that I couldn’t do better to capture first. Although in the moment it’s hard to look at it that way. But from an outside perspective it brings others down.
Now when I have a disappointing race I try to remember that there are people out there that would love to just be able to do what I can on a bad day. I don’t mean that in a “self-righteous” way, but I try to remember that there are people in wheelchairs that will never have the opportunity to experience what it feels like to complete even one race. I have had the opportunity to compete in hundreds of races over the last 27 years as a competitive runner and triathlete. When I remember this it helps to put the seemingly “devastating” bad race into perspective.
“Celebrate the ‘win’ of others to sweeten a sour experience.” ~ Coach Lora Erickson
Now while appreciating the opportunities for being able to compete doesn’t take away the frustration completely, they seem to lighten it for me. I still tend to mull over the details trying to figure out what has gone wrong in my training or why I wasn’t able to push myself like I would have liked to. Usually it boils down to the same answer. MOTIVATION. The real motivation for me, I have discovered is something I alluded to in my last blog write up, A Runner And Coach is What I Was Designed to Be. I am motivated to see what I am capable of, to push myself and help others do the same. This is what drives me, what wakes me up in the early mornings to get my workouts in before the family wakes up. It’s not the medals, the wins, the glory, the fame, the fortune…Just kidding; I’m not famous, nor do I get big bucks for doing this, but I do it because I love how it makes me feel about myself. It has helped me become a better wife and mother. Any triathlete or runner will tell you that running isn’t that “easy”…sure we have our “easier” workouts, but it’s not your average everyday person that does it.
Being average does not appeal to me; but being EXCEPTIONAL does. I don’t want to be “normal,” I strive to be all that I can be; I shun mediocrity and work diligently to be successful; I strive for EXCELLENCE. Yes, you can hear the perfectionist in me coming out and I know many of you are cursed or blessed (depends on how you look at it) with the same perspective. This is what drives me to do better however this is also why it’s so easy to get frustrated with myself. I don’t believe that anything is wrong with someone striving to doing really well at something and pushing themselves to do it when kept in balance. However it can also lead to constant disappointment and bring those around you down. If you find yourself wallowing in self-pity, then you have gone too far.
So when you have a bad race, figure out what you can learn from it, resolve to work on it, brush it off (I know this can be difficult, I am still working on this one), keep things in perspective, ask yourself why you are doing this and bottle up that frustration for your next hard workout or race. Be careful to not let your disappointment bring others down. A bad race is only wasted if we don’t learn something from it and use it to help us grow stronger. Our difficulties are often what give us the strength to accomplish more. Think about how the newborn baby chick builds strength as it struggles to break out of the shell. If we were to help the chick get out by doing some of the work it would be less likely to survive. It needs the “struggle” to gain strength. So do we. I love this song lyric from one of my favorite artists, Kelly Clarkson, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” So true.
It isn’t easy nor should it be easy to win a race or complete a goal, but let’s remember why we are doing it. If we are doing it for self-improvement then “whining” and “complaining” about a bad race is not helping us or anyone for that matter to become better people. Even if you have a bad race and one is your goals is self-improvement then you can still accomplish this goal by being happy for those around you. Be careful not to judge others too harshly by looking up results and making unsupportive comments. I have been a “victim” of harsh criticism from “so called fans” that are disappointed with a race result that they didn’t have full information on. Sometimes you are not aware of what struggles others are facing or how far they have come to even complete a race. You may not know they just got over the flu, are injured or had a flat tire. Race results don’t reflect severe weather conditions, emotional strain from personal hardships, or factor in when you forget your water bottles or drop a gel pack etc… I believe a “winning attitude” is far more valuable than a “winning” a race. True character is built from hard experiences. Race happy, even when it doesn’t go the way you had hoped. If you focus on others rather than yourself on these days, you will find your experience wasn’t all that bad. Celebrate the “win” of others to sweeten a sour experience.
Coach Lora Erickson