If you are going to be anything, life is hard work. It would be easy to roll over and wither away when things go poorly. I don't know who said it first, but I have heard this several times, "It doesn't matter how many times you get knocked down. It matters how many times you get up."
A lot of friends of mine raced in Kona almost three weeks ago. Some had magical days where everything was easy. (Those days are few and far between.) Some friends had OK days but were thankful for a race day in Kona. I also had a few friends who suffered like never before in a race. Some supremely talented looking for sub-10 hours and came in in the 13 hour range. A complete disaster by his estimation.
I had a real heart to heart with him. This not being his first Kona experience he told me that he had higher expectations of himself. A very good thing. He is a sub 1:00 biker and a 35 runner in Olympic distance racing. Consistantly a 4:30 half ironman guy and a low 9 hr guy at Ironman Lake Placid. You see how sub-10 is actually a realistic goal for him. Post Kona, he was really complaining and down.
We talked about a few things.
1) One race doesn't define him. Racing and especially one race, does not define who he is as a person, a husband, a father and a man. It is simply a measurement at a point in time.
2) He finished. When 99.99% of the world will never even attempt an Ironman let alone Kona, there is honor in simply finishing.
3) There are "winning" experiences and there are "learning" experiences. He had perhaps one the ultimate learning experiences this world offers.
I gave him an assignment. In consulting we do what is known as a "Plus/Delta" for all post project evaluations. Plus meaning; what the heck did we do right? Was it luck? What was planned and went well? Delta meaning; what went wrong or what went "not perfectly"? What caused us to 'call an audible' on race day?
He had an interesting list.
The Plus Side
Everything on the plus side of the list was planned. He did everything right. Training. Travel. Taper. He was in the shape of his life physically and mentally.
The Delta Side
Everything on the delta side was NOT planned and completely out of his control. He was kicked in the shoulder (knocked his arm out of the joint), the "nuts" (severe pain), in the ear (made him a bit dizzy the rest of the day) and jaw (turned out to be a slight fracture which required a doctor visit at home) on the swim. He got two flat tires and a relatively new chain (six weeks old) broke on his bike. He broke a spoke. Finally on the run and making up ground quickly, a spectator (in their excitment for their own athlete) tackled him ripping his race kit and bruising his ribs and hip. In the Energy Lab he twisted his ankle in the dark. It was so bad that it is still dis-colored on the 29th of October.
He still finished.
When we discussed his list he just laughed. "It would have been an easy race if some of this didn't happen."
He was ready to walk away from Ironman racing completely. Down and almost depressed about what happened. When we looked at it from the outside view he understood he did nothing wrong and that it would be easy to quit.