Triathlon for the newbie is about a big adventure into something foreign and completely overwhelming with experiences. Mostly people are afraid to do the first things, they worry about not being successful. Eventually they build their courage and commit to do a race. No matter how that race turns out, it is a success when they cross the finish line, they are hooked. Their fears were overwhelming at first, they had adrenaline pumping through their veins and the euphoria that met them at the finish line was something they wanted more of.
Triathlon is a great sport, it has a ladder of race distances, this is great for success, if you have finished one distance you can now challenge yourself to go further next time. What a great idea to keep putting bigger options, allow them to start small and build.
Long time racers look at success as a personal best. There is a point in a persons racing where getting a personal best is pretty tough. This is probably the time they leave the sport as they no longer feel successful.
I want to reflect on the success I see as a coach. I took a group for a swim bike run this weekend. They were there before me, helping the race director clean up the course. I was so proud of them to see them enjoying each others company in the frigid cold wind and temperatures, trying to help a great guy with a great race. That was success, they came together and enjoyed a really cold time towards a greater good.
Next we went into the water, already some of us frozen from standing in the cold on the beach. We did a warm up swim and then set out for a couple laps to swim the 2 kms. I had a swimmer doing his first time in a wetsuit and had a pretty normal experience of tight chest, hard time breathing, hard to relax. He slowed himself, he calmed himself down, he kept up even though his goggles were solid fog, we made it around the buoys and on the last leg in he calmed into a regular swim rhythm. Completely overwhelmed, he didn't see the success. I am amazed that he got a wetsuit on, got into a dark cold body of water with not pleasant surroundings and expected himself to adapt so quickly. He did an amazing job and just looked at the others thinking he was not like them. Only the week before one of those swimmers took her first dip and had a similar unsettling experience. She swim the 2 kms on her second open water swim with no issues. They both had success, it is all small steps. Soon we get to the point where the challenge is gone and we get bored. Do we need more challenged, more adversity to keep us going?
Next we headed out on the bike, I gave them some suggestions on what to do with cadence and gearing into the headwind and back with the tailwind. It was one persons first time in an aero helmet. It was a hard headwind and success for some was being able to stay aero at times, for some it was trying to hold the suggested cadence because everything in their mind said do something else. One person found her success by not being last and was very proud of her achievement and worked hard for it.
During our ride we had reports coming through the cell phones of people racing that day, their successes.
Onto the brick run, we went out easy and came back at a race pace (1/2 Ironman race pace). For some it was okay, for some it was an experience where they finally felt like this race is theirs, they are going to be okay, they could do it. They achieved success by simply coming out and facing their fears.
As a coach you should set up situations where there are condiitons that need to be met, controlling cadence or output, some learning experience where when they finish they have learned something about themselves as a racer, they have had a successful training day, they didn't do junk miles.
My reminder to those searching for success, do not leave the sport to look for new challenges. Look for things that improve your own experience. Sometimes you may find in other peoples success you will find your own. You learn so much from all your years of training, when you share that with the new people who join in the group, you will see them take that knowledge and build on it. I am seeing some of the group rise up to some high levels right now. There is always something we can work on to make ourselves, better in the sport, more knowledgable about ourselves as racers, and a better mentor to those coming in.
I see success in everyone I coach, but the universal truth is that for those of us who set the bar high, whenever we get close enough to meet our definition of success, we quickly raise the bar up higher. I have people write goals down when they begin. The first year you get things like survive, finish, try a race. The second year, the expectation of success becomes a burden. They worry about whether they can match their new definition of success. If their goal was to be a better swimmer, biker, runner, injury free and healthy, that goal would be easy to attain, they would be improving every year and looking after their health as they did so. This is how I view them, always improving, always taking on new challenges, hopefully finding balance.
Not all goals allow for success. Try to see the success in all you do, be happy we have the freedom to do a sport. Support the races you love to do so that they will be their in the future. Be gracious to the volunteers who make the races possible so that we can go challenge ourselves on our annual goals. Look for the success in all you have achieved so far, and allow future goals to inspire you to reach further.
Keep up the swimming, biking and running.