Holy cow, it’s an exciting time! The newest Avengers has been released to much ecstasy and fervor, least of which is driven by ten years of AWESOME MARVEL MOVIES (looking at you Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy), and yet somehow I still have not been able to rally the troops to go see it. Our time is coming though!
We’re hot off a trip to St. George, not only for my 11th 70.3 mile race, but to explore the wonder and beauty of Zion National Park. Nothing can make you stand in awe and wonder like the towering Angels Landing, the Emerald Pools, the Great White Throne, or the Three Patriarchs. The weather was perfect, although we passed triple digit temps driving through Mesquite and Vegas – gag!!
The thing I’m observing more and more is that these types of race adventure trips rarely go according to plan, and are more often a lesson in adapting to change. No need to get into that in grisly details, but not much went according to what I had on paper for this trip, returning to one of my favorite races after four years! }:->
The simple fact of the matter is that I felt like crap for all 4 hours 39 minutes and 12 seconds of that Saturday morning smash-fest, but not all was tales of woe and pity-parties… Turns out that persisting through sucky circumstances can actually work in your favor!
As many athletes, I love my data, and can’t resist a good table! Say what you will, but the sport of triathlon, and all its quirks, boils down to a numbers game. There’s nothing earth shattering about single percentage point improvements… until you see what that translates into time-wise. Wow! Now imagine if you could consistently improve 1% year after year! It’s pretty humorous reflecting back on (now) ancient posts from yester-year. Five IRONMAN events later, and the idea of incremental improvement is just as strong as ever. This year has been one of my lowest running mileage years ever, and yet somehow I still posted a new time in the half marathon in crappy, terrible weather. Hmm – strange!
I’ll recycle a quote used from one of those posts:
“… most of the significant things in life aren’t stand-alone events, but rather the sum of all the moments when we chose to do things 1% better or 1% worse.”
Persistence is a choice that YOU have to make. Thus, today’s blog…
I have no explanation for how the day turned out other than I have steadily practiced for many years. The practice of sports-specific skills, the practice of racing, the practice of recovering, and most critically, the practice of persisting. Take note to the definition below: “[continuing] firmly… [on] a course of action in spite of difficulty, opposition, or failure.”
From the moment the cannon boomed, it felt like an uphill struggle. And yes, St. George actually had a TON of uphills on that course. About 4803 feet to be precise… even my swim, which is not only my favorite event but my strongest, felt like a battle, despite the fact that I PRed by 30 seconds (1st overall in my age group and 40th overall, only being beaten by the pros and a small handful of age groupers). Travel struggles and a lingering cold from a week before pummeled me and my poor respiratory system. It’s tough not feeling 100%…
I typically settle into the bike nicely, because I’m decent enough at it to not get dropped too hard, but even cycling had my thoughts turning negatively, especially as I watched competitor after competitor go whizzing by. Strangely enough, I caught many of those who passed me, a scant two hours later, as they struggled up a crushing hill and I went sailing by. Again – no explanation other than habits that kept me moving forward, especially during the hard times. My conversations with myself did not naturally emphasize the positive elements of the day, and it was definitely an effort not to abandon ship.
The run is rarely something I enjoy, nor is it something I felt great doing. I had raced a smoking (for me) 13.1 that same week, but the heat and hills were finally catching up to me. My legs were like lead and my pace felt like a 15:00/mile. You could have watched a tortoise out sprint me… I did have a few good conversations along the way with some peeps, and although mile 10 and beyond were incredibly unpleasant, it turns out that moving forward will always be a faster than sitting on the side of the road. I came zipping across the line finally feeling upbeat and positive, and with a PR in both the event distance, as well as the three individual pieces. Not bad. Not bad at all!
My two great lessons from the day:
- Don’t waste energy (emotional or otherwise) on tasks that don’t help you move forward – It does no good focusing on someone’s else race, or the pace which they’re hauling. Racing is about giving 100% of what you can do on any given day.
- Always find the fun, even in the struggle – My deepest regret from the day was that I didn’t seek the fun in the adventure. The scenery was gorgeous and weather near-perfect, but I still spent too much time and energy dwelling on how I felt, how poorly the day seemed to be shaping up, and how I could really use a nap. Ironically, the persistence paid off in the end, but with a high cost! It would have been better to enjoy the ride in its entirety.
There’s a reason that sport or team activities are so critical to life skill development. Yes, it keeps you physically active, but more importantly it keeps you digging within yourself to press on. You will get beat, you will suffer defeats and upsets, you will have lousy days, and you are going to fail. And failure, when viewed from the correct lens, is the greatest teacher of all.
It has not been possible to run races where I didn’t learn at least one thing from a fail moment, great or small. Even successful races unearth teaching opportunities – not all failures mean that you are a failure. You have only failed when you refuse to apply what you have learned (or if you learned nothing at all). You know what they say about learning something new every day…
The business world is also rampant with challenges, and with those hurdles come failures and learning and persistence and repeat attempts. Yes, you may grunt and groan, but at the end of the day, the ones who make the difference are the ones finding ways to keep on keeping on, even when the odds are against them. They’re struggling to feel successful, or maybe they aren’t driving the changes they set out to create.
It’s a phrase that’s been used way too often, but the journey of life is all about the journey, the persistence up the mountains and through the valleys filled with thorns and shrubberies. One of the longest hikes I ever went on was a strugglefest from the beginning, but at the end of the day, my dog and I celebrated, not because we made it to the top (which was cool in its own right), but because we had to grind it out from the first minute, and instead of bailing when things got sucky, we had our snacks (mmm!) and pressed on for our goal. We persisted, because we (well, I) knew the growth that this type of adventure would yield.
The joy and the reward is truly tied to the effort and the persistence associated with those efforts – few things in life that are rewarding are easy to achieve…