Sometimes achieving a goal takes longer than you expect and there may be some failures along the way.
10 years ago, I signed up for my first Ironman 70.3 because a friend invited me to. I thought to myself, well if he can do it, I’m sure I can, so why not? Well, this attitude about it meant that I trained very little, because I didn’t truly understand what it took to complete it or the obstacles that would come, beyond just the sheer difficulty of the race. Race day arrived, I had not trained nearly enough or often enough and to make matters worse, it was extremely windy that day. I was pulled off the bike course at about mile 48 of 56 because I didn’t have enough time to complete the rest of the course before the 8.5 hour time limit. Lessons learned: sometimes your abilities without extra effort are not enough, expect obstacles, and preparation matters.
Round 2 came 3 years later. Same friend invited me to race again and I wanted to move past the last failed attempt. This time, I followed a detailed plan, put in about 75% of the effort requested in my training calendar and I felt pretty good going in this time. On the way there, my back started to give me some problems. I chalked it up to sitting in the back seat of another friend’s Prius on the 6 hour drive, but it turns out it was the bulging disc in my back, which led to race day causing me to get off my bike 4 or 5 separate times to stretch my back, in order to keep pushing through. I knew I was moving slower than I wanted, but I was tracking with plenty of time to complete the 13.1 mile run based on my run times. I stopped at the last aid station on the bike a few miles prior to the end of the race to refill my water and grab some nutrition in prep for the run. This turned out to be a fatal mistake. I did not realize that by doing that, I would finish the bike leg 2 minutes too late to be allowed to go out for the run, even though, I knew I still had the time needed to complete the run. This one really hurt! I felt devastated. Lesson learned: do more than is required, not the minimum that you think is needed.
After several years of just wallowing in my own self pity as it pertained to attempt 2, I finally decided that it was time to get that taste out of my mouth. This time, I signed up early, began training early, followed the plan to a t, no matter what. In addition, I told anybody that would listen to me, that I had signed up for the race. Why? Because it leads to additional accountability. You really don’t want to have to tell everybody you told about how you failed and why. This was my perfect recipe. I still ran into obstacles on race day. I dove into the water without my goggles on, had to stop and fix that, the bike course had the roughest road I have ever rode on, which caused me to get off the bike and walk for about a tenth of a mile at at each of the aid stations at mile 30 and 45, because my backside had had enough of the constant bouncing, the aid stations on the run were not as close as they said they would be so I was woefully under hydrated and nourished on the run, and the sun exposure, heat and humidity at the end of the run was brutal. Even with all of that, I was able to push through, because I knew that I had put in the work and that my body was able to handle what was going to be required of it. I can’t describe the emotions I felt when I completed a goal that I had set out to achieve a full ten years prior. Never accept defeat. Review what went wrong, figure out what needs to be done differently, put in the required effort and believe in yourself!