One of the hardest parts about being an athlete is disappointment. Whether you’re competing in the Olympics or a 5K, we still share the same emotions — from feeling ecstatic over what we accomplished through hard work to the disheartening of falling short of our goals.
I’ve only been running and competing in running events since 2010. However, because I swam competitively for most of my life, I am no stranger to both successes and failures. As athletes though, we have to adapt to it. I know it sounds cliche, but when I first started running and entering races, I honestly was just happy to cross the finish line. But soon after, I realized I could compete against myself, just like I used to try to set personal records (PR) in my swim meets.
Suddenly every race was a challenge and a thrill in the race to be better than myself. And for a few years, I was never disappointed. I repeatedly bested my previous times in all distances. But with my history of injuries, I’ve had to pick myself up and start at square one multiple times, and before long before I wasn’t setting PRs so often anymore.
It has been a mix of emotions for me. When coming back from an injury, I’m always so happy to just be running again. But at the same time, I’d fine myself itching to get back to my old level of fitness and see times I knew I could do.
That being said, I’m having the definition of an “off” year. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve dealt with some nagging calf issues since February, and I haven’t really been competing. While there has been improvement, I’m nowhere near where I was with my training and paces. I’ve known it, but remained blissfully blind to it, choosing to continue to run sans watch and only participating in a handful of races.
However, last weekend was the Wilkes-Barre Triathlon, an event I grew up hearing about every year, and I couldn’t imagine skipping it.
Last year, I was sidelined with a stress fracture and competed by doing the swim leg for a relay team. I was ridiculously jealous of all the athletes competing in all three legs by themselves. So, over the weekend, I headed to my hometown of Wilkes-Barre to participate for the fourth time in the triathlon. This was my second year doing the whole race solo; in 2012 and 2010 I competed only in the swim leg as part of a relay team.
I’m not at the same level of fitness as I was in 2011, but I deluded myself into thinking maybe I was, and maybe I’d get a shiny new PR. The swim, which has always been my strongest, went well for me, but I fell apart on the bike. The course was really difficult with a ton of hills. Add to that the fact that I don’t log the training hours I should, and I have yet to install clips on my bike, it really took a toll on my legs and my time. By the time I started the 11K run, my legs were trashed, and I thought about quitting a million times.
But I didn’t. No matter how bad my time was, a DNF (Did Not Finish) for no good reason was worse. It wasn’t my best race by a long shot, I struggled, and it showed in my finish. However, being disappointed is also the best motivation. I’m getting those clips on my bike, and I’m planning to log the hours on my bike and do the hill and sprint work on my runs to get a shiny new PR next year.
However, I’d be remiss to say I regret participating in this event. Even though I felt frustrated and disappointed, there will always be that part of me that is thrilled to cross the finish line. And gave me all the motivation I need to get that PR next year.
How do you deal with race disappointment?