“It is just a race”
A race has a starting and end and the purpose is to see how fast you can go between the two points. From the outside, I can see how it can be seen as one big “selfish” event. Athletes clad in lycra making their way, sometimes very painfully to the finish line for no other purpose than to meet some goal they randomly made for themselves. No one really benefits from their efforts but them. In the scheme of things, why does racing matter? What is the point? I get it and before I was an athlete, I never understood what training for a race and racing was really all about. As a triathlete, I now know racing is the key to achieving all my goals in life!
An Opportunity to Quit - or not
When you press register for a race, you set a big, long-term goal for yourself. The gratification you receive when you achieve your goal is in the distant future. But to get there, you have to delay short-term gratification over and over again. Every session completed is a session closer to your race day goal. Every week I have thousands of thoughts about why I should not run, swim, ride. “It's 4am go back to sleep!”, “Am I seriously going to run 90 mins AFTER a 100 mile ride?” “I can slow down just a little.” I have them all the time. Every time I ignore these thoughts and complete a session to the best of my ability, I am one step closer to how I want to show up on race day. My goal, to be the best I can on race day, means more than the short-term gratification of an extra glass of wine. Every workout is an opportunity to advance my fitness and mind. Or not. The choice is always mine to make.
Do it for You!
Why does it matter if you quit a few sessions, hold back a little here and there. No big deal. Oh but it is! There are no shortcuts in racing. Either you do the work, or you don't. You cannot just go on a few rides and show up at an Ironman and expect to finish or even make it out of the water. You are doing this for you, so when you take shortcuts or don't put the time in it takes to train for a race you are only hurting yourself. When those pesky thoughts promising short-term gratification derail you, you are the one losing out. Not your coach, family, business, it's you! The “you” that made the goal, who thought they were worth sacrificing the little things for the big things! That is why it matters, because you matter! You have to have your back, because no one is going to do it for you.
The reality of your investment
I love the line “a race is the celebration of your training.” While I admit it is one twisted way to celebrate and sorely missing dance music and fancy cocktails, it is a great opportunity to celebrate all the times you showed up for you and your goals. It is also a time to face when you didn't.
When we set goals in our personal lives, we set them up as long-term targets. The same concept of shortcuts also applies here but when you miss your goals, it's harder to see the cause. Not in racing. You get all that feedback on the same day! A race is minutes, hours sometimes many many hours of facing all your choices at once. Intense right? You can make all the excuses you want to others, but you know on that race course exactly what happened. There is no hiding between the start and finish.
When I stepped on the starting line of Ironman Worlds in St. George last month, my race was going to be determined by:
1. My fitness
2. My ability to execute on my fitness
3. What I was going to do when it got hard. It's a race! It always gets hard.
I was the fittest I have ever been and I had a plan to execute on my fitness. I did the work in my training and my body was ready. So was my mind. Every day I showed up. I did the work, I ignored my seductive short-term gratification thoughts and I invested in myself. I trained my body AND my mind. When shit got hard, I was ready. I heard all the thoughts “slow down”, “this hurts”, and my favorite “Why the hell am I doing this?” These are the same thoughts I had when I trained. I knew exactly how to deal with them and keep going.
All Roads Lead to Rome
As they say in coaching “All roads lead to Rome.” When you can start showing up for yourself to achieve a goal in a race, you learn how to show up for yourself in other parts of your life too. For some athletes, completing a 20 min run is the most they have shown up for themselves in their entire life! Everything you do in the preparation for a race applies to all of your life. When you train for a race, it literally changes how you think. When you think a thought over and over, it becomes a belief. So when you think “I am going to run because I am worth it” you are creating a belief that you are worth it. When shit gets real in the other areas of your life, you have the experience from racing to know what it is like to keep moving forward towards your goal even when every part of you is begging to take the shortcut.
One athlete I coach, Dana was 60 years old and had never participated in a race. She dreamed of doing one but never thought she could do it. Her kids were grown and she was recently divorced after 35 years of marriage. She decided the time to start achieving her goals was NOW. She signed up for a 5k. We made a plan to make sure she was physically ready. That part was easy. It was the daily choice to do that plan where she struggled. She spent her life addressing everyone’s needs first before her own. She struggled with sticking to the training, letting things constantly get in the way of her training. One day she realized, this was the first time she was ever making time in her life for herself. Once she gave herself permission to let this race be all about her, she started running. In the last 4 weeks she didn't miss one run. On race day, for all 35 mins of her race she got to experience what it is like to show up for herself. It was a celebration of all the times she chose to complete her training. She completely blew her time exceptions out of the water. Even more powerful, she experienced what it was like to make and achieve a goal for herself.
Her racing didn’t end there, she completed 3 more 5ks. Three months later she took a huge leap and signed up for culinary school to fulfill her dreams of being a chef. The 5k was a race AND so much more. It was the catalyst for a remarkable change in Dana’s life.
Want to start creating and achieving big things in your life? Sign up for a race and commit to investing in yourself. Show up for yourself every day, knowing you are worth it.