Last weekend was a new experience for me. I was lucky enough to be invited to race as part of the Amarin Unlimited Outdoor International Triathlon race team at their own event in Cha’am. What a race- with not only a few jellyfish dramas but also my first overall female win in Asia.
Rather than bore you all with a step-by-step account of my race which went relatively smoothly compared to the last one, I’m going to talk about the “f-words” that I took away from the weekend. On reflection, I realised these two words were crucial to my development as an athlete, and alas, as a person.
- Focus – I think the cover photo of this post perfectly illustrates this. For any athlete, focus is required for success. It’s the case with anything you want to succeed with in life. Without focus and a goal, you’ll be lost.
This focus is essential on different scales, here I’m going to define them temporally :
- “In the moment” focus: that moment of focus in the race or in training that can prove the make or break your race. If you catch the feet in front of you in the swim, or if in a moment of distraction by jellyfish, you loose them (there were several jellyfish hanging around the swim course, waiting to attack and sending 18 triathletes to hospital). This is something I know I need to work on, particularly towards the end of a race as I get more tired.
- Short-term focus: a race in the near future or a specific training goal is a great way to concentrate your focus and keep your goals in perspective, whilst providing additional motivation on tough days.
- Long-term focus: essential on those really hard days, when you might be questioning the whole purpose of the training and sport, or whatever it is that you are doing. What are you trying to achieve in the long-term, what is this pain you are going through building you up for? Knowing what my longer-term goals are really spurs me on on the tough days, but also puts things into perspective when I’m not feeling great or sick, as I have been lately. Will missing one session mean I am weak and there’s no point pursuing my ultimate goal? No – in fact it might just help me get there faster. You are being wise, not weak.
It’s important to bear in mind that although having a goal is important, it’s the journey to get there which takes time and form the majority of your memories. You only get one life, so make sure your journey is fun.
- Fun: after the race on Saturday, one of the most experienced athletes who was doing the event ‘for fun’ shocked me by saying “This was the first race where I really had fun.” Of course, there are races where things go wrong, you’re not on form and just not ‘feeling it”, but it made me very sad to hear that this had always been the case for this particular athlete.
It’s sometimes easier said than done, but to me it’s essential that I enjoy the racing and training (at least the majority of it). You need the spark and enthusiasm to get going, but also to keep going. It’s hard as competitive people, triathletes undoubtedly put a lot of pressure on themselves, and even more so when it becomes your career and source of livelihood.
But if you don’t enjoy it, consider what you can do or how you could change your way of thinking to enjoy it more. Maybe find a training partner or group, or enter a different type of race with new challenges, such as an obstacle race. Stepping up to Ironman and adding distance isn’t necessarily the right new challenge for you – you may just get even more drained.
So there you have my F-words. Hope you had a good read, and if any non-triathlete is considering giving the sport a shot for fun – do it! Don’t hesitate to ask questions, you’ll soon learn that triathletes love talking about their sport.
“There are three types of people. Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those who wonder what happened.” – Tommy Lasorda (hall of fame baseball player)
Flip out, Imo xx