It is an unfortunate reality of racing, but not every race can go to plan. Despite the best preparation, training and planning sometimes the unforeseen occurs, punctures, nutritional issues, weather conditions, poor pacing, the list of things that can go wrong in a race is a pretty long one. When those things go wrong an unwanted race result can occur and typically disappointment ensues.
That feeling of disappointment that comes with a bad race is perfectly normal and I suspect it is fairly unavoidable at least in the short term. However, in my experience, disappointing race results are typically not disasters and consigning them to the rubbish heap of history is usually doing those race experiences a disservice.
Let me give a little example.
Last year the Busselton Ironman was raced under pretty oppressive conditions. A friend of mine raced, but like so many that day he did not have a good race. He had trained really well and was in the form of his life, he was hoping to finally qualify for Kona. However, due to the conditions his race really fell apart. Not really through any fault of his own he struggled in the heat. From the 10km mark of the marathon he was suffering, however, he kept going and suffered through to the finish line. To this day he is still very disappointed with that race and feels like he let everyone down. However, to me it was one of the toughest and most amazing performances I have ever seen. To overcome the adversity he was feeling and make it to the finish line amazes me. I don’t think he will ever view that result favourably, but I think it was one of the toughest things I have ever seen and think he should be immensely proud.
There are certainly many lessons to be learnt from what went wrong on race day for my friend, and I am hoping that he is learning those. However, by dismissing the race as a disaster and doing everything he can to forget about it my friend is missing the opportunity to also learn from the positives that came on race day too. The fortitude he displayed, the pure mental toughness. The race last year was one of those that if you survived that you could survive nearly anything. There is a lot of confidence that can be taken from that. My friend sees it as a race where he let down his supporters, I think most of his supporters view it as a race where he demonstrated his true mettle.
Finding positives in bad experiences is really a tough thing to do, it is much easier to dismiss a bad race and try to move on. However, those positives are always there and if you search them out you realise that no race is ever really bad. Certainly there are races where the results are not what you want, and you are allowed to be disappointed about those, but there are always positives to take away too. Finding those positives can help make that disappointment just a little bit less bitter and help you come back another day stronger and faster.