No Excuses

Wildflower Long Course

Lake San Antonio, CA – 2011.04.30
In a retroactively ironic moment, Eric Wynn & I were discussing pro-triathlete race reports, and he said something along the lines of, “they always say, ‘I’m not going to make any excuses…’ and then go on to do exactly that. I wish someone would just write a race report that said, ‘I just didn’t race well.'” I heartily agreed, though of course, it being a few days before Wildflower, I didn’t think that burden would fall upon me. But I do find myself in a position to have to account for what I consider a sub-par performance, and so here is my “honest” race report. Jesse Thomas did what he needed to do on the day to have his best race, which ultimately led his winning; I did not. Whatever I write below needs to be considered with that as the overarching statement on the race. Everyone has their ups and down, mishaps, and obstacles to overcome. I won’t bother to get into whether someone else’s were either greater or less than my own.
Every athlete has something that doesn’t go according to plan in the lead up to the race. Sometimes this is because of bad “luck,” either truly out-of-your-control luck, “I’m sorry sir, we seemed to have lost all of your luggage.” (No, that didn’t happen to me.) Or sort-of-your-fault-or-at-the-very-least-something-you-could-have-prepared-for, “My seatpost slipped, and I had to ride the whole bike course with my saddle 30mm too low.” (No, that didn’t happen to me either.) Or the most common almost-certainly-your-fault-stuff-that’d-be-nice-to-blame-on-someone-else, “I was definitely not drafting!” (No, that also didn’t happen to me.)
I made some bad decisions in training in the weeks leading up to the race. I think Michael & I could have planned better the time in between Oceanside and Wildflower. I could have handled my race day nutrition a bit better. And I could made some very slightly different equipment selections that would have been more advantageous on race day. I hesitate to write that list, because even that seems a bit like a list of excuses. It’s not, though. It’s a list of decisions that I made, consciously, that were poor decisions. I am accountable for all of those things. And none of those things is the reason why I lost the race. What they represent, both in total and perhaps individually, are almost certainly the reasons why I was not in a position to win the race.
As for the race itself, I swam reasonably well, though at times the pace felt so easy that I was sure I was further back than I was. What this told me, post race, is that I should have maneuvered myself further up in the group so that when the small group that gained about 45sec or so broke off, I could have made that group and gotten myself a “free” 45sec. Out on the bike, I just didn’t have the legs, though perhaps it would have been better to save what legs I did have for even later in the day. On the run, I just did my best to keep moving one foot in front of the other on a day where it was clear that I had not prepared myself appropriately.
Post-race, Jill made me go to the med-tent for two IVs, which I often hear as evidence that someone gave it “his all.” In this case, it just meant that I was a dumbass, both during the race – didn’t drink enough – and prior – non-optimal preparation. There are no bonuses for putting yourself in the med-tent. At least, I don’t have any.
There is an old (and very wise) saying, “it’s safe to make a mistake, but more to your credit if you make a different one each time.” I do take some solace in feeling that the mistakes that I made were not repeat errors. I don’t think they were necessarily unavoidable or unknowable, but I do feel a bit better that I don’t have to ask, yet again, for “the benefit of the doubt” on the same, entirely predictable “mishap.” Nevertheless, I’m left feeling like I let a golden opportunity slip away. For reference, the men’s winning time was over 10min slower than the course record. On the same day, the women’s winning time was 10sec slower than the course record. The race was wide open. And I failed to capitalize on it. Hopefully, I learned some lessons; I certainly did my best in the aftermath to try.

3 thoughts on “No Excuses

  1. I think that the approach you are taking — no excuses — leads you to critically examine and take responsibility for your errors, rather than trying to blame them on external circumstances. This no-excuse approach should benefit you in the long run. As you seem to understand perfectly well, it will lead you to really look at yourself and therefore understand your mistakes, so you don't make the same mistake twice. Although not a win in the true sense of the word, this race may have significant long term benefits for other races.

    Although I am not in the same vicinity as you in the racing world (not even close), I am currrently blaming myself for an avoidable achillies injury (too much speed work too soon) that has hampered my training and will result in slower times. I vow not to make that mistake again.

    Good luck.



  2. I think the biggest benefit of “mistakes” when you have a blog is to share them with us so that we don't make the same ones! I'm thankful for the willingness of pros like you to put yourself out here and share your knowledge, and for the enabling tech that makes it possible.
    BTW: rockin' job on Leadville. Very inspiring! Clearly you learned from your experience at WF. Amazing effort.


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