Monday, August 16, 2010


The degree of probability that something will occur..
Something to look forward to..
Something to dream about..
Something to get us out of bed and into spandex about..

We all have them, I think that's a pretty safe bet for every single person reading this blog right now. I've been thinking about this post over the last few weeks and I hope it comes out the way I've written it in my mind from the bike seat, or while taking a big breath of air in the pool, or cresting a hill in full stride.

Expectations are a funny thing. The begin as little seeds, deep within our heart. We water them with early morning workouts, fertilize them with long runs and even longer bike rides and they begin to sprout gripping us further and holding us closer as they do. I've been seeing it first hand in a different way now as a coach.

At first, my athletes who had never done a half ironman wanted to just "finish." However, as time went on, and the training weeks became longer, and they completely that last long run at XX:XX pace, or rode their last long ride at XX miles per hour, the expectations found way from "finishing" to getting under X:XX time goal? "How did that happen?" I ask you!? I'll tell you how.. triathletes by nature have high expectations. Did you know that most of us have to be overachievers, not just in triathlon but in life. Some of my friends doing Placid just told me that the program showed the average household salary of those completing the Ironman at $130,000 per year. That's the AVERAGE, not the high value, the AVERAGE. Much to either our advantage or our detriment, we want to achieve more in all aspects of life. It just seems to be the nature of those in our sport.
Now, did I want to tell these athletes to NOT have a goal? That seems silly too. Having a goal is part of the fun right? However, the older I get, and the more I get into this sport I realize that things have to be relative. Relative to the course, relative to the weather, relative to the athletes experience. Despite them having a goal, I tried to encourage them to focus on the process, just as they did during training. Watch their heart rate, keep it within the ranges we discussed, focus on cadence, nutrition and anticipating any potential pit falls. If they did these things, the goals would work themselves out.

Expectations are a funny thing, they can help us, or they can bury us in disappointment.. you choose. One of my athletes who did her first Half in July had an asthma attack on the swim and it continued throughout the bike and the run. She ended up walking the half marathon. My heart sank for her because based on her training, I knew very well that the expectation had gone from "finishing" to feeling good and finishing each leg biking, running etc. However, when things like that happen, what will you do? This was a medical issue, you can't look at yourself or at her and say she did something wrong.. and she finished. After a little disappointment, we talked about the good things, the hard things, and the things we would do differently and she felt good about her day. She finished.. 70.3 miles.. case closed & I was so proud of her.

Yesterday I had an athlete do Lake Stevens 70.3. He was very consistent in his training, and his nutrition plan had been practiced, and he was ready to go for race day. He had his instructions and he executed them to the best of his ability. I know that for sure. Did he swim off course, yes, did he drop his chain on the bike, yes, was it 90 degrees in Washington, a record high for that day, yepper. Things go wrong in a race that long, that's just how that distance works! We all have the 'unexpected" happen, that's just part of racing. Did he finish.. You bet he did, with a time of 5:39 for his very first Half Ironman. I couldn't have been more excited about his day, but he wanted to go under 5:30.. nine minutes folks.. his first race.. he wanted just nine more minutes. Now, I am completely fine with expectations, but sometimes, we have to sit back and look at the good things, we have to be really excited about what we did do well and figure out how to change the rest. In the end, he was just like all of us, we always want to do better, and that's a good thing, not a bad thing. He was so close to his goal he could smell it, taste it, and that's why we keep coming back for more.. so that when we finally do reach it, it feels so amazing. He'll get it, maybe not this past Sunday, but I know he will.

That's why it's so very important that we take time to write down our REALISTIC goals at the beginning of the season, whether it be to finish or break this or that time barrier or qualify for this or that. That way, as time goes on, we don't forget our original intentions. That way, we don't become our own worst enemy after the race is over!

So, realizing expectations are good, but that we shouldn't live and die by them is something I'm learning about every day.. personally, and in my new professional life. Getting to see it from another angle has been good for me.. and I hope I remember in three months from now as I toe the line of Cozumel and stare the 140.6 miles in the face once again.

Great expectations.. I've got them, but right now I'm just watering the seeds, watching them grow, and keeping them all in perspective.

How about you??

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