Racing the clock to disappointment




Enthusiastic athletes emit a lust for the sport that is contagious, as a coach it's the self indulgent spark that helps to keep the fire for the sport alive. I love it no matter if it's a new athlete or an experienced one, the hungry competitive ones can supercharge everyone around them and it's great having them about until the inevitable……


It usually starts with a sneaky backdoor brag at the end of the swim lane, about the weekends race or an optimistic foretelling of the objective of the current training block. Thats right I'm talking about the predicted finishing time.


It seems harmless enough at first, in fact it almost seems derelict to not set the goal. Goals are important and honestly I don't see how you could go through life without setting them. Micro goals, Macro goals all used as a notional rudder to guide us, to keep a steady course through the labyrinth of day to day life. Therein lies the problem as I see it.


It's all end points and targets, I'm going to do 5hrs at my next half or Sub 13 Ironman is what it's all about.


Goals are great, set them. But process is the way to happiness. as I type these words I’m quietly confident that I have my next set of end goals well established but the path to these are not so much. Process isn't sexy but goals are. This is a classic mistake not just for the highly competitive amongst us but everyone. Don't mistake this for doing a faster split each week or riding more distance but rather find a measure, something tangible that is undeniable that will improve the outcome - getting to that extra swim session or maybe just finishing that one late in the week that you haven't been. Getting into the gym and strengthening the glutes that the Physio keeps telling you to. And let's not go straight to building the proverbial Rome in a day but rather just one stone at a time. Any change implemented without consistency is frankly a waste of time. Do a little and make it stick.


What's this got to do with predicted race times? Well if you do you 16 or 12 or whatever weeks of build to your next race and you jump all over the place, smash this week miss a few next week then hammer 10 days before getting sick have a few off then come back hard, set your usually arbitrary race time goal and march off into the next race tired , on the edge and primed for disappointment.


Because it's all about context, the same race on different days, actually the same day at different times can affect the time it takes to complete. Wind, cloud cover, temperature the list goes on and that before we start comparing different locations. We can and do apply certain formulas, averaging things and interpreting something to predict outcomes but if you base your measure of success on these or the number printed on the results sheet WITHOUT CONTEXT at some stage you are going to be sad, sad without reason.


We all do it, almost every single one of us like to sniff out that competition then rise above it and that's what sport is all about but finishing times are an easy but flawed measure. Instead we like to use PB as a metric. Your personal best for any given day, circumstance or race results. Deep down you don't need a clocked time to know if it was your Personal best you could achieve on that day. Sometimes the fastest clock times are not your PB efforts.

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