Winning isn’t everything and losing is not the end of the world.
On this day my finish time will put me in the back third of the entire field and dead last, six out of six, in my aged age group. But all I care about is the smile on my face and the feeling of accomplishment that I have for crossing that line. It is a feeling that will last me all day and motivate me for all the hard long days of training I must still log to finish a full-distance race.
I don’t race to compete; I race to complete. Every race I finish, I am a winner. I have entered over 100 races and raced over 4,000 miles of triathlons, running and bike races. I have finished them all!
Due to the pandemic, it has been two years since my last real triathlon race. Today was “only” an Olympic distance race. This is a tune-up for the longer distance full Ironman race I am scheduled to do in late July. It’s the iconic Ironman Lake Placid.
Though I have done countless races at this distance and longer, I was excited for sure. I still had butterflies. I felt a bit nervous as I lined up at the start to get ready to jump into the Boulder, CO Reservoir.
But any time you toe the line and put yourself in front of a challenge there is always the unknown. There is going to be the question or doubt in your mind? Can I really do this? What if something goes wrong? What if I can’t finish today? Fear of failure can motivate us or paralyze us. It’s real! I have said many times; “The hardest thing is not finishing. For most of us, the hardest thing is just starting something new."
The horn sounds for wave three. So, there I go, swimming at my usual slow dogged pace. The breathing starting to calm down, the rhythm returning, and the buoys ahead of me getting clearer and closer. Swimmers are passing me and sometimes brushing up against my body. The swim is always more of a mental challenge than a physical one. You lose track of time and distance. Am I halfway? Am I hitting my goal time? Where is the finish? It is so tough to quiet and control your mind when all you hear is your breath and the sound of water splashing.
Finally, in 40 minutes flat, I hit the sand, stand up and start the slog to the transition or T1 as we say in the tri-game. I struggle to get the heavy, sticky, wetsuit off my body.
Now I am like a fish back in the water. My bike is my happy safe place. The great thing about being slow in the water is that I get to pass many weaker riders out on course. I get up to my pace quickly. It's only 25 miles on the bike, so I can go out hard and hammer. I know the Boulder course well and even though the first miles have some headwinds and false flats, I push myself. I know that fast descents and tailwinds await me as soon as the course turns east away from the foothills.
The ride zips buy in just under 70 minutes. No need to get water or food at aid stations. I just fly right into the bike-run transition, T2. I rack my bike, slip on my running belt and sneakers, and off I go. I spend just under 2 minutes in T1 and T2 transitions. I have done this before!
Olympic races are so much fun. Only a 10k run (yes for endurance nuts like me, I can be flip and say “only”). I am not a fast runner but averaging a smooth 10:10 mile is brisk enough and not too taxing in the warming late morning Colorado sun. I run by each aid station grabbing water to drink and pour over my head without stopping. The miles pass easily but not effortlessly like on the bike.
With a mile to go another old guy passes me. I can tell he is in my age group because we all have our age written on our calve and we wear it with pride. He shouts to me you will catch me at the finish. But I know I will not, his pace is just too strong. I would like to blame it on the fact he is two years younger, but I can’t. He is just a better runner.
Mercifully, there is a slight downhill before the finishing chute up ahead. I pick up my pace so I can do what I do best, finish strong and with a smile of success from cheek to cheek. I am very pleased to break the 3-hour mark. It was a good race for me. Every race that you can start, and finish, is a good one.
Do I wish that I could make the podium (meaning top 3 finishers in my age group)? Sure. I am a competitive person. But it’s not why I race. I race because I love endurance sports. It gives me both my zen and adrenaline fix.
My passion is doing the longer distance half and full ironman races because there are no shortcuts. You must define specific measurable goals and milestones. If you don’t prepare a plan and put in the work you will not have a good race day. Finally, you need to find balance. Balance is not only the right training mix for 3 sports; swim, bike, run. You must also balance exercise and rest. The most critical balance is to pay attention to your physical and mental needs as well the needs of your family and career. That is what the triathlon lifestyle is all about. That is why I think of myself as the IronCEO.
This is Alex Cooper. You can find and follow The MindsetCEO on LinkedIn or YouTube. Visit our website and book a call to see how I can help you on your journey from Founder to CEO.