After my race in Clearwater and subsequent race report, I’ve received a lot of comments congratulating me on my great time even if I was a bit disappointed with my race. I really appreciate the support and positive spin on the outcome. I’m a (generally) optimistic person so I too like to look at the bright side of situations. However, I also like to be realistic in performance evaluations and sometimes the result of the evaluation is independent of the absolute time.
More often than not, finishing time can be used as a metric of success in a triathlon. Whether it is time (running), length (long jump), or height (pole vault), many individual sports provide quantitative results at the end of competitions and I believe this is one of the reasons triathlons and running races are so popular. Because each individual is given a quantified measure of her performance independent of all other competitors, she can set a goal and achieve it. She would consider this a successful performance regardless of what anyone else does.
This is a direct dichotomy, however, to team sports in which success is binary, a team either wins or loses. “Keeping it close” might help make teammates feel better about themselves but ultimately, in the words of Herm Edwards, “We play to WIN the GAME!” A loss is a loss and a win is a win.
Similarly, my goal in Clearwater was not based on a time independent of other competitors but on a place and was therefore inherently relative to other competitors. In that respect, then, the race was not successful, as I didn’t meet my goal. Absolute time wasn’t really an issue. Rather relative time, the minute lost in the water, was the main culprit for the lack of success. In this race it was imperative for me to be out of the water and on to the bike with the group. Admittedly the margin for error was (relatively) small but that is part of the risk associated with racing competitively. As my graduate school adviser, Rob Kelly, used to say, “If it was easy, everyone would do it.” I knew going into the race that I would have to have a good swim to give myself a chance for a good finish, so when I didn’t, I was disappointed and am still not pleased with the outcome of the race.
With all that having been said, this does not mean I never strive to achieve a time goal. For example, one day I plan on running a marathon and when I do so I’ll likely want to do a “big city” marathon and have a time goal in mind. If I meet that time, I’ll be pleased, regardless of how many people beat me. Additionally, it is great when someone determines a time goal for a triathlon, does a long training block, and meets or exceeds it.
While I’m focusing on racing triathlons professionally, however, the metric upon which success is determined is a bit different and by “falling back” on a fast time I would just be cheating myself.