Let’s face it, the larger majority of Age Group athletes don’t turn up on race day with the expectation that they will win.
There certainly is and always will be a small selection of people vying for positions at the pointy end, but outside of that percentile, most are just out there to prove something to themselves – be it completion (not just participation) or beating previous times.
But that doesn’t mean that they don’t (or shouldn’t) have a winning attitude.
You are out there to race. Not simply participate in a multi-person event with free “food” and massage on the day, and for the bigger events you even get a towel (I love those towels, what else would I use for training?)
It is a race.
Now that doesn’t mean you need to be all slicked up in aerodynamics and über gear. Those aren’t the absolutes of racing.
For the most part, most athletes are out there to race one person.
And just because you aren’t racing anyone else, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be testing your own limits and seeing just how far you can go, regardless of distance, event-size, who is there or not there. You are an athlete and you treat a race with the respect that any other athlete would.
But here is the hardest thing about racing just yourself. It is easy to quit.
If at the end of the day, you have only yourself to answer to, then it can be all too easy to throw the towel in when the fight gets tough. And if it is you first big melee, trust me on this: you will be given plenty of opportunity to sit down, give in, stop and go home to comfort.
There will always be a little voice trying to chip away at your thoughts. Your mettle will be tested from the moment the gun goes, until that final satisfactory sprint finish across the line.
The voice is there, but you don’t have to listen. Why should you? You didn’t in training, why is racing any different? Sure the day is harder, more reverberant, more intimidating and more intense than training. But…
What else are you here for?
There are easier ways to get free meals and a massage.
When the only person you are competing against is yourself, you have to adopt the same wining attitude that those further up the course will adopt.
I AM NOT GIVING UP.
And yeah, those at the front may have more at stake than you – especially those attempting to create a career, but why should your attitude be any different? At the end of it all, no one cares but you. Friends, family, training mates will not recall that time you only did XX:XX hours….the world wakes up the day after a race and moves on.
Except…you are racing you. It matters to you. It is a reflection of your character and who you truly are. And what you did or didn’t do will stick with you just a little bit longer. The pain of giving up is far greater than the pain of having to stick around for another round of blows. But the rewards are far greater.
That winning attitude is not brashness, cockiness or narcissistic tendencies. It is the supreme knowledge within yourself that NO MATTER WHAT is thrown at you on the day, no matter how many PUNCHES you have to take, no matter how much it hurts (injuries aside) and no matter what the end result will be, YOU will get across that line.
That is the wining attitude.
But if you chose to give yourself that exit, that moment where you give in and say “Hey, it’s ok, I was just here for the event there is nothing to prove..” I say you are wrong.
There is something to prove. To yourself.
Every time you give in to that bastard voice, you are making the comfort zone bigger and bigger an your ability to learn more about yourself, smaller and smaller. Every time you make the excuse to stop when there isn’t a dignified one to make, you tell yourself that it is ok to give up because things got tough or aren’t going your way.
That is NOT a wining attitude.
Don’t get this confused however with pushing yourself until you literally have nothing left. I love that; it is the ultimate test. Where is that ceiling and what can I learn about getting there? If you ‘fail’ so what? I would rather a team full of athletes who push themselves enough to fail so that they can learn and adapt, over someone who chucks it away when it gets a bit prickly.
It does not matter if your plan is to just finish, or win the whole bloody thing. Your attitude matters. This sport was born on that “never give in attitude”, and has survived the perils of niche sports because it appeals to every single person out there who wants to prove that they aren’t that person who gives in, that they will push on, and they will get it done regardless.
There-in lies the glory of what you do: you beat the one person that matters, you didn’t give up on yourself.
This sport builds character and that character becomes raw and prevalent in the middle of those dark patches that we all go through on race day. Your attitude determines that character.
Best of Racing Luck to everyone this weekend. Make it your own.