Winning and Losing

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Let’s first define “winning” in terms of what is actually possible for someone given their circumstances. For example, I’m not going to win an Ironman outright. But in my Ironman days, winning took the form of various different goals over the years and eventually, winning actually meant winning my age group. If we’re talking about someone who is coming off the couch, winning could mean just finishing. If it’s someone in the mid-pack, winning could be a top ten finish in their age group. I think you get the idea.

In the context of winning and losing, there are people who afraid of not winning. In another group, there are people who are afraid to lose. So much so that their fear of losing is greater than their desire to win and unless they accidentally fall into a win, they end up somewhere in the middle.

I’d like to pretend that I’ve always been afraid of not winning. I started off that way but then I had a serious setback in a race and it shook my confidence. If you race enough, you’re going to have at least one of those races and you never want to go back to that place. It rattles you to your core and if you let it, it will hold you back from seeing your full potential.

There are two guaranteed ways to not lose:

Don’t race.

All kidding aside, the real way not to lose is to pick yourself up and try again. You only really lose if you stop playing the game.

If you’re racing races appropriate for your ability, somewhere along the way, you’ll start racking up wins. Maybe it’s the local mom & pop 5k, or some local sprint, or whatever – it doesn’t really matter other than the fact that it will build confidence. That confidence moves along with you into the next race, the one after that, and the one after that one. And maybe you don’t win one of those races but you’re still the guy or gal that won the local 5k and you’re still feeling all puffy. That bridges you to the next win and the one after that. The races get harder as you move up and that mom & pop 5k falls off list of achievements but something bigger and better will take its place.

Keep trying, keep improving, and keep putting yourself out there. It’s a dangerous game but the bigger the win, the sweeter it feels. I have a lot of wins -- most have fallen off at this point except for three:

I ran 2:59:43 in a marathon. It wasn’t a 2:58 day that went south, it was a 3:00 day when I held on and stole 17 seconds. If I had only one word to describe this race – that word would be PAIN.

I won my age group at Ironman Coeur d’Alene. Too many parts to this race to describe its complete awesomeness. The one thing that stands out most is that I was racing from the front for the majority of the day. It wasn’t my race to win, it was my race to lose. It’s a crazy feeling racing from the front. Oddly, I just realized that it wasn’t much different than the marathon in that it would have been pretty obvious that I missed an opportunity had a few seconds slipped away.

I ran 17:38 at the hundred mile distance. When I started this race, I didn’t have a clear cut definition of win as far as time. It was more about executing a perfect race and pushing beyond that safety zone. Hundreds are no joke -- a mistake is not like you messed up your marathon and you have to walk 13 miles. No, it’s messing up and you have to walk 50 miles. It’s tough to step out of your comfort zone because the consequences are daunting.

Excluding these three, everything else lands somewhere between “Ok” and “We don’t talk about that race.”

I keep lining up though and nobody remembers the shitty marathon, that shitty Ironman, or that shitty hundred. If I wasn’t striving to win, these three races above could have easily been the day I ran a 3:01 marathon, that day I placed 2nd in my age group at Ironman, or that hundred, like the other hundreds, when I didn’t quite nail it.

Don’t be afraid of losing, be afraid of not winning. Don’t make excuses and don’t sabotage your “A” races. Train as hard as you can, as best as you can, be a master of preparation, aim to execute your race flawlessly, and let the chips fall. Like I said, there will be days where you come up short but every so often you will win. Winning is pretty awesome!

The picture above is Darol (on the right) placing 2nd in his age group this past weekend. I’m calling it a win but that’s another story all on its own though….