Endurance sports are widely measured in empiric ways. You have personal records at a specific distance or type of event. But these numbers by themselves do not measure every type of success you can achieve. In fact, numbers can actually be deceiving.
For example, cyclists fortunate enough to tuck into a quick pack in a criterium can get pulled along to an amazing pace. For the same relative effort one might do in a solo ride where you achieve an average pace of 20-22 mph, a rider might find themselves humming along at 24-26 mph in the draft of 10-15 other cyclists.
And that’s fun, but which is a more honest measurement of success? The answer is: both are legitimate.
In order to quantify success, you need to factor in more issues than the raw numbers of pace or time. Running a 33:00 10k on a hot day can take just as much commitment and courage as a 31:30 10K on a fine autumn weekend.
The notion of success can get even more complex in a sport like triathlon. Factors such as water temperature and wind speed certainly determine the outcomes of an emphatically solo sport.
So in order to gauge your success, use these five factors before you call your last effort a success or failure. Rank each one from 1-5 after each racing effort and you’ll have the valuable comparative baseline to prepare you for each new race.
- How did you prepare for conditions? Did you think ahead and prepare in the event of adverse weather, wind or temperatures? If you did, that’s already a factor in how you should measure your effort. Simple acts like bringing a thermal cap for the swim, the bike or the run if water or temps outside are cold can keep you in the game. Rate yourself on a scale of 1 to 5 on how well you prepared your gear and equipment for the day of a race.
- How did you respond to conditions? The next factor of success is how well you calculated your effort “in the moment” and during the race. If the day turned out much colder or hotter than predicted, what adjustments in pace or strategy did you employ to get the best result?
- How did you adhere to your plan? Most athletes have prepared a plan for a race. That might involve anticipated pace in a swim, bike or run. It might even break down into splits or checkpoints. Going out too fast or too slow puts you in a position where you plan is more difficult to implement. Being disciplined and focused on your race day plan is a sign of commitment and confidence in your training and preparation.
- How did you respond to competition? While your strategic plan is the foundation of your race effort, it is also important to be ready to respond if pressed by competition. Recognizing opportunities to compete is important if you want to win your age group of any other competitive goal. Testing yourself is why we enter races, and competition pulls you along to better efforts. Taking those risks off the foundation of your competitive plan is often the toughest choice we make. There are times when it is better to stick by your pace plan than be dragged ahead by someone that might not be able to sustain their pace. However, those moments are what make competition so interesting.
- Did you compete to achieve or to avoid failure? This may be the harshest question of all. When measuring success, it is hard to admit that the fear of failure might be greater than the desire to achieve. The differences are subtle but building confidence through your training and taking risks that fail are part of growing as an athlete. See, if isn’t a failure if you try too hard and wind up with a seemingly poor effort or even a DNF. That means you’re measuring yourself by the willingness to try. The real measure of success is what you gain from that supposedly failed experience. What did you learn that can be applied to future efforts? Was it your plan that was flawed, or were elements of your preparation or response to the day somehow at fault? Even grand failures can add up to future success if you are honest with yourself about the source of your challenges.
If you use this Success Factors list and rank each one after your races, you might find yourself more informed and feeling positive about your efforts than you might if you simply look at your effort as a comparative number to your personal record.
Factor in aspects of competition such as transitions in triathlon and your overall sense of how you prepared and competed becomes much clearer. There is always room for improvement. But having a clearer sense of what contributed to your success is the key to understanding how that improvement should take place.
TRAIN HARD. COMPETE WELL.