- First and foremost, I wasn't race ready for the water. Chinook was my first open water swim of the season, and the first time I'd put my wetsuit on since IMC last year. My swim split was still okay, especially by my marginal standards, but not great.
- Secondly, I wasn't race ready for the bike. Its not that my bike fitness was lacking, on the contrary, over the past few months I've been quite strong on the bike, and I was at Chinook as well. But I hadn't been taking a whole lot of calories in training on the bike so between that and last year when I took to many calories too late in the bike, I ended up taking on too few calories on the bike leg at Chinook. I wasn't taking on as many calories as I needed, and of the calories I was taking in, it wasn't digesting. The first sign that something was amiss was when I had a bit of a headache late on the ride... Some foreshadowing here.
- In contrast to the first two, I was actually very well prepared for the run. I'd been having some knee issues the week before the race, but it was all cleared up before the race. When I got off the bike I was comfortably running between 4:30/km and 4:45/km. But after the first run lap, the sun came out and as it started to warm up, my nutritional issues on the bike started to haunt me and I began to shut off. I knew I was cooked when near the end of the first lap I was feeling chilly and light headed. My options at that point were to manage whatever energy I had left and walk-run the remainder, keep pushing knowing that I could bonk hard, or DNF. I chose the first of those options and managed to run a 2:01 half marathon, the slowest I've ever finished a run of that distance.
That basically sums up what it all comes down to in sport and what happened to me at Chinook. Success in sport is the result of hard work, dedication, and commitment. Losing, or not making the cut, or not hitting your time, isn't the result of not wanting it bad enough, its the simple result of not being prepared to execute as well as the guy or girl who bests you. Of course there are exceptions in racing, you can get a mechanical on the bike, aid stations can run out of water, you can get smoked in the swim. But on day when things just don't go your way even though all the external variables were right on, its just that you weren't fast enough.
When the Queen of Kona, Paula Newby Fraser hit the wall in Kona in 1995, winning wasn't a question of wanting. It was a question of preparation. But the images of her shutting down 400 yards from the finish and eventually getting back up to finish the race are part of what has inspired so many to pursue triathlon. Its getting to the finish through struggle and adversity that we can find greatness.
And that's the beauty of sport, it has ups, and it has downs. We measure our athletes by their wins, by their championships, and their records. What we often forget is how many times they've lost to get there. The athletes we look up to aren't great because of how many times they've won, they're great because of how many times they've lost, and came back to the next day to win. You can't win every race, so you have to be prepared to hurt a little and learn some lessons before you can reach your fullest.
With that, I'm going to leave you with a little ad for Powerade....