With the advent of social media and websites like facebook and twitter, when you hear from a coach mentioning their athletes’ successes, you’d think that nobody they coach ever has a bad race. Mary won their age group today…Joe qualified for Kona…Jane had the fastest run split of the day.
This really would be a beautiful thing if it was actually true, but as we all know, PRs don’t happen out of every athlete at every race. People do have bad days. Would it bad press to mention that an athlete had a bad day? Probably not, but you’re never going to see it happen for a variety of obvious reasons.
But as a coach (and athlete), you have to take the good and the bad. The beauty of it all is that we still analyze *why* our athletes have good races and bad races. We get to see where mistakes were made by looking at power files and GPS data and gathering information from the athlete about their pre/during/post race nutrition and mindset. We also get to point out where things went right during the training/racing and what, if anything, needs to be adjusted going into the next training phase or race plan outline.
What needs to be understood by the athlete however, is that even if there’s a bad race or training day, it doesn’t mean that “all the hard work and training I’ve been doing” is for naught. Things like environmental conditions, how the athlete deals with them, what point you are in your training, etc. can all have an impact of how well you do on race day. Conversely, if you have a great day at the races, it generally doesn’t mean that you can sit back, cruise through your next training block and assume that great things will continue to happen. Look at what went right on these days and use these nuggets for future success. So sit down with your coach and ask “Why did this happen?”
I’ve had the opportunity over the past month to have some very useful conversations with athletes who didn’t perform to their expectations on race day despite having great training, feeling strong and rested going into their events. We get to tear apart the days leading into the race, what they ate, how much rest they got, the weather conditions and what steps were taken to adjust to challenging situations, looking at the training and race data and trying to piece together why things didn’t go as planned. Being able to communicate with your athlete/coach is almost equally as important as putting in the work. We’re not all simple equations in which you can input data (ie: workouts/training) and get the same output from everyone. We all lead different lives that can affect how we react to training stimuli. As I like to say; “you just can’t put the hammer to the nail”…and expect great things…sometimes you hit your thumb instead and you have to take a step back.
The bottom line is that triathlon training and racing is very enigmatic. Things can be great one day and absolutely horrible the next. While we’d all like to bask in the glow of your success, there is almost always work that needs to be done…something to be improved upon…something that is good already that can be made even better!
This is what I love about this sport and being an athlete and a coach…there’s a constant “search for truth” with each individual. You can always find a diamond in the rough of a bad day or even a bad apple from the anatomy of a great race. It’s being able to identify these things and use them to your advantage on the path to your next event. So in the meantime, keep your head up, ask questions and have fun!