1. You Get What You Earn:
The first and most apparent truth about racing is that you can’t cheat the clock.
The ever present, always ticking, never stopping, no timeouts existing clock.
You can talk big to your friends. Pretend you did workouts you didn’t. Even boast about a new PR coming up on social media. On race day, none of that matters. The clock will measure you and if you didn’t put in the work, it will find you wanting.
The clock doesn’t care about you. It’s the arbitrator of all race days and measures everyone with exacting scrutiny.
Put in the work, the clock will reflect what you did. Don’t do the work, it will treat you just the same.
What you get out is what you put in.
2. Sometimes sh*t happens you can’t control
You’ve prepared everything.
You know what time you’re waking up in the morning. How long it will take to warm up. Eat breakfast. Take a bathroom trip. Get in the car. Walk to the venue. Take a second bathroom trip. Take your gel. Stretch. Then get in line for the gun to go off.
But then, sh*t hits the fan.
Sometimes it’s something small. An increase in traffic coming into your race venue so you arrive late.
Sometimes it’s something big. You got a flat tire before the race starts or you forgot your shoes at home.
It can be absolutely maddening when you have done everything, prepared for months or years and life grabs you by the collar and slaps you in the face.
Here’s your wake-up call, you’re not always in control.
Control what you can, let the rest slide.
3. You are who you tell yourself you are
You’ve been telling yourself for years “I’m not good enough to run under 2 minutes for the 800m.” And you’re right.
Mind follows body when it comes to breaking barriers. And we each have stories we tell ourselves.
Are you the underdog? Always working to outbeat the competition?
Are you the champion and nobody is going to touch you?
Are you a worthless pile of garbage that truly doesn’t think you can do it?
The scripts that live inside of us tell us who we are and we desperately cling to these stories. As if the things we’ve made up about ourselves are actually real.
Since you’re making up the story about yourself anyway, at least make it a good one.
4. Your actions define you
While your inner story you tell yourself defines you to you inside your own mind: it only gives birth to the “real” you.
The one that acts in the world.
The you that has the ability to affect and change the world around that inner monologue.
Do you shut down and choke when its time to sprint it out to the line and see who’s got more guts?
Or do you thrive on adversity, pushing the pedal down as far as it will go just to see what it will take for your muscles to explode?
5. You will never live up to your potential if you don’t love the grind
Wasted talent is the hardest thing for me to watch.
People who are physically gifted at something: running, swimming, whatever. But just can’t take the day-in day-out grind of training.
It takes a mix of patience and the ability to be comfortable being uncomfortable to really live up to your potential.
If you can’t put in the time, you’ll never know who you could be.
6. Time is your most precious “commodity”:
There are only so many hours in the day. Hours we can never get back.
Begging, pleading, bribing, pretending you have its old record collection: nothing works with time to get it to come back.
This means you have to spend it wisely. Now is all that exists. Your now prepares you for your next now, i.e. tomorrow.
If you need to train, train. If you need to sleep, sleep.
Your spent time is gone forever so put it to good use.
So don’t treat it like a commodity. Something easily bought, sold and recouped. You can’t get more.
7. Nobody cares how many hours of training you put in
Now you’ve put your time to use.
You’ve trained, prepared and fought tooth and nail to put your body through the hell it had to sustain to get you here.
You’re lining up with your competitors, getting ready to go.
And you know what? They couldn’t care less how many hours you put in.
What you did in training may get you ready to race, but only you and your coach will care about that if you don’t live up to your own work ethic on race day.
Amidst all the depressing truths that racing has to offer, it certainly has at least one paradoxically brutal yet hopeful truth.
You are fortunate to be alive, doing what you are doing, where you’re doing it.
Whether you’re racing your first race or you just made it to your first national championship: smile.
Your coach is right.
You won’t remember all the times you had.
You won’t remember all the races you even set PRs.
What you will remember are the feelings you had and the people you shared them with.
9. Life is uncertain:
If you’ve been racing long enough then inevitably you will have a race day that challenges your perception of reality.
Sometimes this means being at a race where someone dies.
Unfortunately I can’t keep track of the number of races I’ve been at where this happens anymore.
Over my 16+ year career racing it has been a variety of people. A teenage girl at a high school cross country meet. An older gentleman doing his umpteenth triathlon. A lady who just wanted to complete a race.
Luckily once I recall one man being pulled from the swim course of a triathlon. He was having a heart attack and was actually saved, both from drowning and his heart condition.
In any case, whether you have a shaky day yourself or only witness tragedy strike your fellow athlete. You’ll know that life is not guaranteed.
10. On Race Day: None of this Matters
The most important truth of all is that on race day. None of these things matter.
The best race days of all come out of pure motion. Knowing you’re going to have a great day because this is who you are. This is what you do. There’s nowhere else you could possibly be besides right here, right now, doing exactly what you’re doing.
Your racing experience is unique. Leave me a comment below and let me know what things about life racing has taught you.