I’ve been thinking a lot about racing lately (no surprise in the heart of triathlon season here in the Northeast). But what I’ve been thinking about mostly is what helps someone with longevity in the sport and what helps athletes achieve racing success. I’ve always attributed consistency in training as a key factor to succeed in triathlon: the day in and day out commitment to training that is necessary to build strength, speed and mental toughness. Now I am wondering ‘what else’.
Then I thought about the idea of persistence. Some people keep training, keep racing, keep trying even though failure is always an option. And because I liked the word, I looked it up to get a more exact definition and loved what I read:
Persistence: firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition.
I actually think it’s the word obstinate that I love best. It’s stubbornly refusing to give up just because it’s hard. This has so much meaning in every day training and in racing. Training is not easy – not only do you have to show commitment and consistency during training, you have to be persistent. It would be one thing if training had no set backs or was matched perfectly to your ability/mood/outlook on any give day. But it’s not. Some days are amazing and others just suck. Some days I can do 2-a-day workouts with ease and other days I can’t seem to force myself to complete a swim set without constantly talking myself through it.
Apply that to racing and it separates out those who continue their course of action in spite of difficulty from those who don’t. In endurance racing there’s always at least one moment when the body wants to surrender. For me, there are usually many moments like that. Persistence is a choice – a really hard choice sometimes. Sometimes your body says ‘no’ and sometimes your body can follow your stubborn mind and continue despite the desire to stop.
Many of my coached athletes exude persistence: Jill finishing her Ironman; Nora continuing to PR at the marathon level; Kim returning to triathlon after becoming a mother. They all refuse to give up when things get hard either in every day training or in race day.
I know I will find other qualities but as I am building my equation, I have