Written on November 13, 2016

What have I learned?

Hard to say. 

After the disaster of IM Langkawi, it would be great to be able to claim that it was at least a learning experience. But was it, really? 

I went in with the goal of riding my heart out and hitting a specific time target. Swimming and running as usual before and after, and all in all doing rather well in my age group. The goal was reasonable, I should have been able to deliver that ride. Except that I wasn’t, that particular day. It was clear after a few miles that the power is not coming on. I forced it for another 60. Then bailed out, feeling ashamed, disappointed. It still burns, my first DNF.

Would it feel better if I finished? No, because my goal wasn’t to finish. That original goal was fulfilled before. The goal now was to chase time on the bike. I would feel less ashamed, but only by a little. And there is nothing wrong feeling a bit ashamed when I fail to reach a goal, right?

Was the goal wrong? No. At the end, this is a game, my way of getting away from the daily grind. The goal can be whatever I make it. And the goal was reasonable, as established above. So, don’t blame the goal. 

Was it ok to drop out? Yes, under the circumstances. 

Was I insufficiently prepared? Unlikely, all the races this season improved on the others before. Power and speed was climbing steadily, if marginally, on the bike and run. We will blush over the swim, just this once. Plus legs felt good in practice a day or two before the race itself. 

So why was there no power? Three possible explanations. One, the legs only felt good in practice, but they were really cooked after a heavy season, and this manifested under stress, in the race. Two, the myriad of unfavorables, or as it is called "death by a thousand cuts": the drama with the dogs at home, the stiff neck and back, the mild but persistent pain in the left groin, the cold with the cough and all the DayQuil and NyQuil used to exorcise it, the cut on one leg and the missing skin on the other heel, the broken visor and melting bottle cage despite my usual anal gear prep, compounded by the heat, the hills, the time difference, the strange food, the sweet Lucozade, the often rough road surface, the traffic on the course... Three, choking at the proximity of attaining said goal. In short, physical degradation, perfect storm or stress getting to me. The classic causes of not doing well in an endurance race. Any way to decipher which one? No. Learnings? Zip.

But honestly, one by one: Overtraining – unlikely, I believe Yoda got that right for me again. Perfect storm – nothing on this list was significant enough to sink me like this. Stress – are you kidding? Read my resume. (Well, you won't be able to, as I am not going to bore you with it. But let's just say I can handle stress.) It is this unknowable mixture of identifiable and unidentifiable factors resulting in an unexpected outcome. Life, in other words…

What would I do differently, if given the opportunity to do it all over again? I would fix the fence so that the huskies can’t run away. 

Takeaway for the next race? I should really learn to swim, finally. And fix that fence.