Wednesday, August 31, 2011


"The only thing better than getting what you want is not getting what you want."

In racing terms, this concept is at the heart of desire and motivation because satisfaction comes, ironically, from not getting what you want. Satisfaction comes from trying harder. Satisfaction comes from struggle. Satisfaction does not come from reward or achievement, these are the end goals that satisfaction chases. Just like Road Runner and Wiley Coyote, the elusive, endless chase is what drives each and every one of us, in life, in sport and in love. When you hit your mark, the natural tendency is to become complacent. When you set the mark high enough that you don't frequently hit that s, you become an aggressive animal.

Where am I going with this? Well, let's first recap how this weekend went for some of my friends and friends of friends. The results are listed in general order of awesomeness.

1. Rod won CC100 and set a new course record.
2. Chris McDonald win Ironman Louisville for the 2nd time.
3. Maik won rev 3, got paid, bought a swifter, and is happily swifting.
4. Meredith Kessler got 3rd at Ironman Canada in 95 degree heat in her attempt for a repeat victory.
5. Hillary held on for 7th at Ironman Louisville despite a run that wasn't quite up to her exacting standards.
6. I tore my right calf 1 mile into my 4 mile first leg at Hood to Coast, but managed to hold predicted pace on legs 1 and 2 (based on gamin) and beat pace on leg 3 with a modified stride and by re-acquainting myself with my inner beast.
7. Our Hood to Coast team squeaked out a division win and 11th place with some strong performances and an average team age that might have been pretty close to 40.
8. Alyssa had a very strong swim and bike followed by somewhat of a lackluster run.
9. Krissy recorded her 2nd ever DNF in what sounds like the worst conditions imaginable at UTMB.

Now, on to my hypothesis. I have had major sucky periods twice in the past 12 months, so I am quite familiar with them. The first big sucky period came after my PR's at the AFC half and Chicago marathon last year. Once I hit those marks, marks that exceeded any long term goals I had ever imagined, I fell into a massive slump. It wasn't like I was dead or done racing, and certainly not training, but I was aimlessly drifting between work, yoga, eating, and sleeping in. I had no drive, no hunger, and zero intensity. It's OK to have downtime, but 3-4 months got the better of me. Western States and Krissy's coaching finally got me out of that funk and the work I did in the spring of this year was pretty special, particularly a few notable training days that exceeded my expectations of what I can expect of myself.

The second sucky period is my post-western-states funk that I'm still in the middle of, hopefully nearing the end. To be honest, I'm not entirely satisfied with western states, especially the severe butt kicking I took from many of my peers. There's nothing too awesome about a 22 hour 100. But my goal was sub 24 and my realistic expectation of a good result was right around 22, so in terms of where I was and what I felt ready to do, 22 was a success. Not a home run, but at least a solid base hit. And after a success, well, I hit a slump because there was no longer any angst to drive me. I do have some races to keep me busy through the end of the year, but nothing important, and therefore I am allowing myself to slack off. In this manner, achievement is the death of my own satisfaction.

Now, let's take a look at Rod. He hit his 3rd 2nd place finish at SD100 two weeks before western states and he wasn't fully satisfied with that. He wanted to win something and missing his mark fired him up even more. He was already supremely fit, but he took it to an entirely new level, busting out 38 miles with me only 2 weeks after his 100, and rolling all of that motivation and drive into his course record this weekend. He became an animal, a machine, an unstoppable force. I'm not remotely surprised to read his blog and hear that he is seemingly a little unsatisfied with how he feels after hitting the mark. It's not a letdown to get what you want, but it is a bit sad to turn the page on an intense period of motivation and feel the end of that addictive wave of euphoria that comes from being in the best shape of your life.

Next, let's look at Maik and Chris. Both were winners against competitive fields, both rose to the challenges of the day, and both achieved the ultimate goal of any pro triathlete, finish ahead of everyone else. From my limited reading, it sounds like both of these two are happy with the results, but I suspect they are already planning their next race, already focused on the future, because what's done is done, and satisfaction lies only in what isn't done.

Now, on to the ladies, who had varying degrees of success this weekend. Those who I've talked to (everyone but Krissy) seem fired up for their next races. In fact, Hillary seems extremely amped and Alyssa isn't far behind. Meredith sounds a bit more even keel, but just as motivated. I have to believe Krissy is going to be dangerous the next time she toes the line.

Which pool would I rather be swimming in? Rod/Maik/Chris or Meredith/Hillary/Allyssa/Krissy? Clearly my best racing has come from the zones that the girls are in right now, and my worst funks have followed the small successes I've had (which obviously don't compare to what Rod/Maik/Chris have achieved in any way other than how I feel about them). I especially liked reading about how Chris felt about his racing prior to Louisville as it seemed to build into a fire that he was able to harness this weekend.

So, I'm looking forward to seeing what the girls are able to produce over the next 6 months. And I sure hope the boys can leverage their success by setting new goals and riding the next wave, which is something I've seemed to struggle with lately. I'm a little curious about myself too, although with the bum knee and now a totally wrecked calf, I think I'm stuck playing a bit of a waiting game for a while. It was very refreshing to get to feel that edge again over the weekend, an edge I hadn't felt for a while, but I paid a bit of a price for not putting in proper preparation.

In a strange, twisted, sadistic sort of way, I'm really happy that I injured myself. I'm happy that I'm starting to get hungry again. I'm happy to have cleared my short term memory of accomplishments. I'm excited to fail, to not get what I want, and to grow that burning desire for more.


  1. I agree -sometimes not getting what you want or having it taken away from you makes your hungrier for it. Likewise, having a race "mistake" or something like that (eg: my race this weekend) helps you realize what you need to fix and such. Even though this weekend wasn't an excellent race for me, I learned a lot from it. It did shake my confidence a little bit for my marathn goal, but I'm sure that happens to everyone.