Have you ever read the quote “experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted”? In my opinion there is no phrase better than that when it comes to dealing with adversity. Adversity is essential in life and in triathlon at times has had an increase in prevalence. Every triathlete I know has had a race that did not go as rehearsed and as they had expected. On the same front every triathlete I know has learned from and has grown as a triathlete because of it. They in turn have also become stronger human beings because of it. They have also not had training blocks go as expected, not have race weeks go as expected, not have individual workouts go as expected and so on. You see what I am getting at here. When we don’t get what we want this is not a time to have a pity party. This is the time to reflect and focus on that experience and learn from it for the future. Those who have had failures in past experiences know how to avoid them in the future. Experience is therefore the most valuable tool a triathlete has. The best way I have found to document experiences is to write them down.
Here is where the training diary or log comes in to play, and I’m not going to talk about documenting watts, pace, heart rate, or duration. Although, those metrics should be tracked at times the diary should also be used to document mood, fatigue level, sleep quality and nutrition. It doesn’t have to be a paragraph every day. A quick post workout note on what worked and what didn’t after a workout is great. Remember to write things down like how you felt that day, what you ate, how you slept, how work went, etc.. These are our daily experiences that will help us build as athletes as we look back and see for example why I felt so tired last week. Maybe it wasn’t the training load alone, but the training load with two social gatherings that went well into the evening that had me feeling so fatigued. Maybe I had a great training week, and when I review my week I noticed I foam rolled after every session that week and my lunches were packed with vegetables and berries. In the same light, race recaps are essential for building experience and these require a little more time for documenting. I recommend starting with race week and writing down everything leading up to the race. What days did I travel, again what did I eat, how did I sleep, did I stay on top of my hydration, was I able to nap, when did I get the bike tuned up, etc.. Then write about the race, and remember to write down the not so obvious aspects of it as well. Sure it is extremely important to keep track of nutrition, pacing, gear, etc…, but also document aspects that you might not think are as important, but I assure you they are. What was your mindset going into the race? Did you feel prepared? Was your attitude positive? Were your expectations warranted? Were you process driven, or outcome driven? Were you focused on race aspects that you could control like your nutrition and pacing or were you feeling sorry for yourself because the swim turned out to be a non-wetsuit swim or you had to ride 56 miles in the rain?
You see every experience good or bad is one we can learn from, but we have to remember them first and then reflect on them. Documenting is the only way we can keep track of them, because surely we won’t remember them all. And although we will want to forget the experiences in which we face adversity or failure, these are the ones that add the most character to our experience and the ones in which we can learn the from the most.