BY PHIL ELLISON

Long Distance Race Performance: reflection & social media bias

What if your Ironman race didn’t go to plan, whether due to injury, illness, mechanical (or other)? What if you struggled to even get to the start line? What if you finished, but were slower than most other people you know?

Ironman UK provided me with the fantastic opportunity….

…(apart from the weather) to experience a long-distance race from the coaching perspective rather than as a competitor. Like a ‘pig in sh!t’ from 5am through to 10pm; I personally thoroughly enjoyed the event from start to finish and obviously am now keen to tell everyone how proud I am of my athletes, their performances and possibly suggest it’s because of some fantastic coaching on my part. It’s now 2 days later, my voice has just about returned and my social media feeds are bombarded with photos, videos and race reports of successful performances and amazing experiences.

However….. as I’m sure we are all aware; social media posts are massively skewed in a positive direction. For instance, I posted unendingly about my Kona qualification in 2019 (clang!) but haven’t been quite so quick to post about the failed sessions, injuries and DNFs since! Without keeping some perspective, it can seem that everyone succeeds in achieving their goals with very little difficulty or set-back.

Now, what if your Ironman race didn’t go to plan, whether due to injury, illness, mechanical (or other)? What if you struggled to even get to the start line? What if you finished, but were slower than most other people you know?

Long distance racing is unique in that it cannot be fully replicated in training and therefore race day is met with considerable anxiety. Simply finishing the race is not a given and, considering the volume of training that is necessary, even getting to the start line fit and healthy and well prepared is a huge achievement in itself. When looking through the IMUK results list there is, as often is, a high DNF rate and unless the individual feels aggrieved then you’re unlikely to see social media posts detailing how they over-biked or didn’t fuel properly etc… If you did not achieve your ultimate goal then rest assured you are certainly not in the minority..

Please remember that you’re on your own personal journey…

And comparison to others is largely irrelevant. Such comparisons should not serve to detract from what you have achieved with your unique physiology, occupational and social stresses, injury history and such like. By setting a big hairy audacious goal and working towards it day after day you set yourself apart from the majority of the world’s population. It may not seem that way as you surround yourself with other triathletes and high achievers. What you do becomes routine/mundane, but its not… you’re atypical – the tip of the ice-berg. Awesome! Congratulate yourself on what you have achieved, on whatever level that is.

To Conclude

If success evaded you this time, reflect and analyse and develop a plan (with your Coach of course!). Failure is an opportunity for learning, it gives us a chance to develop so is not in fact a negative experience when we consider future development.

When we succeed its often simply a matter of congratulating ourselves, getting those all-important social media likes and looking for another race. Let failure stoke the fire of your desire to be a better version of you, be resilient and remember Anything is Possible!

Phil Ellison

Triathlon Coach.