Dealing with Disappointment When Missing a Race

By Dr. Steve Jonas | May 24, 2018, 2:52 p.m. (ET)

looking in distance

Talking Tri-/Duathlon for Ordinary Mortals®: A Series, (No. 52, 2018/05)

Since last year I had been looking forward to doing the 2018 USA Triathlon Sprint Duathlon Age-Group National Championships (non-drafting), held in Greenville, South Carolina. It was the qualifier for the 2019 International Triathlon Union Age-Group Sprint World Championships in Pontevedra, Spain. I was especially looking forward to going there. Among other things, the city has many historical sights, including a 12th century bridge built near the site of a bridge built by the Romans during the time of their Empire, 3rd century B.C.E. — 5th century C.E. (Given the size of my age group, Men’s 80-84, crossing the finish line would have qualified me to go to Pontevedra.)

The race was held on April 8. Although that is very early in the season for me, and given the winter weather in my home region of Metropolitan New York, I would have little, if any, time outdoors on the bike. Given that the course is of moderate difficulty, I figured that I could manage it. And so, I started my regular 12-week training program on time, doing my “fast” walking outdoors and my spinning biking on the exercise bike that I am lucky enough to have in my basement.

My training was going well. Then, as it happened, starting in mid-March I began to feel a bit sluggish. I have had similar episodes like that from time-to-time during the winter, which turned out to be from nothing more than a mild viral infection. Since I have always been able to just push through them, I chalked that one up to a virus and kept up with my training. Mentally, I was feeling good and feeling good about the race. For this one, to make sure that I could deal with any hills on the course, rather than renting a bike locally (which I have been doing for the past couple of years), I was going to take my brand-new Trek Domane 400, a birthday present for my 80th the previous year, tricked out with some very low gearing. And I bought a new, very easy-to-pack bike box, a soft-sided Scicon Aerocomfort Road 3.0 TSA, to make it easy to take with me.

But then, the night before my planned air departure on the Thursday before the race, I had a massive gastro-intestinal “event” (which turned out not to be viral). It became very clear very quickly that I was not going to be able to go to the race. (And man, was I happy that the “event” occurred the night before my planned departure, not the night after I would have gotten there. For then I could have thought of nothing other than “how am I going to get home, feeling the way I do.”) I was “out” for that weekend, had to go on antibiotics, and had an overall recovery period that lasted for about three weeks.

And so, how to deal with the disappointment of not being able to go to race to which I had been looking forward for close to a year? First of all, it was not a race for which I previously had had to have qualified. That would have made it very tough to handle. But, even if that had been the case, getting down doesn’t help anything. A short-term feeling of disappointment, sure. But compared to the things that can go wrong in life, missing a race, plus because of that missing one next year too, doesn’t rank very high. Further, for me there were no long-term health consequences, so I could count myself lucky in that regard. Next, there is always another race, from local to Nationals to the Worlds.

The most important thing to be able to do in cases like this is keep everything in perspective. For me, and for you who are reading this column, we are amateurs. Our lives and livelihoods don’t depend on how many races we get to and how we do in them. Keeping everything in context is what will help you get through a similar situation. For me, for this particular race, it happens that I was able to apply for an Athlete Hardship Waiver (due to illness), to be placed on the Team for Pontevedra. I am waiting to hear from the Athlete Hardship Review Committee. If I make it, great! If I don’t, I’m sure that there will have been a good reason for denial, and I will take my own advice. Keep the outcome in context.

Finally, will I plan to go to Greenville again next year, regardless of where the 2020 Worlds are? You betcha!

This series of thoughts and recommendations about multisport racing by Dr. Steve Jonas is, over time, drawn in part from his book, “101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes (Monterey, CA: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), from which text is used with permission. The book can be purchased here and is available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

Steve’s most recent multisport book is “Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It (Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012), available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

His first book on multisport racing, “Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®,” 2nd Ed. (New York: WW Norton, 2006) also can be found at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Dr. Jonas has also been featured in World Class Magazine. Click here to read the article.