Ironman New Zealand has meant a lot to me since the first year I did it in 2015. It was my first race as a professional triathlete and made me fall in love with New Zealand. I have gone into the race last year and this year with amazing fitness and high expectations for myself.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with expectations: a strong evidence-based belief that something will happen. I am a firm believer that in order for something to happen, the belief that it CAN happen must come first. The danger with having expectations for ourselves is when they turn into “MUSTS.” I can only control myself and my race by executing my plan and performing to whatever my potential is on race day. Because race outcomes are a result of complex interactions between countless factors beyond a single athlete’s control, I believe it is dangerous to set outcome expectations for a race. There are so many expectations and stresses already placed on us from other sources that there is no need to compound them ourselves.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t have outcome goals. My outcome goals for IM New Zealand and the 2017 season have been critical in providing motivation through some tough days and hard workouts. Use those outcome goals as motivation to get your fitness to the level it needs to be at to accomplish them. Then when all the “hay is in the barn,” just execute your race to the best of your ability. My last three races have definitely shown that so much can go wrong but since my focus was on the process, it made missing my desired outcome a little easier to handle.
So instead of expecting a certain result…
I expect to push myself to a great starting position in the swim and hold that.
I expect to hold my goal heart rate for the bike and peak it for the last ¼ of the bike.
I expect to fuel properly on the bike.
I expect to hold my goal heart rate on the run peaking for the last 10k of the race.
Peace begins when you let go of your outcome expectations and base success on yourself instead of comparison to others.