As many of you know by now, I’ve been immersed in Hawai’i for close to two weeks now. My reason for coming here was to pursue my USA Triathlon Level II Endurance Coaching Certification, but I was able to experience the IRONMAN World Championship as well. I was able to see this race through the lens of my Snow Sister Chris Palmquist, who was an athlete in the race, as well as through my own lens as a coach observing the athletes racing here. My experience here reinforced how important it is to focus on process, not outcomes.
One thing is clear (and always has been) about the IRONMAN World Championship. It takes A LOT to get here. A LOT. Meeting the qualification standard for this race is no easy feat, and requires a ton of work and a ton of sacrifice. Literally. The qualification standard is a fluid thing that is dependent on the race and who shows up to it. There is no “magical” qualification time. You must aim to beat all other athletes in your age group at an IRONMAN race if you want to get a slot. Athletes who get in via other methods of entry still have A LOT of work to do. Legacy athletes must race at least 12 IRONMAN races to get here. Executive athletes must win their division at an IRONMAN race. And then, after all of that, once they do get here, they get to race the hardest IRONMAN course on Earth. Literally.
Anyway, you get the idea. It’s hard to get here to be able to race this race. This week, I observed all of these athletes who have worked SO HARD to get here, and 70% of them were not having any fun at all. They were taking themselves so freaking seriously and were unable to enjoy the diverse wonders that this beautiful place has to offer. When confronted with the conditions of this course, many of them failed to meet the performance-based goals that they set for themselves. And then they were disappointed.
This makes me sad. All of this hard work to get here, and then totally wrapped up in a performance-based outcome for the hardest, and perhaps arguably, the most significant race many of these athletes will ever race.
Had these athletes focused on the process - the journey they took to get here and the experience of the race - I really believe many of them would have been happier overall. I saw this first-hand via the Legacy athletes I met. They were just SO thrilled to be here and to have the ability to experience this race. They found joy in the journey.
In my experience as an athlete and coach, I have observed that if you focus on process, you are much more likely to be happier with a race result because your goals and sense of self-worth and identity are not wrapped up in a time on a finish line clock or on what number you finish in your age group.
So there it is: focus on process, not outcomes. Find the joy in the journey. Smile every mile. Adopt an attitude - an attitude of mahalo - and carry it with you every step of the way. Aloha, my friends. :)
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.