7 September 10: It happens to all of us . . .

by hillarybiscay

A couple of days ago I was having a chat with a young friend who raced at Ironman Louisville last week, and I wanted to share a little bit about our chat because I have a handful of friends who, like him and me, had disappointing races that weekend. However, most of these friends are not professional triathletes and thus don’t have the luxury of jumping into another ironman in two weeks’ time. They have been training for months—maybe even a full year—“for this race,” be it Ironman Canada or Ironman Louisville. So, understandably, when their best-laid ironman plans go awry, it is difficult not to be very disappointed. Bummed. Depressed, even.

My friend was one of these people. He is a college student who had invested all of his free time and resources this year in his Ironman Louisville project. That is, this was the one race that he could afford to enter all year—last I checked not many college students have the money lying around to fund multiple $600 ironman entries. But he had done his first ironman in Madison last year and was hooked; this year he took his dedication to another level. His training partners had reported back to me about how well he was going in his workouts, and he had transformed his body to the extent that I didn’t recognize him when I first saw him in Louisville.

Sadly, his day in Louisville ended with a couple of IV bags at mile seventy of the bike course—not the way any of us had imagined. A few days later, I was trying to help my very sad friend figure out the “what next?” One of his comments to me was, “I dedicated my entire summer to this race and now I feel like I have just wasted so much time.”

I completely understood why he was feeling this way; it is the obvious, immediate emotional response to the situation. However, I thought it was very important that he understand that his interpretation of the situation was not the reality—and I wanted to share my perspective here in case any of my other friends might be feeling frustrated like my young friend was.

What my friend needed to know was this: work does not disappear. No, he didn’t get to cash in his chips in Louisville as he had planned, but he still owns them! If he keeps working, he just accumulates more, and earns himself a bigger payday the next time he toes the line. The way I explained it to him was this: if he had trained himself to the level of a 40-minute PR in Louisville (very likely, in his case), and he keeps working another year, well maybe instead of a 40-minute PR this year and another 30-minute PR next year, he  gets to cash in all of those chips for a 1:10 PR at his next ironman.

I added a personal example just in case he didn’t just take my word for it : I was once a starving graduate student, taking out student loans to pay for new bikes and trips to ironman races. Back in those days, I could only afford 1-2 ironmans per year as well—heck, I couldn’t actually afford any, but you get what I mean . . .

In the med tent after a looooooong day in Louisville last week–already smiling, though, because I am reading twitter updates and “watching” Meredith crush it at Ironman Canada!

In 2004, I had two ironmans on my schedule: Ironman New Zealand and Ironman Hawaii. This was presumptuous because I hadn’t yet qualified for Hawaii, but having done so in the two previous years, another age group spot seemed realistic. I had a friend write up a training program for me over the winter—the first time ever I had volunteered to subject myself to any kind of structure. I followed it to the letter, training every free second I had in between my studies (okay, skipping studies so I could train more), and saw some pretty big improvements. I was so intent on seeing this project through til the end that I carried on running and traveled to New Zealand for the ironman even though I was not right.

I had a funky feeling in my left leg  that had me barely able to run by the day before the race. Long story cut short, I did run the race until my hip broke. Then I crawled and dragged my leg behind me. Finally, with a heartbreaking 1.5 miles to go, I was forcibly removed me from the race course by the head race doc. I returned home to the States –with much assistance—and had surgery to screw my femur back together.  This was mid-March.

I spent two months not walking and another two not running. My goal in my recovery was to do another ironman by year’s end—but how? Hawaii-qualifying was out of the question and age groupers couldn’t just jump into ironman races. I would have to turn pro to gain entry to Ironman Florida in November, if I was ready (I had already met the rather-lenient qualifying standards for a pro card but had been waiting til I had got fast enough to be competitive as a pro.).

Just over seven months after breaking my hip and having it surgically fixated, I took the plunge. I was able to finish right in the middle of the pro field in Florida and set a 40-minute ironman PR. What I explained to my friend was that I surely did not squeeze a 40-minute PR’s worth of work into those couple of months that I had to train properly before this event. I had likely done most of it over the winter in preparation for Ironman New Zealand. I just didn’t get to cash in my chips that day in Taupo.

So I just wanted to remind all of my friends who didn’t have their day at this summer’s race to KEEP AT IT. By now, hopefully you have had a bit of down time, so go ahead and get back in the saddle. It will make you feel better, and there are more chips to be earned!

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

PHX September 7, 2010 at 8:47 pm

This is very good advice indeed! Thanks so much.


KT September 8, 2010 at 4:00 am

You have a fantastic attitude! You are totally inspirational!


Sally September 8, 2010 at 5:04 am

Great post and perfect timing! My spring/summer season was a no-go due to injury. I am just starting to come back and it’s been tough to sit out and watch my friends race. Soon it will be my turn, and I cant wait to cash in my chips! 🙂


IB September 8, 2010 at 6:10 am

It is great that you are able to type on your crackberry with your left hand — that is no easy task. You are a real crackberry pro! Also, except for the IV and the blankets from U-Haul … it kinda looks like a spa in there. Ha!


Bob September 8, 2010 at 6:16 am

Now, these “chips” to which you are referring … are these potato or tortilla chips? Bob likes chips.


Krista September 8, 2010 at 7:11 am

What a GREAT post! I had a very disappointing 2nd IM in CDA 08′ – I took a year off IM distance, then came back SO ready this year! I PR’ed my IM by 1:19 in Canada and can’t wait to do CDA again next year 🙂


Katy September 8, 2010 at 8:23 pm

THANKS HILLARY! Made me cry….this was my story in CDA this year….went “all in” with my training and life….and then fell short. I saw you out there and I knew you were having a bad race. Enjoyed reading your and Bree Wee’s race reports as I felt like I had such similar frustrations, but then I got to see you guys get right back out there and go for it again….that’s ALL I wanted to do! Thanks for the encouragement! I haven’t signed up for a 2011 race yet….maybe I should try to cash in some 2010 chips…. 🙂 Thanks again for always being an inspiration even while you were suffering on the IM CDA course! 🙂


Suzan September 9, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Hey Hillary, So your race in Ky, didn”t go as expected and I am very sorry about that so my best wishes to you in Wis., but how about your stat and the people you met and those who cheered you on. How was all of that?


jeff vasina September 10, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Thanks Hillary. I really appreciate this article as well. I too got to experience a premature IV bag in Louisville after really building on prior year’s training sessions. I’m still proud of my race day effort, but this will help me get back out and train, and hopefully back to another IM next year.


Chris C September 10, 2010 at 12:46 pm

Thanks for the post, Hillary. A point I would add is that your college friend (as well as other posters here) put themselves on the line for something they love, and that no matter the result or future PR, they’re better off for it. They’ve let it all hang out, and that’s the way to live.


william September 12, 2010 at 10:41 am

Hillary,, I was with your friend and rode back to town with him.. I too had to bail at that same point.. could you send me his email. he talked about you the whole time and I told him you are an inspiration.. Good luck today at Wisconsin….


Joan Kuykendall September 12, 2010 at 6:39 pm

DEar Hillary: Thanks so much for that post. That was me! I’m a 48 year old mom with 3 kids who loves triathlons. I’m a turtle, and I trained very hard for Louisville with my tri club since January. I got faster and if all had gone well, then I was hoping to finish between 11:30 and midnight. I had issues on the bike, and by the time I got to the run, I walked. I had nothing left. I just said I’m going to stay until they kick me off which they did at the 14 mile mark. I was around 10:10? and missed the 9:45. My journey was great, my friends were great and the race taught me much about myself. I’m going to try IMFL next year because I do want the chute and the finish. I’m going to mentally carry with me “my chips” for the next year. I so appreciated that post because the last two weeks have been difficult but good life lessons. Thanks for what you said. YOur perspective made a difference. Joan


Dash September 26, 2010 at 5:40 am

This is great advice, I am a runner who trained all summer for a race that did not go as planned. I’m hoping for a better race in the future, but have had doubts as to my fitness. Thanks for the reminder that it won’t just disappear. I’m sorry for your friend, he will crush it soon! Congrats to you on your achievements!


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