Bad races happen to everyone, but there’s always something you can learn, reflects age grouper Amy Kilpin
I recently had one of those races that didn’t really go to plan. It wasn’t a complete and utter nightmare, but it tested every single fibre of my being, my mental resolve and almost made me question my passion for the sport.
Luckily, it followed what I later called “the perfect race” in Poland, where I came second in my age group and 13th female overall at Gdynia 70.3.
So in a numbers game kind of way, it was almost inevitable I was due an upset. Unfortunately, this bad race happened to be my A race: the Ironman 70.3 World Championships.
My goal for the 2015 season was to qualify and compete in this race. It was my primary objective for the year and everything had been building up to it. I was in good shape and it was time to take it down.
This was the single largest event I had ever competed in. I couldn’t have dreamed that I’d end up competing in one of the biggest world championship triathlon events in the world, and here I was, in one of the most breathtaking settings for a race amid 5,000 athletes. You could feel the electric adrenaline coursing through the atmosphere. The world’s nations coming together, the best of the best triathletes competing neck and neck.
I woke up the day before the race with bad stomach cramps, something I never ever suffer from. All day I didn’t feel right and I didn’t feel much better on race morning. The race, for some obscure reason, was a late start and my start time was 12:05. The temperature was over 30 degrees and there wasn’t even a smidgen of a breeze. It was stifling.
My swim went quite well, and despite the absurd heat and a 900m climb up a mountain with a 12 percent gradient finish (people were walking with their bikes), my bike split was okay but nothing to write home about. The heat was certainly taking its toll.
Then the run. Oh the dreaded run. I’m sure this used to be my favourite discipline at one point but it immediately felt like I was being tortured. I was in a lot of pain, and despite my wonderful parents being there to support me, I felt like crying and giving up.
After a torturous and harrowing run, during which I was devastatingly far away from my target pacing and unable to take on board any nutrition due to crippling stomach cramps, I finally finished. I burst into tears. It wasn’t about the race, my disappointing time, my hurt ego or anything like that. I cried because of how much pain I had endured, and how much I had suffered.
I had pushed myself to my absolute mental and physical limit. I had positioned in 55th place in the world in my age group, not an impressive feat by any stretch of the imagination, but when I tried my first triathlon only three years ago this was something that would never even have entered my consciousness, let alone become a reality.
I know that every race isn’t going to go to plan. There will be races where I don’t perform and I know it also happens to the most talented elite athletes in the world. I can accept that I wasn’t on top form due to a stomach upset and other varying factors, but more importantly, I won’t make excuses because it has happened and it will happen again.
It is part of the package; it comes with racing, especially when you’re racing a lot. Now, though, I’m tired. I’m tired of training and I’m tired of racing, but that’s okay. We are all human and it’s not sustainable to be 100 percent motivated all of the time. As the season comes to a close, we need to feel like we are at the end of the tether, because that means we have given it our all.
I am feeling ready for my end-of-season break in order to recuperate, restore and recharge. It has been an incredible year, and I have no regrets.
Everything I do is shaping who I become as an athlete, as a person. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Read Amy’s blog at amykilpin.co.uk
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