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  • Writer's pictureConor Hillick

Failure, Success or Growth?

Another IronMan 70.3 in the books for me, as I completed Marbella IronMan this past weekend. Was it a success? Was it failure? Or was it, as Giannis Atentokuompo says, growth?

There’s a saying that numbers don’t lie. However, sometimes they do not tell the full story. I finished this year’s Marbella race in 5hrs 12mins, one minute quicker than last year’s race. My bike split was 2-3minutes slower than that of last year. Am I really 3mins slower over 90km? Am I really only 1minute quicker over half Ironman distance? Well, in this case, numbers don’t tell the full story.

You see, conditions make a huge difference, especially in cycling. With a temperatures reaching a real feel of 28degrees and a strong headwind for most of the cycle, it was always going to be a fierce challenge. Putting out better power numbers than the previous year is what tells the better picture of my ability. Following this with a 1:38 half marathon, the fastest I’ve ran in a half IronMan by 3minutes, is where the real picture starts to be painted. Topping it off with an improvement in ranking (16th in my Age Group vs 30th previously) and the full picture begins to show.

This isn’t me boasting or reasoning my performance. We tend to look at success and failure as black and white. We tend to look at a single number, whether it’s our salary or our finishing time to define our success. A lot more goes into the definition of success than a numerical figure. Growth, moving forward, how you deal with the challenge at hand, how you handle a situation.

This race is technically 8mins slower than my fastest IronMan 70.3 but it’s the best race I’ve ever had. In the swim, the waves were choppy, making it hard to sight and people were everywhere. I had to calm myself at times due to the people around me, focus on my breathing, my technique and reminding myself of some of the more important things in my life. Reminding myself that this really is just a bit of fun.

From there I thought it would be the fun part of the day. Put down some power on the bike and enjoy a sunny cycle for a change. Early on my hamstrings and hips were sore. It felt more difficult than usual to put out power. Then it got hot, really hot. I start to doubt myself. What’s wrong with me. Is it me, is it the wind or what’s happening here. Thinking back to the cycling in a room at home, staring at a laptop over winter, I get myself to the run stage, having managed my nutrition (105g carbs per hour) and hydration well.

I start the run with no idea how my legs are going to react. Am I going to have to walk. Do I have the pace. We’re running on compact sand for most of the race, by the beach, exposed to the baking heat and sun. My mind is on to a new challenge now, one kilometre at a time, one aid station at a time where I’ll get to throw a cup of water over my head to cool myself down. I remind myself of the wet and windy days over winter. I try to change my perspective and think how lucky I am to be able to run in this good weather. It’s not detrimental but in fact a pleasure.

As we get better at things, we expect them to become easier. Unfortunately that’s not necessarily the case because we now just have more ability to push ourselves even further than before. As I’ve gotten fitter, I can obviously handle life’s day to day tasks more easily. When you get better at your job, you might get a promotion, which can come with more responsibility and new challenges. Sometimes more difficult challenges that will only push you further. The same happens when you get fitter for racing. You now get the chance to push to go faster than ever before.

It’s not necessarily about numerical success. It’s about day to day growth. This compounds to monthly growth and year over year growth. If you can continue on that path, overcoming life’s challenges along the way, there’s a good chance you’ll get that numerical success whatever it may be.

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