The Deciders selected me to represent the US at the World Orienteering Championships (WOC) back in March and awarding me a start position in the Sprint and the Long distance events. This would be my fifth time representing the US at the top level of my sport, and I still felt the same rush of excitement and expectation that I had the first time! Despite the two races being drastically different lengths, the they both required similar skill sets -top notch fitness, and the ability to make a quick decision about the correct route to take.
I’ve worked on my sprinting technique a lot over the last year. As my skills increased, so did my confidence. From this came higher expectations for myself on where I would finish. The top 15 from each of the three heats move on through to the final. Training sessions were going well, I was ticking off my process goals, my confidence was at an all time high, and my mental state was calm and clear. The only hard decision was which shoes -do I choose the F-lites, or X-Talons?
Race day had finally arrived. I ran a good, clean race with only one little bobble where I ducked into the wrong alleyway. Other than that I had a really excellent second half of my run. Unfortunately, I’d started out too cautiously, and the slow start and the one mistake meant I missed qualifying for the final by 34 seconds. It was a really tough pill to swallow; I was quite happy with the way I ran the race, but simultaneously disappointed with the outcome and not making the cut for the finals.
Andy Jones-Wilkins of irunfar.com, wrote about building your “disappointment muscle” to be strong. This means you have to rise above your failures, to ultimately find success. As a coach and athlete, I understand disappointment and adversity must be fought through to become a better athlete in the long run. After missing the sprint final, my disappointment muscle had been properly exercised, and I was ready to take on the long distance race with a fresh outlook!
Then I got sick. It was just a cold, but one of those nasty chest coughs that seriously reduces your lung capacity. By the morning of race day I managed to walk up a flight of stairs without having to sit down and rest halfway, so the decision was made to start the race. Before even donning my kit that the day I knew it would be a test of mental toughness and survival, rather than one of aggressive running. My lunges were not cooperating and I still couldn’t breathe. The course was long, hilly, and rugged; exactly what I had been envisioning, but my body didn’t enjoy it much. It’s not in my blood to quit a race once I’ve made the decision to start it. The World Championships arena is a very difficult place in which to have a bad race.
Struggling my way across the open moors, there was plenty of time to contemplate how much stronger my disappointment muscle had gotten this week. When you want something so badly, and then you fail; in an excruciatingly slow and public manner, it’s almost like your disappointment muscle is cramping. Full-on whole-body disappointment muscle spasms! Sports are a wonderful arena to release your competitive instincts, aggression, and passion. But they don’t always go according to plan, and it’s those failures that make you a better athlete in the long run. Failing to reach my goals was painful, but it was some good hard training on learning from my failures. These experiences are going to be great motivation factors as I chase my next goal!