Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What to Do When Your Priority Race Gets Cancelled

by Gina Kehr

Most of you have probably heard by now that both Ironman and 70.3 Lake Tahoe were cancelled this year due to an arson fire that has destroyed over 89,000 acres as well as 32 structures and is currently only 35% contained at the time I am writing this. There are 7,400 firefighters attacking this man-made disaster. Devastating is the only word I can think of to describe what this fire has done in so many ways.

I was up in Tahoe this weekend like so many others to support my coached athletes as well as see many athletes who I have either raced with or just know from the triathlon community. The scene at the swim start once the announcement was made was heart wrenching. There was every emotion from pissed off, to understanding, to bewilderment to pure tears of disappointment. As a coach, it was hard to see or talk to each of my own athletes and I even found myself choked up several times. The hard work, the commitment, the money and the sacrifice that the athletes and their loved ones feel when getting ready for a peak event is indescribable.

So what do these athletes do now? WTC has sent out the offer to each of them, they can race in the next few weeks, months or wait until next year and to do Tahoe again. What should they do? I have had several athletes call me for advice and below is how I see it.

The number one thing these athlete should do is first decide why were they in Tahoe to race. What was their motivation? Was it just to compete in their first half ironman or first ironman? Did they pick Tahoe because it was convenient? Or did they pick Tahoe for Tahoe? In it’s first year, Lake Tahoe gave athletes its all: beauty, clear blue water and sky, elevation and cold with snow on top of it all. These course elements are like no other and appeal to a certain personality. So, I ask again, why did these athlete pick the race?

Once that question can be answered I think the decision about what to do next is simple.

If Tahoe was just a race and the motivating factor was to have it be a first 70.3 or Ironman, or it was that Tahoe was a convenient location and worked best in the schedule, then doing another race very soon or picking a different venue for next year is likely the right answer. There probably isn’t much significant emotional attachment to the race; it was the distance or convenience and the ability to check it off the list. Many times, these unexpected circumstances can lead to a better outcome in the end.

If Tahoe was a race for Tahoe itself and was all about what it represents, then wait to do Lake Tahoe next year. The mental build up of a specific event is different than just getting ready for “an event.” Doing another race will not fill that criteria. It will fill the void of hours of training but the result can leave a feeling of emptiness (even if a PR). The emotional component that goes into a specific race is one that we often overlook. The mental energy is our major powerhouse to get us through when our body does not want to go anymore. Once a commitment is made to do Tahoe again, your head will clear, your heart will feel better and you’ll be able to focus for any other races you were already planning to do this season.

While I’ve written the above about IM and 70.3 Lake Tahoe, my advice holds true for any priority race that gets cancelled with short notice. When deciding what to do next, consider your reasons for racing: do you want to race the distance or do you want to experience the venue? Answering that question honestly will help you approach your goals with a clear purpose.

Gina Kehr was a professional athlete for 15 years, competing in events ranging from Olympic Trials to Ironman World Championships, where she achieved five Top 10 finishes in her career. She coaches athletes of all levels and all distances. Her experience comes from her journey as a novice age group triathlete who quickly worked her way to becoming an established professional triathlete. Gina also works with the Stanford Tri team, is a coach with Stanford Masters and leads a squad of short and long course athletes. You can read more about Gina at AffinityMultisport.com.
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