The very name of endurance sport holds within it what is required to do well at it.
1. Suffer (something painful or difficult) patiently.
2. Remain in existence; last.
In triathlon with the ‘sprint’ distance taking the majority of athletes over 1hr. Hardly a sprint compared to other sports but relative to the other distance available within the sport it is.
This article will not debate about distances. I want to throw out there the idea about people learning how to play the ‘long game’ in sport. Triathlon offers and attracts a wide mass of people. Be it the lifestyle, a challenge or change of scenery from a previous sport. To highlight what I have seen to be a key if not the key component to doing well is learning to play the long game. Those that succeed in our sport or any sport for that matter do this, be it naturally or learning along the way.
The athlete that plays the long game focuses on what they want and works towards it. The difference between this athlete and the short game athlete shows when things may not go to script. Those that play the short game tend to operate with a ridged formula in mind on how they think things should progress, when they should improve and exactly how long it will take. Short gamers thrive on when things are going to plan. They look for the ‘hacks’ on how to improve quickly and always want the short cut. Hack by the way is how many people describe how they don’t do a task well like golf for example. So to actually say you wish to improve and look to ‘hacks’ for advice seems counter intuitive. The long gamer certainly plans ahead however the big difference is in when the ‘plan’ is changed.
Short gamers have their success. Usually quickly and when it is realised that constant and diligent effort is required to go further they will often drop away. If most could realise that by simply continuing to show up, enjoy what they are doing and be consistent in their practice, which alone would give continuous improvement.
In a way playing the long game can be easier. If you are prepared to do what others will not today, then you will be able to do what others are not able tomorrow. When obstacles came up, you change; you adapt and do what needs to be done. Of course there may very well be doubts of if you will ever get to your desired goal. If what you have been working towards means enough to you the doubt will be overcome by the want of figuring out what can be done to get there.
It comes down to perspective. I am yet to meet someone that has done well in their chosen sport (career or life for that matter) that has not been truly tested in some way. It is the times that cut us right back to what is simple, like surviving, that make the good times easier and the tough times not so bad second time around. The long gamers have learned the value in this and to endure, learned how to handle themselves in testing situations in training, racing or otherwise that have a wider perspective. All of a sudden what was once difficult becomes more than manageable.
Being good at the long game takes practice and learning. Don’t go expecting that just because you do everything you thought necessary that you are guaranteed or should expect a result. We know hindsight helps us see the big picture later on and you may very well look back later and see short comings in what you thought at the time. Expect instead to go back to the drawing board time and time again to learn what you need to do to get where you want to be. Sport and the enjoyment of it does not have to be solely based on elite performance and results. It is what you are going to be proud with as in the end you are the one that must live with yourself. This may be balancing and family life or work that you enjoy doing. Don’t get caught in the trap of comparing your result to someone who chooses a different path to you. If you want to race at an elite level then own that and get on doing what you need to in order to get there. What ever path, aim to find answers rather than excuses.
Learn to enjoy the process of improving rather than just the end result. The end result shows the outcome of the process. If you look after the process, the journey, the here and now or whatever you want to call it then the outcome will take care of itself. Widen your perspective, learn to endure and adapt to what needs to be done rather than how you think it should be.
“It’s not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to change” Charles Darwin