OK, in full disclosure, I’m sure I’ve said the words “good luck” many times to fellow athletes and coaches. These two words are innocently said all the time, and with the best intentions. However, I’m going to try my best to stop saying this going forward. But why?
As a coach (and athlete) a ton of preparation goes into race day. Or perhaps a more eloquent and succinct way of putting this is to quote Mohammad Ali:
“The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses – behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.”
While there maybe a degree of luck involved with a race result, I can assure you, that degree is quite miniscule.
WHAT LOOKS LIKE LUCK… ISN’T!
“You were lucky that the finish line wasn’t any farther away or you would have blown up.”
“You’re lucky that you didn’t get tripped up at the water station”
“I crashed my bike when that guy hooked my handlebars”
“I got stuck on the outside of the turn”
“You’re lucky the rain held off for your race”
I could go on and on but you get the point. In each of the above scenarios, luck had nothing to do with the outcomes. As has been said many times, “You make your own luck.” This couldn’t be more true.
So what is ‘luck’ exactly? What is often perceived as luck, comes down to three things:
All Encompassing Preparation
In order to prepare properly, you have to prepare for things to go perfectly… as well as preparing for things if they go south. We’ll call this, “protecting the downside.” Whether it be training in the rain to learn how the body responds, or writing out a time-based schedule for race day so that nothing is left out and your fueling is on point, all of these things make a huge difference on race day.
“Winging it’ is not a strategy, or at least not a very good one. Everything from pacing, running the tangents, avoiding getting your feet wet at water stops – all of these things encompass strategy and must be integrated into your race day plan and if applicable, practiced during training.
Execute As Planned
A plan or strategy is only good if it’s executed. Putting your trust in your race day plan is of paramount importance. Of course, things will come up on race day that might force you to adjust but these adjustments must be considered ahead of time so that you’re not caught off guard and lose focus.
As a racing cyclist (many moons ago!), I would often practice ‘bumper bikes’ with my teammates. We would find a grassy field and wear sneakers versus our cleats and for lack of better word, we’d have a full on demolition derby with our bikes. The thought process being that if we could survive this degree of carnage, we could handle any type of situation that a bike race would throw at us. Not only did I likely get out of some sketchy situations, but it also increased my confidence so I was able to put myself into positions to have a better shot at winning, or at least doing fairly well.
I recently had a friend who said that I was ‘lucky’ because I get to work from home, don’t have a boss to answer to and created a passive income stream. Luck has nothing to do with it. Everything that my friend correlated with luck was the result of years of planning/strategizing, goal setting and hard work. Not a dime… not a single penny that UESCA generates is the result of luck.
There is a method and a lot of thought behind everything that UESCA does and this should be no different from your training program and race day plan! Is everything that UESCA does perfect or execute upon flawlessly? Heck no. But while things may not always go perfectly, the result – good or bad, is not driven by luck.
Will you ever have a textbook ‘perfect’ race? Probably not. Not because you didn’t do everything properly, but because ‘textbook perfect’ doesn’t really exist. Knowing that, you can have a perfect race, but ‘perfect’ must be judged by your own standards in regard to how well you prepared and executed your strategy.
A lot of athletes (and people in general) that say they had bad luck are simply dodging taking ownership and accountability. As I noted above, true bad luck does exist but for the most part, it is far and few between. I would encourage you to take a look at a ‘bad luck’ race situation that you’ve had and be honest with yourself. What there something that you could have done to prevent, or at least minimize the affect of the situation?
Here’s the thing, it’s much easier to blame bad luck on a less than desirable outcome than taking ownership and assessing the situation in totality. But if you do fully assess the situation, you’ll likely find that you could have done at least one thing to minimize or eliminate the situation from occurring in the first place. This is at the core of getting better. However, if you always blame bad luck and refuse to take ownership and figure out why your result was not what you wanted, you’ll never progress.
Plan. Strategize. Execute. Take Ownership.
By imagining and preparing for all possible scenarios that happen before and during a race, you’ll be surprised by just how great your ‘luck’ can be!
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