Achieving Greatness IS a Challenge... And Worth the Effort!


Posted by Coach Mark Turner

Achieving Greatness IS a Challenge... And Worth the Effort!

This past weekend I once again had the opportunity to serve on the officiating team at a USAT event: Oilman 70.3. This race was also the USAT South Midwest Long Course Regional Championship! I always love the opportunity to officiate triathlons and this past weekend's event was no exception.

One of the great things for me, as both a coach and an athlete, about officiating is the opportunity to enjoy the sport I love from another vantage point. This year's Oilman was held under very tough conditions, both mental and physical. Contending with the elements is a critical part of finishing a long course event and that is compounded when the weather is as unpredictable as it was going in to Oilman weekend. Early forecasts indicated a rainy and relatively (for Southeast Texas) cold event. "O.K. so it's going to rain and I will be cold. I can handle it."

Then the report indicated early clearing the day prior to the race and clear and relatively pleasant race day conditions. "Hurray! The water will be wetsuit legal and the rain will clear out. Awesome!"

Then comes race morning and it's definitely wetsuit legal. There is almost no visibility for sighting on swim. It's chilly but not too bad. Then comes the rain... which is at times heavy. "O.K. so back to plan 1: Deal with it!"

When these shifts in the expected race day weather occur, contending against the elements becomes a psychological as well as physical challenge. What makes a great triathlete is not necessarily their place in the finish but the desire (not just willingness) to take on the difficult challenges. Real greatness in any endeavor is most clearly defined by showing up, toeing the line, and bringing your best effort for that day.

When I served in the Marine Corps my small unit had a sign we hung in the window of our Quonset hut. It said, "Greatness only comes to those who dare the sweat, dare the strain, and dare the pain. We will accept nothing less!" That ethos defined our platoon. It made clear the standard of expected effort on the part of each of us and we embraced it. Notice that standard was not reflective of any particular outcome. The standard was one of EFFORT instead. We believed that when each of us gave our best effort the desired results would be the byproduct.

Are you thinking that way in your training and races? If not, and if you are also not satisfied with the results, maybe it is time you reevaluated what is driving your training and racing. The work IS the reward. Everything else is basically window dressing and needs to be so, otherwise the satisfaction you derive will be tied most closely to elements outside of your control - like the weather.

Business performance consultant, Dan Waldschmidt, is responsible for many of my favorite motivational quotes. None fit what I observed at Oilman more than the following: "IF YOU'RE NOT STRUGGLING TO DO WHAT YOU'RE DOING, YOU'RE PROBABLY NOT ACHIEVING ANYTHING OF VALUE."

The athletes who showed up at Oilman and ground out the day in the face of tough conditions and left everything they had on the course were all winners and showed their individual greatness no matter where they placed in the results. How any individual athlete will measure their greatness is highly individualized if it is a healthy measure. In other words, the athlete MUST first measure themselves against their own performance and not the performance of others! When you begin doing this the door to moving ahead in triathlon and life swings wide open. Will there be challenges? Yes. Will there be moments that those (to borrow the words of Teddy Roosevelt) who are not in the arena might measure as failure? Yes. But if what you are setting out to accomplish does not have at least some component of the possibility of failure it is very doubtful that the achievement will have any real enduring personal value!

The path to real personal greatness is ... well... personal! Achieving greatness IS a challenge... and worth the effort! So regardless of the challenges, regardless of what might at first might seem to be limitations or obstacles: go for great!


~ Coach Mark Turner

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