Can you feel like a winner and a loser at the same time?
I crossed the finish line with my hands up in the air in the position of victory, let the excited volunteers put the medal around my neck, and took my finisher picture with the Ironman background. I felt euphoric. I finished my first Ironman half – swim (1.2 miles ) bike (56 miles) run (13.1 miles), I could barely contain myself.
My support crew which consisted of my fiance, my youngest child, my sister, my niece, and nephew were there to greet me with high fives and hugs. My body was so exhausted I had to lean against them just to stay upright.
I was so happy and disoriented. I kept asking them “Did I really do it?”
This race was supposed to be part of my comeback story after I missed the bike cut off time at mile 80 in a full Ironman last July.
I was expecting a “hell yes!”
Instead I got some oddly elusive responses:
“I’m so proud of you”
“You stuck with it”
“You finished and that’s what matters”
“We’ll talk about your swim later”
What was there to talk about? I knew I struggled hard in the swim but what was there to talk about? I knew I had a total panic attack and could barely catch my breath all the way out to the first turn buoy. It wasn’t the 57 degree frigid water, it was actually the mental fight that was the hardest, But, I pushed through and freestyled the rest of the way. I knew I lost a lot of time on the swim, but I killed the bike, passing people the entire time and was strong and steady on the run. As David Goggins would say, “ I was taking souls.”
In fact, I came in 51 minutes before the cut off! My time was 7:39 hours and they give you 8:30 hours to finish. So what was there to talk about??
And that’s when he told me. I was actually one minute and 8 seconds over the swim cut off time. 68 seconds late crossing the mat. They had DNFed (did not finish status) me before I even got on my bike. But, I didn’t know any of this until I was wearing the medal and feeling like a winner.
Then in an instant I went from winner to loser. I was so deflated. All that joy instantly turned into confusion and sadness.
I was having a really hard time working through my dual emotions. Should I be crying for joy or for sadness? Am I happy or angry that they didn’t pull me right after the swim? Was it worth it or for nothing?
On one hand I had a strong finish time and a medal around my neck. Yet on the other hand, I had a non-finisher status and three quarters of my race didn’t even count, at least to the race officials.
To be clear, this is not a post to garner sympathy. I don’t actually want or need it. I knew the cut off times and I respect the rules of the race.
But because I can’t help myself, it got me thinking. What do you do when you win and lose at the same time?
I’ve been through an entire range of emotions since Sunday, so let me say this:
I think there’s a lot of winning and losing in work and life, not just in sports or races.
You figure out a solution to a problem, it works, but one boss isn’t pleased.
You take a smart risk and make some big gains but don’t hit your goal.
Or you get passed over for that big promotion at work yet your efforts get noticed by another team that gives you a chance to shine in a different way.
We always talk about things as if you either win OR lose, but after this weekend I’ve come to realize that’s wrong. You can have and be both.
You can win and lose at the same time.
You can feel like a winner and a loser all at once.
The question is what you do next with it.
Do you get wrapped up in the loss? Focus on just the win? Neither of those feel like the complete picture.
For me, I now understand that both exist and need to be faced. In truth it sucks, but I choose to fight on and find a way to maximize the win and minimize the loss.
But, first I’ll take a few days off and eat all the donuts ;)
PS – I had the best support crew ever. The big heads, homemade horn and surprise signs on the run were EPIC. Thanks team! And the La Quinta Ironman 70.3 volunteers were the best I’ve seen!