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Rhys Davey: Experience...
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Wednesday 25th June 2014

Tags  Experience  |  Rhys Davey  |  Wimbleball

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At the recent Ironman 70.3 UK, Wimbleball (check out our awesome highlights HERE), Rhys Davey had "without doubt, one of my better results for a number of reasons," when he finished in fourth position. We spoke to Rhys about his race immediately afterwards (HERE).

In this piece Rhys reflects back on the importance of "experience", what he learnt this time around, how he applied lessons from previous races and how "there comes a time where it might be that the only way to improve is to put yourself on a start line, make mistakes, understand and learn from their consequences, then repeat the process, again and again."


'Experience' - a word that gets spoken about in almost all sporting situations I can think of. Whether it's the commentators on BBC talking about how wonderful it is that the current England World Cup squad is full of fresh faces that haven't had the 'negative experiences' of failure at a major tournament (they have now!); or how positive it is that the England cricket team has kept hold of some of their 'more experienced players' even after such a tough winter in Australia; how the marathon runner's 'lack of experience' led to him/her failing to do as well as he/she should have done.

Many will have heard the commentators and maybe been a bit sceptical - kicking a ball is kicking a ball - facing a ball at 90 mph is the same at Lord's or in the nets - and - run as fast as you can in a race. Well, I have started to truly realise how important previous experience is, especially in the sport of triathlon with so many different elements to each race.

It seems that whatever race I do, I come away thinking, "Why on earth did I do that?" about something. I think, "One more gel and everything would have been ok", or "I wouldn't have had to stop at the 'portaloo' if I hadn't had that last gel" (that happened at Challenge Henley last year but, in all honesty, I was grateful for the excuse to sit down!). But on the whole, provided lessons are learnt from these experiences - be they positive or negative - then I believe you'll come away a better athlete than you were when you stood on the start earlier that day.

Wimbleball 70.3 was certainly another one of those days with plenty of experiences to take on this long, competitive road. The race started off pretty well - I came out the water only a few seconds down on the leader and I knew that with a smooth transition I would be exactly where I wanted to be - in the lead group going up the first bike climb. That would, hopefully, give me the best chance of staying near the front throughout a hugely demanding bike course. Yet, transition didn't go according to plan. Racing at Sprint and Olympic distance, transition is not quite the same, so despite my previous experience in these races, it was not of the same use here. Unable to get my wetsuit off easily, I watched the front group head out on their bikes. As I got going, even after a big effort to catch up, I was only able to get back on terms with one of the athletes whilst the others rode off. Lesson learnt from this 'experience' - know exactly how to get your wetsuit off in these different race circumstances - practise transition, practise.

Once out on the bike course I was feeling good and looking to stick to my race plan. Then, as I came down a sharp descent that went immediately into a sharp climb, I changed down a gear and dropped my chain. My chain had come off and was stuck between my frame and front chain ring. I had to completely stop before I was able to get the chain free and get cycling again and it lost me a couple of valuable minutes. Realising that I had made the mistake of changing gear too quickly, already I was putting that into the 'experience' mind bank for another day.

It was now very important to work out how best to tackle the remaining part of the bike, however. It would have been very easy to try to attack every hill as hard as possible to make up the time I had lost but my past 'experience' made me believe that the best option was to stick to my racing plan as if nothing had happened. And so I did, and was able to get back into a rhythm which led to what I feel was a solid bike and, as a result, I came into transition in sixth place, not too far behind the leaders.

The run was a roller coaster of emotions; I went from feeling great to wanting to walk; to feeling ok; to thinking my quads would give way at any point. Any long distance event is a challenge, both physically and mentally, even before you factor in the fact that Wimbleball is one of the toughest courses around, and so this was no different. However, I was able to keep running solidly, dealing with these changing emotions better than I think I have in the past (using my 'experience'?), and I slowly worked my way through to fourth place at the finish line.

This was, without doubt, one of my better results for a number of reasons and will, hopefully, allow me to move forward still further. 'Experience' gives you a growing understanding - getting to grips with the fact the importance of the mind is, with only little argument, perhaps the best lesson to learn and it is this that 'experience' ends up giving you. The ability to cope with all that is thrown at you at any point.

I used my experience in some areas but learnt yet more ways to cope for the future. And that must be the same if you're playing a cricket or rugby test match, competing in any race, or playing a tennis match. Everything possible may have been done in training and preparing for the event, but there comes a time where it might be that the only way to improve is to put yourself on a start line, make mistakes, understand and learn from their consequences, then repeat the process, again and again.

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