In leiu of the lessons learned over numerous talks with my coach, and looking back at all my previous races and those I've watched, I've written these down and will carry them with me throughout my racing years:
1. Doing great means following your race strategy
2. Winning is independent of time and race strategy (You can win with a good/"fast" or bad/"slow" time, and by following or not following your race strategy. There are numerous outside factors one cannot control that shape the outcome of placement).
3. Time is irrelevant unless you want to PR...and even so, unless you're on the same track trying to nail a set distance, courses and weather (among many other things) affect time. Via correct pacing, your heart rate could be kept lower at key parts of the race to achieve an optimal finishing time. Shooting for a time goal is a risk to winning anyway as you're likely going all out to either finish in that range or not be able to cross the line at all.
4. Ideally you want to win with the easiest HR/effort (go as fast as you can, as easy as you can). If the goal is to win a race, as in an A race where the results matter a lot to you (perhaps to qualify for Kona, Nationals, a World Cup, the Olypmics, whatever) it's great to take advantage of fluffy egos and let them pull/pace you (you're taking in nutrition, drinking, just sitting back waiting for your planned attack...while they're at max effort ready to blow any second- greatness!)
5. At the end of the day, no matter what happens, if you're a true athlete (and a progressive one at that) you take it as is and learn as much as possible from it.
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