It's funny that in an Ironman, you can go into the race with your current level of fitness and anticipate a finishing time. But the only thing that is certain is how many miles you have to cover until you get your finisher medal, hat and t-shirt. Never can you chase a time for 140.6 miles is a long way to go.
For Karel, his two goals were to qualify for Kona and to break 10 hours. Of course, big goals for your first Ironman. Karel and myself are motivated by our goals and we love to put in the work for them in a balanced way so that are action plan has results. I would never tell Karel or any of my athletes to not dream big, even if the goal is not possible at this point in time. The key is making sure that your goal/dream motivates you but does not distract you from enjoying the journey. Karel never put too much pressure on himself that he would need to compare himself to the crazy fast guys in his 35-39 age group (with only 6 Kona slots) who can swim, bike and run their way to a sub 9:30 Ironman or that he would hate his training because he can't get faster quick enough. What Karel experienced with the Ironman journey is that his body only let him do so much throughout training and he was only allowed to accept his current level of fitness within 24 hours of the race and what he could do to execute a strong, well-paced race. He did just that and without taking too many risks, he is motivated to improve his swim and to learn to be a faster triathlete.
Never would I want anyone to not dream big but at the end of the day, your race day performance is not titled good or bad just because of a finishing time. After sitting around in the finisher area for a good 15 minutes until my body felt semi-OK to take a picture ...
I told Karel, just like I did at IMWI when I crossed the line in 4th place, 90 seconds behind 3rd place and only 3 Kona slots again, that I was so happy with my performance that I wouldn't care about not getting a Kona slot. I did exactly what I trained myself to do and that was to race a strong race. You never know how the cards will be dealt on race day and when things are going well, I recognize them and don't expect things to go even better. Sure, I got ran down by many girls but I was racing a strong race for me and my body and that was worth celebrating.
Toughness comes from overcoming personal limits, obstacles and doubts. You have to argue against the internal voices in your head that scream at you to slow down. Your body gives you feedback that you are not able to maintain this effort to the finish line and that your energy levels are falling. No one but yourself can experience these feelings and no one but you can overcome them.....unless you choose to give in to the pain.
No matter the distance of your upcoming race, how you choose to execute the race or your finishing time, you are a tough, strong athlete because you have prevented barriers which would have stopped you from reaching the finish line and have shut-up the thoughts that tell you it is not possible.