All athletes that enter a challenging event sign up for risk. At that event, on that day, you lay it on the line. You cannot cherry-pick the perfect conditions to get a "PR Strava" time, you toe the line with everyone else signing up for the risk of being “on” that day and that time.
You risk a public display of your fitness, or lack thereof. You risk getting whipped by someone that you can regularly beat in the local Wednesday World Championship Group ride or run - some won’t even risk showing up to this group event unless they are race-fit.
You risk having friends and family that have supported you through all that training watch from afar, and you fear you will disappoint them. You won’t disappoint the good ones, the loyal ones, no matter how you place. Placement is irrelevant. Time is irrelevant to those that matter most.
There are days you feel invincible and your racing prowess proves it. Congratulations. You'll see it again.
Then there are days that you face the fire-breathing dragon of events, bravely, equipped with your sword and shield. The dragon sucker-punches you in the gut and then kicks you in the groin. You feel as though the course, the race, is mocking you.
You may try to slay that dragon again – maybe not.
It doesn’t matter.
Whether it is the same course or a new course, you will sign up for the risk of challenge again.
You’re going after challenges that won’t drop in your lap. You are self confident enough to risk failure in the eyes of others, perhaps in your own eyes, again.
Living to the fullest and pushing your own limits is playing to win. “Winning” isn’t the podium, it’s performing to the limit of your current capability when the world is watching.
Playing not to lose, to avoid risk, doesn’t guarantee a no-lose situation and certainly falls short of your personal potential.
This strategy is not for you.
At the end of the day, rest satisfied that you accomplished, or set out to accomplish, what others are unwilling to begin.