Your finishing time is only partially within your control. Here is what to focus on while training for and racing triathlons.
Recently one of the athletes we coach sent me a link to this documentary. Though the short film is well done, I believe the athlete's perspective on Ironman racing misses the mark. Focusing on the finishing time (or finishing place) at the cost of all else is a primary cause of burnout and disappointment. He even acknowledges this himself during the film.
So what do you do if you have a racing time goal? You focus on the elements you can control: your training, recovery, nutrition, mental game, and equipment. Is it bad to have a time goal? No. But remember the finishing time is only part of the experience, it doesn't tell the whole story.
Here is a secret to getting better at almost anything: make the practice and the training playful and fun. The hard work is the journey: it is what shapes your body, and your character, and it doesn't have to be unpleasant. In every session, remember you get to do this! Many people would be so lucky.
During the race focus on executing your plan, keep your head in the game, and remember that you only finish a triathlon by taking one arm stroke, one pedal stroke, and one step at a time. These are in your control.
You can't control your competitors. You can't control the weather. You can't control if the course is long (or short). So why put your happiness in someone else's hands?