Finding strength on the other side of burnout

Posted by Alexandre Douzet

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June 27, 2014

The pain is temporary: My second trip to Mont-Tremblant

This past weekend, I represented TheLadders at the IRONMAN 70.3 Executive Challenge in Mont-Tremblant, Quebec. It was my first time back on the IRONMAN circuit after IRONMAN Cozumel back in December. The race taught me a surprising lesson in the power of patience and self-care that we can all take with us, from the IRONMAN course to the job search or our careers.

Last season, I “hit the wall” or “bonked” as we say in triathlons, and experienced a burnout. I was constantly training for more than 10 hours a week between April and December 2013, racing three IRONMAN 70.3s, two Olympic-distance triathlons, two sprint-distance triathlons and one full IRONMAN.  I over-trained, and spent the winter recuperating from a case of Tendonitis that developed just before the race in Cozumel. At the beginning of this year, after all the races were done and I was focusing on being healthy and healing, I had no desire to swim, bike or run. 

This burnout turned out to be well timed, as the beginning of the year is also the “busy season” in recruiting. I threw myself into work with the same vigor as the triathlon season. I was able to focus on leading TheLadders through many breakthroughs in our products and mobile technologies. At the end of this busy time, I was once again exhausted and a little burned out.


When I decided to race again, it was spur-of-the-moment decision. I did not commit to IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant until the last minute with very little time to train. In fact, I only signed up for the June race after my birthday in the first week of May. I did this despite the fact that I had not received full clearance from my physical therapist and was not fully healed (I was still experiencing discomfort and Tendonitis pain in my left knee while running). I only started running seriously two weeks before the race as the pain and discomfort began to disappear.

Given the lack of training this year (compared with last year’s intensive training), I did not have much hope for this race. Finishing somewhat near my previous race time would be miraculous. The level of the competition within the executive challenge is high, and I did not think I would be a contender to qualify for the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in September, as I did last year. For someone as competitive as I am, it is unusual to enter a race of this caliber without any ambitious objectives. 

On Sunday, I finished the race in 5 hours, 39 minutes. Eight minutes slower than my time in 2013. During the bike portion, I lost about eight or nine minutes due to some technical issues with my shoes and pedals and received a four-minute drafting penalty. Taking this into account, my race time was actually pretty similar to 2013. I finished third in the Men’s 40-and-under category, and to my surprise, I qualified for the IRONMAN 70.3 Executive Challenge World Championship in September. This will be my second trip to the World Championship in as many years. I now have the summer to get fitter than before, and craft a strategy for the World Championship to deliver an even better performance than last year


The lesson I take away from my IRONMAN Mont-Tremblant experience is this: When you’re pushing yourself too hard, you might not be getting as far as you think. Often, we get so focused on our goal that we don’t pay attention to emerging issues that should be addressed, like my Tendonitis. If I had focused on healthy racing rather than over-training, how fast could my time have been last year?

On the flip side, when it seems things are moving slowly, the reality could be that it is not as bad as we think. We are just frustrated that despite the effort and hard work we are putting in, we are not yet seeing the fruit of our effort. Focus, patience and hard work are the answer.

Similarly, in our careers when we are throwing too much of ourselves into work, it may feel like we’re not getting far. But this can lead to burnout, which will inevitably set you back in your career. In a job search, it may feel like you’re applying to so many jobs, steadily going to networking events and speaking with recruiters to no avail. But when that right opportunity presents itself, you’ll see that the slow, steady work was not in vain, and ultimately prepared you for what was lying ahead.

I have experienced both sides of this spectrum both at work and on the IRONMAN circuit in the past 12 months. This experience made me wiser, and I won’t forget the lessons it’s taught me.

Douzet_Alex_2Alexandre Douzet is the CEO and Co-founder of TheLadders, the premier mobile and online job-matching service for career-driven professionals. In this role, Alex is responsible for the company strategy, global business operations, and product development. Follow Alex on Twitter at @ADouzet. 





Topics: #TheLaddersLife