Last year at Ironman Copenhagen my bike was stolen.
I’d been training towards this specific Ironman for the better part of a year – I was in the best shape of my life, my training had been going really well, and I was peaking at just the right time. And I loved that bike; I had spent 4 years building it, thousands of miles riding it, knew its every nuance and idiosyncrasy, and it felt like it was as much a part of me as my own body.
But just 2 days before the race, my treasured bike was gone. I felt like my world had fallen apart. I remember saying to my wife, ‘That’s it then, I’m not racing’ and sat in a chair through much of the night in deep despair.
In the morning, my wife shook me awake and said, ‘OK, enough, now it’s time to go find you a bike’. And, the day before the race, far from home, I did indeed manage to find and borrow a bike. It was too small, and fitted for someone else, but it was a bike. I was exhausted from poor sleep and all the stress, but the adrenaline was pumping. I had a bike!
And even though the bike section of that Ironman was the most awful, painful, unenjoyable ride I’ve ever had on a bike, and I wasn’t able to get the time I’d been targeting, I ended up with an Ironman PB.
The point of my story is that as much as I cherished my stolen bike, and as painful as the ride was on that borrowed bike, I have no doubt that the experience has made me a much stronger and determined athlete. I never thought I’d say it, but a bike is just a bike. It’s who we are that makes us triathletes, not the equipment.
Because the unexpected happens all the time. As much as we prepare, there are many things we simply can’t predict and over which we have no control.
Someone steals your bike just before race day; airlines lose kit bags; the weather changes; tyres puncture; parts break; you stumble, fall, get pushed; drinks bottles get lost; that sneeze turns into a full-on cold; that hill is steeper than anticipated, the water colder, the road slicker. One of our TRTC athletes even had his bike post snap, not just in one race, but in two!
Always expect the unexpected in triathlon. And when the unexpected does occur, don’t panic, just get on with it, go with whatever flows. No matter what happens, maintaining focus and calm will help us to come out the other side.
How we handle challenging or stressful situations can be the difference between an achievement or a beating. How we respond to the unexpected is what makes or breaks us. Who would have thought a PB was even possible on a borrowed bike?
I think there might be a life lesson in that!
Go well guys 🏊🏻🚴🏃♂️💨
Featured photo by Josh Nuttall on Unsplash