The scene was set and the conditions were perfect. I woke up at 5am and went through my morning routine to prepare for the day ahead. My clothing for the morning was all laid out the night before and I filled my bag with water bottles and nutrition. My girls wandered around the rented accommodation sleepily as they got themselves ready. At the transition area I completed the set up with my bike and made my way to the swim start. There was the usual mix of nerves made easier by the friendly banter of the other athletes milling around. And then, before I knew it the Tauranga Half Ironman was underway!
It consists of a 1.9Km swim, 90Km bike ride followed by a 21Km run. It was the first time I had raced in over 7 years and I was delighted with how my training was going. This was a warm up event for the full Ironman in March and, due to its proximity, I was using it as a training exercise so, although I rested a little before the race, I didn’t reduce my training coming into the event. The swim went really well and I jumped onto the bike feeling pretty good; fatigue caught up to me after 60Km and part of me wished I had tapered going into the race. I jumped off the bike and started the run, the first couple of kilometres were tough but I soon found my rhythm and even had to hold myself back from going too fast too early – a trap many triathletes fall into. I was feeling supremely confident 7Km in when disaster struck.
I rolled onto the forefront of my foot and heard a load crack. I didn’t realise it at the time but I’d broken my foot in two places. I tried to continue running hoping to ‘shake it off’ but ultimately hobbled 3Km back to the transition area. My race was over. And, as I quickly came to realise, so was my chance of competing in Ironman. Eleven months of hard training and sacrifice dashed by a few seconds of lapsed concentration.
But here’s the thing, although I initially felt disappointed I was surprised that I didn’t wallow in it for more than a few moments. For years I’ve coached people to help them overcome adversity and unresourceful emotions and when I broke my foot, all that training, the mental training, kicked in. You see, every emotion we have is simply a message and the trick is to be able take yourself out of that emotion and look at it objectively. This is the message behind disappointment:
Disappointment can occur when we have an expectation that is not met. Perhaps you fell below your own standards. However, there’s a lesson in every experience. What’s the lesson you can take away from this event? Or if it was someone else who disappointed you, perhaps your expectation of them was not set properly. What did you assume, and why? (First, Lead Yourself, Cillín Hearns)
So I had an expectation that wasn’t met but it was me who set that expectation, and I quickly found myself detaching from it. This is an important part of the process; Buddhist monks tell us that a large source of pain is our attachment to ‘things’. You see, by letting go we free ourselves from unnecessary pain. Besides, I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and that life is happening FOR me and not TO me!
So I got curious and I immediately found myself thinking about the future and getting excited about it too! After all the hubbub and talking to the on-site doctor, handing in my timing chip (it was the first time I ever posted a DNF – Did Not Finish) and hobbling back to our accommodation, my mind started to drift to all the things I’m phenomenally grateful for. The list is far long to include here but even things like, I’m grateful to have a foot in which to break! I’m grateful to have a healthy body that could even do such an event and that will heal itself – isn’t that a miracle in itself! I’m grateful for the opportunities yet to present themselves in the future. I don’t need to mention my gratitude for my loving and supportive wife and beautiful daughters; one who even volunteered herself as a crutch as I tried to move around.
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