Focus on What You Can Control

“I don’t remember throwing the transition bag over my shoulder when loading the car (Friday)…” That’s what I thought to myself as I was going down the hotel elevator Saturday morning prior to the Crystal River Triathlon. Most importantly, the bag contained my helmet and shoes for the bike portion of the race. Today I’ll share what transpired leading up to and during the race that made it a memorable experience to say the least.

Going back to Thursday night, I was proactive by packing my transition bag. A transition bag contains items you bring to the transition area the morning of a race to set up next with your bike. My bag contained a mat, towel, helmet, bike shoes, racing shoes, bib belt, and nutrition gels. After I packed the bag I placed it next to shelves in my living room out of the way.

On Friday I packed a cooler, a bag with dry nutrition, and three additional bags. One with towels and a few miscellaneous items, another with bike supplies and the final bag with clothes including my race kit. Once I finished with each of these I placed them next to the front door so I would not forget them.

I loaded all of the items next to the front door into the car and loaded the bike on the rack. I then headed to the bike shop where I had been earlier in the day. The bike had a few issues being addressed but I came across another as I was preparing it for the race. When I was putting my race wheels and brake pads on the the bike, I noticed the front brake was not releasing enough to allow space for the brake pad not to rub on the wheel. That would cause continuous friction when riding thus making it hard to pedal and slow me down considerably.

When I returned to the shop they graciously looked at the bike right away knowing I had the race the next morning. They did what they could to try to fix it but it wasn’t releasing properly most likely due to corrosion caused by sweat over time. They got it to a point where there was a little space but it was a paper thin space. The gamble then was if I used the brake during the race there was no guarantee it would open back up. So I left the shop needing to determine if I was going to take the chance of not remembering to use the front break during the race or simply remove the front brake pad entirely.

I then headed to pick up Amy. We would ride together and stop for our pre-race dinner on the way to Crystal River. The dinner, an acai bowl, has become my pre-race meal of choice and this time it was from Grain and Berry. We rolled into the hotel after 9:00 p.m. and agreed to meet downstairs and leave at 5:30 a.m.. All was going to plan except for the brake issue but I had an option there I was comfortable going to bed.

I woke up at 4:15 a.m., prepared my drinks, a few other things, and was ready to put KT Tape on my calves when I remembered the tape was in one of the bags in the car. So I grabbed a few things to take down to the car when retrieving the tape. When I stepped in the elevator I had an odd feeling go through my head as I was reviewing things for the morning. I couldn’t remember throwing the transition bag over my shoulder the night before to load into the car from the condo.

I grew a bit anxious as I walked to the car, opened the back door and quickly scanned the interior. The bag was not there…  My first thought was if I could drive home and back before the race. It was now 4:53 a.m. and doing quick math in my head, it wasn’t going to work. I was 90 minutes from home so I wouldn’t even make it back in time for the race start and I had Amy with me too.

I realized I would simply be cheer squad for the day. Without the bag I really couldn’t race. Then I thought maybe there was a Walmart near that I could buy a helmet. If I had a helmet I would manage pedaling with my running shoes. It was worth a shot. I searched using my phone and found a Walmart 7.5 miles away. If all went well I could be back before 5:30 a.m.

As I headed to Walmart I then hoped it was a 24 hour location. I found the store hours through Google and it confirmed it was and for the first time I had real hope. I thought to myself if I have a helmet I’m back in the game and at least operational for the race. The drive to and from Walmart actually helped. It gave me time to think about the day and reset. I then felt fortunate that I could race and to simply make an adventure out of the day.

I returned back to the hotel prior to 5:30 a.m. and shared the story with Amy. It was quite amusing with still some obstacles ahead. The biggest being what I was going to do about the front brake. When we pulled into the race a bike mechanic was already set up so I brought my bike over for him to take a look. He created a bit more space with the brake releasing and we felt somewhat comfortable leaving the brake pads on as long as they didn’t shift location.

I asked him if he had regular pedals as the pedals currently on the bike were tiny specifically designed for cycling shoes to clip in. He said he did and could replace them in a few minutes. The morning was looking better and better now. Not ideal as the conventional set up allows for a cyclist to drive through and pull with the pedals but this was a much better option then driving through the tiny pedals.

Once the bike was ready I walked it into transition and cautiously placed it on the rack not to make any movements altering the position of the front brake. I tested it and it was ready to go. I then completed my run warm-up and was mentally ready to go. I made one last stop to a porta-potty and as the gentleman was walking out he let me know there was no toilet paper. Par for the course on this morning I thought as I chuckled to myself walking in. I really had no choice as the race was starting in a few minutes. I confirmed his statement of no toilet paper and then proceeded by ripping off the cardboard cylinder the toilet paper was wrapped around and got creative…

I walked out stating the same sentence the gentleman shared with me to the lady who was about to go in. She turned around and went back in line. I have learned to focus on things I can control and to not get too worked up on those I can’t. Additionally, on race day nothing ever goes exactly as planned prior to and during the race. The only question is which curveball will you be thrown on that day.

I was registered for the duathlon race. The curveball thrown for those registered for the triathlon race was they canceled the swim due to poor water quality. This meant the entire field would race the duathlon. They shortened the distance for the second run from three miles to two making the race consist of a two mile run, 15 mile bike, and a final two mile run.

I was in the second wave of racers starting three minutes after the first. My first run went to plan hitting the pace I was targeting. Three weeks earlier at the Tarpon Springs Duathlon my first run was similar but after that I didn’t have my legs to have a strong bike and second run. My legs felt better on this day as I have continued to build my fitness since the last race.

I came in from the first run leading my wave, hopped on the bike, and off I went. It was a much different feel not getting into the bike shoes and being clipped in. As I shifted to harder gears leaving transition I would slip each time slightly. I realized I had to press hard on the pedal each time I shifted and that got better as I went. After two miles I settled in with the feel of the pedals and heavy legs coming off the first run.

My legs felt better every mile of the 15 mile course. One racer passed me at mile six and I tried to keep him within reach. I had another pass me at mile eight and we continued to fight through the end of the bike leg. I was really happy I was holding my own with the  situation. I really didn’t think about it after I figured out the slipping issue. I went into transition right behind the second racer in my wave.

I racked the bike and took off on the final run. I passed the second racer at about the 3/4 mile mark of the run. I closed on the lead racer in the wave but I couldn’t overtake him finishing eight seconds behind. We both got faster in the final mile so that was a great feeling. I felt so much stronger than three weeks prior.

I was happy with my mental effort and pleased my body was almost back to where it was before getting injured in May. I finished eighth overall with a good time. Most importantly this gave me confidence my body was making the progress needed for my target race, the USA Triathlon Long Course Duathlon National Championships in November.

Once my race was over it was team time celebrating our efforts for the day. We shared stories, received our awards and some of the group stopped for food on the way back home. It was a fantastic morning with the team family.

When I returned home I opened the door and the bag was where I anticipated it to be (blog feature photo above). I chuckled and went on with my day…

What did I learn?

It’s great to be proactive but remember to do one final sweep of the home prior to leaving. Every item on the checklist can be in the bag but if I forget the bag…ouch! I will now leave the helmet I bought in the car at all times and once I get new bike shoes the old ones will remain in the car as well.

Finally, focus on what I can control and deal with the situation in the most positive way possible. Consider all options and make something work. I think I did a good job on this day doing just that. If this is the worst of my challenges I’m a lucky person.

– Add Health to Your Life

Great looking team!
Food after the race…yes!!!
Total Fitness & Healthy Giraffe Power!!!


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