Thursday, February 09, 2006

first race

originally written for the USC Triathlon Newsletter 02-09-06

The first time is always a little...interesting. Strange things happen. Things that you wouldn't expect, or even know to expect. Like a GU misfire that goes sideways into the spectators instead into your mouth. Like a flat tire that magically appears just as you're getting set to power out of T1. Or a wetsuit that somehow manifests an irritating seam at your neck that rubs your skin raw and sends salt water into the open wound. Or a burr in your shoe that goes from an annoyance to a hotspot to a blister that pops just as you're trying to make the homestretch to the finish. Many strange things happen.

And there's really nothing you can do.

It's just part of racing. Things sometimes happen that are beyond your control. Chaos still rules the universe. Equipment failure. Bad course directions. Crashes. Bad refereeing. Bad penalty calls. Malfunctioning alarm clocks. Power outtages. Things sometimes just happen. The japanese have a word for this: shikataganai.

The question is, what do you do?

Well, for one thing, you don't give up and sit on your coach and whine. If you've decided to race, you might as well finish. If you've decided to show up, you might as well commit. If you've expended the time and training, you might as well give it your best shot.

Because you can't control everything. That's just life. All you can control is yourself. All you can do is to decide what you want to do, and to do what you've chosen to do. All you can do is to do your best. All you can do is to make sure you are as best prepared, most ready, most committed, most passionate, most determined person you can be. And then leave nothing on the field, so that when the game day is over and all is said and done and no matter what the outcome, you can honestly look yourself in the eye and say you did everything you could.

Lance Armstrong described his mentality in responding to a challenge during a particularly difficult day at his last Tour de France: "You can either stay and fight, or you can go home and cry to your momma...I chose to stay and fight."

Given the vagaries of race day, given the chaos of life, that's all you can do. Regardless of the outcome, that's all you can do.

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