Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

Posted on August 11, 2011


The day will not always go as planned. The weather will not be always be perfect on race day. You will not get a great nights’ sleep. You’ll fall off the healthy-nutrition wagon. The triathlon will change to a duathlon (30 mins before race start…as happened to one of my athletes in a previous year).

At  some point, there will be a curve ball.

My recent curve ball? They’ll change the race course – 18 days before the race – after you’ve practiced  & put in blood, sweat & tears on the course for 3 weeks. Here’s how I initially felt about that: “#$@&%#@Q!!!! Really buttheads? Couldn’t you have figured that out & let us know sooner? I have suffered  on that course, putting my time in to ensure my race goes well & NOW you change it?!”

Here’s the fact: Being upset changes nothing. No matter how many times anyone complains, it’s not going to change things back.
(Full disclosure: I do so much better with this factoid when its regarding physical things I have to overcome. When it comes to emotional discomfort, I have to work much harder to ‘get out the funk’, so to speak.)

Here is how I could look at this curve ball & how I’m choosing to look at it & its’ effects on me. Maybe you can apply some of this to your life & the curve balls you get:
* Changing the race course means all that hard work I did running the route, learning where I needed to conserve & where I could push, gaining the confidence of knowing I could “do it” – is now less valuable.

The work is still there, in my body, proving that I can do it.
A different course doesn’t take away from the miles I’ve put in already.

* Planning to run the course several times required planning my schedule, packing excessively large bags of clothing & fuel for everything leading up to, during & following the training run, getting up really freaking early on a Saturday to drive to the course…not to mention the stress of the time I got lost on the course & the time Garmin shut down mid-course leaving me lost yet again & I guided myself back to the car by reading a map while running.

That’s just a part of being an athlete. If you’re committed to a goal, you’re committed to all parts of it.
Or else you’re not committed.

* Changing a course in the weeks before a race is simply annoying because you look at the new layout & see what used to be 5 miles of downhill to the finish is now 4 steady uphill miles and 1 down hill mile to the finish. I could be totally annoyed by this i.e. “It’s not fair.”

If you’re waiting for ‘”fair” you’re going to be waiting a long time.
The best in this world take any situation & find what works for them & then make it work even better.

One tool I learned from an old boss of mine who had served in the Marines: things are going to change at the last minute. The winner will be the person who immediately changes their strategy to match the new situations requirements, takes the new situation in stride & is determined to ‘win’ no matter what. Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.

It is not an easy thing to learn for those of us who L.O.V.E. plans & all their planned-out-glory. But practice it, over and over, remind yourself of it with a sticky note on your desk at work/in the car/on your bathroom mirror. Remember, the person who wins is the one who handles curve balls the best. Because everyone who has a shot at winning is prepared for what’s expected. The true winners will be the ones who are as well prepared to manage the unexpected.

image by cafepress