Tri Truth: Getting Off Balance

Ok here it goes … ::DEEP BREATH:: I fell on my bike during my first triathlon. I know I know the shame the shame. (avert your eyes please)

When I was a preschool teacher I remember telling my students about how I fell off my bike. Many of them couldn’t believe that I did this. For little kids they think adults can’t make the same mistakes they do. They rarely see adults make these mistake and even when they do adults are quick to redirect their attention. Part of that is that as we get older we are less and less willing to look foolish in front of others. Usually our technique for doing this is by avoiding risking anything that might make us fall or stumble in a clear and obvious way.

During my first olympic triathlon there was a water hand off point about mid way on the bike course. That is where nice folks hand out water to thirsty cyclists. During the hand off of said water I had a mishap in which I veered off the road onto some gravel, my bike slid, and hit the ground pretty hard. I wasn’t injured (except for my pride), but I had to put the chain back on, realign the brakes, and try to make up for lost time. After the race I had a chance to reflect and see what the lesson might be.

The first thing I reflected on was why I tried to get the water in the first place. I had plenty of water on my bike and I didn’t really need a drink. So why risk it? I realized that 2 things had happened the moment before that led to my choice. One was that I saw the guy in front of me grab the water with skill and ease. He took a little sip and then tossed the rest over his body. The second was I thought to myself ‘hmm a little water would feel refreshing right now.’

I realized that this pattern is something I can observe in other parts of my life. I observe someone doing something that from the outside looks easy and satisfying. Then I long for that perceived satisfaction and grasp at it. Soon after I realize that their ease is not my ease and often I realize this as I am falling. The lesson I take away from this is that I need to learn to be satisfied with the path I’m on. Another’s satisfaction is not my satisfaction.

As we begin to try something new we might see others doing something cool, like a cool workout routine, or maybe some new way to run. We may read about it online or just see someone doing it at the gym or park. Then we think they look so fit and happy doing that, maybe what I am doing is wrong and that’s the way to get to where I want to be. So we try it out and maybe it works or maybe we get hurt, because we don’t know what were doing. In either case this lasts until the next cool thing comes along.

It takes great faith to stick with what you have sometimes and see it through to the end. Now I’m not saying you should blindly follow one routine if it isn’t working. Experimentation, innovation, and discovery are essential tools for growth whether it be physically mentally or spiritually. But there is a difference between deciding to change course and veering suddenly off course to grab at some perceived satisfaction. It’s the latter we must be careful about.

Having said all of that I think it’s always important to learn from your mistakes. So besides the lesson above I learned 3 additional things.
1. Taking a water hand off on a bike is a learned skill I would like to have.
2. If all I want is a splash of water it’s better to ask for help rather than to try to do it all myself.
3. There are much worse things than falling.

Take some time to reflect on some perceived satisfaction you have grasped at on your path. Reflect on how that has worked out for you. Did you get what you sought? What would have happened if you had stayed the course? Were you able to get back on track? Then reflect on a time where you made wise discernment about changing courses. How did that feel different? Where did that desicion come from? What steps could you take to make sure your future choices are aligned with that same wisdom?

I remember when my nephew was learning and mastering walking he fell pretty regularly, but when he fell he fell with a certain amount of grace. I realized after my first tri that the trick is to fall with grace. That there is a balance even in falling.


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