Dealing with the Unexpected
Updated: Mar 16, 2020
Currently, the world is facing a massive amount of uncertainty with the Coronavirus. Each one of us has been immersed in what seems like a tornado spiraling out of control. From the perspective of triathlon and training, races are canceling left and right and even fitness centers and lap pools are shutting down. In addition, schools are shutting down which means kids are at home, impacting work schedules and regular routines. Each one of us has our own situation and I am not a trained expert on dealing with these situations. I will say however that these situations seem to have a magnetic pull to come my way. We learn through our experiences and as I result I do believe that I have encountered enough of these evolving and unexpected situations that I can give some good coping strategies.
In 2013, I was at Boston running the marathon when the bombings occurred. I was in Boston the following year to witness the overhaul of security and change that would forever change the way we participate in major sporting events.
In 2014, I was ranked #1 in the World and preparing to win the 1st Paralympic Gold medal in triathlon for the United States when that opportunity was swept away by the announcement that the male blind classification would not be an event in the 2016 Rio debut.
In 2016, while racing and killing it at the US Paralympic Cycling Trials, our rear derailleur shattered into pieces with a mile to go, ending our chance to make the US Team by team selection. Two months later we received an unexpected call. As a result of the Russian banned for doping, we were granted a spot to the Rio Paralympics in cycling. While at the Rio Paralympic Games, pilot Ben Collins and I were having a great road race when the unexpected happened once again. The rim on our rear wheel melted into a deformed wave while descending a sketchy downhill descent. Bike experts had never seen such a thing.
Fast forward to present day. This past weekend guide Ben Collins and I were about to race at the US Selection Event for Team USA in Sarasota, FL for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. I was exactly one year out after hip surgery and was starting to feel like the pieces were coming together. The race was Saturday afternoon March 14th. We arrived on Thursday morning and the mass cancelation of all major sporting events and major gatherings due to the recent Coronavirus outbreak took place Thursday afternoon. We received an email Thursday evening that the ITU World Cup scheduled for the following weekend was canceled but our race was still a go as planned. These plans of course didn’t last long, as our Friday morning wake up call was an email stating that the race on Saturday was now canceled and we should pack our bags and go home as soon as possible.
We had all trained and altered our lives for the past four years for this event as well as the upcoming qualification events and now one by one each event was being cancelled without any end in sight. As you can imagine there was disbelief and despair. “What do we do now?” “Should we just take this as our sign?” These are some of the questions floating in the air. The natural instinct is to react and panic. This is exactly what you don’t want to do as this typically means reacting upon emotions. My advice would be the following:
STOP AND RELAX: Don’t try to predict what will happen next as often those making decisions don’t even know the outcome. If you predict and are wrong than you are like a betting man that has lost all his money.
FIND SOMEONE WHO HAS NO EMOTIONAL INVESTMENT: Those without anything invested can give more of an unbiased and possibly more objective plan.
REMOVE YOURSELF AND MIND FROM THE SITUATION: It is normal to feel deflated and not motivated right away but that’s why we don’t make immediate decisions. Find ways to take your mind off the situation and this may mean remove yourself from the situation for a short time to refocus and re-energize.
DON’T THROW OUT YOUR GOALS: If you put a ton of time and effort into a goal race or event then there was a reason for this and it means it's something you are passionate about. Often times, events are rescheduled or there are options to do the next year so stopping cold turkey is an emotional decision.
I know many reading this blog will also be impacted by event changes and cancelations just like myself. The Coronavirus outbreak is a major event in our history and is something we must all be aware of, but allowing fear and panic to overtake us does nothing good. There are aspects we can control in the situation and we should do our part with those. There are many aspects that we have no control of and these are the ones that we want to avoid worrying about. I hope my experiences and nuggets of advice will come in handy and I hope that each one of you can stay grounded in this whirlwind tornado and refocus on the events that you are passionate about on the other side.