When you have a plan, you want to stick to it. It’s why you have a plan in the first place - to feel in control. My previous blog piece explained how I planned ahead for my first duathlon which was due to take place last Sunday. I finished the write up with:
‘I’ve controlled everything I can.
Time to handle the things I can’t'
What I didn't realise was just how much I wouldn’t be able to control. Resulting in me not even making the start line.
My alarm started ringing at 0630. As my eyes peels opened, I remembered that it was Duathlon day. The mind began working over-time, managing the many actions I had to tick off this morning before leaving the house. Firstly, I walked into the kitchen and put the kettle on. Armed with a brew, I began the military operation I had planned minute by minute. Layering up the outfit I had placed on the floor the evening before. Packing my bag with the items I’d listed out whilst on the train home yesterday from a friend’s wedding. Sitting down to eat the porridge I had soaked over night. Sipping the coffee at the exact time I’d planned to get the most out of my caffeine. Pumping my tyres up on my recently cleaned bike. Leaving the house, giving myself 90 minutes longer than was needed to make the journey to VeloPark.
With my zipped up backpack, including a post ride packed lunch and layers for different weather possibilities, I cycled to Camden Overground. As I rode closer I saw the shutters down. It suddenly hit me that I hadn’t planned in the Sunday timetable. My watch read 0815 and after reading the poster on the side of the station, the first train to Stratford would arrive at 0922. Thankfully, the additional 90 minutes I had given myself meant I could still make it on time. When I fell off my bike last year, I got up from the floor, brushed myself off and headed straight to Costa, as it was the only place open. Today was no different. Costa was once again my savior. I set up with a coffee and did what most of us do when things go wrong. We message our friends and loved ones to tell them what happened.
Costa was empty. It was just me, the barista and some unknown CD playing over the speakers. I was dressed in joggers, my bike leant up on the chair next to me and fashioning helmet hair. The Costa member of staff probably thought I’d had a rough night. After checking my phone every few minutes, as not to miss this train, I got up at 0900 and made my way back to the station. I admit it was a bit of a rocky start, but I was confident all was back on track.
Shutters still down. The workers were inside, looking at me and another woman trying to calm down a crying baby. No communication. By 0915 when I knew the train was due in a matter of minutes, I peered through the shutters to grab someone’s attention. “What time do you open?” I asked. A man with his back to me muttered “No trains today”. With a huge sickening feeling in my stomach, I persisted for more details “What do you mean no trains?” The guy, continuing to keep his back to us, muttered again “No trains. Get the replacement bus”. Standing there, bike in hand, a mild panic began to bubble. I requested to the guy that he turned around and help us, but he refused to listen and continued on with whatever task he was undertaking. With 40 minutes before the sign up closed, I chose to silence my anger towards him and make a decision, as I knew my options were extremely limited. I couldnt ride, I wouldn't make it even if I knew the route. I had no friends with a car nearby. A black-cab would set me back over £60. Uber was the only option. After hitting the ‘request uber’ button and following the little black car move closer and closer to my location, I was greeted with disappointment as the driver took one look at my Condor before making a firm decision that "Your bike aint coming in here love".
Like a ton of energy gels, it hit me. I wasn’t going to make the Duathlon that I had spent so much time and energy planning for. In hindsight, dealing with a situation like this is simple. However, in that moment, emotion takes over and it’s a certainly a lesson in (and I quote) ‘handling what you can’t control’.
Here’s how I got through it:
1. I called my boyfriend straight away. As soon as I heard his voice I burst out crying. The spectrum of emotions poured out. I didn’t want to choose to be pragmatic over the more appealing dramatic. It was a huge let down and feeling sorry for myself felt like the natural coping mechanism.
2. I whatsapped my friends. They’d been part of the journey with me and messaging them felt like another way to feed these negative demons and be one step closer to feeling better.
3. With people staring at the crying cyclist, I made my way back home. Every time I looked down at my joggers or felt the bag on my back I’d prepped so well, another shock of self pity stung me.
4. I unpacked my bag. I needed to get the packed lunch in the fridge asap. Even at my lowest, I won't waste perfectly baked sweet potato.
It was at this point that, like the popular film Sliding Doors, my day was going to go one of two ways. Continuing to fall down the dark hole of self pity, only making my way up for air when I had to answer my phone or walk outside. Or, take the energy I had created and the caffeine I had drunk and spend it in a productive way. It’s simple to choose the best option now, but on the day it would have been much easier to walk down the winding path of pity. Thankfully, I had a quick costume change and decided on a 10k run . I had mentally prepared for a challenge and knew I was craving the highs and lows that come with that. I decided that running the furthest distance I'd ran to date this year, would wake up the legs and silence the overly emotional mind.
Sometimes life goes tits up. Even when you have a plan, life takes over with his (apparently) better one. I like to think that's because we always get what we need, not necessarily what we think we want. Sitting down and documenting the day has made me realise one key thing. Be clear on how you want to feel, not just want you want to achieve. Doing the Duathlon would have made me feel proud, energised and content. So did the 10k. As soon as I let go of how I was going to reach the goal, other doors began to open to reach the same destination.
Have goals. Have challenges. But remember to train your mind not just your body. Because no matter how much you try to plan everything, it’s handling the uncontrollable which is the real workout.