Alex Gaura Running at the University City Duathlon

Visualizing Success

Visualizing success is a part of success.  Thinking you will fail is a pre-cursor to failing.  What do you do when there are good opportunities to practice both, in the same moment?

I had one of those moments.  I picked the path of visualizing success.  Let me explain.

A week ago, Alex and I had scheduled a 5k/35k/5k Duathlon on Lake James, NC…about a two-hour drive from the house. During the week leading up to the event, I hurt my right calf.  Later, I learned it was a grade 1 strain, but, for that weekend, it was too risky to race on it and potentially make it worse.  So, I committed to driving Alex up and back from the race and let him compete.

We packed both bikes for the event, not just his bike.  I decided that while Alex raced, I would ride the course, as hard as my calf would let me.  So, about 5 minutes after Alex left from the starting line, I went to the car and took the bike down, donned my clothing and pedaled the course the competitors would be on literally a few minutes later.

The first mile was warmup, and I enjoyed the cool mountain air and the scenery.  Coming out of the park, the volunteers greeted me, cheering and tell me to turn right.  Little did they know that I was not a participant!  Instead, they thought I was rider #1.  I decided to let their energy feed me, and, in the moment, I asked the question, “what if I really was rider #1?”  Certainly, I have never finished run 1 in first place, and started the bike in first…but what if I did?

Instead of heading up the hill at Sunday stroll pace, I decided to go as hard as my calf and lungs would let me.  Within moments, my power meter was at 350 watts, and I kept it there, all the way till the top of the hill.  My body was not yet warmed up, but I cycled as if it was.  I couldn’t go at 100%, but I went as hard as I could, no holding back.  I visualized the hills of all the upcoming events:  Minnesota, France, and Switzerland, and imagined what would be required to ascend and descend those hills, with gusto.

“Losers visualize the penalties of failure. Winners visualize the rewards of success.” William S. Gilbert

I imagined riders coming from the back.  So often, slower cyclists get passed by stronger ones and the slower ones slow down more.  I was not about to let that happen!  All in!

Each turn that had volunteers directing traffic for cyclists energized me. For all of them, I was their first sign of a competitor.  Their enthusiasm was also at a high level.   I would look back, knowing I only had a 5 or 6 minute or so start on the fastest of runners.  With my calf at sub optimal, there was a chance that a flyer would catch me, as the course was really hilly!

As I rounded the final turn to return to the park, I realized that I downed 2 liters of water over 35K – a very fast drinking rate.  As I made the final turn into the park, the original volunteers greeted me with a “welcome back!”  I very much started soft pedaling and letting my body cool down for the last mile of cycling back to transition.  When I got within 200 yards of transition and all the spectators and loved ones started cheering as I neared the area where all them had been waiting.  I got off my bike and began walking my bike to the car and I yelled out, “thanks, but I am not competing in this race, today.”

“Oh man,” one disappointed woman said.  As I reached the car and loaded it up, it hit me.  I could have chosen to setup a lawn chair, just like most of them had and sit there, waiting and watching…and it would have made me miserable knowing that I could be out there.  I could have chosen to view the lack of 100% participation as a form of failure to live up to standards.  Instead, I did what I could do, and visualized being successful at it, and I am better off for it.

Over the next hour, I watched Alex come in, transition out and finish a good race.  He got a 1st place medal for his efforts as tops in the 19-and-under category…even though he is only 14.  We talked about his bike efforts and the people in the way on the trail.

It was a successful day for both of us.

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