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.

Visualizing Success
Visualizing Success

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.

quotes-about-losers-for-successI 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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