Friday, March 17, 2006

What do you expect?

I’ve been thinking about this post for awhile…since last summer actually. Last July during my big A race of the season I crashed my bike. It was a dumb crash - I was reaching for my water bottle and I lost my focus for a split second, my front wheel hit a crack in the pavement and I was on the road before I knew what had happened. I landed directly on my head and cracked my helmet all the way thru…but the benefit of that was that I had hardly any road rash and no broken bones - my helmet took the brunt of the fall. A few scrapes and a pretty swollen elbow was all I had to show for it, thankfully. After I’d gotten up and decided I could continue, I looked over my bike but couldn’t get my front brakes to work correctly and didn’t feel safe riding with them not engaging all the way…so I bailed and got my first DNF - in my A race of the season. It sucked. I don’t want to feel that way again. I think everyone has to feel it at some point. It’s kind of inevitable in this sport…

But what I believe was the reason for the crash is what I’ve been thinking about in a lot of areas of my life. See, I live right on the bike course, I’d ridden it the previous year and about a dozen times that spring in preparation for this race. I knew what to expect so I was calm and I think I let the confidence turn to complacency. The place where I crashed was a section of road that is exceptionally bumpy…there are frost heaves, cracks in the pavement parallel to skinny bike tires, there’s gravel…and we were warned about the road 2 or 3 times…there was even a flyer in the race packet describing this section of road and that great care should be taken…and prior to the start, we were warned again over the megaphone. But I knew the course, I expected I’d ride on thru like I had a dozen times, I would be fine. Expectation got the better of me.

I don’t think I’d have made this mistake on a course that I didn’t know. Expect the unexpected, right? I relied on what I knew from experience, not from what was happening right at that second. Bad idea jeans…

Expectation is something that I’m constantly battling. I need to remind myself every day to temper my expectations, make them realistic, make back up plans for when the unexpected comes up… because I’ve spent a lot of time being disappointed about stuff that didn’t turn out like I’d planned. And always when I look back and try to figure out what went wrong I realize that I would not have been disappointed had my expectations been different going in.

Here’s a perfect example…it was only a minor disappointment but you’ll remember a few weeks ago I started going to spin classes again. That first class rocked - my favorite spinning instructor Ann always teaches that class - she’s got great music and always offers a great workout. The next week when I went again, I was all set to groove but upon arriving, one of my least favorite instructors who plays awful spinning music (you remember, Candle in the Wind? Benny and the Jets?) was there instead. ARGHHH. I almost bagged my whole workout just because this guy was there instead of Ann. I did the workout anyway and it went fine…BUT, had my expectation been something more like “This will be a great workout, regardless of who’s teaching….” or “I’m going to expect that Brian is there and then I’ll be thrilled when it’s Ann or someone else I like…” then the disappointment won’t happen. It’s all about how you set yourself up.

It’s like expecting great sex on your 20th anniversary…yeah, it could happen but FOR CRYIN’ OUT LOUD, you’ve been together for 20 YEARS…what makes you think it’ll be THAT much better on THAT day!!?? But change the expectation to “let’s have a nice romantic dinner, enjoy each other’s company, and celebrate our love”…and disappointment is averted by having that mind set going in…and I’d wager the great sex would follow naturally…

Triathlon is a great way for me to practice staying in the moment and avoiding disappointment because of unrealistic expectations. There’s a lot about it that I can’t control: the person who kicks my goggles off on the swim, the guy in transition who knocks my bike over or mistakenly steps on my sunglasses, the potholes on the bike course or someone who crashes in front of me, the weather - heat, rain, fog or wind…but in triathlon, I can practice dealing with all these things as they arise…and by EXPECTING that they WILL arise, I’m prepared to handle them. The danger comes when I expect things will go a certain way…so the best way to prepare is to expect the unexpected. In effect, to NOT expect. I’d do well to practice this in a lot of other areas of my life too…

And I don’t mean to suggest that one should have low expectations, should never risk anything in order to avoid disappointment. No, no, no, not at all… only that expectations, if I have them at all, should be realistic… just like goals. I think you can have hopes for a race, perhaps to expect a top 10 finish (or for me, to finish in the top 75%) but you can’t let those expectations cloud your ability to adjust on the fly. Ultimate flexibility, adaptability, will always set you up for success. Tunnel vision should be avoided at all costs.

I don’t know how the race will go this year. I know I’m going to get out on the course again at least a dozen times and I also know that I will cover that nasty section of road with trepidation at least for the first 6 times I ride it. But I’m going to try my hardest to take it as it comes and not make any assumptions or have any expectations about how it’s going to go. I don’t want to get too comfortable. I want to stay sharp, to remain open to what could happen and to be prepared to be flexible. If I can do those things, I can’t go wrong.

Expect the unexpected.

9 Comments:

Blogger Scott said...

Right on Spence. Changing my expectations and perceptions of the world have been a major part of life for me these past few years. I'm afraid though that it's something that must be worked on constantly.

Sounds like you have some really useful insight on your crash last year. Congrats.

9:05 PM GMT-5

 
Blogger Scott said...

Cool link to Rosie's blog. She saw Liza. What I wouldn't do...

9:10 PM GMT-5

 
Blogger TriSaraTops said...

GREAT post, Spence!!! Such a good lesson to learn--I need to keep this in mind! And I REALLY need to learn how to change a flat by myself...geez, am I ASKING for trouble or what? :)

11:07 PM GMT-5

 
Blogger Wylee said...

Very thought provoking post! It's hard not to expect the very best out of yourself though-- I struggle with that too, I'm kinda an "all or nothing" girl.

8:15 AM GMT-5

 
Blogger jameson said...

awesome post. i think a lot of people set themselves for disappointment by haveing lofty expectations. like you said it's easy to avoid feeling disappointed if you have realistic, attainable goals.

2:35 PM GMT-5

 
Blogger Keryn said...

Great post...very thoughtful.

I always struggle to find that balance between expecting the worst and expecting too much. On the one hand, I hate to be negative by always expecting the worst. On the other hand, I hate to have my expectations dashed by reality.

It is so hard to stay in the moment...I'm feeling a need for zen after reading this.

8:49 PM GMT-5

 
Blogger E-Speed said...

I always expect the unexpected at tri races. So many factors and things that can go "wrong" and almost always several things do! If you are prepared for that it doesn't seem so bad :)

10:51 AM GMT-5

 
Blogger Bolder said...

you get great sex when? in 20 years? that's a long wait.

anyway, thought provoking... what's that saying about when preparation meets opportunity... that's a good thought for my 'A' race...

or, if you are Canadian, 'EH' race.

2:40 PM GMT-5

 
Blogger Barb said...

A just read your post about your DNF race. I see several parallels to my own upcomeing race. I will take your advice and not become complacient.

Since it is pouring down rain today, I also checked out the Otter Box. Looks like a good product.

11:21 AM GMT-5

 

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