I had a race today, and I didn’t do very well. In fact, my race was doomed before I started due to poor planning. It turns out, though, that it was a powerful life lesson. Let’s start with the race itself...
It was cold when we started. About 45 degrees and raining. I signed up for
the Olympic distance, which would mean spending about 2 1/2 hours in the
The swim was actually pleasant; the water was substantially warmer than the
air. The bike ride was more challenging. Several riders in front of me crashed
painfully on a set of nearly invisible, unused railroad tracks. Rain coated my
visor and made it tough to see. About 7 miles into the 26 mile course I splashed
into a puddle that turned out to be a huge pothole. My water bottle ejected but
I pressed on.
My ride suddenly got bumpier. Roads do that. Right? I looked down and noted
that the pavement seemed pretty smooth. I pulled off to the side and saw that my
rear tire was flat.
The flat wasn’t a problem; we keep spare parts on our bikes. The ten minute
tire change was a problem though. I had gotten cold and the delay had destroyed
my goal of finishing with an average bike speed of 20 MPH. I called it a day and
After some reflection, I realized that the day was a failure. Not from the
tire, the pothole, or quitting early. Even before that. My two goals this race
were to hang with some of my training partners, and the aforementioned 20+
speed. Both of those goals were intolerant of incidents such as a flat. A better
approach would have been if I planned to set a personal record for an Olympic
where I change a flat. Or, perhaps, a 20MPH bike leg omitting the mile where I
changed the flat. In other words, in preparing for the race, it isn’t enough to
put a flat kit on the bike. The flat kit needs to be partnered with a
compelling, flat-tolerant goal in order to be truly useful.
This doesn’t just apply to cycling or racing. Having fault-tolerant, properly
aligned goals is important in our business and personal lives too. How many businesses have we seen fail because they focus narrowly on profitability rather than their entire community? A small change in goal may have made all the difference for them.