There’s a recent pop-rap song with the line, “I live my life like my blood type: B positive” and I cringe at how dumb that sounds. And I say that as someone who is super positive most of the time.
But what I’ve been feeling isn’t positive and at the same time, I don’t want to rant like a victim to you here. Today I finally broke through my anger with a powerful thought (at least for me in this moment) that I’ll share at the end.
You have Reasons or Results
I wanted to crush my goals this year. I wanted to crush in my races. I wanted to surprise everyone. Instead, I’ve racked up 2 IRONMAN 70.3 DNFs (Did Not Finish) and a flat tire finish at the LA Marathon.
The first DNF at Oceanside, as it turns out, was because the bike shop set up my chain through my rear derailleur the wrong way and it cost me power – which becomes a big deal over 56 miles and 4 hours and 2,800 ft of climbing. Basically, the chain was rubbing across a piece of metal the whole time. I missed the bike cut-off time by 12 minutes. Had I not had the problem with my chain I would have made the cut-off easily.
At the LA Marathon, I popped my front tire while braking on a steep downhill in the first 2 miles of the race. I locked up the brake and the tire skidded across the pavement, burnt a hole in the rubber and it popped. It was so early in the race, and I had every wave of the Marathon coming soon behind me I just figured to keep going as far as I could. I made it 24 more miles to the finish, but much slower than I could have without a flat.
After so much mechanical issues early in my season, I was really ready to have a clean race at Buffalo Springs Lake.
IRONMAN 70.3 Buffalo Springs Lake
The IRONMAN 70.3 Buffalo Springs Lake in Lubbock, Texas is the Handcycle Division qualifier to go to the 70.3 World Championships and/or full 140.6 IRONMAN World Championships in Kona. While it was a long shot, it was possible with only 5 Handcycle racers racing. My ultimate goal was to experience this course, have a solid swim, and stretch-goal to qualify for 70.3 World Championships.
It was the first time I’d be travelling by plane in a wheelchair … and with a very big handcycle and racing wheelchair and medical supplies in tow. I’m now a life-size action figure with a lot of accessories. I will save the air travel story for later. The great thing is, things went off without a hitch and the airport personnel were awesome at every turn.
The weather forecast was comical going in. It was low 90’s the days leading up to and after the race. But race day was forecast at 103°F.
When we left the hotel at 4 am it was REALLY windy. Turned out the day had 27 mph sustained wind with gusts up to 48 mph. Already things looked incredibly rough.
The water temperature was 74.8°F which is warm. Add to that some good chop and current because of the wind and you have really tough conditions. But used to train in the San Francisco Bay on the regular so I can handle this … right?
Turns out no. I paused about a quarter of the way thru the 1.2 mile swim to regain my heart rate and breathing and neither would cooperate. I kept playing a game with myself to get 30 good strokes in and I can have a quick pause. Nothing worked to calm my body. My left arm started cramping, I was really hot, and I just had to keep telling myself to get ‘home’ to transition and end this nightmare.
I got back to shore where I had to navigate bad pavement in my wheelchair back to my transition area – by rule, I have to push myself. After a decent transition amidst already being frustrated and exhausted, I was off on my favorite and strongest leg = the bike.
And then .. right out of transition was a hill ala Wildflower Tri but maybe a third of the distance. In a handcycle, it’s the same challenge as Wildflower for a regular cyclist. That was followed up by 5 more miles of really rough pebble pavement. Rural Texas uses this pebble pavement that even in our minivan scoping the course we could tell it was a rough road for much of the course.
The aforementioned wind was blowing North by Northwest so for the first 10 miles of the primarily North/South course I didn’t notice the wind because it was at my back. But then the course turned South into the wind and my average speed went from 18mph to 10mph. It was like staring down a flat road but cranking like you’re on a climb, which it was mentally frustrating. Especially as the day went on and it got hotter and hotter.
The last 10 miles were again just a mental game of letting go of what I expected to do and just doing whatever it takes to get ‘home’. I was really disappointed. I thought I had already missed the swim cut off with a time of 10 minutes worse than my prior 70.3 in Oceanside. I was going longer on the handcycle than I had in Oceanside which had nearly double the elevation.
I was fighting a headache because my headrest sits above my back axle and it takes every bump or crappy road vibration and drives it directly into my head. Most of the time it’s occasional and that’s fine. But the consistency of the pebble roads took its toll in this race. I literally had to take my head off the headrest to be able to focus on the road clearly.
Once I got ‘home’ into transition I decided I was done. My tank was on empty and with the temperatures and climbs in the run, I didn’t think I’d make it. I decided not to go all the way to failure on course.
In the end, only 2 of the 5 of us hand-cyclists made it to the finish line. Turns out, my swim time did NOT disqualify me. If I had only finished, I could have punched a ticket to a World Championships (WC). But even as I sat there in transition doing the math, I decided I wasn’t ready to go. I don’t want to go just to go. And the couple of months between now and the 70.3 WC I was going to improve enough to not be flailing again on the next stage.
And so goes my full season and first races. A marathon back-of-the-pack finish and 2 DNFs at 70.3 IRONMAN.
I wanted to be the one that surprised people. I wanted to have solid performances to talk about and not this shit I’m writing right now.
expectation is the root of all evil
They say money is the root of all evil.
I say expectation is the root of all evil.
I believe most frustration and disappointment comes from when we get attached to an expected outcome, and then we don’t get it. Usually, the frustration is biggest when it’s from a person. It’s exponentially bigger when the expectation is of ourselves.
I’m my prime example and I’m no better at handling it for being the wiser.
A Week Later
As I mentioned, in the beginning, I had a thought today that melted away all my frustration and disappointment. Here was that thought process:
“I’m ready to just quit. I don’t have to do this.”
“Actually… I get to do this.”
“There are so many people struggling with bigger things than this.”
“I get to do this because there is a tribe behind me who supports me every step of the way regardless of the outcome.”
“And I couldn’t do this without them.”
Which is completely true. I put out a crowdfund to a small group about a month prior to the race because I realized I didn’t have all the funds to travel to this race with all my gear. They put up $2,000 in a week.
I hated asking. Until some of the comments that came with contributions:
“By the way, Rob, you aren’t racing for you…you’re racing for all of us.”
“Keep it up and don’t hesitate to let us know how we can help support you brother!”
“You are an incredible human being Rob. Keep at those goals! We love you.”
Add to that some contributions of time from some specific people:
My friend Kristin and her daughter, Cayla, got me to and from the airport at home at VERY inconvenient hours. They also helped me with race chair training on weekends.
My cousins, the Loefflers, took time from their busy schedule with two young kids during weekend mornings and took me to the lake to swim open water. Daniel also helped do the heavy lifting on a number of occasions and sought out phantom studs in my ceiling.
There’s my competitors in the race: Evan and Daniel. Both Evan and Daniel gave me pointers on training, nutrition, but most importantly travelling with all this gear. I was intimidated at first, to be honest. But I reached out anyway. I find in triathlon, there’s a ton of camaraderie amongst ‘competitors’ that makes me appreciate this sport more.
For both the Challenged Athletes Foundation for the racing grant and Kelly Brush Foundation for the equipment grant!
Coach Matt Hurley at Purplepatch Fitness, who laid out the plan to be fit and fresh on race day and kept my head in the game!
And certainly saving the best for last here: John. Who I know I’m not the only one who’s benefitted from his generosity with his time, flew with me from Denver to Texas. He’s the best friend/sherpa in the business and I REALLY could not have done many of my races without him.
This may seem like a redundant theme in my race recaps this year.
So be it.
I’ve found that surrounding myself with great people is one of the few things that really matter in life.
I’ve found that getting over myself and my ego and asking for support gets me what I need and also allows others to give, and they’re ready to do it.
Focusing out and gratitude are powerful elixirs for self-pity.
I wasn’t ready to publish this blog on a positive note until the positivity was genuine, not some platitude of the right things to say. I knew I was there when I was wiping my eye as I wrote.