Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Life is not just about surviving the storm, it's about learning to dance in the rain

A few weeks ago my wife found a lump in our dog’s mouth. We took her in to the vet and ended up booking her in to have part of the mass removed so that it could be analysed. Two visits later and she has now had a large section of her lower jaw removed after it was discovered that she has a very aggressive bone cancer. What a whirlwind! The time from discovery to final operation spanned less than 2 weeks. It has been a little hard to grasp; she has been a healthy dog for almost 10 years, nothing worse than a mite on her nose in that time. Yet in what seems like a blink of the eye she has gone from a happy, healthy, stick-chasing friend to one who was given 3 – 6 months to live without an operation. The waiting game is now on to see if the operation got ‘clean edges’ on the segment that was removed. In the meantime, she is with us down in Byron recovering in style.
The whole experience has reminded me of a lot of things, such as making the most of each day and the importance of family and support. It has also shown me first hand the power of resilience and having the right attitude.  My dog is getting around with a cone on her head, and she looks like a Simpson’s character from side on. Yet she doesn’t seem perturbed. As the vet told us, dog’s have a wonderful philosophical view of life. For example, he said that the first few times our dog will try to eat (without the lower part of her jaw) it will most likely get messy as she won’t have that part of her mouth to help catch the food. But, she will quite quickly go “huh, all right then” and figure out how to eat without it. He was right. She seemed to figure it all out pretty fast and there was none of that “poor me” hesitation and wallowing. She just got on with it using what she had. I think it’s amazing. Similarly with the cone on her head, I thought she would get frustrated but I think my wife and I have gotten the most frustrated hearing her bump into things with it! My dog on the other hand has just figured out that she needs to lift her head higher so it doesn’t catch on the ground. Job done.
It comes down to your thinking. My dog accepts that ‘it is what it is’ and gets on with her life. Humans on the other hand, we have the power of cognition – good for us right? We can worry about the things we are missing, how much better our life could be, the injustice of it all, rather than accepting things as they are and being resilient. Sure, some of us are great at ‘getting on with it’. You read about guys who have been attacked by sharks who go on to be motivational speakers. Some of us are ok at it, and some of us find it difficult. Wherever you are on this scale, I think it is always beneficial to be reminded of the power of just ‘letting go’ of the worries and what-ifs.    
This accepting mindset has a big place in the world of triathlons. Have you ever caught yourself thinking “it’s raining I can’t run today”, “it’s too cold”, “I haven’t got the most expensive bike so I’m going to be slow” or been at the starting line and thought “I missed three swims this week I’ll be terrible today”, “it’s too hot I can’t race when it’s this hot” or “I forgot that extra gel”. It’s up to you how long you let yourself wallow in these thoughts. Guaranteed though that the person who accepts them and just gets on with their day will have the most enjoyment. For me, I strained my calf in a run last week. Sure, I did my fair share wallowing. I was on a really strong roll in my running training and to have this happen I thought ‘bit the big one’. It meant almost no running in the week before Raby Bay. But you know what? It happens. Rather than sit here and think about how much it is going to negatively impact my race, I can accept it and move on. I can focus on using the extra time from not running as time spent in the pool. I can spend more time stretching and getting the ol’ abadaba’s going, which I tend to neglect.
With less than a week until race 3 at Raby Bay I encourage you to put aside any hang-ups you may have about things not going the way you want. Make the situation work for you, and figure out how to eat with half your mouth missing (you know what I mean). Race 3 has a fun pre-Christmas feel to it. You’ll see people racing with tinfoil on their bikes and Santa hats on the run. Last year it was a scorcher, so remember to start hydrating the day before the race. I will include a couple of sports drinks (such as Endura rehydration – the same as I use on my bike) in with my normal water consumption on Saturday. Research has shown that even a slight decrease in hydration (like a 2% drop) can have a massive impact on your sports performance.
It is worth noting that in race 3 the distances are longer than those in the first two events. This time we are swimming 750m, riding 20km and running 5km. This might mean turning back the dial a little to help you get through to the end. Pace yourself. It may also mean a change in your race nutrition plan. While you may have been able to get through the shorter events on a sports drink, on Sunday it might pay to have a gel in transition to pick up when you head out onto the run course. That little bit of extra kick and energy (many gels such as the Endura range include caffeine as well as carbs) could come in handy out there. Just remember to have water with your gels to help your body digest them quicker (and give you that energy hit quicker). If you have time this week and have not tried gels before, I recommend trying one during a longer run so you can a) practice eating on the move and b) see how your stomach handles it while your heart rate is elevated.
Good luck out there and remember that whatever happens happens, and the sooner you come to terms with that the sooner you can go back to enjoying the moment.
See you out there while I try not to think about the running I haven’t done this week ; )    Acceptance, right? Ha!    

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