There are so many things beyond our control. Most people I know, myself included, work hard on controlling as many things as we can (Type A, anyone?). But sometimes life tends to sneak in and throw a few monkey wrenches into the mix.
There is still one thing you can control, even when it seems you're in the middle of a tempest. That one thing is your reaction to what is beyond control. You can curl up in a ball and cry, or you can face things head on with a smile. I watched Jason give a lesson in controlling the uncontrollable at Ironman Coeur d'Alene this year.
A couple months out from the race, Jason was in peak form. Splitting his fastest times in at least a decade, not bad for a 42-year old. Then six weeks out, he tore a calf muscle. No bawling in the fetal position, but he faced it head on. Physio, IMS, chiro, ART, massage, water jogging; all of which kept him in great shape up until race day. Maybe not blistering marathon pace, but solid none the less. He could have chosen to bail on the race and feel sorry for himself, but instead he chose to control the uncontrollable situation by staying positive.
Race morning he was feeling great. The water temperature was reportedly in the low 50's farenheit (his assessment was "friggin' cold"). It's pretty tough to control water temperature in a lake, although I know many triathletes would like to. After becoming near-hypothermic in the swim, setting a relatively slow swim time for someone who is normally a 58-minute swimmer, and bumbling through transition with frozen, non-functional hands, he could have chosen the fetal position and cried again. His goal was a Hawaii spot and a podium spot, so a 7-minute deficit right after the first leg would lead many to give up. But he was smiling as he pedaled out of transition, determined to not let the setbacks get to him. No hypothermia here, he controlled the uncontrollable with a positive attitude.
Of course with any big event, we try to control all the variables. One obvious one is tires... they should be in flawless condition. But halfway through the second lap, a piece of metal decided to lodge itself into Jason's tire, and that's pretty tough to control no matter what tire you choose. So he fixed the flat, hopped back on and once again controlled how he reacted. No giving up, no self-defeat. A 5:10 bike split, flat tire not withstanding, is someone who controlled the uncontrollable again, smiling every time I saw him.
Charging hard through the bike.
Onto the run, he ran himself into a podium position. But who can control the guy coming from behind, coming off the bike in 18th place but running a blazing 3:02 and bumping you off the podium? Uncontrollable... except that positive attitude that kept Jason running to a 3:18 marathon (despite several weeks off running leading up to the race).
Not a PR, but a Kona spot nonetheless.
Through the minefield that is life (and the minefield that is Ironman), the only thing you can truly control is how you react.