Covid, controllables and continuing

Training and racing in endurance sport for the past 13 years has taught me countless lessons. But one of the biggest ones is that success is never guaranteed, nor is failure. The only guarantee is that both will feature for as long as you are involved in the game. It doesn’t make disappointment any easier to swallow, but it at least helps put it into perspective. When I speak to an audience, I am usually introduced as a two-time winner of Challenge Wanaka and the 2019 Coast to Coast champion. I am never introduced as the guy who didn’t win Challenge Wanaka in three other attempts or Coast to Coast in six! Luckily it’s not winning that matters most. It’s nice when it happens and it keeps me pushing to be better. But if it was all about winning for me, clearly I would have lost patience a long time ago.

Photo: Radix Nutrition

Something I know I share with a large portion of the NZ population is a love affair with the outdoors. I chose multisport because to me it offered an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors from land and water and to use a connection to nature to foster personal growth and physical challenge. Today I rode my bike with a close friend for a few hours then went off and paddled alone on Lake Hawea for another hour. It was my true definition of living. Admittedly it is all angled towards the goal of winning some more multisport races this summer but again, this isn’t the true essence of why I do it.

On a deeper level, I think a large factor in my attraction to the outdoors is the exposure it offers to so many variables. I am constantly tuning into the wind, the lake conditions, the trail surfaces, temperatures and my equipment. There is a constant cocktail of variables over which I can control some and cannot control others. The lessons that come with both success and failure are often to do with how I was able to focus my attention and action towards the things I can control. 

Korupt Vision: Ironman New Zealand

This brings us back to the current precarious position we find ourselves in with Covid-19. Who knows the extent to which this pandemic will intermittently and abruptly affect our lives. Who knows what compromises will be needed and for how long. Sport is once again proven as a valuable teacher for life and I remind myself of the importance of centring my thoughts on the controllables. I can control my personal hygiene, my sleep and nutrition habits which has a direct relationship on my immune system, my personal movements and behaviours that limit the potential spread etc, so this is where my attention will travel.

It is true that when I reflect on my past race experiences and the times I have extracted my best performances, it is usually when I have done the best job of focusing on my controllable variables. Where I have dropped the ball so to speak, some honest reflection often reveals a guilty verdict relating to my mindset and my willingness to be distracted by other competitors, the weather and the things over which I have little or no control.

Photo: Iain McGregor – Coast to Coast. Dougal Allan on the mountain run.

So here we go. The uncertainty continues alongside my dedication to my newly formed training program. I have a tendency to trust the decisions of our leaders and do my part for the team by following instruction. I also have a tendency to train my butt off, within the parameters that are set. So with the understanding that success and failure are inevitable and some races will go ahead while others will not, I will keep doing my best to engage in those things I can control. As I have learned that this is where the scales tend to tip in favour of success.