|November 8, 2011||Posted by Emily under Uncategorized|
One of the 1,354 highlights of the Ironman Lake Placid Athlete Dinner was the keynote speech from Matt Long, a NYC firefighter who was hit by a bus while biking to work in 2005.
Matt, a fellow sweat addict and Boston qualifier, made an unbelievable comeback after this near-death experience left him unable to walk. Like, unbelievable really doesn’t begin to describe this guy. While the doctors initially thought he might not be able to move without a cane or crutches for two year, it took him only three to recover, train and finish the New York City Marathon. AND in case 26.2 miles wasn’t impressive enough, he went on to finish Ironman Lake Placid the next year. From unable to walk to an Ironman? It’s impossible to not be in awe of this guy.
The thing that stuck out from his speech the most to me, other than the many tears I choked back while watching the inspirational video about his comeback, set to Coldplay’s “Fix You” (yes, I’m a total sucker for cheesy sappiness. hit me with a montage of an endurance athlete making an epic comeback and I’m donzo), were his words of advice for handling what you can and cannot control about your life, training and racing. Or, for those of us who consider training and racing our lives, really just “life” would sum it all up.
Matt, as someone who was handed a positively shitty hand at one point in his life, is the biggest proponent for accepting the things you can’t control, moving on, and focusing on the things you can influence. Because there’s no point in wasting time and energy worrying about something you can’t change, when you could devote yourself to caring and focusing on the things still within your control.
If you wake up on race day morning and it’s sleeting out, you’re not going to magically make the sun appear by stressing out. Instead, accept that the weather sucks, and start strategizing about how you’re going to run faster to get to a hot post-race shower (for temperature purposes only, obviously not for hygiene.)
When talking to us about how this philosophy could impact our Ironman race day, he told a story about someone’s bike falling off their car on the highway on their way to Lake Placid and shattering all over the road. Shitty? Hugely. But something that could be reversed with stressing, dwelling on the situation and getting worked up with frustration and anxiety? Not even a little. He told the coach of this athlete to tell the guy to accept what happened and start putting his energy toward finding a new bike and getting ready to race his heart out.
When I was out on the course the next day, I encountered a few of my own obstacles that were also completely out of my control. First, my tire went flat with 10 miles to go on the bike leg. And then, my stomach stopped accepting food or water while I was running the marathon. Not gonna lie, both things sucked. And would have caused me to breakdown in certain frames of mind, but I remembered what Matt talked about the night before, accepted that shit happened, moved on and focused my determination on finishing the race instead of dwelling on the fact that not everything worked in my favor on race day. And guess what? That mindset help me cross the mother effing finish line to become a mother effing Ironman. Have I mentioned that I’m an Ironman yet on this blog? Didn’t think so.
This attitude about control is one of the biggest things that is getting me through this injury. I can’t control that my foot broke. And obsessing over how miserable it is not to run is not going to get me back any faster or happier. Like I’ve said before, I’m moving on.
Because while it does me no good to dwell on how shitty a broken foot is for a runner, there’s a lot of good that I can do for myself right now that’s completely within my control.
I can control how smart I am about my recovery. I can control how much Doctor-approved exercise I do to stay in shape while I’m sidelined from running. I can control how big I dream for my comeback marathon next year (my girl Dorothy, the biggest proponent of dreaming big should approve of that one.) And I sure as hell can control how hard I work to achieve those dreams.
Let’s talk about control. Are you someone who internalizes shitty situations that are out of your control or do you have uplifting stories about the countless occasions you’ve overcome a circumstance you had no control over and still persevered to succeed?