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If It Ain’t Raining, It Ain’t Training
One week prior to the Duathlon Long Course World Championship this September, I meandered out for my last long training bike ride. I met with a group of cyclists with whom I share the same coach.
As we tuned our bikes to ride, it began to rain. No worries. I lowered my tire pressure, threw on rain gear, and was ready to roll.
As a member of TeamUSA, I finished in the top 100 at last year’s World’s. My goal was to stay there and help our team’s score. I needed this last ride before the long haul to Switzerland in what is the most difficult course on the circuit, a 150 km ride through the Alps with 16 percent grades and 5,000 feet of elevation change bookended by trail runs of 10K and 30K.
We began our training ride cautiously, given the rain and slick streets. My tires were new and that made the situation that much more risky. As we passed the two-mile mark, I began to feel increasingly comfortable, but wary. I thought about turning around and training indoors, but the words of my ROTC instructor, Sergeant Major Samuelsson, echoed in my mind as it had so many times prior: “if it ain’t rainin’, it ain’t trainin’.” So there I rode near the front of the pack, confidence building.
Samuelsson’s exhortation served me well my entire life, especially as an Army combat engineer officer. When in training mode, it was so tempting to cancel or postpone construction, bivouacs, or drills whenever the weather turned dour. But we knew that could kill us. If we were called into combat, we needed to have trained under the worst possible conditions so we would be ready for anything.
The same principle applies in the civilian work place. If you avoid adversity, you won’t be ready to perform well when you find yourself in less than ideal circumstances. How often have we lost golden opportunities because something did not go as planned and we were unrehearsed in our response?
I am comfortable working through challenges in real-time and don’t panic because I know it makes my team and organization stronger. I have led through countless application and technical go-lives where we had success because we had persevered through adversity in the buildup. It is part of growing up.
That day in the rain, we were making a hairpin turn and our peloton slowed appropriately. Before I could react, I took my first cycling crash. Down. Hard. I braced myself for impact from riders behind me. Thankfully, everyone avoided or skidded around me.
I was pretty shaken as I listened to my body for damage and inspected my bike. We were both injured, but well enough that I limped back to my bike shop. My bike repaired and my body bandaged, I gave thanks that neither bike nor body were irreparable in time for World’s.
The weather forecast for Zofigen called for rain. While the days preceding the event were warm and sunny, race day was wet and cold. The first hour was mostly uphill, so the slick streets weren’t too much of a concern. Once we crested the highest point of the course, a steep, technical, narrow, alpine descent beckoned us.
While I questioned my judgment for riding in the rain one week prior to World’s, it all became clear. I was thankful for the experience, fall included. I was better prepared to handle my bike under extremely dangerous conditions. I was confident, albeit cautious, in my approach.
The rain dissipated in time for our second and third laps of this 50K loop and slick roads were no longer a factor. There were many accidents that day on this hill. I am convinced that without training in the rain, I would have ended up a statistic on the pavement and not have fared as well as I did. I fell out of the top 100 duathlete in the world category that day, but remained proud to help TeamUSA.
Whether in sport or profession, it is critical to train under all conditions. Don’t take the easy road and cancel or modify your path because circumstances are less than ideal. Just deal with it as is. You never know when the real world is going to throw you a storm or two, but when you’ve trained for it, you will remain confident. Dealing with adversity will be second nature. Not only will your odds of success increase exponentially, but you will build confidence in the people around you.
Raining? Awesome! I wouldn’t want it any other way!