I was laying on the bed trying to sleep when I remembered what the triathlon race official said during the briefing, “Don’t worry the swim won’t get cancelled”.

I think it was the certainty in the race official’s voice over something he had no control that made me took notice, and somehow assured me that despite the lightning cracking and how heavy the rain was pouring outside I could sleep soundly for the remainder of the night.

I woke up to my alarm yelling at me at 4 AM. I reached for my phone to turn off the alarm then noticed a text message saying that due to poor water quality the swim section of the race is cancelled.

Swimming is my strength. It’s where I get the lead in most races, so how can it be cancelled when I was assured last night that it won’t? The lack of swim will play out to the advantage of my competition. What part of the race can I trim my time to get back my advantage… I had to stop myself before my head spiralled out of control.

The world we live in is flooded with incorrect information and unexpected changes, and we can’t plan for every scenario or remove all the risks.

But if we can’t predict what will happen tomorrow, how do we prepare? We prepare to be unprepared.

When faced with the unexpected:

Stop what you are doing and take a moment to think before the negative self-thought kicks in and your mind spirals out of control.

The morning of the race I did precisely this. I stopped myself from overthinking and instead looked back at the training that I did, and I knew it would be enough for the extra 2.5 km run in this race.

Take a look at the actual options available. Don’t think about the what if’s. Look at your options and decide on the best one.

My best option was to be optimistic and knew that I had done more work in the pre-season.

Run with it, based on the information you have available. Make a decision and commit to it. Then keep moving forward.

I knew I had done the work and that running an extra 2.5 km is well within my training limits. Which gave me the confidence to go out and race my way finishing ahead of my competition and becoming Oceana Champion.

You don’t need to be running the race of your life, representing Australia, for this to work. You can prepare for the unexpected in everyday life! When you are faced with the unexpected, take a moment to breathe. Luckily, we are rarely faced with life and
death decisions, therefore remember – you always have time to stop and think.

Then, take a step back and review. What do you know about the situation? What is within your control and what isn’t? What have you done to prepare for this exact moment? I knew I had run a lot further than 7.5 km in training. Once you have taken a moment to think this through, you will quickly realise you are better prepared than you imagined. I was running 45 km every week in the lead up to the race and knew how to pace myself. Maybe you’ve been in a similar situation before; maybe your strengths allow you to handle this situation well, maybe you are surrounded by people who can help and guide you.

Then, bring all of this together and pick the best option for the situation. This might not be the best option that ever existed, but it might be the best available on the day. I kept myself positive and optimistic and trusted the work my coach and I had put in the pre-season. Sometimes, the best option is staying positive and knowing that your experience – whatever that may be – will allow you to handle the unexpected.

And remember, once you have worked this through – whether it takes you a split second or a day – just take one step forward. Because, often that one step allows for a different perspective and all of sudden, things look different. Because a decision is no good without action. It is what you do next that matters most.

A bonus was this was the fastest I’ve ever started a season finishing the race in 1 hour 14 minutes and 49 seconds which is a time I would typically only achieve at the peak, not the start of my race season.

The unexpected can be jarring and can put you off your track, but once you start preparing to be unprepared, for the unforeseen, it makes for an exciting 2018.

Brant Garvey

Brant Garvey

Paralympian & Professional Speaker

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