Before a dream is realized, the Soul of the World tests everything that was learned along the way. It does this not because it is evil, but so that we can, in addition to realizing our dreams, master the lessons we’ve learned as we’ve moved toward that dream. That’s the point at which most people give up. It’s the point at which, as we say in the language of the desert, one ‘dies of thirst just when the palm trees have appeared on the horizon. Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
One of my goals heading into the 2014 season was to win a World Cup. Sure I wanted to win a major race for my country, my federation, my sponsors, my family and my friends–but, come on, I’m selfish! Most of all I wanted it for myself. The challenge provided the framework to my daily efforts and thought processes.I traveled to Tongyeong, South Korea with this goal in mind. I arrived 5 days early to adjust to the 16-hour time difference and was immediately greeted with some interesting weather. A typhoon brushing the coastal city the following day made me change my original training plans–my test had begun.
A screenshot of the weather upon my arrival
While it looked pretty intimidating on radar, the storm amounted to little more than a big ol’ rainstorm. Hardened from my winters in both Boston and Wildwood Crest, the storm was no match for me–I even snuck in a run that morning! Spending the afternoon alternating between reading The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (a good read if you’re looking for a long-ish novel) and watching the storm was a great way to relax after my San Diego-Tokyo-Busan-Tongyeong travel day. On a quick aside–Even though it sometimes seems like ages when you’re cramped onto a plane, modern travel times absolutely blow my mind. The speeds are incredible.
Riding out the storm (photo credit to roommate and all-around good guy, Tommy Zaferes)
Sunghee and me
Anyway, the following day the Soul of the World continued it’s test. About 10 minutes into my first bike ride in Korea, my rear derailleur cracked. While I could have replaced the shifting mechanism alone, a replacement for the derailleur hanger was not so easily found. The piece, which had also broken when the derailleur cracked, was unique to my bike. There was no way I could get a replacement in time for the Saturday race. Instead I turned my attention to finding a replacement bike, and in the process I could not have dreamed of meeting more helpful individuals.Tongyeong is a relatively small fishing town on the southeastern Korean coast, 90 minutes from the nearest city, Busan, and 4-5 hours from the South Korean capitol. A faint fishing smell lingered in the air wherever you walked, and it just didn’t seem like the type of place where I’d easily find a piece unique to my American bike. I contacted the local organizer for the triathlon, Sunghee Kim, and explained my situation. She quickly set me up with the event’s bike sponsor, Bike MCS.After a quick look at my bike, the mechanic confirmed my original suspicions. They did not have necessary parts to complete the repair–my bike was as useless as the “-ay” in “okay.” Together, Sunghee and Bike MCS worked through the challenges and the language barrier to transport a top-notch bike from Seoul for me to use in the race. This involved considerable effort on their part, and I could not be more grateful for their support. They had an attitude that was kind of like, “Well, it’s not ideal but we’re going to figure this out–no matter what.” I immediately liked them.
It can be daunting to need something in an unfamiliar environment, but let this story serve as a first-hand testament to the benevolence of the ITU, Sunghee, and Bike MCS. Doogy from Bike MCS wouldn’t even let me pay for the rental. Talk about service!Reassured that I’d finally be on a functioning bike during the race, I was ready to go. I worked with the mechanics to get comfortable on the Argon 18 rental bike, and I pre-rode the course that Friday to get accustomed to the little differences. I was a little concerned that the brakes on the bike were wired opposite to what I was used to, but I didn’t have many other options! Sometimes you’ve just gotta decide to make a situation work for you.Here’s what happened:
The Soul of the World tested me, and I nearly overcame all of the challenges. But I didn’t. You don’t “nearly” win a race–you either do or you don’t. When I fell off the bike, my first thought was, “The hell if I’ve come all this way to fall off a bike. I’m going to win this race anyway.” I ran my career-best 10K, but I didn’t have any extra gears for the sprint finish and settled for 5th place–6 seconds out of second place and 14 seconds from realizing my pre-race goal. I still need better focus and better execution. While close, I’m not there yet. My experience in Tongyeong proved I’m competitive with some of the world’s best triathletes. My skills need to catch up to my fitness. Now, as coach Paulo Sousa likes to say, “It’s time to keep the (expletive) pressure on.”
He’s just not wearing an orange shirt