Joe here - come with me for a few minutes to the Silverstate 508 a 500-mile race outside of Reno, Nevada.
It's a great race. Magnificent landscape. Wonderful community. It's on my list of races to go back to, least of all because I want to race once again under the totem, Celtic Fox!
(Silverstate 508 have a very unique tradition where instead of race numbers you choose an animal totem as an identifier.)
Given that I was up against a number of racers with extensive route knowledge, my strategy was to surprise from the start and create the race from the front. The route leant itself to that strategy with a big climb within the first 10KM coupled with an even faster descent. I came out of that descent in top spot and was aiming to keep it that way.
To create the race from the front you have to be willing to put your speed on the edge of sustainable. You need to find out quickly who can hang onto that edge and for how long. Once you peel apart the race like this, it becomes easier to manage.
But it takes a lot of experience because the reality of staying on that performance edge is based on your ability to teeter physically and emotionally while holding a rock solid mind-set.
One by one the riders dropped off the pace but the young Californian Charles Bell, aka Chunky Monkey didn't.
Charles, an immensely strong rider, could consistently turn over an impressive gear on his time trial bike.
He passed me at about 200 miles on a flat section. I could hear him coming, turning over that big time trial gear and when he passed me those big legs of his were tapping out a rhythm just like a metronome - steady and consistent.
It was an image of effortless power and in that moment my mindset wobbled. Before I could catch myself or hit the reset button the teeter became a step back and that single step back locked my mindset down.
Subtly I surrendered and it happened in the blink of an eye.
A subtle surrender is still a race by the way, I continued to fight but the ferociousness of the battle came down just one notch.
I do remember thinking at one point, 'second place is still a great result'.
Now to the lesson....
Silverstate 508 host a post-race breakfast and I had the pleasure of chatting about the race with Charles. We discussed the low temperatures during the night, the only night in my career of racing where the fluid in my bottle froze! He shared how cold he was, which was to the point of involuntary trembling and how he was nearly forced off his bike.
What struck me was just how close he was to teetering over his edge. The image I had of his legs tapping out that metronome rhythm for all of the 500 miles was simply incorrect.
I understand now that he beat me the moment he passed me. That sound of the big gear turning over, the image of effortless power got to me, my mind surrendered and I downgraded my fight.
There are many ways to be beaten, in a race or in life- by a better and stronger rider, by being complacent and lifting your eye off the race or by a mindset wobble that leads to a subtle surrender.
It strikes me that our competitor these days is COVID-19. It's not better or stronger than we are so the only way it can win is through our complacency or if our mindset wobbles and we subtly surrender our vigilance, take it down one notch.
Let's not do that.
If you put me back on that flat section with Charles I'd have to concede the lead for sure but I wouldn't give up the ferocity of the fight. I'd have come back at him with more.
It's a lesson I've taken forward and I have to thank him for it because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt there's nothing more dangerous than a competitor that refuses to be beaten.
Let's win this COVID-19 battle by refusing to be beaten.
Stay vigilant. Stay safe.
When we're on the other side of COVID-19 and you're interested in hiring a motivational speaker. Check us out, we've got many more parables from the road of Joe.