Turning Adversity in to an Asset

WARNING: This post contains cathartic commentary

events_mtn_biking_leadville_qualifier_hill_Bartkowski_2011-webAs I am watching the Tour de France with crashes knocking out favorites, it reminds me that sport provides a micro-cosm of life, magnifying the ups and downs. And I am reminded that it is how we deal with adversity’s depth of depression and disappointment that reveals the character to shake it off, dig in and drive on.

I hear people attribute others successes to luck, insinuating they have been dealt an easier road in life. But, no matter how things appear, no one is exempt from life’s challenges. In my opinion, this perceived “lucky” success, is actually the manifestation of an invincible resilient attitude.

I have observed this attitude in accomplished athletes in my sport life, and have since realized that the same thread runs through those who have achieved success, in every walk of life.

As I watch the tour, I imagine the initial depths of disappointment, doubt and depression of the contenders, compounded by the sidelines analysts, digging the hole deeper with speculations regarding their future. But I find it inspiring that these circumstances reveal the irrepressible spirit of winners, which drives their character in every circumstance. My bet is that these guys take a moment mentally and physically to regroup, move on, and with focus forward readjust their game plan.

While my livelihood no longer depends on competing, I value competition for the opportunity it affords – the ability to authentically prepare my clients for it’s physical and mental demands;  the personal challenge, growth, and expression; and the community of inspiring, fellow competitors, who help to continue raise our personal bar.

My recent experience at US National Marathon Mtn Bike Champs has proven my opportunity to turn adversity in to an asset. Prior to nationals, I had been racing since spring,   feeling good and having fun.  I was pre-riding the national course with my buddy Dan and on the one-hour plus climb, I thought to myself, “Feel good. Excited to race.” Things quickly changed on the one-hour plus descent, which had been used for the previous week’s enduro race, leaving it loose and exposed. We entered the series of tight switchbacks, and I mis- negotiated one that was loose, and off-camber. I found myself with a decision – to go over the bars and the edge, or clip out and step off to the down-sloping left side. I chose the latter. In doing so, I landed on an extended leg, hyper-extending it, and tearing a yet-to-be-determined “something” in my knee. In an instant my nationals was over before the gun went off.

Knocked on my hind end literally and figuratively – I was down. I mentally muddled through the mudslide of questioning doubt. Sure I was disappointed not to race, but my thoughts were darting, concerned about my ability to fulfill my physical work demands and obligations. Adding to the doubt were those who commented that I needed to step away from this athletic lifestyle which they perceived as driven by a dare-devil, competitive mentality.

I took a breath and realized, in many ways I was fortunate – rather than fixate on why and what happened, and I focused on gratitude. Dusting myself off, I regrouped, turned the mental corner and gained determination to turn this in to an opportunity.

While in the dust of doubt and soul-searching,  I inspected the reason why I value an athletic lifestyle and  determined it is not based on self-glorification, but built on the opportunity to express talent, grace and joy, and share passion! I realized too that pure motives are insulation from others unfounded opinions.

This adversity and perceived set-back has revealed a sincere renewal of gratitude and appreciation for daily work, play and friendships.

Today I march on with the great expectation of good!