When things go wrong…

As promised last week, I’ll tackle the first question that was asked. This one came from Victoria on Twitter and she wanted to know:

What do you do when things go wrong?

The very short answer actually comes from the boy scouts: always be prepared. However, there are different kinds of ‘preparedness’: physical, mental and logistical.

The obvious one should be physical preparedness. You do all your training to be physically prepared for whatever it is you are planning to do. You hopefully have a training plan of some sort and build yourself up to your goal. This should be fairly straightforward and logical.

The more subtle ones are the logistical and mental preparedness. With logistical preparedness I mean checking your kit, sorting your travel and your devices, knowing your route, knowing train stations. All the things that need to be in place to make your ride happen. Mental preparedness is your ability to focus, step back and evaluate situations rationally and based on the evidence make decisions.

So here’s an example, which is actually what happened on my ride last weekend. Get your highlighter pen out and see what types of (un)preparedness you spot.

After many weeks spent on the turbo, I was out on my first ride outside, a nice rolling 60 miles, nothing too strenuous. I had left a bit late because I struggled with my Garmin to get it to upload the route, and then at the start found it hadn’t uploaded the route. I had printed the cue sheet, so decided to ride after that. It just meant stopping frequently to check I was still on course. Along the ride I picked up signposts for the sportive the next day and followed them.

At 4pm I noticed I was on the wrong route, I was on the 80 miles instead of the 60. Google maps revealed, there was a quick way along the A road to Billingshurst, which would eventually get me back onto my route.

4.30pm in Billingshurst. I knew sunset was at 5.30pm. I had 3 options:

  1. Ride the loop onto the 60 mile loop and then follow the A272 to Haywards Heath for the train,
  2. Take the A272 straight to Haywards Heath,
  3. Take the train home from Billingshurst.

I wasn’t going to sacrifice the ride, besides on the A-road I would make my way quickly to Haywards Heath. Or so I thought.

5.30pm. I am in the middle of the woods, miles from anywhere but just about to pick up the A272. I have 2 options go right to Billingshurst (5 miles) and take the train or go left 14 miles to Haywards Heath. I had no lights apart from a little red rear blinker.

The smart thing would’ve been to go to Billingshurst, clearly, but I had my heart set on Haywards Heath. It went downhill from there. I ended up in the pitch black, channelling my inner McGyver constructing a make shift light with my bento box and my phone, which got me to the next petrol station 2 miles from Haywards Heath, where finally I called it quits and phoned a taxi!

What do you do when things go wrong?

Be prepared.

Before you set out:

  • Think through what you need. Is your kit in order and functional? Are your batteries for phone and devices charged? Have you got a back-up plan (a map or cue sheet for your route)? Alternatively, know the area well or ride with someone who does. Do not wait until the last minute to do this.
  • Think about what could happen while you’re out. You could puncture. How are your tyre changing skills? Got spare batteries for your lights? What’s your back up plan for when equipment fails?

This does not mean that you become a totally frenzied, panicky person over all the things that could potentially happen. It just means to increase your awareness and your ability to access back up plans when needed.

While you are out

  • Don’t be a hero. When something happens, don’t panic. Take a deep breath, step back, assess the situation rationally and make the smart decision. The 30 sec you lose breathing will pay back later, especially in a race. Your priority is to keep you safe! This may mean getting over your ego.
  • If you puncture or suffer a mechanical failure in a race, assess what the best course of action is. It may be that your best course is to abandon, which may require you getting comfortable with that thought. Again it’s about making the smart decision.
  • If you get caught out and are stuck, think what the safest way is to where you need to be. In some cases this may require digging out creativity and short-term survival skills, but in all cases revert back to previous point: no heroism!

So, next time you go out, don’t be a numpty like me. Prepare, get yourself ready and then you’ll be in good stead when things go wrong.

Cheerio until next time.
Happy training,