teachable moments in barbados

When I was a kid and did something stupid, or made a mistake, or something bad happened to me that I thought was the end of the world, my mom would either comfort me or lecture me (depending on the scenario) and then would say, “It’s just a teachable moment.”

Somehow, the knowledge that the “teachable moment” would somehow benefit me in the future was usually not that comforting, because at the time all I could see was how it did not benefit me in the present.

As I grew older and such occasions continued to arise, I remember starting to predict the verdict before my mom said it, rolling my eyes (either literally or within) and saying, “Yeah, yeah, it’s a ‘teachable moment’. I know.”

I especially remember the “I know” comments. Because that was biggest frustration with “teachable moments”--usually I did know it was going to be bad before it happened, or that I probably shouldn’t make the decision I was about to. But sometimes that’s how it goes, doesn’t it? In fact, I think for me, personally, most of my teachable moments come from things I really did know about beforehand, but either forgot in the moment or disregarded because, well, you know… It was more fun to disregard. Or too difficult not to. Or I forgot.

Last month, I went to Bridgetown, Barbados, for my second ITU race of the season. As I’m sure you know by now if you have been following my results, I ended with a big fat DSQ* beside my name, hiding the fact that I raced my way into second place with the fastest bike and run splits of the day.

It was one of those terrible moments that is made so much worse by how happy I felt immediately beforehand: I crossed the line, super excited to stand on my first ITU podium and spray champagne on someone, then heard the announcer say, “Incredibly, Schlabach had the fastest run of the day, even with a ten-second penalty.”

Of course, my first thought was, “@#$%!!!!”

That might have been my second and third thoughts as well.

Once the obscenity subsided, next came, “Dammit, a teachable moment.”

Teachable moments from Barbados, in no particular order:

  1. When you get a penalty and don’t serve it, you get disqualified from the race. Furthermore, you don’t make any money from it; thus you don’t make up the money you spent to get to the race, and perhaps put into jeopardy your ability to race as much that season. You also don’t get any ITU points.
  2. Don’t get so caught up in what you are doing next that you forget what you are doing now. (My penalty came because, when I got into T1, I saw a girl up the road and was so focused on getting to her that I grabbed my bike before I put my helmet on. Big no-no.
  3. When you are at threshold effort, you go deaf, dumb, and mute. Even though I knew I got the penalty in T1, by the time I got to the run, I had completely forgotten about it. Apparently, the announcers talked about my penalty, but I didn’t hear a thing about that (though, somehow, I did hear the comments about how awesome I was running…) Literally, I didn’t even think of my penalty until I crossed the line and heard the aforementioned announcement. Frustratingly, after the race people kept asking me why I hadn’t served my penalty, as though I had chosen not to.
  4. It’s really helpful to have support at a race, if for no other reason than that they can shout at you till you snap out of your deaf/dumb state and thus avoid doing something idiotic like forgetting to serve your penalty.
  5. Even getting disqualified from a race doesn’t take away the fact that you did what you did in said race. Even though I didn’t get to stand on the podium this time, I know that I have the potential to do so.

All in all, I suppose I would rather have had a good performance and gotten DQed than to have had a terrible one and not gotten DQed. And I supposed I would rather get DQed at a relatively small race like Barbados than at a more important one later on. And, as with all teachable moments, despite my eye rolling and internal cursing and “I knows,” I did learn something important. And I’m betting that--even though I’m sure I will do tons of other stupid things, both in racing and in life--I won’t do that particular thing ever again.

I actually have pictures for you this time (thanks to Mark Harris and Andre Williams):

Bummer to not get to stand up here, but I had it from the men's winner that the champagne wasn't real anyways, so that numbed the blow a little... 
Lots of people to thank for this race: Anita Henry for covering my lodging; Grandpa Schlabach for his generous Christmas check that bought me my plane ticket; Tri360 for having my bike race-ready; and my coach, Zane, for having me race-ready.

Speaking of support, please help me to continue to race this season (see my last post for details)--and I will do my best to stop getting disqualified from races.

*A Note for Those Unfamiliar with ITU Racing: If you do something wrong in ITU racing, you receive a penalty which you have to serve during the race (usually during the run leg. This is different than in amateur racing, in which the officials just add some time onto your finishing time at the end of the race. In the ITU, the officials post the penalized athlete’s number on a board by the penalty box and it the the athlete’s responsibility to check the board and stop for her penalty. The officials are not allowed to flag the athlete down or verbally inform her of her penalty--although coaches/friends/fans may do so.