Jen Rulon

Life Lessons from an Ironman Triathlete: Chapter 5 

Control What You Can Control

“The two things in life you are in total control
over are your attitude and your effort.”


When I was training for my first Ironman Triathlon in 2002, it was very hard to spend time outside in San Antonio. Why? Because of heavy rains and flooding in 2001, leading to the second 100-year flood that San Antonio had ever gotten. If it wasn’t raining, the roads were flooded. I couldn’t get anywhere, let alone ride my bike.

As an athlete with a full-time job that had me working on weekends and some nights, I had to do those long rides during the week. Every Wednesday evening, I would watch TV (internet was dial-up back then) to check the weather report. Rain. Again. I would grumble. Get frustrated. Move my long bike to the next day. I would get out my flip phone and look at the weather the next day. The same thing — raining. I would grumble more and get even more frustrated.

So did I stay in the grumble mode? No, I found a way to make it work. Sometimes I rode the trainer for 6 hours at times, with many TV shows and movies keeping me company. Other times I’d start my ride outside with the knowledge that I’d probably only get 3 hours in before having to come in out of the rain and finish at home on the trainer.

As my triathlon journey continued, I started noticing that some people would “freak out” before races, especially about ten days out. For Ironman Wisconsin in 2002, there was a forum where participants could ask questions, find out what was going on, talk about the weather, wetsuits, nutrition, etc. You know — what Facebook is now.

I have never seen so many people freaking out about the weather, the wind, the sun, or if it was wetsuit legal or not. This was very early in my triathlon journey, and it was when I decided to shut the noise down and “control what I can control.” I realized that I could not do ANYTHING about the weather other than preparing myself for it. I had to listen to the race director to find out about wetsuits. I’ve also had to hear a race director say, “Swim is canceled” due to the riptides being too dangerous. (IMFL 2014).

I can accept what I learn about whether I can wear a wetsuit or not. I can control my attitude about a swim being canceled. I can control what I wear on my bike to stay warm. What I realized during my very first Ironman Triathlon is that there is a much bigger picture here. There are things that I can NOT control, but what I can control is my attitude about it. Doing so sure makes racing a lot easier.

During our everyday lives, there are things that we must deal with. A prime example would be the weather. For example, you get up in the morning, and you see that there is a 90% chance of rain for the day. You can decide whether or not to wear your beautiful white pants and get them ruined by the weather. You can also decide on whether to grab an umbrella or not. Another example is how you handle traffic heading to work. There are a couple of ways that you can deal with this all-too
common occurrence. For example, you can choose to:
– Take the bus, subway or train instead of your car
– Listen to an inspiring podcast while you sit in traffic
– Use traffic as an opportunity to turn off the noise and sit quietly in your mind, choosing your gratitude for the day
– Leave earlier
Alternatively, you can:
– Choose to yell at traffic and get grumpy heading into work
Remember, all of these are choices. You can’t control traffic, but you can choose whether you’re going to be moody or inspired or dancing a little jig with your music. It’s an effortless task. Remember — control what you can control.

Journal for Life Lesson #5: Control What You Can Control
1. How do you handle life when “life” gets in the way? In a positive way or a negative way?
2. If you handle life in a positive way, what do you do? Write what you do below.
3. If you handle life in a negative way, why? How can you turn the negative into a positive?

Are you interested in grabbing my “Life Lessons from an Ironman Triathlete” book from me, as I will sign seal and deliver? Click the photo below!

AUTHOR: Jen Rulon

I have been coaching triathletes, runners, and cyclists for over 21+ years; I received my Master's Degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. And as you may have learned, there is more to life than swimming, biking, and running. It is a lifestyle, and I am here to help you cross that finish line with a smile, whether it is an Ironman Triathlon or the Ironman of Life. You can find my knowledge shared in Triathlete Magazine, Runners World, on the TEDx Stage, the Health and Wellness Expo in San Antonio, TX, Southwest Research Institute Human Performance Summit, Training Peaks Workshops, "Self Motivation Strategies for Women" on Amazon, Men's Journal Online, and the New York Times. I also practice what I preach—she's a 15x Ironman Triathlete who participated in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, on October 14, 2017.

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