Community problem solving + Mindfulness + Life Movement

For the past number of months, I have been training diligently building to the Beijing Triathlon that raced yesterday.  I have not raced in an Olympic Triathlon for some time – I hadn’t been able to find an event that fitted with all the many things busy families do – and so when this one popped up in our town, it was a no-brainer to enter!

I have been training and loving the motivation that it has brought to my life.  I have been reading No Sweat by Michelle Segar which seems to sum up the importance that everyday movement has but that it has to be habitual and fit into the joy of your day – not an ‘add-on’ or an extra that we can build negativity around (feeling as if the exercise and diet is a chore which festers in resentment, rather than something that is a gift to your every day).  This idea that for many movement and exercise and good eating is a chore and not just something that you do each day as part of your gift of life is so opposed to how I personally feel about movement and has caused some deeper thinking about how I teach PE but also a little life diagnosis too.

This past weekend we had a busy time of preparing for the Olympic Tri on Sunday morning.  As this is a big event, there are race briefings to attend, bikes to rack, packs to collect etc and it was hectic.  The event is about 30K from my home, but traffic in Beijing is so unpredictable that you can sit in hours of traffic if you aren’t careful.  We left at 4.30am Sunday to be at the venue by 5.30am and sit in the car resting and for me being mindful of how my body and mind were feeling for 15-20 minutes before zooming into race mode.  Stakes were quite high for me as I had posted good race and training times and I was expecting to do well overall in the Female racing group but also to post a top-50 overall if possible.  I have been struggling with a cold but this is par for my training course – my poor body gets overwhelmed with stress leading to big events.  My reading of Dr Giuila Enders amazing book, Gut, has also made me really be aware of how my Gut really rules my brain and emotional well being.  I highly recommend this book to everyone as it covers so much very recent research about our amazing selves and all that our Gut copes with every minute of the day.  I also found that idea that how our bodies process and collect bacteria can have such an impact on our bodies – the way we put on or take off weight; the way we feel and how we do with different foods – fascinating.

Anyway, I did my best with nutrition in the lead up to the race and on race day.  This is not an exact science and takes everybody time to practice well.  Next year I will take a water bottle with me to the swim, as we had to wait almost 1.5 hours from line up to get in the water in hot conditions and I needed a drink!  We swam in the open water for 1500m through all kinds of types of swim stroke in low visibility (another story for another day).  I came first out of the water for the women and zoomed off to Transition to my bike.  17Km into the 40km ride, disaster struck – a flat tyre.  I changed it as efficiently as I could but when trying to pump up the tube, I broke the stem, so I couldn’t get it to work.  I had already had so many issues getting the tyre back on that this was a bit overwhelming.  I watched the next female competitor zoom past on her bike.  Frustration set in.  I had worked so very hard for this race and great cost to me and to my husband minding children while I set off on my adventure.

It was at this point that I sat and had a Neila Steele and Andy Vasily moment – I just sat and took in what was going on – being mindful of myself (safe, fit, healthy, happy, with a super fast bike and an opportunity to see my friends race up the hill) and the environment (lots of excited spectators, safe venue, warm and hilly space, safe space to sit and watch, water, gels and tools to try and fix my bike).  I put on a smile and accepted that my ‘race’ was over but I still had a life moment to enjoy to the max.  I think a few years ago, I would have been unable to let-go of feeling like I had ‘lost’ and would have been very pessimistic about my outcomes here.

So, I walked to the crowd and took some time to try and fix my bike.  I had one tube that was okay, and one that wasn’t.  And with 25 minutes of sitting and hand-gesturing with the local people, we sat, tinkered, played, tested and finally and came up with a viable race-finishing solution.  We took pieces off of one tube and did out best to fix the other one.  There were lots of people who came to help and filmed us problem-solving, a policeman came to see if I was injured or needed a ride back to the race-venue; I had another rider who had an issue come over the chat with me about our combined predicament and plenty of riders to watch doing amazing riding up and then back down the hill.

After 45 minutes from me first getting a flat tyre; to the community bonding over my bike challenge – I was off.  There was such a collective cheer from the people that had been on the getting-Mel-back-on-her-bike journey, it was like I was committed to finish because of their support.  The one man who had been 100% committed to making this work sent me back into the course like a proud father sending me on my way.  I completed the cycle and transitioned into the run and came to the finish line finding my very concerned training buddies who were very worried about what might have happened to me.  I learned a lot about myself today.

I am of course sad not to have placed in my race today – but I have a much richer story about what happened and a dream about what might have been.  I have the knowledge that I live in a place where people are so supportive and want to help.  I get to train on my bike, in the pool and out running and I love moving in my life.  This knowledge is motivating me to parent and teach my best to hopefully pass on the idea to our children that movement shouldn’t be a chore – it should be integrated into our everyday movements!  I also love the idea that community problem solving has resulted in me not DNF but in finishing very strong yesterday.  I still took 4th place in my age group…. and there is always the next race.  Thank you to everyone who has supported me in these journeys – there is so much yet to come and I am excited for the next one.

Additional PS

Upon further reflection, it is important to include the most amazingly supportive community I train and live with here in Beijing.  If I didn’t feel connected to my core training group as well as work in a PE dept that promotes daily movement and working out and if my family didn’t support me in all of these things, I would not nearly be as committed to it as I am.  Thank you to everyone for all of their collective support and equal love of movement!  You are cause for daily inspiration.



  • mhamada

    Thank you Kimba, for taking the time to read and write a comment. I have learnt a lot from my amazing friends – including you – to see the best in every moment and assume positive intent – still practising this daily and always seeing your smile and shake of your head in those moments when you have to laugh at yourself! Thank you my friend.

  • Kim Sandgren

    Well Melba! What a beautiful story of resilience. I am so inspired by these words. My biggest learning has been in finding the opportunity in every obstacle and you were able to do this in the moment! That’s awesome.

    May you continue to be an inspiration to all you meet and touch. You have always played that role with me – and I am not surprised you were able to do this for a whole community.

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