Slowly Sipping Coffee

Preparation Helps but Expect the Unexpected

For 5 months this year, I’ve been training for a single race, the Kemah Olympic Triathlon, and this past weekend I completed it! Woohoo! It was scheduled to be run in April, however, due to some poor planning and lack of knowledge of TX DOT’s paving schedule, it was rescheduled only 2 weeks before the event. Yes, 2 weeks before the race, they moved the date 6 months later. I had been training for it for about 2.5 months at that point, and I was pretty frustrated to say the least. I looked for a similar race nearby so my training wouldn’t go to waste and I was able to sign up for the Texasman Olympic Triathlon just north of Dallas. While I was able to complete both races, they both had unexpected issues pop up that I had to work around. It reminded me that whether you’re planning for a race, for FIRE (Financial Independence/Retire Early), FFLC (Fully Funded Lifestyle Change), or anything else solid preparation is good, but being able to deal with adversity is key!

We’re almost a year away from starting our FFLC journey and we feel pretty solid with all of our planning. Since we don’t know for sure how that planning aligns with reality, we are going to spend 2018 test driving our FFLC budget and see if we hit any unexpected bumps in the road, like I have in my races. Like race prep, training is essential to make sure you’re ready, but the mental aspect accounts for a lot as well.

Training and Preparation Is Tough

The Kemah triathlon was going to be my first Olympic distance triathlon. Those races typically consist of a 1500m (0.93 mile) swim, 40 km (24.8 mile) bike ride and 10 km (6.2 mile) run. I’d run a Sprint triathlon in the Fall and was thinking the longer distance would be more fun. I found what looked like a fun race, signed up and started training a few months ahead of time. My training schedule consisted of swimming twice a week, biking 40-60 min twice a week and typically, running twice a week as well.

You can understand why I was so frustrated finding out 2 weeks before the Kemah race that it wasn’t happening. I’d put a lot of effort into getting ready for this. We’re hoping a similar thing doesn’t happen with our FFLC planning. Years of effort could be delayed if the bear market shows up right before we relocate out to Canyon Lake. Maybe we “train”/save another year and our plan gets delayed like my race. There are so many things out of our control, regardless of how well we’ve planned.

The Race Goes On

I started looking into other races near the same time and found the Texasman triathlon. It was only a month later, so I just had to continue my training another 3 weeks to be ready for it. What I wasn’t expecting was adverse weather the day of the race.

The night before the race, a cold front blew in and temperatures dropped from the 80’s to upper 40’s with 20-25 mph sustained winds and rain. When I got up that morning, I put on my race gear, loaded the bike in the car and tried to find anything to stay warm. I hadn’t brought anything long sleeved, so I wore the 4 t-shirts I brought, I layered some sweat bands over my ears as DIY ear muffs and went to check into transition. At transition, I decided I’d put on my wet suit to block the wind on my legs, and even though it’s sleeveless it was still the warmest thing I had to wear.

I spent the next hour walking around trying to stay warm, because the winds had not calmed down. It was 48 degrees Fahrenheit with sustained winds of 20-25 mph and gusts above that speed. They altered the swim course because of the white caps and winds, so instead of a half mile out and back, we were going to stay closer to shore and do 3 modified laps of the sprint course. Yes, we had to swim ~600m get out, run about 100 yards down the beach, then jump back in and swim another lap. It was crazy…



It was a rough race but I finished it, and I even beat my target time of 3:30 hrs.

Can We Prepare For What’s Out of Our Control?

Money talks are some of the biggest areas of friction in our relationship and they can tend to lead to not so pleasant conversations. The last 5 years or so, we haven’t to have too many of them because our budget is set up so that we don’t have to worry about money as a stressor. It’s really fortunate, but as such, we haven’t had much practice dealing with those sticky topics.

It burns! Not enough control!!

It burns! Not enough control!!

Like the cold weather and high winds, there are things we won’t be able to control. Instead of freezing weather, it could be the bear market that is going to happen at some point. Are we going to be able to adapt, communicate and handle the adversity well or will we fall apart in shambles? I’d hope we will communicate well and pull together to adjust our budgets as needed, but this test run will give us a nice practice for those uncomfortable situations.

Finally, The “Real” Race!

Fast forward to last weekend when I was finally able to race in the Kemah triathlon. The weather was great, winds were calm, and it was the calmest water they’d seen in the last few years. All the conditions were set up perfectly for a good fast race. We took a steamboat from Kemah out to 1500 m offshore and then we would swim back to shore. The swim sounded so exciting, it was the main reason I’d signed up for this race. No loops, no getting out of the water, just jump in and swim for shore.

The swim start, yeah!!

The swim start, yeah!!

Looking from the boat to shore. Head to the lighthouse!!

Looking from the boat to shore. Head to the lighthouse!!

When the race started, I jumped in the water and began swimming and it went great. I had a decent time and the tides weren’t very strong, but strong enough to be noticeable. The bike went great as well and I even averaged 18.2 mph. I was on track to beat my last time by at least 10 minutes! Then I got to the run…

Running? Not So Much This Time…

When I’d loaded up my water bottles that morning at 4:30am, I put electrolyte tabs in them. I thought they were caffeine free, but no, no they weren’t. It was 92 F that day, and I was sweating pretty heavily, as per usual for me. I knew staying hydrated was key, but I didn’t want to finish both bottles of electrolytes and get jacked up on caffeine. So, I tried to balance staying hydrated without too much caffeine intake and somewhere along the way, I lost my balance.

The run should look like this...

The run should look like this…

I started the run, but 0.5 miles into it I knew this was going to be a rough one because something just didn’t feel right. Too much caffeine, not enough water, probably a combination of both, but I did something I hate doing in races, I had to walk… Gah!!! I walked for a bit and then started running jogging until I got to the first water station at 1 mile. There I downed 3 cups of water and left with a cup of ice. OMG, the ice was so delicious. I jogged and ate 1 piece of ice at a time and by the time I got to mile 2, I was feeling amazingly better. I never got into full/typical running pace that I’m used to but that’s okay.

Walking, ugh... I don't ahve to be mad though.

Walking, ugh… I don’t ahve to be mad though.

Adjust Expectations

When I heard my body telling me the run wasn’t going to go as fast as I was hoping, I didn’t get upset or defeated or even down on myself for a stupid caffeine mistake. Nope, I changed attitude, adjusted expectations and kept going. Do I like alternating walking and running jogging? No, but that’s what I had to do to finish, so that’s what I did. I even shaved 3 minutes off from my Texasman race this Spring.

I still finished!

I still finished!

Where Are the Hidden Surprises?

With our FFLC test drive next year, we will see if there are things in our control, like my caffeine OD/dehydration snafu, that we will find in our plan. We may have some of those built into our budget plans and not realize it yet because we’re not putting it into practice. We may think we’ve got caffeine free water, so to speak and unknowingly be spiking our budget with who knows what.

Next year will be out trial phase, sort of like a test run for our budget, relationship, and more. We’ll get to see how we handle being on a tighter budget, if money talks are still a source of friction, and figure out what measures we need to take before we make the big change. Maybe we realize that this will be a cakewalk, and maybe we’ll go down in flames and find out we need to adjust more than we thought. Either way, it will be a good stress test for our FFLC plan.

Have you stress tested anything with your plans? Do you plan to just jump in with your plans and “start swimming”? Is there anything you could suggest we could do along with our year long budget test drive?

32 thoughts on “Preparation Helps but Expect the Unexpected

  1. Mrs. Picky Pincher

    Hey, great job on your race! My husband often works with TX DOT for work and they’re infamous for those kinds of things. Sigh.

    I think it’s funny that we like to view early retirement as a magical “Happily Ever After” moment. But life still happens; both the good and the bad. The only difference is that you don’t have to show up to a desk job if you don’t want to.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Thanks! yeah, life goes on whether we’re in a job or not. Not working isn’t going to be a magical cure all. As Maggie says, “retired you is still you.” You just have way more choices of what you want to do to make yourself happy.

  2. Brian

    Congrats on completing the triathlon. The steamboat start is pretty cool. Love the attitude. All about making adjustments as we go and not letting things outside of our control make us crazy, no matter what the goal.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Thanks, and that start was the main reason I chose that race. Very cool indeed!

      It’s always easier to know and accept what we can change and deal with the rest of it when it inevitably goes awry. 🙂

  3. Oldster

    Life is a dynamic system, not a static one. Any success at this thing is going to be riddled with course corrections and mind changing. Being robust enough to keep going through uncertainty is key. Congrats on the races. Your ability to adjust to changing circumstances bodes well for your future endeavors.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Knowing that change is the only permanent factor in life helps. Sure, all of these plans work well on paper, as Moltke said, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”. Knowing that and being able to adapt is almost as important as having a plan to begin with.

  4. Jacq

    I’ve learned my plans and what the universe has in store for me aren’t always the same. Being prepared, rolling with it, and realizing I always make it through is my general plan. My emergency fund has served me well in many of these cases. The ‘*shrug* people are safe, we’ll deal with the rest as it happens attitude’ is my second go to.
    I expect my FI / second act to be similar. I’d like to be somewhere tax advantageous and or lower cost of living, yet most of my friends & family live in or near a higher cost of living area, but I’d like to be closer to them.
    Both of my parents retired early. Mom got involved in teaching on a volunteer basis last year with plans to continue this school year. Not quite what she had expected.
    My dad was involved in a lot of committees, almost more busy than when he was working, plus lots of exercise (swim, bike, run, but not with a triathlon in mind). *surprise medical emergency* last winter, and recover this spring and summer. With focusing on getting better, committee involvement dropped off, and while he has increased his laps at the pool, he hasn’t gotten back to jogging yet. None of us expected that to happen.
    Because they each saved & invested well, both financially and in networking friends and family, they can do this. Dad’s medical expenses aren’t a burden, being retired meant no rush back to a job. Mom doesn’t have to weigh volunteering on her terms vs the need to be paid. I am aiming for the same.

    For your budget test run, factor in a *surprise* car replacement or home repair (hvac, & water heater type event) .

    1. Mr. SSC

      That’s our thought too, be prepared, roll with it and adapt when things inevitably change is our general MO. My inlaws saw similar ER paths as your parents. They both found different things to do, and like your father my FIL, had an unexpected medical issue pop up. He went from lots of exercise, Habitat volunteering and more to being pretty much hobbled for most of a year. While he’s gotten back to doing some things, Habitat is done for good and his life has changed forever.
      It’s amazing how quickly health issues can alter your life course.

      Our paper budget has cars being replaced every 8 yrs to the tune of about $18k (good used versions) and home issues have been upped in our budget due to our current home being such a money sink at times. I’ll throw in something (hopefully just pretend) in the budget plans next year and see how they adapt.

      I’m still worried the stresses won’t be the same. Is this like Gwyneth Paltrow’s living on $8/day for food and complaining about how hard it is? The key difference is that she also isn’t stressed about money, bills, and the next 2 weeks when she only has $8/day to live off of. Regardless it’s the closest we can get to test running this thing, so it’s what we will do.

      Thanks for the comment!

  5. Mrs. Adventure Rich

    This Tri sounds awesome! I love the swim start out in the water!

    Haha, I definitely tested my nutrition/hydration strategy a few times on long runs before my half marathon this spring. Even with that, I think I could do better in the future!

    On the FI side, I’ve seen several people take mini-retirements and it has definitely peaked my interest. Who knows, maybe that would be a good way to test a lifestyle change in the next few years…

    1. Mr. SSC

      Yeah that swim start is great. No laps, no circling around buoy’s, although the tide was pulling me away from the buoys as I felt like I was swimming at a 45 degree angle towards them the whole time and never getting closer, lol.

      I had used everything except those electrolytes in the Dallas tri earlier in the year and it went great. No issues, no crashes, no weird feelings, but lesson learned… Eat everything as planned and do a longer test run of different stuff.

      I wouldn’t mind trying a test run, but man, my industry already has so many people out of work that unless I could agree my company to let me take a sabbatical and still return to a job in a year, I don’t think I could pull that off. I look at it as, “when I leave, I’m out.”

      That’s not a bad thing, but it makes me want to be really, really, sure that when I go, we’re set, because this is a great setup, income, company, and lifestyle I have going on now. It’s hard to beat 9/80’s with every other friday off, the freaking golden handcuffs (the struggle is real), and our family schedule now that Mrs. SSC is teaching. That’s been the biggest driver for me not pushing to get out of our jobs even sooner.

      We both like our jobs, and we like our current lifestyle setup now that we’ve downshifted from what it was. A test run is great, but if it gets pushed a year or 2 then that works too. 🙂

  6. Mr. PIE

    Congrats on the Tri. Whoah!. Impressed!

    For us, it is like sitting at the side of the lake, imagining laps but not really swimming it. With expenses of currently running two homes (hark, is that the home equity vs stock market police I hear…?) and a plethora of expenses we won’t incur after July next year (pre/after school care, primary mortgage, commuting costs etc etc), we have not truly been “test-driving”. But the magical spreadsheets, worked over many times, tells us we will be just fine.

    Well, mostly fine….What worries us about FIRE and get us stressed/angry/frustrated?

    HEALTHCARE. This is something that should not change as the winds of various administrations blow soft, hard and in different directions. The inhumane actions of the current administration are just mind-boggling.

    We have even started to have the dialog about living in a different country. The UK, to be specific, where we would essentially pay close to zero dollars on healthcare. A country we could logistically (but not mentally)) move back to easily. The fact that we are actually having those discussions tells us how bad the situation is getting. If we have to budget an extra $15-20,000 per annum for US healthcare, we will need to sit down and look very hard at what that will do to the many other things we are planning for FIRE. The exchanges open up in a few weeks and output from that will go a long way to dictating our next steps.

    Change for us is coming, for sure. We are still not exactly sure what it is going to look like.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Thanks, and yeah it’s hard to be in a situation to test drive the budget. Even next year we can really only play at it and have hopefully not tense conversations about overspending when it happens.

      And Healthcare, how the hell do you test drive that? It’s just mind boggling. Like you if we have to add in another $15k/yr on top of what we’ve planned, it would take some more years to get that covered comfortably. On the flip side if we could find a side gig that pays ~$15k/yr then that beats the shit out of saving enough to cover that amount. Yes, I hear the retirement police already bemoaning “you’re not retired”…

      It’s nice to have options though, whatever they may look like.

  7. Mrs. COD

    Oh, I’m so jealous of your racing accomplishments! It’s definitely frustrating when all your training and hard work can go to waste due to someone else’s poor planning, so I’m glad you were able to find another race. And congrats on both triathlons! That swim start on the more recent one looks amazing–what a cool way to begin!

    Great points on how life just doesn’t go according to plan. We have to plan the best we can and hope/pray for not too many snafus and detours along the way! And like Mr. PIE commented above, due to health care costs, we might consider moving overseas in order to retire earlier as well! It’s just so hard to plan for every single possible contingency. That’s one reason I enjoy so many FIRE bloggers sharing their own journeys and changes in plans!

    1. Mr. SSC

      I agree, reading other people’s journey’s, plans, contingency plans and the like has been eye opening. It lets you think, “Man, we’re not saving enough, our cushion might need to be bigger” and then read someone else and think, “Man, we’re not that risky planning on 10% returns from now until we die… Yipe! Glad we’re playing it conservative!” lol

      There’s so many ways to skin the cat, you just have to figure out the best way for you and realize, there will be problems that pop up and what is your plan to deal with them. We’ve discussed moving overseas, but that won’t be until Mrs. SSC’s parents aren’t around, so we may not need to worry about healthcare because we’ll be so old by then we may be on medicare, lol.

      Thanks on the racing accomplishments! It’s fun, but after a few weeks off, I’m ready to get back to regular exercising again. I did run twice during FinCon, so yeah, that Saturday run started rough, but I still got 4.25 miles in. We’ll see what I’ll do next. I want to do this one again when it runs in April’ish time frame and dial in the nutrition and try to beat 3:10. We’ll see, we’ll see…

  8. Mrs.Wow

    I love this! You can plan and plan and plan, but sometimes (most times) things don’t happen exactly as you plan for them. I think it is important to test drive things before making the jump. We’ve been testing out a few plans for when we FIRE and so far its been extremely beneficial. We’ve learned from some of our mistakes and made improvements for the future. Kudos to you for finishing the race and adding an addition one too.

    1. Mr. SSC

      We’ve test driven various aspects, but yeah, it’s been a work in progress for years now. I don’t think it will ever be “finished” but it will be a good start. That and knowing we can adapt when sh!t arises, is kind of comforting too.

  9. Miss Mazuma

    Good for you for making it through!! A lot of people give up when situations aren’t ideal. You changing your attitude and adjusting is key to success in this run and also in life (and most definitely in FIRE!). I commend you for pushing through…I can’t run far enough to even break a sweat! 😉 Congratulations!!

    1. Mr. SSC

      Attitude is key in any situation. I could have had a worse one, and even worse race, but meh, the clock doesn’t care, it will still be running. Just like FIRE, life keeps movin on, and you can have a good attitude or a real negative attitude. Either way, life moves on. I try to have a good attitude, but it can be trying at times.

  10. Cubert

    Congrats, man! I let my wife do all the hard stuff like this. She’ll go out and place first among the women almost every time. I enjoy taking pictures and cheering. Maybe the occasional Warrior Dash to see if I can set myself on fire at the end….

    1. Mr. SSC

      Wow, that’s impressive! I’ve looked into some of those warrior dashes and tough mudders and while they look interesting, I’m not sure I want to go through that. 🙂 I guess it’s all perspective on what’s “fun”.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Thanks! Yeah when reality laughs at your well crafted plan, sometimes you just have to put an arm around its shoulder and laugh along with it, and move on.

      I’ll have to put out some quarterly updates on the test drive when it starts next year.

  11. Matt

    “No Battle Plan Survives Contact With the Enemy” – Helmuth von Moltke

    “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

    While comparing FI to battle is overly dramatic, they are both serious endeavors. I have always kept these quotes in mind for many aspects of my life, particularly when I encounter people who are to rigid in their thinking–there is very little in life where everything about a situation is fully known. The best thing you can do is give yourselves a trial period. You call it a test run, but to extend your metaphor, it is also training for your new lifestyle: it might be that you will adjust to the circumstances, instead of just changing the plan to fit who you are now.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Yes, that exactly! Sure, this isn’t battle, but it’s still a lot of planning for tons of unforeseen circumstances. Just thinking thru those potential options creates a better thought through and crafted plan to begin with.

      Yeah, training for our new lifestyle, I like it. But yep, that’s what it is. See how we deal with money talks, actually living with a budget, and those sorts of things will help see how realistic we are and what changes we need to make to our plan.

  12. Mrs. BITA

    Congratulations on those races, super impressive stuff.

    As with so many things in life, half (more?) of “winning at FIRE” comes down to mindset. You are in a very solid place both monetarily and from a mindset perspective. And you have all of us cheering you on from the sidelines if the going does happen to get tough.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Thanks and I appreciate the cheering on from the sidelines! It’s what this community is great for, having good cheerleaders even when things are down. It seems like, especially when things are down.

  13. Prudence Debtfree

    We have had less conflict over finances since we started our journey out of debt – along with its tighter budget – since it has left little room for conflict. I hope that your stress test turns out to be conflict-free, but if there are bumps in that road, I hope you respond to them as you did your caffeine surprise. Adjust, reboot, move forward. (I remember running beside a woman in a 10K run, and she stopped to walk. I felt smug … until she passed me later!)

    1. Mr. SSC

      Adjust, reboot, move forward – exactly! I’ve had that happen in races too, even the feeling smug part. I learned early on, run my race and quit paying attention to anyone else but me. Unless you happen to find a super great pacer to stick with, then pay attention to them, lol.

  14. The Money Commando

    Congrats on completing the race. I’ve done a few 1/2 marathons and I’d definitely found I need to be flexible with my pacing. On one of my races I had a similar temperature issue – the temperature during the day was about 70 but when I was lining up at 5:30 am for the 6 am start time the temperature was around 45. Everybody else seemed prepared – apparently the thing to do is bring “disposable” hats and gloves. Basically these are just really cheap articles of clothing that you take off and throw on the ground as things warm up. Somebody comes along afterwards and picks up the discarding clothing, washes them, and donates/provides to the homeless.

    I wish I’d had a picture of all the discarded gloves and hats along the side of the race path.

    1. Mr. SSC

      I’ve had to work on pacing at times when I start out and notice my watch and think, “whoa, whoa, whoa, I don’t run 8 minute miles! Slow down chief!” and then I back down to my usual pace. The adrenaline is amazing at the beginning of those races!

      That cold morning, noone was prepared, but most people, myself included, left flip flops at the end of the swim for the run through the gravel parking lot to transition… None were left behind at the end of the race, but it lookd pretty funny at the start.

      Tthat discarded hat/glove pic would have been cool to see. 🙂

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