Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2020: My Year of Embracing Failure

"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."
- Robert F. Kennedy

When I asked my athletes to fill out their post-season reviews from 2019, I asked them where they failed or came up short in the past year. And along with this, how did their failures reflect their courage and enthusiasm?

Reviewing my own triathlon season made me realize that while I have a lot to be proud of, I've come up short in reaching my goals year after year. This is not reflective of my personality. I've set and reached goals my entire life. Even as a kid, I was always driven and goal-oriented. And I set really high goals too, not just easy things to check off the list. So what is it about triathlon that inspires me to aim for something that's just a little bit further out of reach? And why do I keep coming back for more?

I qualified for the Ironman World Championship in 2016 kind of by a fluke. I came in 3rd in my age group in Ironman Boulder earlier that year. My age group was supposed to only get 1 spot to Kona, but at the last minute an extra spot rolled down from one of the older age groups who didn't use it. So 1st place took her spot, and for some reason 2nd place was nowhere to be found when they called her name for the 2nd spot. Maybe she heard that we were only getting 1 spot and went home. I didn't even have a good race in Boulder. This was before I figured out my sweat concentration and I was bordering on hyponatremia in every Ironman I raced. I was bloated, dizzy, and walked a lot of the marathon.

After having the magical experience of racing in Kona that year, I competed in Ironman Lake Placid, Ironman Los Cabos, Ironman Texas, Ironman Chattanooga, Ironman Canada, and Ironman Louisville. I failed to qualify for Kona every single time. And in each consecutive attempt, I grew less and less discouraged.

You learn so much more from failure than you do from success. I learned how important it was to appreciate each and every race for the unique experience that each offered. I learned how persistent (stubborn?) I am when I'm pursuing a goal that I feel like genuinely adds value to my life. I've learned countless ways to get more out of myself: physically, mentally, and emotionally. And I learned that if endurance is the goal, in both my sport and in my life, then the failures that add up along the way are just part of the journey instead of stopping points.

So in 2020, I'm going to dream up as many innovative, creative, enthusiastic, daring ways to fail as I can. As long as I continue to learn and grow from each experience, I'm excited to find out how much I can evolve this year. And on the off-chance that I set a perceived out-of-reach goal where I end up succeeding, that will be a win that I couldn't have attained without this mindset.

I can't end this blog post without acknowledging that my husband is probably reading this thinking that this is going to be a really "fun" year for him. There may be some messes that I create that he'll inevitably have to help me clean up. So starting here, I'll make sure I remind him often how much I appreciate that I wouldn't be able to take as big of risks without him unconditionally having my back.

Before Ironman Canada this year, he gave me a printed and framed quote by Teddy Roosevelt, in which he changed all the male pronouns to female pronouns. The "man in the arena" became the "woman in the arena." I was doubting myself heading into that race because it was my first Ironman that I had coached myself for. I was so afraid to fail as both an athlete and a coach. With that gesture, Ryan showed me that not only would I never be alone in my pursuits, but that just showing up and continuing to put myself out there is the real win. If you know the story of how that race went down for me (IM Canada Race Report), you'll understand how the quote guided my performance that day:

"It is not the critic who counts. Not the man who points out how the strong woman stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the woman who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs; who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, great devotions; who spends herself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if she fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that her place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."


  1. What a beautiful perspective of how to see the silver lining in the storm cloud of triathlons,.! Proud to have called you coach!!!!

    1. Thanks Don! The "storm cloud of triathlons" is such a great way to put it!


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