I hate failing at things. I mean, I really hate it. I always want to be the best at everything all the time. I’m not, but, if it’s something I’m passionate about, I will dump myself into it with everything I have and the results are usually favorable. It’s how I operate inside of racing and outside of it.
However this is life and there are failures. Passion can make you wake up at three in the morning to go for a run, or even push through a race while injured (one time I finished an ultra marathon with my ankle duct taped in place), but sometimes failure happens and brings it’s lessons. It always brings lessons.
In the racing world, I’ve had two DNFs. DNF stands for Did Not Finish for those of you who don’t know. They destroyed my pride each time they happened and really, even to this day, bother me on some level.
My first happened at The Northeast Suck. Joe Decker brought his event to Maryland and I drove down to take it on after training like a maniac for it. It was the first time I met Joe and wanted to perform well so I trained. And trained. And overtrained and injury.
In the middle of the event, my foot clicked and all the sudden felt like it was on fire. Stress fracture. I was out and completely heartbroken. Really, that race was just the beginning of my real racing career and friendship with Joe, but I didn’t know that at the time. I was just bummed.
See, I didn’t have a lot of experience at the time at racing or any of this. I was just a guy trying to see what he was made of and didn’t understand that damage that overtraining can do to the body. I learned that night and as proof, I am writing this on a rest day while my mind tries to shame me into going for a run. No sir, you are fine right here.
The second happened at the 2014 Winter Death Race. I had finished some very hard races at this point and felt like I was superman going into that race. Superman doesn’t need to eat when there’s sandbags to be carried up the mountain. Who cares if you threw up all the water you drank? You’ll be fine. Nothing can stop you. Camelbak frozen and can’t drink? Fuck it, you’ll be fine. Why do I keep throwing up? Where am I? I can’t think, what the fuck is wrong with me. DNF.
It took me a long time to figure out just what the hell happened to me at that race. I was on such a good streak of races and finishes that I overestimated myself and underestimated what thirty hours of straight racing could do to me in the cold. I stopped taking care of myself and was rewarded with a sweet failure as a result. I think that might have been the most valuable lesson I’ve learned and I’m sure it will serve me well over the next five years.
As much as I hate to say it, my DNFs have made me better and smarter. Sometimes as much as you pour yourself into something, whether it be a race, a job, a relationship, you will fail and your lessons are the most bitter fruit you can imagine. All you can try to do is learn from your mistakes and only have to taste the fruit once.