Failure is never a pleasant experience. Failure is something that just about all of us try to avoid at all costs and only a few truly embrace for what it can teach us. This past weekend, I failed to accomplish a goal that I had been striving for over the past 6 months: to successfully complete Project DM. Project DM is an extreme triathlon consisting of a 2.4-mile swim in Roosevelt Lake, a 126-mile bike ride with ~10,000 feet of climbing from Roosevelt Lake to Flagstaff, and a 26.4-mile run through Flagstaff to the top of Mt. Humphrey’s, the highest point in Arizona at over 12,000 feet.
My training had been laser-focused on this event for the past 6 months. I felt confident and ready to take on the challenge by the time race morning came around. After an incredibly peaceful swim and 60 miles of seemingly effortless riding, I noticed the feeling of hypoglycemia and nausea begin to set in. I thought that it was strange since I had done a good job of consuming calories and fluids throughout the first 60 miles of the bike. It didn’t take long before consuming food and fluids was a challenge. My heart rate and power output dropped rapidly and, before I even knew what hit me, I was feeling the full effects of hypoglycemia. This feeling of hypoglycemia and nausea would eventually be my downfall and caused me to pull out of the race 9 miles into the run. I couldn’t get my heart rate up and was so nauseous that I couldn’t stomach food or fluids, a recipe for disaster if I would have continued onwards in pursuit of climbing to the top of Mt. Humphrey’s.
It is pretty apparent at what point my day took a wrong turn when looking at my heart rate profile during the 126-mile bike course:
I am at a complete loss of words as to how and why my body decided to quit on me halfway through the bike as I was following my race strategy well up until the first wave of hypoglycemia and nausea hit me. Although it was the right decision to pull out of the race, I can’t help but feel dissapointed over the fact that I had failed to accomplish what I set out to achieve. Now that I have had a few days to process what happened to me, however, I feel ready to write about my experience.
First off, I can’t begin to say thank you enough to everyone that supported me throughout the day. My support crew was absolutely amazing and pushed me and supported me until the very last step I took. Thank you to everyone that put the time and energy into making this race possible. It is truly an epic event and the fact that it supports charity in the process makes it that much more epic. A huge congratulations to everyone that toed the line on Sunday in the hopes of completing this race. I believe there were 6 of us that were attempting the whole thing, and 3 of us finished and found themselves on top of Mt. Humphrey’s by the end of the day. The rest of us gave an incredibly valiant effort and never gave up.
I think the hardest part of this race has been dealing with the mental and emotional toll that it put on me after the fact. I invested so much in the pursuit of this challenge, and to have pulled out of the race only a third of the way into the marathon leaves me with much disappointment, not necessarily in myself, but in the overall outcome of the day. I know I gave it absolutely everything I had, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that I came up short of achieving the goal that I set for myself.
Despite the feelings of defeat and dissapointment, I do believe that there are some valuable lessons to be learned in my failure, and these lessons need to be acknowledged in order for me to learn and move on from this experience. I may have failed to finish the race, but I experienced nothing short of a life-altering adventure out there this past Sunday.
I witnessed what is possible when you surround yourself with the right people and with people that love you and care about you. Project DM is an incredible display of human spirit on both an individual and collective basis. As athletes, we all set out to achieve something much larger than ourselves, something that is only possible with the help of a network of support around us, something that is so difficult that failure is very much an option.
Despite the potential for failure, we all set out on testing ourselves and pushing ourselves past our self-perceived mental and physical limits. All of us realized our limits and pushed past them, leaving us stronger individuals than we were the day prior. Some of us succeeded and made it to the top of Humphrey’s while others, including myself, failed to realize this dream. Regardless of the outcome, whether we succeeded or failed, I think it is most important to realize that we have all chosen a journey in which failure is common. These failures, however, are absolutely essential for our continued progress and growth not only as athletes, but as humans.
Failures lead us to realize just how worthwhile our journey truly is. Our failures humble us and and challenge us to grow stronger and more resilient. Our failures teach us far more than our successes ever will. They teach us that anything worthwhile in life is challenging and that sometimes it is the journey as opposed to the destination that truly matters. To fail is to be human, and to truly embrace this concept is something beautiful. There is so much beauty in success, but this beauty is even more apparent when viewed in context of all of the failures that have led up to the realization of success.
As for myself, truly embracing the beauty of failure has been a challenge. I strive to be a better athlete and human each day, and I have encountered many failures and mishaps along the way. I am slowly coming to appreciate all of these failures not as something negative, but as something positive. I will surely learn from my experience with Project DM, and you can bet on me coming back next year in order to finish what I started.