Failing Versus Failure

In a year that has seemed hell bent on teaching me lessons, I have learned what is probably the most important lesson of all. At least for me.

Failing does not equate to Failure.

How’s that again?

About this time last year I set some fitness goals. These goals were inspired by the Doxa Threelay race that my family had signed up for. Their sole purpose was to ensure that I was prepared for that race, with a little extra throw in to give me something to work towards throughout the remainder of the year.  These goals, at the time, seemed highly attainable. I was confident at the beginning of the year that I would complete each of these goals well ahead of schedule.

I failed to reach even ONE of them.

Over the past few months as I’ve seen the above chart prominently displayed on my Garmin dashboard, I have pondered what it was going to mean to me – knowing that I would not accomplish what I had set out to accomplish. I’ve thought a lot about the obvious failure that comes with not completing something that, at one time, seemed to be an easy thing to reach, but….wasn’t.

I’m fairly “success-driven.” This has stunted my growth in a lot of ways in my life. If I am not certain of succeeding, I have historically chosen a different path from that which would increase a risk of failure.

Signing up for Doxa last year changed all that.

It was an event that, in and of itself, had such a high level of risk for success (if you want to call it that), that I surprised myself by so willingly jumping onto a team of far superior athletes. But I did. And then I began to learn.

I created my training plan. Based on that training plan I came up with distances for each event (running, biking, swimming) and then threw in walking for good measure. Based on my training plan I should have made those distance goals within the first two months after Doxa was over.

  • I did not count on feeling so uncomfortable with the running portion of the race that I would swap out swims for runs.
  • I did not count on feeling out of my element on the biking portion of the race that I would swap out swims for bikes.
  • I did not count on the post-race blues that hit me REALLY hard and threw my whole fitness regimen out of whack for months following the race.
  • I did not count on injury recovery.
  • I did not count on life getting in the way of workouts.

There were a number of things that got in the way of making the actual distance goals that I had set for the year, but a very strange thing happened along the way. You know how they say that age is just a number, and it really doesn’t matter how old you ARE but how old you FEEL? I learned that distance goals don’t really matter, either. It is what you gain from those distance goals that are important.

  • I learned that by setting these particular goals that I was prepared for one of the most physically and mentally grueling things that I have ever done.
  • I learned that it’s super important to have a plan in place, so that when life happens, you know where and how you can manipulate those plans to ensure the best chance of success.
  • I learned that it’s important to listen to your body, and when you need to step back, that you step back, regardless of what type of mileage goals you may screw up.
  • I learned that not only is it important to listen to your body, but it is important to listen to your heart, mind, and soul. A tough training schedule is every bit as hard on you mentally as it is physically, and it is important to keep your inner self as healthy and strong as you keep your physical health.
  • I learned that falling short of a goal you set (failing) does not mean that you’re a failure.

Do you know what I have accomplished in the process of failing at my annual mileage goals!?!?

  • I put 767.24 miles on my 54 year old body (not counting swimming because I have no idea how my Garmin calculated my swim distances).
  • I completed the most insane race I’ve ever participated in – the Doxa Threelay (or Iron Cowboy). I was sure this was impossible.
  • I completed a Warrior Dash. I was sure this would be too hard.
  • I completed a 7K and  10K, which are pretty standard races for me.
  • I PRd in my 7K.
  • I completed a 15K. I was pretty certain that I couldn’t do this.

You guys! I did things this year that never in a million years would I have ever thought possible for an old lady.  But I did them. This year has been a complete success, regardless of failing to hit every single very well thought-out number.

Over the next three days I will be contemplating what kind of physical goals I will be setting for the upcoming year. They won’t be as lofty as this past year because I don’t have a Doxa in my future. But they will be challenging. After all, we do not grow unless we push ourselves beyond our perceived limitations.

First up – training for, and competing in, my very first half marathon. Wish me luck on this one because I think it’s fairly well impossible!


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