Failure, Progress & Fun at National Championships

A couple hours after the 2018 USA Triathlon National Championships I texted my daughter Morgan, “Part of me wants to take a couple months break and part of me wants to go back out right now and practice.” That was the emotional roller coaster I was on after I failed to meet my goal of a top 20 finish on Sunday morning. I’ll share my failure, progress and the fun in today’s Giraffe Paper.


I found it difficult to explain my thoughts after the completion of the race. This was “the” race for me this year and I came up short finishing in 30th place. I had a 19+ hour drive back to Safety Harbor post race so there was time for reflection and that will continue in the coming weeks. I identified four things so far I would alter and all of them had to do with preparation, not race execution. I did what I was capable of on this day but I gained beneficial experience from the race. Bottom line is – I failed – and I’m embracing it.

On the ride back I thought back to two people sharing their experience with failure that made an impact on me and if you know me you won’t be surprised that I heard them on the Rich Roll Podcast. I located the podcasts and listened to them again. I found exactly what I needed to listen to as I was pondering the day. First, Des Linden, this year’s Boston Marathon winner shared how she “failed” to win the 2017 Boston Marathon and she made it very public that she wanted to win race. She noted, “I wanted to do this thing and I failed to do it. I failed. Failure is an action, not an identity. We do it all the time. If you learn from it you get better and that’s how you grow. Being super afraid of failure you miss the point. Those are the lessons. That’s where you learn the most. You fail yourself to success.”

Next was David Goggins, Navy SEAL and endurance athlete who demonstrates extraordinary mental and physical prowess. He also discussed failure on the Rich Roll Podcast. David shared these thoughts on failure – “You have to be willing to fail 100 times to succeed once. ‘Failure’ was me having more information on how to succeed. I failed so much. All that was, was oh, I failed because of these reasons here. Go back to the drawing board, figure out the right equation, put it together and go back. Fail again? Oh, I got more information!”

I highly recommend listening to both of these amazing mentally strong individuals. They share several examples how they have overcome significant obstacles in their lives and how they work through it. What I continually find myself fascinated with is how high performers face the same doubt, questions, challenges, and obstacles as anyone else. They simply rise above through persistence, figuring it out, and having belief that there is a positive result possible. I listened to another audio clip documenting the self doubt that Steve Prefontaine wrestled with regularly. This is Steve Prefontaine, one of the most accomplished runners in U.S. history. We all have the doubts, struggles and failures. It’s what we do with it that matters.

That is where I am at now. I failed. I am going back to the drawing board to figure it out and that is through various means. Believe…


A couple things came into play post race helping demonstrate I am making progress. A conversation and pep talk with coach and winner of her age group, Celia Dubey, really helped put some things into perspective. She provided encouragement and reminded me I’ve only been at this a few years implying this takes time and experience in racing. This was my second Nationals race and there was progress from last year.

When looking at the results it was astonishing that my age group, 50-54, was faster than all other age groups other than 15-19 and 20-24. What I mean by that is while I finished 30th in my age group, I would have finished 19th in the 45-49 age group and 30 or better in all other age groups other than the two youngest. Last year at Nationals I finished 32 of 64 (50%) participants and placed 30 of 117 (26%) this year. The margins are very tight.  There was 50 seconds between 30th and 20th place.

What does this mean? As David Goggins said, “Go back to the drawing board, figure out the right equation, put it together and go back.”


As much as I am a competitor and want to reach my goals, I counter this with enjoying the process and the community. I had an incredible weekend spending time with the team. Good friend and teammate, Amy Noble, and I drove up and back together…in one day each way. We shared life challenges, adventures, training and racing experiences, listened to her baseball team, the Atlanta Braves, play on radio, listened to 80s music playlists (hers if you can believe it…not mine) and country, and I introduced her to John Joseph via of course, the Rich Roll Podcast.

We were complimented on our transition work around the car at a gas station pit stop. We were pumping gas, filling bottles, rearranging things, grabbing food, and more. A lady approached us stating it looked like we practiced and had been doing it for years…ha!

While in Cleveland the team met for practice swims, rides, and runs. We also ate together and strolled around the city. I got to know each of the teammates a bit more and loved to learn more about their passions, desires and stories. Fellow age grouper, Matt Cremers, who I met this year at the Cocoa Beach Triathlon and then others hung with us too. We have quickly become friends and share many common things. This community is awesome and made the experience memorable. Congratulations to Celia Dubey for winning her age group and Dave Morrow for finishing 4th in his…inspiring teammates!!!

Crazy note about the race – Lake Erie was subject to a sewage leak the prior weekend making the course questionable (bacteria) going into Friday’s practice swim. We were cleared to practice and I have to say I was uncomfortable with the water quality but if we had to race in it we had to practice in it. On Saturday, the Olympic distance race experienced a death with a swimmer being pulled out of the water. The conditions were quite rough and this resulted in our swim being canceled on Sunday. They altered our race to a shorter run on both ends of the bike. As I have come to learn in triathlon races, you have to be prepared for changes at any time.

Moving forward

In addition to going back to the drawing board as I noted above, I am now evaluating where I go from here overall. This is something I knew I would evaluate after this race. I have two more triathlons scheduled this season with one being another National race. This one has a few different twists but is another World Championship qualifier. I have never raced this type of triathlon before but I need to and will be great experience.

I will determine an overall plan for winter and 2019 in the coming weeks. One thing for sure is I will be back in Cleveland next year at the National Championships. As Des Linden says, “Keep Showing Up.”

– Add Health to Your Life

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