Aren’t you afraid?

In 2011 I signed up for my first iron-distance triathlon, the Rev3 at Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio. Not long after that, a friend came up beside me during a run and asked me, “Aren’t you afraid?”


“What if you fail? What if you can’t do it?”

I hadn’t considered that.

Wow.  I hadn’t considered that.  I suppose there’s that possibility, but what if I did?

Truthfully, I’ve had things that didn’t quite work out before.  I had already tried to break the world record for running the seven continents TWICE. Still hadn’t done it. I was going to be a millionaire by the time I was 30. And 40. And 50. Maybe I’ll make it by 60. But what if I fail?

Some people have questions like that going on in their minds when signing up for a marathon. There’s a possibility that you’ll fail. So what? What if you never even try?

The 2011 Rev3 is in the books, successfully: 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, 26.2-mile run.

Yesterday, the Ironman Louisville was a different story. The swim started upstream, and because of the previous two days of heavy rains the river (and therefore the current) slowed me down a lot before making the turn downstream. The bike course was quite hilly, and the combination of heat, hills and perhaps not enough training got me in a lot later than I planned. At that point, I knew that I couldn’t finish before the midnight deadline. I started anyway, amidst lots of encouragement from volunteers and even a little extra from back home. After two miles, I made the call – at the pace I could run, there was no way possible. I pulled the plug. It wasn’t going to be my day to cross the finish line and hear, “You’re an Ironman.”

Still, it was a great training day. I learned a lot about myself and my abilities. I had a great time and felt good when I got done. My endurance is fine. My speed isn’t.

Sometimes we fail. But we get to choose what to do with failure. Use it as a reason to try again and do it better? Use it as a life lesson. Figure out how to make it better next time.

Things don’t always work like you plan. Sometimes your attitude is great but your training didn’t keep up with it. It’s a great time to step back and re-evaluate. That’s what I’m doing today. A friend sent me a text and asked if I’m going to sign up for another Ironman today. Maybe I’ll give it a couple days. But it’s bound to happen.

In the meantime, I’m taking the lessons and my attitude and continuing the adventure. And looking forward to hosting a lot of you at a marathon or half marathon sometime really soon, either the Boston Qualifier, the Grand Rapids Marathon or Groundhog Marathon. And watching all of you accomplish goals and set new ones along the way.

“What if you fail?” Really? Reframe the question. “What if it doesn’t work the first time you try it?” You’ll learn something about yourself. You’ll benefit from the conditioning, and find out how much more you need to do. And you’ll sign up for another event real soon, and show the world the stuff you’re made of.

You’ll learn to be fearless. You’ll look at the world and say, “Now stand back and watch this!”