Reflections on my Second 100 Mile DNF.

“Can I count my chickens now, Alexa?”

“Yes you can!”  She smiled, as the two of us raced up Kenyon Devore.  I did it.  I REALLY did it.  I beat my coach!  On our last climb I could see my fellow team members, yelling and screaming for us.  As we crossed the finish line of the Mt. Disappointment 50k, side by side, I spiked my water bottle and began to do a ridiculous dance.  That photo appeared in Ultrarunning Magazine a month later.  I was handed an age group award as Alexa and I hugged and celebrated our victory, against all odds.

That was a big win in my life.  But that day I didn’t learn how to be victorious, I learned how to fail.  I remember Eric handling his own defeat with such grace, that the way that I looked at him changed forever.  My coach, by far the strongest person I know, physically and mentally, was human.  Beyond that realization, I watched as he showed genuine happiness for those that succeeded on that day.  I’d never seen him so proud of me before.  He accepted his loss of our tattoo bet, not out of embarrassment, but boldly claiming his giant ‘scarlet letter’ in a place for all the world to see.  And now a year later, after a couple of drinks, he will smile, roll up his sleeve and tell whoever hasn’t heard it yet, the story about how he earned his ‘S.’

When my own defeat occured last Saturday, I reflected back on that day.  If I could show half the character that Eric did, I could make this DNF positive.  I got up on Sunday morning, and as I drove to the finish of the Angeles Crest 100, my heart dropped seeing the first course marker.  But then around the corner came Fenton Cross, who I had shared the trails with quite a bit over the last few months.  His son, Peter, who had finished hours ago, ran back down the road to help his father across the finish line.  I rolled down my window and began to cheer as he smiled and waved, the look in his eyes similar to the one I had when I ran that 50k.  I parked just in time to watch him cross the finish line.  Just a few hours later, Heather would round that corner, to meet her epic victory as well.  How could I not be proud of these friends, who accomplished that day something that I could not?  I was full of respect, and hope for the next time that I line up that start line.  All I could do was the best I could do… and I did.

Eric went on to complete his 50k by the end of that year, just as I will complete the Angeles Crest 100 next year.  And that belt buckle will grow to define me, just as this DNF has defined me now.  The important thing is to learn how to embrace our failures the same way that we do our wins, and understand that it is through both that we become who we are.  The truth is that anything facing us is not as important as our attitudes towards it.  And defeat is not the worst failure.  The worst is not to have tried.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: