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Failure: Do or do not, There is no Try

eebee's picture

Let's hear it for failing spectacularly.

In the past four days I have experienced two huge personal humiliations. The first one being a sensational bonk on Saturday with out-of-town skaters I wanted not only to start out with, but accompany over 48 miles. It was all over for me in heat stroke, dizziness and stars at mile 7. The next morning during the Tour to Tanglewood 47 miler it took my legs one and a half hours to wake up and get moving, by which time I had made sure we were last among the skaters. I don't understand it. I have been training! I have been training!!

Alanis Morissette covered the embarrassment of failure successfully in her songs You Learn, and Thank U, but that doesn't mean *I* have to feel proud or grateful about falling twice and getting up three times.

I hope you flunk...

The next crushing blow came this morning with the result of my first test in a class I am taking. I got an F - not a D or an E, but an F. I don't think I could have flunked worse than that. However, howling and gnashing of teeth can be very invigorating. Pain, anger and frustration got my blood flowing and now I feel alive again. Thank u anxiety, thank u night terrors, thank u dashing of all my hopes and aspirations...

I know all about Edison and his hundreds of failed light bulb prototypes that came to be known as opportunities for success, but we aren't all wired to be eternally optimistic, and I'm no Edison. Obviously.

It's a personal choice as to whether we should go for it - launch headlong into a red-flag relationship, show up for that event not knowing a soul or our way around, announce our deepest, most cherished desires to several friends and then watch all our plans go up in smoke...or whether we should just sit at home and never try. I'm reminded of the 'crazy blonde' character who dances in the fountain in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, and who comments on bad ideas by saying 'Don't you just love those?!'.

So if you're thinking of skipping A2A because you can't beat your best time or even come close to it, do me a favour and humour me here. I'm screwing up left and right and could use a co-commiserator or two :-)


MikeB's picture

was it "Bonk" class?

Sounds like you'd have gotten an A if you were in Bonk Class eebee. Maybe even an A+ with extra credit for style points? I hope you're okay, and hope you didn't scrape the wonderful new RSN.net jersey! Tell me they arrived in time for T2T. Sorry I couldn't attend but I'm looking forward to receiving my order soon. As far as the humiliation goes - you are SO right. If you don't try at all then there are no experiences like that BUT there are no rewards either. And to not earn those rewards or even try for them would be worse than any temporary humiliation suffered along the way. A wise lady once told me, "Every now and then you have to stop, look back, reflect. Because whether you know it or not, your life is a mountain that you are constantly climbing. It's good to look back and see how far you've come from time to time." WOW. That's solid.
Jack's picture

Re: Failing Spectacularly

I think we've had this conversation before, usually in the middle of a multi-hour skate, but sometimes you just have to step back and realize how far you've come and just what it is you're doing. I realize there are some sports, recreations, activities, whatever, that are more difficult than long distance skating. But you know what, there are a whole heck of a lot more that are much easier, less risky, and ultimately less rewarding as well. On top of that, the majority of the participants in what we are doing are probably half our age, in some cases a lot less than that. Not to mention the fact that even most of those are going around in circles in a safe, controlled, you can quit anytime environment. Not that I'm taking away ANYTHING from those that practice that form of the sport. I've been there and have suffered cruelly at the hands of pre-teens who have thoroughly humiliated me. It can be grueling and dangerous as well. Point being, we're doing something that only a very small percentage of people on skates do, and there's a very good reason for that. It's the dedication and hours and miles and unknowns (blind downhill curves) that have to be dealt with to be even moderately accomplished, and very few are willing to make that commitment. Realize that you are one of those very few and it is a steep mountain indeed. Again re:our previous talks and getting right to the point, I think you may be physically and mentally exhausted. Either of which can be a handicap, both of which in combination, the way it usually happens, can be downright debilitating. I don't know exactly what to tell you, but if it was me, I would take a week off from skating, and any other stressful aspect of my life and try to recoup my spirit and my body. Continuing to push through it at this point would probably cause more grief than good. Please let us know how you do. Jack
eebee's picture

Better'n Therapy

Ha! You guys are great! Thanks Mike and Jack for your words of wisdom and comfort. Yes Jack I'm sure we have hashed this subject to death recently - probably over about 150 miles or so! I wish I could just retreat from everything but it's just not possible. I have an angel of a coworker: a Brazilian lady who is probably the kindest, most gentle person I have ever known. She saved me yesterday when I was on the verge of a meltdown about my academic non-starter. She said in her broken English "But your dream, Liz-a-bet, your dream! You are negative so your mind closed. Study for 2 hours a day and you see...". So I went home thinking "I'll show her that studying 2 hours a day won't help". So instead of squandering my 2 good remaining brain-hours skating, I studied for 2 hours. I actually made a whole lot of progress. Sometimes I guess something has got to give.
roadskater's picture

Bravery and Exhaustion

Yo eebee, what a post! I've seen you be brave in so many private situations, public ones too, but this post is bound to be good for so many out there who might read this in their moments of fear and solitude. To consider yourself a failure in any respect regarding skating would be impossible for the vast majority of humanity to understand. But then, we marvel at those who consistently beat us at A2A, then when they have a year when they couldn't beat us, they're not there. We wonder why, because we know they could do the miles and skate with us, no problem, probably even still beat us by the end. It is likely because they, for themselves, consider going as slow as that a failure! We'd just like to ask those people to show up and skate with us, or ahead of us, or behind us! My goal is to find the best way to finish each year, as life and my approach to it and my resources change. I've posted my notes on the Saturday here, including my apologies for unclear speaking that contributed to exacerbating your low self-esteem that day! http://roadskater.net/hanna-and-her-skaters-2008-roadskaternet-team-tang... As for this post, it is gold for all of us that you shared your private fears and challenges so publicly. Whether it is skating or learning anything, it can remain so puzzling, so mysterious, so confusing, for so long. And even when the "Aha!" happens, we can lose it again, or there may be other factors obscuring what progress we've made and can still make. One of these factors is exhaustion of several sorts. We can get exhausted from repetition, from being at the service of someone else's dreams at the expense of the energy required for our own, from poor nourishment of soul and body, and perhaps most insidiously, from prolonged, repeated lack of good sleep. Sleep is the number one restorative elixir, in my view. And this is from the guy who often gets worked up so much when visitors come to town that sleep is elusive at best. I typically don't do well on Saturday of T2T weekend, then feel strong on day two, after the release of anxiety and due to the sleep brought on by exhaustion! As for me, a couple of guys (Dave and Mark I think) mentioned using Tylenol PM or similar, and I've found that it doesn't seem to put me to sleep, but it helps me stay asleep once I get there. Actually I looked at the ingredients and found that the antihistamine, diphenhydramine hydrochloride (HCl), at 25mg per capsule, is equivalent to the PM portion without the (usually) unnecessary pain medication. At WallofChina-Mart, called "equate Allergy Medication" is the same as some sleep formulas but cheaper. Adults can take 1 to 2 capsules every 4 to 6 hours. There have been times in my life when I was consistently not getting enough sleep. I worked so hard, so many hours, drove a long way to work, and put so much stress on myself (and others as it turned out) that little by little, day by day, life slipped away from me. The good drained away like excellent Tetley British Blend or Cafe Bustelo, leaving me alone much like the damp tea bags and coffee grounds we toss away when the flavor is gone. I can't say my life is more "under control" or less of a "failure" than when I don't make time for sleep, but I do know that when I have consistent sleep over weeks and months, it all looks better and I enjoy my failures more. And two things I know affect my heart rate are excitement at being around a lot of cyclists and skaters (a good thing that sends my heart rate spiking if it's a new or unusual or favorite event or situation) and lack of sleep in the few days before the event. I don't have any evidence here other than my own observations of my data set size 1 experience. But here's to magically eating right, getting plenty of sleep, and letting some hopefully other people's goals go, and to holding on to the essence of yourself and your dreams. Some days it's good to know you can't deal with learning or life or skating, and to spend the time talking about learning or life or skating with good friends instead. I'm sure you enjoyed some quality time while providing great support along with Jared and Jamie for those of us who slogged on whether wise or not. Thanks again for sharing so openly here. Most of us face these feelings, and few find courage to admit it where it might help others. We've mentioned HALT before: hungry, angry, lonely, tired. It's amazing how often we let those first and last items go unattended then are a bit surprised when skating or life doesn't go so well! So it's time for me to eat, and after that, who knows, I might take a nap!
Jack's picture

Re:Bravery & Exhaustion

Well put Blake. I have found myself up much too late on a regular basis and having to be awake at 6:30 M-F, know full well of the toll it can take. In my case, it's all about discipline, some I know, have no choice, and that is sad. Maybe, somehow we can reorient ourselves to make sleep as much a priority as skating, surfing, etc. I think it would be well worthwhile.

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