Lessons from (another) arrowhead dnf(did not finish):
When I got home last week, my daughter (annoyed I was early) asked me, “why do you do winter races if you never finish?” I was quick to remind her of my tuscobia finishes, but I want to share my “new” answer to this question in hopes that it may help others that have been struggling with a dnf.
Background/Old thought process:
It used to really bother me to drop out of a race. I felt embarrassed, like a failure, loser, less worthy of a person… disappointed in myself, and very much like others were judging me for it, like I wouldn’t be allowed to enter races if I didn’t do well. This was reinforced at arrowhead after listening in past years to some successful racers gripe about people who drop early in the race, and take spots that they felt should rightfully be held by more “serious” athletes.
When something like running becomes engrained in our sense of identities, we personalize any setbacks as failures of our own characters. This is amplified when our peer group does the same. It’s hard not to let these events become deeply tied to our sense of self, and that’s ok, as long as we don’t tie in only the OUTCOME instead of the journey. As learned from the tuscobia wrap up email last year, a deep need for external validation through a “finish” or “win” can even result in unsafe risks and/or people breaking rules or cheating to get it. I’ve never needed the finish that bad, failing myself is one thing, it would be infinitely worse to know deep down that you risked others or lied to everyone about your accomplishments.
Of course failing rather publicly to achieve a goal you set out to accomplish is still very much a hard pill to swallow.
With or without a finisher hat, we are all still very worthy amazing people. What has changed my mindset now, I get to leave it behind… I literally just physically and metaphorically drove away and got to choose what I took with me. No one here at home, work, my new life, really truly cares if I finish, they just care that I’m happy and safe. If someone judges me based on the outcome of a race, I thank them for making it easy to show them the door out of my life. I choose my network, I choose whose messages I listen to, including my own negative self talk vs forgiving myself for making mistakes. I don’t worry about “imposter syndrome” anymore, the only people that get to judge who deserves to be at the race are the people in charge of it. Basically, I pushed out the negative influences and developed a life that is significantly more well rounded than I have had in the past. It took me physically moving to a new State to gain the confidence to say, “I don’t give a fuck what you think”, but I don’t think it’s ACTUALLY necessary to move like that, it’s just what finally worked for myself.
So to answer the original question, why I still do these horrible events:
I am here for the personal development and camaraderie. I am also shamelessly here for time with trees, snow, stars, wolves, and nature. Signing up for events with ridiculous challenges and low finisher rates gives me an opportunity to challenge myself to focus on a goal, to learn, to problem solve, strategize, plan, and this helps me in all aspects of life to grow as a person. The successful outcomes feel amazing and boost my confidence. The failures expose me to new opportunities for development.. and I’m always open to learning new ways to become a better version of myself. Either way, success or failure, I gain so much from each of these experiences, and that is why I continue to show up. I hope my fellow winter warriors will all too.