Oreos and failure

Confession time: I ate five Double Stuf Oreos on Saturday. Usually I have more restraint, but it was the opening weekend of college football season and I was back in the press box to cover local action. And Buffalo State, a program which has always been kind and helpful to me, has Oreos in the press box. It is perhaps the only time I eat Oreos come to think of it. And with a busy weekend, I needed the sugar rush.

My first stack of Oreos in the football pressbox.

I thought about those Oreos giving me energy the next day, as I was working my way through a very long brick session. It was 40 miles of cycling followed by 7 miles of running. I chose to bike and run on hills to help me prepare for the 70.3 in Allegany State Park later this month. Oreos give me energy! I imagined the sugar helping me to power through some of the hills and to keep going even when I wanted to stop. (Disclaimer: This is all by the way of my imagination as I am pretty sure this is not how the biology of the body works. But if in my head an Oreo cookie dressed as a superhero helps me spin up a tough hill, then so be it.)

This was a difficult workout. It was long. It was hilly. And by the time I got to the run it was hot. Mentally, I’m reaching training fatigue. I just want the race to be over. I’ve spent the spring and summer working on my most challenging races to date. My goal was to pick races which would be crazy hard (for me) and tackle them. This wasn’t a year for PRs or personal bests. It was a year to show myself how strong I am and how strong I can be. And my measurement for strength isn’t standard or typical. My measurement for strength has to do with persistence. With embracing times when I drop the ball or screw up with laughter and then moving forward. It’s about knowing I will make mistakes and falter. My strength comes through my intention, my focus and effort and, ironically, through my failing.

It was not the prettiest of brick workouts, but I put in the work, put in the effort, and kept gently bringing my mind back to a positive place. I focused on the little things — my pedal stroke, my stride, my breathing, my nutrition. I focused on the details so that my mind didn’t have a chance to tell me I was less than perfect. I looked around at the beautiful late summer day and thought how beautiful this was, how much I loved being out and about, how good my soul felt  in spite of (and perhaps oddly because of) my physical discomfort.

And that’s when I remembered a quote from that football game I covered the day before. The head coach, Jerry Boyes, spoke after his team opened the season with a win. The players he has are a year wiser precisely because they went through adversity the year before. And his wisdom on the process:

Quite frankly, you gotta fail. You don’t learn anything until you make a mistake.

So bring on the mistakes this week. I’m adventurous and ready to learn.

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