Is It A Loss Or Is It A Lesson?


Mile 40 in the 2009 Leadville Trail 100 Run. One heck of a loss that proved to be a most valuable lesson.

In 2009 I attempted the unthinkable. I tried to run my first 100 mile race, the Leadville Trail 100 Run. Without going into great detail, I will just day that I Did Not Finish (DNF’d) on that attempt. It was a crushing blow that left me devastated for the weeks and months following. That run was a dream of mine for over 15 years and to come up short was a huge personal loss to me.

For the first month or two I could not even conceive going back. After a bit of licking my wounds and rebuilding my confidence though I registered that December to go back and give it another go in 2010, and this time I did finish. Barely. It was hard and it took everything that I had to get it done but if it was not for the lessons learned from the loss the year before I would not have done it.

Since then I have built a solid resume of 100 mile and other ultramarathon distance races, but I will always credit the lessons learned from that failure in 2009 as the cornerstone of my success. I had to lose that one in the short term to win in the long run.

It is just a fact of life, you won’t win every game that you play. You will not get every job that you interview for, or make every sell that you pitch. The truth is you will probably lose more than you win. That is just the way things go sometimes.

There will be times when you won’t always perform to the best or your abilities, times when your opposition will be better and times when circumstances will go against you. Even if you give it your 100% best you are not going to win every time.

But whatever your situation is, you don’t have to accept losing. Losing can easily become a bad habit and I’ve seen too many people slump their shoulders, become accustomed to finishing second or just give up. You lose when you don’t win the game but you are defeated when you refuse to play the game again. Never give up.

Losing and not hitting the mark stings. You can either focus on the sting or choose to focus on the lessons learned or the takeaways from the experience.

Keep your head up and acknowledge the fact that you did your best. As long as you do your best you are never in the wrong. But take responsibility if you have to. If you showed up not ready for the race, the presentation, or the game, and you know it, then own that as your part.

But dont’ be too hard on yourself. When I DNF’d that race in 2009 there was much, way too much self flagellation. I even wrote a two page postmortem on the race about everything that went wrong or that I had either done wrong during the race. It wasn’t until I was able to forgive and forget it all and move on that I was able to prepare to succeed the following year.

Never underestimate the value of bringing in a professional or expert for help. In my preparation for my 2010 attempt I decided that I did not want to come up short again and the best thing I could do would be to hire a coach who knows how to train people for 100 mile races. In my first 15 minute discussion with him I had pages of notes of all of things that I had either done wrong or neglected in my previous training.

Get better at whatever it is you are doing. Practice! If you are weak at presentations, practice until you can present as effectively as repeating the alphabet. Coach John Wooden created and developed awesome athletes because he made them practice. It wasn’t just fancy basketball shots or plays he drilled his players on but the fundamentals, day in and day out.

Never accept losing as the end of the game. Focus on the lessons learned to develop and win the next time. You can’t win if you don’t play.

Andy Wooten M.A. Counseling – Certified Life Coach – Aspen, Colorado



  1. […] I did not at least stay the course. It was definitely one those situations where I was destined to lose yet gain a great lesson in the end. Life is short… take the risks even if the odds are not in your […]

  2. […] Lesson: Sometimes  DNF is the best thing that can happen to you. […]

  3. […] Leadville Trail 100 Run 2009. – This run resulted in a DNF (Did Not Finish) for me and it was my first attempt at running that distance. DNF’ing was a crushing experience but again, the lessons and experience of it all has made me a much stronger ultrarunner in the end. It was a lesson, not a loss. […]

  4. […] Any start is better than not starting because even if you fail you will learn from the experience. Think of it as a lesson and not a loss. […]

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