The Fear of Failing and What Happens When You Do

Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.
— Gloria Steinem

Most of my friends, coworkers, and clients know me as a mountain bike coach who races or as an industry professional who sometimes coaches and races. Personally, I've always struggled with that question on the form at the doctor's office that asks for your "occupation." Ever since graduating from college, my answer has never been cut and dry. 

But racing, in particular, was that one thing that I did just for fun. Starting at the top of a ski hill and getting a time when —or if— you successfully reaching the bottom? Yeah, that's something that shouldn't be taken too seriously. In fact, it was just two years ago when I raced my first PRO GRT (or national-level) downhill race. That race at Snowshoe was the scariest course I had ever ridden and I had to do it in the mud. Somehow, I got second.

Even as I started doing well at the pro level in 2017, I shied away from setting goals for my racing or making plans that reached too far into the future. After sitting down and setting some racing goals at the end of 2017, securing sponsorship, and seeing some cool opportunities start to arrive at my doorstep, I still kept my cards close to my chest. Not many people knew that I was even planning on racing at my first World Cup this year, or that I knew I had enough UCI points to do so after my first win of the year in March. Why? 

  1. Doubt.
  2. Fear.

I knew the moment I admitted to myself and others that I was taking this pro downhill racing thing seriously it would open up the possibility of failure. Surely at any minute, everyone would see that I wasn't actually that good at riding bikes, right? If I dared to dream about becoming a National Champion or racing at Mont Sainte-Anne against the fastest women in the world or going to World Championships, there was a chance that it wouldn't happen. Lots of things scare me —heights, horror movies, trails with lots of exposure— but, my biggest fear is a fear of failing. 

Well, guess what? I failed at a lot of this year. In fact, I failed to achieve most of my goals. On top of that, I broke my wrist two weeks ago and now I won't have the opportunity to check any more of the goals I had for this race season off my list. 

Left wrist x-ray showing a broken scaffoid and various metal parts from previously broken bones. 

Left wrist x-ray showing a broken scaffoid and various metal parts from previously broken bones. 

I know that last part sounds depressing, but hear me out. 

The thing is, without setting those big goals that give you butterflies and kind of make you want to throw up everytime you tell someone, you'll never have the opportunity to have a dream come true. And even though I broke my wrist doing it, one of my dreams came true: I qualified for a World Cup and I finished that race, dammit! 


So, no I won't be going to World Championships in Switzerland next week. I was surprised to have received an automatic selection and I am humbled and grateful to have seen my name on that list of amazingly talented US athletes. But I'm going to say it here first: my goal is to be at that race next year. *Insert fist bump*

I have some more big, exciting, butterflies that make you want to throw up kind of goals for 2019 — I promise I'll tell you about them.