Brick-by-Brick: Handling Disappointment

Let’s talk about disappointment.

This picture was taken during the 2020 Monkeys Trail race on Koh Samui. I won this race — the first race I’d ever won — and it’s still my last race at the time of this writing.

It seems odd to start an article about disappointment with a picture from my only win.

Still, it’s what happened after is the important part.

After the race, my motivation was higher than Bob Marley during a recording session. I dialed in my training, and I was the poster child for consistency. You couldn’t tear me from the trails.

I had one goal in mind. Get enough ITRA points to qualify for the OCC race at the annual Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc (UTMB). If you don’t know what that is, it’s the Super Bowl of trail running.

I had signed up for a few races in Thailand. And these races would help me qualify for UTMB.

And I didn’t want to race only to get the points. I’m ultra-competitive; I wanted to win. And I trained to win.

But, nothing is guaranteed in the COVID-era. And events with large groups of people are as rare as UFO sightings (which increased in 2020-2021 strangely enough).

And, as fate would have it, it became likely they would cancel the races. But, the dates inched closer and I stayed hopeful.

Then, June came, and they canceled the first race. Then July, and the second race fell harder than Ivan Drago.

There’d be no racing in 2021, at least not in Thailand. And, even more disappointing, there’d be no OCC for me in 2022.

I felt deflated.

But, like many runners during COVID times, I adjusted. Personal goals became the focus.

For me, this came in the form of a 100-kilometer run — which would set a personal best for distance run.

Again, my training was the best I’d ever had.

I put in many weeks of 90-kilometer plus running on trails. And I added in loads of elevation gain.

I didn’t want to just complete it; I wanted to crush it.

Yet, the let-downs continued.

The plan was to do the 100 kilometers on November 21st.

But, Murphy’s Law visited my home, and I slipped on water at the start of the week and split my head open. I was okay, only some stitches, but it was better to let it heal.

There’d be no 100-kilometer run over the weekend.

This one hurt.

Sure, my head hurt from the gash, but the emotional scar was worse than the physical one.

The 100k was my last big run in Phuket before I left, as well as the last big run with the running family I’d made there.

It sounds odd to be so emotional about trails, but Phuket is where I dove into trail running head first. And the trails were where you’d find me most days during COVID when I wanted to disconnect.

I don’t get attached to objects often, but Phuket’s trails hold a special place for me.

I spent most of the week in my home, bummed out from the situation.

Me running the Takua Pa Taste of Trail race in Thailand.

But, as I sat there, I had time to think.

Disappointment is a part of life. It’s how you respond to the frustration that will determine where you go.

You can let it bury you, ruining all the work you put in, and having that disappointment live with you.

Or, you use it as fuel, and you strive toward a new goal.

Most things in life are a journey, and our efforts are rarely for nothing.

When you work toward a goal, every bit of effort you put in is a build-up.

First, you lay the foundation. Then, you start building, brick-by-brick.

You’ll get cracks, and some bricks won’t set right. But, that’s a part of the process.

You can demolish the entire house. Or, you can re-tool and continue laying those bricks and add a second floor.

For me, I know my training didn’t go to waste, and my second floor is already in progress.

They say luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. And, I’ll be damned if I won’t be prepared.

Let’s just hope I’m lucky.