Overcoming Setbacks From A Poor Race Performance To A Major Health Problem


Buddha told a parable in a sutra:

“A man traveling across a field encountered a tiger. He fled, the tiger after him. Coming to a precipice, he caught hold of the root of a wild vine and swung himself down over the edge. The tiger sniffed at him from above. Trembling, the man looked down to where, far below, another tiger was waiting to eat him. Only the vine sustained him.

Two mice, one white and one black, little by little started to gnaw away the vine. The man saw a luscious strawberry near him. Grasping the vine with one hand, he plucked the strawberry with the other. How sweet it tasted!”

From the blog I’m Gina Smith

Hi folks,

A glass half-full

A glass half-full of the best drink in the world (next to Elderberry Juice, maybe), water.

Life comes with setbacks, whether you like it or not, so you might as well get to like it, I say. Of course that is much easier said than done, but you can often arrive at this happy state of mind once you have dealt with a few and have learned to put them in perspective. My latest setback was failing to finish the Lake Placid Ironman race for the first time, but for some reason, even though I had trained for a whole year for this race, it didn’t get to me. I realized pretty quickly that I had made the right decision health-wise. I had completed 5/6 of these races in the last 6 years, which is a pretty good track record for a guy over 60 in a tough 140.6-mile race, and I knew that my supporters would prefer that I come back uninjured with a DNF (Did Not Finish) than hurt myself, or even put my life at risk. If I felt bad about anything it was the fact that my support team wouldn’t get to see me finish and enjoy all that “You Are An Ironman” hoopla!

Ingredients for a breakfast omelette for Deb and FitOldDog on his return from his DNF Ironman race

Ingredients for a breakfast omelet for Deb and FitOldDog on his return from his DNF Ironman race

About 3 or 4 years ago I had a very different reaction to a poor race performance, even though I did finish. I was slower than I hoped to be, in this Hawaii Ironman qualifier, and I was mad about it. I was so mad I didn’t go to the rolldown meeting, where spots roll from the first to the nth athlete, if the faster athletes already have a spot or they don’t want to do the Hawaii race. I missed the rolldown meeting, and a Hawaii spot (much coveted in the Ironman world) rolled right on by me – you have to be present at the meeting or you miss the chance. So getting mad definitely worked against me, which was, in fact, a valuable lesson. Wasting your chances through an immature attitude is not a constructive approach to life or to safe exercise for better health. So what did I gain from the Lake Placid Ironman 2012 DNF trip? Many things, including the knowledge that I know when it is best to stop, and from my friend and cat lover, Zaid, I learned about the sweet aroma of red onions cut into rondelles and sautéed into an omelet.

Farm fresh breakfast is served for Deb and FitOldDog (who loves to cook).

Farm fresh breakfast is served for Deb and FitOldDog (who loves to cook). Deb said it was great, except I woke her up!

The funny thing is that I had a better attitude to my abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) in 2010, which also cost me a Hawaii slot (I was 40 minutes ahead of the second guy off of the bike, and I had the race in the bag, but the aneurysm messed up my run and nearly my life – that’s what this blog is really all about, learning to cope). I was frightened, I must admit, as I knew my life was on the line but somehow I managed with the help of family and friends to turn this major health challenge into a positive change in my life. When someone writes to me about their recently diagnosed AAA and they are scared to death, I can provide some reassurance that they will get their life back with a little work and a positive attitude.

Helping other people is very satisfying and self-affirming for FitOldDog. Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique BaubyFurthermore, I am told increasingly frequently that my attitude as an older athlete is an inspiration to other older people, seniors, or boomers who want to get in shape. This wasn’t my goal, but I am happy it is turning out well for others. What better way to spend my life?

I’m a lucky old dog and not so old as all that in my heart! I act like a 5-year old whenever I can get away with it.

Finally, if you think that you are having a hard time, read ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.‘ Remarkably, Jean-Dominique Bauby never gave up in spite of odds that would drive me to my knees. But he couldn’t do it alone. He needed an insightful friend to notice that twitching eyelid, which led to this inspiring book, which is a great gift to us.

-k @FitOldDog



  1. I am always impressed with your self-awareness, and your constant work towards positivity. You ARE an inspiration, and DAMN that farm fresh breakfast looks good!

  2. Thank you Meg, and yes, it was yummy. -kevin

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Disclaimer: As a veterinarian, I do not provide medical advice for human animals. If you undertake or modify an exercise program, consult your medical advisors before doing so. Undertaking activities pursued by the author does not mean that he endorses your undertaking such activities, which is clearly your decision and responsibility. Be careful and sensible, please.