Fear of Failure and My IRONMAN

What a Load of CrapI got an e-mail a few days ago from someone I don’t know named Tommy D. at shipsonfire@gmail.com, the subject was “Here’s hoping:”

That you drown during the Iron Man. Or suffer an MI during training. Either works. Stop pretending your anti-ableist bull shit is going to get you through a goddamn Iron Man. Add this to your hate mail. You’re disgusting. Not an athlete. Not a marathoner. Not a human.  A ham planet trying to fit in with the rest of us.

I gather from this that Tommy is against me, and compound words.  I think that a ham planet would be adorable and I really wish I could draw so that I could have a beautiful illustration of a ham planet to go with this piece, but that’s a topic for another day.  I get lots of hate mail, often hundreds in a day.  A few are people like Tommy who take time out of their busy schedules to tell me that they hope I die doing my IM.

A lot of it is from people who want to make sure they I know that I could (or, in their estimation, will) fail at my IRONMAN.  You know, discouraging me “for my own good.”  making sure I’m aware that I could fail at this and suggesting I go ahead and not try. Sometimes, someone who is actually well meaning asks me if, considering the fact that my attempt is so public, I’m afraid of failing at the IM.

The truth is, obviously, that anyone who attempts an IRONMAN could fail. People who have made it to the podium in IMs in previous years have found themselves unable to finish in future years. Lots of people start training but don’t finish. It’s so common, in fact, that the IM coordinators go to great lengths to make sure we know that no matter what happens, we are not getting our money back if we don’t show up or complete the IM, unless we buy insurance that they sell because this happens so much.

I can’t know for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the kind of people who take the time to write hate mail to discourage someone they’ve never met from trying to achieve a goal that has nothing to do with them, are also the kind of people who try to set the bar so low for themselves that they can trip and fall over it because they fear failure and/or they’re perhaps already soaking in it.  So maybe they think we should all fear failure like they do?  Of course there’s no way to know for sure, and luckily it just doesn’t matter.

I don’t expect to fail, but I’m well aware that I could, and I’m not afraid of that.  What I’m afraid of is not trying because I’m afraid to fail.  I’m afraid of living a life so meaningless that I become an internet troll who harasses bloggers who are trying to reach goals, or e-mails people to call them names (however adorable) and tell them that I hope they die. I’m afraid of letting a fatphobic world and all of the shaming, stigmatizing, stereotyping and oppressive bullshit that comes with it make me live a life that’s smaller or less than the life I want to lead.

Compared to that, not being able to swim, bike, or run far enough or fast enough to finish an IRONMAN seems like pretty small potatoes (or should it be pretty small ham?).  Besides, I’m very much expecting to cross that finish line and get my medal.  So here’s hoping that I don’t die trying to do the IM, but if I do at least I died trying to achieve something and not trying to discourage someone.

More Cool Stuff:

If you have questions about my IRONMAN journey  the FAQ might help!

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Book Me!  I’m a professional speaker and I’d love to speak to your organization. You can get more information on topics, previous engagements and reviews here or just e-mail me at ragen at danceswithfat dot org!

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While I totes appreciate all of this faux concern

About danceswithfat

Hi, I’m Ragen Chastain. Speaker, Writer, Dancer, Choreographer, Marathoner, Soon to be IRONMAN, Activist, Fat Person.
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21 Responses to Fear of Failure and My IRONMAN

  1. k8heron says:

    I sent you a ham planet drawing on FB. All I can say is keep on being the amazing athlete you are. Better to dare. Don’t feed the trolls xx


  2. “Not a human.” wtf. There’s more I’d like to say but I can’t make it make sense. Good response though.


  3. Ever since you announced that you’re training for IM, it’s been a foregone conclusion in my mind that you would succeed in completing it. Anyone who believes otherwise has obviously not been following Dances with Fat.


  4. ncrisafulli says:

    What kind of ham? Like flat Canadian bacon for the plains and big haunches for the mountains? And would the lakes and seas be gravy? Brown gravy or white? There’s a lot you could do there.

    Or…did he mean ham in the comedic sense? Maybe it’s a bunch of people doing silly physical comedy or cute 4 year-olds mugging for the camera.


  5. That’s so awful…a triathlon of this length is hard enough without naysayers!


  6. KP says:

    I don’t mean to make light of the awful volume of hate mail you receive, or this one in particular (death threats?! that’s fucked up) but now I really, really want a t-shirt that says “Ham Planet.”


  7. ksol says:

    No one would ever starve on a ham planet, would they? For dinner, you’d just have to go out in the yard with a shovel.


  8. Maggs says:

    Ham Planet, now with little bacon-wrapped satellite moons! I wish I could draw the mental image I have of the ham planet. Pointy ear-shaped mountains, curly tail just because hey, it needs a curly tail, maybe with a little shooting star at the end of it… I may need to cultivate my drawing skills to graduate past stick figures.


  9. Sandy says:

    That last line, though! Perfection as always, Ragen. Can’t wait to see pics of you with the IM medal around your neck. ❤


  10. ebay313 says:

    Anti-ableist is apparently a bad thing?
    Though from someone who would say you (and presumably other fat people too) aren’t human, I guess that shouldn’t be surprising.

    But definitely better to try and fail than never try. True to so many things in life. I’m working on a PhD and part of my reason for going for it was that I would rather regret doing it than regret not trying (whether regret be because I didn’t finish or because I get my PhD but then find myself unable to get the job I am aiming for with it, at least I fucking tried.)


  11. juliakelk says:

    I can’t believe that anyone would write that to you.
    I have no doubt you will finish your IM. What it takes more than anything is the mental will and drive, and you have them.
    I wish you the best of luck in your training in the meantime, and I enjoy your blogs.


  12. lsstrout says:

    All I have to say is: ROCK ON WITH YOUR BAD SELF!


  13. Kay says:

    My friend and I have both been following your blog for several weeks now and loving it. We’re both training for our second Ironman and your blog came up in conversation for the first time the other day (we hadn’t realized we were both following you). My friend’s a pretty competitive, podium finisher and I’m a back-of-the-pack, gradually improving sort. We were talking through what we’d learned from the first Ironman experience in terms of the qualities it takes to complete one and — for what it’s worth — it was clear to both of us that you’ve got everything it takes to do an Ironman. But you know that already! Wishing you a great journey — we’re rooting for you.


  14. Bonnie says:

    Holy crap! I was flabbergasted at that letter. Some peoples children! For what it’s worth, I think you’re amazing. How you handle all of it. Your courage to not just live outside the box to homie who you are but to do it in these circumstances is inspiring. It helps me feel there may yet be hope for the human race. I’ve no doubt you have what it takes to reach your goal of crossing that final finish line but I’m also cheering you on with each win and success along the way. The IM is not simply one challenge. It is many that are met, overcome and won on a daily basis just to get the chance to do one more. As though all the challenges and victories if the past two years will be relived in a condensed period during the race (if that makes any sense).
    Anyway, yeah. Not enough words to convey how you’ve touched and inspired my life. Thank you.


  15. Inchokate says:

    Ragen, by embracing this outlook on life — choosing challenge and risk and bravery — you have already won more than any medal could represent.


  16. vh says:

    So what is Tommy D.s Iron Man record?
    Notice that he’s not said.
    For all we know, he’s “Not an athlete. Not a marathoner. Not a human.”

    Kinda reminds me of the Teddy Roosevelt statement:
    It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

    Regan, you are the “[wo]man who is actually in the arena” here. And all credit belongs to you.


  17. Kiki says:

    It is incredible what some people feel the need to share with others.

    I have been following your training progress with great interest, and you’re inspiring me to train for my own IM in the future! Because giving everything a go with joy and mindfulness is a fantastic way to be!

    Thank you for being awesome.


  18. Greg Moorlock says:

    Hi Ragen, just wanted to wish you good luck with your IM. Although I think we have some disagreements on fat/obesity more generally so are unlikely to see eye-to-eye on that, I know that it takes a lot of commitment and courage for anyone to take on an IM, and particularly when there are people with an agenda who want you to fail, so I applaud you for that.

    The training is the toughest part of the whole experience (much harder than the event itself), so if you can keep that up, failing at the main event just won’t happen.


  19. rs says:

    Wishing you massive amounts of success in training and the Ironman. I have been cheering in silence for you; if random strangers think it’s ok to spew hate, allow this random stranger to spew love. You are wicked freakin’ awesome and an inspiration.


  20. Charlie says:

    My fat butt didn’t finish twice at IM. 80 miles into the bike on one and 92 miles into the bike on a second. IMAZ, I finished in 13 hours and 41 minutes. To heck with those who doubt you. You will be an ironman


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