Fail to Learn

The AZT 300 dished out some tough blows and beautiful vistas. Here are a few highlights from the trip while I prepare more thoughts for a future post.

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure...than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat. - Theodore Roosevelt

This quote has hung above my desk for several months now. It holds meaning both personally and professionally for me. If I never fail, if I never push myself to the point of failure, I fail to learn. I must fail to learn, but I cannot fail to learn from my failures. I'm still comiing to terms with and sorting out what happened that caused me to quit the AZT 300. Maybe I'm looking for deeper meaning, maybe I'm worried about what others think, perhaps my head is hung a bit low because I've disappointed myself and more importantly those closest to me. I despise failure, but I also know that it is an important part of growth and learning. Until I'm ready to share more, and I will, here are a few photo highlights from my time on the Arizona Trail.

Early on day 1. The Canelo Hills dished out some technical riding that occasionally reduced us to hiking. It's good to know that Salsa sponsored rider, Kurt Refsnider is still human.

Early in the evening on day 1 as the sun was beginning to get low in the sky and the moon was beginning its climb. Riding solo as the temps cooled down gave me time to think and just enjoy being on the bike.   

Still Day 1, Kurt and I stopped for a break as the sun came up after riding through the night on the approach to Mount Lemmon through Molino Canyon. 

I'm proud of parts of my performance in Arizona. First and foremost I took the risk and accepted the challenge. I felt great on the bike on the technical terrain of the Canelo hills and singletrack, despite it being my first off-road ride of 2011. I went into the race with a 24-hour plan that included riding through the first night and stopping only if my body couldn't handle it. Riding at night was a smart move. I felt great and we were able to cover pavement and non-technical terrain without other trail users or the heat of the day. I would definitely do this again and feel that it had little to do with my overall failure.

Where I failed logistically was in knowing the course and how long it takes to cover the terrain north of Mt. Lemmon. With 5000+ calories in my pack for the 140 miles I had half of what I needed to get to Superior. I realized it and decided that going back to Oracle was my only choice. This is where I became unglued and made the decision to call it quits. 

Spearfish was the perfect bike for this race. It soaked up the rough rocky trail and carried my kit and I with ease. On the few easy miles of the AZT 300, as I stood on the pedals, I felt as if I was floating over the terrain. 

My Spearfish and I have unfinished business in Arizona. We'll be back.

This post filed under topics: Bikepacking Spearfish

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Joe Meiser

Joe Meiser

I've had a lot of good luck and made a series of choices to be working for the brand and in the bike industry. In 2007 I signed up for the TransIowa just to see if I could complete it. I completed it and discovered a few things about myself in the process. Adventure cycling has been in my blood ever since.


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Adventure Monkey | April 22nd, 2011

Nice job Joe. Good to know you are human too.

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Hayduke | April 22nd, 2011

This post reminds me of another iconic leader of our time.
Yoda: “Do or do not, there is no try”
You did what you could with what you had.  As long as you are learning you are doing. 
Hope you enjoyed the Oracle section - my folks live there - some of my very favorite trail riding and running is found in the Catalina Mountains. 
Go for it again next year!

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Bruce Malm | April 22nd, 2011

Hi Joe

You have no reason to hang your head and I don’t believe you let anybody down.  Remember we who you share your experience with learn from what you call “failure” great ride and I will see you in June

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JimC | April 22nd, 2011

The only “failure” is the man who did not try.  Success requires that we get up only one more time than we get knocked down.  You got up… so you did succeed.

See you soon at DK200.

Jim C.

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Marshal | April 23rd, 2011

I would not classify your ride as a failure per say -you got to far to fast for that


did you quit smart,or did you screw up with your ‘I quit call’?? sometimes it’s smart to quit—& sometimes, with reflection you see it was not and thats the one that hurts the most, but either way, you learn and grow if you dont turn away

looking forward to your insights

a good try that ends in a good failure is a great Motivator eh—at least thats how I feel about it after quiting smart on day 1

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Aidan | April 23rd, 2011

Well done on going out there, and on coming back. Sometimes all I learn from a ride is humility. A painful lesson, but at least it is a lesson.

Thanks for sharing. I think it’s important that people do share their failures, then when it’s your turn to fail, you can take consolation in what you’ve learned and that it happens to everyone.

I look forward to the gory details :)

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Hollis | April 23rd, 2011

Fail forward - I have a feeling we’re going to read about you rolling out to do AZT 750 next year

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Jeff | April 24th, 2011

Tip of the hat to ya Mr. Meiser!

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Charlie | April 25th, 2011

You are certainly no failure…there is a HUGE HUGE difference between an act of failure and living to fight another day.

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Ben | April 25th, 2011

Having just tried my first TransIowa and not finishing I understand what you went through.  I was pretty bummed but am already over it…I think, and ready for the next adventure, Roayl 162…see you there!

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Bob | May 1st, 2011

Good ride, Joe!

DNF is not failure - it is reassessment and useful knowledge gained for the next try.  Ever play a multi-level video game?  Lots of DNFs and lots of re-tries until finally - mastery!


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