Project242: Is It Failing If You Learn?

Project242 (P242) is my journey to bike 242 miles in 24 hours, across the state of Minnesota on gravel roads, in August, 2021 (the Day Across MN, or the DAMN). I’ve found many lessons experienced riding a bike can be applied to our careers. In these posts, I will share the correlations.

As my hands shook uncontrollably, I did my best to read the time on my watch.


I’d been biking for almost three hours. The race, my first gravel bike race ever, started at 9:02. My Garmin said I was 35 miles into a 75 mile day and had already climbed 2,567 feet. Of the 40 miles remaining, there was roughly 1,100 feet of elevation change to come. That’s not bad.

What I hadn’t fully anticipated was the weather. Cool temps were nice those first two hours. Cool turned to cold. Then came the rain, then sleet, and at this point it was half freezing rain/half snow. My glasses literally had to have ice chiseled away so I could see. My feet were starting to get numb and my hands were already there. Even with the warm weather gear and rain jacket, I could not stop shivering. I was so cold! I knew my legs had a lot more to give, but pre-hypothermia said otherwise.

So for the first time ever, I dropped out of a race. DNF (did not finish).

101 Winter Riding Tips - Village Cycle Center

I climbed into a warm Chevy pickup while two volunteers loaded my and two others bikes into the bed. There was another truck ahead of us with four bikes that I assume had a similar group of cold riders calling it quits. The driver hopped in and told us that out of the 100 who registered for the race, 45 showed up, so we should be proud of the fact we got up today and braved this far.

The fact that 55% of the field didn’t show up, didn’t make me feel better. I was pissed. I didn’t finish something I started. I thought I’d planned ahead and took measures to be successful. I was wrong.

At first I felt like I’d failed. But, then took stock on what went right.

  • My GPS kept me on the right track where others I talked to had issues
  • The cue sheets (paper that goes along with a GPS file giving turn-by-turn details) were properly placed and easy to read
  • My legs, despite being cold, felt great
  • Climbing hills went really well
  • Overall bike setup was spot on
  • Though not sexy, plastic bags on my feet kept them dry

Despite the DNF, the lessons learned of what went well will help in future events, including the DAMN. My biggest lesson learned: DON’T BIKE WITH SNOW IN THE FORECAST!! Hopefully I won’t have that problem in August when I attempt 242 miles.

In our careers, we’ll inevitably be faced with a “failure.” My first project failure was $2 million dollars. It happened because in a company of 17,000 people in one location, I missed a group of 4 when identifying stakeholders. These 4 people had the power to kill a $2M project.

Lesson Learned: Even if you think you’ve identified all your stakeholders, spend a little more time diving deeper. You never know what key people or groups may be lurking out there! It’s a lesson I share openly so others can learn from my mistakes. This lesson has also saved me on subsequent projects where, after additional analysis, more key stakeholders were identified.

I see a lot of posts about it being OK to fail. In some respects, it seems to be celebrated. However, I don’t like to say anything is a “failure.” A true failure is something that happens and you don’t learn from it, making destined to repeat mistakes of the past. If you learn and attempt again, you’re doing it from a place of experience. Even if you don’t make the finish, I bet you’ll at least make it further!

Did I fail on my first gravel race? Nah, it was just a setback. Did I learn a lot from it? Yes, and I’ll be better next time. It’s not a failure because I learned, which will help set me up for success in the future.

53 Winter Cycling ideas | winter cycling, comfort and joy, cycling

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