December has always been a pivotal point for me. It’s pure gold as the past moves toward the future.

The beginning of winter buffers goals and dreams put to rest with the threads that connect them with updated ones in the year to come. Very little is expected from me in my profession, giving me the time to step back and put all things from the year into a clear framework. Disappointments become philosophical and accomplishments are seen more for their lessons than their measurable outcomes.

Now is when I mine the real gold from my life for my life. When I raced I looked back not to critique but to open the chapters yet unread that I’d missed in the heat of the moment. Early on I learned that a great finishing time or top placing were only that. The same with disappointing results. The luster from the good ones always waned leaving me craving another. And the sting from a bad one simply faded to the point of not even really feeling like I needed to make up for it.

No, the real gold are the lessons I learn from both canvases. I’d stop and reflect.

Mining gold in the moments of reflection.

In a quiet place I’d ask myself what was in the effort that led to all the results, both the good and the bad, that I am grateful for?

What did I learn that brings gratitude from the journey? These have always been the insights that stick with me and enrich my life forever.

In the early years of my Ironman racing this was a very tough process to go through to find the nuggets that I was grateful for. My results in Kona in my first six races had some extreme disappointments. I walked in four of the marathons and ended up in the hospital after one of them with internal bleeding. Had I done something that offended the Island? I questioned whether the IRONMAN was a race I should go back to.

But in the end each year I knew that the Island and the race were teaching me things I’d need later. I was learning how to keep going even when I wanted to quit. The difficult races were teaching me to find a more steady place inside that could move through the difficult patches more smoothly. I was learning how to give everything I had even if all I had to give was far less that I might have on another day. These lessons were being taught in a very, very tough way. But each year I did find gratitude for being in the position to learn them. I didn’t know when they’d be used again or in what arena I’d need them. But I did feel grateful that they were now part of my character. The disappointments would indeed fade, but the lessons would stick with me forever.

The healing power of nature to balance and bring clarity.

I look for the gold in the areas of my life that can’t be measured.

Sometimes I’m be grateful for the people I meet during the year. It’s often about the time I spent with my son where we really connect. It always included some moments just being in nature with the ones I love.

I put this question to you now. Likely there were great moments and others that pushed you beyond borders you’ve ever encountered before.

What in both those journeys are you grateful for? Are there nuggets you may have missed until now that will go in the treasure chest of your life? What happened that took you to a deeper understanding of life itself? Where was life just happy and peaceful?

I really would love to hear from you. Sharing these moments of reflection can be the start of an extraordinary training program, let alone an amazing life. I look forward to accompanying you on the journey.

Happy Holidays,

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About the author Mark Allen More information on the author

I am the Founder and CEO at Mark Allen Coaching. I am proud to have been voted in an ESPN global poll "The Greatest Endurance Athlete Of All Time." During my multi-sport career I won the Ironman Triathlon World Championship six time, the inaugural Triathlon World Championship at the Olympic Distance in Avignon, France, and at one point in my career I won 21 straight races across every derivation and distance. It was a great career, but that's all it would ever be unless I was able to share all of the experience and methodology we invented long before smart watches, power meters, and flashy uniforms. That's why I started Mark Allen Coaching, as a way to return to others at least the part of the gifts I received.