FAILURE: THE SECRET OF SUCCESS - HONDA'S "DREAM THE IMPOSSIBLE" DOCUMENTARY SERIES
Mitch Thrower: I never truly knew how much I loved being active until I was knocked off my feet by the failure of something smaller than the head of a pin. I can remember that morning so clearly. It was August 31st, 2008, and I will never forget that day because it changed everything.
Triathlon was a big part of my life. That morning, I was getting ready for my twentieth Ironman. I'd been in the sport for 20 years, so in love with it that I had cofounded a company called ACTIVE.com and served as Chairman of Triathlete Magazine.
Being active was my life's work and my life's passion. But, on that morning, I took a running jump into the pool, catapulting my body 15 feet down. And instantly I felt something change, which, later I learned, was actually a vital part of my body ripping.
A day or so later, I started to hear it. My right ear started to ring, a high-pitched, jarringly loud note started to play. An ENT said that sudden change in hearing and tinnitus is a medical emergency, and I should come in right away.
And then it started. Over the next few months, I went through test after test for sudden sensorineural hearing loss with lout tinnitus. We tested for acoustic neuroma, brain tumors, blood diseases. The list is long, and like many people, in that time, I became a Googlechondriac.
My ear was in a state of hyperacusis, which means a garbage truck driving by was incredibly loud and sounded like someone was hitting my head. The ringing started to get louder, so much louder I couldn't focus, I couldn't eat, I couldn’t read, I couldn’t think. The only thing I could do was pray and, of course, Facebook.
We all have our challenges. I lost my sister at age 16 to cancer. I went through four knee surgeries and thought for a little while I could never run again. But, nothing could compare to a loud sound in your head that just wouldn’t stop.
Ultimately, a specialized test determined that I had something called a fistula, which is a rip of the inner ear. And the prescription to solve this problem is nothing other than bedrest, which, as a triathlete, is nothing other than a nightmare--lay here and don't move.
For years I had admired Ironman athletes as people who had struggled and conquered, but now I knew firsthand of an entirely different set of mental and physical challenges. And it's here where I found a entirely new set of heroes, people who deal with anything chronic, including super-loud tinnitus. You know, you wake up one day and there's a trumpet blowing in your ear for 24 hours a day.
But, the people who develop the mental strength to ignore it, now, this must be powerful. This feels like courage. Then, something miraculous happened.
And I remember the first day I could start to hear again from my right ear, a song was playing on my laptop. It was "You Raise Me Up" performed by the Celtic Women. Halfway through the song, I could hear again, and when that happened, wow. After a year, my tinnitus started to fade or I started to not notice it. And now, it's almost gone.
Everyone will struggle with something. It's a part of life. As athletes, we train hard to rip our muscles so they'll grow back stronger. Challenges and failures make us stronger.
Our reactions to our struggles define us. When you think it's all going to end tomorrow, everything inside you is shaken to the core. And you emerge from this experience different, stronger. I also remember my first triathlon after recovery. Treading water at Hapuna Beach, I looked up and I smiled and I said, "Thanks." I could run, I could swim, I could hear again. Or maybe I could hear for the first time.