Should have gone for the dismount.
Meagan Martin realized her mistake as her fingers slipped off the Rail Runner. The bar was crooked, with one end wedged on the rail. She could have ascended one foot to the next platform and swung off, or just gone for it at that moment. She chose the former, and her body hit the water.
Martin had finished the city qualifying course in each of her previous three seasons. No other woman has finished two qualifying courses. Martin had been steady and consistent.
"Not finishing a qualifier for the first time was definitely a little disappointing," said Martin, whose performance in the Denver qualifier was still good enough to secure a spot in the city final, in a phone interview. "It's impossible to be perfect and have success every time, and it's important to remember that. I'm just planning on making fewer mistakes."
Making mistakes is something that happens to any ninja, but Martin's continued success places a brighter light on her runs. She is recognized in airports and has picked up modeling for athleisure brand Athleta. She isn't running under the guise of anonymity and hasn't been since she hit her first buzzer during her rookie season.
"My biggest fear entering into this season was messing up," Martin said. "Each year I get a little more nervous, and this year was definitely the worst."
A little-known fact about Martin is that she does not train on ninja obstacles often. Many contestants train in ninja gyms all year round, but Martin depends on the strength she's cultivated over years of rock climbing and being a competitive athlete. She wants to do more ninja training, so this year she made time to train on ninja specific obstacles before competition.
"This year I was doing obstacle stuff at least two to three times a week. Otherwise, I was climbing, doing cardio, and Pilates," Martin said.
The training should be helpful as Martin eyes the city finals course. City finals courses are longer, and they have not been a place where Martin has traditionally shined. Despite hitting the buzzer with regularity on qualifying courses, she struggled in her first two seasons on the city finals courses, unable to get to the back half of the course.
"As an athlete, I expect a lot from myself and when I perform below my potential, it's really hard to let it go," Martin said.
Martin is looking ahead to six weeks from now and the Denver city finals. She will be joined by four other women, two of whom also placed in the top-30, including her training partner Jeri D'Aurelio. Martin wants to get to the back half of the city finals course, and after last year's performance of getting to the ninth obstacle, she knows she can do it. But she also plans to enjoy herself and not get overwhelmed by the pressure.
"I'm doing this because I like it and it's fun. At the end of the day, no matter what happens, I'll be OK," Martin said.