Ethical Competitiveness

“Life’s too short to take this stuff too seriously.” -Buzz

First, I have to be honest about some thoughts weaseling their way into my brain lately.  The end of a Ph.D. program is hard.  That’s it–uphill, into the wind, flat tire, can’t unclip–hard.  You start to feel like you’ve made a mistake, like you don’t belong in a field to which you’ve donated quite a bit of time, effort, and sanity.

Buuut, if you’re me, you can say to yourself, ‘You have triathlon!  And, you’re alright at it! That keeps you sane!’

Most of your competitive drive that was stashed away for the end of the Ph.D. gets transferred to triathlon.   Except, you’re not the fastest.

Buuut, ‘You have Body v. Earth! It’s such a small race and if you had not gotten lost last year, you would’ve won it! Go win it!’

Then, you find out a super speedy chick* is coming and you now have matching bikes…

I started thinking like the chased rather than the chaser.  I had these lame ideas that everyone was expecting me to be the fastest, zip along on the new bike, stay in first on the run, win it all.  Halfway to the event this morning, I realized I don’t want to be chased.  I don’t want to be on top.  Triathlon is for mental and physical health, camaraderie, injury prevention, FUN.

Buuut, then I gained the lead on the bike, kept it, and felt really good.  The speedy chick was not far behind me and at the top of the hill going back to T2 I wanted to look back.  Instead, I started singing.  Weird, but it is what it is.  I just kept riding uphill, into the wind, clearing the gunk out of my brain for the killer trail run.

Nothing metaphorical about cycling uphill into the wind. Nope. Nothing at all

She passed me after the 2nd to last incline on the run.  All I felt was relief.  And pride.  I was really proud of how strong she was.  I remembered that women were not always allowed to race, that a nun (A NUN!) opened age groups for women for years at Kona.  I thought of my friend, who I knew was running distance for the first time in weeks just for the sheer joy and self-competition of this intense tri (any other day she would’ve been in front of me).  I also remembered getting lost at this race last year and I knew that I was not getting lost this year.  (SUCCESS!) The speedy chick almost did, though, in the exact same place I and the lead guy got lost last year.  She was right in front of me and it took little effort and a much appreciated stop before the next climb to tell her to turn around.  I watched her pass me again and enjoyed some cold water and the view at the top before the final descent.  Could I have pushed harder, maybe.  Do I have any regrets. Nope.

I was asking, but nobody wanted to cuddle. Cold race start.

None of this is to “toot my own horn.”  Here’s why:  The option of screwing over someone’s race shouldn’t even be an option.  At the end someone mentioned that I could’ve just let her keep going.  Really?  Is this just how competitive people can be?  Then I remembered college CC.  And, yep, friends got spiked.  I got tripped.  I watched girls cut courses.  At a recent pool swim tri, folks were moving themselves up in line, which meant a pool swim turned into an open water swim pretty quickly.  In my opinion, these people are cheating themselves.

I love my triathlon family.  I also understand wanting to win, but perhaps it’s best to push ourselves to our own limits.  For many people, the races are all about finishing.  Don’t be negative.  Help your teammates.  That’s what we are–a team.

I asked a fellow triathlete how he stays positive and enjoys the race while still being fast/competitive.

His answer:  “Tell everyone good job or something motivating.  High Fives.  Smile!  That’s lots of fun.”

Sounds like a plan.

*If you read this, you know who you are and I hope you find humor in this.   You rocked the race today and are so ready for your first 70.3!

A portion of my triathlon family:

Team Splash and Dash
The Torspeedos

The Buzz

Running out with one crazy British cyclist

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