Friday, November 04, 2005

Why do you race?

I've been in a slump lately. I'm in the thick of it so I can't really figure out what ails me, although I'm sure I could pinpoint if I tried to psychoanalyze myself, but it wouldn't change the fact that I feel like shit.

One thing I thought of was how much this one guy bugged me this weekend. He likes to start an argument for the sake of it sometimes, which I HATE because I get really passionate and emotional about my opinions.

This guy is an experienced runner and does marathons. He's very fast and good and all that but he knows it, and tells everyone how great he is, which I find very annoying. Anyway, he proceeded to tell me that triathletes were simply retired runners and that triathletes that ran road races aren't considered "real runners" among other "runners" in the running community. He also said he could be "competitive" in running but not in triathlon because to be "competitive" it's like a full-time job.

This was an insult to me because I do triathlon, and it's not a full-time job for me, and I like to consider myself "competitive." Then, he pointed out that I had "won" my age group in a triathlon but that the field was really small and I could never win in my age group in a road race. It was obvious he had no respect for me as an endurance athlete at all.

Needless to say, I was pretty insulted. I may not train 40 hours a week (which elite Ironman athletes don't do either), but I still train a minimum of 8-10 hours a week! That's not insignificant in my opinion! And just because I don't race to "win" doesn't mean that I'm not competitive.

I still get kind of enraged when I think about what he said to me. However, it got me thinking.....I would probably be doing this for a lot longer than he will be because my attitude is different. Why do you race? Why do I race? Why does anyone race? For some, it's to win...something that is not totally in their control. The outcome of a race can totally destroy them if someone else is a little faster than them that day.

For me, it's a spiritual journey. I could be all alone, which sometimes you are in a triathlon, and it wouldn't matter. I work just as hard as anyone else but I have a different sort of inner mental toughness at the start of the race, which I maintain throughout.

My goal is to always feel good at the end--to accomplish something. I race against myself; I try to be a little better; I try to enjoy the benefits of all the hard work I've done. If I can pass people along the way, great. But I accept that there will always be someone faster and stronger than me. Better than everything. To be a small fish in a big pond and keep swimming everyday, I have to think like this. And it's okay. Because I am a unique individual, and I will be a transformed by the end of the race--a little different. And I think this makes me mentally stronger than those who can be frustrated by variables they have no control over, like how much faster someone else is--although it's great to pass these kind of people because in the end, I don't care, and that baffles them.

Which brings me to the question....Why do you race?


Chris said...

I race for many of the same reasons that you race - because I am passionate about the competitive nature that is in me and because of the feeling of accomplishment that I have after finishing an event that most people never try.

It isn't completely about finishing ahead of everyone else, everytime. Though that would be nice, it just isn't realistic. Even the best of the best finish at the bottom on occassion. To me, it is more about finishing better than I did the time before. Like you said, it is a race against yourself and there are certainly those times when you are all alone. At that point, who is your competition? YOU and the elements. It's about personal fulfillment.

I completely disagree with this guy's thinking that you have to train full-time to be competitive. You are being competitive the moment you decide to get your butt up off of the couch and get out there amongst everyone else who is out there trying to better their lives through exercise. With the way that obesity seems to be taking over our world, in my book, anyone who is exercising is competing.

And how can it be that triathletes are simply "retired runners"? Look at Lance Armstrong, who dominated during his triathlon days. He was a triathlete first, a cyclist second. I believe that some of his success as a cyclist came from the base that he built as a triathlete. Having only been a cyclist, I can't even imagine the endurance and heart that it takes to complete a triathlon, but I'm sure that it requires more than a single discipline race does.

Why do I race?

Because I'm passionate about competing against myself.

Thanks for this great post Rachel. I think that "Why do I race?" should be the new Nike slogan and a motto for all of us athletes who compete (at any level). Keep training, keep racing, keep showing others that you have heart.


G-Man said...

Advice: never let assholes live rent free in your head. This guy is a certifiable asshole and does not deserve analysis. Love ya (and just be yourself!)

Anonymous said...

He has a short penis and can't swim.

Anonymous said...

It's not about's about training. Most triathletes aren't in this for the thrill of racing...we do it because we like the challenge of 5000 set in the pool on Thursday. Then a 65 mile ride on Saturday. Then a 8 mile run on Sunday where my H/R barely reaches aerobic threshold. The guy who runs competitively has shit for brains...Keep training...the funk is only temporary.

Rachel said...

Thanks for all the wonderful comments! I love the support. I haven't dwelled on what he said, but it's sort of intimidating sometimes because he's a very accomplished runner. However, I hate how he has to put me down to pump himself up. Anyway, triathletes RULE!

Mon said...

Nothing worse than someone who is 'always right'. Especially when it is something you are clearly passionate about! I'm no pro exerciser, but being a person who does exercise, I know that cross training is way harder than focusing on 1 thing alone. You got my props!

Erin Nicole said...

i race b/c i have something to prove...but i'm proving it to myself and no one else. why else would they call it a PR? people like that frustrate the crap outta me. he should learn to keep his mouth shut, he'd probably run even better with a better attitude.