As I sit behind my desk at my “real job,” I find myself daydreaming about the past week's workouts, goals for the upcoming week and my pending long run. Mentally zoned out, I begin to think of how my swim has suffered over the past few months....with this thought I am immediately annoyed that my friend has suddenly become a faster swimmer than me; this annoyance instantaneously turns in to pissed off.
What makes us competitive? Even when we do not think we have that so called "competitive edge," aren’t we always competing with ourselves? After all we are athletes, and are driven by our personal goals to succeed. The endurance athlete is a special breed. We have a warped sense of self that says, “I must beat the clock", "I must dominate this f****** massive hill", or, in my case, "I need to smoke this chick in front of me whose calf reads '34'.”
We are always looking to better our performance and be more competitive. We see this month after month in any number of triathlon websites or magazines that are filled with ways to improve your performance, better your nutrition, and tweak your training schedule. Being one of five children, the thrill of competition runs through my veins and comes out my pores. My siblings and I will compete over anything and everything. Sitting at the Tout Family dinner table has been described to me, on a few occasions, as an intense, uncomfortable, and intimidating battle, in which each member of the family refuses to surrender…and if you lack mental toughness, you will find yourself in tears (as some of us regulars do).
Recently, I was flipping through an article I found online in Forbes, entitled “Inside the Endurance Athlete’s Mind”. I think that they stated it best: “Misery is magic.” We thrive on the gut-turning, torturous feeling of racing and then bask in the glory of completion. The personal victory and sense of accomplishment that takes ahold of us as we finish a difficult race does not mirror any other feeling.
In that same article, an endurance athlete was quoted as saying “Moderation bores me.” Isn’t that the truth? I look around at my group of friends who compete, and none of them know moderation; they train for more hours per week than most people can fathom, are highly-educated, and take part in more than the recommended doses of good food and drink (when there is no race in sight). If they knew moderation they would lack this competitive drive that forces them to compete.
I think that the competitor in us all comes from our ability to handle pain--both mental and physical. We are not afraid to hurt. We are not afraid to fail. The term “moderation” is not in our vocabulary. And our burning desire for that PR or that podium finish pushes us to carry on through the starkest of conditions.
My girlie better prepare for defeat in the pool cause I refuse to be beaten.