Monday, June 2, 2008

To be or not to be competitive?

Yesterday morning I decided to get out for a slow trail run in order to loosen up my legs from the race on Saturday. My usual routine is this, "Well yesterday I made such hard effort in the ________ (fill in the blank, race, peak climb, long bike ride), that today (and sometimes the next three days) I deserve to rest and eat ice cream all day." But this weekend I decided that instead of sitting around and letting my legs get more stiff, I would get out early the next morning and do something easy. Anything.

So I met my friend Kathy at the Turnagain Arm trail (she was Niko's foster mom) and we ran five miles on the trail with the dogs. Kathy and I talked about racing and how she used to be this kick ass mountain bike racer, who would bomb down rocky 45 degree slopes at full speed. She has since calmed down a lot and is more at my level now. We talked about how we both have feelings of competitiveness sometimes, but our current level of fitness does not allow us to win any races. We also talked about how we struggle between wanting to be crazy and tough and just wanting to have a good time.

I told her about the attitude I take in the winter bike races, where I'm pretty sure I'm going to come in last, so I just go out to have fun. That is easy for me to do in winter bike races, because right now I have no desire to ride my bike every day in the winter. So I'm okay with coming in last.

But I do have the desire to be a good runner and a decent mountain biker in the summer. And I do have a hard time being just average in both of these. At the start of a race when I see the crowd disappearing off into the horizon, and I am putting in my hardest effort, it's hard not to think about it. I'm not one for comparing myself to others, but sometimes I am baffled by the people who say, "Oh, I run twice a year, I'm not a very good runner." And then they finish a 5K in 20 minutes. I run all the time and a 5K takes me at least 27 minutes. So I am somewhat competitive, but I'm not losing any sleep over it.

Then I think about the "Everybody wins" attitude they are teaching in schools today and it makes my stomach churn. Everybody wins no matter what effort they put in to it. I think kids should be awarded for effort and maybe not for pure athletic ability, but "everybody wins"? That's like saying, no matter what you do in life, you will always be rewarded. What kind of lesson is this?

Everybody does not win. And as soon as these kids get into the real world, make no effort, and stop "winning" they are not going to know how to handle it. They will not be okay with coming in last or even second, and they will think that they deserve everything for doing nothing.

On the other hand I think people who are ultra competitive have it wrong too. "What is life unless you are coming in first?" "Why are you climbing if you are not doing first ascents?" "Why should I run if there are so many people that are better than me and I will never win?" These are actual quotes from people I have met.

So which is it? Competition or Everbody Wins? Maybe somewhere in between...


Monkee said...

"If you're not in FIRST place, you're in LAST place." Immortal (or was it immoral) words.

Catherine said...

I came across your blog a while ago and am loving it because you are in the exact (well, close) spot I am. I have a hard time breaking the 10 minute mile, I'm racing Mt. Marathon for the first time this year, and I'm trying to qualify for Crow Pass next year with a fast Lost Lake time (I think I left a comment here a long time ago, actually...). I also broke my leg in 2006 and it took me until last year before I felt fully recovered.

Anyway, good luck with the training! I'll see you on the mountain July 4th.



Sherrie Soltis said...

Hi Julie,
I like your blog and its refreshing to come across things that ring true for me, and I can identify with in my own life....for me I think it comes down to fun, I have a really hard time doing things in my spare time that aren't fun. When I'm not eating icecream or gasping uphill I entertain thoughts of what would happen if I trained to be competitive, but as soon as I get hungry or its raining I realize that its just not for me....I wish I was skinny and faster, but just can't suffer through the self restraint that goes along with it...So i settle for setting my own goals and times that I want to beat, sometimes that makes me first, most of the time it doesn't. Anyway besides all that, I really just wanted to compliment you on your blog, its very enjoyable to read.

Have a great Day!

Jill said...

I'm with Sherrie on this one. I'm a not-prone-to-be-competitive person who wishes that I was. When I'm "racing" and someone passes me, I feel more relief than anger. Then I feel guilty about it. But there will always be that part of my subconcious that soothes my desire for revenge by telling me I'm doing the best that I can, and I'm happy where I am, so there.

I think this is the reason I'm drawn ultraendurance competitions. Not many people up there to compete with except yourself.