So many endurance events come down to a contest of attrition. In a distance race, the matter of who wins and who loses often comes down to the competitor that can hang on the longest.
During one of my triathlon races this summer, I was joined about a mile out by a guy that turned to me and said he was “keying” on me to help him reach his pace. I ran with him the last 800 meters as a kind of favor. And lost a podium spot by one second.
Ah, well. Having won and lost a number of races by mere seconds, or mere inches in some cases, I found it hard to be upset by the “loss” of third place by so little a margin. Somewhere a guy my age was celebrating his own good fortune. Is there really such a thing a Good Karma? Perhaps I earned some that day.
That attitude of controlling your disappointments is all part of ultimately wearing down the competition and not wearing yourself down in the process. Rather than kicking myself for not “winning” that day, I swallowed a little pride and congratulated myself for managing to swim well (not the straightest) ride decently (averaged 19.5 mph) and ran steady (7:40 first mile and 8:00 the last two.)
For a sixty-year-old dude that has competed all his life in sports, it is the experience of being out there and pushing hard that matters most. Sure, I’d like to win now and then. That always feels good.
I recall standing there at the start of the race with all the other sixty-plus dudes in their wetsuits. Several were stretching stubborn body joints. One turned to me and told me all about his back problems.
Then we got our call to enter the water and I thought they’d left me all behind. It was impossible to tell who was who out there. So I just kept swimming. My goal: get the damn swim thing done!
Turns out I was fourth out of the water. Despite my reticence and disbelief in my own abilities, I’d held my own and must have actually passed a few people in the bubbly, watery world that is still a bit foreign to me.
And apparently, that’s effectively where I stayed for most or the rest of the race. I’d not worn down the competition, but neither had I worn myself down. What a revelation! I had beaten myself up most of the race for not swimming better. Turns out it was all my negative imagination. Mind blowing!
That’s a strange little bit of triumph to take from a triathlon. But sometimes the best reward is knowing that you didn’t fall apart, give up or wear yourself out before you had a chance to finish.