On Being Competitive (or not)

I am a competitive person, but I am not an athletic person. So when it comes to triathlon, I’m having a bit of a crisis. Triathlon is an individual sport, yes, and most of us who “compete” in the sport recognize that we do this for a variety of reasons. Getting into shape? Check. Being able to say you accomplished something amazing? Definitely. But winning? It’s not a motivator for most. Too many freakishly gifted actual athletes out there on the course. I am very much aware that I will never win a triathlon, so it does not motivate me.

Still, there’s a wishful piece of me that looks at my 5th place age group finish last year and thinks, “I was almost on the podium.” There’s a more rational piece of me that says, “You were ten minutes off the podium. That’s not almost.” But then there’s a competitive piece of me that thinks, “Yeah, but it was your first race, you could barely swim, and your bike was crap. You were ten minutes of the podium while severely disadvantaged.”

And now that little competitive voice has teamed up with that rational voice to lay out a plan and tell that wishful voice, “Not this year!!!”

This year, I’m going to podium.

How did I come to this conclusion? Let me take you through my mathematical rationalization/wishful thinking process.

Last  year my first race results looked like this:

Swim: 13:38. Bike: 52:20. Run: 35:08. Total time: 1:46:10

Not a great swim. Atrocious bike. Okay run. What can I say? It was my first race and my only goal was “live.” The bar was understandably set pretty low.

My next race, when I was actually in shape, looked like this:

Swim: 9:55. Bike: 51:06. Run: 36:57. Total time: 1:42:03

And that’s with the same bike, up a giant hill. My goal was to break 100 minutes, and while I didn’t hit it, I still took four minutes off my PR. Very encouraging results!

My final race of the year looked like this:

Swim: 9:15. Bike: 35:25. Run: 33:34. Total time: 1:22:20

It was a shorter bike (15k), so my goal for this race was to push it on the bike. Even on my crappy bike, I was averaging 2:30/km.

So let’s add up the possibilities. Spitballing, let’s say that in this year’s race I pull a ten-ish minute swim. I’ve done it twice, it’s totally doable.

Next, I acquired this little beauty:


You guys… I’M GOING TO GO SO FAST! Anticipating that I can go faster than that 2:30/km pace on on my new, fancy bike, let’s call it a 45 minute bike.

And running? Yeah, well, I’m nowhere near gazelle-like.  Let’s call it 35 minutes, roughly the same as last year.

Add it all up and we’re at a total race time of 1:25. Add another 5 minutes for transitions, and I’m at 1:30. Based on the previous year’s results at this particular race, that would put me solidly in third. PODIUM!

Now, rational me has separated herself and is reminding me that this is vaguely insane conjecture and there is no guarantee these results will happen. There are too many factors playing havoc on the day, and it’s hard to scope out the competition seeing as it’s an individual sport and all. Also, my knee has been buggin’ the hell out of me and I have neglected to get in the pool for two months. So yeah, there are a few factors not in my favor.

But, if, just IF I can push myself to the limit, if I can stay healthy, if everything is in my favor and the triathlon gods smile upon me from above, I could land on the podium.

And if that wistful voice starts talking about how close I was to winning, I’m going to punch that little troll in the face.

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