It’s been a topic of conversation over the past several years at the TriMadness house. Why would I want to pay to race a triathlon or running event when I could just go out and do it by myself? Typically the question comes from my wife.
“Because I love the atmosphere,” is my normal response.
So what does that mean? What about a race do I like? I know that I don’t like getting up at the crack of dawn in order to race (I’m not typically an early-morning guy). I will never win a race. I’ll never finish on the podium (unless I’m still doing this when I’m like 75 and there are only 2 other guys racing in my age group). It’s clear that my motivation can’t be the concept of winning or getting a trophy.
And yet, I do love the feeling of a race. I love the nervous excitement in the air. Weird, but I love the tension. I love people watching – so I spend a lot of time looking at other athletes and their gear. Naturally, I enjoy the actual competition. In fact, the race at the back of the pack where I reside is possibly more compelling that at the front. At the back of the pack, the race isn’t for hardware, but for pride. You don’t want to be last. I enjoy finding someone to have my own personal race with – even if they don’t know that I’m doing that.
I think the thing I enjoy the most is the inner battles I have during the race. As I suffer on the run, I often argue with myself. “Don’t slow down,” I’ll often say. “Keep your form loose.” “F— you, legs. Keep moving.” This sport is so much about perseverance and duration. Half the battle is convincing yourself to keep rolling. To beat yourself. To push down insecurities or thoughts of defeat.
Of course, one could have those same battles during a training run or swim or bike. I think, however, that it’s not the same. To me, it’s far easier to slow down, to come out of the aero bars, to hold onto the wall of the pool during a workout. There’s no urgency or pressure. Perhaps it’s because no one is watching except God and myself. Maybe the fact that I can give up on a workout is a sign of weakness. It could be, on the other hand, that I want to put on a good performance at a race because others are there and can watch. Something about a couple of hundred other competitors being out there with me pushes me.
Maybe I’m just extrinsically motivated by others. By playing the part of a “triathlete” to look good for others. Maybe I’m just a poseur. Or perhaps I am what most triathletes are. I’m not sure. Either way, it doesn’t matter much to me. I enjoy races much more than training.
How about you? Why do you enjoy racing?