Do you ever wonder if being competitive can be a negative thing? It sometimes feels like it takes away the joy I should experience in just being out there.
A co-worker recently asked me why I wasn’t doing RAGBRAI. “It’s not a race,” I replied.
“So you won’t do a bike ride unless it’s a race?” she asked.
I was caught off-guard. I tried to remember the last time I had biked for fun. Biking for me was training. I was always focused on my distance, speed, cadence or hillwork. Did everything always have to be about competition?
I’ve always been competitive. Whether I’m playing sports, a board game or taking on a 2-year old in Whack-A-Mole, I want to win. It even caused me to go crazy (a little) at the Bix.
This year was my second Bix and I convinced my friend, who lives in Davenport, to run the race with me. She had never run seven miles before, but the cool July weather made conditions ideal.
The night before I read the “Magical Running” book that Rosie had given me. I was trying to tap into positive thoughts, but severe storms and tornado sirens did not make for a restful evening.
I was up early, trying to properly time my food and hydration. Even though it would be 68 degrees at race time, I am always concerned about hydration. I get really hot when I am running. I don’t really understand this phenomenon since I am the same person who gets cold walking by the refrigeration section in the grocery store!
I had bought a new fuel belt at Running Wild with the water bottle that attaches to the back. What do they say about not trying something in a race that you haven’t practiced with? I did some jogging before the race, but the bottle bounced around too much. My friend and I tried tightening the belt and wearing it lower, but I knew it was not going to work. We took the bottle back to the car and I started to freak out. My whole plan would be thrown off.
“I’ve never seen you like this,” my friend said. “You need to relax.”
I’m normally not that nervous before a running race. It’s not like I had to go jump in a lake. I was suddenly putting all this pressure on myself. This was a competition and in my mind, I had a time to beat.
Soon the race started and we were heading up Brady Street hill. When you look at the hill it looks like it goes straight up. During the race, though, you are among 15,000 people and you can’t even see the hill. You are so concerned with weaving in and out of the crowd that before you know it, you are at the top.
My friend and I were running a good pace, but after a few miles I started to drop back. I waved her on. Despite my hill training, my legs felt tired. The weather was cool for the Bix, but I felt so hot. I put ice cubes under my hat, but all that did was freeze my skull! I poured water down my back and on my head and then I would shake my head like a dog. I couldn’t get hydrated with only water on the course and I really wished I had my electrolyte drink.
As I started to head on the final leg I could feel my heart start to race. A voice in my head told me I needed to stop, but I kept looking at my watch. I could still make my goal time; I couldn’t stop now. Was I really willing to sacrifice my health in order to finish in a certain time? “You need to check yourself before you wreck yourself,” I said.
I made myself stop in front of a group of gospel singers. Maybe God was trying to tell me something! I eventually finished the race and beat last year’s time by nine and a half minutes. I should have been ecstatic about the improvement. It was a beautiful day and I was running with a good friend. Life was good…but I couldn’t help feeling disappointed.
My “Magical Running” book said that when you get worked up before a race your muscles tense and then you get muscle fatigue and you don’t run well. I really need to change my mental approach to racing. I need to get the fun back!
Time to switch gears…it’s back to triathlons. I’m doing Hickory Grove on Aug. 23. This is the race where Lori gets her groove back!