On Racing

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A few months after my harrowing near death experience (not really), this came in the mail.

I usually hate the hardware they hand out at races.  Medals are nice, but what are you supposed to do with them?  Hand out a bag or a mug or something with some utility.

So this past weekend I was cleaning out some old boxes and tossed some perfectly good medals from a very fun races right into the recycling bin (though to this day I still don’t know if they are actually recyclable.)

Except this.  I’m keeping this one.

Once upon a time I raced with purpose.  For a team.  Not anymore.

Races are great because they give structure to my exercise routine, give me something to work towards, and I usually go somewhere interesting and do them with friends.  In the past 15 years, I haven’t once looked at the psych sheet.  These days I race for fun.

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in hawaii with friends and one of (3!!!!!) complimentary beers. the best part of the race.

And yet when I find myself standing at the start, amidst the nervous chatter the few minutes before the gun goes off, those old feelings come back.  Those feelings from high school and college.  Like: Oh no, I have to take a dump.  And I feel kind of sick.  And WHY am I doing this voluntarily.  And maybe I shouldn’t have had that egg sandwich for breakfast.

I can’t help it.  Some subconscious monster kicks back into gear.  Part of me wants to race.  And win.

I don’t know if this competitive nature is something that has been ingrained in me over many many years of playing sports, or if it’s just an inherent part of who I am.  But on some level I find it really embarrassing.  Do I really need to prove anything to anyone?  Why do I still feel this pressure to perform?

And it feeds into a horrible circular conflict I have with myself every race.

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manhattan beach pier

Invariably, every race, I hit a certain point and this conversation happens in my head:

“Why puke? Look around! Enjoy! This is beautiful and…you are 34! Get over it!”

vs.

“You are loafing and you know it.  Stop using excuses about enjoying yourself not to suffer.  This is a race.”

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post tahoe relay, 2014. not suffering.

I don’t like being uncomfortable and will go to great lengths to avoid it. But at the same time, hitting a time you didn’t think you could hit, or just out-touching a competitor, is just so. satisfying.

But that that is not why I race.

…and here comes the circle.

So back to the medal.  Normally, it’d get recycled.  But I’m keeping this one.

I’m keeping this one because it was my first race after having my first baby.  It was my first ocean swim after coming back to California, which is and always will be my home.  And, of course, my tête-à-tête with Jaws.  All of these things carry so much more weight than the numbers on the clock when I crossed the timing pad.  If I had gotten DFL, I would still keep it.

…but the blue ribbon doesn’t hurt.

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