Saturday, January 11, 2014

Racing Just to Finish

As regular readers of my blog know (ok, let's just say I do have regular readers, and leave it at that), I am signed up for my first Full Ironman distance triathlon in 2014.  It's been posted on the ST message boards that for your first full, your goal should be to just finish.  Sounds reasonable.  Smart even.  I just don't think I can do it.

Oh I have no doubt that I can finish.  Quite honestly, with the fitness level that I was at last year, I'm sure I could have swam 2.4 miles, then biked 112 miles, and then ran 26 miles and 385 yards in 17 hours.  What I can't do is race just to finish.  I've never done it.  I have never toed the starting line at a race where I thought in my head: My goal today is to just finish.  This goes back to the beginning of my racing.  Back when I was 12 years old and my dad took me to run my first 5K.  Even the rest of the way through grade school, college and decades later.  (Yeah, I'm that old.)

Case in point: New Years Day 2013.  My wife and I did a fun trail race here in Fort Mill.  She did the 5K, I did the 13K (year 2013, get it?).  There were only 70 people in the 13K.  It was quite laid back, and most of the people were there for the beer.  There were no awards.  No prizes.  No ceremony.  So taking that all in, I had a strategy and mapped out exactly what I needed to do to win.  I executed the plan, won the race, grabbed a beer, and went home.

Some people are just wired differently.  I don't have a problem with people who just race to finish.  In fact I think it's great when anyone does a race.  That includes anything from a 5K to a 140.6.  I like seeing people participate instead of staying on the sidelines and telling me how crazy I am.   It's just that racing to finish is something that I can't do.  Maybe I'm in the minority according to a Wall Street Journal article. With the explosion of the all the color runs, glow runs, mud runs, and obstacle races, I may be outnumbered.  And that's fine.  For me, personally, I don't see the point.  Maybe I'm too competitive, but I don't think so.

On ST one time Jordan Rapp was talking about racing.  He's like (and I'm severely paraphrasing here):  "I may think you're a good guy, hell I might even want to go drink beers with you after the race.  But when the race starts, I want to destroy you.  That's racing."  I have noticed that some triathletes don't have that killer mentality.  Maybe it's something I've learned because I've done so many running races over the years.  In most races in high school and college your time didn't matter nearly as much as your place.

So my goal for Ironman Chattanooga is not to "just finish".  My goal is to destroy every male out there aged 40 to 44.  Hopefully I'll position myself in the middle of the pack coming out of the water.  I plan to "bike angry".  On the run I'll use the hills to my advantage.  Is it overambitious?  Surely it is.  Am I an idiot?  Probably. (My wife would say Definitely.)  I just don't know any other way to race.

As the great Steve Prefontaine said "To give anything less than your best, is to sacrifice the gift".  At the end of the day, if I don't put it all out there, I will regret it.  That's just how I roll.  So look for me at the finish line.  I'll either be celebrating or in the med tent.