In our group email forum, one group member mentioned that he held the Strava course record for the 1/2 mile long hill climb that a bunch of us were planning to do repeats on. He offered a light-hearted challenge to beat his record. I was not a Strava user, but I’d certainly entertain an open challenge.
Last Thursday, I met up with almost the same group of people from Tuesday, – Rachel, +Stefan, +Thor. (Yes, that’s his name. He is fast, having recently run a 3 hour marathon in New Orleans. ) We did an easy mile warm up, thankfully without running into the angry driver. We stashed our bottles at the bottom of the hill and slowly began our hill repeats.
The first two laps I fell in behind the group. Someone mentioned the email challenge, but everyone seemed content to trudge onward. (Actually the running joke was to have Thor carry everyone’s GPS.) The third lap, I’d had enough following and got out in front and went a bit harder. And then I think it was the fourth lap, I ended up racing Thor up the hill. Or, it seemed like a race, so that’s how I took it.
He took off incredibly fast. My brain says, “Forget it, you whipped.” Almost immediately, I was sucking wind and wanted to stop and walk. And then I was reminded of the time I’d been dropped exactly like this by a girl.
But I kept running. My brain kept telling me, “Stop! This is ridiculous!” My heart replied, “Stupid brain, you shut up now.” Coming in second is perfectly acceptable, quitting is not. Keep running!
Maybe three quarters to the top, I realize I’m actually closing in on him… and then… I catch up to him… and… I pass him! My legs feel like lead but I run the last stretch as hard as I can…. I make it to the stop light and practically collapse. Holy Crap! I caught up to him and passed him. Did not see that coming.
Thor is two or three seconds behind. He stops, says “Good job,” and gives me a high five. He is pretty nonchalant. Was he even trying? I struggle to catch my breath as we wait for the others to summit.
I don’t know Thor well enough to gauge his competitiveness, but if he’s like me, he was not pleased that I managed to catch him and next time he will really be cranking up the hill next time. Which means I’ll have to do the same. This will create a feedback loop of intensity that will undoubtedly result in some great hill workouts and probably some new course records. That’s my hope, anyway.
This little race up the hill reminded me of being a kid. Pure and simple, let’s race and see who’s faster. What I realized is that Direct competition is a great way to really push yourself. It is a tool that can propel you and also allow you to gauge your efforts afterwards.
Yes, (ultra) running is mainly a competition with yourself, but what better way to test yourself than by directly competing with someone else who is also pushing himself?
* * * *Are you competitive? What’s your take on competition?