I do not race to win. I race to produce my little unarguable world of natural selection. I want to find out who is strongest, toughest, and who has put the effort in the weeks, months, and years leading into the race. I love when the bulging muscles and toned bodies mean nothing to the athlete trying to win.
I race to test my limits and build my strength. I put in hours each day to put together the perfect race. And I hope that on race day that perfect race will form from my preparation. I hope that my high pain threshold can lead me to beat the man who was born with legs but no guts.
This past race in Luray, Virginia I was denied the chance of placing by an object no larger than a pin head. But that is what was necessary to pierce my tire and end the race for me. But I had traveled hours to this race. I had payed an extra large entry fee to get in after the race had filled and I had worked my bum off in practice for this day.
After realizing what the pop and sudden resistance on my bike was, I pulled safely to the side to decide on my next move. I was provided with an extra large obstacle and my options were slim. I had no shoes or socks to walk back in and worse yet the roads were warming from the late morning sun. Oh yeah and I had not yet reached the twenty mile mark on a 25.5 mile bike course.
Thankful for the USAT rule that a participant will not be disqualified for walking his bike, I denied myself the comfort of an air conditioned ride from the several volunteers that were riding up and down the course checking for strays such as myself. I was not going to drop out of this race just because I could no longer win it.
In a Wednesday spring track meet my Junior year of high school I tripped at the start of the race and landed hard on my knee. After examining the gash that had already begun swelling, my coach suggested I not race. But I was too stubborn to accept that as an option. Three laps in, my knee began throbbing painfully and for fear of developing a new exciting injury, I dropped out of the race. Although I had no reason to be ashamed for my realistic and plainly wise decision, I walked alone to the empty locker room to shed sadness and shame for my abandonment of the race.
After that day I decided to not drop out of a race unless it was absolutely essential or dangerous and utterly unrealistic or stupid for me to continue. Today I was not going to make an exception. As I passed the volunteers on the course, I requested the time to ensure I was going to arrive at the finish before the four hour time limit.
Severely dehydrated with burnt and sore feet, I reached the transition with plenty of time to spare. I managed to seal the slowest bike and second transition split of the day after eating several Twizzlers and sipping on a bottle of Gatorade. Ten kilometers to go.
I took my time on that run, eating my handful of Twizzlers along the way. I enjoyed conversing with other participants. At this point I embraced being not a competitor but rather simply a participant. I was in Luray to enjoy myself, not to puke, not to feel horrible the rest of the day, not to win a medal or cool sweatshirt, but just to crest the hills at my own pace and finally learn why it is so important to some people for races to be in exotic and beautiful places.
I enjoyed Luray triathlon more than even some races in my career that I have won. I remembered the reasons I do this sport and while I could not enjoy some of my greatest incentives for competing, the lack of those elements only further fueled my desire for racing. Despite being nearly the last place finisher in my last race this year, the season ended on a high note. I am refreshed and excited for the upcoming season and the insane fee that I payed to enter that race was worth every dollar.