Why Do We Compete in Races We Can’t Win?

My arms are out because I was so dizzy, I kept tipping over.

After a particularly grueling swim in my triathlon on Saturday, I found myself with lots of time to think on the bike portion. Most of my thoughts boiled down to one, “Why?” Why am I doing this?

I’m a lousy swimmer and doing longer distances (which that race was longer than usual), end with me even farther behind on the bike. I had no hope of catching up to the larger group. It was frustrating to spend so much of the race not feeling like I was in a race.

I’ve taken an honest look at my ability level, and I don’t see a lot of room for improvement. I could buy a new bike or even spend more time at the pool, but is the outcome worth the added cost? I realize this is a situation that athletes of all abilities are facing. At some point, you can’t get better.

So if winning isn’t an option, what keeps us motivated?

A friend who came to cheer me on stood at the lake’s edge when the last swimmer came out of the water. Someone said to the swimmer, “Maybe triathlons aren’t really your thing.” When my friend told me the story later, I wanted to find the person who said this and smack them. Then I wanted to find the woman, put my arms around her and say, “Screw them. If you want to do a triathlon, then it’s your thing.”

I realize this is my answer. As long as I want to do them, then I should. As long as triathlons motivate me to get my butt out of bed early in the morning to train, I will compete. At some point the cost may outweigh the benefit, but then I’ll just find something else challenging, athletic, and fun.

Why do you keep competing?

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