Gas-station prices. Job offers. The Red Sox/Yankees rivalry circa 2004 versus 2011. We humans love to compare.
Triathletes get all sorts of opportunities to flex our comparative muscles. We compare training plans and racing calendars. We compare our performances race to race and year over year. We compare gear (I both adore my Cannondale and covet a Cervelo P4).
And of course we compare ourselves to the damn Joneses—those who possess the tri equivalent of beefier bank accounts and better manicured lawns.
Charlestown’s Nancy Arena—I’ve never met her, never said hi, couldn’t pick her out of a line up if my life depended on it. And yet, she’s one of my Joneses.
Nancy beat me at the Nantucket Sprint. By a full five minutes and 57 seconds. Which means she pummeled me, really. Every single split of hers—even the bike!—was better than mine. And this Saturday, she’ll compete against me at Nationals.
With 96 hours left until the freaking USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships, I’m doing what I seem to do best; I call it Obsessive-Compulsive Comparing (OCC).
I know there are 123 women in my age group (that includes me and Nancy). I know they are descending upon Burlington, Vermont from 31 different states. I know in what races they qualified and how they fared there. I’ve researched which of the F 40-44’ers are the strongest swimmers, cyclists, runners.
I am fully fixated on the field.
I’ve confessed my rather extreme case of OCC to my coach, even emailed him some of my Microsoft-Excel-driven pre-race analysis. He may have been humored by his apprentice’s efforts but he was not impressed. In typical Tim fashion he did not waste any words.
“Stop obsessing. Train hard. Race like there’s no tomorrow.” he zapped (snapped?) back.
I have trained hard. I will race almost like there’s no tomorrow (I add “almost” because I am reading Duel in the Sun, which chronicles the infamous Salazar/Beardsley tête-à-tête at the 1982 Boston Marathon. To give us a peek into the mind of a world-class marathoner, the author tells the story of Salazar’s 1978 Falmouth Road Race. At the conclusion of the 7.1-mile all-out sprint, I kid you not, a priest read Salazar his Last Rites. Yup, Alberto raced right on up to death’s doorstep. I’ve got things to do come August 21st, so no Salazar-worthy full-court-press for me.)
Do I dare to not compare, to abandon my OCC and race with borderline-reckless abandon?
I dunno. Come Saturday I will try. Heaven help me if Nancy shows up on a Cervelo.