It has been said a time or three (thousand) that triathletes are highly competetive. And they tend to be overachievers, as well. Does anyone know what would make people say things like that?
Some would say that competition isn't a good thing. All around the country, there are moves to eliminate any hint of competition from our children because it might damage their self-image if they "lose." So attempts are made at evaluating without ranking. It makes you wonder why so many people get involved in activities such as marathons and triathlons, knowing full well they have no hope of "winning." Are we all somehow damaging our self images by placing anywhere from last to "far from first."
Perhaps, self-image is about much more than "winning" in the "first place" sense. Or, perhaps, we are racing someone besides the other people in the event.
Most likely, it is a little bit of both, for many of us. After all, how many non-athletes became runners (or triathletes) and improved their health in the process. Is their self-image worse because they are mid-pack runners? Tell John "The Penguin" Bingham that he is somehow less of a person because he doesn't "win." He'd probably tell you where to waddle your little behind. Or tell Sarah Reinertson her self-image is worse off after competing in an Ironman triathlon. If you're lucky, she'll kick you with her right leg. If she really takes offense, she'll clobber you with her left leg. Perhaps you'd care to tell Dick and Rick Hoyt that racing is pointless, since Dick will never "win" a race pushing Rick.
I think in all of these cases, and many, many more, the people racing CAN'T lose. They win every time the step up to the starting line. They win as they lose excess weight as a result of their training. They win as they overcome various addictions (gaining one or two quite healthier addictions). They win as they accomplish goals most consider unattainable.
After all, in the end we are really racing ourselves. We challenge ourselves to accomplish a given set of tasks. As one goal is met, we set other, more difficult challenges. First, we want to finish. And we bask in the glory of success. Then, we realize glory is short lived, because we could have done better. We could certainly set a PR if we race, again, right? Or could we have gone longer? There's always a longer race in available somewhere in the near future.
As highly competitive, overachieving triathletes, we need to keep a few things in focus. First, we are always racing. There is always some goal to be accomplished, a podium to be reached. Second, and more importantly, the only way to lose is to fail to try. Once the decision is made to "go for it," the first victory is won. After that, we win every time we achieve another goal.
Go. Race. And remember, you're all winners.