Normally after winning an athletic victory I would be bouncing up and down corridors, proclaiming my superiority to all and sundry, and in general behaving like a total prig. Not this time, however. Last night I won the ergo contest at my local YMCA. Not only won, but won it big, with a time 13 seconds lower than the second-place finisher. I kicked ass, really and truly. But not the ass I wanted to kick.
I made a crucial error before the competition. I asked Sinewy Sculler, the orgainzer, what the fastest time in the elite women's division was so far, and he told me. It was pitiful. It was slower than the time it would take me to do a warm-up 2K. I knew I could beat that time without breaking a sweat. Consequently, I had little motivation to row my hardest.
I wish to god now that I had. I had a respectable time, and as I said it was by far the fastest time of the day, but it wasn't my best. So yeah, I kicked everyone else's ass, but I didn't kick my own. And ultimately, if i'm not challenging myslef, i might as well sit on the couch with a beer and a bag of chips and bloat til i float.
It's worth noting, though, that psychologically it's really difficult to work harder than you need to. As humans we have a tendency to only do what's necessary. Maybe it's a leftover from our days in trees and caves, where it would have been an evolutionary disadvantage to expend unnecessary energy. As a competitive athlete, I must always fight against the tendency to only work as hard as necessary. I must always, Always, ALWAYS work my absolute hardest. Even when I lose, if I did my very best, I'm pleased with myself. This is the first time in my life I did less than my best and won anyway. Strange, and strangely disappointing.