When I was playing football in the neighborhood, the competition was between our team and their team. More specifically, it was between me (the receiver) and that guy covering me. I would win and he would lose (touchdown), or I would lose and he would win (interception), or something else would happen on the field. It was pretty much a zero sum game, though. Everything that was good for my team was bad for his team. But the in the sports we are choosing these days, it’s completely different. It’s us versus the course, us versus the mountain, us versus ourselves. We’re all on the same field and we’re all playing it our own way.
I kind of like it like that. Without the immediate pressure of competition from the outside, I’m forced to try to get better at the sports I do all by myself. I go to the putting green and practice my chipping before I play golf. I try to beat my personal best time on my road bike route. I’m taking steps to personally better myself without having to feel the competition from outside sources. If I need an extra boost, however, there are some easy ways to light the competitive fire.
Some people bring the winner-take-all mentality into their individual sports. They enter bike races, golf tournaments, and bump contests. They keep meticulous count of their calorie intake, their training schedules, and their workout regimens. They count their vertical feet skied, power generated on bikes, and greens in regulation on the golf course. For them, not only must you achieve success, you must also quantify your improvement (and later, post it on the internet).
I don’t think I’ll ever get to that point. I like stats as much as the next guy, but I don’t think I’ll be getting these goggles any time soon. But there is something to be said for a little goal setting in personal development. For example, I’ve never ridden my road bike as much as when I was training for the 100 mile Tour de Cure this past June. Even though I didn’t get to finish (horrible mechanical problems), I was definitely a stronger rider because of the training. And if you’re not training for something, simply riding with other people seems to kick in a little something extra. Ace goes out on group rides with a bunch of local women, and she’s always pushing herself to be faster on the climbs, quicker in the sprints, and stronger on the downhills. Just skiing (or mountain biking) with friends gives you a chance to size up the people you’re riding with and dazzle them with your sweet skills. Because, even though this is between you and the mountain, it never hurts to show the mountain who its real competition is.