04 August 2007

A Competitive Chi

Today, I ran my best race in my three year career of trail running races, duathalons and quadrathalons. I ran the Machine Solutions Annual 10k race held on Soldier's Trail, Fort Tuthill, Flagstaff. Although I didn't bask in the glory of taking the podium on this fine day, it was a transcendental experience nonetheless. While a 10K may pail in comparison to the grueling 17mi run up and over Imogene Pass, CO (completed in 2005), or the 43mi Mt. Taylor Quadrathlon, NM (completed the past two years), my performance in this little race supersedes my performance to date. Last year, I ran this same course and finished in ~58:00 minutes. Today, I finished in 47:38. I shaved almost 10 minutes off last year’s time!

Most likely, my improved performance was due to a strong and consistent training regimen, and my ever evolving and improving HP Yoga practice. I’m now logging upwards of around 60 miles per week running and biking, and practicing Yoga daily. Perhaps these are indeed the reasons, but I'm wondering if it was something else.

I ran a purely competitive race today. This is the first time I’ve done this. Sure, I’ve marked someone on the trail and thought, “I’m going to pass that person.” But today, I ran my race and it felt as if I was playing a game of chess.

During the race, I recalled an article I read in Men's Health, "When you need to kick your own ass" (July/August 2007: 141). Point four indicated competitiveness brings out the best in athletes. While I completed disagreed with the notion of "making an enemy," on the trail as the article suggested, I did take to heart the notion of competitiveness -- in its purest sense. So, today in the middle of a race, I decided to give this a try.

Once the crowd thinned out and each runner fell into his/her rhythm, I decided once I passed someone, they were going to stay behind me. In the past, I would indiscriminately pass people during a race, and at some point down the trail, they would pass me and leave me in the dust. However, today, before I passed someone I decided in my mind that if I was going to drop that person, they were going to stay dropped. It worked!

I realize competitiveness may not always sync with Chi. But I do believe Chi and competitiveness can co-exist in an athlete. The ability to maintain a “competitive chi” resides within. Today, I embraced a competitive spirit in a pure and healthy sense without attaching any negative attributes to it. I maintained my usual positive attitude throughout the race; and as always, I maintained respect for all beings around me.

Thus, I believe as long as one’s competitiveness does not interfere with promoting positive thoughts and actions, and one's competitiveness does not negatively affect other beings, one’s Chi is intact.

So, was today's performance related to my training regimen, my Yoga practice, or a competitive chi? I don't know. I do know a little competitive spirit doesn't hurt.

Top Image: 2007 Machine Solutions 10K Trail Run (04 August 2007), Courtesy Northern Arizona Trail Runners Association

Bottom Image: Race photo, Gaspin' in the Aspen Duathalon, Flagstaff Nordic Center (October 2006)

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