Right from the beginning we could tell that this teacher was a little different from our previous instructor. Not to be sexist, but it might be a guy/girl thing. Our old instructor, Lennie, talked when he needed to, but didn't really speak all that much. Our new instructor filled every moment with some piece of instruction, a direction, or words of encouragement. The other thing I noticed about this instructor was how heavy-handed she was with adding gears during the workout. There were times where Karrie and I could hardly move our pedals, and yet the instructor would still tell us to up our gears.
The other factor I need to mention at this point is that this was my Friday workout... and on Saturday, the very next day, I was scheduled to run more than 15 miles from Oceanside to Solana Beach. And yet, there I was in spin class absolutely killing my legs on a ridiculous spin workout. Now, you reasonable people out there might be wondering why I didn't just take it a little easy. After all, in a darkened spin class the chances of the instructor seeing me pretend to up my gear is probably pretty slim.
And this is why I decided to write this blog this week. I find myself almost unable to back down when presented with a challenge. I also began to wonder if this might classify me as a competitive person. If you ask my husband, he would not hesitate to tell you that I was without a doubt super competitive. Sean likes to (insert air quotes here) "joke" that we cannot be on the same team when we play games, but we also cannot be on opposite teams. In my defense, as a Pictionary partner, Sean's pictures always look like blobs, which make them very difficult to identify. And when we decided we should not be partners, I found he smirked at me across the table anytime he did well and I did not. I am also pretty certain that when we said our wedding vows almost twenty-five year ago that Sean promised to love, honor, and make sure his wife never loses. Does that make me competitive?
So this week I decided to do a little research, and I asked some people who might be a little less close to the situation and see how they would weigh in on this debate. First, I asked asked my friend Kay. As we ran down the road on a cold, dark and rainy Thursday, I say to her, very seriously, "I need you to look at me so I can see your reaction...do you think I am competitive?" Now I must admit, I was sure Kay would say that I was not that person, so I was completely unprepared for her response. She started with a hearty laugh and then just stated, "Do you really need to ask me that question?" Hmm...maybe I am a little more competitive than I realize.
To continue the research, I asked Kay's husband Jim, "Do you think I am competitive?" As I waited for him to respond, he squirmed a little as he carefully picked his words, "Um, slightly!" Okay...maybe if even Jim is seeing this in me, maybe I am a little competitive.
It is at this point that I would like to present a little evidence in my defense and offer a different way to look at the same situation. My major focus, especially in running, has been to get a little faster so my workouts don't take as long. In addition, my goal for the next year or so is to complete a half-marathon in under two hours. In order to achieve these goals, I find it really works for me to try to stay as close as I can to the fastest runner (within reason). I find if I push myself this way, it is actually cutting time off both my long and short runs. I am actually terrible at pacing myself. It seems to work when I use my friends' paces to push me to increase and maintain my pace. My focus is not on running faster than someone to beat them...I want to run faster than them to beat my previous times. Does that make me competitive? It does, but hopefully not the bad kind of competitive.
Another thing that drives Sean crazy is that when I ride with him I sometimes share with him how tired my legs are and then blast right past him on the hills as we ride. I am pretty sure I also do this to my Ironman training buddies on our rides and runs as well. I do apologize for how that sounds, but I again want to state that this has more to do with me being unable to back down from a challenge or the constant need to improve my practice. I am honestly not trying to beat you up the hill...I just love the challenge of riding and running hills, and I am striving to improve my times as well. Does it make me competitive to be happy when I reach the top of a big hill at a quicker pace than in the past? And if the byproduct is that I made it before some of the others, does that then change the way I should look at this experience?
My research leads me to realize that I really am a "competitive" person (or some other word that is a little less negative), but I hope that when you understand the reasons and motivation behind my competitive nature, you can see this in a different light. I do realize that I need to take more time to thank my training friends for helping me improve. I would never be where I am today without all these friends supporting me and allowing me to use them as gauges for my pacing. I also need to make sure I never communicate my injuries and sicknesses to my husband and friends, because I tend to just push through these annoyances and make it seem like I am trying to make them look bad. Am I "competitive"? I guess this answer is a definite "YES"...but I hope you will love me anyway!
*Note from Sean: Michelle's new goal is to be the least competitive person in the whole wide world by next year.