Out There: Competing For Cookies

Who said running on a treadmill has to be boring? Illustration: N.C. Winters

Oh, no she didn’t.

There was no way I was going to let this girl beat me. As I upped my pace to a sub-7-minute mile, she sneered. I snorted. We both grunted like tennis players at Wimbledon.

Suddenly, the treadmills beeped and whirred as they began their scheduled cool-downs.

I waited for my rival to hop off the belt and disappear into the locker room before I raised my arms in triumph. Sure, I felt like dry heaving, but it was a small price to pay for victory.

“You have got to be kidding me,” said my friend Keith, rolling his eyes as he tiptoed around the puddle of sweat accumulating at my feet. “Treadmill racing again?”

“Not so much racing,” I said, brushing off my shoulders like Jay-Z, “more like opening a can of whoop-ass. Did you see how tired she was? Huh? Did ya? I totally wore her down.”

Keith threw me a towel and a look of disgust. “Must everything be a competition with you?”

The answer to that is yes — completely, thoroughly and emphatically YES.

Deep in the underbelly of endurance sports, beyond the camaraderie and jovial finish-line chats, lies a dark side. Yes, at some point, you will get competitive … and it won’t be pretty.

RELATED: Out There: Take The Stage

It starts with wanting to pass someone in a race. It progresses to yelling, “On your left!” as you speed through the aisles of the grocery store. Soon, you’re leg-wrestling your husband for the last cookie, even if he already said you could have it. (Because cookies taste better when you’ve really earned them, y’know?)

This past summer, I was talking with my friend Heidi about her latest challenge. After completing her “A” race of the season, she had her sights set on something new:

“No cookies, no beer, no unhealthy food whatsoever for one month. I want to prove to myself I can do it,” she explained. “I’m calling it No-Junk July.”

“It needs a name?” I replied. “Can’t you just say you’re giving up cookies?”

“It’s a challenge, Susan, and all challenges need a name,” Heidi deadpanned. I offered to join her for the challenge; but first, I said I’d have to remove all of the Oreos from her home via my stomach. Naturally, the conversation ended in a leg-wrestling match.

The competitive fires are burning. Sometimes we contend against others. More often, the battles are within ourselves. As athletes, we’re always striving to become better — to do more, faster, with greater proficiency. We’re constantly playing a game of proving to ourselves (and others) that we can do something, even if we don’t necessarily believe it at first.

It’s not a bad thing. Whether on the track, in the kitchen or just within the brain, competition forces us out of our comfort zones, into the unknown where the magic happens. When a victory finally does occur, well, it’s pretty sweet.

Tastes like cookies, as a matter of fact.

RELATED: Out There: Beware Of Dog (And Its Owner)

This piece first appeared in the September issue of Competitor magazine.

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About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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