I’m an extremely competitive person. The stubborn gene that runs in my family kind of kicks in when I’m behind someone. Whether it’s on the bike or when I was a kid in the pool. I hate to lose. If I see a bike rider in the distance, I work my ass off trying to reach them. Sure, I know that far off distant rider is just riding leisurely to their destination. I know they have no idea or care that I’m back there. But, I care.
I’m not usually very loud about my intentions to pass you. I work my way up silently. Watching every move. Looking for a weakness. Then, when I see my moment, I strike. I’m sure there have been many bike commuters making their way home in the afternoon who have seen some silly long haired person on a black single speed pushing like mad past them like he’s on his way to winning the Tour de France.
Why do I do it? It’s fun. It makes the ride go faster if you have a goal. And it keeps me on my toes.
But, I have let someone win. Just once.
And for some odd reason, I was thinking about that just a few minutes ago.
It was way back in age group swimming. We were both high school age. We had both been swimming since we were both 6 or 7 years old. But, since he attended a private school, he wasn’t on the high school team with me.
He was my childhood friend. My first friend after we moved to Hemet following my parents divorce. His family lived down the street from us. Although he was a year older than me and attended a different school, we did a lot together. We even rode our road bikes to school and around town on the weekends. There was a time for a couple of years when our schools were close together. When we reached his school, he would peel off. I would only have to ride another couple of blocks to get to mine.
After we moved out of the neighborhood, we didn’t see each other very often. But, he still swam for the club team. Up until his junior year, I want to say. You reach a point where you burn out. After all, how many laps have you swam if you started at the age of 7? I burned out. But, not until my senior year of high school.
Even though it was many years ago now, I still remember that day. I knew it was going to be his last meet. It was a home meet. And we both were going to be swimming the 500yd freestyle. Breaststroke was my favorite event. But, I was very good at the 500 as well. I don’t remember who the meet was against. But, I remember that in the finals, we swam next to each other.
It’s always good to have someone in the pool who pushes you. It’s so easy to slow down and get stagnate when there’s no one around. We swam right next to each other the entire time. I didn’t have a plan. I always jump off the line with the intention to win. But, somewhere in those 20 lengths of that 25 yard pool, I decided to let him win.
I could have easily taken him. He was fading in the last two laps. I remember it as if it happened yesterday. But, I stayed with him. I pulled him.
On that last lap, I stopped kicking as hard. My stroke got longer. Slower. Right before the lane marker on the bottom of the pool stopped, I stopped. I glided in. I dove my head down and looked right toward his part of the wall. I made sure he got there before me.
He was my friend. Even though he had burned out and apparently didn’t care as much about it. I wanted him to go out on top.
I never told him that I did it. After I touched, I shook his hand and congratulated him. I don’t know if he knew. I remember going to the stands a little later and telling my mom who was watching with the other parents. But, other than her, I never told anyone else.
I don’t regret it. He was my friend. He deserved it.