I’m in the process of planning my trip out to British Columbia to participate in the Canadian Surfski Championships. And to see family. But as I’m trying to organize seeing family around my need to train and prepare for the race, I’m hit by the absurdity of it all. Why do I care so much about being properly trained and prepared for this race? It’s not like I’m going to win it. Based on my few experiences paddling against Canadians, I’m not even going to be in the top 50%. So why bother? Logic would indicate that I should forget about preparing, spend the entire week visiting family and accept whatever pathetic place I end up in the race and just enjoy being on the same race course as Sean Rice and other top level elite racers. But screw logic. I want to finish this race knowing that whether I come 30th or 300th that I did my very best.
There is very little logic to being an amateur non-elite athlete. I’m not going to win any money or fame or be recognized by people outside the sport. I’m not going to be the best paddler in the country – heck, I’m not even the best paddler in Rochester NY, and it’s likely I never will be. There are guys ahead of me I’ll never catch, and guys behind me who will never catch me. But there are also a few guys behind me who could catch me, and maybe one or two ahead I could still catch. And let’s just try not to think about how I’ve reached the point of my life where I’m going to have to work harder and harder to not slow down, a red queen’s race that everybody eventually loses. Not a lot to justify the hours and hours a week I spend training, the damage I’ve done to my body, or the resulting pain.
I’m not sure the elite guys would agree with me, but I feel like relative to our relative abilities, I train just as hard as them. I can put in a two hour paddle and be so wiped that I come home and fall asleep for a few hours. Tell me that isn’t as good as some elite guy who paddles more hours at faster speed, but is then able to function normally for the rest of the day? If I had the innate ability, youth, years of experience and a body not prone to chronic pain, wouldn’t I have been as fast as them? There’s no way to really answer that.
So if you want an answer to the question in the title, you’re not going to get it. And if you excuse me, I’m going to go upstairs and spend 70 minutes paddling to nowhere on my Speedstroke erg.