Amongst Competitors: What's in all mean?

When it rains it pours... I am stuck at home with chickenpox so I have loads of time to be able to complete an number of post i have planned to write for some time.

16 2007 Start Semi

This is something which I found myself going over when I was watching some rowing races on DVD. My preference has been to view races every couple of weeks and to make notes about what I observe. Often I then check splits and compare to what other categories did on the day around similar time of the day at the event.

Watching these video's recently I found myself reflecting on what it's like being amongst competitors. That feeling of being on the start line. Of taking off together when the start releases signals go. The feeling of being around the regatta site. The post race experience with the let down, celebration, frustrations and realisations.

What I love is the lack of ambiguity with competitors. Forget some of the rubbish that can go on before or after a race. Some athletes are into the mind games. That's to be expected.

My preference is to cut through the bullshit to what really matters most. Expect everyone you are racing is desperate to win and it becomes simple. Add to this preference in relation to mind set that although everyone is out there to try and win, they are also there to enable you to be the best you can be.

Desperation in degrees I say. Athletes like any other person will have a certain level of desire. A level of willingness to follow through on that desire. Desperation is how far are they willing to push themselves or the limits of the sport or activity.

Next thought is how do we each define winning? Obvious first across the line is a clear distinction. What of a sense of winning with out the actually result. That's it a personal best of sorts which only you are aware of. What of that sense of satisfaction that comes with being part of the race? All the various combination's of winning are valid and important.

From memory I recall moments sitting on the start line like at the Worlds in 2007 and thinking the strange thoughts of what's winning to me? What's winning to my competitors? What's it mean to win? What am I willing to do? What are they willing to do? At these times I have often re-focused myself on the process and immediate action required, but on many occasion I have noted those questions and wondered why they pop into my head then. What this type of questioning means?

The conclusions I have drawn involve these times when obvious the notion of winning is a strong drive. The idea of producing a result is present and along with all that we have done to prepare. The thoughts and feelings of those around you on the start line I think in some way play a part to. It's that moment coming in to sharp focus when all these people have prepared and thought about being ready for. It's like a super consciousness of sorts where so many available thought processes converge in some way. Major events this sense I feel becomes even stronger. How many athletes/people are focused on a club race are less at that one specific time. The bigger the event the more people have engaged with either attempting to make it to that moment and the energy people bring to the experience is a culmination of days, weeks, months, years and even ones life up to that point. This is a huge amount of focused energy on a certain start time. An interacting moment.

This is probably a bit spacey but I have wondered why thoughts like these seem to not be personal but rather interpersonal and universal at these times. Let me explain further I have had the bizarre sense that I have felt what others are really attempting or hoping to do when sitting on the start line. Seeing a snap shot of a facial expression seems to provide so much insight. Those questions whizzing around my head have almost been provided with answer. I know this is silly as at those times the races have not been rowed, but a sense that not everyone is there for the same reasons becomes clear. Not everyone is as willing as others. The level of desperation is vast. The idea of what winning is all about for each person is different and yet we all sit there looking ready to go. Ready to attempt to get to that finish line as fast as we can.

The feelings I have experienced amongst competitors particularly on the start line tell me there is a lot more going on than we can explain. The vastness of perspectives comes to that moment. Managing self along with what every else is going in becomes critical.

Way back in 2003 other noticed something about James and I as we prepared on land. I remember some much going on at the start once we have warmed up which wasn't hard in the hot and humid conditions in Milan. The volume once we were backed into the blocks was high. That is the volume of thoughts and sounds seems defining. Moment by moment the dial seemed to turn slowly as the time counted down. Everything was still there in the background but what became clear and vivid was our intent. It was a oneness with our intent and the moment. In a way the moment at our intent was the same. At this time I recall feeling strange things about the various crews as the final few deep breaths had as forward and ready for the start. I know... weird huh. Even as I sit here writing this now it is like I am there again. It was hot and the air felt breathless... Almost with out oxygen. Yet we breathed deeper in preparation to go. The sense of lacking oxygen was not a concern. The clarity about our plan and our intent to perform was tangible like the oar in my hand. It was visible like James sitting in front of me. By that final stage the feeling for competitors was not based on any thing visual, but rather a sensation of sorts. In some other boats it seemed blurred, unclear and in someway confused. Why am I sharing this now. I guess my thinking was prompted after watching these races and something about 2003 really stuck in my mind. In 2007 I had a similar sense and when I was going through some old shots and saw the image above it sparked something.

In 2007 in the final I was so sure the NZ pair was coming with us early. I knew we we ready to go really very fast early and the sense I had was that we were not going to slow down much. An image of a storm came into my head that day and with any storm you have to weather it and the get on with things. That feeling of excitement and anxiety was a see saw type of experience. Like a ticking clock from side to side. A metronome passing back and forth. Each swing becoming less and less as time came to the point. A readiness was present but readiness for different things.

Being amongst competitions is like seeing through a window into oneself and a collective focused and emerging lens. It's insightful and not always as expected. Ignoring the thoughts for fear of distraction runs the risk of miss some vital and valid information. The feelings of ups and downs is very much like being out on the ocean.

This brings me to a final thought I have had that related to surfing. Being out in the water particularly when it start to get bigger. Everyone becomes very focused on the largest sets as they provide opportunity and also risk. Someone will catch the wave possibly and others will attempt to position themselves possible to catch it also. Some may elect to pass and look for the next one coming behind. Others may simple looks to staying out of harms way. The bigger the wave the larger the spread as the opportunity comes with even more excitement and the risks start to become very real. You can get out of position very quickly and the shifts occur faster. What I have experienced in the water is when someone sets their mind on catching the next big wave you can feel it. When other sense this they begin to position themselves for either the next one or other after, or they simple move to ensure the don't get crunched by the wave or the surfer. So everyone is out there to catch and ride waves but the willingness, desperation and intent amongst the surfers can be so different.

Hope that has been to confusing.


Veikko Sinisalo said…
I take that this has to do with freedom to win, mindset that involves willigness and desire to fight, (and joy of the challenge) but not one bit of being desperate to win. Interesting thoughts, thanks for sharing.
Unknown said…
Inspirational, I felt I was on the starting line - keep writing, thanks.

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