The title might sound confusing. That’s ok. I meant it to. In this article I want to talk a little about competitive mindset and how I measure success in competition. Last weekend was the Feather River Festival and the Tobin Down River Race. This festival and this race have been a favorite event of mine for several years now. This year was the biggest and best yet and only slightly different for me in the race. This year was the first year that I decided that I was not only going to race but I was going to win the race. I decided this months ago really. I spent the summer getting into the best paddling shape I’ve been in for several years. I know the race course as well as anybody, and better than most. I have the fastest boat under 9ft that exists today. I went into this race with all the right parts to win it and I felt confident that I could. Well, I didn’t win, but I’ve never been so excited to lose.
I took off out of the start and from the first stroke until the last I paddled as hard as I could. I took the fastest lines I knew all the way down and made only a couple minor mistakes. I finished with a time of 15:19. About 40 seconds off the winner. You might be wondering why I’m so excited about my performance even though I didn’t win. Here’s why. Even though I didn’t win I did put down the fastest time I’ve ever had in this race. I had the best race run I’ve ever had in this race. I went 100% all out for the entire race and placed higher than I ever have before. I put it all on the water and I have no regrets. For me, competing is about beating myself. When it matters can I put down a the best run I know I can? If I do that then I can go home super stoked with my results. It doesn’t matter if I’m first or last. If ran my very best race then I am stoked to do that. I love racing and I’d like to see more people getting into it at all levels. Sometimes though I think people shy away because they think, “I’m not going to win.” It doesn’t have to be about beating the other racers. It can just be about showing yourself that you can make it to the finish. It can just be about being there as one part of the whole. I think competition adds to our camaraderie and sense of community, as long as we can all not let ourselves take it too seriously. Don’t get so hung up on the rankings at the end that you forget how fun it was to be out there on your own paddling as fast as you could down that race course. Get out there and do the best you can and be proud of that. This time my best wasn’t enough to claim the victory but that’s ok. I’ll be faster next time. Till then, see you on the river.