Tomorrow is the Clemson Triathlon. Ruh-roh.

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I should have stuck to the training plan.

Going into one of the most competitive races in South Carolina with maybe 5 miles of accidental running in the last two months, maybe two miles of swimming in as much time, and no real bike training other than a few long rides is probably not the best idea in the world.

Am I fit? Yes. Am I lean? Getting there, yes. Am I race ready? Absolutely not. Not even close. This is going to be a VERY rough race for yours truly. I'm just hoping to survive.

This is NOT how I wanted to start off the season. Even for me, this is a pretty slack way to pop the cherry on this year's triathlon schedule.

This is what happens when you take a management job with a Fortune 500 company, sure, but that isn't the whole story. All groaning and moaning and butterflies aside, here are some cold hard truths about my utterly demented psyche:

Come Saturday morning, standing on the edge of the water at Lake Hartwell, surrounded by hundreds of men and women far better prepared than I am this time around, worried and nervous and drowzy from not having slept all that well, I will be sporting a possum-eating grin from ear to ear, and I will relish every damn second of the experience.

There was a time when I did come prepared for these things, when I walked away with age group awards and bragging rights, and single-digit rankings. But I was bored. Every race bled into the next. Each season became indistinguishable from the previous one. I eventually lost interest and checked out of the sport for almost two years, opting instead to photograph the races instead of participating in them.

In my own sick, twisted way, not training ensures that I will show up unprepared and nervous and full of self doubt, because at the core of my love for triathlon is the need to challenge myself. To test my will and my body. To overcome the unknown.

Hell, to overcome. Period.

Which is why the last two weeks at work, as challenging and stressful as they have been, as unpleasant and frustrating and time-consuming, have been my best yet.

The truth of the thing is that as much as I love to bitch about being stressed out, as much as I long to hang out on a Mediterranean beach drinking Orangina all day, I am at my best under pressure. I know this. I don't like to admit it and certainly don't want to give my boss an excuse to keep me under impossible deadlines indefinitely, but yeah, I'm one of those freaks who lives for thos impossible deadlines. The painful, uncertain races. The most ambitious projects.

I like the gauntlet. No... I love the gauntlet.

So this Saturday, let it be understood that I won't be walking away with any trophies. My finish time at the Clemson Triathlon will be decent at best, but probably pretty average. I will grit my teeth when the results get posted, and I will kick myself in the ass for weeks for not having trained for it. Months, even. But deep down in my heart, I will know that there was a reason why I opted to skip the runs and the swims to instead work on powerpoint presentations and project proposals and business plans.

It won't be because I want to kick ass at my job. (I could do both the job thing and the triathlon thing if I really wanted to.) No, the real reason is that I like to dig myself in a hole just to see if I can climb out. And how. And how well. I'm sure there's a name for this kind of pathos in psychotherapist circles. And I'm sure I could deconstruct it if I really wanted to take the time. A lurking father complex, a hint of narcissism, a dash of masochism, a spoonful of quirky curiosity, a pinch of social anxiety... Whatever. Who cares. It is what it is.

I guess the way I justify it to myself is this: It isn't like we have to go out and hunt mammoths anymore. We don't have to outsmart man-eating sabertooths. And that's too damn bad. Our foes these days are rush hour traffic jams and telemarketing calls during dinner and obtuse aftercare nazis. Twisted guys like me, we need more to get the juices flowing. Some guys are adrenaline junkies. Me, I'm a stress junkie. That's all it boils down to.

My job, my schedule, my showing up at races unprepared, my tackling public speaking engagements without notes... It's all part of my little life game. Knowing that I am at my best under stress, I find ways to create the stress.

Sick and twisted? Me? You bet.

See you at Clemson Saturday. I'll be the guy with the grin sweating bullets and breathing really hard. ;D

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