Last month I had the opportunity to attend two NCAA college basketball tournamentgames. The first was a complete blow out, with nerdy Harvard totally out-matched by Arizona. The second game, between #1 seed Gonzaga and #9 seed Wichita State, was a back and forth nailbiter that Wichita State pulled out in the end. Throughout the game my dad and I kept commenting on how physical and just plain tough Wichita State was. It was clear that they weren’t intimidated at all to be playing a #1 seed. After the game, it didn’t surprise me to read the following: “Coach Gregg Marshall likes to say that Wichita State is a reflection of the town it calls home: a hard-working, blue-collar, nose-to-the-grindstone kind of place. If you ask him what has sparked the stellar improvement from his team (over the past month), he’ll tell you it’s because the team started ‘playing angry’”. I was already pulling for the Shockers after having seen them in person, but reading that made me an even bigger fan. The “play angry” motto got more and more press with each victory, and Wichita State had a great run in becoming one of the lowest seeds ever to reach the Final Four.
So what does it mean to “play angry” in a triathlon? First of all, I don’t think it means playing dirty, which might entail grabbing ankles and ripping off goggles in the water, leaving a trail of tacks and broken glass behind you on the bike, and a combination of tripping and clotheslining on the run. It also doesn’t mean getting angry, losing your cool and being a jerk.To me playing angry is all about your mindset going into a race. It means not being intimidated… not by the open water, the bikes that cost more than your car, that big hill on the course, the competition, etc. You can still be friendly to others and have fun (isn't that the point?), but when it comes down to it it means racing with a chip on your shoulder and getting after it!
Although triathlon is less about “me vs. you” and more about battling the course and the clock, I obviously want to place as high as I can. One year ago I was simply happy to be at Ironman St. George. My goal was to finish, and I took a conservative approach. I was ecstatic to cross the line on a day when almost 1 out of 3 didn’t due to the elements and the difficulty of the course. This year, my mentality is different, clearly in part due to the race being cut in half to a 70.3. I may have a great race, or I may bonk in spectacular fashion, but I can assure you that I'll be scrapping and competing the best I can out there. In other words, I'll be playing angry. If interested you can follow me on Saturday beginning shortly after 7AM Mountain Time (9 EST) via the Ironman site(I believe you click on "coverage" and then "athlete tracker"). I'm #910.