You know what I realized in sports? Especially endurance sports. There's no place for your ego in it.
Naturally one assumes that because he/she is younger, they would be fitter. Or if a He is racing with a She, he would surely win.
That's not how it works here.
I have been on both ends. I have been the one who looks at a grandma stretching herself in the park and thought, how can you run wearing khaki pants, and THEN got smoked by her. I remember the first day I started again running in 2009. I trailed behind a grandma and I honestly thought I could/would pass her after a while cause she was, well, slow. But I had underestimated her endurance. She might be slow, but she was relentless. I gave up after 2 loops (only 2km back then!) and she went on. I drove home in complete shame.
Also, there have been instances where I would be passing some guys running and they would do a double take and then surge ahead of me, only to lose steam after a while.
Egos. We all have it. It's the one that tips the competitiveness in all of us, the final motivating 'boost'. But we have to learn how to use it sparingly.
I have just got back from my karate tournament. And would you believe it my rival for the whole 3 day was this little (but beefy) 12 year old girl who does Sudoku while waiting for her turn. The first time we sparred, I was nervous about breaking her back. She nearly broke mine with a swift kick. At the end, I had to bow down to the fact that it's not all about the basic factors - age, gender, etc - but it's all about experience and training. She has been doing it for years. I have recently started again. I might be able to lift her up and render her helpless, but you can't do that in karate, and she was as fast as Speedy Gonzales. At one point after one swift kick and another swift kick where I fell on my ass, I nearly yelled out, "Oh come on! Give me a break!"
It's the same thing in running, swimming, cycling. I have seen a woman smoking guys cycling up an incline, and I have seen grandmas finishing the marathon strong, trailing behind her shuffling men. You can't explain it, the deviations from the norm, you only need to respect it. A cyclist once told me about a time when Patsy Yap the Ironman finisher who is in her 60s burned him riding uphill. He is a strong cyclist and definitely not in his 60's. And yet he was left choking on her dust and smoke.
One good example I would like to share is the swim session that I joined with Kash and the rest. From a logical point of view it seemed like I had the advantage - I was the youngest, unmarried and saddling no kids (this relates to all the time I have and the lack of commitment) or (so-called) old age. I thought what I lacked in experience might be compensated with youth. Yeah right, youth, my clunky ass. For all the session I was either left trailing behind, passed so many times I could not (or would not) count, and overtaken like I was a water buffalo and they were submarines. I was literally breathing in the bubbles they left in their wake. It is a good thing that I know where to put my ego because if I didn't I would have stopped and considered taking up synchronized swimming.
Another one is my cycling buddy, Aini. Once, after a ride where she was taken aback by her unexpected fatigue, she told me sheepishly that she had underestimated the distance of the ride. But I told her that she has trumped me way ahead in terms of strength, no matter how easy this ride was to me compared to her. I am a single 26 year old lady who is pretty active She is a mother who is still nursing, and just came back into the cycling scene. She is still waaay ahead of me, whether she realizes it or not. And I am very awed by her.
So this is what it is about sports. True, physical strength takes up the popularity when you discuss about greatness, but most of the time it's all inside. In my short foray into these all three endurance sports, I have met with many fast swimmer/runner/cyclist that doesn't quite fit the requirements of a typical fast/strong Olympian. Yet they still smoke me, and the rest of the young runners, like kacang goreng, and I am very ok with the fact.
I have no ego in this sport; there is no place for that in myself. I love the idea with no ego there is more room to improve and to get better. And that is how it should be. Just you and your will to get better.