If you read last Friday’s post, you know that I suffered from my usual case of nerves before the race I ran last weekend. As expected, I stayed jittery all the way till the opening cannon (yes, it really was a cannon–we all JUMPED across the starting line), then I took off and did my thing. It worked out just fine.

As a decent competitor, I’ve won a few age group awards and had hoped to do the same in this race. I faced a tough field, and it just wasn’t to be this time, although I was satisfied with my finish. As I analyzed the results, however, I found myself not only looking at how I had done, but also at who had finished around me. Then I found myself looking at their ages, calculating when I would slide into the next age group and who would stay behind.

I wanted to win, and I was looking at Father Time to help me do it.

Wait, what?

For those of you not familiar with road races, they work like this. Everyone’s time is recorded and logged to determine overall results. Then the data is parsed and participants are categorized by age and gender. Two finishing lists are published: overall and age group. With not a prayer of a contending overall time, I look to the age group results to boost my ego.

When I’m on the early end of my age group, I always do better, relatively speaking. Now that I’m approaching the top end and the “younguns” are infiltrating my pack, my former top threes have become top tens. This is the only time I can’t wait for my birthday so that I can get closer to the next group–and to being a “youngun” myself. Instead of racing the clock, I’m racing the calendar.

I have mixed feelings about this. I want to keep getting better and post faster times. I also want to win, and apparently I’m willing to bank on my age to do it. Will I be jitterbugging for joy when I’m an old lady, further down the overall list than ever, but fastest in my age group simply because I’ve outlasted everyone? What does this say about me?

All I know is that people want to feel good about themselves, and we’re willing to slice and dice the data to do it. Keep that in mind when you’re trying to get someone to buy in to your message. I’ll say it again: people like to feel good about themselves. Help them find a way to do it.