Today, while cycling, I reminded myself that I’m a terrifically competitive person. This was my first time back in the saddle in about two months, and before starting I said to myself, about twenty times, ‘this is for completion only’. That means I wasn’t pushing for times, or speed, just for completion.

Then good intentions got squashed by my inner demon, competitiveness. It nearly always wins over good intentions.

They Called Me Gunner. I (and one commenter to this site) wore this appellation in medical school, and it was deserved. A medical school gunner is one of those hyper-competitive people who really wants to be at the top of the class. I’ve seen other definitions that includes sabotaging others, and there’s a different name for those people, and it rhymes with stick-bed. Time has made me a little more selective about the competition thing, but it’s still in there.

Back to the ride. I was only about 6 miles into it, a beautiful ride on a very popular bike trail on a nice day, so there were a lot of cycllists (and angry loners, too). I was loafing, I’ll admit it, admiring the blackened terrain from a recent grass fire, and then I noticed a cyclist behind me, about 150 feet.

‘Click’ went the switch, and suddenly it became very important for me to Not Be Passed. Now, I’m not going to block or do something stick-bedded, but if I can push harder and keep the same or bigger interval, I’ll do that. And I did, with a series of cyclists who appeared seemingly out of nowhere. It struck me, pedaling with a gastroc cramp, how sometimes that little competitive thing can work against the good intentions.

And it was a good ride, too.

Gunner. Heh.


  1. Jared Solomon says:

    Glad I’m not the only cyclist who suffers from this seeming malady.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I have the same problem with running. It’s really not a good thing at all when you’re trying to do a long slow run for endurance and you find you’ve automatically accelerated to catch or stay ahead of some guy doing speedwork. However, I longer try to catch the bicycles, except on hills.

  3. It is good to see the gunner instinct has not left you. Good thing we don’t ride together, one of us would probably end up getting hurt. I am still a gunner, now on the soccer field and I sometimes end up pushing it too far, hence the recent broken bones. I don’t plan on slowing down, that would be a sign of weakness!! Long live the gunners.

  4. That’s funny, I don’t have that problem in medical school.

    I do when it comes to other things in life…maybe I screwed up my priorities somewhere. ;-)

  5. Aerospace Genius says:

    I guess it runs in the family along with the self control required to appear civilized in normal life. I was amazed by the colossal aggression flowing instincively from myself while competing with other drivers on the race track. It was extreme enough that I would not have wanted to compete against myself. Fortunately, such behavior is common and accepted in that environment, so there were no negative social consequences. In fact, I was respected as a quality competitor.

    The odd thing to me is that no other activity has ever prompted that degree of aggression and I don’t feel the need to find an alternate outlet, even 10 years later.

  6. Shlomo Berkowitz says:

    I love riding the trinity trails! We should rock out on them sometime.