11 November 2018

Chopped is the greatest show on the planet. There is nothing like watching frantic chefs, swollen with perspiration, rapidly cutting up pancreas to create delectable meals and win $10,000. The closest I’ve gotten to gourmet cooking is correctly heating up pop tarts, so it’s not the culinary aspect that attracts me to the show, but rather the inexhaustible, raw, competition.

My love of competition is what compelled me to tryout for track sophomore year. Racing my younger sister to the mailbox or challenging my parents to Pictionary weren’t enough to quench my insatiable desire to compete.

I guess that’s why I froze mid-stretch when Coach Rod jogged over to my 4×400 relay team and announced, “Just take it easy today.” Noting our raised eyebrows he commented, “There’s really no race.”

As the gunshot rang out and our leadoff started her leg at an obviously casual pace, I shuffled back and forth and considered the circumstances. It was a dual meet against Ramapo, a team with stunted participation whom, acknowledging an inevitable loss due to sheer size inadequacies, decided to send their JV team rather than exhaust their varsity runners. Our relay was second in the league and even at our seasons’ worst time could keep this novice quartet at bay. I watched our second leg round her first 200, flirting with a twenty-meter l despite running four seconds slower than usual. I jogged to the start line, preparing to receive the baton. It made sense for me to treat this race as a practice; nothing demanded a physical exertion of any measure.

My teammate sailed down the straightaway and leisurely offered me the baton. I eased into the first 100, accepting the gracious gap. As I headed down the first straightaway, conscious that my legs were moving at relaxed pace, I was reminded of competitor in Chopped, a feisty Russian lady with a thick accent.

During the second round, she was dicing some okra when her knife slipped. I remember gasping as she revealed a deep gash in her hand. The hastily applied bandages cost her dexterity and precious time. It was unavoidable. She was going to lose.

As I approached the 200 mark, I quickened my turnover, willing my legs to push themselves, a discernable strain, considering the comfortable pace I had shifted from. I sprinted down the last straightaway, ignoring the lactic acid build up begging me to take advantage of our lead. I handed the baton to our anchor, and staggered off the track to be greeted by my teammates. They rolled their eyes, laughing, “So much for taking it easy.”

The Russian lady could’ve easily accepted her loss and dropped out of the competition. When the judges questioned her persistence, she said, “I always try my best.”

I realized that regardless of the competition, predestined win or loss, preforming to the best of my abilities is more important than feeding my competitive spirit. Who knew such valuable life lessons could be learnt from the Food Network?

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