It's not that I'm a competitive person. I just like to win- all the time.
I blame this phenomenon on growing up with two older brothers. I was accustomed at an early age to mental and physical abuse.
Over time, survival skills developed that would undoubtedly bring me out on top in any form of reality TV.
My childhood was "Fear Factor," with only one contestant.
My oldest brother, Dave, liked to lock me in a closet while he practiced his piano lesson. He said this would teach me not to be afraid of the dark.
What it taught me was an appreciation for the phrase "coming out of the closet."
The other maniac, Matt, was more of a physical guy. He would do things like throw me on the floor, pinning me down.
"You are in a burning building. A beam has just fallen on you. What will you do?"
"I will tickle the beam in his armpits!"
Oh, yes, I had my methods.
There's a new man in my life now, a different force to be reckoned with, another entity that brings out my competitive beast.
He's officially called Pacer Man, although I've tagged him with a few other titles unsuitable for print.
Pacer Man is just one component of the Expresso Fitness System at the YMCA. A virtual cycling workout, you can spin yourself silly from the California coast to the Peruvian Mountains, even to outer space.
Choose a tour through Redwood Country, or the Campus Loop, or my personal favorite, the Quicksilver Tour, 6.3 miles of varied terrain. No matter what the course, Pacer Man is there to set the speed.
He bursts from the starting point, brilliantly obvious in his yellow shirt and little black bicycle pants.
You would think he might wait up for a second, give you a chance to catch your breath, or assess why your thighs are ablaze, but no, he just tears off. Apparently, he has no need to warm up.
I hate his every megapixel.
For weeks, I followed that man, watching his skinny behind negotiate the hills without effort. Often he got so far ahead, I couldn't even see him, although the nifty mini map on the screen would show me his location.
He would get a mile or two up the road, and I imagine, even stop for ice cream. All the while, I'm panting and sweating, willing my legs to press on. It was discouraging.
Finally, I'd had enough.
Sadly obsessed with the graphic resolution of an imaginary guy, I headed out to the YMCA with only one thing on my mind- beat the pacer.
I attacked that tour as if my life depended on it, leaving Pacer Man in the dust from the get go. I only wish I could have looked back and seen the look on his smug, little face, if he even has a face.
The first mile was pure agony, my chest pounding, my legs throbbing, my pulse rising to the 180's.
By mile 2, I was drenched with perspiration, gasping for every breath. My underwear was headed for uncharted territories.
I don't remember miles 3 through 5. The woman beside me described it as "stroke activity," my body leaning toward the right, my breathing uneven and ragged.
Once I hit the 5 mile mark, it was all downhill, so to speak. A decisive victory, I crossed the finish line with my opponent a full 3 minutes and 20 seconds behind.
I had beat Pacer Man. And you know why?
Pacer Man is a loser.