By Adam W. Chase
chick transitive verb \’chik\ 1. to finish ahead of a man, to overcome, defeat, best a male; also: surpass-often used in past tense, e.g., “She chicked him, and he was pissed.”
A pacer’s job in an ultramarathon is to motivate; so motivate I did. As I helped pro runner Nikki Kimball maintain her lead over the other women in the Leadville 100 in 2005, I concocted a scheme that capitalized on her competitive nature-and what she’d perceive as a macho-man attitude of a military friend of mine a few minutes ahead of her. Casually, while I paced her between miles 75 and 80, I mentioned that my pal would be the butt of the joke with his jarhead Special Forces friends if she beat him in the race. Sure enough, she told me later that the thought of “chicking” him helped drive her past him during the last tough miles of that race.
In fact, my Special Forces friend cheered for Nikki as she passed him, proving that the act of “chicking” can be more about driving a woman’s competitive self than about crushing anyone’s ego. Notice, I used the word can. That’s because there are several categories of male athletes, and, depending on who you’re leaving in the dust, pulling past one can be considered an artful maneuver or an act of war.
Knowing what to expect from the men you might pass on a race course can help you avoid an uncomfortable power struggle and can also help you brace for the inevitable-whether it’s attracting an instant admirer or cushioning the fall of a deflated ego. I don’t think women should ever hold back when it comes to chicking, but I’ve put together a cheat-sheet of categories to help you navigate your way to the finish line and steer your approach to overtaking the competition.
Cocky Carl represents about 15 percent of the guys you might see at a starting line. He’s relatively new to his sport or to racing and has experienced a lot of success, notching wins between his techie training sessions-he’s usually wedded as closely to his watch and heart rate monitor as his Spandex is wedded to him. He doesn’t discriminate when he’s racing-he hates losing to anyone, whether or not they have a penis. How do you deal? Just ignore him on your fast-track to the finish line.
Misogynist Mike embodies the type you know best and dislike the most. I estimate they’re 65 percent of the pack. He’s the guy who accelerates as soon as he hears your breathing behind him or when he gets the slightest hint that a girl is about to overtake him. He probably started too fast and hard, but racing often simulates life. He’ll draw on his deepest reserves in an attempt to keep you from passing, so my advice is to play with him. Pretend to breathe harder than you need to and slow down just a tad before hammering to put him away. In the unlikely event that he manages to stay ahead, be prepared for him to ask for your “digits” as soon as you clock in behind him.
Waning Walter’s type describes another 15 percent of the men between start and finish. Thanks to age and experience, he’s a softer, wiser version of Cocky Carl, but he’s had his day in the limelight and will be full of encouragement as you pass him. He’s a wealth of knowledge-about the course, training, and technique-and might offer some helpful information or pacing support, which you’d be wise to welcome.
Don’t look for Patron Pete-who represents about 5 percent of the men in the field-on the course. You’ll likely finish well before he will so you’re more likely to spot him cheering at the award ceremony. He follows the career of rising stars like you and gets half of his thrills and satisfaction for his sport by supporting its future champions. His enthusiasm for bright lights like you isn’t creepy, it’s generous, and if you’ll allow it he’ll be your pit crew captain or your financial supporter.
Bob Africa, husband of ultrarunner and snowshoe racer Darcy Africa, is coining a new term for his performance compared to that of his world-class-athlete of a wife: With great pride, he often claims”I got ‘wifed’ on that one.”
Want a man’s perspective on your own adventure issue? No problem, Adam’s on call to help. E-mail your question to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.