As previously noted, I am competitive (hence the whole point of this blog). I like to race, I like to win, though the definition of what “winning” means is flexible. I know, for example, that I will likely never come in first in a triathlon or a running race…not first among women, not first in my age group, not first ever. I’m okay with that because I can still win– by beating a previous time, by beating my expectations, by not coming in last.
There is a very real possibality that I could come in last doing this triathlon. According to my best estimates, I should be able to come in under 3 hours. Looking at the race results from last year, this would have be coming in last by about 15 minutes. For the 2007 race, I’d have been second to last.
I’ve been reading various tri-related blogs and forums and I’ve read over and over that for your first tri you shouldn’t set any time goals. There are just too many variables and you just don’t really know what you are capable of. Intellectually, I get that and truly my main goal is just to finish, but there is this part of me that really can’t stop obsessing about not finishing last.
I think part of this stems from my own long standing self-perception that I’m not really that good at sports (getting picked last for every single team in every single PE class will do that to you) combined with my life long fear of being laughed at.
There is a short film playing in my head these days. In it, I’m red faced and huffing, shuffling toward the finish line. Everyone else in this little film is slim and buff and impossibly sporty looking. They’ve all been done for hours. The race officials are visibly annoyed, checking their watches, muttering about how they should have set time limits for this race so they wouldn’t have to stand around waiting for the fat girl to finish. I get closer and closer to the finish line, my shorts are all bunched up, my hair is frizzing, I am dying and…everyone is laughing. Someone makes a joke about how they feel sorry for my bike and everyone laughs harder. I finish the race and the only people clapping for me are the husband and the baby.
Good Lord– that is really pathetic isn’t it?
The more mentally healthy part of my brain reminds me that A) I am not the center of everyone else’s world, so most of the people in the race won’t notice or care how I do and B) I would never, ever laugh at the person coming in last. In fact, I’d probably cheer loudest for them because I’d know that it was probably a bigger challenge for them to be out there than anyone else. I need to remember that other people are like me in this regard.
When I swam in a masters swim meet last month, the biggest cheers from the small crowd of swimmers and spectators were for the people who struggled the most- the lone entrant in the 200 butterfly, the 65 year old guy struggling through the 500 free, the first timer racing the 100 free and coming in well after everyone else. Other races, people would just mill around the side of the pool, talking, stretching, absorbed in their own stuff. But, when someone was in the pool, struggling, you could see people starting to pay attention, to move toward the end of the pool to cheer at the turns, to clap and hoot and shout “Go, go!”. When the swimmer would finally finish, the whole place would cheer
I hope that is what the triathlon is like. I hope I do better than I think I will. And, even though I know someone has to be, I hope I’m not last.