Oh How I’ll Probably Get My Ass Kicked

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.

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3 thoughts on “Oh How I’ll Probably Get My Ass Kicked

  1. Amy says:

    Hi! I am not sure if you know this, but while living in Denver, I did a Danskin triathalon. I heard of it through friends and knew a bunch of women participating. I’m not sure if you have heard of it but it is a tri for women only benefiting the SGK Breastcancer Foundation. There were all types of women participating – world class athletes, women in recovery, remission, regular gals like myself – of all shapes, sizes, abilities etc. Quite less intimidating than what you are about to partake in, I think. Even though it was a giant group of supportive women, someone still had to come in last, and that someone still was probably not going to feel good about it. I remember seeing her, still jogging up a hill as I finnished my bike ride. I thought to myself, HOLY CRAP, that is the bravest woman I have ever laid eyes on. The first finnisers looped back to run with her and encourage her up the toughest part. Wendy, she was much larger than me… she was much larger than you. Her workout was so much harder than mine, I was embarrassed to have a struggling attitude. Later that afternoon over lunch (we all went out to eat afterwards, of course) one of my fellow participants confessed that the first time she did the Danskin, she was THAT woman. She came in last. She said, yes, it was as horrible as it looked and she felt humiliated. But she went back the next year with the goal not to be last – and she wasn’t… then the next year she set her goal at a shorter time – and she beat it. She had been doing the Danskin in Denver for like 8 consecutive years at that time and told me that her coming in last was the single most defining moment in her life – that more good had come out of that experience than the bad experience itself. So don’t sweat it. If you come in last, you come in last… it just might be the best thing that ever happens to you!

  2. shaily says:

    Hi Wendy! I totally agree with what Amy said above. Coming in “last” can be very defining in and of itself. I did a sprint tri (relay) with 2 other girl friends and we had the best time ever! We came in almost last, but it was the most fun I’ve had at a race.

    I noticed that the folks swimming, biking and running were so encouraging of one another, it was heart warming. I had runners who would cheer me on as they passed me and I was in awe! People don’t do that in regular road races, but here were other athletes who i was racing against shouting “You can do it!” “Keep up the great work!”. It’s an experience I will never forget.

    Since this is your first tri, enjoy the experience; you’ll cherish the memories regardless of where you finish. Then, like Amy said, use them to your advantage next year.

    And always remember: “The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”

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