Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thinking about LAST...

I've been mulling over this topic of "LAST" for a while now - my sister Heather and I talk often and this is topic we come back to again and again.


Okay, I will be the first to tell you that I don't like being slow, I think it is why the BIKE is my first love because a bike means INSTANT SPEED.  Give me a downhill and I excel!  I am an ATHENA and baby, I can descend - I've got SKILLZ and I have weight on my side.

I digress....

Whenever I meet a new athlete, somebody new to triathlon, biking or running - the thing that I always hear is "But I don't want to be LAST..."  In fact, used often enough it becomes a great excuse and scape-goat...

"I didn't sign up for the race, I didn't want to be LAST..."

"I stopped half-way, I didn't want to be LAST..."

"I'm not sure I want to sign up for that distance, what if I am LAST?"

SO I CHALLENGE YOU: (cause I know you guys are lurking out there...) 


Is LAST worse than never having gotten off the couch?

Is LAST worse than never having started the race?

Is LAST worse than quitting?

Does being LAST make you a bad person?

The answer to all these questions is NO!

I think people confuse LAST with SLOW and nobody wants to be seen as SLOW. And I am here to tell you that SLOW is completely relative.  My average Marathon Pace is 12:30 per mile. 10:00 minute miles are fast to me! Once I ran a 5K in 27:00 - ONCE - sub 9:00 minute miles at the age of 32 - I'd like to see that speed again when I am 42 at least once but I have a long road ahead...

BUT: A 9:00 minute mile wont even get you out the door and on your way to qualifying for the Boston Marathon at my age (38). You are looking at an 8:40 pace or faster. Oh and by the way - 8:40 pace is SLOW for a person who might run 6:00 minute miles!

You get my point, SLOW is relative. 

Now SLOW does matter when it comes to most RACES, I know that - I understand the concern you have!  Race Directors work closely with towns, police and road closures so cut-off times are there for a reason.  They keep the athletes safe and keep the volunteers and race workers from being out all night.  The CUTOFF is there for a reason.

And for full disclosure let me say that I am a FULLY AWARE that the time cuttoff for the Jim MacDonnell 2-Mile Swim was 90:00 minutes.  My official finish time was 96:07 - 6 minutes beyond the advertised limit.  

Did I think that I was going to miss the limit when I signed up for the race?  

No, I knew I would be close and that is what scared the *BLEEP* out of me.  But I was willing, based on my POOL times for 1650 (40:00) to sign up for the race and take a chance.

I was lucky and can only assume that the Race Officials decided that since I was close to being finished and not appearing to be in distress, they let me finish the race.  I could also have been within the 90:00 time for the last wave.  All I know is that I was not pulled out of the water nor was I disqualified and I am listed as an official finisher - that was the decision of the race director on that give day.  

So again I say : SO WHAT!!  BIG DEAL, YOUR SLOW!

The bigger questions for slower athletes are these?

Are you too slow for the cuttoff times of the event?

Are you willing to do the hard work it takes to get faster?

Are you willing to take the risk, do the work, and face the clock - accepting the possibility that you might be pulled from the race because you are not fast enough but knowing that you will have given it the best effort that you have in that race, on that day?

If your not willing or able to take that risk, then stay home, stay safe and stop using "LAST" as the catch-all excuse because there will always be somebody else out there who may not like being SLOW but would be just fine with being LAST...

especially since FIRST and LAST both cross the SAME FINISH LINE!

Just my 02 cents on the subject...


Catharine said...

Well said, Holly. Thank you for this. Mind if I post a link to this on the DC Tri board? I know I have talked to many members who have said some of these exact things.

As one new triathlete recently told me "It takes a lot of guts to show up and be last.

Thanks for reminding us that speed is not the only measure of success.

HEATHER said...

your perseverance is inspiring and addicting. Keep it up sister, you are amazing!

HEATHER said...

p.s. i linked to this blog as well, hope you don't mind!

EricaH said...

Very well said thanks for posting. :)

Kelly's runner said...


Great post. So many times our fears stop us from even starting.

Dead Last Finish is greater than Did Not Finish, which trumps Did Not Start. - Anonymous

Thanks for the inspiration.


lizaludc said...

When you are ready for a career change, motivational speaker is definitely in your future!!!! All I can say is, "wow."

Shannon said...

GREAT posting... as a fellow athena... gravity is my friend too! =)

Es --- IRONMAN in Training! said...

Fabulous post!

All you have to do is look at finishing pictures. The look of joy on people's faces - regardless of the time on the clock - says that the fear and anxiety is so worth it!

solarjo said...

Well said! My first triathlon (Gulf Coast half) I was last, though I didn't know it until the results were published the following day. However, I couldn't have been happier about my first finish!

Brian Kainec said...

The finish is all that matters. The best part about being a triathlete is that you're really competing against yourself.

When I hit the finish line at a race and watch the people behind me I always cheer hardest and loudest for the people at the end. They're the ones who are really battling!

Keep it up!

AmyV said...

This blog was EXCELLENT I saw the title and on the DC tri website and I had to read it. I am doing my first lake swim in August and have been very concerned about the potential for being last. It is such a relief to let that fear go! YOU ARE GREAT!!! Thanks for this!