Not that there's anything wrong with being the last finisher. I mean, let's look at those two words:
Nobody behind me finished.
I, Athena of the Slow People, finished.
That's pretty special, right?
However, it is with great optimism that I aspire to being a middle-of-the-pack-er by season's end, rather than a back-of-the-pack-er. (I would also like to be able maybe even to compete in my age group, for no other reason that there is usually more people to compete with. There's usually only 2 or 3 Athenas total at the races I attend, but that's another post, for another time). I have this fantasy of running along, lost in a large crowd, nodding occasionally, maybe even exchanging a word or two with people who have the same pace.
Of course, nobody under 70 or over 5 has my pace right now. I know this, because I've had my ass kicked in races both by people in their 60's in by pre-teens. So, to accomplish this, I'll have to bring my run down from my previous average of 11 or so minutes per mile to 9 or 10 minutes per mile or less.
Of course, while I'm improving throughout the season, so is everyone else - I know, because I spreadsheet the hell out of everything and everyone, including myself, and so I know what a lot of people's paces are in the Southwest Challenge Series. Especially the other Athenas.
Anyway, it's with that in mind that I started thinking of what I won't miss anymore if I'm no longer the last one done. I won't miss...
- ...people packing up equipment as I run or bike past them.
- ...guys talking into their radios as I run by, "Okay, here goes the last one now..."
- ...wondering if I'm going the right way because the signs have blown over, or been taking down, and the volunteers have gone home.
- ...not having a finisher's medal because they ran out.
- ...the escort truck slowly idling behind me...slowly...slowly...slowly.
- ...and sometimes stopping, to ask me if I'm okay.
- ...that all the good bagels are gone already.
- ...the "last finisher" prize.
- ...that the sun is high in the sky and it's much later and hotter than when I started.
- ...missing the awards ceremony, because I took so long to finish.
- ...the lonliness of being last, and alone.
Here's things I will miss as I get faster, and remember with great fondness:
- ...the genuine encouragement I get from some of the spectators and early finishers as I come waddling in, who can't believe I even finished one of these things, even though I was last.
- ...being able to easily find my bike because it's the only one in transition after the swim.
- ...having the pool pretty much to myself in a reverse triathlon.
- ...getting a shower right away because everyone else is clean and dry.
- ...the truck slowly idling behind me...slowly...slowly...slowly...(sometimes it's nice to have company)
- ...having lots of pictures taken of me at the finish line by Husband, who finished hours before me and who is clean and dry and has already packed my stuff and racked the bike.
- ...the pat on the back from Son, who is also clean and dry.
- ...the applause because everyone else is around and rested and enthusiastic enough to want to encourage the last runner in.