A few weeks ago, on July 3rd actually, I had the privilege of stopping traffic for the Bostwick Lake Triathletes as they road past me on the bike course. It was fun to be there and I figure if I can’t participate I can cheer on those who can!!
It was pretty cool to watch the race leaders fly past at there 25+ miles per hour on their bikes. They were kicking it! Then it was cool to see so many others just pushing through and fighting the wind that was pushing against them as they headed back in.
Then there was the last biker. I knew it was her. She came past me the first time, riding on the wrong side of the road. Then as she past me the second time she wanted to know how much further she had to go.
3 more miles my friend, just 3 more miles is all.
A few minutes later I was told I could vacate my post and head back in. I decided I would try to catch that last rider and ride in with her!
I caught her pretty quickly. Much quicker than I anticipated. She had gotten a flat tire and the SAG vehicle had already stopped to try to help but it was a puncture. There was no quick fix while on the course, so she was offered a ride back.
When I caught her she was running with her bike. Yep. She declined a ride in the SAG vehicle. She was determined to finish it out. I offered to take her bike and walk both of our bikes in, but she declined that as well. This is the bike portion, she will finish with her bike!
So this amazing woman,in her first triathlon ever, ran with her bike for almost 3 miles, then dropped her bike and ran 3 more!
You see, those leaders are inspiring because they have obviously trained hard and go crazy fast and have super fancy bikes that I admire. They wear super cool outfits and are in amazing shape. They have put in hours upon hours to get to their positions in races.
But, being who I am, I have a special affinity for those who come in last. Perhaps it is because I am so often last, or near last that I know what it is like in that position. Perhaps it is because I recognize the obstacles that are faced in last position. You tend to fight the challenges of a triathlon alone. You come in with less fan support left and in this case this woman, Kelly, had a mechanical issue. She had every reason to call it quits and say I will try again another day. I know what it is like to put in just as many hours of hard work as those who finished before me. I know the mental battles that one faces being last. Worried there won’t be anyone left to cheer you in and fearing that there will be people left to see you stumble in.
But ultimately, this is what I know of those of us who come in last…
We don’t quit. Ever.
We finish what we start, no matter how long it takes.
I am so glad I had the privilege of riding in with Kelly as she ran her bike in. I have never ridden a sweeter 3 miles, than those where I got to cheer her on to the finish and to point out the traffic signal that signified the near end of the bike course. I am inspired by her determination and her strength to keep fighting. She may have been last in the stats, but Kelly was first in my book!