When I signed up for Swim Defiance 3k I knew the race capped at 300 people. I didn't realize that only 36 people would sign up, show up, and finish.
I'm a solid back of the pack swimmer. When I swim Park to Park or Green Lake there are always people behind me at the end. But with a challenging event, when I found out the smallness of the field, I realized I would likely be DFL. The D is for Dead. The L is for Last. You can infer the F.
I've been DFL in foot races before. I did a 7 mile trail race with 37 runners. It was a two loop race, and I finished my first loop just before the fastest runner crossed the line.
That didn't bother me. I'd seen a red fox on the trail, which was really cool. And I knew in a field that small I'd be the last.
Another time I was last was at a 5k run in honor of a priest who was recovering from cancer. He ran the race also. He was the penultimate finisher. I didn't feel like I could sprint to beat him at the end. It just wasn't right.
So when I found out how small the field would be for the swim, I got anxious. Would they pull me from the race because I was so slow, even though I knew I'd make the cut off (this had happened to me before)? Would people be taking down the finish line before I was done? Would I be embarrassed as everyone had already gone home when I finished?
In the end, I decided to go, knowing full well I'd likely be last. And I was. And it was all ok. I was ahead of everyone at home on the sofa that morning! I placed in the non-wetsuit division, which gained me major bad-ass points, just for doing it without a wetsuit. I like to joke that I got to enjoy myself longer than anyone else. The truth is, it was still a huge accomplishment. I'm still proud of what I did. And ultimately, the only race I'm in is the one against myself. My mental battle with endurance sports. My mental race against societal norms around weight and body issues. And my own sense of self doubt. I swim because I love my body, and that means I won the race!