When Last Place Feels Like First Place

I just finished my first race on Zwift. I came in last place. I feel amazing. There is so much going on in my head that I am worried I am not going to be able to articulate it all well in writing. There are lessons in this for both Mike the cycler and Mike the educator. I hope people who connect with me in either of those worlds will keep reading.

Let’s just say I am not sure I’ve ever felt more tired AND excited at the same time as I do right now. Accomplished and exhausted. Done, and ready for more. What a weird feeling.

Last Place

So that’s absolute last place. The bottom of the barrel, last place. In Zwift there are 4 ranks: A, B, C, and D. I am obviously in rank D. I came in last place in the last rank. BUT, there are some great signs even in these stats above. My average power was 121w, that’s only 22 shy of my FTP. That means I held an average of 121w for over 40 minutes. I don’t know a LOT about the stats of virtual cycling, but I feel like that is a good one. I also had a sustained minute of 1.8w/kg which I don’t think I’ve ever done before. I tapped out on my Ramp Test at 200w, so again, while not knowing a TON about what good numbers look like, I feel good about that one.



I joined a “team” on Zwift today. Part of what drew me to this was joining a community. I wanted to make friends. I wanted to ride with people, or at least feel part of something. Mostly I am looking for accountability right now, but eventually, community will also bring a sense of friendly competition, that I know I will enjoy. I am a pretty competitive person (as anyone who really knows me will attest to)

I feel like I made a good choice. The folks in team Cryo-Gen have been great so far. They’ve already engaged in some great conversation. I got a lot of encouragement to join the race today and plenty of advice. Once I joined the team and committed to the race they even asked someone to hold back and ride with me. It felt good to be accepted.

About 10 minutes in, I really felt like I was over my head. I was warned the race started fast and it did, even the D’s jumped out well over 200w, most pulling 250-270w out of the gate. I might have hit 210 MAX. I was definitely not going to be able to keep up. Lisa, who had volunteered to ride with me, held back and I sent her a message to not wait for me, for her to just go on without me. She refused. I was going to drop out.

I’ll be honest. This was EXACTLY what I needed from this experience. I needed that accountability to keep going and push. I thought I was going to quit more than a few times. I was worried now about pissing Lisa off. I don’t know Lisa, we met today, but I didn’t want my first experience in this team to be one where someone sacrificed their own performance to babysit me and then I quit. So I rode on.

There were parts of this race that absolutely kicked my ass. At the end there were some giant hills. My heart rate peaked at 171 bpm, Lisa was right there riding with me.

I would have dropped out if not for Lisa.


First Place

Let me wear my educator hat for a minute now, because I can’t help but see how my thinking applies to the classroom. We have an incredible opportunity as educators to be the “Lisa” in our classroom. Every day, we are faced with kids who want to give up. Who stop trying. Who fall through the cracks because something is just too hard. Maybe all they need is someone pushing them? Maybe they need someone who thinks they are capable of more and tells them that?

How can we create an environment in our classrooms where students, in the face of “failure” don’t see it as last place, but as the starting point for something more? How are you going to encourage your students to push through, knowing that when they do that, they will feel amazing at the end knowing they’ve accomplished something.

My last place felt like first place because I persisted and came out on the other side. My last place felt like first place because I had teammates who pushed me to keep going even when I wanted to give up. My last place felt like first place because I know last place isn’t where I am staying.

Mike Washburn2 Comments