Hint Of A Smile

By David Robinson | May 16, 2019, 6:11 p.m. (ET)
david 1I’ve never come close to winning a race.  By my estimate, I just completed my 100th triathlon (an aquathlon, actually) and like all before it, I didn’t at any time lead the race.  Not even a remote possibility.  But I enjoyed this race immensely, just like the 99 races that preceded it – because I allowed myself just a hint of a smile along with way.  Every race presents a challenge: a time goal, a performance goal, an environmental challenge, a new course, etc.  The beauty of the sport is that this challenge is personal, and perhaps different each time.  This past race there was an uphill portion of the run - around a corner, past an overpass, and completely out of sight of any spectators – the perfect opportunity to slow down.  I didn’t; and I allowed myself just a hint of smile as a reward.  There have been races when I really wanted to walk a spell, but didn’t.  Hint of a smile.  In a half marathon once, a group of total strangers stopped to pray over an EMS team tending to a runner in distress; ignoring the clock completely.  Priorities; hint of a smile.  Whatever the challenge is for you – something you anticipate in advance of a race or something that comes up during the race – allow yourself a small celebration as you overcome it.  I tried a more involved celebration once at the end of a local triathlon, and pulled a hamstring.  So, I keep it simple.  Just a hint of a smile.  And, once or twice, race day has been absolutely perfect: I didn’t swallow too much water on the swim, I found the right gear on the bike right away, and the air was cool and crisp on the run – no challenges whatsoever.  So, I directed my hint of a smile to the volunteers handing out water on the run. 

Sometimes, it’s just a reminder that it’s a privilege to be out on a course on a Saturday morning with a goal or two ahead of you.  I did Ironman Florida a decade or so ago, with the sole goal of finishing.  As I was getting passed by perhaps the 500th cyclist to pass me along the course, I tossed a water bottle into one of the trash bins; actually, it was more of an epic 3-point buzzer-beater shot.  Although I felt more like Michael Jordan than a triathlete, at that moment, I just knew it was going to be a good day.  And it was.

So, my advice to anyone new to the sport is to take a pre-race moment to anticipate obstacles, and to set whatever goal makes sense for you: breathing in the swim on the other side, taking off a wetsuit in a fluid motion, staying aero for longer than before, organizing a transition better than ever, jogging more than walking – whatever.  And, you can probably expect out on the course that the race will add to, or subtract from, your list of obstacles and goals.  Overcome those obstacles and accomplish those goals.  Sure, you’ll celebrate at the finish line – it’s guilt-free pepperoni pizza slices for me.  But, when you overcome a challenge or accomplish a goal, also allow yourself an internal fist bump out on the course.  In my case, just a hint of a smile will do.