Sometimes the Smile is on the Inside
A fellow racer once said to me they didn’t know what to think of me at first after meeting me for the first time at a race. I further prodded him with more questions and asked what he meant by the statement. He told me when he first met me before a race I was all
business and said he didn’t get to really know me until after the race. Happy to be able to say today he is a good friend of mine and we have helped each other with verbal encouragement at more than one race. This conversation reverberated with me and further conversations have spawned a series of revelations about myself and my racing self.
My parents recently told me at a dinner conversation that on those early race mornings as they drove me to ski races as a child, they would just simply not talk to me. They said I often times would be short with them or simply off in my own world. As I look back at my athletic career, this pattern has seemed to repeat itself in different sports at different levels. Only recently has it become clear to me this pattern of behavior. I lovingly refer to as race mode.
As I have recently taken a more internal approach as well as external approach to my training and racing I have been able to pick up patterns of this “race mode”. I have learned on race mornings I prefer to be alone, have time to gather my thoughts and basically just chill out. Many friends and competitors are chatty and spend the morning socializing, I tend to try to find a quiet corner to listen to some music and warm up. For me much of racing is internal. When the race is on it is as if a camera goes from out of focus into a tight close up of the ground around me. Often times I lose complete concept of all that is around me.
During the Vermont Beast several friends remarked to me I looked “pissed” during the race, however inside that race was the highlight of my season. The whole time inwardly I felt elated, happy, and the most at peace I had felt in months. Outwardly it was another story anger, focus, and in the zone were words used to describe me. Others said my words were short and even a bit curt. However, this is not how internally I thought of it. Funny how we often don’t realize that our body language portrays a completely different story from that which we play out in our own minds.
It has been said to me that the moment the race is over race mode is turned off. As I have thought about it more I can start to feel myself slip into and out of race mode. For me I can best describe it as a hyper focus in a world in which I often have time staying on track. I truly can feel the blinkers go on and all that I see is what is in front of me and the task at hand. I love to race and love to be in the woods maneuvering over obstacles. I recently looked at two sets of photos from the race at Fenway Park, on Saturday I was there for the experience and the lack of focus is all over my smiling face, Sunday on the other hand I had a purpose and my face only shows that of pain and suffering. In truth, I had the same if not more fun on Sunday, however the smile was hiding on the inside.
I think we all have our own race mode and race day rituals, and I think it is more important to find out what your own are. Once you have a better understanding for yourself those around you can also better understand you as well. Each day I learn something new about myself and each day I grow (hopefully) a little more self aware in this crazy world. For now all I know is if you catch me before a race and I am off in my own world, race mode is on.