The Race Beard

Posted: June 23, 2012 in Motivation
Tags: , ,

In ancient times, Mongol commanders would drum loudly on what were known as a ‘Guangu’ before leading their troops into battle, after which, the other Mongol warriors under their command would also join in on their own instruments and sing in what might be known as the first historical example on record of a true hippie ‘drum circle’.  Likewise, as early as the 12th century, Samurai warriors would sip sake before engaging their enemy in battle.  This same ritual was also practiced by kamikaze pilots in WWII prior to taking off on their assigned suicide missions.  Ancient Roman’s would kill a bird and attempt to foretell the battles outcome by examining at its liver; Egyptian made animal sacrifices to appease their gods for a favorable outcome.  Me?  Much to my girlfriend’s chagrin, I grow a beard.

Okay, it’s more scrubble than anything, but I digress.  But, anyway, here’s what we’re lookin’ at by the end of the seven day taper period:

Yeah, it ain’t pretty.

Similar to NHL hockey players who stop shaving at the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs, I too stop shaving approximately a week before race day.  Why?  I have no fucking idea.  There’s no real advantage to it or methodology behind it I guess but, nonetheless, it has become as much part of my triathlon ritual as hydrating, carbo-loading and my pre-race dump.  It’s just become part of the process.

I guess it stems from spending months on end of long, arduous workouts, often done during states of extreme fatigue and duress.  Once those final few days of tapering begin, I start to mentally prepare myself for the event by running through it over and over and over again in my mind on my runs, in the pool and while cycling.  I begin to formulate my race day “strategy” per se, or get my “game face on”, or whatever other trendy sporting colloquialism you prefer to use.  In effect, I’m enduring the whole discomfort of being itchy and scratchy as a further means to harden myself mentally leading up to the big event.  Well, that’s my story anyway and I’m sticking with it.

World Class swimmers have a similar tradition of growing their body hair only to shave themselves just prior to competing to give them that ‘edge’.  Where I highly doubt that this ritual of shaving their arms, legs, chest and God knows what else actually makes them more aerodynamic by minimizing resistance and drag in the water, thereby making them faster, it could quite possibly give them a psychological advantage.  When you shave, you’re not just taking off hair but also making all the skin on your entire body more sensitive.  I’m sure most can attest to, the feeling is not altogether unlike that of putting on a pair of freshly laundered jeans or getting under clean sheets; it’s a refreshing sensation.  So when you dive in the water, or mount your time trial bike, you feel unbelievable.  This could translate then into a more positive mental attitude that, hopefully, will snowball into having an amazing performance.  At least, this is what I’m banking on anyway.

So, dear, come Saturday (today), I will slip off announced at some point to the gym to indulge in a little ‘me time’.  I’ll go for that haircut you suggested that I need to trim back my shaggy locks, then go to the gym to stretch quietly for a bit and listen to my prearranged playlist to get myself all psyched up a la ‘Eye of the Tiger’.  Then, afterwards, I’ll retire to the steam room for a bit before shaving off all this stubble you’ve been grousing about for the past seven days – don’t you worry.

And then when I come home we’ll, well, let’s just keep that to ourselves, shall we?  That’s a whole other blogpost.

In the meantime, am I enjoying this prickly monstrosity growing from my face?  Hell no!  It’s hot, itchy and annoying as fuck.  Seriously, I’d prefer to braid Betty White’s pubes than suffer even just another day.  But just image how awesome it’s going to feel on race day when I’m all nice and smooth with the cool water and warm air cascading over my freshly shaven skin.  I’m going to feel like wind itself!  And given that this is my first race of the season and I’m literally jumping in head first with a Half Iron event, I’ll take whatever motivation and psychological edge I can find.


Oh, by the way, here’s the end result:

Am I beautiful or what?

Warm Up Playlist:

  1. When We Were Soldiers – Sgt. Joseph Kilna MacKenzie
  2. Beggar In the Morning – The Barr Brothers
  3. You Made Me the Thief Of Your Heart – Sinead O’Conner
  4. Angels on the Moon – Thriving Ivory
  5. Rocky Ground – Bruce Springsteen
  6. Hard Sun – Indio
  7. So Long You Pretty Thing – Spiritualized




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