I shaved my legs today. As I have watched my body evolve over the past several months (more muscle mass in my quads, narrower shoulders), the obvious last step to a total triathlete transformation was the ritual known to many as “shaving of the legs.” Like many newcomers to the sport, I am very skeptical that the lack of body hair on my extremities will provide any tangible race day results, but in an effort to assimilate into the culture fully, I thought it was worthwhile to at least give it a shot.
Shaving my legs was in part an exercise in humility. As reluctant as I have been to do this, it reminded me that this “Ironman” thing is no small feat and that doing everything humanly possible to conquer it might be necessary. Therefore, I sucked up my foolish pride and allowed myself to go where few heterosexuals have dared gone before…with the razor to the legs.
In a month I will put my body through one of the most excruciating physical tests of an endurance athlete. I’ll rest easy knowing that at the starting line, my fellow athletes to the left and right of me have similar doubts about finishing. Whether it is their 1st or 10th race, I doubt I’ll find anyone who will tell me that their nerves aren’t getting the best of them as we anticipate the start. If shaving my legs is nothing more than the ultimate form of solidarity with my fellow triathletes, then why buck the tradition? For if anyone has anything to say about what an athelete should be or look like, I’ll ask them to toe the line with us or shut up.
My mentor and fellow triathlete once told me that truest test in being successful in the sport was learning how to suffer. This test is one that I’ve attempted to put my mind and body through during my training but will not be fully realized until race day. Shaving my legs is an exercise of that mental toughness for me. Am I willing to sacrifice who I was for this sport? Should I do everything I can do in order to gain even the slightest of advantages? Am I willing to cope with the loss of my body hair for the sake of calling myself an Ironman? The answer is yes, yes and yes. I am a triathlete and I want to call myself an Ironman.
If all it gives me is a peace of mind that I did everything that I could (to include humiliating my manhood) in order to finish this race, then it was all worth it. On race day I’ll have million thoughts racing through my mind. Whether or not I should have shaved my legs will not be one of them.