There's a guy who works out at the YMCA where I swim. He's a big man. To quote a comedian I once heard, "He's a really big man. He has little skinny guys orbiting around him."
To be fair, he is a weight lifter. So his "big" is more a function of being built like a tank than a Weeble. And on his doctor's advice, he is trying to move from just weight training into aerobic type activities. He walks on the track, and has recently been hitting the pool.
He truly struggles in his attempts at swimming. He acknowledges that he is "not a swimmer" and feels like he is fighting just to survive. I've been trying to do two things for him. First, give him some pointers, including suggesting possible reading material. Second, I've been trying to convince him that we've all been there. When he looks at others in the pool, all he sees are people swimming with apparent ease. He doesn't see all of the hours spent in the pool getting there.
If there is one thing I've noticed about the Tri Blog Community is our ability to see our weaknesses, and to laugh at ourselves. You can visit just about any site and fine some example of a "rookie mistake," and the person who made that mistake sharing it with the world. That attitude is vital when beginning training. Except for some very gifted people who have natural abilities in all three disciplines, we all have to go through the learning process. And that's a process that can be quite humorous.
A good example is my first half-marathon. In training, I ran 13.5 miles to get ready for a 13.1 mile race. More experienced runners found that hilariously funny. When they stopped laughing, they gave me some pointers. I ran that race without socks, wearing a plain cotton t-shirt. A few people commented on both, and gave me some feedback about technical apparel. Looking back now, I see why it seemed so funny, and can laugh at myself.
Swimming was another area where I couldn't take myself too seriously. If pride had been an issue, there is no way I could have hopped into a pool full of dolphins and taken up a lane to do my back-float, skate, and other TI drills. And in the end, I learned that nobody else was laughing. They, too, had been there. They were willing to share the lane because they knew it would only be a short time before they would have another distance swimmer in their midst. (Okay, a slow distance swimmer, but a swimmer nonetheless)
We've all had those moments when we just have to sit and laugh. It's either that, or cry. In his first Ironman attempt, Roman Mica flatted out 8 times. Though extremely frustrated, he finished the race. Norman Stadler flatted twice in Kona. He threw his bike around, waited for the support vehicle, then quit the course. He forgot to laugh at himself.
In her first Olympic race, Nytro got stung by a bee on the bike course. She could have called it quits, as bee stings can be quite serious. She took in typical Nytro fashion, and found the humor in it. Even if the humor was her reaction. (Because I'd pay money to see Nytro on the road cursing at a bee)
In our pursuit of personal excellence, we have to remember that this is supposed to be fun. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it is sometimes physically painful. And yes, sometimes we miss our goals. If we can't step back and laugh at ourselves, or at least at the situation, then we will lose mentally. And at the end of many races, mental is all you have left to give.
So remember to laugh out loud. Let the race, others around you, and the world know that you are having fun. And maybe, just maybe, if you laugh maniacally enough, you'll scare a few people around you and move up a few spots.