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I smile when I suffer. That may seem rather sadistic and self deprecating, but it’s a quirk that I developed through years of mountain bike racing. Despite the feeling of pain shooting through my legs and my lungs gasping for air, I can’t help but smile at people when I hear them cheering me on. At the end of the National Championships, I was cold and in pain, but I had mud on my teeth from smiling. This quirk has earned me the nickname of “Smiley” in the mountain biking community. I’ve heard strangers yelling this from the sideline, probably not even knowing my real name.
Why do I smile? Maybe it’s because I was raised to be polite, or maybe it’s because I am trying to convince myself that my legs don’t hurt that much. Whatever the reason is that I tell myself, I smile because it is who I am. I smile because I love the feeling of flying through the woods and over jumps, and the only thing that matters is getting to the finish line. I smile because I am appreciative of all the support people give me and how much my coaches and parents have sacrificed to get me here. I smile to not let on to my competitors that I am hurting just like they are. I smile because it is contagious.
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