A new phenomenon crept into my life last week: the No-Makeup Selfie. It was a breast cancer fundraiser, and people have been nominating each other to post pictures of themselves on Facebook without makeup (while giving a small donation). It's a nice gesture and a brave step for many of my friends to post candid pictures of themselves without makeup.
While I like my pot of Mac foundation as well as the next girl, it's too late for me. My Facebook page is compiled of a stream of no-makeup action shots. My favourite one from last year is a photo taken as I am finishing a half-Ironman triathlon.
Wearing a sports cap, hair in rats' tails and still wearing my bike gloves, the photo captures that joyous end-of-race moment, sprinting towards the line in a blur of movement and smiles. Sweat, sunscreen, mud – it's not a glamorous picture but it defines me in a way that many of the more flattering, well-groomed pictures don't.
It seems like there is no middle ground. While I spend a large proportion of my life fairly well turned out, all tinted moisturiser and blow-dried hair in typical office garb, a quick glance at Facebook profiles me as some weird Jekyll and Hyde character, a freckled, Lycra-clad dervish about nine-tenths of the time; a well-polished glamour puss in dresses and heels the remainder of the time.
There is something about race photos that are captivating – they grab an essence of who we are: the training, striving, and heroic efforts that have got us this far – in a way that posed bar shots can never be. We are proud of our labels as athletes (which is why so many people immediately go out and buy the expensive official event shots after a marathon or big triathlon).
I've learnt over time to temper my 'race face' – the terrible grimace that is so typical towards the end of a tough race. The trick is to smile heroically (breathing furiously all the while) until I'm past the camera – then resume the snarling effort that will get me over the finish line.
We are athletes and the pictures say so. I've realised that most of my happiest moments are when I am looking pretty terrible by today's airbrushed standards: unselfconscious, sporty, free.
Today's homework: go out and have an adventure – run, bike, swim, climb a mountain – then take a picture and post the evidence. You'll have a glow that no amount of makeup can buy.
What people use as their Facebook photo is an indicator of how they would like to present themselves to the world. Sports photos tend to dominate my page.
Profile shots are usually some kind of highlight of my year in Lycra – my current picture shows me brandishing my bike in triumph at the top of Haleakala Volcano in Hawaii.
Then there is me with a sweaty group of friends after the Go Green Half-Marathon for St Patrick's Day; there's Suzanne and me in front of a windmill wearing Lycra a few weeks ago in pretty Solvang; there's Paula and me clutching a stuffed turkey at the Phoenix Turkey Trot; and one wearing a plastic bag to stay warm in pouring rain before the Kaiser Half-Marathon (how's that for a no-makeup shot?).
Yes, there are plenty of shots socialising – but so many of them are post-workout lunches and brunches, scrubbed shiny faces and dishevelled hair. More Lycra – sometimes still in workout gear, like our hungry cycling group at the Ferry Building in San Francisco after our epic ride there. Check back in with me at the end of April: I'll have a new profile picture – it might not be glamorous but it will be Boston Strong.