Chapter 23, Blog 3
By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang
Ralphie asked if he finished his last throw well. I was still his coach, you know. I told him that he needed to get “lower and quicker through the circle.” Without debate, Ralphie agreed, so I’m sure it was quality coach speak. He had one throw left, but I couldn’t wait to watch. There were only 35 minutes until my race.
Here, it occurred to me that my coach and I had neglected to discuss warm-up specifics. So I resorted to what I knew best: Tai Chi. I flowed through the first few positions. My heart slowed a beat. Next, sitting with my back to the noise, I tried to visualize the race. However, as youngsters rushed by, I couldn’t get a good picture. I considered going back to the locker room but didn’t think I had time. Then, I felt someone staring at me.
Opening my eyes, I found a curious interloper, all of 18 or 19 years old, balanced on one leg in front of me, tugging her heel with one hand and her black braids with her other hand. I tried to nonchalant it, but it was a no-go. I closed my eyes again.
… just act like you’ve been here before, dummy …
I looked again. She was gone.
“First call for the 800 meters,” blared the public address system.
My stomach flipped out. I needed to dump that farmer’s omelet I ate for breakfast – and quick. Remembering a garbage can by the shot put area, I sprinted over to let loose.
… uh, that’s no garbage can …
I wiped the rosin from my hands and walked away. Now with a nasty taste in my mouth, I plopped down on the infield grass for an overdue heart-to-heart.
“Listen, you pathetic sissy. You’ve trained for five, damned months to get here. You’ve alienated your beautiful wife and your best friends. And for what? So you can quiver like the little mouse you are? So you’re scared. SCARED OF WHAT?
… give me an F, give me an A, give me an I …
“You know you could run the 800 backward if you wanted.”
… backward, now that’s a word to play with …
“SHUT UP! I’m losing my patience with you.”
… OK, visualize, moron, like you mean it …
Eyes closed, I saw myself go to my mark, get set, BANG! Off the line I exploded.
I pulled up lame.
“DAMNIT! Try again.”
This time I ran with the pack. The runners bunched. They surrounded me, squeezed me like a cheap tube of toothpaste and squirted me into the infield.
“What the hell am I doing?”
The third time I led from start to finish. It took seven seconds. I played it on fast forward, so no evil thoughts could sneak in. I cleared my mind and focused on breathing. My pulse dropped. I felt better.
“Last call for the 800.”
… gulp …
Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang