Chapter 31, Blog 2
By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang
My racing peers twisted and bended and dipped with deep, soulful moans. Me? Warming up for two hours? If I got any looser, I’d be a Slinky. My legs jellified 45 minutes ago. Still, I did two, last toe touches with my legs crossed.
… don’t you dare hold anything back …
“Let’s go. Let’s go.” The starter gruffed.
He was past impatient, nearing grouchy. Could we help it if he’d already started 86 races today? This was the only one we gave a damn about. In a sudden attack of lethargy, the runners shuffled back to the line with all the gusto of prisoners returning to their cells. They knew a start with maximum thrust, just seconds away, would require every last calorie. I tried to follow their lead but couldn’t. My adrenal glands pumped 20 gallons a second. I was ready to blast off and out of my skin. First, though, we had to squeeze behind the skinny, white line.
“Take your mark.”
Starving cheetahs at dinnertime.
The grunting. Loudest I ever heard.
… the fans, can they hear this …
We whip through turn one. I’m caught in the middle.
… not bad, don’t panic, not bad …
I’m seven feet behind the leader.
… the pace – it’s too quick …
Down the back stretch, I fade to sixth.
… where’s that second rocket booster …
A horrid thought creeps in.
… did you warm up too long …
My legs answer with a wobble.
… c’mon, guys, let’s go, PLEASE …
I cross the line in sixth. The bell tolls one lap to go.
The leader is within spitting range. But I don’t have any saliva.
I don’t have anything.
Is that my check engine light flashing?
… OK, it’s time to panic …
And then, out of nowhere …
“GGGRRR, RUFF, RUFF …”
I look left. Some idiot with a Mohawk is barking at me. He scampers along in the infield. He lunges at me, snaps. I flash back to the neighborhood devil dog trying to eat me for breakfast.
“AAHHHH!!!” I scream.
My legs shift gears.
… THANK YOU, Harry …
I leave the Mohawk in my wake. My legs threaten to leave me behind. Accelerating down the back stretch, I run down the fifth- and fourth-place tots. The third I cut down on the curve. Second place, I zip by at the head of the front stretch.
… look out, Top Doggie …
He shifts, too. I still pull even. We’re neck and neck.
I hear the crowd buzz. Building, building …
Twenty yards to go. The lactic acid kicks in.
My legs ignite. I sniff smoke.
… uh-oh …
He beats me by half a stride.
I struggle to stand. My legs are melted rubber bands. I fall to my knees. I see Harry in front of me, screaming. I can’t hear him. Not a word. I turn to look at my legs behind me. They’re throbbing, blood red. Squinting through the sunlight, I shield my eyes to read the scoreboard. Up in second place is the name “Thompson, UCLA.”
But the time is mine.
Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang