Get Set …

Chapter 37, Blog 2

By Chuck Wells As Told To Ray Hochgesang


“First call for the men’s 800 quarterfinals,” blared the public address system.

“See, plenty of time,” I said. “Hey, Coach, are you nervous or something?”

Recalling months ago when Harry claimed I was an answer to his prayers, I hoped he was praying now.

“I see you do not have enough sense to be nervous,” he said. “That is what I see.”

“Well, I see it was that jackass from the Drake Relays, wasn’t it?”

“Oh, did you run into him? OK, stupid question,” said Harry. “Yes, he was blocking you somehow. Nine times out of 10, when it makes no sense on first glance, it’s politics.”

“He was blocking me because I’m old?”

Harry shook his head no and smiled.

“Because you can beat him.”

“And …”

“And you will. But save it. He is not in your heat.”

I closed my eyes one last time. I saw myself go to my mark, BANG! This time I grabbed the lead like I grabbed my first beer the night before and killed the race off in seconds. Then I cleared my mind and focused on breathing easily, slowly, deeply. My pulse dropped another notch. All those early mornings of training was either going to pay off now or …

“Second call for the men’s 800 meters.”

I felt a presence kneel beside me.

“Young Man,” Harry said. “You are missing a bib.”

Harry pinned it on my back.

“You got that right side up, Mister?”

“Yes. It is NOT the first time I did this. In fact, that is the only superstition I have. I always pin them on.”

“Last call for the 800.”

I hopped up, grabbed my right heel and tugged it to my back. My nerves popped to life, but I tried to act as if I had been here before.

“Pace and race, Princess,” my coach said. “This is the easy one. Just follow the rabbits.”

So much for acting … my eyes popped wide.

“That’s it? No last-minute strategy?”

“Just run as you have in your mind’s eye. Don’t even think. Let your muscles take over. You know, just like back home.”

“No big-speech moment?”

“Son, this ain’t no movie.”

“I wish I had my Russian CD …”

“And stay out of those damned boxes,” he added.

Harry swatted me on the behind and wheeled away.

“See you at the finish,” he yelled over his shoulder. “Make me proud.”

Out of my mind and body, I floated into Hayward and over to the starting line in the near corner. Needles of adrenaline pricked my arms and legs. I stripped down only to notice everyone was staring at me.

… must be that ugly Depends T-shirt you’re wearing …

No, it wasn’t the T-shirt. I grinned like Howdy Doody.

“Never raced your grandpa before, did ya?”

Copyright © 2012 by Chuck H. Wells/Ray Hochgesang

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