The morning was...sultry. The air thick with humidity, and the temperature - 83F and rising. YHN was undaunted. He would fly this day. How bad could it be?
The Ship of the Desert lazily backed out of the hangar. The course was set for the Custis Trail in Falls Church, VA. Loyal readers may recall my telling of the second race in the Ed Barron series. It was here that I marveled at the methodical and relentless race-walkers and at more than one point, struggled to overtake them.
"Pace Yourself" the voice in my head kept saying (as it also said 2 weeks ago but nobody was listening then either Oh My Brothers.) Convinced however that I had found enlightenment, I hoped to successfully apply this mantra to the 8k before me, despite the weather, and despite a completely sedentary existence since my last conquest.
(Possibly Alex DeGroot, 1 of only 58 private detectives in the free world in an iron lung. I can't be sure).
The contest opened with the National Anthem bravely played by an asthmatic trumpet player in an iron lung. Props had to be paid for the courage alone, and he did manage to rally the final few bars.
The WWI Flying Ace did not let the exhilaration of the anthem carry him away. He knew it was to be a long campaign, so he went easy on the throttle. He searched in vain for his nemesis - The Red Baron. But the Baron had apparently chosen to fly other theaters, for he was nowhere to be seen. At least he would not avenge his defeat this day.
The marshals had sounded 'FAIR WARNING' - the 4k out was uphill, and at the turn, steep dips. Pace yourself. The temperature and the humidity continued to rise. Count the paces...you will get to the turn easily. The course climbed through the canopy, the clouds and into the blazing sun. 2k next to a metal sound barrier. No wind. At the 3k pylon, there was to be a water stop...where the hell is the water???
A guy standing in the shade of a bridge advises 'you can turn around here'. THANK YOU. Wait - if that's 4k, there should have been water...where the hell is the water??? That means...it won't be at the 5k either! The World War I Flying Ace checked the gauges. He was not going to make it. And then. I did what you are never supposed to do. I turned to look over my shoulder.
Wait a minute! Is that MY spare tire I'm dragging? Ah the chains forged in life...The steep dips in reverse. Followed by the ascent in reverse. The chutes were out. Walking began to outnumber "running" as the paces were counted. Perservere. And suddenly, there he was.
The Black Squirrel. He scampered around and eyed me, crossing my path. Now it so happens that I have associated sightings of the Black Squirrel with the memory of my father, just as I associate an overhead plane with that of my mother. I recalled some of his last words to me were "Hang in there, friend."
Renewed, I pushed on. I resumed that "pseudo-jog" pace, just nominally faster than walking and certainly not running. And then. I was PASSED BY A RACE-WALKER. Oh HELL NO I said. Just stay right behind him until the finish line I said. But I couldn't hang in there any longer. 400m to go and I let him get away as I fell to a walk again. I swear he turned on the jets.
When I got to the pavilion, there was no effing water. Then I learned they screwed up the course. It was a 9k. Certain that the race-walker had been dispatched by the Red Baron and was gleefully reporting the massacre, I was left only to rationalize: I just wasn't mentally prepared. I had him through 8k. I'm still hanging in there.