There Comes A Point

There comes a point in every race when you have to choose.

Your lungs burn as your throat, a hollow glass slide, feebly, uselessly tries to pump enough air to your screaming capillaries. Sore? Don’t kid. It hurts to pick up a limb, every lifting movement a colossal effort from lactic-acid-saturated muscles that, deprived of oxygen and tearing themselves apart, scream “Stop!” every time you take a stride.

“Stop?” Your mind says. You mentally hesitate for a second as you tuck and ride a downhill. It is beginning to occur to you that you could stop. You think of what you could say at the finish line. Excuses? No, we’ll call them reasons.

My shoulders hurt.

My feet have been bothering me again.

I forgot to take my inhaler.

If I had been further ahead in the starting lineup, I wouldn’t have gotten stuck behind that girl in the green suit and…

I didn’t have enough kick wax, I had to run up all those hills, it was so tiring…

I had way too much wax on and my downhills were so painful…

I had cramps.

I’m tired.

I’m stressed (about a test, because I’m a smart girl too).

I didn’t warm up long enough.

For half the next ascent, you toggle between these, trying to pick one that will satisfy your coaches, Mom on the phone, and, most importantly, yourself. Something that will wrap pity around you like warm comforter from the hotel bed you were so rudely roused from this morning before the race.

And then it hits you. If you drop out, if you quit, others may pity you temporarily, but you will not pity yourself. The truth will weigh on you like the extra minutes at the end of that race that could have been neatly shaved off. You will know, and it will eat you alive.

 Your heart leaps with adrenaline as you pick up your tempo. You see the girl in the green spandex at the top of the hill. Your fingers are going numb and your lungs ache, legs ache, shoulders burn, but every fiber of you now pounds with energy, vivacity, ferocity.

There comes a point in every race when you have to choose.

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