The lunch whistle blows sharply through the air. Break time!
The man, a hard-working crane operator, pulls out his thermos and sets it down on the picnic table. With elbows pressed rudely together, he opens his lunch box and pulls out a tube of PowerGel. Hmmmm.... chocolate. The searing wind blows across his visage and rustles his hair. A hot one, today.
And fast.... Zounds! The picnic table is going 17 miles per hour! This is no standard blue-collar lunch: our hero speeds through the empty corn fields of eastern Missouri, aboard his standard issue Velocitizer, Blackbird. Together they form a dust-devil that twists the short, amputated cornstalks in the barren fields.
He continues to savour his chocolate treat. Awkwardly, he holds the plastic bottle to his lips, squirting Gatorade into his mouth and nose. Mmmmmm. Tasty.
It is warm: 80+ F in October, long after everyone has acclimated to 70 F for weeks. Sweat drips across his face. Worse yet, there is the fever from his sickness which could be anything from a mere cold to low-grade rabies. But he pushes on....
An hour later, he scampers in and out of the shade along a park trail. It is the final leg of the St Peter's RecPlex, and the final leg of the season. There is no rivalry, no heroism, no passion. It is the 6th triathlon of a long, grueling summer. Now, he is truly overheating. The dreaded chills have returned, echoing the ghosts of the Visit to the ER. His fever has escalated to full-blown malaria. In a scant 2 hours, he has gone from the gravel quarries of Missouri to the diamond mines of South Africa. Just a man trying to make his way in a hostile world.
With teeth gritted, he crosses the finish line. 2 hours, 9 minutes. In the 5 outings at this place, it is a middling result -- startlingly good, considering his sickness, and the heat. But there is no cheer from the crowd, no celebration.
Our hero gathers his lunch box and thermos, punches his timecard at the clock, and slowly walks off to the parking lot, with Blackbird in tow. It's quittin' time.
Until next year.