Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Texan in Italy - 17 Curious Days - Day 4 Part 2

Over the next several days I will be telling you about my recent challenging, weird and wonderful 17 days in Italy. However, in the peculiar world of blogging that means the first story is on the bottom! So, if you want to begin at the first, go to the bottom. This is Day 4 - Part 2.

Day 4 - September 6, 2007; Part 2
The gun sounds. Eight runners move down the track. For the first 20 meters the field is more or less even, a normal set of circumstances at a world competition level. It’s 3 or 4 seconds later that we will begin to separate ourselves from one another. Track sprinters speak a language of their own. They talk about the ‘drive phase’ and the ‘acceleration phase’ and they hope to ‘close out’ in good order. It is those phases that will make the difference in this field of 8. Contrary to what many believe, the 100 meter sprint has technical components. Mastering each while possessing world class speed is the prescription for victory.

At 50 meters I had what appeared to be a slight lead on Alasdair Ross of Great Britain. I couldn’t sense any pressure from the other lanes. As we moved through the last 50 meters I would feel the fatigue of the last several days. I could tell the customary break away speed simply wasn’t in my legs. At 75 meters I was aware Ross had moved even. He sprinted forcefully into a slight lead. I took a quick look left and right at the lanes surrounding me. The field was vanquished with the exception of Ross. Knowing that the first 2 from each heat would advance to the semi-finals I employed a strategy that is common. I pulled off the effort and cruised to the finish line in second place saving energy for the semi-finals the next day. It was only when I looked at the finish board and times that I felt I was in real trouble. The time I had run was the slowest time I had run in 4 years. Ross had run a time normal for him, but my effort to run a slow time relative to my ability told the tale of my fatigue and lack of sleep. I changed into my warm-ups on the infield after the race while a thousand thoughts raced through my brain. Would I be able to recover by tomorrow? Was I simply past my competition peak and this was the best I would run in Riccione?

I returned on the bus to the apartment with BEG. Rather than go with the group to a nearby produce store I wanted to take a shower and rest. I was already concerned about tomorrow and wanted to try to catch a nap. The fatigue had become overwhelming.

The shower in the bathroom of the apartment consisted of a square of white colored terrazzo set into a ceramic tile floor positioned in the corner of the bathroom. Surrounding the open 2 sides was a plastic shower curtain. A small curb around the terrazzo base, in conjunction with the curtain kept most of the water in the surround. The hot water could be scalding hot. This was common in the northern part of Italy wherever we went. A small slip of the faucets or a bump with an elbow and you had better be ready to run from the shower or make a trip to the emergency room for burn treatments. I stood in the tiny shower with the water balanced to a comfortable temperature. I had begun the process of trying to shave my head with the throw-away Bic razor I had bought at the pharmacia. The normal thing is for me to shave my noggin with what is known as the ‘Head Blade.’ The ‘Head Blade’ is a cool tool of a razor specifically designed to fit in one hand and race across your noggin, removing stubble quick as Jeff Gordon tours the Talladega race track. My Head Blade was in my lost luggage, the luggage I was expecting to arrive at any moment. Shaving with the cheap razor was an arduous task. I had about one half of my head taken care of when I began to feel light headed. I pressed on. A little woozy is nothing I thought to myself. Bad move. I don’t remember going down.

I came to consciousness lying on the cold wet terrazzo base, one my legs splayed out over the curb sticking out below the curtain. If you had entered the bathroom at that moment you would have certainly wondered why one of my legs was sticking out of the shower confines. I had no idea how fainting feels. It had never happened in my 56 years. I assumed that if I awake on the floor with my razor five feet away and my butt hurting as if I were hit by a speeding Tahoe, then I must have fainted.

I stood up holding myself against the slick tile walls. I rinsed my battered body. I dried off and looked in the mirror. Cozens had been right. I did look like ‘bloody hell.’ My eyes had dark circles. My ears had begun to grow an itchy scale on the surface of the lobes. A razor cut on my scalp was bleeding, apparently the last stroke as I fainted and went to the ground. Approximately half of my head was shaved. The other half had 80 plus hours of stubble. I looked like a rabid football fan in an odd ‘gothic sort of Halloween mimicry’ maybe headed for an Oakland Raiders game.

I was embarrassed about the fainting. I had resisted resting and acknowledging my fatigue until the body finally demanded its way. I moved quickly and silently to the bedroom, passing a collection of visitors to our apartment that occupied the dining area. Someone called out a retort about my wearing only a towel. I didn’t hear or understand all of what was said to me. I was feeling lightheaded again. I went directly to my small bed and covered up. The cut trickled warm blood down my head, tickling as it dripped off the edge of my ear to the pillows surface. I didn't care. I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I’m not certain if I fainted again or if I simply fell asleep. My body and brain were in full rebellion, they were taking themselves out of the game for a rest on the sidelines.


kathi said...

Have mercy. What an image of you half shaved head, bleeding and down for the count. Again, have mercy!

Your pictures have really confused me. For some reason, I thought you were on the short side, and for some reason, I thought you were younger than me (and you're not :) ). Wait, have we had this conversation before?

The pictures of you are great but the second one was totally unnecessary, I don't need to be seeing you half naked! I've been alone for over a year, guy...keep your shirt on!

Seven said...

I don't recall the conversation, but I'm 5-9, 56 yo. And dang it, all my life people have been telling me to put my clothes on! Since I was a child! I don't like wearing clothes and I think everyone should just leave me alone about it....:-)
You know another funny thing about Europe, they will change their track clothes including the bottom pants portion while standing in front of the crowd like that, particularly the Italians. BEG took a photo to prove it. So at least I just took off my shirt.....

Lynilu said...

If this tale gets much worse on the fatigue and pain, I'll have to quit reading (yeah, right), because it makes me weary, not a good thing right now as I am leaving this AM for my loooooong road trip. And I am tired already on my own right. The last few days have been fraught with silly debacles of all kinds, and at this juncture I'm still not totally packed. BTW, I'll be near you, in Allen, for a few days. I'll shout in your direction, OK? :)

You poor thing. I can't believe it is just Day 4!!! I hope things let up on you after the next day. You sound like a real mess at this point.

Tell BEG her pix are great! The one of you running is excellent in how she caught your form. She is quite good, not that it is news for either of us. What is her usual subject for photos? I know she is a photographer, but that can mean many things.

I'll be reading as I travel. Love the laptop and almost constant possibilities with wireless connections along the way. Keep writing, my friend.

Seven said...

Silver Lovely,
BEG is a pro with a studio in our house. She does portraits, mostly of children. Her real passion is being outdoors and her computer is filled with flower pics...many are startlingly good!
The trip does get better. Funny thing I am writing it just like it happened...no made up stuff of any kind. Its all true.
And....did you know that one of our mutual blog friends lives in Allen? By all means shout out to us both! Happy travels.

kathi said...

:) Really seven? Who would that be?

Rob said...

7, hmm, this doesn't sound good. I hope you have good news from the next day. Hopa all is very well with you and BEG. Nice photos, great story.

Lynilu said...

I knew our friend was from the Dallas, but no, I didn't know she was from Allen. I'm here now, so HEY, Y'ALL!!!