I arose just before six, the wind outside a mere whisper and the lake below black as jet and the wretched sun yet to raise its head above the horizon. I ate; I drank; I slapped my muscles until I felt a pleasant numbness and then I sat at the edge of the bed and breathed deeply, taking in great lungfuls of that charged air until it radiated to my fingertips. Then did I stand at the window and witness the slow birth of a new day, the sun crowning just above the east and scattering upon the face of the water an afterbirth of pale yellows and pinks.
The mercury registered at just above freezing. I threw on layers of wool and synthetics; drew my gloves tight until that slight pull at the ends of the fingers; threaded the aglets through the timing chip with meticulous care; delicately placed a bandage on each of the girls. Double, triple-check to make sure the bib number is still pinned to your singlet, and then it's out the door and to the starting line.
The details of the race are here omitted; all I can say is that I was greedy. Greedy for a personal best, greedy for prize money, greedy for the win. As the starting gun went off I saw that I might have a chance at taking it - race, player, life, all - and the cisterns of my bloodlust quivered with excitement and my fury slipped its leash. Like a fool did I run, swaying to the shouts and the yells and the whims and the vicissitudes of the mob, which would later come crashing down upon my head. The turning point came just after mile twenty, when I had to briefly stop and I was filled with the violent urge to vomit; thereafter was my mouth a foul mixture of acid and adrenaline, from which I never recovered.
Months I had spent dreaming of that last steep descent into Veterans Park, the glittering whitecaps of Lake Michigan in the distance and the sanguinary roar of the crowd as I hurtled the broken bodies of my dying enemies and rushed toward glorious victory. Instead, it was a death march. My overweening pride, transformed into abject humiliation; my obsession with glory, turned into a singleminded focus on controlling my bowels; and each step down that lonely road cracked the tarsals of my feet and tore at the ligaments of my knees. In my mind the encouraging shouts of the crowd had turned into jeers, and I expected mire and excrement to be thrown upon my face. A sorry sight was I, staggering across the finish line, exhausted, limping to the side of that great body of water and searching for the glorious, glittering whitecaps of my dreams; but the sky was as a great grey blanket thrown over the roof of the world and I stood there in terrible silence as the heat of life evaporated and the chill wind cut to the bone.