O Canada! Part IX

We got SOAKED at the parade of athletes on Saturday afternoon. The lot of RSTers heading out from Spanish Village for the parade staging area presented a sorry picture, everyone hunched up against a driving rain, some dressed better than others to deal with the adverse weather. At the last moment I threw together a touchingly pathetic little RST banner to identify our crew, and Rolf hit brilliantly upon the idea of hoisting it upon a fully extended frame pump to provide some "loft". Voila, the RST banner proclaims us to the world! Or at least to Penticton. And for the moment it had to be stashed under my Goretex jacket until such a time as the elements allowed for its display.

The rain lightened up by the time the parade began, enhancing the mood considerably. What an international gathering this proved to be! Large contingents of athletes from Canada, the US, Australia, Germany, and Japan were joined by athletes from Sweden, Ireland, Great Britain, South Africa, Mexico.... the list went on and on. We all marched proudly along, ignoring the smattering of rain, intent upon appeasing Ogopogo and thereby avoiding a dreaded DNF the next day. I couldn't help but feel a little silly at the self-importance of parading along like this, and yet the spirit of the thing was so celebratory and genuine that it just seemed "right".

Heading down Main Street toward the Gyro Park Band Shell, athletes and their families strode jovially to the cheers of enthusiastic crowds lining the way. For about the tenth time this week I found myself hugely impressed by the support this event garners from the locals---they really get into this!

Marching just ahead of our loose group of RSTers was a representative of the Penticton Daily Herald. It took us a little while to figure out that it was indeed someone representing a newspaper--- hey, come on, how often do you see a 6-foot tall rolled-up newspaper walking down the street, bobbing, weaving, and dancing? The funniest damned thing about it was the inexplicable but instantaneous enmity that Iron Pete displayed toward that newspaper! Something about it just got under his skin, and he swore that if the thing didn't keep out of his way he was going to tackle it. What a picture *that* painted!

Somehow the Herald survived unscathed; perhaps Pete thought better of possibly drawing the wrath of Ogopogo down upon himself by such an uncharitable act perpetrated against a helpless newspaper. At any rate, the parade finished up, unmarred by violence, back at the Bandshell. More ceremony, more pomp and circumstance, more nervous joking and laughing and picture-taking. Then it was time to head back to our hotels and make final preparations for tomorrow.

"Where" I wondered soberly as we headed back to Spanish Villa, "will I be at this time tomorrow?"


Halfway done! Halfway done! I might just as well be at the finish, so happy am I just to be at the marathon turnaround. In an act of sheer silly exuberance, I perform a speedy buttonhook turn around the marker (as though the time savings matters) and plant a kiss upon the comical runner painted thereon. Boy, am I glad to be here! I check my watch and am thunderstruck---I've completed the first 13.1 miles in exactly two and a half hours. Wow, that's great! I couldn't have asked for better.

Now it's time to grab some aid, a little chicken broth, some Allsport, and my special needs bag. I hadn't been sure if I'd ever actually see this bag today. Grabbing it now somehow makes the finish seem tremendously close and real, because this bag represents my last bit of "planning" for the race, the last punctuation of the day over which I have had any control. The next major punctuation will be the finish line (I hope...).

Comically enough, the contents of my bag seem more a hindrance than a help at the moment. Despite the solid cloud cover and occasional raindrops, the temperature really isn't cold. I'm ecstatic to note that there's still quite a bit of daylight left to boot. I really don't need the long-sleeved running shirt, so I tie it around my waist.

Being the anal, plan-for-any-circumstance type, I had also packed a pair of fresh clean running socks, figuring that chances were good that my feet would be crying out for any relief they could get at this point. It's a pleasant surprise to realize that the dogs are not barking, nor even growling, so the change of socks is not necessary. OK, stow the socks somewhere, see if you can cram them into your Torsopack. Sheesh, all I'm doing here is adding weight!

Transfer a few packets of PowerGel to the Torsopack too (glad I have these, they've run out of PowerGel at all the aid stations already). I put way too many in my bag, though, so I offer the remaining packets to the aid station volunteers to share with other athletes. I grab an enormous peach that just looks SO good right now (and the Okanagan is famous for its peaches). So, now, what's left in this bag?

Walking through the aid station munching on my peach, peering eagerly into the bottom of my bag, I find the surprise left for me by my faithful crew. It's a photograph. It's a very silly photograph. It's a photograph of The Face.

All right, now some people may get all choked up and inspired by photographs of their children; don't laugh at me, I have no children. The Face is my dog. Her real name is Tess, but this dog is such a charmer that we have nicknamed her Face. And this particular photograph is from a race early in the season where she came to watch Mom race and the people doing bike check judged she was a fine enough dog to pass inspection so they stuck a bike check inspection sticker on her head. Face passed inspection. She looks silly and wonderful to me right now.

My face splits into a huge grin and I turn the photograph over to find a great pep-talk penned by my Crew. It reads:

"Tricia--- I know you're tired right now and looking for some inspirational words from your Crew. Well, I think your inspiration should come from where you are *right now*! I am *so* proud of you. With each step you take right now, remember all the steps you have taken to get here. You have it in you. If you are getting tired, just think of the road that brought you here, and the road you will be on when you're done. If that doesn't work-- think of the Face, Phish Food, Chevy's, all the fun you've had with the RSTers, the great posts you can do, and...oh, yes, your Skippy Crew!"

What a great crew. I smile and smile and turn the photo around to look at the Face once more and smile again. Then I slip the photo into my singlet pocket, hoping that it will survive the remaining 13 miles of sweat and effort. I resume my steady trot. I'm headed for home.

Continue the race....