Ah yes, where were we?
The bloody fingertips...
(if this seems a little graphic and unexpected you may want to read the first part of the story, first!)
As I noticed this I twisted my body back so that I could see what there was to see - and I had a spot on the back of my light tan shorts the size of a CD... A big red round bull’s eye - and pink at the edges from sitting in the wet kayak seat.
At the same time all this was sinking in I had this horrible realization that Jeff was already gone from the park, and I didn't have any way of calling him to come rescue me, from what was to be a most humiliating experience...
I felt so exposed and small and as helpless as a child on the streets of Whitefish. I went into survival mode. I was no longer "racing in", "participating in" or any such thing regarding the race (in my mind). I was desperate, and after standing there in complete shock, for I don't know how long, I snapped out of it when I saw a lady just up the street come out to get the mail out of her mailbox.
Thinking that she would immediately understand and commiserate with my womanly problem I ran up to her, and through the tears I tried to explain. “Hi there, my name is Elizabeth, and I’m wondering if I can use your phone to call a Missoula number? I need to call my husband. I’m just having the worst day of my life right now and I’m in the middle of a race and on the last section and I just realized that I’m bleeding, and I don't have a tampon...” I wanted to go on and on… but she invited me in.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have long distance on my phone, and we don't have any tampons, just pads, but you are welcome to them." I followed her into her dark cigarette smoke filled house. She was sort of disconnected to the story I was telling her, but there was no way I was going to leave her house without some way to hide my shorts. She continued to a back room where there were things stacked up to the ceiling (literally). She was a pack rat... A short chubby woman with long straight brown hair, in her mid-to-late-forties. She lit up a cigarette and made her way through all the cultch and sat down to a computer tucked in among all her things. I figured she was gambling online or playing some game as I continued spilling my guts to her about what had happened...then I spotted her daughter in another room.
Her daughter was about 14 years old, also a little chubby, and I found myself sort of sizing her up, thinking to myself "hmmm, I wonder if I could fit into a pair of her shorts and borrow them until I get done the race course."...it wouldn't hurt to ask, I supposed.
So, I asked her and she was more than helpful. I followed her to the her bedroom and she rifled through bunches of clothes stacked in messy piles everywhere on the floor... After a few minutes she pulled a pair out of the clutter. They were hot pink cutoffs, with a quarter-sized hole in the crotch, and they looked like they might fit me. They were beautiful!! AND I might add they were my ONLY way out of this mess!! So, I changed into them, cleaned myself up and stuffed my other shorts into the pocket (since I thought it would be sort of rude to leave a pair of bloody shorts behind... and there was no garbage can in their bathroom!).
I gave the daughter a big hug and thanked them both for their help. I think they may have thought I had lost my mind. It's just the feeling I get, because of that blank look I got from them and since they also sort of let me show myself out.
I started running again, knowing full well how ridiculous I must look with these pink "Daisy Dukes" on, but I just kept running and thinking and thinking and thinking of how I could get out of the embarrassment of having to run to the finish line. I still had atleast 4 miles to go, and I had lost 15 or 20 minutes begging for a pair of shorts! I knew that while I was around some houses I better try and call Jeff if I had the chance...
I came across two young men hanging around outside an apartment complex with a cell phone and I asked them if I could borrow it to make just one call. When Jeff didn't answer again my heart dropped and I pictured him at the finish line under the race tent having a beer from the keg on this hot July day and waiting for me to run in.
I told the young men my story and asked them if they knew any women in the building. They called up to a third floor apartment and a woman came down. I asked her for a tampon and to use her bathroom. I called Jeff one more time from her apartment before leaving, with no answer.
When I took off running from this stranger's apartment I knew that I would have to run to the finish line. The course weaved down two more residential streets and onto a dirt road and to the outskirts of Whitefish. There is no way I can describe to you how low I felt at this point. I was filled with so much dread about how things would be at the finish line that I was pretty much willing myself to keep it together for just long enough to get into the car and drive off into the sunset and never do this race again. Several vehicles passed me and they left me coated with a thick layer of dirt, sticking to the sweat on my body. It added to the severe mental beating I was receiving for having made the decision to even start the race that morning.
These last miles on the road in the heat were excruciating - not athletically challenging (it was completely flat), but mentally challenging. Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, I saw the race tent out past a building in the distance. I played and replayed in my head what I thought would happen and it all, unfortunately, came true. It was a nightmare.
As I got closer to the race tent and everyone noticed that I was coming in...it was as if the band stopped (although Jeff tells me they didn't stop playing) and everyone stopped what they were doing to watch the "last racer" come in. They had no idea what I had just been through and how much time was wasted in random strangers' homes on the last section!
Everyone who was crowded under the race tent to find some shade on this stifling hot day, came out of hiding and lined up - making a long 30 ft human tunnel that I had to run through in order to get to the finish line. As I drew even closer people started shouting and egging me on to the finish. Then, what I like to refer to as the "pity clap" started (I know these people just thought - oh how cool - a solo woman is finally finishing the race - but I was mortified beyond belief!). What I really wanted to do is yell and scream and swear and act like a crazy person and give them a real show - and really make them wonder. But, instead I scanned the crowd looking for Jeff and I saw him at the very end of the tunnel, with a beer in hand, and a smile on his face, just waiting for me. I could tell he knew something was wrong since I had taken so long on that short running section, but he couldn't figure it out. I ran up to him and came to a screaching halt. And I said through my teeth in a small & defeated voice, so no one else could hear: "Jeff, don't you notice anything different about me?". He scanned me and came back with nothing. "I have completely different shorts on than I did at the last transition..." It was then that he realized I was crying as a tear rolled out from underneath my sunglasses.
Ok, so that isn't the best way to end the story, but, Jeff and I hung around for about two more minutes and we loaded into the car and drove off without waiting for the award ceremony. I'm sure I would have won "Solo Female" (since I was the only one) but it was too much for me to bear.
(What did I learn in all of this? Well, first of all I try not to do races that are so short - that is why I love the long adventure races that I compete in!......If I DO a race of this length I ALWAYS start the race with a tampon IN! That way I have a lot less worries throughout the day!)