We’re standing on top of a big rock. Mo wants the camera. This is going to be trouble.
“We’re in a race,” I point out helpfully. She’s not impressed. She wants a photo.
What she doesn’t understand is that I’m trying to stay below a 15-minute-mile pace, which is becoming increasingly hard as the trail gets steeper and rockier and I get older and crankier.
She insists and takes a picture of me. I imagine at the time that I look quite dashing in my Day-Glo Orange Lightweight Alpaca Racing Beanie (anything else is just a wool cap) perched atop the world. Subsequent viewings will reveal that I look like a cranky old man in need of a constitutional. The world was better when we relied on impressionist painters and didn’t need to be quite so literal.
Finally, it’s back to the race. We’re weaving through boulders and dropoffs and little purple flowers. Mo runs like a puppy, going ahead and waiting, going ahead and sniffing other runners, going ahead and peeing on rocks, going ahead and waiting again. It’s a routine I’m comfortable with.
Until. She vanishes.
We’re about 3 1/2 miles into the 10K when she disappears. We’ve been going through a trail that weaves through huge boulders, so I haven’t had a visual for a while. I assume she’s up ahead. But then she’s not.
I stop and think. Could she have taken a wrong turn? Joe is famous for impeccable trail marking, but Mo is famous for getting lost. Maybe an emergency pit stop? Could she just be up ahead? Maybe, but she is never gone this long. Could she have fallen off the edge of the cliff? There WAS yellow tape indicating that would be a bad idea, but Mo is never averse to bad ideas. What to do?
I speed up, hoping I can catch her if she’s ahead on the trail. Nothing. I stop. Maybe she’s behind me? If she veered off the trail for a few minutes, she’ll be coming up. I wait for a few minutes, but nothing. Now I’m worried.
I try speeding up again. Surely she’ll be around the corner, waiting in her usual manner. Or surely not. Nothing.
I hit the aid station at 4.2 and ask the guy if he saw her come through. He doesn’t remember seeing her. Now I’m REALLY worried. I pull off just past the aid station and wait. What can I do? I have my phone, and I’m listed as her emergency contact (kids! always fill out your emergency contact!) so if something horrible has happened, I’ll get a call, right? The minutes tick past. I decide my best strategy is to get to the finish line as soon as possible so I can identify the corpse and recover her Garmin 610, which I need as a backup for future races.
And then, my worst fear is realized. A pickup comes racing down the dirt road that occasionally parallels the trail. That MUST be her. Damn.
I kick into high gear (moving from a mosey to a shuffle) to get to the finish as quickly as possible. Damn, I’m going to miss her. She does the income tax.
With about a half mile to go, Mo is running back up the trail toward me. Did you already finish? I ask. Maybe, she says, gauging my reaction. My reaction is not pleasant.
She has a perfectly good explanation. A woman she has dubbed “Pinkie” passed her at some point. She then proceeded to pass Pinkie. And damned if Pinkie was going to get past her again in the last half of the race. So she had no alternative but to abandon me for dead. After all, we were in a race, she reminds me. Ow. Ten-cars-in-a-McDonalds-line-Ow.
We don’t talk much for a long time. She takes a nap in the car. I go back to the finish to watch folks finish the half and marathon. Such joy at finish lines. Mountain goats and dogs and kids mixed with the relief and happiness of a huge effort on a hot day. I bask in their success.
And then we leave. I mention she should apologize. She politely declines. It’s a long, silent ride. But then we gradually thaw out, like newlyweds do.
We have lunch in Austin at Chuy’s, where I proposed to her, and we go to the Yard Dog and the Monkey Store. It ends up being a pretty great day. Except for the lack of an apology.
Then as we’re driving home, somewhere between Austin and San Antonio, I remind her that she never apologized.
She looks over. With great sincerity, she says “I’m sorry that you’re slow.”
And they lived happily ever after. The end. At least till the next race …