“Poison,” Coach called it. “It’s Lactic Acid that brings the pain. It causes the burning sensation in your muscles during work out. But remember, that after the race, the pain and the acid’s long gone. It’s only your victory that still remains.”
Now, as I battled my demons, I could feel searing hot lactic acid spreading all through my blood. I didn’t know what it looked like, but I imagined it to be steaming hot and white. My insides burned. There were seconds to go, and every thought counted. A little more poison, I thought to myself, and a little more edge.
As different shades of blue crashed around me- dark blue when I looked down, light blue when my head was pointing straight ahead, and a flashing whitish-blue when I looked up to breathe, I saw I had raced one place ahead. I was fourth. And there were about sixty meters to go. More poison, I said to myself.
Sure enough, the poison inside became hotter, and I moved faster. Another one down, I thought, as I looked from the corner of my eye to move in to third place. About forty meters to go…
But everything has a price, isn’t it? The poison started taking me over, and I felt everything go white. Now I was no longer in control. I could still see the finish rope through the water, and I knew I was still in the game. Third, I told myself.
With a final rush, I felt a last dose of poison injected, and moving faster than I could ever remember, I sliced through what was left of the water and my hands touched marble. It was over!
I shot out of the water, breathless and panting uncontrollably. I could feel my heart pounding against the walls of my chest, bursting to come out of its prison. I was suddenly overwhelmed with noise as I realized I could hear again. There was tumultuous applause. I got out of the water, and amidst stopwatches, coaches ticking off printed sheets of paper, more applause, and the dejected, tired faces of the other swimmers, I felt the poison had paid off. I had won.
“Tell me something. Do you know why horses wear blinds?” he asked, coming in closer.
Puzzled, I shook my head, still panting hard.
I bent my head ashamedly. So he had seen it all. Twice I had wasted precious milliseconds when I looked at the other swimmers. I hadn’t really raced my race, had I?
Twenty minutes later, as I stood with my silver medal, I waved and smiled to the others. Then, I looked at the gold medal as it gleamed brightly on the winner’s chest beside me, and I said to myself, “Next time…it’s my poison. And it’s my race.”