I don’t know about you, but the world seems to be getting pretty (insert your favorite colorful word here) intense. While I like to stay informed, I also like to laugh to deal with stress. And, I need some chuckles these days.
Today, the wonderful Eliza Lentzski is here to help us laugh with an embarrassing story. Also, Eliza is giving away 1 audio or ecopy of Don’t Call Me Hero to one lucky winner. Below the guest post, you’ll find more details about the giveaway.
Take it away, Eliza.
They say you never forget your first time
I love sports, but I have never liked running. Those Presidential Fitness tests in middle school? Pass. I ran track in junior high, but smartly changed to softball (gay) in high school. I played sports in college – volleyball, softball, and floor hockey (so gay) – but ask me to run a 5K? No thanks. My wife, however, is a runner, and she suggested I start running, too. It was something we could do together, she said, spend more quality time together.
What a fool I was.
We started off small with short, two-mile training runs until I finally worked up the stamina to run a 5K. My first race was exhilarating, and you get to drink beer at the finish! We worked our way to running 10Ks, and I remember the smug, superior feeling of witnessing another runner puking near the finish line while I felt fine.
The next level on my stairway to hell was training for a half-marathon. The jump from 5K to 10K had been reasonable, but training for a half-marathon took sacrifice. We cut back on drinking and going out. We made a daily schedule for workouts to incrementally work up our endurance for race day. We forfeited our Saturday mornings to do long runs along Lake Michigan. These sacrifices were supposed to be worth it, however, once I crossed that finish line.
What a dum-dum.
I was feeling confident on race day. Nervous, yes—I’d never done this before—but I’d put in the work. I was ready to do this.
The race started early in the morning and I felt great. I made sure to grab water at every water station along the route and worked to keep a slow and steady pace despite how my adrenaline surged in the early miles of the race. I’d long lost track of my wife. She was a much faster runner than I, so what had originated as something we could do together had eventually transitioned into an activity we both did. On race days, she ran ahead of me and would meet me at the finish line. I didn’t mind, however; I still wasn’t a very good runner and I didn’t want to hold her back.
Around the 9-mile marker I’d definitely begun to slow down and my hip flexors were getting tired of the same, repetitious movement. It felt like I’d been running forever. Had I always been doing this? Was it ever going to end?
Around the 10-mile marker, I started to really work up a sweat. It was actually kind of a damp, overcast day with little sun—perfect for running—but my muscles were starting to feel the distance and my joints ached from the constant pounding on the paved trail.
I was going on cruise control around Mile 11. No thoughts. Just movement. The sweating had increased and even my legs were starting to feel wet. I’m not sure what compelled me to look down at my legs in that moment, but I did.
The wetness I had been feeling for the last mile or so wasn’t sweat. It was blood.
I had bled through my tampon.
In all of my race prep—making sure my iPod was fully charged and my playlist was perfect, wrapping my toes and heels to avoid blisters, and picking out the perfect race-day outfit that was both cute and non-chafing—I hadn’t bothered to bring an extra tampon with me.
My initial emotion was embarrassment. How long had I been running with blood visibly running down my legs? How many people—runners and spectators—had seen me?
My next emotion was panic. I still had at least 2 miles left until the end of the race. My wife was no doubt finished running by now and was probably waiting for me at the finish line, an extra bottled water and Gatorade ready for my eventual arrival.
Should I—could I—keep running like this?
The only thing muting my anxiety was the realization that I knew this route. The race route was actually the same paved trail along Lake Michigan that my wife and I ran on every day. I knew every little incline, every blind corner, every depression where mud puddles tended to collect. And I knew my only opportunity to detour off the race path was right in front of me.
I made a snap decision and ran up the small, paved hill, just to the right of the race route. It was like an exit ramp on the freeway. The small incline led to a track that was connected to a local high school. Since it was the weekend, the area was deserted, offering me a modest amount of privacy.
I couldn’t just quit the race; I was still 2 miles away from where we’d parked the car. I didn’t have my phone, no wallet, nothing. Walking would only prolong my embarrassment, and I knew my wife would start to get worried. And, I was stupidly still worried about my finish time. The longer I lingered there, the more seconds ticked away. I had only one option—to finish the race.
I took off my shirt and used it to wipe away the blood on my legs. The material was advertised as being sweat-wicking; I was sure the company never imagined their product being used for what I was about to do. I jammed my shirt into my running shorts and wedged it between my thighs, fashioning something akin to a sumo-wrestler’s thong. My running shorts had built-in underwear, so at least I didn’t have to worry about losing my new adult diaper between there and the finish line.
I ran the rest of the race in my sports bra with my running shorts stuffed like a distended diaper.
I wish I could say I ran the final two miles of the half marathon in my fastest time ever, but my body was over this shit. Each stride was excruciating. Each step was harder than the one before. I nearly burst into tears of relief when I spotted both my wife and the finish line on the horizon.
The finish line was especially crowded with other runners, race volunteers, and spectators. My wife greeted me with a look of concern. “What happened?”
I knew my altered appearance and my delayed finish time were alarming. I ignored her and kept on moving. I was too embarrassed to admit what had happened, even to her. “I’ve got to go to the bathroom,” I said.
I still hadn’t explained myself, but she followed me to the public bathroom—a small pavilion in the park where the race had both started and ended. My body was exhausted, but adrenaline and embarrassment continued to thrum through my body. The bathroom was crowded with other race finishers, and I loudly announced, “Does anyone have a tampon?”
It was only then that my wife realized what had happened to me.
Amazingly, I continued to run even after that ordeal. I can laugh about it now, but I’ll never forget my very memorable first half-marathon.
It’s been over a year since Cassidy Miller retired from the United States Marine Corps, but try telling that to her nightmares. She knew that coming back after eight years in a war zone wouldn’t be easy, but she’d underestimated the real difficulties of transitioning back to civilian life. War is hell, but the aftermath is endless.
Looking for a fresh start, she’s left her friends and career in Minneapolis to be a police officer in northern Minnesota. It’s in the tiny town of Embarrass where she learns more about Julia Desjardin. The city prosecutor is cool, professional, and untouchable. But she and Cassidy have history, and Cassidy isn’t going to let her easily forget that.
For all their surface differences, Cassidy and Julia have more in common than they first realized—both are reluctant to hand over their pasts to be judged and studied. But it might take someone just as damaged as the other to help each cope with the skeletons in their respective closets.
MEET THE AUTHOR
Eliza Lentzski is the author of lesbian fiction, romance, and erotica including the best-selling Winter Jacket and Don’t Call Me Hero series, and the forthcoming novel, The Woman in 3B (Spring 2020). She publishes urban fantasy and paranormal romance under the penname E.L. Blaisdell. Although a historian by day, Eliza is passionate about fiction. She was born and raised in the upper Midwest, which is often the setting for her novels. She currently lives in Boston with her wife and their cat, Charley.
CONNECT WITH ELIZA LENTZSKI
Thanks so much for stopping by today.