"I believe that if ever I had to practice cannibalism, I might manage if there were enough tarragon around." - James Beard (1903-1985)
The First Installment of Nut Job's Fables:
The Cannibal and The Freak
The worst storm of the winter had decided to schedule itself for the day of the ultra.
Baba the Freak was at the halfway aide station of the winter ultra discussing the course conditions with Raja Runalot.
Gingerly, Baba removed his sneaker from his foot. His ankle was swollen and purple.
Suddenly he felt a presence behind him.
He turned and was startled to see The Cannibal just inches away, staring down at Babas' foot.
There was an eerie gleam in The Cannibals eyes.
"Nice toes," said The Cannibal.
"They're getting blisters," Baba replied.
"Chop them off and save them in a jar," suggested the Cannibal. "You could keep them as a race souvenier."
Raja held up the peanut butter and jelly sandwich he was eating. "Better grab something to eat guys. Still a long way to go."
The cannibal looked down at Babas' toes again. "Yes, eating right is half the battle of Ultras, isn't it?"
Raja nodded. "And taking in enough fluids.
"I heard once of a brutal three day ultra in the desert when two of the runners got hopelessly lost," said The Cannibal. "One of the runners actually collapsed and died. There wasn't a soul or hope in sight. It's rumored that the surviving runner cut off the dead runners' toes and put them in a baggie. He nibbled on them as he blundered through the night, to keep his strength up. He ended up winning the race!"
"That's insanity," said Baba.
"Insanity is a little strong," said the Cannibal. "I would label it as more of a slight social deviancy."
"Huh?' Baba the freak asked
Raja Runalot knew the cannibal well and chose to walk away.
"You know how it is when the run turns into a death march," said the Cannibal. "Anything that might help you make it through . . ." His voice trailed off as his eyes gazed into a future Baba didn't care to see.
The Cannibal moved in closer to get a better look at Babas' banged up foot.
Baba quickly put his sock and shoe back on. "Okay then, gotta go." said Baba as he put on his bush hat, forgetting that he hadn't refilled his water bottle or grabbed anything to eat.
The Cannibal watched the limping figure disappear into the night. Although it was dark and the snow was falling, he could still make out Babas' faint foot steps in the snow.
The cannibal smiled and grabbed a ho-ho for the road.
Baba knew he was being followed. Every time he looked behind him he could see the light of a headlamp bobbing in the night. Although there were thirty five registered runners, and it could be any one of them back there, Baba knew it was the Cannibal.
He needed to keep up his pace if he wanted to beat him back to civilization but he could feel the strength draining from his body. His water bottle was almost empty. He kicked himself for not refueling at the aide station.
His stomach growled loudly in the cold, still night.
Staggering through the uneven path with snow blindness and dehydration, Baba could feel The Cannibal on his heels. Five more miles till the next aide station. He'd never make it.
His thoughts wandered back to Nam. Looking back he realized the headlamp was getting closer. "It's Charlie," he muttered to himself.
Going into survival mode, he turned his headlamp off and ducked into the bushes, smearing snow on his face for camouflage.
He held his breath as The Cannibal came into view. The Cannibal slowed down as he neared where Baba was hiding. The snow was falling heavier now and Babas tracks were covered over, but still, the Cannibal somehow sensed his prey was near.
Baba held his breath.
The Cannibal stopped and listened intently.
A deer bounded across the towpath and out of sight.
The Cannibal watched the deer disappear and finally headed on into the night himself.
When The Cannibal was a safe distance away, Baba came back out of the bushes and hobbled slowly along until he finally reached the next aide station.
They offered him a cup of Pepsi. He ignored the paper cup and grabbed the two liter bottle instead.
With the cumbersome bottle of Pepsi in one hand and a peanut butter sandwich in the other, he limped on into the night.
The Pepsi and peanut butter gave him enough energy to make it to the finish line.
Fifty miles in fifteen hours. What a night.
He limped over to the trailer to get his finishers metal and t-shirt. The Cannibal was there waiting. He slapped Baba on the back, nearly knocking him over.
"Good job," said the Cannibal.
"Thanks," Baba mumbled.
Their eyes met. The Cannibal smiled and burped.
There were two DNF's that night. Did they not finish or did they not survive?
Moral of the Story (there's always a moral) -
"Eat or be eaten."