Five: The animal

Transformation into the animal has begun.

Forgetting, letting go, feeling time and place move around her, belonging where she is, no past, no future. Moving.

The animal who shows up to race does not recognize words. She assigns no meaning to the sounds "finishing strong," "having a good run," "happy with my time." These noises dissipate around the animal. Her focus grows sharp.

The animal only knows she has to run, has to move, has to stay completely animal, true to her nature, all her instincts, the whole time she is on the field.

Hunt down the prey; outrun the predator. Knowing she will enter the field soon, she conserves her energy, compresses it in muscles and nerves.

The animal does not know mirrors or media. The animal opens her senses. The heartbeats of the animals around her are the texture of the world. Their nerves' reactions are so vivid they are like a taste to her.

Everything in her body tells her to run — and also to wait for the time to run — so that the animal leans into desire, an exquisite knife-edge of opportunity. Desire begins to consume her name.

When she moves at last it will be like shouting.

For now she waits and listens. She watches her pack moving, bristling, flexing, positioning. She watches the experienced hunters — the one who grows stronger season upon season, ranging into distant territories to hone the skills that let him anticipate power and the taste of the kill — the one who has practiced and perfected the fine techniques and intimate knowledge of the race so that her musculature and will respond decisively, without question, unstoppable.

The animal draws strength from the strengths of all competitors, from pack, predator, and prey. The second they enter the field, they are all bound together and are all completely alone.

The blood surging through the heart as it transforms to animal heart washes away feelings for the power of sensation. Aloneness, ferocity, acceptance: the animal begins to emerge.