My breath claws its way in and out of my lungs in jagged spurts, dehydrating my cracked lips. My heart battles to keep up with the hastened flood of oxygen. Adrenaline nips at my fingertips and skin like needles. Like swimming in the icy Pacific Ocean without a wetsuit, my extremities freeze but burn from a venomous concoction of the adrenaline and near arctic air. Taut leg muscles lock into starting position against each frantic signal from my brain that attempts to suppress that urge. My shoes that suffocate my feet absently collect an ocean of mud. The gun bellows its five minute warning, which echoes emptily around the starting line that is suddenly buzzing like a beehive. The shock waves that reverberate through my abdomen further agitate my on-edge stomach. My gut a void, my esophagus convulses inanely. Incapable of perceiving the hushed yell of the man who shot the gun, I pretend to heed his declaration sans megaphone.