Thursday, May 9


Five hours up and down two different peak complexes did we race; I became a thin blue flame, polished on this mountain range. Broke it up for biscuits and gravy, our waitress perpetually calling us hon and pouring surprisingly drinkable diner coffee. And over hills and fields I flew, calves crying, balsam roots aflame in the freshly risen sun, ice dripping thawing from ponderosa needles, rotors loud below keeping the apples from freezing. Twenty-one weeks out. Too fast, too hard, too steep, pounding quads and the pain we'll reap. Sowing seeds, stockpiling miles, the raw smell of horses and the warm smell of hay. Staking claim to each of these slopes, rise and run and run and rise.

Ten hours the day after four, up and over and around and down. Rocks and vistas, rocks and rocks and yet more rocks, erosion chutes we'll have the gall to call trails and so barren a land, trees were a fist shaking themselves at the clouds. Climb we more than sea to summit of Rainier, yet even so - less than a hundred miles away - ne'er once see we the great white peak. Only wind and clouds and rough, rough miles, less than fifty miles but half the climb of Everest. Twenty weeks out, I looked over curtains and it was then that I knew / only a full house gonna make it through. Rocky ridges and exposed crests and the Wasatch skyline dot my dreams, alpine lakes and the glory of cold cold water on a hot hot day. It's getting harder and harder to tell them apart; days are nights and the nights are long. There's no good reason to run through sunset and into sunrise and even less reason not to; glory'll break me and glory will make me and heaven's so big there's no reason to look up.

Up and down stairs, beside and over and around creeks, smelling of wastewater treatment does the day so pass. Six hours beside the sound I run; I became a thin blue stream, swampy sweat running down my arms, back, neck, legs. Razed and hazed and broken are these legs, buried in the smoke between asleep and dreams, this beautiful shakedown, breakdown, meltdown, beatdown. A friend joins me the first few hours; he's a speedster, and this pace is not, but I labor, I labor, I lumber, I struggle. This whole thing is headed for a terrible wreck, and like good tragedy that's what we expect. Twenty-three weeks out. Of course as soon as the faster half leaves, I knock out the next few hours too quick, find a rhythm outside the rut, really put myself deep in the hurt, and another eight thousand feet in the book. On such trails, the feet tally quick; a million's unlikely as these years go, but sure as hell I'll try. Sure as hell I'll climb and climb and climb and hope to fly, freight train steady, straight on through to morning, through these red dawn mornings, and above those tamed waters; in that clear blue undertow, I saw Royal City far below, and knew I'd touched the sky.

Seven hours, up and down five peaks. Nearly a dying gasp in this fine downy meadow, burrowed in a copse of lush young firs. So violently did that fatigue wash over me, one great wall of sand and sun and trail and wind, blown out creeks and washed out roads, downed trees and burnt over slopes. Fatigue is a shirt I wear on Mondays on Tuesdays on Wednesdays on Thursdays, the world just beginning and the guests in good cheer. Then: another weekend. Nineteen weeks out, the suffering verbs put to sleep in the night. If I sleep. Tallying the passing hours and miles and long days under the sun, the future descended like a bright chandelier. Judgment day's coming. These past weeks my bones have wearied; these past weeks my legs have awoken. I feel my body's fealty in aching joints and cracking popping pistoning ankles and knees and hips; I feel miles raw and coursing, alive and vibrant. I flew over royal city last night, a bullfighter on the horns of a new moon's light. My heart is strong. My heart is strong, and so very very awake to the wide world around me, and I'll run through all these dawns.

Field upon field of golden balsamroot our vista, sandy singletrack and rolling ski trails our setting. Hell's here descended, August in May, an unfortunate magic trick of the calendar. Legs shimmering, shaking, sizzling, and water runs through us as if hydration too were a mirage. Though it snowed Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday we crisply burnt. Oh, weather. There will be, he told us. There will be. A symphony of heat, cicadas electric in the heat of the day, asses braying, and the lone wolf howling his trail I'd just unjustly run. Fifty k's in consecutive days? There's foolish and foolhardy and hell if I any longer know the difference. Miles and miles yet to go; miles and miles already gone by. Aspens bud and wildflowers yet bloom; some slopes' green hues linger, even as others approach fire-ripe brown. Dust and dust and dust above, surrounding; the lake a diamond in the valley's hand, and all that green blooms brilliant down there. Up and up and down and down and up and down and down and up, four months out. Good god, a hundred k ain't a hundred miles, but, well. The heat didn't break me, and I became a thin blue wire that held the world above the fire. The miles didn't break me, and so it was I saw behind: heaven's just a thin blue line. These weekends haven't broken me, won't break me. Peaks and horizons, miles and miles,they were coming together, they were pulling apart. I won't remember, and I won't forget, heaven is so big there's no need to look up. I've got my singletrack, and I've got my miles. I've got my horizons. Heaven's just a thin blue line and I became a thin blue flame. Burn up, flame up, run out, run on. Run on.


matt said...

Confession: I wrote this in May. May 9th, actually. But then I forgot about it. So now I'm publishing it three months later, as if I never forgot about it, because that's how we roll around here.

Or something. Whatever.

jon said...

It's a spiritual story, a nature story, a creation story, told in running jargon, man vs. himself. I love it.