Oh, I have a different metaphor in mind for this

"Going to visit the trail you built," I say to my pal Zoolander. As part of Earthriders, he helped build the Orange loop trail and had suggested it, a smooth, easy route, for my first trail run.

"YEAH!" says he. "Shred it! Kill it!"

"I don't know about shredding and killing," I say. "Just want to go out and see what it's like."

"You're on dirt now," says ZL. "It's not like the road. You just go Gonzo. It's the only way."

"We'll see," I said. He looked askance at my measured attitude but waved me off with the usual enthusiastic farewell. "Have FUN!"

Ah, ZL. You know me enough by now. I'm superstitious about failing myself; I don't like to talk through what I haven't yet walked through. But I knew damn well how I was going to run. There never was a choice about it.

Lately I haven't been able to get my mind off trail running. To be out in the woods, which is my favorite place in the entire world, running, a thing that rips time out of the body's existence by the roots: well. Who wouldn't want this?

I'd never thought it was for me. Me, the weak-ankled and sloppily balanced. But triathlon has shown me not to see walls that aren't there between my body and its satisfaction. The walls disappeared and the trail opened up on the other side. And I wanted it so badly that I have hardly been able to wait for an evening when I could go run.

There was no choice. Hammer and tongs, full-on exuberant joy, squeezing and pouring everything I have ever gotten my arms around to love out through the run. When I had to, when I couldn't go more, I stopped and stood still. Trees all around. Earth underfoot. Breathing. I could not walk. To move at all, I had to run.

To feel my feet moving more quickly than they ever do on the road. To feel the body make decisions, faster and way more efficiently than I can think, and apparently based on where would be the most absolutely fun place to step. The rock, the root, the leafslick, and the dirt. To hop, to land, to bound, to dash, to dance up and across and down — to run. To let myself run, to run it all out.

There was never any choice about what to throw into this run. Everything I could. That was it. That's the only way it was going to be. Why? Because life is short and so far I've been lucky. Never hold back on your first attempt at anything. No one's to say you won't only get one trail run. So you had better lay it all out there. It had better be worth it.

Shredding it? Yeah. Oh, yeah. Killing it? Hm. See, I would choose a much earthier, more life-affirming, no less cataclysmic seven letters. The difference between road running and trail running is the difference between making love and, well, seven letters. (From which you might infer A. That I do not anticipate any hatred for road running, no matter how much I love trails, and B. How I feel about treadmills.) A bold statement, but you know, some fine distinctions just take once to grasp.

Out there tonight, deer drifted among the trees, grazing. Squirrels smashed through the underbrush and leaves. Birds chattered and wheedled overhead. A few souls on mountain bikes weaved around the trail.

"How the heck do you do this on a bike?" I thought, planting a foot briefly on the angled face of a rock or over the nubbed texture of a root. Then: "I wonder if that would be FUN?"

Zoolander, brother! Thank you and yours for building a sweet trail. And, incidentally, for being the first and only person to tell me I should think about triathlon, what, eight years ago, which I didn't believe but never forgot. And re: the MTB thoughts — maybe it would be a good idea to start getting more calcium about now.


Anonymous said...

"Bliss" That's all I can think of right now. Very gratifying to hear about your experience.

- ZL