Escape Velocity

I ran a warm up lap at the reservoir, ducking and dodging the geriatrics with their small dogs. Mask up. Mask down. Pushing the pace to escape the humans and to get my heart rate up to that magic hum.

Then out onto the road, past the farm, right turn, two blocks and into the next patch of trails. I choose the red loop, because it’s steep and rocky and most people don’t go that way. I’m rolling now, but my heart rate spikes as I run higher and higher, dancing through jagged rocks, willing myself upward. I’m at the edge, but if I just. keep. going, I know I can find that flow I’m looking for.

Sometimes you have to run there, to the flow, like an airplane breaking through cloud cover and up into bright sun.

The red trail is like the runway, and I have the engines gunned. There’s a “summit” ahead, really just a rocky outcrop at the top of the park, but I know I need to get there before I run out of the will to run. My pulse quickens and my breath runs ragged, but my feet keep moving. I’m getting on top of it all now.

My watch beeps to tell me two miles are done. I check my pace to confirm what I feel, that I’m going hard.

Once you achieve flow, you’re on autopilot, your mind easily finding the flat spots between rock and root with a bouncing stride. On the way down I’m passing dog-walkers at what feels like full pelt. I’m electric. I’m fluid. I’m high as a goddamned kite.

I’ve been running long and slow for the last months, and that requires a different sort of flow, more like a float really, a pace so comfortable you can ride it forever.

I love to run fast, but it has a tension to it, like an hourglass running down. The flow falls prey to fatigue. You’re slowing, then pushing yourself forward again, hoping you can hold on to the finish.

I’m alone and there’s no point to going this hard, except that it feels good, so when it stops feeling quite so right, I can slow down, but I don’t. I won’t. I want to know that I can hold this line, even when it’s not flowing anymore.

I come around the last corner, back the reservoir, at what feels like a half sprint. I feel a little dumb, like a kid making spaceship sounds pedaling around on his tricycle.

And then I’m in the parking lot, hunched over by the car. I’m walking slow circles, trying to catch my breath, trying to reorder my brain, feeling like I just got away with something.