In the evening I sit in front of a mapping tool and drop little digital pins down the length of trails and dirt roads, trying hard to make loops where none already exist. Can I run 3 more miles to make that work? Hell, yes I can.
That’s the evening before.
The evening before I’m full of piss and vinegar (the world’s least popular potato chip). I’m ambitious. I’m a hard ass. I got this! YouTube videos of stronger people doing harder things only stokes this ego fire. I drop more pins. I visualize myself tearing down the trail, feeling my lungs burst with effort and energy.
Then the fucking alarm goes off. Pardon my language, but seriously, what the fuck is wrong with that alarm? I’M SLEEPING! Everything hurts and nothing will ever be ok again.
The evening before I’ve set aside my clothes, choosing shorts and shirts for maximum speed and comfort. I’ve looked at my shoes and considered the options. The visualizations of the last hour suggest I need a seriously aggro shoe. I set those aside too. I’m a serious trail runner who takes things seriously and does serious shit.
When the alarm goes off again it splits my brain in two. Cleaves it right down the middle like an axe. I was back in a dream. The dream was bad but unresolved. I consider snoozing the alarm again, so I can see the ending of what was, if I’m understanding it correctly, an anxiety dream. Why do I need to make sure all the appetizers have come out for a table of celebrities I don’t recognize at a restaurant I don’t work in? How old am I really? I blink hard into consciousness and remember. 48. I test that guess with a quick perusal of recent memories. Yes. 48.
I’m awake now. Shit.
I have 17 minutes to pull myself together and get out the door to meet up for the run that I pitched so enthusiastically last night. I don’t drink, but it’s possible I was drunk. Deluded at a minimum.
I pull my shorts on and put both feet through one leg, then get a foot tangled trying to pull it back out for the correction. I can’t figure out which way my shirt goes on. I can’t run. How can I possibly run? I may have had a stroke while I was sleeping. I check in on my limbs and digits. All functioning. Shit. I mean, good. Good.
The stairs must be molten lava, because I’m walking like one leg is broken and the other is made of marshmallows. My left Achilles sings a loud, sad song about broken eggs and stacks of wine glasses being pushed off dining room tables. I curse out loud and sit on the couch to put my shoes on.
There’s a really embarrassing 90 seconds here where I consider what excuses I can make to get out of this run, what injuries I can gin up, what mental stress I can blow out of proportion. No. It’s too much. I can’t be this pathetic. I resolve to get myself up and finish getting ready.
A Clif Bar goes into my mouth in too big bites, leaving my hand sticky. I fill a water bottle and spill it partially down my leg. I pee, as you always must before walking out the door to run, and consider the excuses I had rejected only minutes earlier, but less seriously this time.
The evening before I was a serious runner, and if you give me a half-hour and get me to the trailhead I can be that guy again, even though I will harbor doubts through the first mile and sometimes two. Eventually I will get near the place I visualized on the couch the evening before, although my heaving chest will never feel quite as euphoric as it did in my mind’s eye. No. More nauseous really. Closer to cardiac failure.
But that’s the difference between the evening before and then the morning after. One is a real place, and the other is a fantasy land, both probably necessary to the project.