The Flats

Sadly, the Earth isn’t flat. Instead, it’s charmingly topographic, a roller coaster of root and rock, the result of long periods, epochs really, when the surface has been covered in ice, said ice at some point moving, melting, and morphing, pulling up great gouts of rock and dirt with it to leave us with a gravitational playground of sorts.

The Earth doesn’t reward flat days. It punishes.

There is a day each week, and sometimes two, when I feel that punishment, when I am flat, my mind willing but the wings won’t flap. I am always confused as the bad news comes in from my legs. “How is this?” I think, the symptoms not even entirely physical, a failure of muscle and lung.

It’s like I have a flat spot in my soul, too.

Sure, some days you climb like a goat. You float. Your heartrate rises but never crests, and you run-fall down the other side of every hill like a kid, just trying to keep your legs under you.

But that’s not every day.

It can be very hard to tell when the flats are coming, just rolling over in bed with the alarm, through a first cup of coffee, some light stretching, and then a second cup. I might feel like garbage at the trail head, all the aches and pains announcing themselves, and then get to the climb and absolutely fly up it.

Or, I might feel fresh, ambitious even, and reach that first upward tilt only to find out that ambition is not fuel. Correlation, as they say, is not causation.

My writing hits these patches, too. I have 25 posts in draft just behind the curtain, just waiting to get their cue and get tipped over into final form. Some days they won’t tip. Some days the words won’t come.

We climbed a climb the other day, not steep or long or technical, but its weight, the gravity inherent in it, pressed me down, turned my legs to wood, heaved my chest. “What is going on,” I thought. “Is this where I’m at, the flats?” We were on the front side of a training half-marathon at the time, and I worried I was in trouble.

Fortunately, it was just a wobble. I came good, found my legs, found the rhythm, settled my heart.

AAA does not respond to this call. No one comes in a tow truck to jump start a dead engine, to fix an unexpected flat. I can’t carry a pump, like I do on my bike, or do cocaine, because that’s bad for you. So I just slow down, just keep going, just take my lumps and move on. Tomorrow will be a better day.

So I go home and shower and make some coffee (legal still).