I went up a mountain today at a hard pace, and then back down it somewhat recklessly. I laughed multiple times, the bliss bubbling out, and perhaps this is bad to say, but was nearly moved to the point of tears while screaming down a narrow rock path, on which both sides were snow covered tundra, fog all around, a self contained world of effort and ecstasy at 13,000 feet.
I don't have anything revelatory to say about mountains. They are bigger than people tell you, more striking in scope than they could with any language. But interacting with them is better than that, somehow bigger. You feel dwarfed by the magnitude of the thing on which you crawl, and yet titanic if measured by effort and accomplishment. The heart pounds, breath comes short, and it's all perfect.
I'm laying here now listening to a river rushing by, the perpetual white noise my temporary residence affords. Nothing hurts, and there is no detectable trace of fatigue. This, on some level, is the gift of fitness. Beyond racing, it grants you the opportunity to indulge in place, to say I'd like to walk there, then there, then there, then skirt this peak to that. To indulge your mind's fancy with your body's effort, which, by some alchemical reaction, becomes something better than ambrosia.
There are, of course, races for which this type of day would represent very specific training. And I can't comprehend them, frankly. I've run 50 miles through the Flint Hills, which are not nothing, but are not this. I don't know how anyone runs Pikes, split between running up and then back down a mountain. And something like Hardrock scarcely seems real, or even possible.
But that's a concern for another time. Or much more likely, a concern for a time that will never come. Racing at all, frankly, is the furthest thing from my mind. (Although allegedly, I do plan on doing it somewhat soon.) There is an indulgence beyond the clock, found in the freedom of movement and satisfaction only it can bring, in searing lungs and punching heart, in the confidence gained by doing this, whatever this is, in moving, testing, teasing, hammering. In running.