I: Fat Black Cat
4:45 am. Street lamps and daybreak's dim colorless glow were my only sources of light for the first three miles. Jogging through the neighborhood, my limited vision then revealed a fat black cat crossing my path, but barely a second after I spat he went and crossed again. I spat again. Superstition never played a big part in my daily runs, but that morning I felt a certain duty to spit. I then drank some water out of my camelback. Who would have thought that my hydration debt was the result of warding off evil forces? Not me. Nevertheless, a 20 miler began dodging a fat black cat.
Colorado Springs was in stillness as I advanced toward the foothills. US 24 had commuters few and far between each other. Bars were still "open" because yesterday's closers forgot to shut off the neon signs. On the outskirts, I turned left onto 24th and my 1226's began to climb. Life was good; no pain, I was running on an 8-9 minute pace, no obstructions. It was 6:30 when I took on the switchbacks of the narrow, densely-forested dirt road.
The new sun's rays left a rich gold luster over the surrounding summits. The only thing I heard was distant howling coyotes. Peace was mine and it just got better the higher I climbed. Strangely enough, after I got past a point on the course, I sensed that it got too quiet. Overwhelmingly still. In that small space in time of that ninth mile, I had an experience unlike any I have ever had before. Oneness? Euphoria? I've had those trips ever since my running began. Got a t-shirt. It wouldn't be a stretch to say that even though I was in my own world I had stepped into somebody else's. My natural surroundings were the same, but different. Reality seemed to be meaningless; did that mean I was in a dream? It sure felt that way. It sure felt as though uncertain things were going on. Were happening. Just then, when the early morning chill became a cold, I got uneasy and started to think that something bad had happened or was about to happen. Maybe it would happen to me or somebody close. In my confusion I called my family to see if all was well, and of course it was. I remembered the fat black cat that crossed in front of me on Tremont St. I was just not having a real good time at this point. All I wanted to do was appreciate my morning run, not get trapped in some eerie limbo of conscience. Oh well, I guess I might as well be tolerant and keep running up to the saddle. After all, supposed entrapment in another dimension wasn't really hindering my progress. I was coming up on mile ten, my pace was still good, nothing hurt. I was in good shape. Scared, but running well. Eventually I even made it over the saddle.
In the leeward sunlight, I felt back in the normal, or as Dante put it, "fair" world. But as relieved as I was of being back I was still dumbfounded. What in the heck just happened to me? And why me? I'm no one special, just another 31 year-old man out doing what I love to do. I pondered all of this as I descended Cheyenne Canyon and soon came to an explanation I thought was closest to being correct. I believe the event on the other side of the mountain was not meant to scare me. I also believe that I was in the company of an angel of spirit, there to watch over me. Perhaps not just one. I was happy that they allowed me to run on their turf. In fact I was happy for the rest of the day, for this experience has given me a new perspective on life, and moreover, humanity. When the clock of one's existence stops ticking, part of the soul remains to watch over living loved ones. That small stretch of dirt road is one of the many spirit realms scattered across the Earth. I firmly believe this, so I'll thank you to keep any disbelieving mockery to yourself. It was a life changing experience.
IV: June 7th
My folks thought that I had Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) when I called them, so I had to call again to tell them what I think really happened. My mother replied, "That's funny, because today is June 7th, Pops's birthday. He would have been 95 years old!"