The shortness and breath and lung congestion persisted, so I couldn't go snowboarding on Monday — as had admittedly been my hope. My mom urged me to take at least one rest day after the 29-hour fat bike ride that often left me winded to the edge of hyperventilation. She wasn't wrong, of course.
"But I'm only in Salt Lake for a couple more days," I protested. I won't be coming back this winter. "These opportunities are rare."
Monday's weather made the right decision easy, with more than an inch of rain that reportedly fell as sleety snain up at elevations where I couldn't breathe anyway. I retreated to the basement to go through several boxes of old things. Since my parents both retired last year, they've begun downsizing. I needed to decide what was worth keeping. It was easy to cast aside the old books and toys, but I lingered longer on the photographs and news clippings, the high school artwork that still reflected dreams of becoming an illustrator, the earnest first newspaper columns, the concert tickets and binders full of angsty teenage journaling. I read through a few entries and thought, "Wow, am I lucky to have gotten through adolescence before the Internet really got huge." After all, the Internet never forgets. I zipped up the binders and carefully placed them back in the trunk.
It's an unsettling reminder — that everything gets replaced, and everyone gets forgotten, and time erases everything, eventually. Still we all spend our lives striving to find experiences that have meaning and moments that matter, and this in itself is a beautiful mystery.
"When you're young, as long as you survive something, you think it's over, it's okay. And then, when you get older, you realize that no, these things stay with us."
Still, the lungs issue was a bit disconcerting. There were times in the Fat Pursuit when it felt like a 500-pound man was sitting on my chest, squeezing out all of the air. A friend of mine who is a physician suggested that high altitude pulmonary edema was one possible cause. Even though 8,000 feet is a relatively low elevation for such a severe reaction, a combination of sea-level acclimation, a high rate of exertion, dehydration, and the cold virus I was battling, could produce an environment ripe for HAPE. Unless I get my lungs scanned, there is no way to know what affected my breathing, or whether it might persist in future efforts. What if it's the kind of thing that sticks with me?
So I downloaded the song as a joke, but admit I find it enjoyable for the memories it elicits. As I was singing along with the lyrics — which in my mind just go "Du-du-dum, dum-du-du-du-dum" — a text pinged on my phone. "Congratulations for getting into UTMB!" Beat wrote.
Even though I'm not sure what I want to do with my summer, I signed up for the UTMB lottery last month, because I badly want to try again to finish a full race in the Alps after one partial UTMB and two DNFs in longer races, and because at my current rate of ultramarathon racing, I may not qualify again for a while. When the news pinged my phone just as "Conquest of Paradise" was playing — and I promise I'm not making this up — it seemed like a sign, an important precursor to a meaningful experience. I turned up the music, pumped my fist triumphantly to the rhythm, sang the "du-du-dums" as loud as I wanted, and felt invigorated for the long drive home.