With its harsh symptoms and recovery, the "Tour Divide lung crud" is as sick as I've ever been. Admittedly I harbored jealousy about other Tour Dividers who bounced back from their respiratory illnesses as I struggled through a slow walk around the neighborhood, clutching an inhaler and frequently stopping to catch my breath on the day I'd hoped to finish the race. It's humbling to realize how quickly fitness can be reduced to zero, and this illness has been a reminder to never take health and vitality for granted. Physically moving through the world is my greatest source of joy, and it's also a gift that could be snatched away at any time, without warning.
I don't need to go into detail about how I spent the month of July, but it was a slow recovery that got a boost once I started running again. I wore a heart rate monitor and went for lethargic jogs. At first I couldn't breathe when my heart rate spiked to the high 130s. But before too long I didn't become winded until the 140s, and then the 150s. My usual tempo pace falls into the 160s, and I first achieved that about three weeks ago. Every run felt like an improvement to my lung health, while a couple of bike rides set me back. It was more difficult to control my exertion levels on the bike, and I had an asthma attack while mountain biking in Santa Cruz with my friend Jan. This prompted me to cancel a backpacking trip the following weekend, and I thought I would probably lose the rest of summer to the lung crud.
Still, I continued to make improvements with running, and boosted my mileage as I clung to hope for late summer adventures. I received an invitation to join friends on a five-day backpacking trip in the Wind River Mountains in Wyoming. Concerns about the altitude and other commitments prompted me to say no, but at the last minute I decided to go. It was a wonderful trip that I'll post about soon, but felt especially encouraged by a couple of outings in Salt Lake City that I tacked on at the end. It was just five weeks ago that I couldn't walk along a flat sidewalk without gasping. By Aug. 8, I felt strong enough to attempt Lone Peak.