So there I was, "running" up a slush-covered boulder staircase with the peak in sight, when I suddenly became very dizzy and nauseated. I don't often push myself through intense efforts, so I brushed off this episode and finished up the run more slowly, but I continued to feel out of sorts for the rest of the evening.
It was easy to blame unpacking, which in itself is a surprisingly strenuous effort, especially when it involves balancing weighty boxes up and down stairs with one bad hand. Beat and I were up late on Wednesday exploding stuff all over the house, and I decided I should lay off the mountain running on Thursday. But that was before Beat burst into the house just after 9 a.m., about two hours after he left for his run commute to work. He dropped his phone somewhere on the trail, and ran all the way home while looking for it. It remained missing, but he needed to get to work, so would I mind heading out to continue the search?
Since it snowed on Sunday, I didn't bank on the 80 degrees it was going to be by the time I circled back to climb Green, nor did I anticipate just how long the round-trip run was going to take (3.5 hours, because my downhill technical/rock running also remains poor so I move slowly and carefully.) Somewhere along the crux of the mountain — which is really all crux because it gains 2,400 feet in 1.9 miles — I again became dizzy and nauseated. Sweat was streaming down my face and I took long gulps from my water bladder, only to suck the thing dry. Oh, of course I ran out of water.
So there I was, sinking into the bonkiest of bonks, kneeling in a pile of wet pine needles a hundred feet off the trail and stuffing handfuls of snow into my mouth. The temperature suddenly felt like it was a 110 degrees; thank goodness there was still relatively fresh snow on the ground. Only eating snow made my face and good hand go quickly numb, and I already had a headache, plus a little bit of spinning vision/vertigo to go along with the dizziness.
This was physically the worst I've felt during any outdoor effort in a long time, and I can probably include the Iditarod in that assessment. Altitude is insidious like that. It doesn't steal my breath and leave me gasping the way illness and asthma do, aware of my compromised state — instead, it just slowly sucks life-giving oxygen from my blood, until my vitality has just drained away and I don't fully understand why. Am I suddenly horribly out of shape because I haven't ridden a bike in two months? Am I getting sick? Is this my lazy subconscious trying to masquerade as weakness? Either way, it was all I could do to dizzily stagger down the mountain and jog home.
As I walked toward the door, my legs buckled. They actually buckled. It brought to mind images of people who cross the finish line of a marathon and immediately collapse. I was completely spent. By a 12-mile run that was basically a hike! This was just embarrassing.
I intended to never speak of the phone run again, but I felt a need to explain (to myself more than anybody) why I've been so exhausted for the past two days. I took Friday and Saturday off from running. I continued to unpack, but at a much slower pace, with sit-down breaks. I fell asleep while writing, twice, in the middle of the day — and I am not a napper. My friend Danni was in town for one day and had exactly one free hour between 8 and 9 a.m. Saturday morning. I intended to drive down to town to see her and set my alarm, then slept through it. I actually managed to turn off an alarm in my sleep, the way I sometimes do during long endurance races. This brought me sadness, because it's such a stupid reason to miss out.
Beat at least had a productive Saturday, completing the build of his electronics work bench. Now he's hammering out a homemade bike rack. (He's building this stuff using 2x4s and a counter top he purchased at Home Depot. My book "Become Frozen" describes moving to a mountain-like location in Homer, Alaska, in 2006, and it's amazing how many parallels I can draw from that move to the present. It's downright eerie. I should write a blog post about the cyclical nature of life. The more things change ...)
Instead I wrote a rambling post to justify the fact that I'm a zombie walking up here at 7,200 feet. The altitude monster got me, and there's no going back.