Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Sick in December

I don't actually have anything to write about in this post. Since I returned from Utah a week ago, I've ventured outdoors only once, to brave the cold wind for a four-mile jog on Saturday afternoon. That squeak of a run knocked me so flat on the floor that I haven't tried to be brave again since. I'm ready to rank my current condition with the worst respiratory illnesses of my adult life, behind only Pneumonia 2015, Bronchitis 2005, and Swine Flu 2010. This one is just a cold. But it's fresh in memory, so it's the worst.

Cold 2018 was a gift from my niece. She's 3 and can't help it, and my immune system is not what it used to be; apparently it now only attacks vital organs and can't ward off anything else. A sore throat greeted me on Tuesday morning, eight days ago. Every day since has been a downward spiral into cement-filled sinuses, throat on fire, weak days and sleepless nights, inability to speak clearly or swallow, and persistent hacking and wheezing. Today is the first day I haven't vomited from coughing so hard, so that's good.

I'm worried the Cold has migrated to my chest. My suspicions worsened during a routine visit to my allergist today, when my peak flow test failed to meet the minimum requirement after a number of earnest tries. My air flow is down 25 percent from an already pathetic normal. It would not even pass muster if I was a 5-foot-tall, 85-year-old woman.

To top that off, despite careful handling of things, liberal use of antiseptic spray, and hacking myself to fitful sleeps alone in the downstairs bedroom, Beat finally caught the Cold. And he is annoyed. He tells me I can't travel to see my family in the winter anymore, since this is the third or fourth time I've carried a virus home from Utah. I think he's joking ... mostly.

I wonder how long I'll be down. The productive coughing and probable lung congestion has prompted an abundance of caution ... the last thing I need in my life is another bout of bronchitis. Meanwhile, I ventured to the gym (with a lot of hand sanitizer and cleaning spray), and burst through my best weight-lifting session ever. It's probably all of that pent-up energy from not exercising, but I'm full of superstition these days, and convinced that December is an "up month." Back when I was struggling through October, I soothed myself with promises that December would come, I'd break my Strava PRs again, and all would be right in the world ... for a month or so, but that's better than nothing. Now I have to waste this imaginary peak fitness on a respiratory infection, and that sucks. Why couldn't you wreak your havoc in October, stupid Cold? (Oh, that's right, I was sick in Utah back then, too.)

Anyway, I don't have any adventures to write about. But after a week of silence I start to get antsy, so I'll post about outdoor things that have been on my mind.

• What am I going to do this coming March? I want to plan a winter adventure, but for whatever reason I've been dragging my feet, unable to get excited about the few ideas I've had. Writing retreat in Nome? No, I can't find a place to stay. Winter in Iceland? No, I'm not entirely interested in the logistics or expense of solo international travel at this time. Bike tour in the Utah desert? No, if I'm going to drag my bike through soft sand, I'd rather just drag my bike through soft snow in Alaska. So bike tour in Alaska? That seems appealing right now ... aim to retrace my failed 2015 trip along the coast, except start in Nome and ride to Unalakleet with a possible return trip if time and weather permits. The Norton Sound is the most awful, beautiful, terrifying, utterly compelling segment of the Iditarod Trail. A large part of me yearns to greet my best frenemy, The North Wind. And if that goes well, maybe I can consider untrod ground, like the Arctic, for a future endeavor.

• Beat got into the 2019 Hardrock 100 this week. Yay! German and Australian friends are flying in for the race, so I'm looking forward to hosting a big altitude acclimation party in July. Lottery season generates such existential angst in the running community that it's become entertaining in its own right. The Hardrock lottery is so convoluted that it's not worth describing, but if it's your first time applying, your chance of being drawn for a spot is about 1 in 220. According to the National Safety Council, a person has a similar chance of dying from a fall in their lifetime (1 in 218.)

Five years ago, I actually managed to beat the Hardrock odds (and I'm guessing a fall is also how I'll die.) I applied to Hardrock just once with a single qualifying race. I got in. That I already planned to participate in the Race Across South Africa that summer prompted much angst — I only applied in the first place to garner more tickets for future lotteries. I remember being annoyed at how many congratulations I received on my Facebook page — more than I ever saw for any of my Iditarod completions, including setting a record for the ride to Nome. Just for squeaking through a race lottery! Ultimately I gave up my spot, to which many of those same Facebook friends expressed bafflement ... (I suppose I should have skipped a once-in-a-lifetime adventure in South Africa to plod 100 miles of Colorado trails that are open to the public at all times.) Anyway, I no longer feel compelled to race Hardrock. I mean, I had my chance. The fact that I suspect I'll eventually die in a fall may also influence this trend toward mountain race apathy.

• Did I mention before that I made it through the White Mountains 100 lottery? I did! Wheee. I've wrestled back and forth on whether to race on bike or foot. Since I don't think I'll improve my bike speed all that much during these sickly winter months, and since I am still holding out for the perfect hundred-mile run, I'm leaning toward foot. If I start the race within days of completing a potential 500-mile bike tour along the wind-blasted Alaska coast, I'm sure to be in excellent running condition.

• Beat and I are heading back to Fairbanks for Christmas. There was some angst in planning this trip. We set our sights on eight days in the White Mountains (broken into two sled-dragging trips of three and five days), but had our cabin reservations cancelled due to a glitch in the booking policy. So while I was riding around the White Rim over Thanksgiving, Beat was waking up at 2 a.m. every night to book another cabin. We managed to weave the trip back together, and I am so excited. Sure, we do this every year, but it only continues to get better. Five full off-the-grid days in a place still free of most of the machinations of modern life, a place where ice crystals create music in the air and frosted trees reflect the ruby light of winter's midday, is as close to heaven as I have experienced. (And also hell, especially if the wind-blasted Alaska coast is this place.)

• I miss fat biking. It was probably an error to join the "Front Range Fattys" group. Now every day I see photos of people riding their fat bikes in Colorado, enjoying the sunshine and beautifully packed singletrack, and read the latest conditions reports for local trails. I'm so jonesing for a ride that it will be a small miracle if I can keep my phlegmy lungs away from Rollins Pass this weekend.

• Ok, that's enough rambling. What are your best home remedies for beating an epic Cold? I don't think the pharmacy will sell me any more Sudafed.