Friday, April 16, 2010

Acclimating and a mild case of altitide sickness

Now working on two weeks of life in Colorado, it is high time (pun intended) that I chime in with an update on our new life in the Rocky Mountain State.

Pike's Peak is visible from where we live in Parker. It's visible from almost anyway.

All is well. Anne and I have both started our new jobs--me at the Colorado Neurological Institute as development officer and director of marketing & communications, and Anne at a veterinary referral practice in Parker--and everything is fantastic. Noah is transitioning far better than expected. Going into the move, I was most concerned about how the relocation would affect Noah. I can’t describe the turmoil and pain I felt when thinking about how this move might affect him. But he’s been a trooper and, by all accounts, seems to have settled in quite well.

Now, as far as running, I don’t even know where to begin. I’ll start with what’s most important. Whether I’m in the hills of Parker (where we’re currently renting an apartment until we buy a house), running along the rocky, canyon trails of Castlewood Canyon State Park, taking baby steps in acclimating at Roxborough State Park, or taking in a beautiful view of Pike’s Peak to the South or the great mountains to the West, I am simply in awe of my natural surroundings. I can walk outside now and see Pike's Peak. I don’t think I’ll ever take the mountains or these big, blue skies for granted. They are entirely too beautiful to ever take for granted. Sometimes I just can’t believe we’re here—in this magnificent playground for skiers, campers, trail runners, white-water rafting fans, mountaineers, hikers, etc.

Castlewood Canyon is one of the coolest places I've ever run. I later found out it's infested with rattlesnakes. A little danger is a good thing, though.

We’re living at about 6,000 feet of elevation—enough for a flatlander to feel. If I’m running the hills of Parker, I can get up to 6,500 feet and, so far, the highest I’ve gone is 7,300 feet at Roxborough State Park, where I’ve really enjoyed the rather modest but really neat Carpenter’s Peak ascent. I want to very soon go above 8,000 feet and take a few runs north of 10,000 feet well before I plan to line up at the legendary Leadville Trail 100 on August 21. First things first; I have the Greenland Trail 50K on May 1!

Acclimating has been a challenge, to say the least. Plus, this air is really dry, which had me drinking water like crazy the first few days. The first Saturday we were here, I went on a 17.5-miler in the Parker hills and, by mile 11, was experiencing terrible stomach cramps soon followed by GI distress and fatigue. Then I ran out of water. Ordinarily, 17.5 miles is pretty easy—but not last Saturday. The same happened the next day after running 12 miles with the Denver Trail Runners at North Table Mesa, a beautiful, flat-top mountain in Golden, Colorado. I’ve been told the cramps and what followed were surely a sign of mild altitude sickness. I’ve also felt general nausea on many of my runs and sometimes experience light-headedness. A few days ago I ran for well over two hours at Roxborough State Park and generally felt good—a promising sign of acclimation. The key is to stay hydrated. I’m investing in a nice hydration backpack that will come in handy during long runs.

I believe that in time my body will adjust and I’ll start to feel good again. Until then, I am intent on battling it out with careful attention to how I’m feeling. In a few weeks, when I'm ready, I'm going to Colorado Springs to run with the famous Incline Club. I spoke with a childhood friend of mine who lives in Castle Rock—not far from Parker—and we’re planning to summit one of the 14,000 footers maybe later this summer or in early fall. Although I’m in great shape, I have a long way to go in preparing myself for such altitude. I have lots of red blood cells to create.

Anyway, this has all been humbling as I’ve always been proud of my strength on hills. But these aren’t just hills. I keep telling myself to stay patient and bear in mind that acclimation will come with time. Rome wasn’t built overnight.

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