Altitude Sickness

Altitude Sickness: Cathartic exersize, of love and loss


My rest period theory was incorrect. The rest was welcome and I popped off several shorter uphill/downhill runs at record paces, but when I went for a longer run (up Killington Road and up Killington Peak to the top — about 12 miles and almost 3,000 vertical feet) I experienced severe reduction in the performance of my distance legs.

So it seems that while cycling and sprinting are great for keeping my heart moving, recovering my legs, and getting flexible, the only thing that really prepares me to run 29 miles is running 29 miles. Drat.

So I am back to pounding out miles, back to the grind. I did the Killington Peak loop twice in three days and experienced a big gain in pace during the second run, which was heartening.

One of the things that really took the wind out of my sails was that nine days before writing this, my guinea pig (Stinky Pete, the best pet known to man) fell ill.

You may think  “It’s a guinea pig, who cares?”

But Stinky Pete has been my constant companion through marriage, divorce, single life, and has spent more one-on-one time with me than any other being on this planet other than my mother. Every night for eight and a half years he sat in my lap in the crook of my elbow while I read books or watched TV. When I walked by his pad (it wasn’t really a cage as it was open on the front and top) he would stand up on the side on his front legs to be petted. When scratched on the back he would purr, at length, stretching out with his belly on the floor and yawning. When he was scratched on the chin or shoulder he would purr and lean into my fingers like a dog or cat, closing his eyes. When I ate dinner he would come out of his pigloo and eat with me. When he would sit in my lap and he needed to go back to his house go to the bathroom, he would look up at me and tug on my sleeve with his teeth (very courteous). When I gave him a pile of fresh hay he would literally dive into it squeaking and gorge himself on hay until he fell into a hay coma, racked out on his side like a giant kidney bean.

When I put my face down onto his level he would purr and rub his face on my beard.

Never in my life have I been so enamored with any animal. He (unexpectedly) had a true personality.  If I didn’t pay attention to him for a couple of days (or left him with a caretaker while on vacation) he would try very hard to give me the silent treatment, but I would always win him back with a piece of pineapple.

Stinky Pete was my buddy for almost nine years (that’s Methuselah in guinea pig years).  I took spectacular care of him every day, with no finish in sight. When the end came, it was quick (three days) and painless as far as I could tell (he squeaked loudly when frightened or in pain). I’m pretty sure he waited for me, too. I came to feed him one morning and he was lying on his side breathing shallowly, and I put him on his pillow and wrapped him in his blanket and turned on the TV and in five minutes he was gone.

For much of my adult life I have been pretty closed off to any sort of emotional involvement for various reasons. But this little guy, he snuck in. He had me wrapped around his tiny little fingers and purred his way into my cold hard heart.

The important thing about this adventure is not just that I did the best I could, but that I did it right, the whole thing, beginning to end. No mistakes. I think it might, in fact, be the only thing I have ever done right all the way through. Ever.

It is completely amazing to me that a ruminant rodent the size of a nerf ball can pack such a whallop of emotional content, growth, and loss.

I realize this isn’t normal subject matter for an outdoor sports column, but what the hell, this hasn’t been a normal week.

I’m going to go run until I cry.

Brady Crain is a former full time stage hand, musician, engineer, stand-up comic, and musician, who grew up in Randolph, Vt. He is now a Realtor® with Killington Pico Realty. Earlier this summer he decided to run a decided to run a 60-kilometer race in the Laurentians mountains of Quebec. His prior experience consists of running a 5K once in 1999.

One comment on “Altitude Sickness: Cathartic exersize, of love and loss

  1. To Mountain Times Editor and Brady Crain
    I loved your article regarding your devotion to Stinky Pete.
    What a pleasant and very well written piece…touching the heart. Very talented humorist/columnist. I looked forward to more.
    From: Christine Griffin

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