Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness: too hot and tired to cry

By Brady Crain

The view from Deers Leap looking out to Route 4 and Pico Mountain. One of the perks of running trails is view like this!

It’s been an interesting week of training. Last week I did an 18.11-mile run (a loop through Plymouth and Bridgewater on Routes 4, 100 and 100A, with approximately 2,500 feet of vertical, according to my running app). When I started the run very early in the morning, temperatures were in the low 40s, and when I finished the run they were in the high 80s.

It is interesting how temperature will sneak up on you when you are exerting yourself. I started the run too cold, but as I turned the corner onto Route 100 running to Plymouth (I did the loop counter-clockwise) I had a solid 11 miles of steady uphill, so I warmed up quickly and expected fatigue. I experienced very little soreness, but after climbing the brutal hill from the Salt Ash Inn up 100A, my pace dropped much farther than I thought it would, and I struggled through the seven miles of downhill to my finish.

I had plenty of nuts and water with me for nutrition, and I burned through two liters of water (I wore a bladder on my back). I was hot enough that sweat was dripping into my eyes and onto the ground, and despite moving downhill I struggled to keep my pace up. Finally I stopped at mile 15 and dunked my head in a stream. It was refreshing and cooled my core so that my pace picked up quite a bit for a mile, then it dragged back down.

I had intended to run a mile or so past my car so that I would pass 20 miles on this run, but as I shambled past my car like some mutant offspring of Raggedy Ann and the Scarecrow from Oz, blind from sweat, wheezing like an asthmatic under a truckload of cats, foaming at the mouth, gnashing my teeth as if I had lead chips for chewing gum, nipples bleeding as if I had been nursing a shark, spine curled up like a scorpion, Paul Bunion (my left foot) pounding like a bass drum, and lead in my heart, my car talked to me. It said, “I have air conditioning. I can take you to a place that has more water… SIT.”

I gave in to the siren call. The thermometer read 97 degrees, at that point. I was so happy to stop running that I would have cried if there had been any moisture left in my body. I got in, sat down, started it up, and made proverbial love to my air conditioning.

OK, it wasn’t quite that bad, but why let a gift for hyperbole go to waste? Simply describing my pain as “It sucked” doesn’t have the same ring. But, oh boy, did it suck.

It was at this point that I began to question my dedication to the cause. It was clear to me that I was courting death, or at least a severe case of dyslexia (that’s caused by the sun, right?) or perhaps I’m thinking of delirium? In any case, I started to wonder if I really need to be the guy that does this crazy stuff.

I drank another 60 ounces of water over the next few hours while I lifted weights and then worked in the office. But I never fully cooled off until I wallowed around in the snow on Superstar shirtless and in shorts.

Telly bumps after an 18-miler? Why not?

The next day I tried to go for a trail run, but the Sherburne trail was a swamp after a mile and a half, and my legs were very tired, so I wound up hiking back down after seeing no end to the swamp. I crossed the road and hiked Deer’s Leap for a quick six mile outing.

After a couple of days’ rest I ran from my apartment on Killington Road all the way up to K1, and then all the way back down West Hill Road, down Route 4 to Goodrow Lumber, and then back to my apartment for a 10-mile jaunt. I left my water at my apartment so I could slug it when I ran by. This run was easy and uneventful despite some brutal climbing.

Two days later came the test. I got up at 4:30 a.m., fed the guinea pig (Stinky Pete–the best pet known to man), and set out on my run in deliciously cool 39 degree weather. My plan was to replicate my course from two days ago, and do two laps on it, again leaving my nutrition and water at my apartment so that I wouldn’t have to carry it, stopping at 6.5, 11, and 17.5 miles for quick stretch/water breaks and to change from leggings to shorts.

I felt so good eight miles in that I ran right past Goodrow Lumber for a half mile to take the circuit from 10 to 11 miles per lap. I felt so strong at 22 miles that I ran right past my apartment and caught another mile and a half on Schoolhouse Road, for a total of just under 23.4 miles with 3500 feet of ascent.

This run was totally smooth. Not easy, mind you, but smooth and without drama (I only caught myself talking to myself twice, and with no tears or gnashing of teeth).

This is the difference between finishing a run at 60 degrees and finishing a run at 87 degrees, I guess. Clearly, this polar bear is going to need to learn to run in heat…

I topped the run off with a few laps on Superstar. Spring bumps on tellys are a perfect way to loosen up your legs and back and put a big smile your face, after a ridiculously long run!

Brady Crain is a former stage hand, musician, engineer, stand-up comic, and musician. He grew up in Randolph and is now a Realtor® with Killington Pico Realty.  He still performs music and stand-up.

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