Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness

A gangly nerd avenges his past with extreme forays into athletics

I was born a sickly child. Asthma, pneumonia, and scarlet fever frequented my childhood home. Moving to Vermont at the end of my seventh year, I grew up a wheezing nerd (a moniker I wear proudly). I grew up believing that I would never be good at any sport, although I did have one baseball game (the last one I played, ironically) where I turned out to be pretty good.

But once I ended my eight-year slow growth from 5’1” to 6’4” tall, I was pretty good at a few sports. In swim racing, defensive soccer, rock climbing, skiing (water, snow, back-country), and Taekwondo, I excelled. But to my dismay, in basketball and golf, things that involved the finer points of coordination (such as running while bouncing a ball) continued to be way too many things to concentrate on at one time and remained outside my grasp. Perhaps this is due to lack of native ability or an unwillingness to endure the torture of practicing the skills necessary to enjoy those sports.

I have always been a person with a bent toward the extreme. In my teens and 20s, my reference guide to personal conduct was the dog-eared copy of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” in the back pocket of my jeans. My personal motto has always been “If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing right,” which in my mind has always equated to “Go big or go home.”

To my credit though, even when I go big, I always go home. I have never felt that the two were mutually exclusive, and home is after all “where the heart is,” including mine. Also it is where I keep my file of clichés.

Having released my sweaty, white-knuckled grip on the Hunter S. Thompson guide to better living through chemistry, I have turned to athletics as a way to stay healthy, to keep my back from turning into a Cheez Doodle™, and to keep my arms tired enough that I am less likely to view strangulation as a realistic solution to interpersonal conflict.

I kid (mostly). . . .

When I moved to Killington this past year, I decided that I would ski every day that the lifts were open. Though I did not accomplish this (I missed the first two weeks and had an injury or two that demanded some rest), I will end the season with more than 160 days, more than any two seasons put together that I had skied prior.

Now that the ski season has wound down (despite the hot temperatures Killington stayed open and I continued to ski), I look forward to my next quest.

In keeping with my masochistic need to set outrageous goals for myself, I recently decided to run a 60-kilometer race in the Chic Choc mountains of Quebec. My internal conversation went like this: “I ran a 5K once on flat terrain in Dallas in 1999. It wasn’t bad. What’s the worst that can happen?”

The obvious answer is a heart attack and death in the wilderness. But for some reason that hasn’t dissuaded me.

My sixth run of the season topped 13 miles, so I seem to be on track. In a few days my training run will take me farther than I have ever run in my life. If I die in the wilderness, at least I will die fit!

If the publishers of this fine publication see fit to give me the column inches, this will be my public-training diary for the race and any further dumb stuff that I choose to throw my body at in a quixotic endeavor to tilt at the windmills of my gangly nerd past—Ultra Beast anyone?

Stay tuned for my adventures in the mountains of Killington!

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