Altitude Sickness

Running up peaks, the final weeks of training — preparation questionable

By Brady Crain

The view from about halfway up Ascutney Mountain on Tuesday, June 16.  It quickly clouded over and the peak was socked in in no time.

This week was a rough one for training. I have stopped lifting weights until the event, and have been pushing harder in endurance exercise.

My ride this week was a Sunday morning three-plus-hour affair where I climbed from Schoolhouse Road to K1, went down Killington Road, down Route 4, up East Mountain Road (seriously, screw East Mountain Road…it is brutal and stupid), up to K1, down East Mountain Road, then up Route 4 and Killingtno Road to K1 and down to Schoolhouse Road.  The ride was about 37 miles with a little over 4,500 vertical feet of a climb, averaging just shy of 12 mph.  It was a good ride, and I was tired by the end.

Tuesday I woke up for no reason at 3:30 a.m., so I went to Ascutney Mountain and hiked/ran up and down all three trails.  It was an 18.18 mile endeavor, it took a little under 7.5 hours and though my GPS says that I climbed 7,200 feet, the maps say I climbed about 7,500.

The reason this run was important is that my race course has 7,900-foot of climb to it, and I was trying to exceed the amount of climbing I would do in my race, and on a slope that was steeper and more sustained than anything on the course (some of the course is very steep, but the worst climb is about 2,000-feet. The rest are smaller, though numerous).

The result of that three-summit run/hike was that I was pretty sure I had at least ten flat miles left in me afterward. I could have kept going on flats or climbs, but I was done with the downhills (e-centric muscle contractions — the kind you make when you go downhill — are absolutely the worst kind of torture).

I was so done with the downhills, in fact, that for three days I walked like John Wayne after a Greek orgy. Standing up, sitting down, or descending stairs required a litany of noises that I had no idea I could make. When I didn’t think I was making sound at all, dogs would bark at me, and bats would get caught in my hair.

My quads actually got bigger in response to that day of work.  I’m not kidding, it was visible. Also, I have been eating like a horse.

As I write this, I am planning to go for a ride of about 35 miles to start to loosen my legs.  I am hoping to get in one more monster climb before the event, with enough time to recover, but we will see. I am having a difficult time juggling commitments, muscle fatigue, adrenal fatigue, eating, and sleep. Running seems to be the thing that keeps falling by the wayside… and it is the one thing that should not fall by the wayside!

As it stands right now, I am no way in shape or in form ready for this event.  Not even close.  I had wanted to do a 40+ mile run, and that is not going to happen.

Make no mistake about it, this event is going to suck, I am going to hurt, and I probably won’t finish. (I don’t want to know at what time they pull people off the course, because I don’t want to wind up killing myself trying to beat that time.) I have an all day pace, and I am going to stick to it come hell or high water.

Before I go, I want to thank all of the people who have gone so far as to email me or mail me cards about my friend Stinky Pete. I have been beyond touched by the community response to the loss of my tiny friend, and it is a privilege to write for you.

As for the new guy (Pip), he is coming along.  In under two weeks he has gone from biting at the slightest hint of contact (try to pet him and he would snap all around himself like a dog trying to catch a fly) to hardly biting at all. He even occasionally lets me pet him by choice, and if I manage to hook my finger under his chin before he runs away, he points his little chin straight up in the air and holds it there while I scratch, lifting one little hand off the ground.

I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I’m pretty sure I am rehabilitating this little pig. More on our adventures next week!

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 n a 60-kilometer race in the Laurentian mountains of Quebec. His prior experience consists of running a 5K once in 1999.

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