Altitude Sickness

Thank goodness for cool rain

So I am certain that it will be a surprise to no one that I have not in any way, shape or form, stuck to my training schedule.

I did, however, do an 11-mile training run from the Sherburne Pass to Killington Peak and back. I also did my longest ever road bike ride, a four-mile walk, and enough pushups, pull-ups and burpees that I thought I would die of soreness.

The run started innocently enough with some threatening clouds, no big deal, a few sprinkles, no big deal. By the time I was two miles in (and 1,200 feet up), parts of the trail were still dry, but puddles were starting to form. At mile three it started to downpour. Which was totally cool with me because it kept me nice and cool. Hell, my hands even got COLD! I remember thinking “Hey, first day of fall on the mountain!”

It was also at this mile that I rolled my ankle, and rolled it pretty far. I didn’t go down, but I definitely rolled it over to the point where some of the top of my foot was on the ground. I actually had a contact bruise on the top of my foot from the strike! That said, I used to roll my ankles a ton when I played soccer back in the stone ages, so my ankles are very flexible, and I ran on until I reached the point where I really didn’t feel like running because it was so steep, and then about 10 feet later it became too steep to really run anyhow.

I crested the mountain, drenched, and then headed back down. My ankle was a bit sore, but it really wasn’t a problem. I had plenty of water, and I was cool as a cucumber. I didn’t even try to avoid puddles because they did a great job of cooling off my feet. I made it up and down a 2,600-foot climb in more time than I would have liked, but solid for how slippery it was. Down-climbing was occasionally treacherous.

The only thing worse than running up the stone steps leading up to Killington Peak is falling down them. Ask me how I know.

I made it down without anything worse than a twisted ankle that I limped on for a few days, wrung out my clothes (literally), showered and went to work.

On my bad ankle rest days, I did a bunch of weighted vest circuit training, and put a stool under my pull-up bar so that I could work reps until muscle failure (first at full weight, then spotting myself with my legs). This is really effective at accelerating gains. I did the same with pushups and burpess, dropping to my knees for easier pushup reps when I could no longer complete a full pushup.

When I could walk without a limp, I knocked out a four-mile trail walk, and it was fine, so at the end of the week I climbed on my road bike and set out to do a longer ride than I have done since I was a seventh grader riding over Rochester and Brandon gaps on my new 12-speed (which was a big deal back then).

I left my place and turned up Killington Road, riding to the top via Vale Road, and down Killington Road to East Mountain Road, which I zipped down on wet pavement.

Having spent a great deal of time injuring myself badly on bicycles and dropping motorcycles like they were hot rocks, riding down East Mountain Road on wet pavement is rather like poking a dragon in the eye while wearing a gasoline suit… The newest trend in hot fashion, the gasoline suit, brought to you by the inimitable Nathan Brady Crain.

Anyhow, I still got up to an illegal speed, but the difference is that this time I nearly crapped my pants doing it (unlike other times, where I only occasionally consider crapping my tight little bike shorts).

After heading out onto the relatively empty Route 4 like I was being shot out of a cannon, I had a relatively easy 6-7 miles downhill to Route 100-A. One light I hit green, and at the other I lost maybe a minute waiting at the stoplight. The long slog up 100-A to the Salt Ash Inn junction went fine, but it started to get hot.

I knew I was ready to be done with the ride when I started to calculate how long it would take to get home, and my lower back and neck (problems for me on a road bike), really started to ache.  Also my toes and my fingers started to go numb, and I suffered from seat-related numbness. I got up out of the saddle as many times as I could, because that seemed to fix everything, and I came home via West Hill Road.

About two and a half hours in the saddle, 34 miles, 2,800 feet of climb and descent, and 1,800 calories later, I was at the home stretch, enjoying what cycling does for me, which is fix any hip or knee soreness and loosen my hamstrings like nothing else. In fact, I have nearly returned to my fighting era flexibility.  I also put up second personal best times on every Strava segment I rode (Strava is an app that I use to record my cycling, and there are segments where you can compare your times to others and to yourself), and on a ride that was about twice as long as any where my personal bests were set.

As for the report on Pip (a.k.a. The Impaler, my new guinea pig), something happened, and he has started to act truly sweet. I seem to be winning. He is now letting me pet him, he has started to rub his nose on my face when I put it down his way, and he has almost entirely stopped snapping at me. He is not yet an active aggressive snuggler like Stinky Pete was (my former guinea pig of 9 years) but he now sits quietly, and tolerates the affection and presence without snapping or actively trying to escape. Apparently the third month is the charm. Just wait, next week he will probably gnaw off my leg while I sleep. Stay tuned for an update.

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