All too often in training, I can get carried away with wishing my body could do just a little bit more. I wish I could handle a little higher mileage, keep up with Jorge on every climb, or have a little less trouble with altitude. Looking at the great runners in our sport, I can't help but wonder why such (mostly) down to earth people have such super human abilities.
However, my perspective revolved again this past week. Our lovely Santa Ana Winds were blowing all week long flushing desert dust and the toxic fumes of the LA basin through my lungs. After a few days of breathing it in on some hard runs, I started to get a sore throat. Though it seemed like a normal completely unhealthy LA occurrence, I woke up Sat morning with a lot of phlegm and sinus pressure.
The day's run at Mt. Badly seemed like it may be good for me; clean mountain air high above the layer of chemicals and dust covering LA. However, it was also cold and dry air, and by the end of our last climb back to the Notch, my throat was so painfully raw, I was wincing and gritting my teeth with each swallow.
I called it a day until later in the evening when I figured out a buff around the mouth could lock in enough moisture to let me sneak in another 6 miles. We camped at 6,000 ft where the temperatures went down to 23 F overnight. Though I had a 0-degree sleeping bag, my throat was still taking a lot of dry cold air.
I awoke in the morning with a fever and headache. When I tried to regroup and run at Chantry, I couldn't jog a few steps without my whole body aching. I ended up watching Katie take off for a productive Chantry-Wilson-Sturdevant loop while I laid in the sun, petted goats at the pack station, and read about the wild times of resorts, cable cars, and mines in the San Gabriels (today they're pretty quiet).
As I sat out Sunday and Monday, thoughts of missed miles crept in which lead to some jealous thoughts about other healthy runners still training.. Until I tried to run Tuesday.
Elevation, 300 ft above sea level
I've had trouble breathing before at altitude (over 9,000 ft up), and experienced it's humbling effect. However, this morning, it was at about 200ft above sea level on a small 400ft climb. I found my lungs struggling to get enough air to push myself up a hill that I'd climbed many times with considerable ease. Mountain bikers, hikers, fitness walkers all had struggled as I casually shuffled by them with a noticeably smaller fraction of effort. Often times, the nod I gave would pass by before they could muffle a reply or meet my gaze fully.
And as I pushed up this simplistic, plebeian "climb" I made it no more than 100ft before I started to.. walk. The pro-biotics I had taken the night before had been so effective that my immune system had coated my lungs and throat in nickelodian gak-grade phlegm. I coughed and wheezed and gaked as hard as I could to clear my throat but my goal 8 mi run was splatted down to a humbling 4 miles that involved more walking that running.
It was quite the site, a 24 year old male in short running shorts acting like a 80 year old man in the middle of an asthma/heart attack. All the while though, my mind was thinking some very grateful thoughts: I was experiencing a very slow and difficultly humbling run only once this week. I was healthy enough to bounce back and be back to my trail dusting ways by the evening, but for the moment, I was 100% in the shoes of my haggard trail companions. I realized how lucky I was to move with such relative ease. The perspective of lacking the talent of the big dogs was incredibly short sighted. Though I'm still looking to find ways to run faster, I'm much more appreciative of what I do have, and how lucky I am to have it. No lung cancer, asthma, arthritis, or prosthetic limbs have impeded me so far.
I think this should be a good motivation to get out for anyone really though. The elderly man I see each morning still doesn't need a wheel chair. The group of women talking and walking are doing so under their own strength, not with an orderly pushing them around a dully decorated hallway. Does anything on TV beat such an experience?
Mon: Off, ankle issues
Tues: 8mi, 1800ft, :67 repeats up Boat
3mi, 500ft, :35 Laguna bowl
Wed: 6mi, 1000ft, :68 Aliso Creek-Stair Case trail
9mi, 1300ft, 1:25 Holy Jim-Joplin
Thurs 3, 0ft, VFF's road
4, 1000ft, :38 Laguna Bowl
3, 0, :25 easy road cool down
Fri 15mi, 3400ft, 2:37 Lower and Upper Holy Jim
Sat 17mi, 44000ft, 4 hours
Climbs: Manker-Notch, Notch-Thunder, Telegraph bridge back to Thunder, Lytle Creek-Notch
(the bridge to Telegraph Peak)
6mi, 1600ft, :58 Manker-almost to notch
Not quite 100 miles, but in 5 days of decent health to run, I'm okay with it. Especially still being able to hi 15,000ft.