I stood on the trail, bent at the waist, holding onto my knees and gasping for breath. I didn’t remember stopping, didn’t know why I was gasping but I knew I felt horrible, my head ached and my stomach felt like it could empty its contents any second. Finally, as the breaths came easier, my senses came back to me and I remembered it must be the altitude sickness.
As we were flying cross-country for our visit to the Air Force Academy, my son had read the instruction letter he had received before we left. He talked about what he would do for the day, what I would be doing for the day and then joked around about the part of the letter that said something about walking around the campus and how the altitude could cause the one-mile tour to be difficult.
Having travelled to high altitude areas in the past, we both believed we were exempt from altitude sickness. So when it struck me only a couple of hours after arrival, we didn’t recognize the symptoms. I had a headache but that made sense, the airplane was so dry and we had such an early flight. Even the disorientation and the nausea didn’t make us think of altitude sickness at first. It was not until the headache became unbearable that we finally put two and two together.
Still, after what seemed like gallons of water, ibuprofen and Endurolytes and a good nights sleep I had woken the morning of my run feeling a lot better and had, filled with anticipation, packed my clothes so I could run after the tour at the Academy.
Nicole Drummer, from Neo Endurance Sports, in Colorado Springs, had told me about a beautiful trail just outside the gates of the academy and though I enjoyed the tour of the Academy, I was chomping at the bit to get out on the trail.
As the other parents headed to the Visitors Center and lunch I headed to the trail.
From the first steps I knew it was going to be a struggle. I slowed my pace to almost a crawl and still added one-minute walk breaks at the miles. But as I stood there gasping for breath, my Garmin said I only run two miles. I knew I had no choice but to walk back to the car.
As I walked, I berated myself for having to walk such a short run. I worried over whether I would be able to run my upcoming marathon. I started working myself into a fury over the position I found myself in. And then, I stopped. I stopped on the trail, looked up at the mountains and told myself to shut up and enjoy.
This sport we have chosen can be hard. It can beat us up physically and even more so mentally, but it can also take us places that non-runners never get the opportunity to go.
Here I was in the middle of a trail, surrounded by the scenery that was so incredible that neither photos or words could do it justice and instead of enjoying it, I was worrying about the run.
Letting the worry go wasn’t easy. Over the two-mile walk back to the car, I found myself falling back into despair. I found myself forgetting to enjoy the mountains and the big clear sky. But each time, I quickly came around and remembered. Each time, I sent up a little prayer of thanks for not only the conditioning that allowed me to run two miles out even while dealing with altitude sickness but the desire and drive to do it in the first place.
It took effort to pull myself out of the despair each time but the run was not ruined. Instead, I was able to be grateful for the run. As the saying a bad day running, beats a good day sitting on the couch any day of the week.