Sunday, July 28, 2013

Running after Alpamayo

While on my attempt on Alpamayo I became sick at base camp. It was almost identical to the illness I felt in September of 2010, while attempting Elbrus.

I awoke with a start in the middle of the night, unable to breathe. I sat up in my sleeping bag and the effect immediately wore off and I coughed out some thick gunk from my lungs. I laid back down and again had to sit up. I rolled around trying to find a position in which breathing was less labored, and found that laying on my side was a bit easier. 
After a few minutes of laying, breathing gently, I managed to drift off to sleep. I awoke with a start, unable to breathe, and sat up coughing. Repeat a few hundred times. That was my night on Elbrus, and that was my night on Alpamayo.


In the morning I described my symptoms first to Chris, a team member who is also a doctor, and he identified symptoms of AMS as well as lung inflammation. He gave me some recommendations, including taking diamox for the next day or two until we could work out how to get me down to Huaraz, at 9,300' and home so that I could seek medical treatment from a pulmonologist.

After an eventful trip down to civilization in Huaraz, Lima and finally Denver, I arrived home in Summit County Colorado, also at 9,300'. In the interest of experimenting with the lung inflammation, I decided to try running again and check my stats with my Polar Heart Rate Monitor.

Polar Training Load Report
I had been training for the Red Zone (requiring days of recovery before hard training) nearly every day for the month previous. I had the torn rib cartilage from Carstensz, but it was healing rough, and I was supposed to go in for more x-rays based on the results of the x-ray in Indonesia which had some "irregularities" in it.

With all of the hard training days in a row, in Colorado I was sleeping at 9,300' and had any types of herbs, medicines, food, hot tubs, etc. that I might need for recovery. Sleeping at 14,000' in Peru I had none of those. Chris also mentioned that in his experience both as a doctor and as a climber, that some people just suddenly fail after a few days sleeping at 14,000', or high camp as the case may be.

Strava activity report for last week

I mulled that one over a lot and seriously considered the times I was only at high camp for a day before the summit, vs. the times I had spent a few or more days at high camp. I have to admit that I've never had a summit after spending more than two days at high camp. It's a weird feeling to analyze yourself so thoroughly. I began to formulate various experiments to see what I could do to test this.

One thing that all my multi-day failures have in common is heavier loads and fewer rest days. I guess if I could suddenly arrive at 12,000-14,000' with almost no effort, spend four restful days doing nothing, then summit, it would prove one aspect of the theory. Since I would be taking effort out of the big picture.

I did a moderate speed 4 and 9 mile run, a very fast 2 mile run, and a very slow 2 miles in which I mostly walked. The fast 2 miles felt really good on my lungs, overall, without as much hacking and coughing as on the previous two runs. The slow 2 was mostly because I had managed to bruise the tendons on my left foot from wearing my shoes and socks incorrectly during the 9 and fast 2.

Trail Running at 9,300' + in CO
I'm in the middle of healing from that at the moment, here in Utah at 5,000' while I await a visit with my family physician for a physical and referral to a pulmonologist. I'm not running at the moment (to try to heal up from the bruised foot tendons) but am using the elliptical and stairmaster. I have to admit, I'm coughing a lot less right now with this low altitude and thicker air.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Breckenridge Colorado Independence Day 10K Trail Race

Yesterday we went to The North Face store in Breckenridge CO to get my packet for the run. I did it two years ago, and managed to find my stats on Garmin Connect. I wore a 305 GPS/HRM watch then. My old watch time was 1:11. I am hoping to beat that if at all possible, though I haven't been training for faster trail running. With my current emphasis on Elbrus Race 2013 I've been mostly trying to average better than a 30:00 pace on very steep terrain, such as on 14'ers.

First thing this morning I had a single scoop protein shake, then got dressed in the clothes I laid out the night before. I like to be ready for the event the night before if I can. I've been experimenting on the 14'er trail runs and a single scoop shake should be settled enough in my stomach that I can run by 7:00 AM - the start time for this race. We drove to Breck then at 5:50 AM and parked in public parking near Carter Park. I did a little light jogging on High Street, the beginning of the race course. In the past I've never done any warmups, so am experimenting with that now. It was cold and I wore a medium fleece jacket over my thinner fleece shirt. I've tested this fleece shirt on my colder trail runs and it's one of my favorites. As a bonus it has a chest pocket large enough for my rather large cell phone.

I had waffled a bit, but finally decided to wear the Nathan single bottle belt with a half full bottle of BSN No-xplode mixed half strength. Based on training runs that should be sufficient. There is an aid station at about the 5K mark, but it turned out to only have gummy bears and green bananas. This is one failing of the Breck Rec events. Don't count on the aid stations or feed line at the end. Be self sufficient.

We took off in one wave this year. Last time it was three waves. I lined up just behind the fast people figuring that anyone who passed me then would have earned it. There was a footnote on my Garmin stats that I was a bit miffed at all the slow people falling down and littering the trail and wanted to try to stay ahead of them.

When we took off everyone seemed to suddenly book it at about an 8:00 pace that I couldn't keep up with and it seemed like a hundred or so people passed me. I was pretty sure they couldn't keep that up for the single-track. Sure enough, on the section at the foot of the switchbacks heading toward the houses it slowed to about a 40:00 pace as presumably someone up ahead of us tried to figure out how to run on single-track.

I stuck to a few people that seemed to do the hills about as well as I felt like. Which was pretty slow and poor. I felt really burned out and slow. Of course, my Polar Training Load chart is in the red, so I'm totally unrecovered from my previous training. I did manage to play yo-yo with a few people, follow a few people who inspired me to keep plugging away, and even passed a few when the grade and width permitted.

At the top of the hill, the aid station, I finally took a drink of my bottle and psyched myself up for the long downhill. My watch said it had taken 45 minutes to reach this point. I would have to really haul to even match my previous time. I kept up a smooth pace on the pavement, and managed to speed up a bit as it tilted downhill, and at the top of the switchbacks at the last road crossing, stuck behind three really fast guys just making like gazelles on the way down. We passed a bunch of people on the switchbacks and I really got wasted with three switchbacks to go. I had burned out pretty fast. But I managed to figure out how to stay on their tails all the way to the end. I poured on the gas on the grass flats by the finish line.

I looked at my watch. 1:10 - not sure how that compares to reality though. I didn't hit the lap counter at the aid station either. I'd love to know what my downhill time was. I do have a Strava report, claiming a moving time of 1:11. In any case, I probably about matched my old time. I was hoping for better, but then I guess I haven't been training for running this fast at all this past year. And I've only been trail running outside since May after returning home from Carstensz.

I wandered around in a daze trying to get some oxygen and blood to my brain. I stretched and finally we walked down to the park and let the kids play for a few minutes. Then at the car I chugged a single scoop protein shake I had brought along for that purpose. No food at the finish. No times either. They are hand timing it by writing down stuff on clip boards. Tomorrow they're supposed to send out an email with the results. If they do, I'll post mine here.