My Mt. Whitney Memory

My Mt. Whitney Memory
From my scrapbook--running up Mt. Whitney after finishing the Badwater 135, back when I was a young man of 49. The guy with the backpack, Emile-something, was the French 1,000-mile record holder, who wasn't in the race but accompanied me to the peak (along with the guy who had the camera), just for the hell of it. At the top, we started to see lightning, and immediately turned and ran the 11 miles down to the trailhead--right after that 146 miles to the peak! I'm older now, but still crazy after all these years.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Wait Three Weeks . . . and then Get Going!

     If you thought I'd hang up my running shoes after that last post I did, for once in your life you thought wrong!  I'm too stubborn to do that.  After 54 years of distance running through hell and high water, ya think I'm going to stop now?
     For one thing, I'm pretty good at recovery.  Genetically, I'm one of those lucky people whose knees hold up over the years, even after I take knee-bashing face plants like the one I took at the JFK 50-Mile last month.  For another thing, I'm especially good at rationalization.  If things go badly, I'll find a reason why--come hell or high water--and learn from it, and go on from there.
     As it turns out, I think I've figured out what went awry at the JFK 50.  Two things went wrong, and both have to do with my legs--not totally surprising, if you consider that without fully functioning legs, running would be pretty hard.  Ask any snail.
     The first thing was that about three weeks before the race, my right leg got a little swollen and sore along the big vein that runs up the inner thigh from the knee.  I might have shrugged it off, except that my younger brother, Alex, had recently gone to a doctor with a similar condition--in his case the whole leg was swollen--and had been diagnosed with "deep vein thrombosis" (DVT), a blood clot deep in the lower leg that can be a serious threat to life and limb.  Apparently, if a clot like that breaks loose and travels to the lungs, it can be fatal. 
     So, I decided to get my leg checked out.  My diagnosis turned out to be similar to Alex's, though less severe. But it still posed the same threat, to a lesser degree.  I was put on a prescription blood thinner for 10 days, and the swelling gradually subsided.  I never had to interrupt my running.  After the JFK, I didn't think that ailment had been a factor.  (I still finished 2nd in my age division, but nearly two hours slower than I'd planned.  Boy, did I make God laugh with that plan.)  But now, having invoked my expertise at rationalization, I've decided it was.  My brother had been on a blood thinner for six months by then, and his leg was still a little swollen, so evidently this is a condition that doesn't subside overnight--not even the "superficial vein thrombosis" (SVT) that I was told I had.  In the race, I think I must not have been getting quite the full circulation of blood I'd trained for.
     The other factor was that face-plant I took when I tripped over an unexpected rocky patch that was lurking under a blanket of fallen leaves.  When I went down, my knee smacked one of the rocks and bled, but I was able to get up and keep going.  But this time, unlike in previous falls I've had over the years, the knee didn't bounce back withgin a few days.  For a week after the race, it hurt enough to make me wonder if I'd chipped or cracked a bone, and I considered going for an x-ray.  But then I thought, if it is a damaged bone, what's the doctor going to do?  He'll say (so to speak), "Give it time to heal before you start running again. Two hundred dollars, please."  So a waited a little longer.  After three weeks, I felt comfortable running again, and realized there'd been no lasting damage.  But the bone had taken quite a bruising, and after another five hours of running following the fall (and no stopping to clean or apply antiseptic), it may have been fairly stressed.  Now it's OK.
     So there,m I've tied it up quite neatly.  No longer baffled, no longer discouraged, I'm back into running.  Wait 'till next year!
     One coda to this post, which I can't resist because it's a good illustration of my thesis that endurance--the kind of endurance that is one of the keys to human survival in the very long run--is not just about what you can do in 3 or 8 or 24 hours, but what you do over a lifetime.  My brother Alex (aka Glenn) and I are, as far as I can determine, the only pair of brothers ever to finish in the top 10 at the New York Marathon in the same year(1970), and here we are 41 years later, both still running and still loving it.  Neither one of us is about to let DVT or SVT--orthe DMV or anything else--stop us now.