Friday, August 16

The Leadville Saga: Aftershocks

Saturday night there was a short time when I thought I might die from my efforts. I was chilled from my day out in the Colorado mountains wearing only a skimpy covering of thin Lycra and polypro. Breath came in fast shallow jets. My lungs rattled and rasped like the engine block of a wallered out 1972 Chevy 350 big block firing on an odd number of cylinders. All of my major muscle groups ached and threatened to cramp at the slightest movement. My head felt like a torch due to a mild sunburn. And I was exhausted but totally unable to sleep.

When Mandy returned with pizza I struggled to muster the energy to eat. I was hungry. I just couldn't sit upright long enough to bring the food to my mouth. I hardly got two pieces down before I just gave up.

At one point I dozed, but was awakened first by the sound of an ambulance racing through town, followed shortly by the sound of a helicopter rising into the night and flying away. In my stupor I could only think that it must be another Leadville finisher that pushed too hard being flown off to oblivion. As I drifted back into antsy sleep I wondered how much a helicopter ride to Denver would cost if my breathing didn't improve.

At some point in the night I heard another helicopter, and in my mountain biking induced stupor I thought of our friend James, the army helicopter pilot, and the military craft that went down west of Leadville a few years ago on a training mission. My mind was steeped in morbidity. I was so worried about my abnormal breathing that I had Mandy take my pulse. We lay still, her spooning me, with her hand over my heart as I lay in the stillness breathing fast like a sprinter in a wet sack. She said it seemed normal. But when I put my head down on my pillow I could feel the blood shooting through my ears in sloshing jets matching tempo with my breath.

At 1:30am I woke up thirsty. I finally decided to take acetaminophen, chased it with a half jug of OJ, and then I laid back down.

I'd not slept any more by 2:30 and discovered I finally had enough energy to give my appetite some attention. I got up, went to the kitchen, and warmed and ate the last four pieces of pizza. Then I took a B-vitamin.

I didn't lay right back down, and I considered packing the car and then waking the family to get on the road. Our next endurance race had yet to begin: the 1,300 mile drive home while giving up two time zones.

Finally I did lay down and dozed. I never got back into more than a restless sleep. Once the sun came up I was awake for the day.

Mandy was up and started packing when I lost all energy. I had no motivation to pack or load the car. I wanted to be headed home, but I just had no gumption for making it happen. The kids woke up with way too much energy.

We did get the car packed finally, and once we got on the road I had perked up a bit. But by then my belly was awakened to its emptiness.

"Can you wait until we get to Colorado Springs?" Mandy asked when I mentioned that I needed breakfast.

"Nope," I replied.

We'd decided to drive out through South Park and Colorado Springs and cut across to Limon on 24 to avoid the tunnel construction on I-70 at Idaho Springs on a Sunday. It was only slightly farther and could possibly save some time. Except I discovered the Smoke Shack Cafe in Buena Vista and we spent an hour there eating.

Boone and I both got the three (ostrich) egg omelets, and I also got a half order of gravy and biscuits. That was around 9 or 10am. By the time we'd gone 100 miles into Colorado Springs I was ready to eat again. Thankfully we had enough snacks in the car to tide us all over until an early dinner somewhere in Kansas.

I was achey when we left Leadville. But when I got out of the car in CO Spgs to get gas I was stiff and really sore. The further east we went the more I stiffened up and the more pain soaked into my muscles. The threat of cramping was long gone, but my muscles were punishing me for abusing them so much the day before.

Mandy started driving somewhere in Kansas, and as the day wore on I decided I needed to try and sleep so I could take over for her later, or at least help keep her awake. She stopped by a Starbucks and got a zebra mocha which got her all fired up. The kids keyed in on her caffenated state and with the three of them bouncing all around the car I couldn't sleep at all. But then, even once they had all settled down and the car was quiet I couldn't find sleep. My usual road trip insomnia (I don't sleep well in cars) had kicked in, and despite my anguishing exhaustion I was wide awake after the kids finally drifted off.

I got up in the front again somewhere in Missouri and Mandy and I talked quite a bit about what happens next and some other stuff we'd needed to talk long and hard about for some time until she was finally too tired to keep driving. Sometime between 3:30 and 4:00am we pulled into a rest area in Illinoising.

I was afraid to try and drive even though I couldn't sleep in the car. I knew once I wrapped my hands around the wheel I'd not be able to keep my lids up. I kicked the seat back and tried to sleep. After a few hours of miserable dozing I woke to the sunrise. Unable to stand sitting still in the car, and having the sorest tailbone in the universe from sitting for so long, I started the car and pushed her east. My family slept for another hour as I fought heavy eyelids and the pain of misery.

We got breakfast at a McDonalds somewhere in Indiana and I perked up a bit. I hate McDonald's breakfast. But it was what I needed to keep going.

We finally got home about noon on Monday. Mandy and I fought tiredness until that evening before we crashed. I had to get up the next morning for work, and the 10 hours of sleep I got didn't eliminate feelings of exhaustion the next morning. It was a good thing I didn't have much to do at work when I got back because my brain was useless all day Tuesday. I wrapped up one thing I needed to get done and turned in my timesheet for the pay period early because we were all going to a conference the rest of the week. I felt pretty productive considering.

I struggled all week to stay awake through the conference. I wanted to write some since I'd have some quiet downtime in my sprawling suite at the Galt House. I do feel a bit guilty about that. But my tiredness hangs with me and I've had enough trouble cranking out a few meager blog posts, much less...well, let's just say I've got a bigger writing project in the works right now. And I want to make some headway on it as soon as possible. I've got a good start, and most of the material I need for it. I just need to start putting it all together. I've not been able to clear my brain this week to make any sense of it.

My body is finally back to normal. I've managed to run 4 miles two days this week in preparation for the Iron Horse in October. I feel pretty good, and despite feeling slow as I've been running I've been keeping at least a consistent pace to what I was doing before. I keep feeling like I should be eating heaps and heaps of food, and I don't feel like I have tons of energy so I'm tempted to give into the urge...the reception at the Palace Theater with all the free food and drinks wasn't good for my 2014 Leadville training. Man, that pulled pork was good!

Next week things should be all back to normal. Next week will be the real test of whether or not I'm back to 100% mentally, physically, emotionally.

I wanted to ride my road bike almost as soon as we got back into town. And I considered taking my mountain bike to Louisville to ride Cherokee Park except there was so much rain early in the week I didn't think it was worth it. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

The kids seemed to have transitioned into their new classes rather well. Mandy's been struggling with them with their homework with me gone, but things seem more positive for both kids this year. I sure hope and pray that they've both got good teachers and we can get through this year with a little less stress than previos years have been.

What's all this have to do with the Leadville Saga? It's all interconnected. The trip was all because of the bike race. The effects will linger for another couple of weeks before we finally settle into a new routine. It was unfortunate that our vacation coincided with the first week of school and this conference.

Once I catch up on my sleep I think we can get down to business with some new ideas here. I'm looking forward to it.


  1. I guess I was (stupidly) surprised at how much that race took out of me. Just starting to feel normal today.

    1. I can't remember my week after last year very well, but I had to go right back to work and right back to my daily bike commute. One thing I've gotten far more of this year is rest.