It’s not exactly hot, but the sun is unrelenting at 10,000 feet, so it ain’t cool.
It’s somewhere around 5:00 pm and the medical professional staffing the med tent is asking me about the tightness in my chest… which is a little bit funny, because who’s chest wouldn’t be tight after 50 mountain miles topping out at 12,600’ in elevation?
But, I’m in the med tent because even though I’ve been eating and drinking well and still moving along at a good clip, I felt like hell, and I was a wee bit worried.
I explain that the tightness had gotten more significant over the last hour or so, causing my breathing to be a bit shallow, and I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t dealing with HAPE.
HAPE, or High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, is a potentially serious/ deadly accumulation of fluid in the lungs, afflicting people dumb enough to spend extended time at altitude. The symptoms for HAPE are, unfortunately, also the exact symptoms of hauling oneself around the mountains as quickly as one can… shortness and shallowness of breath, high pulse rate, weakness or decreased performance, nausea, lack of appetite, thirst… general malaise.
And I must confess that I stepped into the med tent here at Winfield, (the mining ghost town that represents the 50 mile turn around of the Leadville 100 Trail Run) essentially hoping that I DID, in fact, have HAPE, so I could have a justifiable, honorable reason for ending this suffering. If I had HAPE, no one would question my stopping here. I would be pulled from the race with a serious medical condition and I’d still be applauded and congratulated robustly for my effort, my resolve, my blah, blah, blah…
Whatever. I just wanted to be done.
So, they slapped a pulse oximeter on me, to quickly and easily report the amount of oxygen my blood was carrying. I was hoping for a low number… like a golf score, indicating HAPE. They also started taking my blood pressure.
Luke Giltner, my ultra-friend that Ben and I met exactly 3 years previous and planned pacer for the next 27+ miles, and Deanna Adami, my friend from seminary and former LeadWoman, watched on in concern. I’d told them how I was feeling as I came shuffling into Winfield. They said I looked good, which just a little annoying.
BING. The test was done. (I don’t actually know if the pulse ox device made that sound, but it’s nice for effect…)
The device read 96%, which is perfectly and amazingly healthy, and my blood pressure was also spot on.
The (tremendous, kind, generous, helpful, sensitive, concerned and awesome) medical professionals explained that it was probably some sort of exercise induced asthma, exacerbated by breathing trail dust, etc, etc. They debated for a moment about having me do some sort of an inhaler, and then decided against it.
Ultimately, the reality was that I was free to go.
Son of a… That meant that I’d have to keep moving.
The thing is… up until the last hour or so, things had gone incredibly well…
(To be continued…)