Category Archives: Other Fitness

Mt Democrat, Mt Cameron, and Altitude Sickness

After the poor planning and research of our Mt Harvard hike and my poor life choices before our Quandary hike, when we decided to tackle to Mt Democrat-Mt Cameron-Mt Lincoln-Mt Bross loop in one day, I made a concerted effort to learn from past mistakes and prepare properly. In the end, it didn’t make a damn bit of difference.

We started our trek early under perfect weather conditions. I had gone to bed early and slept well. I had put down a bunch of water on our drive out. I had even eaten breakfast (which is something I no longer do). As we took the trail toward Mt Democrat, I felt good.

My ascent was slow and steady, as always. I know I will never be fast uphill. Not running or hiking. Just never. But we made it to the saddle between Democrat and Cameron easily enough, veering off to ascend Democrat first.

After the trail branched, the incline increased dramatically. As it always does when it is too high for any life to grow. The hike started at 12,000 feet, well above treeline, so the entire route was the hard part of hiking 14ers. Yet it was all so much shorter than the previous hikes that started lower that it seemed like it would be easier.

Seemed.

We made our ascent up Democrat at a reasonable pace. One of us was struggling with motivation. I always struggle with incline. However, overall, it went surprisingly smooth and well. Considering how painful the previous ascents had been, Democrat came fast and easy.

We took a quick rest to have a snack and enjoy the view then turned to the descent. Like always, I bounded down ahead like a mountain goat and fully enjoyed the way back. By the time I reached the saddle to take the turn for Mt Cameron, I was feeling great. The same euphoria at the base of every hike coupled with the motivation to move to the next mountain.

Yet this is where my hike began to unravel.

As we regrouped and turned to take Mt Cameron, my struggle with the incline steadily increased. It felt different than muscle fatigue, but I dismissed it. Then a nagging headache started tapping on my forehead. I adjusted my hat, adjusted my pack, drank more water, had a snack. Yet the headache persisted and burrowed deeper until nausea bloomed in my belly.

At this point, things did not feel normal or right. Something inside me kept whispering, something is wrong…something is not OK. But I dismissed it. The headache and nausea increased, and hiking became suddenly daunting. More daunting than usual, more daunting than at my most exhausted. It did not feel like normal fatigue. Instead, it felt like I had absolutely nothing in me. No go, no gas, no juice, NOTHING.

I dismissed it and pressed on anyway. At shameful and unimaginably slow pace, we made Cameron.

Once we summitted and turned to the gradual saddle between Cameron and Lincoln (the slight distance that disqualifies Mt Cameron as an official 14er). I did not feel great, and the headache and nausea did not abate, but I could at least move. I figured I could make it the 300 feet to summit Lincoln since we were already there.

I was wrong.

A few steps up the final ascent to Lincoln, I simply could not. My body had nothing. It felt like I could not breathe. My chest hurt as if something was compressing my lungs. I sat down on the trail, and that was all I had. I shooed the rest of my party on to summit and stayed exactly where I was.

In all honesty, I don’t remember much vividly from when the headache started. I know I stumbled my way up Cameron. I know I sat down on the trail. I know I was struggling to breathe and just wanted to lay down on the rocks and sleep so I stood as I waited for them. By the time they returned (which was not long), I was in rough shape, barely functioning.

We turned to Mt Bross to make an immediate descent. If I could not make 300 feet of Lincoln, I could not make anything but back to the car. Unfortunately, we made a wrong turn. Instead of following the trail that cut across the top of Bross’s stained and scarred face, we wandered down a dead end. With the risk of mine shafts anywhere, we had to turn back around. Trying to ascend again destroyed me. When we returned to the top of the trail, I had to collapse briefly.

Finally, we made it across Bross’s mangled face and began to actually drop in altitude. I continued to struggle. Whenever my heart rate climbed, my headache pounded harder. Whenever the headache increased, the nausea pressed on the back of my teeth. I still could not breathe, but moving downhill, I did not need to fight for it as hard.

However, Bross was a terrible descent. Huge boulders and slippery scree the entire length of the mountain. Everyone suffered. Everyone was miserable.

I refused to vomit as we descended the rocks. I knew puking would make me shaky, and I did not know if I could navigate the terrain with unsteady legs. However, once we finally reached the grass, I sat down and puked my guts out. I wish I could say it made me feel better.

The valley where we started was still gorgeous. My favorite flower (the columbine) was everywhere. I wish I could have actually seen and enjoyed it. I suffered severe tunnel vision. All I wanted to do was lay down in the car.

When we did finally reach the parking lot, I took off my boots and lay down in the passenger seat. The rest of the group had their celebratory beers and make PB&J sandwiches, but I just wanted to die. The ride down the trail was not much better. I had to vomit again when we reached the highway. Then I passed out for the rest of the trip.

Altitude sickness.

It took me about three full days to recover. I felt better after my car nap but still miserable. It was difficult to walk. I got winded just moving around the house. I have lived in Colorado, skied and hiked frequently my entire life. This is the first time I ever remember experiencing altitude sickness.

Maybe it was because I was in Dallas, near sea level a few days earlier. Maybe it was because I was still suffering a lingering cold. Maybe it was because the hike started above tree line. Maybe I wasn’t hydrated enough. Honestly, I have no idea. Altitude sickness can really strike anyone at any time under any circumstances. I can’t say it makes sense in this instance, unless it happened just to punish me for thinking I was prepared.

I feel like I should be super frustrated and disappointed to have made it so close and been taken out. I guess I am disappointed that I did not get to enjoy the hike, that I got so sick. However, I was so utterly miserable that I don’t really care that I couldn’t make the last summit (or two). It was unpleasant enough to overshadow any ambition I had.

Part of me wants to redo Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross. Part of me doesn’t care. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it. I’m just relieved that the sickness has passed and I can breathe again.

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
goodreads.com/author/show/11032481.Christina_Bergling
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling
instagram.com/fierypen/
amazon.com/author/christinabergling

 

Advertisements

Mt Harvard and Quandary Peak

In October, we embarked on my husband’s goal of hiking 14ers in Colorado. We decided to press on it this summer. We started off by hitting it hard, doing two 14ers in two weekends.

Mt. Harvard

First, we decided to tackle Mt Harvard. My father, who avidly hiked 14ers at my present age, warned us that it was going to be challenging. While we believed him, we overestimated ourselves and underestimated the snow.

As my father forecasted, the hike began gently. The first couple miles wound lazily up gentle forest switchbacks. Snow began to appear on the edges of the trail or hidden in the shadows of the trees. I was so excited to see snow after such a disappointing and fruitless winter. As we continued to climb, the snow patches thickened into drifts that began to slow us down.

The winding forest trail eventually sprawled into a large valley beset by the breathtaking peaks of the collegiate 14ers. As the sun show brightly in a vividly clear sky, the scenery was sublime, and our spirits bordered on euphoric.

 

As we moved out of the gentle valley, the snow increased. We navigated through drifts that were mostly crunchy on the top, yet when my leg plunged through the surface, the snow came up to my vagina. The struggle started comical but gradually grew more arduous as the drifts grew deeper and wider until we faced long, uphill spans of slippery snow. Anxiety crawled on my skin as my paranoid steps tempted exacerbating my hamstring/hip injury.

At the first ocean of snow, I nearly declined to continue. I did not want to get more hurt, but I decided to give it a try. It was less challenging than I expected, so I pressed on. We broke past treeline and approached the rocky step switchbacks.

As we ascended the large, flat rock islands amidst shifting gravel, I wondered how I would ever descent such terrain without killing myself. I fought the increasing incline with decreasing oxygen and remembered that there is a distinct reason trees do not care to grow that high.

We made it all the way to the final ascent, the last cairn where we could see the summit. I saw a trail of steep and slippery snow and large boulders. Here, I decided to accept my limitations. It felt ridiculous to come so far, to be 1 mile and 1,000 feet short of the summit and stop. Yet my instincts banged and hollered to not risk it. So, for once, against who I am, I didn’t.

While I am exceedingly stubborn and often push my body too far, this 14er pursuit is not my dream. I am a supportive partner who will take any excuse to be active, punish myself, and be outside in the mountains. But it’s acceptable if I don’t make every summit or I’m not there for every hike. I am a tourist and a tagalong here, the support staff doing the planning.

Two of us stayed at the cairn for three hours while the other three continued.

Then, the weather decided to turn on us. The morning sun folded under thick clouds, and a piercing wind battered us. We sat on the cairn, had a frozen dance party, and waited. For a while, we could watch their tiny forms ascend. Then they vanished for what seemed like an eternity. We almost resigned ourselves to migrate lower when we finally spotted them–a red shirt, a white shirt, and a black shirt–hiking and sliding back down.

Only one of us was able to fully summit (my husband). One was 10 feet short. One was 100 feet short. It sounded quite intense at the top, so I made the right decision to stay behind. I am no rock climber. I am uncomfortable with heights.

Since we only hiked up Pikes Peak, Harvard was our first decent of a 14er. Turns out, my body is built for coming downhill, just like running. As we approached the boulder stairs that made me so nervous coming up, the footfalls suddenly made complete sense. My feet, never entirely graceful, just knew where to go. I bounded down the hill like a mountain goat and had so much fun doing so.

The descent was never-ending though. The snow had softened during the day, and we continually plunged through the surface. It was daunting and repetitive, and the miles just dragged on. But many hours after we projected, we made it. We did our group hug in the parking lot and hurried off into the night for real food and sleep.

Quandary Peak

The next weekend, we aimed a little lower. We went up to Breckenridge, stayed overnight, and set out early to attack Quandary Peak. An easier and shorter hike (recommended by my father).

This trail started narrow and quite steep as it climbed up the hill. The switchbacks drew up the side of the mountain quickly. The sun had just broken the horizon, and the temperature hovered in the limbo where I roasted in my fleece but shivered without it.

I, in my infinitely stupidity and relentless affinity for poor life choices, got to carry a pretty severe hangover with me. What could have been a gentle and pleasant hike was instead quite uncomfortable for me. My thighs balked at the activity immediately. Nausea flirted with my throat. I suffered for my foolishness.

After a couple miles in the trees, we arrived at the customary rocky stair-like switchbacks. We also reached the snow, but it did not compare to Harvard. These drifts were ankle-deep rather than vagina-deep. Instead, our unexpected challenge was the wind. By the time we broke treeline, the wind was near unbearable. At points, I had to struggle to move against it.

There always seems to be one factor that we did not plan for on these hikes. Every mountain seems to teach us something new. Don’t underestimate the mountain. Don’t trust trail estimates. Don’t forget your yaks. Don’t forget your windbreaker. Don’t get drunk the night before. So many lessons.

By the time we passed treeline and battled the wind, I thought my hangover had broken. The trail flattened out a bit before the final ascent, and I was feeling good.

I was wrong.

The final ascent of Quandary did not have switchbacks. No, it climbed straight up the ridge to the summit. And it was terrible. At tackling the extreme grade, my hangover resurged over me. Every four steps, I stopped to evaluate my need to vomit. I moved painfully slow up the final ascent. But I did make it.

We crested the hill and enjoyed a nice flat portion before the summit. The wind even finally died down for us to enjoy our celebratory beers.

Then the descent. My favorite part. All the euphoric rush of victory floating on down the mountain.

The snowy descent did make me a little nervous. Again, I did not want to slip and further injure myself. But I found that sliding down the mountain (in established butt trails that didn’t go off the side of the face) was a much quicker and more fun way to get down. Aside from the horrendous stinging of the cold. Worth it.

The descent was pleasant and so much shorter than Harvard. The wind had died down, and the weather was temperate. It was just nice.

We made it back to the car by lunchtime and were able to enjoy the hot tub in Breckenridge before heading home. While Quandary was not as scenically gorgeous as Pikes Peak or Harvard, it definitely was a more pleasant hike overall. If you subtract the idiocy of my hangover.

Currently, we have two more 14ers scheduled for the summer. Perhaps another one or two in the fall. If nothing else, we have made strong strides on my husband’s goal. And I have seen some beautiful things.

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
goodreads.com/author/show/11032481.Christina_Bergling
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling
instagram.com/fierypen/
amazon.com/author/christinabergling

 


bodyboss: My Review

I made it. I completed the bodyboss program. I even completed it on an accelerated schedule to finish before I had minor surgery, which may or may not have hindered the results. Either way, DONE! Now, for my review.

I HATED bodyboss, every single damn workout. To be fair, I hate strength training, particularly high intensity interval training (HIIT). And most of all, I loathe jumping. That pretty much defines bodyboss as a workout program.

It touts being just 24 minutes a day, 3 days a week. Lies. With warm up and cool down, it was an hour per workout. Plus the program included additional workouts for all the non-bodyboss days. So, in truth, it is about an hour a day, 6 days a week like any other workout program. I ended up skimming it down to just the meat of the bodyboss workouts so I could fit it in with my running, dancing, and barre workout schedule.

The program is divided into 4 3-week cycles. The first 2 cycles were manageable and built on each other nicely. Aside from the very annoying limitations of my hamstring injury (which bodyboss aggravated perhaps even worse that barre), it was acceptable.

Then week 7 hit. The program escalated drastically. It started included box exercises. I do not have a box and had zero desire to find a reasonable facsimile.  The number of exercises also increases from 6 to 8 and the reps climb to obscene numbers like 50. I never got to the point of being able to do 50 reps of 8 exercises in 8 minutes. The pain in my hamstring was too great to push through so many reps of exercises that made it angry, so I had to modify the program. Again, I’m not sure if that hindered results.

The workouts continued to build. More reps. More stupid jumping. I just pressed on. I just did what I could do as hard as I could do it. Frustrating, yes. Disheartening, yes. I wanted to quit before every damn workout, but I did it anyway because I was more than halfway there and I said I was going to finish.

If you asked me if I thought bodyboss worked for me before the numbers, I would have said absolutely not. I would have said it was complete bullshit and a waste of time. However, the numbers present a different case.

Final results:
Pounds lost: 5
Body fat percentage lost: 1%
Inches lost
Bust: 2
Waist: 1.5
Hips: 2

Challenge time
Before: 6:47
After: 3:49

The pounds and fat lost are negligible, but the inches and time on the challenge are relatively significant.

So, how do I feel about it when comparing experience to results? The results definitely temper some of my negative feelings because they make the suffering somewhat worth it. I have zero issues suffering, if it does something. The entire program, it felt like it was doing absolutely nothing. That turned out to not be the case.

So would I do it again? Honestly, maybe. It all comes down to the hamstring. I absolutely would not attempt it if I had any continued hamstring pain. At all. However, if my pain was actually alleviated, if my injury actually recovered, I would actually like to retry it. Both to see if I could do better and to see how my hamstring was actually impacting my progress.

Alas, for now, the hamstring injury continues to be never ending. So for now, there will be no second round of bodyboss. Instead, I am recovering from my laparoscopic surgery then getting back to running, dancing, and barre. It will all be so much simpler without cramming bodyboss in there.

The journey continues.

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
goodreads.com/author/show/11032481.Christina_Bergling
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling
instagram.com/fierypen/
amazon.com/author/christinabergling

 


The Next Thing

The last three years have seen me attempt diet after diet, exercise routine after fad. They all begin the same, with such hope, motivation, and optimism. However, after the infatuation wears off, they all have fallen into the same disappointing pattern. I rarely fail at them, but they consistently fail to deliver me results.

I have tried traditional calorie counting, low glycemic, Whole30, near ketosis. I have joined a gym, run constantly, started barre, used a personal trainer, done bodyboss. I am sure I have forgotten multiple tangents and detours.

Nothing.

I have been ramming my head into the same wall all these years, trapped at the same weight (or more) no matter how I work or starve myself. I am progressively dieting stricter and stricter, working out more and more regularly. I have worked myself into multiple injuries. Deeper and deeper into the obsession.

Nothing.

I have felt completely crazy. I have spent far too much time fixated on something I do not want to run my life. But here we go again, onto the next thing. Or things in this case. Two things.

First, I have been working with my therapist, who also happens to be an integrative medicine specialist focusing in eating disorders, through this struggle. With her advice, I went to my primary care doctor to have my hormone levels tested. My estrogen (and iron) came back high, while my testosterone was nonexistent. Quite possibly, I could be experiencing estrogen dominance from my hormonal IUD. So I went to discuss with my OB/GYN, and she immediately removed it to allow my body to self regulate.

Hopefully, normal hormone levels will balance my weight, as well as my mood and energy. Having a monthly cycle should also level out the iron level in my blood. So I am going back to being natural. And getting my tubes tied in a couple weeks.

Second, I have shifted to yet another diet/exercise program. I am still doing barre and running. I am still finishing bodyboss (nearly two thirds of the way through it now). However, my coworker introduced me to a new app to try for food tracking and planning.

The app is called noom and is ultimately not much different than MapMyFitness or MyFitnessPal or Spark People or anything I have tried previously. The main divergences are that the program is psychology-centric (which works for me on multiple levels) and that it includes an individual couch who messages you and an online support group (hence why it costs money).

My experience so far has been positive, but don’t go holding your breath just yet; we’re scarcely out of the honeymoon phase. I have seen some results then seen them mildly undone by Christmas. The psychological approach to the app is pretty transparent to me, both because they are transparent about it and because I’ve been in eating disorder counseling periodically for years. However, that does not prevent it from working on me. I know the compliment every time I log a work out is a manipulation, but it makes me feel good nonetheless, so the manipulation works. Same with the coach and the group, though my group is pretty inactive and lame. It is an extra layer of accountability without the pressure of real interaction.

I have noticed improvement in my thought patterns and emotional reactions, if nothing else, which is surprising since all that counseling over the years has done shit against the same problems. The app does not tell me much I do not already know, but for some reason, things appear to be clicking now. I hope it is not some false sense of enlightenment meant to lull me into complacency to then fall into old patterns again, but a girl can dream.

I hope one of these things is the answer. I’m ready to have an answer, any answer. Yeah, it would be great to fit into all my pants and be my pre-pregnancies weight again, but more than that, I want my body to be healthy. My blood sugar finally came down; I want it to stay that way. More than anything, I want to not think about this bullshit all the time. I want it to not be 10 hours out of my week. I want it to not be tormenting me every meal and every workout. I want to just be.

So, here we go on these next things. Fingers crossed.

Oh, and by the way, my hamstring is still torn. bodyboss aggravates it greatly. I’m headed to a new orthopedic to see what the hell is still going on next month. Maybe that problem needs another next thing too.

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
goodreads.com/author/show/11032481.Christina_Bergling
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling
instagram.com/fierypen/
amazon.com/author/christinabergling

 


bodyboss

I have started a new fitness program.

I know. I wait for your unmitigated shock to pass…

A friend and running mate decided to try bodyboss, so we, her running club, decided to go down with her.

bodyboss is a exercise program delivered via a booklet (physical or online) heavily pushed on Facebook. Most simply, the program is high intensity interval training (HIIT). It advertises as a quick 30 minute workout 3 days a week. What it neglects to mention is the 10 minute warmup and cooldown that bump it up to pretty much an hour.

The entire deal is 12 weeks long, and I am about 2 and a half into the process. So I have done enough to taste the workouts but not enough to truly gauge the whole system.

With this much of a taste, I can say that it fucking sucks.

I hate interval training. I also hate jumping and planks. That is literally what these workouts are. Almost all the are. 7 minutes seems like such an innocuous commitment, yet during the intervals, it turns into a damn eternity. I sweat and struggle and swear so much. There is no high; there is no rush. There is only pain.

Like barre, nearly all of the exercises also irritate my hamstring. After a year and a half, every twinge just stirs a rage of frustration and hopelessness. I have to modify many things, just to continue to acquiesce to the injury.

And so far, I feel no results. I have been working out daily and doing barre multiple times a week, so while I struggle with the workouts, it is not a huge difference to do them. I get sore sometimes but not often. If anything (despite also tightening my diet), I feel fatter.

But it has only been two weeks.

Stay tuned to see what I have to say after 12!

 

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
goodreads.com/author/show/11032481.Christina_Bergling
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling
instagram.com/fierypen/
amazon.com/author/christinabergling

 


Ascending Pikes Peak

Yesterday, I hiked my first 14er.

At some point, my husband got the idea to do all the 14ers (mountains with summits over 14,000 feet above sea level) in the state. There is debate; however, the most agreed upon number is 58 14ers in Colorado.

We decided to start local with the mountain that sits along the west edge of home: Pikes Peak.

We started in Manitou Springs at 4:30 in the morning, headlamps and the glowing moon illuminating the lingering night. We parked downtown and made the trek in the dark to the parking lot at the base of Barr Trail.

I have experienced the terminal miles of Barr Trail numerous times descending from hiking The Incline. I have run it, walked it, fallen on my ass on it. I have made my way down in broad daylight and the dark and in every kind of weather. Yet, in the darkness, in the opposite direction, the perspective on the trail was extremely altered. Everything looked different, felt different yet familiar simultaneously.

Immediately, my younger sister and her party took off up the trail. Yet from the first few crunching steps, my husband began lagging. He set a very slow, methodical pace. I assumed it was from his lungs and the altitude (he has a history of pulmonary aneurysm, pneumonia, and altitude sickness). So our small group began a rhythm of hiking up and then regrouping.

As we carved our way up the side of the mountain through the battered trail of switchbacks, the sun gradually began threatening the horizon. Beyond the twinkling city lights below us, day menaced. At one point, the bright moon still lingered over the peak we would climb as the sun broke into the sky opposite it. For the a brief and surreal moment, we cast two shadows on the gravel.

By the time daylight fully broke over the mountain, we had passed both the bail out and the turn off points for The Incline. We were officially in uncharted territory for three out of four of us. The path showed far less abuse from far fewer boots. And the sun ignited fall all around us.

Fall is my favorite season. And fall can be potentially disappointing in a place like Colorado where it is summer then winter then they alternate and then repeat. Most years, it seems like it goes from hot to snow and unfortunately back again. Lazy, meandering transitions like fall in the South amazed me. Yet on the side of Pikes Peak, fall was all around us.

 

Leaves crunched beneath each of our footfalls. The sweet smell of their decay played on the air. A thin razor chill hung on the edge of the air. The sun blazed through the quivering golden aspen leaves around us. It was quintessential fall, and it was fucking euphoric.

As the naked peak began to loom grander and more ominous over us, we meandered along gentle rolling trails through an aspen valley. I caught myself just floating, lost in the mountain air and the seductive scenery. It was undoubtedly my favorite section of the hike.

My husband continued to struggle even through the flat or declining sections. Despite the fact that he is not an avid exerciser, this performance was very uncharacteristic for him. The previous year, he ran a 15K with zero training nearly as fast as I did running 3 times a week and sometimes over 10 miles. I, of course, feared for his lungs again, yet he said his legs were just not working. That it was just a struggle that it should not have been.

We made it to Barr Camp at the halfway point (6.5 miles from the base) and broke for an early lunch. My sister and her party had stayed waiting for us an hour (to make sure my husband was still alive). They broke off again, and we started as well after food, water, and rest.

The trail changed after Barr Camp. The gradual, curving stroll through the aspens began to actually climb the side of the mountain. The switchbacks stretched long to the point of annoyance, where at every crest there was more of the same length of trees.

The trail did not really become hard, but at this point, it did become more boring to me. I was too enamored with the mesmerizing aspen sunrise. Thin gravel carvings between mirrored trees just could not compare. We continued our steady pace of climb and regroup as the sun began to heat the chill off the mountain.

We reached 10,000 feet and kept plugging along.

Treeline proved an elusive mistress. Every row of trees appeared to be the last only for another set of siblings to appear behind them. The monotonous switchbacks just wound back and forth slowly. We could feel the air thinning with each cut across the mountainside.

While the views around us became more pedestrian forest, the views below us grew more impressive. We could pick out the other mountains we knew, Garden of the Gods, the parts of town we lived in, the east edge of town, Kansas itself.

Then treeline and the A frame finally happened.

At this point, we stopped for another legitimate break, taking off the packs that were drawing tension up in our shoulders and knotting in our lower backs. I could tell the instant my body needed calories. My legs got heavier while my head got lighter. I felt like a new person after some energy blocks every time.

The hike became a different trail after treeline. I regretted wishing to get there. The first 10 miles were a delightful easy little stroll up the mountain. The last 3 miles were not.

Looking back, my body is exactly the same with a half marathon (I have officially run 2 and several training distances that long). A 10 mile run is great. At multiple points in my running life, it has been my absolute favorite distance. However, 13.1 miles has always been horrible. I’m great for the first 10 miles; then the last 3 are an absolute struggle every step. Maybe my body just wants to stay under 10 miles.

Unfortunately, for my husband, his entire hike was a forced battle for every step.

The temperature was obviously hotter after treeline, in the direct sunlight, yet the drafts were colder and more abrasive. Though even at the worst of moments, we got impossibly lucky with the weather. The weather was literally perfect. Cool enough with barely any snow toward the top. Finding an October day like this in Colorado is nothing short of a miracle.

The views below were breathtaking, but the scenery around us was barren and mundane. Rocks and boulders stacked forever to the summit.

Our pace slowed and slowed. The air thinned and thinned.

The first mile past treeline was fine. It was slower, but it was not terrible. Not exceptionally steeper. However, the last two miles were hell. I really have no other way to say it.

No longer did three of us wander ahead then wait to regroup. Now, everyone was requesting breaks, taking a step they could not follow through with movement, breathing deep against a dizzy spell. I do not know if it was the altitude or the over 11 miles already stacked on our muscles or that it was the first 14er summit for all of us. Perhaps it was all of the above.

The hardcore people passed us, of course. This is Colorado. People run this route annually for the Pikes Peak Ascent half marathon then up and down for the full marathon. In one of the fittest cities in the country, even a compulsively active person can be proved completely out of shape. We marveled at the fact that any body could perform such a feat multiple times, and one of us removed participating in the event from their bucket list.

We trudged on. That is the most apt way to say it. The steps were slow and heavy. The breaths were deep and labored. The muscles burned. The thoughts revolted. And yet, we trudged on.

The absolute worst part (for EVERYONE) was the very final stretch, horrendously dubbed The Golden Stairs. At this point, we had made our way to the final boulder field approaching the peak. We could hear and see the cog railway moving along the top of the mountain. We could even hear the tourists milling about above us, most likely spectating our sad ascent.

The switchbacks jagged severely and rapidly across the waning mountainside with larger and more fierce rocks to overcome. These 16 “steps” felt like they were never going to end. For an eternity, it felt like we were so impossibly close and so depressingly far from the end. Like we could reach out and touch it yet never actually reach it.

Then it was there. The summit. The end.

We had fucking made it.

Directly at the terminus of the trail, the four of us circled together in a group hug. Some of us may have cried (me absolutely). I said how proud I was of them. And I was. So proud of all of us.

In all honesty, on that hike, our group enjoyed the perfect chemistry. No one got irritated or bitchy, even at our lowest moments. The levity was an appropriate balance. The support was amazing. No one got left behind.

My sister and crew finished a good two and a half hours before we made it to the top. It took us just over 10 hours to go about 14 miles from car to summit. Thankfully, we had two separate pick up cars.

Looking back at the hike as a whole, it was not hard. It was actually quite easy as far as hikes go. Base to treeline was easy. Everything until the last two miles was tolerable. (The last two miles were HELL.) It was just long. So long. Over 13 miles just in up. Yet that all just managed to accentuate the accomplishment.

In the wake, I find myself changed. I have such a completely different perspective on something that has loomed over me most of the days of my life. I grew up in Pikes Peak’s shadow. I have been up the highway to the summit plenty of times. Yet nothing was like actually learning the mountain the way we did with each step, actually experiencing the entire length of something I saw every day, something I ignored many days.

I have had many experiences in my life that utterly shifted my perspectives on everything. Accepting being bipolar. Going to Iraq. This was the first one that occurred entirely externally. It felt like a metaphor, like a physical experience of all the perspective shifts I have experienced on the inside. I was able to see something familiar from an entirely different angle. Everything changed, and everything stayed the same.

I have a pretty decent view of Pikes Peak at the end of my street, and every time I have been outside today, I am just dumbstruck thinking that only yesterday I was up there. Right there at the top. I walked up that entire mountain.

And what is the one thing I have no mentioned? My hamstring. That’s right. I have not mentioned my hamstring because it was a nonissue. It is a nonissue. There were certainly moments of discomfort and tightness along the trail. I did not sit very often because it hurt. Yet my hamstring was not a hindrance. That is a HUGE change from earlier this year when I could cry rolling over in bed or standing up out of my car.

Today I find that I feel like nothing happened. My hamstring does not hurt at all. I am not even sore (though that could be waiting for me in the morning). I must be doing something right with all these workouts. It must be doing something.

But none of that matters as much as the fact that my hamstring does not hurt.

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
goodreads.com/author/show/11032481.Christina_Bergling
pinterest.com/chrstnabergling
instagram.com/fierypen/
amazon.com/author/christinabergling

 


The Next Level of Failing Recovery

What I would not give to finally be able to write a damn post about running! For a running blog, this has been a sad string of whiny rants about not running for the better part of the last year.

And well, fuck. It’s only about to get worse.

The hamstring saga continues, unfortunately. I have failed spectacularly at physical therapy.

So injury in August. Initial doctor in January. My insurance company rejected the request for an MRI, so I was sent to the orthopedic in January. I almost immediately started physical therapy and went once or twice a week until the end of March, when my therapist and I agreed that I was making no progress if not deteriorating further. So I was sent back to the orthopedic who requested an MRI that my insurance company decided to bless this time.

Last week, I went for my first-ever MRI. Even as they were just imaging my hips and pelvis, leaving the crown of my head outside the torturous and constricting tube, it was a remarkably unpleasant experience. I do not like confined spaces, particularly those that restrict my arms. I would not call it claustrophobia. Perhaps a manageable discomfort. I also do not do super well holding still, much less utterly and completely still.

So I lay in the tiny tube, where it felt like I could headbutt the top of it. I breathed through my discomfort and the constricted feeling steadily climbing my limbs. As I held still longer and longer, I lost feeling in my hands. I had to peek through the bottom of my eyes to assure myself they remained folded on my chest. Yet even through the unrelenting slamming noise of the machine, I kept dozing off. Yet I could not be trusted to remain still while I slept, so I kept wrenching myself out of the twisted nightmares reaching up over me.

(not my MRI image)

The half hour dragged on in a shapeless and oppressive blur. Thankfully, my tech was very communicative. Between each set of images, he informed me of the duration of the next set and the total time remaining. That gave me landmarks back into reality. I held completely still, bobbed up and down on the sea of my subconscious, and made it.

The MRI revealed that I have a partial hamstring tear. (Pause for my complete and utter lack of surprise. Wait a moment for me to scream how I said this in August. And December. And January.) My doctor told me they would like to try plasma-rich platelet (PRP) injections as the course of treatment.

(definitely NOT my hamstring)

I had never heard of PRP (and my doctor and assistants are relatively terrible at communication), so I have done a fair amount of research online. To summarize, they will draw some of my blood, spin it down, and inject the platelet-rich layer directly into the hamstring injury. This should cause inflammation to go into overdrive and Wolverine up my body’s healing measures. It’s also supposed to hurt like holy hell for the first two weeks due to how inflamed it will be.

I read mixed reviews online. Studies that confirmed it accelerated healing and recovery effectiveness. Studies that claimed it does absolutely nothing compared to other therapies. People who swear by it and worship the results. People who scoff at or hate it. Thanks, Internet, for your reliable ambiguity.

Yet, at this point, I will try about anything. The pain is near constant and continues to interfere with my life, as simply as restricting activity and as grandly as influencing my behavior and personality. It has been almost 9 months with minimal improvement; I am over it. Depression is starting to creep in, flood and blur the edges, capitalize and take over. I feel it taking root in my brain, planting its awful seed in all the fissures the pain have created.

Besides, my doctor informs me the only other measure we can try involves completely severing the hamstring and reattaching it. I want no part of that very major surgery.

So the PRP injection is the next step. Once my insurance blesses it. Even if they do not, I may just pay for it. I need some sliver of hope.

What I have not been able to ascertain from my doctors or physical therapist are rules, boundaries, suggestions, advice, ANYTHING at all about what activities I should or should not be doing. The answer has been consistently vague.

“Don’t aggravate it.”

“Don’t do anything that hurts it.”

Aside from the fact that by personality defect alone I will push right through both aggravation and pain, activity has not hurt this entire time. It has felt fine to be active during the activity. If not much better than rest. Yet, clearly, that was not the case. I just want some definite answers. I get the liability portion; I get the variability between patients. But come on! Give me something.

So I stepped outside the therapeutic relationships and sought wisdom elsewhere.

Running has felt pretty good all along. No hamstring pain, no twinges, just perhaps extra pain after. Yet my logical brain has snagged on how it could be good or even ok for the injury. Besides, for all those months, I didn’t know what was really wrong. Yet now, running is off the table. NO RUNNING until it recovers.

I have trouble even typing that because I do not know how I am going to do it. It sounds silly to be so attached to an activity, but it has been my lifeline to sanity for so many years now. Even though my fitness has diversified over the past couple years, running has always been there; it has always been my guaranteed hit of endorphins.

No yoga either. The other activity I have used almost exclusively for the effects on the mind rather than the body.

SHIT. How am I going to hold my shit together?

I have been given permission to walk (in short strides) and dance (minus specific movements) and maybe barre (skipping key exercises). It is better than nothing, but I just do not know how I am going to maintain the balance I have cultivated through exercise when I am not allowed to push myself past my edge. My sanity is created by completely exerting myself, completely wasting myself in a workout to leave only the high.

I do not know how to moderate. In life.

I mean I’m grateful that it is not more restrictive or that my injury is not worse. Initially, I thought I would be 12 weeks with zero activity after the injection. That idea nearly sent me into a panic attack.

I am just trying to process how I am going to do this, what all it is going to mean. Ultimately, I will do just about anything to recover, to make the daily constant pain go away. Yet, a very nagging part of me is still lamenting what it is going to cost.

So expect even more posts not about running but more about not being able to run.

The saga continues…

Christina Bergling

christinabergling.com
facebook.com/chrstnabergling
@ChrstnaBergling
chrstnaberglingfierypen.wordpress.com
instagram.com/fierypen/

pinterest.com/chrstnabergling