Friday, March 23, 2018

13 Days until I fly to Kathmandu: Heroes, rest and sleep

I am putting my best foot forward to rest; it doesn't come easy for me.  My preference is to be on the go all the time.  Now, I need to fully recover and be as strong and healthy as I can be before taking off.  Thank you so much for following my preparation and eventual expedition.  Here are a few things that occupy my mind these days.

1.  A search for heroes.  The popular media wants to make everyone normal.  I'm normal - that much I know.  But even some of those that have superior skills and devote themselves to amazing feats of endurance get belittled to the level of mediocrity.  For some reason, we refuse to admit heroes into our lives.  I have a few who inspire me to keep going when the going gets really tough.  Hopefully you have a few too.  Here are mine:

Dag Aabye.  You probably never heard of him.  I'm sure he would find that fact quite comforting.  Dag is a young Canadian man (76 years old according to some) who lives in the Canadian wilderness and lives off the grid in the most marginal of ways.  To most, he would be seen as an eccentric old man.  I see him as a leader.  He lives how he wishes to live.  Not only that, he runs every day and is as fit as a person one third his age.  Do yourself a favor and watch this amazing short movie on Dag.  He doesn't know me and I don't know him - other than what I have read and watched about this man.  To me, a hero exists in our minds and not in the media.  Learn a little about Dag if you care to.  Heroes live their lives according to their own values.  Dag does precisely that and he obviously prospers.  Oh, if you want to know about his accomplishments in running, watch the movie.  As a teaser, he is the oldest person to ever finish the 80-mile ultramarathon often referred to as the "death race."

Sarah Thomas.  Heroes come in all forms and Sarah is one of my heroes.  She doesn't know it despite the fact that we are "friends" on Facebook.  I never met Sarah in person but read about her swimming feats for the past few years.  Sarah currently holds the longest known nonstop, solo swim (in a current-neutral body of water) - not that the last parenthetical bit makes one lick of difference.  She swam non-stop for 56and a half hours er...67 hours!  (Thanks Evan for the fact checking)  If that doesn't deserve some level of hero status, I have no idea what does.  I admired her tenacity for swimming for sure but my admiration grew steadily with her current missing.  Bad news befell her and her family; Sarah had a cancerous growth and is currently undergoing chemotherapy.  All the while, she remains optimistic about the outcome and longs to get back into the water.  Heroes come from not just sporting events but also emerge from life struggles.  A hero is someone who overcomes great odds and faces the dangers with a positive outlook.  Sarah matches all my criteria and I wish her well.  Hopefully one day our paths cross.

Aleksander Doba.  One of my students just emailed me a NY Times magazine article about a guy I never heard of before reading the piece.  He is one of my new-found heroes.  Why?  He - like Dag and Sarah - endures huge challenges with an openness to accept what comes.  I loved his self-deprecating statement "Nobody cares if you cross the Atlantic in a kayak."  He focuses on objectives that he desires - not just ones that others set.  I admire his focus and self-determination.  Moreover, he and I share the same attitude about aging where he said "I don't want to be a little gray man."  Heroism comes in many forms but Doba captures so much of what I admire in people that I could not resist putting him on my short list today. 

There are countless others who I omitted from this list.  Today, I am just full of appreciation for those who provided me some guidance and many of you know your influence in and on my life.  I can only thank you today but later I will provide greater detail about those of you who supported me through thick and thin.

2.  Rest.  I am in full recovery mode right now.  No training...just rest.  I found over the years that short bouts of rest restores my interest in hard slogs.  As March approached, I started feeling burned out from hours and hours of indoor training.  I knew I was fit but I kept pushing to squeeze out any last bit of endurance gains left in my body.  At some point, however, those pushes did not provide much and I keep pushing to realize anything.  That point is when I stop.  Well, the truth of the matter is that I don't always stop; I push for a little bit more until my sleeping, eating, and working patterns change for the worse.  I try to avoid that bad outcome now by resting more often and gaining as much as I can when I feel fresh.  Rest is the only way I know to solidify my gains so rest is what I do now.  I intend to rest for one or two more days and then resume my tapering down of workout intensity, load, and duration.   

3.  Circadian Rhythm Shift.  As I got older, I found it increasingly more difficult to overcome jet lag.  If you think a cross-country trip gives you jet lag, then try a 12 hour time shift - the same time shift that comes with a trip from the east coast of the US to Tibet.  The 12 hour time difference often leads me to getting sick and feeling really lethargic.  To prevent these untoward outcomes, I decided this year to slowly shift my time zones by 30 minutes each day.  My typical sleep-wake cycle during training puts me in bed by 9pm and up at 5am (and then out of my hypoxic tent at 6am after some breathing exercises).  Last night, I went to bed at 1:30am  and tonight I crash at 2am.  When I say crash, I mean crash.  My eyes barely stay open during the last 15 to 30 minutes of my day.  By the time I am ready to leave Virginia for Kathmandu, I will be going to bed at 8am and waking at 5pm.  The truth of the matter is that my day will be completely wonky when I travel but I have been known to sleep just about anywhere.  Once, while flying to Australia, I slept almost 12 hours without interruption in the center seat in the center aisle.  Yep, I can sleep standing up.  So this shift in my sleep-wake cycle will help me adjust to the time difference right away with the real aim to reduce the stress on my body.  Stay tuned to hear how it works out.

Thanks for following along.  I have two more posts about my gear and intend to submit them no later than by Sunday.  Time is growing dearer by the day.  Stay tuned for a few more insights as I pack my bags, eat my favorite foods, and prepare myself mentally for the challenges ahead.