May 14, 2012
Okay, this is where the going gets tough and real life challenges get in the way. Today I left my home in sea level Long Beach for eleven straight days of work travel. During that time, I’ll be in three different U.S. Cities, staying in four different hotels and guest houses. I know some of them well, but others will be new to me and I’m not sure if I’ll have a place to work out.
To make matters worse, I’m an ethnographer. Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it – almost nobody knows what an ethnographer is. More on that later! For now, just know that I study culture for a living. When I’m working, I immerse myself in the worlds of other people in order to tell their stories. I’m tied to their lives, their schedules, and their daily activities. My own world goes on the back burner.
This time around, I’m working really odd hours. Some mornings, some nights, some weekends. I’m not sure when or if I’ll have time to run, and I will definitely not have a chance to hike. Today, the shuttle picked me up for the airport at 9:30am, and I spent the morning packing and preparing for my fieldwork. I’m not a morning person and I have no energy if I try to run early, so exercising before I left was out of the question. I arrived at my hotel at 4:30pm, where I had to check my email for the day and do some accounting work and some writing. By the time that was all finished, it was 7:15pm and I hadn’t had a chance to eat all day. Airplane snack boxes aren’t really an attractive option.
I’m near one of my favorite Indian restaurants, so I went to dinner there and practiced eating curry using only my right hand, Nepali style. It’s hard. I’m afraid I’m going to screw this up, but inadvertently violating norms is a part of my job so I’ll do my best and go with the flow. I’m happy that ACTIVE Himalayas tipped us off about some of the local norms in Nepal, so we’ll have some idea of the mistakes we should try not to make. That’s helpful.
Now for the good news – I’m in a city that’s at a much higher altitude than my home, and I will be here one week out of every month from now through July or August. This is my fourth time here this year, and a chance to get a bit of an idea how my body adapts to altitude changes. The first two times I was here, I had a headache and definitely felt short of breath even though it’s not high enough for bona fide altitude sickness. I felt the change though, for sure. Last time was much better, and I’ve learned that it’s important for me to avoid caffeine, alcohol, and a hard workout on my first day in town.
This time, the first two were easy but my Week 5, Run 3 was my first “long” run and I couldn’t skip it. On Thursday, I’ll be getting back to the hotel from work after midnight and the shuttle to the airport is picking me up at 3:30am. That day absolutely MUST be a rest day. So today, I need to run. By this time, it was after 8:00pm, but the hotel gym is open until 10:00pm so I headed on down.
To my surprise, I rocked out this run! I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it even at sea level, but I was just fine at higher altitude and could have kept going. I have no idea what the science is on adjusting to altitude with several weeks in between higher altitude visits, but it does seem like I’m adjusting better and faster each time. I hope my time here helps me get to Everest Base Camp, even though I’m still less than a third as high as I’ll be going. Still, it’s better than nothing which is the high altitude training I got before Peru.
I’m feeling really good about fitting in my workouts, and really motivated to figure out a way to keep up while I’m on the road. For now, time for a bit more work before bed and an early morning. And a rest day. Yes!!!