Friday, July 2, 2010

Fortyness...The Long Run at 9000 Feet

I am a runner.

I run several times a week. And although I am not a marathon runner (I have run 1/2 marathons) the distance I can run is respectable. I am not the fastest, but again, my endurance is nothing to laugh at.

I run in the Sonoran Desert. It is sometimes extremely hot. Predawn runs can be as hot as 90 degrees at the onset. It can also get pretty cold. Early morning runs can be in the 20's in the winter time. But, regardless of the weather outside, I am very consistent in my dedication to pounding the pavement. Understanding my conditioning and the conditions that I run in most of the year, it always astonishes me how a change in scenery can change the effort needed to complete my runs.

In the summer time, I head northwest of my desert home and spend some time on the western coast of our great country. My stay there includes a beautiful and relaxing trip the Sierra Nevada Mountains for a week of family and fun...and of course some running. Some hard running. Some very hard running. It's not that I am changing my mileage. In fact I run fewer. It is not that the weather is any different - it is really much more pleasant.

It's the air. The oxygen more specifically.

My desert home is at about 1000 ft elevation. My mountain runs are at 9000 ft. The air is pretty thin. I have to put out twice the effort for the same benefits. I have to adjust my pace, adjust my breathing, adjust my steps. If I don't, I'll probably end up flat faced on the side of the road feeling like my lungs have collapsed. The trick to finishing my runs is knowing what I have to accomplish but adjusting my stride, strategy and energy outlay, and adjusting the expectations that I can have the performance at 9000 ft that I do at 1000 ft.

Fortyness is a time of changing elevations. We run along fine at an elevation one moment, and in the blink of an eye, life has tossed us into another. You probably know these moments..... finances are moving along nicely and then a huge bill for a repair or a loss of a job happens..... you are feeling really good about how you have parented your kids then a kid "crisis" happens...... your relationships have seemed content and comfortable then are suddenly in upheaval. All of these things are like being dropped at a high altitude at a full run.

Adjustments in strategy and energy outlay become a normal part of life as we seem to have half the gain at twice the cost. To make it through, we must adjust our stride, making some steps smaller and some larger. We may need to reassess the rout or make a detour on the course, understanding that our performance may not be as stellar in these times. We need to be aware that the amount of oxygen dwindles in some moments of fortyness, and do what we need to do to keep our lungs full so we can continue on. Most importantly, we must keep our eyes on our end goals. The route is rarely easy. but if we stay dedicated to the journey, we can successfully finish these long runs at 9000 ft.


  1. Great post! I so agree! It is necessary to stop and look at where you are when you get dropped at 9000 feet, keep moving, but walk for a moment until you can feel what your body needs to adjust to!
    By the way, I would run with you spiritually any day of the week, you always seem to know how to make it balance out!

  2. I love reading about your runs. I am training for another Half marathon and it seems a bit tougher this time around. I refuse to blame age! :)

    Thanks for sharing!


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