Monday, February 25, 2013

Trout and Other Flatlanders

I finished my meetings in Quito in the early afternoon, returned to the hotel to compose a report and emailed it to the office.  That meant I had a couple of hours of daylight left, so I tossed my dress clothes in the closet, put on my running gear and headed outdoors for my daily run. 

There happens to be a beautiful park a few blocks from the hotel, with jogging trails and flowering greenery, and with this spectacular view:

So, I cranked up the iPhone, flipped through my music catalog for something appropriately inspiring and took off, like I'd done hundreds of times before.

Two minutes later, I noticed something.  My breathing seemed labored.  Ah, yes, I said to myself.   I'm running in a city that's 9300 feet above sea level.  In the Andes Mountains.  I should take it easy.  So I slowed to a fast jog.

For two minutes.  My legs were loose and ready to pump, my lungs felt clear and open, I was motivated to circle this beautiful park until sweat soaked my clothes.  There was only one small problem:  there didn't seem to be any oxygen.  I downshifted to a very slow jog and inhaled as deeply as I could with every breath.  I'd been in this city for three days, I'd walked miles and miles with little effort, but as I changed pace from a slow walk to a steady jog, it started to make a huge difference. 

I really wanted to run the perimeter of this park and enjoy its beauty.  There was no guarantee that I would ever return.  So I pressed on.

I made it this far...maybe a mile....and it took me thirty minutes.  I stopped, gasping for the few oxygen molecules drifting by on the breeze.  A couple of local folks ran past me, carrying on a conversation as they raced forward and I wondered how it was possible for them to do that. I sat on the grass for a long while. Then I got up and walked.  Slowly.

Heading back to the hotel, an image came to mind of a fish out of water, panting for air that he was unable to assimilate.  A lifelong flatlander running in the mountains?  Just call me trout.

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