Saturday, March 17, 2012

Mt. Wilson in the Rain: March 17, 2012

It was 40 degrees and raining steadily when we began our run from Chantry Flats at 6:30 Saturday morning. The first few miles passed by pleasantly. Dom and Jack ran ahead up the narrow trail through the forrest. Kate and I chatted about running, competition and the fact that her dad was about to run his first marathon, at age 57, the following day. Annie ran a bit behind us.

The five of us re-grouped at the bench, perhaps half way up Mt. Wilson. I felt completely comfortable up to that point. While it had been difficult to get out of the car and step into the rain, I did have on a long-sleeve sweatshirt over my technical shirt, and a beanie. I remember feeling just fine within a minute of starting the run. It was a bit cold, but cold is good when you're running uphill.

From the bench on, however, I began to feel increasingly cold. Stopping at the bench didn't help, and after that I hung back and talked with Annie for the next section. As we approached the summit, Dom and I went ahead, and the increased effort kept me warmer. Towards the top, the trail turned into a small stream, and there was no choice but to allow my shoes to get completely soaked with the cold water. The rain turned into sleet intermittently.

I started to get worried about hypothermia at the top of Mt. Wilson, and even gave some consideration to bailing out and taking shelter in one of the buildings at the top, but decided to finish. The trail down Mt. Wilson was wet and narrow, and I'm a poor downhill runner in the best of conditions, so my pace was slow, and as a result I got even colder.

Shortly into the decent I started to feel the symptoms of mild to moderate hypothermia. About a mile from the top, I began hyperventilating uncontrollably, and my vision started to get a bit weak. Fortunately, Dom and Jack stayed with me. Dom, who knows the trail so well after winning the Angeles Crest 100 last year, took the lead, chatting and whooping. Jack stayed behind me, making sure I stayed on course.

I don't really remember that much of the decent. I know I felt a bit dizzy right before we got back to the cars. I got into dry clothes, and we headed off to Starbucks for coffee. Within a few hours, I felt almost completely better, although I was quite careful the next few days to stay extra warm. And, most importantly, next time I go out in weather like that -- and I have every intention of doing so as often as possible -- I'll dress for the occasion.

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