Tag Archives: india

Running Cold

Running BreckenridgeOn an amazing trip to India a couple of years ago I experienced an unfortunate illness in the magical city of Shimla in the southwestern ranges of the Himalayas. It was awful. Altitude sickness was a potential culprit given the location, timing, and some of the symptoms, but that never was confirmed. Just to be safe I concluded that I should avoid higher elevations for the rest of my life. Such drastic solutions come to mind more often as one ages.

But then our staff planned a retreat to Breckenridge, Colorado. At ten thousand feet elevation. Awesome.

I could have said that the trip was a bad idea, which would have been a lie. I could have simply wimped out, which fits me. I could have created some excuse, but I ran out of time before coming up with a good one. So just over a week ago I found myself in Breckenridge, Colorado, in dazzling scenery and single-digit temperatures with a wind chill double-digits below zero.

Our fearless leader counseled that we start hydrating several days prior to the trip, and as anyone monitoring my trips to the bathroom would confirm, I complied. In addition, my doctor prescribed some meds, which I took as directed, so all in all I did my part and waited to see what happened.

I was great. Zero problems whatsoever. The view was breathtaking, but not even literally. I never felt light-headed or short of breath, nor did I experience any of the harsh and unspeakable things I did in that unfortunate hotel bathroom in India.

I took my running shoes to Colorado just in case. I am a runner that has grown less interested in races and far more attracted to fun runs in fascinating places. I have now been on crazy cool runs on five continents and in bunches of states and am always on the lookout for more, and I had never been in a place like that gorgeous cabin in Breckenridge. So on our last morning I woke up with the rising sun, layered up, stretched, and stepped out into the bitter cold.

My intention was to run a mile up the road from the cabin and then come back down for a second easy mile and declare victory, but it turns out that running uphill at elevation in ridiculously cold weather is not as easy as it sounds. So I labored to make it a half mile uphill without passing out before returning for some quarter mile repeats until I made it to two miles.

I had unnecessarily worried about my footing; my major worry (beyond passing out) turned out to be that I could not feel my hands. Thankfully I was running instead of juggling. But any worries had to take a break because the experience was just so awesome that it defies description. Crunching snow in running shoes on a rave run high in the Rockies is one of the coolest experiences ever. No pun intended, but duly noted.

It is funny how we avoid our deepest fears. Sometimes, at least, facing those fears leads to a place so beautiful that you could not have imagined it even if you tried.

A Difficult Journey

Although less than flattering, I will tell the story.

Our business in India last week took us further away from the Delhi airport each day, culminating in a three-hour climb up a winding, dangerous, spectacular road in the Himalayas.  On this final climb, as we dodged death (and cattle) ahead of us and absorbed the awesome views on both sides of us, I developed a case of motion sickness.  Nothing too terrible, just enough to create a fuss for our hosts, which led to some rest, a nice visit from a young Indian doctor, and a bottle of Sprite.  By evening, I felt better and had the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful mountain village.

At 6:30am the following morning (warning: graphic material ahead), things went south.  Literally.  I will spare the terrible details, but suffice it to say that the next couple of hours were not pretty due to the onset of a malady common to travelers in the region.  But to somehow make things worse, we were scheduled to leave that morning with the following itinerary: a three-hour drive down the mountain, followed by a seven-hour drive to Delhi; followed by a six-hour wait in the airport; followed by an eight-hour flight to Amsterdam; followed by a one-hour race across the airport; followed by a ten-hour flight to Los Angeles.

And I felt like crap, pardon the ironic word choice.

One of my colleagues provided a miracle drug to stop the I’d-rather-not-say, and we were faced with a decision on what to do with me.  As my two colleagues considered donating me to India and our host offered to call an ambulance, I declared that I had four goals: (1) get down the mountain; (2) get to the airport in Delhi; (3) get to Amsterdam; and (4) get to Los Angeles.  And that I would take them one at a time.

Well, I strapped myself in, armed with a granola bar, drugs, a bottled water, prayer, and another Sprite, and off we went after goal number one.  It did not go so well.  At one point on the journey down the mountain, we stopped for my traveling mates to have lunch.  The smell of Indian food was not my friend, and I considered jumping off the mountain but did not have enough energy, so I strapped myself back in and continued on the journey.

I did survive the mountain and felt that there was hope—in fact, the lower elevation seemed to help.  On phase two of the journey—the seven-hour drive to Delhi—we stopped at a roadside convenience store where I discovered a can of plain Pringle’s and thought that God might like me again.  But alas, by the time night fell and we reached the airport, and possibly because we reached the crazy rush hour traffic of Delhi, I started to feel terrible again.  But hey, goal number two was accomplished.

The six-hour wait in the airport is not a fond memory.  On the plus side, I did eat most of a sandwich and then slept for a few hours sprawled across three plastic chairs, but by the time we boarded the flight to Amsterdam, I approached my lowest moment.  As the plane took off (thus ensuring I would reach goal number three), I longed for death once again.  I was certain that I would do ugly things in the airplane lavatory and even unfastened my seatbelt so that I could run for it—only you can’t run to the lavatory with drink carts in the aisle, and once you get there they are almost always occupied, and should a miracle occur and one be vacant I can’t fit in one anyway, much less if I am having convulsions.  And any change of clothes was packed in checked luggage.  I wished the plane would crash and somehow kill only me.

But somehow, after a few hours of misery, I improved enough for some fitful sleep, and by the time we completed my third goal I was in good enough shape to make it across the airport to board the plane to Los Angeles.

The final ten hours were not the happiest of my life, but I think you get the drift of the story by now.  I made it home after the terrible thirty-five hour journey and fully believe in miracles.

So why do I share such an embarrassing story?  I have faced a few significant challenges in my life, and there will be more for me and also for you.  When such challenges arise, and the journey ahead seems perilous and terrible with no guarantee of survival, sometimes you must set out on the journey anyway.

When such a journey is inevitable, fix your eyes on the road ahead, take it one step at a time, hope for some friends to journey with you, and just try to hold on.  You might not make it, but then again, you might.

Exotic India

Taj Mahal.jpg

The fun folks at Merriam-Webster define exotic as “strikingly, excitingly, or mysteriously different or unusual.”  I now just picture India and call it a day.

I followed two colleagues to the other side of the world last week to cultivate relationships on behalf of the law school, and from a business perspective it was a successful trip.  From a personal perspective, I brought home extraordinary memories of…

  • Monkeys swinging over shoppers’ heads at a bazaar high in the Himalayas.
  • The snake charmer on his punji serenading us and his little, slithering friend.
  • Children playing cricket in the dirt in the searing heat.
  • Men paving a road by hand.
  • The “mad poetry” of Indian traffic (as my friend Jeff calls it), where cars, buses, scooters, bicycles, pedestrians, cows, dogs, auto rickshaws, motorcycles, and tractors dance to a symphony of horns.
  • The morning sun peeking through the haze on the road to Agra.
  • The stunning majesty of the Taj Mahal.
  • Being one of only two people not wearing a turban in a large business meeting.
  • The powerful aroma and flavors of rich Indian cuisine.
  • Camels on the roadside.
  • The unlimited potential of a scooter, from the wedging of toddlers between adults to beautiful women in colorful saris precariously riding sidesaddle to hauling more people and goods than a typical pickup truck.
  • Cows everywhere—and the jarring appearance of a McDonald’s.
  • A military man carrying a rifle grabbing breakfast in a convenience store.
  • Conspicuously arriving at a skills center in full business suit and the stares from the long line of poor people awaiting an exam that could change their lives.
  • The noble India Gate.
  • Going behind the gates of the President’s House and seeing the formal guard dressed in bright red uniform with a feathered hat standing at attention.
  • The magical city of Shimla at night.
  • Colors.  All of them.  Bright and vibrant blues, greens, yellows, reds, oranges, purples…

I don’t really know what to do with all of these memories just yet.  They are almost too much to process.  Sadly, I suspect that I have already forgotten images that in any other context would be unforgettable.

What I do know is that the world is filled with exotic places.  And that they are worth checking out.