Monday, July 14, 2014


When my boyfriend has been speaking a lot of Spanish (which is pretty natural when he is living in a Spanish-speaking country), he sometimes slips into a habit of pronouncing his English according to Spanish rules, and I find it hilarious.  He is perfectly capable of making the "J" sound, but this morning when he woke up and eagerly suggested we go "yogging" again, I could not help repeating the word as he had said it.  "You want to go yogging?"  And he didn't notice.  "Si, my lady!"  So we went.

This morning comprised the second attempt at yogging that Maurizio and I have made since I got here. The other was two days ago, and neither was a great success.  I am not much of a runner in general--as a rower, I like to say that I prefer to do my sport sitting down.  However, I am relatively athletic, and I had not noticed any strong symptoms from the change in altitude in the week that I had been here, so I thought I would be fine.  (Bogotá has an altitude of 2625 meters above sea level, which is about 8612 feet.  My home in New Jersey is, at its highest point, only 11 meters above sea level, or about 36 feet.)

Photo stolen from TripAdvisor; we don't run with cameras
We did not want to run by the roads, where the exhaust-belching buses and cabs would deprive us of oxygen, so we headed for the Parque Nacional, a quite large and pretty park full of playgrounds and tennis courts and walkways, but also a very hilly one, and a great favourite among skateboarders.  I was fine on the flat bits, but the moment we started mounting those hills, I felt the first pangs of altitude sickness.  First it was just shortness of breath, which I could have accounted for with lack of fitness, except that I had raced three times in a regatta a week and a half earlier, and had not felt this kind of lung-bursting oxygen depletion.  By the second incline I was breathing like a 90-year-old lifetime smoker with terminal emphysema.  My head and muscles ached, and I had a wretched feeling in my stomach, as if I had ingested poison.  I stopped, but Maurizio urged me on, so I attempted to tackle one more hill.  I couldn't make it even halfway up.  I slowed to a crawl, and trudged with my head down and my lungs heaving, my body very upset with me and occasionally trying to drown me by coating my throat with mucus.  It didn't subside quickly, either.  I had to stand there, panting, for a good five minutes before my breathing calmed enough for us to continue.  I didn't want to; I was almost crying from the awful feeling, but my partner was pushing me and my personal pride wouldn't let me give up.

We really didn't run for very long, and when we finally collapsed onto the grass for stretching and I was able to slow my pounding heart, I had the disconcerting sensation of being extremely exhausted while simultaneously feeling like I had hardly worked out at all.  The lengthy, uphill walk back to our flat was a good cool-down, though the final, steep road plus the stairs to the building were a bit painful.

Both that day and today I needed to eat and rehydrate immediately, and the best way to do the latter was to drink coca tea.  This all-natural beverage is made by steeping dried coca leaves in hot water, and it is a traditional method for defeating altitude sickness.  (Actually, the real tradition is to chew the leaves, but I prefer the tea!)  And before you ask, no, there is no cocaine in the tea, and it has no connection to cocaine other than that both substances come from the coca plant; however, one is produced by man via a chemical process and the other is the natural leaf, no more stimulating than a green tea leaf or a coffee bean.

Today's run was worse than Saturday's, because we went before breakfast, and I barely survived the first real incline.  Fortunately, Maurizio led us around the flatter areas for most of the run, and only included two hills in the middle. I let him go ahead and sprint those, while I made progress where I could.  I was embarrassed to see some guards watching me hyperventilate and hack my way around, but there was nothing I could do.  That awful sick feeling returned, and this time it didn't subside until long after we had returned home.  I am hoping that, with continued coca tea consumption and a few more of these runs, I will finally acclimate to the altitude.  Then we can tackle our next challenge: climbing Monserrate on foot, to a height of 3152 meters, or 10,341 feet.

Me after today's yog, but before coca tea


  1. I hope you did happy cat/angry cat to cheer you up at the end! Don't hurt yourself too much xxx

  2. I definitely did, and have done it every time to make me happy and to stretch my back! (The happy part is the more important bit.) Hope you are well!