I can’t remember the last time I visited Colorado. It’s been a long while to use the technical term. So it goes without saying I was excited to jump at the opportunity to take a specialty plaster workshop near Glenwood Springs. I just returned, and I’m going to attempt to highlight some of the interesting, fun, and serious moments.
First, it was awesome to get to see some of my childhood friends the first couple days. From crashing on futons to eating big breakfasts, it was good to see and discuss the ways we have grown up and even begun to mature.
After that, I took some time to adventure. Mt. Evan’s loomed at the top of my bucket list, and so I attempted to cross climbing a 14er off that list. I did not conquer the mountain that day. However, I don’t think anyone ever goes up a mountain, even part way, and comes down the same. I’ve heard ultra runners talk about having to deal with the dark parts of their soul to get through. There is an element of that in climbing a mountain, and it may well be what draws us to the peaks. The closer you get to the sun, the starker the shadows. I made it down exhausted, but somehow refreshed.
The next few days were a blur of learning, working, and playing. The learning and working were integral to each other. Not only did I learn some awesome new stuff, much of what I thought I knew about plasters was revolutionized, which could very well change the course of my future in construction and drywall, in a good, or even amazing, way. Ryan, our main instructor, is a talented artisan who was excited to share his wealth of knowledge and experience.
I was fortunate enough to be able to arrange staying with Dave, one of the other students who lived near town. It was great to save on lodging fees and to have someone to hang out with who knew the area.
Including myself there were 8 students, hailing from all over the country except one fellow from New Zealand (affectionately known as a Kiwi). Despite a multiplicity of backgrounds and skill sets, we all got along amazingly. Working together we applied what we learned (literally), and finished each day with time to explore the town and its many activities. Most nights started at the local micro-brewery. Steve (the Kiwi) made it his personal mission to try every beer on the menu before the week was out. He was so outgoing that he was considered an honorary native by the end of the week.
When we weren’t enjoying the local malt beverages we were doing exciting things like participating in the full-moon bike ride. I’ve never seen anything so… different. But fun. About 75 or more people showed up on self-customized bikes, sporting all sorts of modifications like high handlebars, super wide tires, chopper-like low-riders, or double high frames. Most bikes either had battery powered string lights, or a collection of glow-sticks. Once the crowd grew large enough it moved in a mass of hedonistic noise through the town for almost two hours, often stopping traffic, making children laugh, and grouches cringe.
Another night we enjoyed the 5Point Film Festival, a collection of inspirational adventure short films. They ranged all the way from touching to quirky. http://5pointfilm.org/festival/films
Saturday was the last day of hard work we had to do. I started it much the same as I would any other day; with a run. Little did I know my trip would take a dark turn in that short period of time. It was a chilly morning. But I was prepared. I didn’t push myself, I was feeling good. Just me, the padding of my Skoras on the lottery funded trail toward town, and the crisp mountain air. I got into to the small town of Carbondale, almost exactly 2.5 miles north of Dave’s, stopped my phone’s GPS tracking app, snapped a picture of Mt. Sopris, and noticed the sprinklers spraying on the grass (which seemed very odd) when I suddenly felt very dizzy, as if I had stood up too quickly.
There are some things in life that nothing can prepare you for. One of those is regaining consciousness while staggering around with blood in your mouth and running down your face. I had passed out and had no memory of the points between getting dizzy and tasting blood, already standing back up. Suddenly everything pounded my senses mercilessly and unrelenting. The blood, the chips of tooth on my tongue, my phone on the ground, the sprinklers, the Mustang in the driveway, the blood. I wondered if I could clean it off in the sprinklers. It was too cold. I took my picture with my phone to see how bad a shape I was in. I was in a bad shape. I think I passed in and out of shock. I contemplated going further into town, possibly to clean up at a convenience store. I settled on walking back to Dave’s. I would gauge how I felt along the way. I had every intention on beginning running again. In and out of shock. I started my GPS again. .34 miles later I came up to a fire station. Two paramedics were drinking their coffee outside. They offered me some. As I walked closer they realized I needed more than coffee. They rushed me to the back of a nearby ambulance and hooked me up to their machinery. I stabilized enough that they let me call Dave to drive me to the hospital.
At the hospital I was quickly escorted to a room, thanks to a call ahead from the paramedics. I was poked, prodded, and hooked up to all sorts of wires. They ran the 12 point EKG, took my blood, gave me an IV, put 9 stitches (and an unholy amount of local anesthetics) in my lip, and updated my Tetanus shot. Eventually the doc came back in and told me all the tests came back clean. My EKG was fine. I wasn’t severely dehydrated, my electrolytes were fine, and there was no sign of clotting in my blood. In other words, there was nothing obviously wrong with me. Both reassuring and not. Without ruling out all the extreme options they weren’t willing to put a name to what happened. Could be altitude sickness, an arrhythmia, or a seizure. They let me go with strict instructions to take it easy.
So on the hardest, most stressful day of class I found myself on the sideline polishing a blob of clay into a shiny sphere, while everyone else took periodic breaks from worrying over the last couch to see if I needed anything.
Sunday we wrapped things up and all went out to lunch together. I was still exhausted, but started my way back to Denver. I began to feel horrible while driving farther up the mountains. My heart was racing, I could see my chest pounding, breathing was becoming difficult. I found the nearest hospital on Google. By the time I made it I was convinced I could be dying and was in a full blown panic attack. Repeat the drill. Oxygen, IV, EKG. Clean blood work and EKG. Apparently they see a lot of these sorts of cases in this hospital. Most reassuring thing I’d heard in a couple days. Once my IV ran out and the paperwork was all signed I was sent on my way and pretty much told not to stop until I was well down the other side.
I made it to Denver, spent the night with some old friends, and got to the airport Monday exhausted but without any further issues. Tuesday I was still exhausted, but had to work. By the time I got home I was running a low-grade fever and had developed a slight cough. I don’t know which came first, the cold or the syncope. I like to think it was the cold. Now, on Thursday, I’m beginning to feel human again. Except when I laugh and feel like I’m going to split my stitches open or try to use my front teeth on anything harder than soggy toast or eat chili and feel like a volcano is dancing on my lips.
All in all it was an incredible week. It changed my life in multiple ways. My love for plaster has increased. And it will be a very long time before I run alone again. But I will run again.