Training resumes

Saturday 10/24/09

The business trip was reasonably successful, but grueling. The flight to St. Louis was as good as air travel can be given today's realities. However, it started raining steadily on Thursday morning, delayed our flight that evening, and dealt us a downpour on arrival in Chicago Thursday night. The meeting in Chicago went well, but the surrounding political theatrics were emotionally fraught. By the time we got back to O'Hare, I was damp, muggy, and fried. Then came the ride home on Friday night.

I had choices. The flight on which I was confirmed was scheduled to arrive at SFO at 9:15p. The equipment was at the gate early. The gate agent said that the crew was already on-site and ready to go. Weather had delayed earlier flights, but air traffic control was saying this flight was good-to-go on schedule. What else could there be? I chose to skip waiting standby for the earlier flight to San Francisco that had been delayed. It was completely packed and I would have had to take a center seat to arrive only 30 minutes earlier. I stayed with my confirmed flight.

We boarded on time. We settled in. We waited. And waited. Eventually, the captain came on the PA system to announce that we were waiting for passengers to arrive from connecting flights that had been delayed by weather. Since this was the last flight to SF that night and many people were going on to international destinations, the decision was to wait. An hour and a half after scheduled departure time, the delayed folks had embarked and we were wheels up.

At this point, I was determined to make my 8a date with Suzie to do a longish swim Saturday morning. Not only has she completed the English Channel multiple times as a solo and a relay swimmer, she has an impressive resume of many marathon swims. By email, she is organizing a group to make an extended tour of The Parky. I don't want to miss out and figure I'll just nap on the plane.

As the metamorphosed Yiddish proverb states, "Man plans and the gods laugh". The woman directly behind me sinks into a state of catatonia while her husband fusses about her with escalating urgency. One of the flight attendants notices the commotion and remarks on the woman's "weak state". The call goes out for someone on-board who is an M.D. to provide assistance and half a dozen people cascade down the aisle of the aircraft. Several of them congregate at my aisle seat and press forward, all trying to render advice.

There happens to be an opthalmology conference in San Francisco and the plane is packed with people who know a great deal about eyes. The first opthalmologist on the scene is a perky woman who takes over the hands-on tasks of taking blood pressure and pulse. As more M.D.s arrive there starts a negotiation as to who is most qualified to be the primary care physician. "I'm an anesthesiologist, but I'm not licensed to practice in the U.S." "Well, anesthesiology trumps opthalmology, regardless of the license in this case."

Meanwhile, the perky opthalmologist has taken the 1-slot and is making the most of the window. By now, she has determined that the stricken woman's pulse is thready and the initial blood pressure reading is 90 over 60. After some consultation, the loosely constructed physician team determines that orange juice is ok and caffeine is not. A second blood pressure reading comes out 120 over 70. Seeking a second opinion, another opthalmologist checks again and concurs. 120 over 70 it is. At this point, consensus reigns that the woman is stabilized. The throng diminishes, but does not disperse. So much for a nap.

The captain has arranged for a paramedic team to meet the plane at the gate. Deplaning is delayed as the emergency medical technicians administer to the patient, put her in a wheelchair, and remove her from the plane. Thirty minutes later, I pass by the paramedics as they are advising the woman and her husband that catching the connecting plane for Taipei in her condition is inadvisable given that it is a fourteen hour flight and the Taipei authorities are quite qualmish regarding medical matters.

I was in bed by midnight.

I did manage to make it to the Aquatic Park beach at the appointed time. Suzie was there along with another swimmer and we decided to swim a mile and a half. We charted the first part of our course as Opening, Flag, Oprah. From there, we swam to the Goalposts, Bad Becky and back to the Oprah. Suzie went in to prepare for another mile and a half swim. I went on to the Kebbe, Flag, and in. That was about an hour and ten minutes for me. Certainly over two miles--probably not quite two and a half. It felt great! I was glad to have been able to put the business and travel turmoil aside and just swim. It seemed like more practice for the "shut up and swim" requirements of the Channel.

Jon Ennis was coming down the stairs as I headed for the showers. I asked him what he ate in the Channel. He said he took GU and Maxim. Later on, he advised against foods with electrolytes such as Cytomax. This coincided with the admonition by Mike Read in his wonderful article, "Nutrition: Don't Swallow the Seawater". Mike's basic point is that the inadvertent swallowing of salt water on the crossing provides all the necessary electrolytes and then some. Jon's most emphatic advice was to try not to get sick as "that will slow you down".

Jon was yet another successful Channel swimmer to offer encouragement and assistance. My most galvanic response occurred when he commented that simply deciding to swim the Channel "expands your whole world". That struck home.

Peter Perez was in the shower. He's has a 2-slot with Allison Streeter in August. We compared notes and agreed to coordinate some of our training efforts. As we talked about our ambitions, I experienced another burst of ebullience in connecting with a kindred soul. This undertaking has indeed expanded my world already.

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