Goals and The ER – 409 More Days

Lee Petersen climbing at Red River Gorge in Kentucky

Me climbing at Red River Gorge a millennia ago

I turned 30 shortly after moving to Alaska. Before moving to Fairbanks, I used to climb a lot outdoors. Unfortunately, there isn’t much good rock climbing or bouldering in the Alaska Interior. Around the time I turned 30, I made the goal to climb 5.14 and V12 by the time I turn 40. I’ve always felt like those grades have been within my reach, sometimes really close. Usually, whenever I was climbing hard enough, I would push too hard, climb too much, and injure myself.

January is fast approaching, carrying my 39th birthday on its shoulders. So, for my mid-life crisis, I’m choosing to re-invest in this old goal. I have some weight to lose, blood pressure to get in check, and some (smarter) training to do so that I don’t hurt myself. Good thing 2020 is a leap year!

My blood pressure has been an exciting story. For as long as I’ve known, I’ve been on the high side, but not too concerning. That’s changed over the last few years. I finally started taking medication about a month ago and landed in the ER about two weeks ago. That was an exciting day. I was getting some work done and editing photos at the desk when a sudden feeling of anxiety took over me.

There was no trigger. I was working well and felt productive. It just happened. My hand started shaking, my eyes felt like they were bugging out of my head, and my face started feeling funny. I took my blood pressure, and it was 230/144. A hypertensive crisis is anything over 180/120. I retook it, and it was barely a few points different. The left side of my face was going numb as well as my left hand. Cat rushed me down to the hospital. Anyway, after a few hours in the emergency room, the doctor came in to tell me I wasn’t having a stroke. My ECG was normal, and my blood pressure was going down about an hour after they gave me more medication. I think when they released me, it was 160/95.

Since then, we’ve been changing up my medication a bit. It was the same story with the new drug. It seemed to start working for a few days, and then my BP goes right back up. I’ve made a couple of discoveries, though. If I don’t let myself get hungry, my blood pressure tends to not go entirely out of control. All my reading says the opposite, though. I guess I’m weird. Exercise makes an enormous difference. After running for at least a half-hour, my blood pressure almost gets to healthy levels for hours, which is fantastic since I confirmed with my doctor that running isn’t going to make my heart explode. She promised.

I’m hoping we can find that right combination of diet, exercise, and medication to get this under control soon. All of these should help contribute to my climbing goals anyway, so I’m feeling optimistic overall.

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