Reflection (And I Don’t Mean Snow Glare)

8 08 2011

The best part about climbing a mountain is remembering that I climbed a mountain.  You see, things haven’t been so easy in my life lately and it all came to a horrendous climax three days before we headed to Mt. Adams.  So while I was climbing the mountain, there was a whole lot of crap back in the real world waiting for me.  At the time, it seemed incomprehensible that I had to step outside of my new and scary reality to go finish a journey I had started when things were a lot easier in my life.  I remember wondering if summiting was even possible considering the stress I had been under and my never ending preoccupation with worrying about what my future held.  Thirty minutes into our climb, I had a mild panic attack and announced that I was done.  The kindness of relative strangers in my class overwhelmed me as several assessed the situation and quickly helped me readjust my pack so that all the weight wasn’t on my shoulders.  Then, another hour into our climb, five members of our team had to turn around and head back. Their journey was over and the psychological impact of this fact hit us all very hard. By the end of day one, I wanted nothing to do with the mountain.  I was tired, sore, sad, and feeling very helpless and hopeless about the entire universe.  I remember lying down in the tent and thinking “Well, you know, I tried and I did my best.  There is no shame in stopping here.  No one really expected me to make it this far anyway.”

Morning came too soon, even though none of us in that tent really slept much.  I remember opening my eyes and looking up at the false summit and thinking “I’ve got to try.  I can’t look back some day and regret giving up without even trying.”  Once this decision was made, there was really no question that I would make it.  Some internal drive kicked in, my mind shut down, and my body took over.  It was hard, I won’t deny that.  But also, it was not hard because each step that I took required every ounce of my presence in the moment and there was no time to think about anything but the next foothold, the next breath, the next placement of my poles.  Some in the group had cathartic moments, where they were able to open their minds and really meditate on problems in their life.  My experience was exactly the opposite.  Everything in my life ceased to exist and I became laser focused on the here and now, this problem, this pain.  I probably would have just kept walking, not realizing I had made it to the top, had the cheering not jarred me out of my reverie.  Even then, the impact of what I had accomplished did not hit me until much later in the day.

Everyone keeps asking me if I would do it again.  They are wondering perhaps, if it is possible for someone so unlikely to fall in love with mountaineering.  The answer is complex, like most things in life.  I would do it again for the journey, the story to tell, the growth and personal development that has shaped me and will continue to impact me for years to come.  The experience cannot be replicated though; there is only one first time for this kind of thing.  And looking back, had I not brought all my baggage with me to that mountain, the take away would not be as great.  When the tough things in life come my way, I will now respond with “Well, I climbed a mountain; it can’t be as hard as that.”


Summit Fever

28 07 2011

Well the day is finally here. Or almost here. We leave at 6:15 tomorrow for Mount Adams. It feels weird, I don’t know what I’m expecting and I think I should probably be scared, but I’m more ambivalent than anything.

I haven’t been able to train at all this week which is very frustrating, but perhaps that will be a good thing. Starving the body of what it has been used to and then reintroducing it at about 100 times the normal may be just the ticket. I told MR to expect a call. What I didn’t tell him was that it would probably be an EMT reporting that I was near the top and refusing to move another inch, up or down.

Somehow I’ve lost another 6 pounds these last two weeks. I think that is due to my fear of being the “chosen one” should something go horribly wrong and everyone is lost and starving on the mountain. Of priority is letting everyone know about my saw blade and then acting crazy enough to scare people into believing I will use it.

That’s it for now. Thanks for hanging out with me these last few months and reading all my ridiculous posts. I will post pictures and maybe video in the next few days! Who knows, I could even make it onto AFV for stupidest person ever to climb a mountain…..


23 07 2011

Last week, I ran 5 miles without stopping for the first time in my life.  I casually mentioned to a co-worker that I had set an unrealistic goal for myself of running 7 miles before next Friday when I climb the mountain.  In my head, I wasn’t really mentally prepared to try it and that seemed okay with me since I’ve already accomplished so much.


Today, said co-worker, RH, comes in and says: “Is today Friday?  Oh, you’re running 7 miles today.’ 

Me:  “Um, what?  No!” followed by a bunch of B.S. excuses as to why that was definitely NOT going to happen today (most having to do with the treadmill stopping at 50 minutes at the gym).


Undeterred, I then receive the following email from RH:

Just run 4 miles.  Stop your machine, restart it, and do 3.  That way you control the break, and the second half is shorter.  DO IT!


Then let me know how it goes.  It’s pretty much your last chance to do your 7 before the climb.  You can totally do it, it’s not that far, and you’ll feel awesome when you’re done. 

The thing with this is that all it took was someone telling me they believed in me.  I needed the social support to get it done.  Maddi and Koshaba (2005) have gone into great detail as to why social support is so important in their book Resiliency at Work:  How to Succeed No Matter What Life Throws You.  But I don’t think I really believed it worked until recently.  I’ve always been kind of a social pariah, highly capable of success on my own strength and willpower, without the need for input from others.  We all have walls, however, and sometimes scaling those walls goes faster when you have a network of people cheering you on.


So, anyhoo, guys, I JUST RAN 7 MILES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I can’t stop smiling. And pinching myself because I still don’t think I really believe it.


 I overcame a lot of obstacles during the course of this run, here they are:

       1.  Brand new shoes = many blisters.

       2.  New pants kept falling down – letting others see your granny panties at the gym

        is poor etiquette, so my stride was goofed up from constant pulling up of pants.

        3.      New shirt felt awkward.  Love the dry-fit technology, hate the tight fit around

         gut and hips.

       4.      Drinking bottled Gatorade is difficult when running.  For a klutz like me, it just

         spills everywhere. People were staring whenever I tried to drink.  Most of it ended

         up on the treadmill, some in my eyes, on my cheeks, down my shirt.


But, yeah, that just happened.  Hot damn!


20 07 2011

Now that I’m nearing the end of my journey, I thought it would be appropriate to list some of the numbers behind the process.  Here goes:

93        number of times I’ve worked out since March 27

80        moments of doubt

50        number of times I’ve tried to compare myself to other classmates

            and felt like the weakest member

46        panic attacks while running

25        times I’ve tripped over gym equipment

16        fat pounds lost

15        times I’ve looked at Mt. Adams blogs about climbing

15        times I’ve said “Yep, I’m dead.”

10        number of times I’ve had to physically remove myself from being near

            sugar for my own safety

10        muscle pounds gained

10        times people have caught me walking with my head down because I’m

            fascinated with watching my weird new leg muscles

10        number of blog posts that I’ve looked forward to

10        number of times I’ve consciously used hardi-coping techniques

8         trips to REI

8          treatments for hip

5          times I’ve done way more physically than I ever thought I could

5          number of miles I can now easily run

4          family members who’ve expressed concern for my safety

3          books read on leadership

3X       the weight I can now lift compared to day one

3          programs I’ve watched on stress and mountain climbing

3          times MR has laughed when I tried to show him my muscles

3          times MR has said “You lost your butt but at least your face doesn’t

            look like Skeletor.”

3          number of times I’ve reminded him I’m not a Kardashian

3          number of times I’ve been fitted for a bike

3          number of papers written on resiliency and hardi-coping

3          number of times I’ve realized that resiliency training will change my


2          number of times I’ve been fitted correctly for a bike

1          family member who believes wholeheartedly that I can do this

1          family member who still enjoys making fun of my adventure

1          book read about the dangers of sugar addiction

1          number of times I’ve thought I could still back out

1          number of times I’ve worried I will be the teammate most likely to be

            eaten in an emergency

0          number of miles I could run before this journey

0          number of negative experiences

Packing Heat

19 07 2011

Last night I spread out my borrowed gear on the floor to show the family.  My son wondered if I would get to play Words With Friends at base camp since I have a solar powered iPhone charger. I told him very sternly I didn’t think that was the point of the whole journey, while secretly giving him a high-five for thinking such a great thought.   MR suggested that I pack all my clothes now and then he would get up in the middle of the night and re-pack for me.  This stems from a trip we took to Australia and New Zealand where at each airport we went to, the baggage handlers had to put yellow caution tape all over my suitcases because they were so heavy.  And also every camping trip we take, the car is so loaded that other family members suggest renting a U-Haul instead.  I asked him if he knew the going rate for a Sherpa to haul my stuff for me, which he pretended to ignore.  Instead he said, “Get over here and practice lighting this SOB so you don’t explode your face on the mountain.” Maybe between the bear spray and fuel canisters, I can MacGyver a jet pack and fly to the top of the mountain.  Obviously, I’m real handy that way.

What a Tool

18 07 2011

Guys, I scored the mother lode in gear from my brother and sister-in-law today.  Here are some of the things they freely handed over (in case authorities have questions later):

  1. Jetboil – apparently this apparatus is for cooking.  It looks real dangerous.  I can’t wait to try to light it.
  2. Retractable torch – again, fire is involved.  This will be so fun!
  3. Wire saw – Looks like string but is actually a saw blade.  For when I need to saw my arm off.  Leatherman’s are so yesterday.
  4. Towel tablets – it looks like a tablet, put it in water and voilà, you’ve got yourself a face towel.
  5. Laser light – no idea but I will find a use for it, most likely an inappropriate one.
  6. Backtracker – a GPS/compass for idiots. It comes with directions, which pretty much defeats the purpose.
  7. Solar powered iPhone charger – what the what!?  Shut. Up.
  8. Bear Keg – those bears really know how to party.
  9. Primo’s un-scent wipes – for hunting but apparently it takes all your smell away.  If my team is nice, I just might oblige them and remove my smell.
  10. .  In Case of Emergency Gel Energy – like 5 Hour Energy, times a thousand.  I doubt this stuff is street legal.

 And there is so much more.  It is really sad how excited I get over gadgets, especially considering our reading of High Altitude Leadership by Warner and Schminke (2009).  They warn that tool seduction is one of the 9 vices of leadership and can lead to death on the mountain, as well as in the board room.  Even sadder is the new hoarding adventure I’m sure this will inspire.  I’ve dropped about 3 developmental levels in a matter of minutes.  Oooh shiny object, me want!  The stressful parts will be 1) Not losing or wrecking any of it, 2) Minimizing things blowing up in my face, and 3) Deciding what is an absolute necessity because I want to carry it all in my pack.  Unfortunately, I can’t be throwing things out of my pack when it starts to feel too heavy on the mountain, since it is not my stuff.


8 07 2011

Okay, not a very good Cookie Monster impersonation but this no sugar or alcohol thing is HARD!  And for the record, I could care less about cookies, it is sour gummy worms and a nice glass of cabernet that I’m jonesing for.  I thought I would have a lot of withdrawal symptoms, like headaches, etc., but the only thing I’ve really noticed is that I just want it and feel panicked that I can’t have it.  On the other hand, I’ve noticed a leveling out of mood swings and lessened irritability.  Crap.  That means this is actually good for me.

I’ve been reading a book about sugar addiction because I need something in my hands; and since it can’t be candy wrappers or a stemless wine glass, a book was my next best option.  It’s called Potatoes Not Prozac by Kathleen DesMaisons.  Scary stuff.  Sugar and alcohol turn on the same brain receptors as drugs.  Namely it screws with serotonin and beta-endorphin and leads to adrenal fatigue.  The spikes in blood sugar and the severe crashing aren’t so great either.  And apparently, if one is a sugar addict, it is pretty much the same as being a drug addict.  Once you have it, you want more and more and think you can’t live without it but can never achieve the same high as when you started.  Here is a small list of the side-effects associated with the problem: impulse control issues, depression, reactive tendencies, flying off the handle, low pain tolerance, low self-esteem, hopelessness, inability to cope with life stress, explosive diarrhea, sudden death, acute swearing.  Okay, maybe those last few weren’t on the list.

The good news is that I’m running again.  Little life lesson for everyone….Do NOT gleefully exclaim to your trainer that you are running again!  The reaction I initially got, I interpreted as complete disinterest.  Little did I know the evil diabolical plans forming in his head.  So after leg presses, glut presses, hamstring curls, inner and out thigh machine and quad exercises he instructs me to follow him.  So I do and we ended up at the indoor track.  Whatever, I think, I’ve lunged around the track before after doing all these leg exercises, I got this.  So I lunge around the track.  Then he says, “Now turn around and run the track”  What!?  “I hate you!” I say.  Then I run.  “Now turn around and lunge the track again.”  Um, what?  That’s right, I had to lunge the whole damn thing again.  AND THEN RUN IT AGAIN!  Today he just had me straight up lunge it twice around.  Sick and twisted, that is what trainers are.

In class we are learning about hardy organizations as opposed to hardy individuals.   Hardy organizations display a climate, culture and structure that are capable of turning potential adversity into opportunity.  They have values of cooperation, credibility and creativity.  Theoretically, a hardy organization will eventually be comprised of hardy individuals because the hiring, firing, promoting and training functions will support such and eventually lead to a workforce of hardy people.  I think this sounds great, but in real life I think there are a lot of things both organizationally and individually that can mess with the concept.  But, this is good to know about and be aware of when diagnosing issues and forming strategy.  Also, I’ve become a little conceited with labeling people who are displaying non-hardy attributes.  Like the other day, something bad happened and I was all like “Oh yeah, they are isolating and treating this as catastrophic.”  That is just rude, and I’m not ashamed to call myself out.  What I needed to do instead was offer social support since that is one of the hardi-coping mechanisms.  I eventually did just that, but only after feeling like I held the grand secret to the universe for one moment.  Knowledge is power, people.