So here’ am-somewhere in the center of hiking up the Vertical KM in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in the French Alps, and I’m really frustrated. It’s chilly and raining, and also the elevation is challenging my breathing and causing me to move just like a turtle. Oh, and I’m using trekking poles-for the very first time ever.
I stop and appear up. I can’t see the crest, so I have no idea how much more I have to climb. I’m so fatigued. I guess my body hasn’t acclimated to the time difference. (Chamonix is 6 hours ahead of Nyc, therefore it seems like it’s 4 a.m.) “I can’t believe this trip is really [insert expletive] hard; it’s only the first day,” I think to myself.
I’m starting to question my decision to take this weeklong visit to try out Columbia’s spring 2017 gear and trek part of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc race. Let me be truthful: I was never confident?about how I’d fare in the mountains. Sure, I’m a fitness editor, and that i exercise hard and often, however i am a city girl. I do not hike, I do not camp, and that i hate trail running-pretty much what this trip entails! Within my job, though, I’m always preaching about how exactly, to determine change, you need to step outside your safe place. That is what the Alps represent for me.
This trip came in the proper time. I knew that I’d been playing it a little too safe lately. What had happened to the preteen who successfully maneuvered down a black diamond slope three days after learning how to ski because her brother dared her to? Long gone. The spring breaker who cliff jumped (twice) at Rick’s Cafe in Negril, Jamaica? Nowhere around the corner. The college senior who exuberantly conquered river rafting in Tennessee? Hadn’t seen her lately. I am not sure when it happened, but because I got older, I ended taking risks, gravitating toward safe activities that came naturally in my experience. Only, at this time I’m doing the alternative: I’m daring to do something scary.
I look down and am briefly comforted: I’ve actually made some progress. Then I quickly stop looking down since i start to get dizzy. I close my eyes, take a handful of deep breaths, and begin mouthing power words. I have three phrases on the top that I’m practicing prior to the trip: 1. You’re strong. 2. A measure at any given time. 3. Nobody puts Baby in a corner. I toss in that last Dirty Dancing reference for comic relief when things get really rough. It really works; every time I say it, I chuckle.
I continue climbing. To feel more in charge, I pretend that I’m back at Velocity Sports Performance in Nyc with my trainer, Frank Baptiste. I imagine that the backpack is the 250-pound sled he’d me pull and i also am Carioca-ing (exactly the same sideways stepping pattern the mountain guide has instructed me to use because of the steepness and also to avoid fatiguing my calves) across the turf. I felt strong during those workouts. I felt prepared-well, as prepared as I might be with just six weeks to obtain Alps-ready. A fitness center is a safe space for me; it’s where I excel. And also, since I worry that I’m not excelling on this climb, perhaps imagining myself there will get this to trek less daunting.
And it will help. Or possibly I just finally check my ego at the door and stop competing with another climbers. Instead, I concentrate on doing my best, even when which means going at a slower pace and taking breaks on the way. 2 . 5 brutal hours later (after hiking straight up a slick, rocky trail, scrambling over jagged rocks and hoisting myself up with cable wires drilled into the side from the mountain), I get to the top. I’m exhausted and in a situation of shock. I think, “I just hiked in the same path because the Plan Praz cable car.”
And when i join the group, they cheer for me. I, consequently, sob-uncontrollably. The climb has become hitting me.
I’m so happy it’s over. I’m scared of what’s to come. I’m proud of myself. Personally i think strong. But most importantly, I have pushed past all my doubts and completed my first climb within the Alps, all while wearing a 25-pound backpack. Discuss tough!