On November 17, 2013, I summited the great Kilimanjaro after hiking her slopes under a full moon. I have committed to doing the same thing at the age of 70, ten years later, on November 27th, 2023. This is my countdown.
Between now and then I am scheduled for shoulder and hand surgeries, so there will be side trips and physical therapy and rebuilding both strength and endurance. I have to find ways to keep training and building power while recovering, losing the use of my left shoulder and one if not both hands for months at a time. That will increase the challenge.
I'm up for it.
I started my training on October 30, 2021. My first surgery is November 18th, 2021. This is my story. There will likely be gains, setbacks and sidetracks, as with any two-year program.
This time I will be training in a body battered by 22 concussions, recovered from a broken back, a smashed pelvis and other injuries. It's a different time, a different world, and after fifty adventure trips, all inspired by my Kili climb.
I age vibrantly. This is how I do it. I invite you to come along as I see what happens along the way. I am not guaranteed a summit. I am guaranteed an attempt. What I do with that, as with life, is up to me, and those who help me along the way.
I'll be keeping logs, sporadically, but regularly.
Let's get started.
In 2020 I moved to Oregon, which took me away from Denver's Red Rocks Amphitheatre where I had trained so hard for so long. I also gave up access to the fourteeners which dotted my back yard, and traded the high-dry, perfect training spaces for cooler, wetter, oxygen-rich spaces. That changes a lot of things, which I have to take into account.
Most if not many of us can train just about anywhere. However, training for Kili begins with utter respect for the environment and the conditions on the mountain. There are two huge aspects of training to consider: altitude and attitude.
Altitude sickness can strike anyone at any time. The best athletes and the least in shape. You plan for it.
Attitude gets you farther than endurance training. The heart to go on, to finish, often has more to do with success at the summit than brute force. In fact, pushing too hard, too fast does more folks in than learning to slow way down, take rest stops and breaks. While you do have to train seriously, your willingness to be deeply uncomfortable both while training and on the mountain have a lot to do with your success.
I'll be climbing in late spring, which for any high mountain means unpredictable weather. Technology, especially for gear, has been transformed in the years since I summited the first time. That means some of the challenges I faced will be smoother, such as keeping my hands warm and using tech at the top.
Here, when I take off to hike a local trail today in heavy rain, I am going to be testing gear, being uncomfortable, and reminded that discomfort is the name of the game. Mastering the need to be comfy, and being at ease with being ill-at-ease, are part of mastery. Some gear will fail. This is how we find out.
My body rebelled in response to the first weeks ask. On several days I went out for a hard, fast hike of a one mile trail, which was very easy a year ago. After too much sitting, my leg's lifting muscles are sore, but that's also in part because of Bulgarian split squats that I did on Friday. My pegs are angry. And I run all the way down, not fast, but I appreciate the demands on my balance and focus. I am out of shape, if 2013 is my standard. I have a long way to go to catch up, but the good news is that I am patient and aware of what it takes to get back to that level. This time around I don't have to overdo it either.
When the body wants a moment's rest, I stop, breathe, and then start again. I speed hike as fast as I can until I need a breather. It won't be long before I won't need a breather any more.
Shoulder pain has been making workouts difficult, which is why surgery, now just five days away. Rain is increasing as we slide into winter in the PNW, so I'm wearing Goretex and heading out anyway. If you can't hike and train in winter, don't climb big mountains. Today is hike day again, and it's raining. Time to break in a brand new pair of Goretex running shoes from La Sportiva.
On a very humid warm day I hiked Spencer early, which put me in the company of other serious hikers and runners. However, it's getting to be the time I should consider a new hike, especially after I recover from surgery. I'll be hiking one-armed but I can use a pole in my right. The point is to find all kinds of exercises that I can do while one arm is down, to both ensure fast healing and a swift return to full mobility.
I did my last hard local three-mile hike before surgery last night. I head to the hospital today at 9:15 and come back with one arm down likely around mid-afternoon. My body is still sore, my legs achey for some reason. I'm not sure why. I suspect that when I push more that will help. I do often find an extra gear when I speed walk the local hike, and I'm slowly but surely identifying more local hikes for variety. That said, after today it might be a few days before I strike out again to hike, and running will have to wait a bit.
One week later:
Happy turkey day! I am typing, exercising and just about ready to go for a good long speed walk today. I have been doing plenty of exercises which push mobility and range of motion, and should be off the couch this weekend. Delighted that the shoulder doesn't hurt anywhere near what I expected it would.
I did the speed walk, which felt terrific, and I sweated like a healthy horse on the uphill climb. God I love moving.