Now that Labor Day has passed, it is time to return to the backbone of any successful summit bid – and that is the long hard slog of training. I haven’t stopped since Ecuador and our adventures on Cotopaxi, Illiniza Norte and Cayambe, but I have definitely taken it a bit easier.
For example, I treated myself to the luxury of stairs without a 25 pound backpack. I haven’t attempted a seven mile run. And I have not been at all diligent about any weight lifting. It’s been nice.
But, as the Walrus said In Jabberwocky, the time has come. So on Saturday, after much futzing around (you do need to make sure your sunglasses are adjusted just so, headphones properly positioned, etc.), I embarked on a five mile run. I’ve been running four milers, but if we want to have a hope of scaling Mexico’s 18,491 foot Pico de Orizaba in January, I need to be back up there at the seven mile plus level. The run actually felt good. And on Monday, I’m going to reload the pack with the weights from my weight vest and lug it back off to work where my 16 story office building awaits.
In the meantime, I’ve been reading excerpts from a book called Fast After Fifty. It’s aimed at athletes who are trying to maintain or improve after age fifty and emphasizes interval and anaerobic training. But – true confession – I didn’t really do anything particularly athletic until I was almost fifty! So I have some reservations as to how applicable those principles are to me….although that may just be a copout as I have no desire to run as hard as I can for thirty minutes to find my lactic threshold.
At least I can find some inspiration in the movie, Meru, which we saw last night. It’s a documentary based on alpinists Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk’s two attempts to climb Mt. Meru in the Himalayas – 21,000 feet above the headwaters of the Ganges River. It’s the sort of mountain that makes Everest seem like climbing for dummies. Over the course of the three years between the first failed attempt and the second successful one, one of them was in a near fatal snowboard accident, which resulted in a severely fractured skull, and another narrowly survived an avalanche. But they ultimately made it up what is called the Shark Fin – razer like slabs of granite so unstable Chin said he could feel them move under his fingers.
On the first attempt they got within 500 feet of the summit – but ran out of food due to an unexpected four days waiting out a storm in a small tent half way the mountain.
The physical and mental strength it takes to know when to turn around and when to keep going is huge. I may not be headed to the super high mountains of the Himalayas, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my Florida version of training can at least get me ready again for something higher than Mt. Dora. For those of you non-Floridians, that’s what we in Central Florida call a summit – it’s a whopping 184 feet above sea level.