But, mousie, thou art not alane,
In proving foresight may be in vain,
The best laid schemes of mice and men,
Go oft astray,
And leave us nought but grief and pain,
To rend our day.
Still thou art blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches thee,
But, oh, I backward cast my eye
On prospects drear,
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear.
*To a Mouse by Robert Burns
When I signed up for the Summit for Someone climb of the Grand Teton I knew I'd have to step up my fitness. I'd need the endurance to make the 7 mile, 4000' climb up to camp and the strength to complete the technical climb to the summit. So I began waking up at 5am to go to Bootcamp and lift weights, went to gym classes after work to lift more weights, and in between went for runs, walks, hikes, a few trips to the climbing gym, whatever I could do to get ready. Because being ready is what gives me confidence, and confidence is not something that comes easily to me. I thought if I could just train enough (and train the right way) I'd be able to stand at the trailhead on July 7 ready to conquer whatever lay ahead.
Best laid schemes, right? About a year ago I started experiencing pain in my right wrist. A quick cortisone shot took care of it for many months until I jumped into my Teton training plan. Slowly the pain slipped back in. I've got what's called De Quervain's tenosynovitis (dih-kwer-VAINS ten-oh-sine-oh-VIE-tis). It's taken me a year just to get good at pronouncing the damn thing. A second cortisone shot had no effect, nor did immobilizing the wrist for 3 weeks. It's last resort time, which means surgery. It's not a complicated surgery, but it will take another month before I can resume "normal activity". That puts me into June before I can get back to lifting weights and climbing. There's a lot I can still do, I can still run and hike, and there's always squats, and I'll still have that last month to work on upper body strength and climbing skills before the Teton climb. But will it be enough? Will I still feel confident?
I've been thinking a lot about a pro climber named Renan Ozturk. Along with Conrad Anker and Jimmy Chin, Ozturk made the first ascent of the Shark's Fin on Mount Meru in the Himalayas. But what I've been thinking about is how he made that ascent just months after surviving a skiing accident that fractured his skull and shattered vertebrae. As he lay in his hospital bed did he start to wonder: will I be able to climb again? Will I hold my team back? What will it take to accomplish my goals, despite this setback? But he set his mind to moving past his injuries, to getting healthy and strong and pushing onward. And just 5 months later he stood atop Meru.
There will be days when I doubt myself, there will be days when I worry I won't be ready. There will be days when I lament my bad luck, curse my age and wimpy joints. Days where my confidence slips and fear creeps in. But on those days, in those moments, I'll think about Renan Ozturk, Diana Nyad, Bethany Hamilton, and the countless other examples of those who've overcome what seem like insurmountable challenges to achieve their goals. They have shown us that our passion can be bigger than our fears, and with determination and grit, we can overcome what slows us down or stands in our way. I'll carry these thoughts with me and hope that come July I'll be filled with more courage than fear, more confidence than doubt, and that I'll stand at that trailhead knowing I'm strong in more ways than just physically.
"It makes you realize how big the mental aspect is,” said Ozturk. “You have to teach yourself to overcome things and do things if you’re passionate enough about them. Sometimes that can trump talent if you’re motivated enough and you love it. If you have that thing that’s really inspiring you, it’s amazing what you can do."
Click below to watch the trailer for Meru, the documentary film about the first ascent of the Shark's Fin.