Plan. Analyze. Adjust.
I did what I always seem to do - I freaked out, did so much research I got overwhelmed, freaked out some more, asked a bunch of people a bunch of questions, attempted to create a master plan, doubted my plan, analyzed my plan, adjusted my plan, thought about it way too much, and then eventually threw the plan out the window and just did my thing.
That has been my approach to training for The Grand Teton. That's generally my approach to everything. Diets, exercise, travel, party planning, etc. In this case it started with a really thick, really intimidating book called "Training for the New Alpinism: A Manual for the Climber as Athlete". The book weighs 3.5lbs. I carried it around for a while (even took it with me while I served a week on jury duty) highlighting sections and taking notes, intent on implementing its methods and obsessing about my need to show up in Wyoming in July in peak bad-ass form. The problem was, the book was intimidating. Aside from being huge, it's full of photos of people doing things well above my skill level. I tried to absorb all the information about physiology and methodology but all it did was make me feel way out of my league. Eventually, finally, I put the book aside and decided to just do things that I enjoyed that felt like good training. I went to a bootcamp class at a local CrossFit gym at 6am two mornings a week. I took a fitness class after work. I started running using a Couch to 5K program. I did step-ups on a plyo box that Daniel built for me. I walked. And walked. And walked some more. I walked to the grocery store (4 miles). I walked to breakfast (5 miles). I walked to the park and back (6 miles). I convinced Daniel to trudge up Mt Sterling with me (see #Sufferfest2017).
When I got sidetracked by ongoing wrist pain I I was torn about what to do. I could try to endure the pain and hope it didn't become debilitating before my climb in July, or I could have surgery. I had the surgery (see Set-backs). My wrist has healed now and I've started back to strength training and going to the climbing gym.
Click the images below to see the evolution of recovering from surgery.
I'd done some rock climbing in my 20s (see Sewing Machine Leg) and had just gotten back into it when the surgery issue interfered. But as soon as I was able I headed back to the gym. I anticipated feeling some strain in my wrist after having it immobilized for so long, but I was sad to discover it was actually the lack of upper body strength that made each climb feel like a Herculean feat. To prepare myself for the feeling of climbing on real rocks and cliffs I signed up for REI's "Introduction to Outdoor Rock Climbing" class at Pilot Mountain State Park here in North Carolina. In the climbing gym routes are marked by colored tape, identifying which holds to use and helping you figure out where to go. On the cliffs of Pilot Mountain it was up to me to figure out what to grab, where to put my feet, how to get to the top. I made it to the top of a couple of climbs, but it wasn't pretty.
The photo below, while hilariously embarrassing, perfectly depicts how I felt about figuring out how to get up that wall of rock.
I came home from Pilot Mountain feeling worried. I felt weak and inexperienced and I felt like I was running out of time to do much about it. But I remembered something one of the guides from Jackson Hole had said to me during a recent phone call. I had asked him how much climbing experience was needed to climb The Grand Teton. He said, "All you really need is a good sense of humor and a long attention span". I may not be a stellar climber, I may not have as much upper body strength as I would like, but I can (obviously) laugh at myself and I can certainly pay way too much attention to stuff, so by his standards - I'm good to go.
Last weekend I completed the final run of the Couch to 5K program. Many of you readers may be avid runners who scoff at my struggle to run for 30 minutes without stopping, but I can assure you, as someone who does not take to running easily, completing the 9 week program felt like an accomplishment worth celebrating. There were days when I ran at 5:30am before work. Days when I ran in the rain. Days when I ran when I really didn't want to. But I put my shoes on and ran (see Do It Anyways).
When people ask me if I'm ready for my climb of The Grand Teton my first response is to think of all the things I've struggled with during these last six months. But maybe I am ready. Maybe I'm just looking at it wrong. Ok, so my plans didn't work out the way I thought they should. But I did what I could, I worked hard, I tried my best, and through it all I've managed to keep my focus and a sense of humor. So the next time someone asks me if I'm ready I'm going to say "Hell, YES" and believe it.