I’m not one for resolutions. I realize how cliche that sounds, and that being “anti-resolution” is just as mainstream as making resolutions these days. But I’ve never stood hopefully on the precipice of change on December 31st, and I’ve never looked up three weeks into January, already failed in my year’s goals. So at least I have that going for me, right?
In addition to being anti-resolution, I’m not, nor have I ever been, athletic. I don’t come from a family of healthy types, spending our weekends hiking and running and juicing, or whatever. I worship at the altar of TV, lazy days, Ben & Jerry and naps. Which makes it all the more bizarre that on Labor Day Weekend in 2011, I found myself at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state, beginning a four day climb of the tallest peak in the lower 48.
I guess you could call it a resolution… if resolutions are thingsÂ you’re talked intoÂ at family weddings. Not my familyâ€“my boyfriend’s (now fiancĂ©). In the fall of 2010, having dated a year, we did what all 20/30-somethings do over the course of their relationship: attended a wedding together (or six). And at one of these weddings, his entire family decided they would climb Mount Rainier the next summer, and that I should join them. In truth, I’d never had any real mountain climbing desires, but I was looking for an excuse to get into some sort of shape, aside from round. I was (and am) a size 2, with no concrete motivation like weight loss to kick my butt into high gear (sorry, I have no justification for being a skinny slug, feel free to stop reading now), but I needed something. So why not a 14,400 foot mountain?
I started training that January (which was a complete coincidence, I promise) with nine months to go and the Couch to 5k app. I ran three times a week on a treadmill in my apartment building, often climbing 30 flights of stairs to the gym before running. I ran a 5k in April with two friends, joined a gym and discovered my love for exercise classes (more on that to come). I did two trial hikes over the summer. One of those trial hikes was from 218th street 15 miles down the entire west side of Manhattan to the seaport, wearing 40 pounds in a hiking backpack. In 90-degree July heat.
So really what I’m saying is: for one sweaty nine-month stretch, I was hardcore. And by the time we got to Seattle (after a slight delay from Hurricane Irene, remember her?), I was prepared. We rented thousands of dollars worth of equipment, joined a group of 18 people, and on the first day, we sat in an introductory meeting where everyone had to say why they were there. Almost everyone in the group lived nearby or had grown up nearby and was fulfilling a life-long dream of climbing Mount Rainier. They were motivated by an intense inner-desire to climb; I was basically thereÂ on a dare. I realized something important about myself in that meeting: While I had little interest in the mountain per se (though it IS really pretty), I was motivated by motivation itself. I needed a goal, mountain or otherwise. Suddenly, I understood all the sayings about journey versus destination, eye-roll-inducing as they are.
Since life truly is about the journey, not the destination, I guess I don’t have to tell you what happened during the four-day climb, right? Whether or not I made it to the top is less important than the journey spent training to get there. No?
Ok, fine, I didn’t make it to the top. Not even close, I quit on day three. After the introductory meeting and snow school, we set out for the ascent to base camp (10,000 feet) where we would sleep and then depart on the summit climb in the middle of the night. I never made it to base camp. Instead, I cried, got blisters on my hands from the hiking poles we carried, had a complete meltdown, and got a migraine. It was fantastic.
I wish I could say I regretted quitting or that Iâ€™ve gone back and summitted since then (redemption!). But this isnâ€™t an after school special, so that couldnâ€™t be further from the truth. Even though it didnâ€™t go as planned, one of the things Mount Rainier gave me was a reason to try anything and everything, fitness-wise, and a side-eyed, skeptical approach to all exercise classes. So thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m doing here: Iâ€™ll be trying classes and reviewing them from a normal girlâ€™s perspective, you know, from the back row.
Photo: Craighton Miller