I’ll turn 38 years old this Summer. I’ve never hiked a lick in my life. So, why not take on the highest mountain in the lower 48 states? As crazy as that sounds, it’s a challenge that I’ve taken up with my best friend. Said friend, who lives in Virginia (I, in California) called one day and said he was going to climb Mt. Whitney this year, and I blurted out “I’ll go!” He’s had a solid history of hiking and bi- and tri-athlons. I have, none.
Mt. Whitney resides in east central California. Interestingly, the highest peak neighbors the country’s lowest point – Death Valley – which is 282 feet below sea level. The most trail we will be taking is about 22 miles up and down. And by up, I mean about 14,500 feet above sea level! My motivation is twofold: I have been interested in being more “outdoorsy.” I spend way too much time cooped up in an apartment at a computer (like now). Second, I’ve wanted to get back into shape, and in fact better shape than I’ve ever been in my life.
So, I started training last December and promptly strained my lower back on, of all things, the elliptical machine. Stretching does wonders (especially when you are pushing 40). So one wonders why I didn’t do it before getting on the elliptical machine. I worked through that thigh burn, and I was rewarded with what my massage therapist says are knots in my quads and hamstrings, which radiated up to my lower back. If I want to look at the glass as half full, the back injury has been a positive in that it finally hit home how important core strength is. In physical therapy I’ve done low impact core exercises, mostly involving a fitness ball. It can be real challenging, but at the same time not as unpleasant as simple crunches.
A little background on me: I am not a schooled professional in nutrition or fitness. I have no official certifications. Only my 8 years working in the diet and fitness world as a writer and editor. I have been in and out of shape in my adult life. I’ve never been too terribly out of shape, weighing 15-20 pounds more than my ideal weight. I guess you could say I “wear it well.” Most people were shocked a few years back when I told them that I was 205 pounds. At 5′ 9″, that’s too heavy, even if it just appears that I’m “big boned.” That weight gradually dipped below 200 pounds when I moved to California last Fall. Then December came, an elliptical machine, and the physical therapy I currently find myself in. Considering that my family and I moved to Sacramento, California, knowing virtually nobody, I’ve been pretty happy with my dedication to getting in shape for this trip.
So far, I’ve lost about 10 pounds, weighing in at about 185. My goal is to lose at least another 10 pounds, and see if there is time and room for a few extra. Because every pound lost is one pound less to drag up 14,500 feet!
In the coming weeks and months I would like to share my progress, including trials and tribulations as the all-important date approaches. There is a lottery system in place that assigns you a climbing date, due to the popularity of Mt. Whitney. We should find out in the next week or so.
Next week, I’ll share a little more detail on my diet and fitness strategy, and more about safety and skills that need to be learned for long distance hiking.
March 31st, 2008