Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Physical Feat of Mountainous Proportions

I just successfully completed the greatest physical feat of my life so far. My muscles are screaming and my legs are totally and completely sunburned, but I am officially very proud of myself.

Unfortunately, to truly explain my feat, I have to go back a bit the story... many eons (months) ago.


Jon has been an avid runner from the beginning of our marriage. I was never interested in joining him. He tried to get me on a run numerous times. I planned on defying him for the rest of our married lives.

Then, I realized I could not seem to lose those baby pounds. I was sick of all of my ill fitting clothing and being so completely out of shape. It was about the same time my good friend, Cynthia, was facing a similar plight. It was she who decided we would solve our problem by becoming runners. We made our decision right around the end of November, set some goals for ourselves, and got to it.

I decided my goal was to be able to run three miles straight by Christmas. I would surprise Jon by going on a run with him Christmas day.

I would have given up after running my first block if it weren't for Cynthia.

I don't know how anyone sticks to an exercise regiment without a buddy. I had to take the kids with me in my pathetic double stroller. They whined the whole time and they made even the slightest incline so hard to get up. I hated it. I hated feeling out of breath all the time, I hated having to push myself to just make it to the next pole without stopping, it was miserable.

But I kept doing it. And it definitely got better. I was so proud of myself when I made it through my first mile without stopping. It took me much longer than I'm willing to admit. About a week before I was supposed to reach my goal, I was still only able to go about two miles without having to stop and catch my breath.

Then, I got the chance to run without the stroller. My world changed.

It was a million times easier! By Christmas Eve, I was able to print up the map of the path I had been running and recorded 29 minutes, our fastest time, and wrapped it for Jon to open Christmas morning.

He was completely surprised and very excited. We got into our jogging clothes and hit the street (thankfully with Jon pushing the stroller) for our first run together. It was going well until Jon started making comments like "you have a great marathon pace" (not a compliment when you are only running 3 miles) then comparing my speed to the very large people he had previously run with.

From then on, I stuck with the running partner who was more impressed by my speed. Cynthia and I would get up before our kids and head out several days a week. She started training for a half marathon so I helped her stick with her training regiment. At this point, I still really didn't like running at all but I was losing some weight and, occasionally, I would have a great run where I seemed to be able to breathe forever and that was really satisfying. At my peak, I ran eight miles with her.

Then she moved across the country.

I tried to convince myself this would not be the end of my training regiment, but it definitely was. I probably got out once after she moved and it was a pretty pathetic effort.

It could very well have been the end of the story if it weren't for Leslee.

Leslee is a runner. She was looking for someone to train with her for her second marathon. The morning of our first run, I was convinced it would be our first and our last. I had already lost most of acquired running skill plus, even at my best, this girl could kick my butt.

She won't admit it, but I am sure she was less than impressed with my first effort. But, she stuck with me and before I knew it, I was helping someone else training for a race, this time a full marathon.

We have been training all summer. We crawl out of our beds at 4:45 am four days a week and hit the pavement, or the track, depending on the day. When we first see each other, we usually agree that neither of us would have gotten out of bed if we didn't know the other would be waiting for us.

Her marathon is now three weeks away. To clarify, I am most definitely not marathon ready. We run her little runs together and I help her the best I can with her speed work but on her long run Saturdays, I had to check out early when her miles got into the high teens. But I did go my farthest distance, 12 miles, before I kind of messed up my knee. I have had to take a little running hiatus while I figure out how to keep my left knee from throbbing every time I start moving.

The truly sad part about my new injury is I was finally starting to enjoy running. Every time I come home from a run, Jon asks me if I had fun. I always have to tell him fun is just not the right word. Lately, I have found running to be challenging but rewarding. I even occasionally want to run. Pre-injury, I had talked myself into signing up for a half-marathon. Jury's still out on that one though.

Main Story

Jon has been doing a lot of hiking this summer including 3 different trips up Mt. Charleston. He really wanted to take me. I was not totally against the idea but it meant getting a babysitter for like 10 hours so it took some planning time. After all of my running, I really felt like I could handle the hike physically if my knee would hold out on me.

I picked up the babysitter at 4:45 and we were out the door by 5 a.m. Saturday morning. We had a backpack full of supplies (that Jon was going to haul) and we were ready to go. At the beginning of the trail, there is a map. Our trail headed up one mountain then saddles across to Mt. Charleston, heads to the top of the peak, then saddles another mountain and then loops back around where we started. The map said it was an 18 mile hike, would take 12 hours to finish and was "extremely difficult". I was a bit concerned by that.

Not only was I concerned, but I was cold. It was 40 degrees on the mountain! I have not been that cold in the longest time. It is always a weird feeling when your limbs are numb but you are sweating too.

The path started at a straight incline. And it kept climbing and climbing. I was breathing fast within 10 minutes. When Jon told me we had hit one mile, I wanted to smack him with my running shoe and hop straight downhill with the other back to the car. But, we kept moving. Jon said we were moving pretty quick, but I just kept thinking, if I slow down I am just going to be on this stupid hill longer.

We finally reached our first elevation point where we would cut across to Mt. Charleston, a much more level path.
I was pretty excited about making it that far. It was a spectacular view. It was also at that point that I noticed my fingers had doubled in size. We don't know if it was the vast amounts of sodium we ate the night before (asian food) or what but both of our hands were huge. It would have taken the Jaws of Life to get my wedding ring off.

You can see the peak we are heading for to the left in this picture.

We moved along smoothly until we got to the part where we actually had to summit the mountain. That part involved highly inclined switchbacks that took you back and forth up the face of the mountain. We increased about 100 - 150 feet in elevation with each turn. It was torture! It took every ounce of muscle I had just to keep one foot moving in front of the other.

Right as I turned the last corner and saw the top of the mountain, I knew I could make it. I wanted to fall in the dirt and just sleep for a few hours, but I knew I could make it. It was at that moment that I passed a woman coming down who just looked outdoorsy. She asked us where we had hiked from, and when Jon told her, she said, "Wow! You guys are great hikers!"

I wanted to kiss her.

Sadly, I was so out of breath, I think I managed a slight grunt. But that woman made my day. We had made it to the top in 4 hours and 17 minutes.

It was the fastest Jon had made it to the top, and that made me feel pretty good too.

Supposedly this is the only "on top of a mountain" pose Jon has.

We ate a quick lunch and it was time to head back down. It was a lot warmer by this point, in fact this is about the time I started getting sunburned.

I was looking forward to the downhill part. It just sounded sooo much easier. And it was. Occasionally the path took us uphill for awhile and the mountain and I would be fighting a bit at that point, but then we would continue back downhill and we would forgive each other.

I felt so good going down that we even ended up jogging most of the way back. We cruised down the path, each hiker we passed was amazed that we were already on our way down after having started where we did.

Then, that darn knee of mine started bugging me.

Then, Jon claimed we only had about two miles left. That turned out to be four miles.

It was in those last two miles that I really struggled. Every muscle hurt. I kept jogging only because walking seemed to hurt even worse. My knees hurt, my muscles burned and I was just exhausted. I had felt such a "hikers high" only minutes beforehand only to drop so fast and feel like I couldn't keep moving if my life depended on it. That was a rough moment. But, I kept moving.

It really helped when Jon finally admitted that he was much more tired and hurting than he looked. It gave me more of a boost than I would have expected and we made it to the bottom. Our final time was seven hours and 20 minutes. 40 minutes faster than Jon's fastest time.

Jon went to get the car while I stretched my legs. While I was waiting, an older man who we had passed and talked to earlier stopped me and asked if I was a trained speedwalker. I laughed and said, "No just an amateur hiker trying to keep up with her husband." He then explained to me that I had the natural hip movement of a speed walker and should maybe look into it.

That is the second time someone has compliments my natural hip abilities. First, when I was 12 when Grandma Earl told me I had nice birthing hips and now at 26, the hip movements of a speed walker. Way to go hips.

Today I am a wreck. I am surviving on ibuprofen and I look ridiculous trying to walk downstairs. But, I did it. I completed my greatest physical challenge to date. I am more proud of my accomplishment than I thought I would be. I even managed to impress my very athletic husband.

The only downside is, now he is planning our next couple's high adventure. I might have started something really bad...


hsw said...

Congrats, Kacey!!! That is so cool!

angie said...

Oh great another runner!! And a hiker?? Crazy. Just crazy.

Good job though.

Now, I think I'll go watch some tv.

Ashley said...

Kacey that is awesome!! I am a little be honest this diet is a killer but I am going to be a runner when it's all over with so I can keep my body toned and eat healthier...that's the plan body might have something else in mind!! LOL


A Bug's Life said...

This is quite the feat to celebrate! I have the same relationship with running, but certainly have never been consistent enough to get to 8miles! Awesome. Daishan

Myca said...

Kacey I am so shocked!! I thought you would never give into running even with that husband of yours!! I am so are a pro would probably think a marathon would be a breeze after that hike. Seriously! Maybe you should consider it. :) Congrats!

Katie said...

Go, you! I wish you lived here so you could teach me to enjoy running. I would totally go with you.

Angie Larkin said...

Oh my goodness. I think it is funny that you hiked to such an elevation that there wasn't even vegetation on the mountain peak! Good job sista. I don't think you shall ever be obese married to John. (Not like on under your own steam you would be obese...just saying.)

Stacie said...


Kendall said...

Kacey you are amazing for doing that! I don't think I could ever even consider doing that!

Gui said...

Congradulations!!!! I am very impressed. I wish we lived closer then I could have you as a running partner. Great story too.

Julie Anne said...

Did I read that right and did you say that Jon has climbed that twice already and you have never really hiked in your life? And he did it 40 minutes faster then he ever has and you did it at that same pace with him??? Wow!!! he trying to kill you??? I'm so scared and excited for you...yep scared and very nervous for you!!! Nourish those muscles girl! Love you!

Cynthia said...

Kacey, I'm shocked and so super excited for you!!! I really wish I still lived close to have you as a running partner!! Unfortunately this baby has slowed me down.. but you have inspired me.. I need to keep going and keep it up after she comes!!! Thanks for sharing the details.. It was like I was there.. sharing the experience with you... I definitely think you should come and hike here in MD!!! You are awesome!!! Don't forget that!