About 20 years ago, I was living in San Diego and a friend of mine suggested we climb Mt. Whitney (14,505 feet).
I had never climbed anything really above 3,000 feet, much less anything that required any specialized gear, but at the time, I didn’t know what I didn’t know (much to the dismay of some family members who tried to discourage me from going because they were worried about my safety). I said “yes.”
It was Memorial Day weekend and, step by step, we made our way to the top.
I remember during the final steps, as my altitude headache throbbed and it seemed we would never get there, my friend — who was training for the Olympics in archery — kept reminding me that “slow and steady wins the race.”
I said it over and over again. I took off all pressure to do those final steps with any speed. It worked.
More recently, in the past couple of years I have found myself wondering how to successfully jog up Pillar Mountain without walking. I consulted my friend who has run in many races and asked for her advice.
She said I could do it as long as I always stay constant in the slowest jog and never stop. Stopping to walk, and then starting again to jog, is harder than just continuing the slowest jog, she explained.
I didn’t believe her. But I gave it a try and before I knew it, I was at the top of Pillar, with tears flowing down my eyes, texting her with joy to share this success. Slow and steady had succeeded again.
The snow is still quite formidable on the top of Pillar Road. It’s almost a blessing that the Pillar Mountain Race, normally on Memorial Day weekend, isn’t until August this year.
Thinking of the delayed race, and appreciating the amount of snow still on top of Pillar, my mind pondered the challenge that people can start to train for now — the Adjust Your Altitude Challenge put on by the Kodiak Chamber of Commerce.
Last year’s challenge motivated new and experienced outdoor enthusiasts to climb seven local peaks with the potential of winning prizes during a drawing at the end of the summer.
The one category that provided the highest potential for a reward was climbing the seven peaks in 24 hours. Last summer three ladies — Betsy Lund, Lindsey Glenn and Julie Brown — all three of whom are also mothers of multiple young children, completed this challenge.
I remember when I heard about their accomplishment, I immediately thought of a descriptive word that starts with “bad” and ends with an expletive that I cannot write here. The compound word I wish I could write is another way of describing “way HARDCORE.”
In talking recently with Julie about the experience, she said she never doubted they could do it. And she was impressed by how the body can move for so long. They came home from the adventure, successful, at 1:30 a.m.
I was most curious about some specifics. In what order did they climb the mountains? She said they started at Monashka, then proceeded to the following: North Sister, Sharatin, Pyramid, Barometer, Heitman and ending with Kashevaroff.
As Julie is an avid marathon racer and competitive athlete, I was curious about what fueled her during the adventure.
If I was doing it, I think my dream food would be to have a stack of pizzas in the back of the car to happily devour as we drove between mountains. Was it gel, energy bars or some other magical concoction that fueled the thousands of cumulative feet of altitude they climbed that day? She said it was Java Flats cookies.
This summer I might need to try the seven in 24 hours. And as I take those slow and steady steps up the mountains, I might also be savoring Java Flats cookies between my bites of pizza.