It’s Monday morning and I’m sitting in Amsterdam’s Schipol Airport trying to process the fact that in 2 days, I’ll begin climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. It’s weird but the closer it gets to becoming a reality, the less real it seems.
When I made the decision to take on this challenge a few months ago, it seemed big but manageable. I decided to do this because I’m turning 40 next month and, what with all the life changes I’ve been going through, it seemed like I should mark this milestone in a big and meaningful way. Since I’m not a party girl (torture!) and since travel is my new life (yay!), having a party or going on a vacation seemed inane (can one take a vacation when one isn’t working?). Then I had a brainwave – I love mountains and I love walking so why not climb the highest peak on the continent of Africa?
Wow, even saying that now seems unreal.
The first thing I did once the decision was made was to buy a book, which shouldn’t be surprising for anyone who knows me. It’s called Kissing Kilimanjaro and I bought it so I could learn all I needed to know about climbing the mountain from someone who had done it. The book did not disappoint. I learned that there were three things I needed to focus my training on: leg strength, mental strength and altitude sickness.
In my opinion, leg strength was the easiest factor to address. My trainer already had me doing a million squats every day so upping it to 2 million wasn’t a huge deal. But seriously, I’ve never in my life done so many sumo squats, jump squats, dead lifts and every variation of leg exercises that my trainer could think of. I cursed him every day but I’m pretty sure I’ll be thanking him profusely before this is all over.
Next came mental strength. I decided that the best way to train my mind was to do something I didn’t feel like doing. So I went hill walking in Armour Heights 4 or 5 days a week for several weeks. In mid-morning. In the blazing hot sun. For 2 hours. I’ve never sweated so much in my life but I did it. I would park my car at my anam cara‘s house, walk 2 miles to the gym (up and down hills), work out (those hellacious squats!) and walk 2 miles back to her house (up and down those same hills), where I would collapse on the floor in exhaustion while her helper laughed at me. She was probably thinking that I was mad to torture myself that way. I’m hoping I’ll be glad I did it when I’m climbing the mountain, feeling tired and cold and wanting to just be done already.
Altitude sickness was the most challenging factor to prepare for simply because it’s not something you can really prepare for. I won’t know if I’m prone to altitude sickness until I get to altitude (over 8,000 feet) and there was no mountain to climb that would let me test myself at altitude. I pray I’m not prone to it. Meanwhile, my trainer upped my cardio in order to build my lung capacity a bit and I increased my daily water intake since apparently one way to help ward off altitude sickness is to drink at least 3 litres of water each day (so says my book!). I practiced drinking lots of water so that when the time comes, it will be less of a struggle to do it.
So now, 2 days out from go time, the challenge still seems big but just less real than it did last week or last month. I’m not asking myself what I think I’m doing taking this on and I’m not doubting myself; I expected both of these things to happen but they haven’t. Instead, it seems imminent but weirdly unreal.
I guess I’ll just keep putting one foot in front of the other until I get there.