Tag Archives: pikes peak

BECAUSE YOU ASKED ME TO

What do you get when you climb Pikes Peak? I think that was my question before. My goal. My destination. My whole purpose (so I thought) was to climb that beast and get some answers. Whether it comes across or not I do believe in God. I am not religious- never will be. And I don’t do “the God thing” like most. I used to care what others thought about that. Some people certainly let me know I wasn’t “doing it right” in their opinion. And I certainly do not care any longer. So maybe I thought God was going to magically fling down some answers at me. “Speak” to me through the mountain. Let me know WHY. WHY I had so many miscarriages. WHY my Dad was killed so young. WHY my daughter has a chronic condition. WHY my husband got brain rot. WHY my second Mom, Lynda has cancer. WHY. I needed answers. And I thought the mountain would shout them to me.

Let me talk for a minute about the climb. I am in decent shape. My Beachbody workouts, eating well, drinking Shakeology and hiking often got me in pretty darn good shape. Better than in my 20’s. But there is nothing. NOTHING. That can prepare you for climbing Pikes Peak. I live at 7,400 foot elevation. So the trail begins at around 7,500 feet and the summit is 14,110 feet. That’s a HUGE elevation gain and would prove to be the biggest obstacle for me. I pulled my groin muscle around mile 3 and at mile 4 the cracked vertebrae in my neck were screaming. It was horribly painful. Every damn step it hurt. A LOT! I teared up a few times from pain. And let me tell you- a mile on the ground is one step compared to a mile climbing up the side of a mountain. I have never, ever, done something so physically difficult in my life. The last 3 miles above the tree line were the hardest. Treacherous man. Scary and hard and very little oxygen and slippery rocks and it looks like the top of the mountain is forever away and you are just out there. You are a speck on the side of an enormous structure. You feel like nothing. And I realized something at one point when my partner asked me to just “stop”. “Just stop Jennifer and look back at what we’ve done, how far we’ve come….YOU DID ALL THAT”. It makes me cry even typing it. I was so focused on the pain, and the miles and miles of height and rock above me I had not looked back at all. That view. I cannot – I wont even try to find words for it. But all of the symbolism on the many miles of path behind me is not lost. Magnificent views 360 degrees around me. Water and rocks and green trees and desolation and a height you cannot believe surrounded me. I could see snow while I was sweating. I felt exhilarated and motivated while completely physically exhausted. I never had a doubt I’d summit. But I had no idea how hard it would be. And looking back is sometimes necessary because you focus so much on GETTING there, reaching the top, finding a solution, finishing, how much MORE you have to go……that you forget to celebrate all the way you’ve come.

So thank you Susie for reminding me to stop and look back. And be proud. And know how far I’ve come.

So we cranked on. We could not talk much those last 3 miles as we were gasping for thin air and it was hard to breathe let alone talk. So as the summit neared I felt excited. That the top, the answers, the ending, the finality of it all was so close. Just around the corner. And I cried a bit. Just a bit. I walked into a sea of tourists who were taking pictures and eating Pikes Peak donuts and mingling with their families and complaining about their “altitude headaches.” They had driven up here. They barely noticed me. I was one in a crowd. They had no idea I had just WALKED up the mountain they’d driven up. I hugged Susie and I stood there quietly. Waiting for the trumpets and the balloon release and the fireworks and the SHOUT of accomplishment from above. I’ve never been so physically exhausted in my life. My body was just about to give up. It had been pure will power, adrenaline and mercy that got me through that last mile. But there was no shouting. No balloons. No fireworks. And instantly I gained a lifetime’s worth of knowledge. I grew up in that moment. It hit me. Two things really. As Glenda the good witch in The Wizard of Oz said “it was in YOU the whole time”…there were never answers ON the mountain. They were in me all along. And damn it- it was never about what you GET from the mountain. The things you find out or the things you gain…..It was always about what you LEAVE on the mountain. Sometimes….sometimes the things you let go of are vastly more important than the things you grab on to. And you can let a LOT go at 14,110 feet on top of America’s Mountain. A. LOT. And I let a lot go. A lot of things I needed to let go of. And dammit it feels so good. So light.

My body aches today. The day after. I feel every bit of 42 years young. In so many ways. Do you know that sometimes there just aren’t answers to every question. There’s just not. And you have to let go. Let go and be ok that you may never know. And as cheesy as it sounds I TRULY now know its all about the climb. Don’t get me wrong- that SUMMIT IS AMAZING. Nothing like the feeling of that last step. Nothing. A pure raw joy Ive never felt before. One of the greatest physical accomplishments I’ll ever make in my life for sure. And my friend, Erika’s words to me rang in my ear “Girl you fight way bigger battles on the ground- that mountain is NOTHING”. It was never about the summit. It was ALWAYS…ALWAYS about the climb.

I can do hard things. I CAN. I have more tears today than I had yesterday. I think it just took a day to hit me what I’ve done. I cannot thank Susie enough. I cannot thank Patrick enough. I cannot thank those angels I met on the mountain along the way that encouraged me enough. I cannot thank you all enough for your support and encouragement. I gained and lost more than I ever dreamed I would up there! Dream BIG!

I did it, Dad.

“I went up to the Mountain…Because You asked me to. Up over the clouds, to where the sky was blue. I could see all around me. Everywhere. I could see all around me. Everywhere”. ~ Patty Griffin, ‘Up To The Mountain’

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MORE THAN A MOUNTAIN

Well I was wondering when it would hit me. Today is the day. The first week of August has sucked for 9 years now. NINE. YEARS. Shit that went fast. My husband is out of town all week. The kids have a TON of stuff going on with soccer and cheer and school about to start. I’m planning to hike Pikes Peak Saturday. Oh- and its the 9th anniversary of my Dad’s death. I was hoping this stupid August thing was over. I think it’s just a combination of nerves about the climb, worrying about the weather that day, not wanting to disappoint anyone, my husband being gone all week and the craziness of end of summer.

But I was rifling through some old boxes the other day that I had never unpacked since we moved here and found some CD’s. Music CDs. And they were homemade and had my Dad’s handwriting on them. I had never listened to them before. I guess it’s one of the things of his I took. I had never heard of the artists (Im ashamed to say) on these CDs so I listened to a few. BLUES! It’s blues music. Crazy. The dude who introduced me to Led Zeppelin and U2 and The Beatles and Pink Floyd liked BLUES music. Who knew? Kind of nice to discover things about someone you never knew. And I may never have known had I not come across these CDs. This week. Funny.

Im nervous and scared and worried and anxious today about my climb. I just want to finish it. And the weather calls for rain. Which would scrap our climb and that would suck. Lightening is a real danger at that altitude. And maybe its the fear of disappointing myself that is the most bothersome. I really don’t have anything to prove to anyone else. But I have something to prove to me. I HAVE to do this. I wont be that girl that cannot do scary things alone. I wont! The deaths and brain rot and Hashimotos and thyroid problems and joint disease and move across the country and all of the other bullshit did not happen so that I could curl up and cry and complain and wait for someone else to help me. That is NOT the person I am. That is NOT what I want my daughter to see. Funny—I don’t have any female friends like that. That curl up and cry. And that makes my heart happy. Surrounded by amazingly strong women who can do anything has been a blessing.

That mountain stares at me daily. I remember how much my Dad loved Colorado. He died here. And I get to LIVE here.

Im nervous and scared and anxious and excited and hopeful. Because I need to climb the mountain. And its so much more than just the mountain Im climbing. I think I know that. I think that’s what makes me anxious. But man oh man…the view. I just imagine the view in my mind if and when I reach the Summit. What an amazing view I will have. And what an amazing view my Dad will have! 4 Days!!

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A SLOW MOURNING…MOUNTAINS AND BANDAIDS

I have posted a few times on my fitness page that I have a goal to hike up Pike’s Peak this coming summer. It’s 13 miles up a twisty, turny, technical Barr Trail to the summit of the Peak at 14,114 feet. I can do it. Mentally Im good and if my knees will hold out I think I can do it. Im in “training” now working on building my endurance. I casually mentioned to my husband that I was going to hike it alone and he flipped out.

Apparently it’s “not safe”. Honestly there should be other hikers on the trail especially if its good weather. Ill file a plan, carry bear mace and not talk to strangers but he insists that some crazy mountain man might drag me away so I need a partner. So I TOLD my friend Susie this past Saturday that she’d be hiking it with me. Without flinching she said “I’d be honored”. I love her for doing this for me.

You know what sucks…as much as I love Susie I wish it were Patrick. I wish my husband could hike with me. It was never even an option. His fucking brain rot makes his balance very off and maneuvering such a technical climb is not possible for him anymore. And that sucks big fat ass. There was a time not long ago we wouldn’t have flinched. We would have already hiked that sucker by now. Patrick was a triathlete. Biking, climbing, swimming, running…many miles at a time. When someone dies suddenly and tragically you mourn so instantly. Its like a sledge hammer hits your chest and a knife stabs your heart. You scream and writhe in pain and hurt so badly so deeply and so quickly its like being struck by lightening. I feel as if brain rot must be like cancer or other long term illnesses…you mourn for so long. And its like every little thing that slips away is a new sledge hammer to the chest. Its exhausting.

It’s not quick. Its very gradual. Slowly and steadily and methodically the physical body starts to fail. And it’s day after day after day of mourning and being sad about yet another small loss. Most of the time we are fine. Some days I am pissed. Maybe today I am pissed. Pissed that instead of ripping the bandaid off quickly and efficiently so the pain is intense but hits you fast, the bandaid is so so slowly being peeled off against his will that you have to suffer through each hair it pulls on. And why the fuck did he have to have a band aid pulled off in the first place.

Tomorrow I will feel better. He won’t. I am finding strength as this disease creeps on. I am finding strength in me as a woman and mother and wife. More than I EVER thought I was capable of. It’s a necessary strength. But there’s a guilt that comes with a gaining of my own strength. For I can climb a mountain. I can run. I can speak clearly. I can do anything. And I should. I should do everything for those that cannot. I have no excuse NOT to. I know many who would never attempt to climb Pikes Peak. I mean whats the point? Why? It will never cross their minds. But they CAN. If they want to. Patrick cannot. Someone who ACTUALLY wants to cannot. So I will. And Susie will. And like no other human on Earth she knows me and why I need her to go. She has suffered great loss.

And like my friend Steph says “sometimes we step in for others when they cannot do for themselves”. I’ve had a LOT of friends step in and step up for me. I am eternally grateful. And I will push play on this stupid fucking INSANITY MAX workout that nearly kills me everyday because I CAN. Because I have no excuse not to. And I will climb that Peak this summer. For myself, for Patrick, for those who cannot.

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