Turns Out Joy Can Exist When It's HARD

For those of you reading for some time, you'll know that I have been training for something called 29029. Essentially, climbing the equivalent of Everest in vertical feet in 36 hours. 

I didn't struggle with the physical part of training. I struggled with the idea of "having to struggle" during an endurance event. For me, this journey was less about ascending - and more about the unwinding of the stories in my head that "hard" equated to "struggle." 

Spoiler alert: Things can be hard AND joyful, hard AND fun, hard AND challenging...and of course, they can also be hard AND cause suffering. For years, I've been choosing in a way that hasn't served me. 

For 5 years I was excited to do this climb - when I finally signed up, I was ecstatic - but when 2023 rolled around, I had decided to "shed suffering." So here I am, faced with an event that requires: grit, grind, hard, mental toughness, WILL (vs can), temporary pain - all of the things that suffering can create too. But I was TIRED of suffering and pushing hard through business, life, etc. 

So I resisted the training. I wasn't excited about the climb. And I decided I didn't much care about the outcome. 

However, it's not in my bones to half ass anything. So as we got closer to the event, I dove into the training but in MY way. Running was a key part of training - I started off trying to run and that was a clear "no" for me (and my body). So I switched to rucking - which is SO much better for my body, is Zone 2 cardio, fabulous for strength loading and posture and so much more. (I have many posts about how much I love love love my GORUCK). 
As I had long days of rucking, or hours on the stairmaster with my ruck, I was grateful for the time to listen to books, webinars, podcasts and more. I leaned into the training, and found the joy in the "hard."

The event has a 50% success rate (or 50% failure rate, however, you want to look at it) so I decided I wanted to make it half way. As we drew closer to the event, I realized I was limiting myself - I was training, finding my stride with it and had done enough internal work to know that I wasn't going to allow myself to suffer on the mountain itself (eg. I would not create suffering for the sake of it). So as we drew near, I told only one person, my dear friend Jourdan who owns KALO Fitness, that I "wanted it." I wanted to reach the top. It was scary to say it out loud. 

I get to Sun Valley and nerves are high. The locals barely want to climb Baldy mountain once - let alone 15 times LOL. But when I got to "base camp," the energy was electric. The motivational speeches, one by Jessie Itzler, was insanely uplifting. I wanted it badly. 

At 6am the next morning with 200 other anxious climbers, I start. Head down, one foot in front of the other, slow and steady - that was my plan. My mantra's on each lap changed. One lap was "I get to do this" another was "my body is strong" another was "this pain in temporary" and on my last lap...I counted my steps before breathing and that was a first! 

Laps 1-5 were a "breeze" and I was finished ahead of time. Lunch time (though NOT hungry at all). Just as I got lunch, they announced a lightening delay - which lasted 3 hours. AND, you don't get that time added onto the back end over 1 hr. So our time to reach the summit had condensed. 

Ok, I got this. Approximately 4pm, back on the mountain - Whoof, lap 6 after that rest was like waking up a squeaky wheel. Laps 7 and 8 were solid. Lap 9 - I got angry. And cried. And a little pissy LOL. This is where the mental blocks can come in. But, QUITTING - was NEVER an option for me and never crossed my mind. 

Lap 10 - that was all in the dark and ironically I got a 5th wind - i was flying on this lap but my roommate was struggling and we promised to stick together cause it's unnerving to climb at night alone. Suddenly it was 2am and I considered doing another lap on my own - my roommate was done. I elected to eat a late dinner (!!) and get 2.5 hours sleep. Yikes. 

Up at 5:30am - couldn't eat breakfast and dared not to eat coffee (I was afraid of GI stuff...i was SO bloated and constipated I was afraid the coffee would release with a vengeance). Everyone was in the same boat - your body is holding onto reserves as it's in survival mode. I jumped on the mountain and woke my body up in Lap 11. After Lap 11, I didn't want to waste time in the gear tent shedding layers and instead went straight out to Lap12 - but I was boiling hot and slower. Plus, skipping breakfast did its number and I was dizzy coming down. So i stopped, changed clothes and shoved food in. And by food, I mean a lot of saltines, Oli Pop, Kate's bars and oranges. 

Lap 13 rocked. Then, that damn Lap 14. Oh boy, my "breakdown" on the mountain came late. Others had hit this point earlier on - and many gave up. The mind telling you to stop. In many ways, I'm glad it came on Lap 14. I legit couldn't breathe - I was panting - my heart was racing SO fast and I was wheezing. This lap took me 1.5 times longer than my longest lap previously. SO much wasted time, I was in struggle city. The coaches at 29029 are something out of heaven and they were tracking me. Half way up, one was waiting for me and said she was going to get me up "The Wall" (a 60% grade portion of the climb) and to the gondola so I had my final lap.

I was both grateful and felt pressured seeing Coach Ashely in that lap - BUT, she talked to me about the mind and hard-talked me about how much I wanted this and to stop listening to my mind tell me I was anything less than ok. She got me to the gondola - loaded me with fuel and down I went. Stretch. Eat. Drink. Repeat. 

Lap 15 was a breeze. I stopped to take it in. I took photos. I cried happy tears. I actually stood there to remember the moments and elongated my time on the mountain. The final "lip" was in sight and I knew when I got to the top, I'd see all the people screaming at me so happy for my final ascent - and my red hat which indicated I had summited! 

It was exhilarating - and I did NOT feel any suffering at all. And BEcause of that, it was definitely successfully summitting a mountain - literally & physically! 

The real climb was learning that things can be hard AND in the absence of suffering. Win. Score. Summit.