Peak Warriors

(This is my #couch2kilimanjaro story. Follow along by chapter: Chapter 1Chapter 2, Chapter 3)

I don’t remember when I discovered the Peak Warrior support group on Facebook. I had never been a part of a “support group” before. I know people swear by the power of community, support and accountability… its why AA and WW are so successful. But those are “in person” support groups. How supportive could an online group really be?

 

Turns out pretty damn supportive.

During the late spring and into the summer of 2015, I wanted to jump off the #C25K program more than a few times. Running has never become fun or exhilarating to me. It’s just work. A lot of huffing, puffing work. And I don’t enjoy it. But it is a means to an end. I knew I couldn’t climb mountains without better lung capacity and cardio capacity.

So this completely random group of women online held me to it. I watched their own stories unfolding. Stories that both inspired me and pushed me to keep moving, one step at a time.

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When I wanted to skip a run, I saw Elise in Norway, faithfully putting on her warmest coat and headlamp and walking in the frigid cold and dark above the Arctic circle. My god. If she can do that, I can get my butt out the door for my 25 minute workout in mild Mid-Atlantic temps.

When I wanted to just sleep in or nap during the afternoon slump, there was Tess faithfully changing her whole life, 90lbs down and counting. No short cuts. Just good old fashioned exercise and healthy diet choices. What an inspiration.

This was no quick fix. This had to be a lifestyle change for me…. Working in exercise and activity into every week of my life, if not every day.

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The Peak Warriors now have a wonderful new blogsite… Please, please consider following and joining us on Facebook if you are in need of a little motivation, inspiration and accountability for your journey. I credit this amazing group for helping that April 1, 2015 decision to get off the couch to become an actual LIFE CHANGE event 10 months later. 

The Munros are calling and I must go….

(This is my #couch2kilimanjaro story. Follow along by chapter: Chapter 1, Chapter 2)

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What the heck is a Munro? And where can I bag one STAT?!

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(all images from Sam Heughan’s Instagram)

I can’t remember the exact date that I discovered Sam’s IG account. But after seeing the above photos, I sat up and said to myself, ” I want to climb mountains.” It wasn’t just a passing thought. It was the birth of a vision, a mission.

In Scotland, any mountain over 3000ft. is called a Munro. Summiting Munros is called ” munro bagging.” It is a thing over there. There are somewhere around 286 (??) Munros and many a mountain enthusiast has set out to bag them all. You can bag 1 or 5 at a time. Whatever your stamina and the weather allows. I poured over the websites, and ordered books.

So, sometime in March 2015, I decided I was going to climb mountains. Why mountains? From as far back as I can remember, I have loved the mountains and they have called to me. As a small child in Texas, I would often yell at my parents to stop the car so I could go “climb that mountain.” I guess the hills looked mountainous to me. And I wanted to climb them. All of them.

As I have gotten older, I find myself longing for the mountains. I live about 2.5 hours from the Shenandoah National Park and I have been known to throw the kids in the car, drive the 2.5 hours to the park, meander up or down Skyline Drive, and then drive 2.5 hours home. Just because I needed to be in the mountains.

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(this print is on my living room mantle)

When I decided I really wanted to climb mountains, this meant something significant was going to have to change in my life. I couldn’t even walk up the street without wheezing.

Around this same time (March 2015), Sam’s fitness/charity campaign, My Peak Challenge, was just wrapping up. I was intrigued with the whole movement, but it was too late to join in for the final challenge that month. I started researching my next move.

How was I going to move off my couch and up a mountain/munro?  

Enter the Couch to 5K running program.

Confession: I had started and quit the C25K program 3 times before this. I honestly did not have much faith in myself at this moment in time. Well, I had faith that I would start well but quit again… just like all the other times.

And I did start well. But I didn’t quit. Not this time. It took me about twice as long as the prescribed 9 week program, but I finished. There were weeks that I had to repeat because I would have an asthma attack halfway through one of the runs and not be able to complete it. The old Chelsea would have just shrugged and jumped off that wagon without so much as a “next time!”

The new me was determined. Focussed. I had my eyes set on Sam’s Munros.  I repeated Week 4 twice and then Week 6 a couple of times. I repeated runs that I didn’t finish well. But I kept at it. And I finished training. I was able to run 5k without stopping. Even all through high school, when I was most athletic and played basketball, I could barely run a mile without falling apart.

Why success this time? I am convinced it had to do with the support system I had stumbled into… again, thanks to the Outlander fandom and Sam’s My Peak Challenge community.

I finally found my tribe, my people. Women of all walks of life, varying ages and professions, diverse political/religious beliefs. Two things we all agreed on: our undying love and appreciation for all things Outlander (show and book), and our determined quest to take control of our health and fitness.

I found my Peak Warrior sisterhood. 

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(photo source)

Yes, Outlander.

(This is my #couch2kilimanjaro story. Follow along by chapter: Chapter 1)

Truly.

On January 1, 2015, I picked up this book called Outlander that had been sitting atop a pile of books I had yet to read next to my bed. The only reason I picked it up was because of a “best books of 2014” post I read on The Modern Mrs. Darcy’s blog and Outlander was one of her favorites. (Actually, I think it was Voyager, but whatever.) I guess it was time to pick it up.

Reminder: I had never heard of Diana Gabaldon or any of her books before.

I posted a photo of the book on Instagram saying “Diving in.”

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It didn’t take long to get hooked. Minutes?  Hours? Soon after, a kind soul of a friend messaged me an important question.

Her: “Have you seen the show yet?”

Me: What show?

Her: Oh girl. GIRL. You have to come over. Like tomorrow. We will watch all 8 episodes. You will never be the same.

Me: Ok. We are talking about a show, right?

One fateful day in mid January I drove 1.5 hours south to my friend’s house and we, no joke, watched 8 episodes in one day.

And just like she said, I was never the same. 

By mid January I was on The Fiery Cross, book 5 of the Outlander series. By the end of the month I had finished MOBY, the 8th and last published book of the series (Diana G, Herself, is currently writing book 9).

Have I failed to mention that each of these books is between 800-1500 pages long (mass market paperback size)? When I say I “read” all 8 books in a month… it was more like guzzled. Yes, I guzzled them. I bought the subsequent 7 books after Outlander on Kindle because I would inevitably finish one at around 1:54am and could not bear to go to sleep without starting the next one. Thank god for Kindle.

(What? Oh, you want to know where my kids were while I spent all this precious time reading and not sleeping? They were very busy feeding themselves, watching Netflix and generally entertaining themselves. And they survived. And I don’t hold a lick of guilt… because, seriously… they are all girls and someday I get to be the one to introduce them to Jamie and Claire and they will then worship the ground I walk on. At least that is how it plays out in my head…)

So, what does this long, drawn out monologue about Outlander have to do with Kilimanjaro?

Everything.

Because without the book, there would have been no show. And without the show, I would have never heard of this actor named Sam Heughan. And without Sam Heughan’s Instagram account, I would most likely still be sitting on my couch…

Couch to Kilimanjaro – literally

March 4, 2015 – Location: Maryland, USA.

I am completely sedentary, stuck to my couch. I am depressed, battling a variety of respiratory ailments (asthma, allergies, sinus et all) and generally in a dark and unhealthy place.

March 4, 2016 – Location: Mt. Kilimanjaro National Park, Tanzania, AFRICA

I will have my teal Kelty daypack on, camera bag strapped to my front (to offset the weight on my back), hiking poles at the ready. My Asolo boots will have been mostly broken in (I hope), and I am guessing my stomach will be a mess of nerves, ranging from “omgomg this is so exciting, let’s GO already” to “OMGOMG do you SEE that freaking enormous mountain?! what have I gotten myself into?” This is day 1 of our 5 day trek up the infamous Mt. Kilimanjaro, the tallest freestanding mountain in the world.

 

So, how did this approaching-middle-age, suburban, American mother of 3 go from a couch potato to a mountain climber in the span of a year?

Short answer: Great question.

Long answer: Well, it all started with Diana Gabaldon’s book, Outlander…..

Stay tuned….