At seventeen, I was making mixed tapes for my friends and getting ready for freshman year of college when one of the best rheumatologists in Boston told me that I had been living with lupus most of my life. I went to the library and learned lupus was a potentially fatal disease with no cure. How is a seventeen year old supposed to respond? I started to live life without limits and within my boundaries. It is not easy to adjust to that type of news, but the alternative, inaction, was more terrifying.
Soon after my first 50 miler, I was back to running. People started to ask me what I was training for, I always replied “life”. I have not accidentally missed a day of training since I was seventeen years old.
Owning a small fitness business and living with two autoimmune diseases during COVID reminded me of sitting in the corner of the library reading about lupus. If I spent time fighting the information it would have held me back. I knew I needed to accept and survive. In March, I started organizing and participating in challenges with my clients.
Don’t get me wrong, I thought about investing in pajama jeans and retiring the zipper forever. My pants got tight. My stress level was up too high. I was too busy to take care of myself. I started to feel some MS symptoms in June. I tried to imagine what it would look and feel like if I didn’t commit to making changes. I called my sister lamenting about all the amazing food being prepared in my house, and that my meal plan tasted like sadness. (It only tasted like sadness when my daughters made one of their amazing home-made pizzas and was committed to being vegan). It took time because it is impossible to be perfect, but the work started to pay off even with detours. And, those detours are essential steps in the process. Embracing those uncomfortable painful moments always propels me to move forward.
Living with chronic disease means accepting the boundaries presented by COVID. I was not going to walk into a gym anytime soon. I needed to avoid gatherings that put me at risk. I had to insult people that were not on the same page with COVID precautions. Sometimes it was just about managing screen time, not going to see family, turning off the news. or committing to meditation for 1 minute.
I joined my remote clients in every studio challenge with a renewed sense of hope. Each goal was small and unique to where I was. Being held accountable kept me on track. I was never perfect, but I embraced my imperfections. Most challenges lasted six weeks, but that was never enough time to get see any dramatic change.
Six months later, I tested the results of the new remote plan in New Hampshire while on vacation. Climbing Mt Washington was on my bucket list, and I decided to hike the highest peak in Northeast a few days before I left for vacation. I spent no real time training for this nor did I have any recent significant hikes under my belt, but the fear of a lockdown this winter motivated me to face a new challenge. I would rather fail trying than not try at all. I was going to test my legs up the mountain. Nothing was going to get in my way. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans and decided to play the spoiler, forcing us cancel the first planned summit of Mt Washington.
Instead of giving up, we selected another 4000 summit that was safer on a rainy day. On the way up a hiker asked us if we were working on our NH48. Although I didn’t know what they were referring to, my husband answered yes. For those of you (like me at the time) that don’t know what that is, the state of New Hampshire has forty-eight 4,000+ foot mountains (mostly in the White Mountains). A 4,000 footer is a mountain that has an elevation of at least 4,000 feet and a minimum of 200 feet prominence. All criteria are determined by the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC). You can earn a hiking patch for hiking all 48 of the New Hampshire 4,000 Footers, also known as the NH48.
As soon as I found out about the badge, I was in. I went from hoping to climb Mt. Washington to committing to climb all 48 summits before I turn 49 (I have 16 months). During this vacation I hit 5 of the 48 and finished the week on Mt Washington. It was a physically challenging week with amazing views and phenomenal memories. Hiking downhill is not easy for me, and it is a reminder that being mediocre at something can be someone’s greatest accomplishment. I am good with failures and missteps, because it means that I will live my life without limits and within my boundaries.
I hiked six summits in five days because I focused on small attainable goals for six months in 2020. Without lockdown, this vacation would have looked very different. Success is about the process and I stopped focussing on a final destination at seventeen. Life is unpredictable and I have to be ready to pivot.
I will continue training for life and chasing the next challenge. I look forward to being inspired by my clients, and I am excited to write the next chapter. I will make 2020 a defining year.
6 Summits. 23,000 feet. 5 days.