exercise

May/June Favorites

Everybodddayyyy

(Yeahhhh)

Rock your bodayyyy

(Yeahhh)

Everyboddayyy

Rock your bodayy right

Favorites are back ALRIGHT

So yeah, I saw the Backstreet Boys in Vegas this month, and yeah, it’s still on my mind, because yeah, it was INCREDIBLE. If there was a slot in the favorites for “favorite concert I saw that made me feel 13 again,” the BSB would definitely have nabbed that spot. Actually, let’s go ahead and make that a slot just this once. Consider yourselves “favorited” boys!

Now, on to the rest of the favorites:

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Modern Love Podcast

modern love podcastSince the quest to run 1000 miles rages on, I’m always looking for new listening material, and these past two months I’ve been loving the podcast-ed version of The New York Times column “Modern Love.” Each episode contains a previously published story, read aloud by a wide variety of personalities (one of my favorites was Titus Burgess from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and accented with sound effects and music, to really bring the words to life. I consistently find myself captivated by the stories, and look forward to the new episode each week.

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Think Thin Protein Bars

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Another side effect of running is being hungry ALL. THE. TIME. Honestly, I feel like an adolescent boy, minus the growth spurts and incredible metabolism. That being said, I’ve been on the lookout for healthy(ish) snacks that can tide me over between meals so I don’t eat my way through my entire budget. Enter these protein bars, which seem to do the trick in satisfying my hunger, without providing the lasting guilt or tasting like total garbage. So far, I’ve tried the Brownie Crunch, Cinnamon Bun White Chocolate, and Cupcake Batter flavors and I’ve liked them all!

 

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Stitch Fix

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Call me a sucker if you want, but Stitch Fix has been FLOODING my Facebook feed for months now with ads for their cute clothes, and after putting up a steady resistance, I finally caved. I clicked the link that had been shouting at me to “try now!” and I went through the comprehensive “style quiz” and I gave them all my info, then I waited pretty (im)patiently for my first box to arrive. I’m not going to lie to you, it was pretty exciting when it did. Unlike the sporadic string of Amazon packages that usually grace my porch, this was a mystery box of goodness! You see, the way it works is once you go through the “style quiz”, a stylist reviews your answers and then sends you 5 handpicked items they think you’ll like. You then try them on/do a quick fashion show, etc, and decide what you want to keep and what you want to return. For the things you want to return, they send you a prepaid envelope, so all you have to do is slide the clothes/accessories in, seal it and send it back. From my first box, I kept two shirts, one of which I never would have tried on in a store and one that looks like it could have been made especially for me.

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Harry Styles by Harry Styles & Evolve by Imagine Dragons

Both of these albums have had me feeling all the feels and frequently texting my sister “YES, ALL THE YES” at various times of the day. They are very different in sound but both more than worth the listen.

Let’s turn it over to iTune for bimonthly dose of adjectives:

Harry Styles by Harry Styles: “magisterial Bowie-meets-Elton calling card,” “swampy bass and carnal choruses”

Evolve by Imagine Dragons: “the band trades is signature angst for light rhythmic textures and fluid vocals about rebuilding.”

Yup, EXACTLY what I was thinking.

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Brain on Fire by Susannah Calahan & This is Really Happening by Erin Chack

download (3)Again, these two choices have vastly different vibes about them, but they are both phenomenal. I borrowed Brain on Fire from a friend and was addicted by about page 4. It’s a memoir written by a 20 something year old woman who, while living a perfectly normal, healthy life, finds herself slipping into complete psychosis for no understandable reason. I read the entire thing in one day and have recommended it to almost every human I’ve spoken to since.

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This is Really Happening is a collection of essays written by Buzzfeed writer, Erin Chack, who I hadn’t heard of until I saw her book announcement on Twitter. Needless to say, I fell in love with her instantly after that and put the book in my Amazon cart that afternoon. This is Really Happening is a super easy read that made me laugh and cry and want to get a book of my own on the market. So, fingers crossed you’ll find me emulated a book birth in the future.

 

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Kendall Jenner Ab Workout

Who even am I, right? I know. But I can’t help it! Ever since I saw the workout in this Cosmo article online, I’ve made it a part of my gym routine. Full disclosure: It’s hard as hell. BUT doing it has made me feel much stronger, and I’m pretty sure I have, like, 1 1/2 abs now, so, watch out world!

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This Terrible Morning

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Oh, yes. This is a self plug and I’m not sorry about it. I recently announced a fun side project called “This Terrible Morning” which hopes to be a collaborative blog all about how terribly ridiculous mornings have a tendency to be. Fun fact: it officially launched TODAY! So make sure you go check out the first post. It’s a piece by me, written about the morning that gave me the idea for This Terrible Morning in the first place. Also, if you have a terrible morning you’d like to share in story/picture/poem/song/any form, please do! I’d love for you to join in on all the terrible fun.

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Have anything you’ve been loving over these last couple months? Let me know! My Amazon cart is always open…

See my previous favorites post here.

Summer 2017 Charity Walks

Have you ever been driving around running errands, minding your own business, and wanted to stop by your favorite donut shop, when suddenly you come across a big orange construction sign saying, ROAD CLOSED, and you feel like your whole day is ruined. Then, to make matters worse, you find out the reason the road is closed is because there are hundreds (or thousands) of people participating in a Walk/Run event that benefits a super amazing charity, so you drive home and feel doubly bad 1) because you didn’t participate in such a great event and 2) because even though it’s clearly an important event that will benefit many, you’re still pretty upset your route was blocked and you didn’t get a donut.

I’ll admit it, I have.

HOWEVER, I’ve also been amongst the crowds, running and/or walking for a great charity that I care about, and I can honestly say it is way more satisfying than any donut. (Which is saying something, because, you know, #donutsarelife)

With the arrival of summer right around the corner, we’re in for a season of beautiful mornings, perfect for both donuts and charity walks—and if you are living life to fullest: both—and since one of the hardest parts about signing up for a walk/run is knowing which ones are available to sign up for, I figured I’d do the work for you.

WARNING: this does take away the “I had no idea this was happening!” excuse you might have planned to use to not sign up. Sorry about that.

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Relay for Life

Who you’re walking for: American Cancer Society

Distance: varies

Find more information here

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Light the Night

Who you’re walking for: Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Distance: About 3 miles

Find more information here

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Walk to End Alzheimer’s

Who you’re walking for: Alzheimer’s Association

Distance: 2-3 miles

Find more information here

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AIDs Walk

Who you’re walking for: multiple AID’s related charities

Distance: 6.2 miles (a 10k course)

Find more information here

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Strut Your Mutt

Who you’re walking for: Best Friends Animal Society

Distance: varies

Find more information here

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March of Dimes

Who you’re walking for: March of Dimes Foundation

Distance: About 3 miles

Find more information here

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Walk for Wishes

Who you’re walking for: The Make A Wish Foundation

Distance: 3.1 miles (5k course)

Find more information here

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Walk MS

Who you’re walking for: National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Distance: 1-3 miles

Find more information here

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Buddy Walk

Who you’re walking for: National Down Syndrome Society

Distance: varies based on location

Find more information here

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Race

Breast Cancer 3-day

Who you’re walking for: Susan G Komen for the Cure

Distance: 60 miles over 3 days

Find more information here

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I’d recommend any and all of these and any others you can find. There’s truly no greater feeling than helping someone, and being a part of events like these where you can see and feel the direct impact of the difference you are making is unbelievable.

So I challenge you this summer to get out there and be a part of something bigger. Walk, run, sit down and cry, I’ve done all three at a variety of different races and I’m a better person because of it.

Also, be sure to check out this website to find more charity walks near you, and if you know of any other upcoming runs/walks that benefit great charities, please share them below!

#ShoutYourStrong

Throughout our lives, possibly even multiple times a day, we will tell ourselves, “I can’t.” It’s too far, it’s too high, I’m too weak, I just can’t do it.

Well, to put it lightly, we’re wrong, so wrong.

The truth is, we can do anything, you can do anything.

In today’s world, we are not strangers to sharing what we do. With a wide variety of social media outlets, we can document nearly every moment of our day. In doing so we have the ability to connect with and inspire others, as well as express ourselves in a unique way. When we post, we start a conversation, and today I’d like to start one that, while not necessarily new, is still extremely important and very personal to me.

As some of you may know, I climbed Mt. Whitney a few years ago and it changed my life. It woke me up from a long period of negativity and an “I can’t” mentality, and jump-started my path to self-acceptance. Throughout the training process and ultimately the final climb, I discovered something within myself that I can only describe as “my strong.”

We all have it. No matter who we are, where we come from, or what battles we are fighting, our strong is the intangible measure of what we can do, and against all odds, it moves us forward.

Today I hope to encourage all of you to not only discover your strong, but embrace it, utilize it, and share it with the world. So, I’m starting the hashtag #shoutyourstrong, which aims to celebrate all that we are accomplishing, both in the physical and mental battles we are fighting.

It is my hope that this hashtag can act as a community, a celebration of the positive changes we are all making in our lives amongst the ever-present negativity found both on- and offline.

#ShoutYourStrong will strive to inspire, not spark comparisons. We are all facing different struggles and we should not let the success of others diminish our own, nor should we be discouraged to share our steps forward, even if they seem small. For when we have the courage to admit what we’re going through, we give ourselves a voice. When we find the strength to fight back, we allow that voice to echo. And should another who struggles hear that echo, it might finally give them the courage to speak.

So today I encourage you to join the conversation. For no matter who you are or what you’re going through, and as hard as it may be to believe, you do have a unique strength inside of you that will help carry you through whatever comes your way. And not if, but when you find it, don’t just share it, shout it!

#shoutyourstrong

shoutyourstrong.com

 
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Don’t Mind the Gaps & Kick Some Ass

Last January I struggled through—however completed—my first ever 5k. It was a huge feat for me, as the only previous accomplishment I’d made in running was beating my dog in a sprint across the backyard. Then again I only won that because my dad got home right as I yelled “Start!” and my dog b-lined into the house to greet him. But after some deliberation,  the officials (me) and I (me) agreed that it was deemed a forfeit, thus crowning me the lawn sprint champ of 2014.

While I was training for the 5k, I discovered something very important. A place within—that is found in all of us—that whole heartedly believed that I could. It was a resounding YES that drowned out all of the previous “no’s”, and it was unintimidated by failure because it thrived off of the courage of a try. I started calling it the BIFC (pronounced bifsee) door, a.k.a the Because I F*cking Can door. A passage way to success that our negative selves like to keep shut, however we can kick open Kool-Aid man style and achieve our wildest dreams.

In November of last year, after months of kicking at this door and feeling it resist, and having recently completed a half marathon relay with my sister (I ran half, handed her the baton and she ran the rest), I was standing behind yet another starting line, wondering how in the hell I would make it through a full half marathon (13.1 miles) alone.

Suddenly the gun sounded, a cheer erupted and the MC came through the speakers yelling “GO! GO! GO!” And as the pitter patter of hopeful runners began to fill the air I felt nervous, but then I thought of my Papa.

A while back my mom told me about a theory he had regarding traffic.

“There are always gaps.”

As a native Southern Californian, I am extremely familiar with traffic and the hold it can place on an entire day. However it is true that every once in a while, whether we notice them or not, there are breaks. Gaps. Little openings that give us the opportunity to cruise. But being the impatient drivers that we are, we usually see these openings as an opportunity to wildly accelerate, if only to prove to ourselves and those around us that we still know how.

When the gun sounded that November morning and the feet around me started clamoring to run, I felt that familiar pressure to keep up. To go fast. To wildly accelerate in order to impress those around me. But in that moment, I thought of my Papa and decided to take a deep breath and cruise. And as the herd of hungry runners passed me and the walkers faded behind me, I quickly found myself in a gap. There was no pace to worry about keeping, no faces to worry about impressing. This race was mine to run, and there was no one else I needed to worry about.

Later, as my mile count grew, and the finish line approached, I began to notice the throng of people lining the streets cheering. They didn’t care what my pace was. They didn’t want to know about everyone I had passed or who had passed me. They simply wanted to help me finish my race. And as I smiled back in gratitude, I thought back to all the times I’d stood on the sidelines, praising others yet doubting myself.

On the last mile, I saw a woman holding a handmade sign that said, “You can do it!” And as I glanced at the bystanders surrounding her I hoped that, along with every runner, they too read these words. That they too heard that voice within and thought to themselves, “Maybe I can too.” For having recently completed my second half marathon, I truly believe with the courage to try and the patient to cruise, you can accomplish anything. And if anyone should stand in your way, doubting you, including yourself, and ask, “why?” Answer back with a smile and a swift kick to the door in front you, “Why? Because I F*cking Can.”

Arms Dead Forever (feat. The Gym)

It was a casual Saturday afternoon. I was contemplating a nap when my cousin Cory called with the invite. “It will be fun” he said, “come and at least try it.”

With shoes laced and nervous sweat already bubbling on my neck, I made the drive over and found a parking spot next to a car with a bumper sticker that said “MEGA BEAST.” I pondered returning home for a few moments, I could practically feel the fabric of the couch inviting me in for a few more chapters of my book.

“Pop the trunk,” my sister said, breaking me out of my daze.

The ground was hot and so was everyone that walked by me, and I knew that it would only get worse once I stepped through the double doors.

My expectations: butts, abs, biceps, quads, dripping in sweat, comprised solely of steel. There would probably be yelling and the occasional fist pumps. Egos and tight pants, protein shakes and unidentified pools of saliva.

This was my first trip to the gym and I was terrified.

My cousin said he’d meet us on the second floor, so as my sister and I made our way up the steps, I took advantage of the view, feeling myself shrivel amongst the mass of Herculean humans pumping iron below me. As we further ascended, I suddenly found myself surrounded by a plethora of miscellaneous motion. Bikes and treadmills and stair masters and elliptical machines; all moving faster than I wanted to, all offering their own form of torture.

My sister spotted Cory on a stationary bike in the back corner, pedaling like I was wielding a knife rather than a high five, and we took a spot on either side of him.

“Quick cardio warm up sound good?” he said, only slightly winded.

We nodded and began to pedal, my pace a polar opposite of his, more reminiscent of a leisurely ride to the park with a picnic basket.

When our 15 minute warm up was over, we made our way back down the first floor, where Cory revealed the focus of our workout for the day: arms.

Now, I like to consider myself an active person with a relatively good amount of strength. However, at no point have I ever spent an extended period of time lifting weights, doing pushups or exposing my arms to any sort of strenuous exercise. (Unless you count that time my dad and I moved a 200 pound TV up the stairs, but that’s another story, one that I’ll never have an explanation for in regards to its success and lack of injuries.)

“Oh…okay great” I said with an undeniably conspicuous amount of anxiety.

Over the next hour or so, we did 10 different exercises that worked different parts of both the arms and shoulders. And while I don’t remember them all by name, a general summary can be found in the following haiku:

I can’t do this dude

Muscles burning, ouch, MOMMY

Arms dead forever

For the next 3 days, my arms ached like I’d let someone continuously punch me for approximately 4800 years.

My keys were heavy, my phone was heavy, and don’t even get me started on spoons.

But even though signing my name at the bottom of check the next day felt like trying to draw a hopscotch course with a telephone pole, I didn’t regret going to the gym. In fact, just a few days later I found myself there again and then again the week after. No, I’m not a herculean human now, I still shake and breathe hard and look like an idiot every now and again, but I’ve come to embrace it, because for me, the gym is just another challenge. Sure, this one involves a lot of machines that want to swallow me whole and will continuously feature that one girl standing next to me, accidentally looking perfect, while I sweat and pant like I’m giving birth to a baby made of knives. But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep working at it.

For a long time the gym was just another thing I couldn’t do. It was a place I didn’t want to go until I was strong enough or skinny enough or fit enough. But I’ve come to realize that the gym is not a place you go to once you’ve reached your peak level of fitness, but rather a starting block to help you reach it. Plus, everyone is a beginner at some point, everyone accidentally gets their headphones stuck in the stair master (no, just me?). So, I will continue my quest as a gym goer. I will continue to challenge myself and discover new strengths that I never knew I had. Why? BIFC.

How to Wake Up a Terminal Amputee with Days to Live

Pain. That was first and only thing I felt as I woke up Sunday morning. It was definitely in my legs, but I couldn’t identify which part. I tried to roll over, nothing happened. Was I paralyzed? No, there wouldn’t be a throbbing-like-I’d-just-been-shot pain if I was paralyzed. Had I been shot?! Who would shoot me while I was sleeping?!  At least wake me up first and deliver an “I’ll be back” or a “next time use your blinker.” I count to three and heave my legs out from under me, triggering a guttural noise reminiscent of a chicken trying to cluck under water. It was only 5 steps to my bedroom door but as I pushed myself upright, the journey appeared to require hiking shoes and a few days’ worth of supplies.

I limp/hop to the recliner in the living room and collapse into its velvety grasp, vowing not to move for the rest of the day. Thankfully, my computer is within arm’s reach when I arrive and I open up a web browser to a medical website my friend recommended. If anyone is going to know why my legs feel like I mistook a pair of pants for a pool of acid, they are.

The home page is chaotic but somehow easy to navigate and I find a button labeled “symptom checker.” Upon clicking it, a new page loads to reveal an animation of the female figure alongside questions regarding my age group, zip code and phone number, the last two of which are optional.

18-24 years old and no, you don’t get to know my zip code.

The woman then spins while the next page loads and then reads “Choose Symptoms” long the top left. I move my cursor over her grey body, watching different areas highlight orange on contact. I click on legs. The window then zooms in, asking me which part of the legs.

(Umm EVERY PART.)

I click thighs, figuring I’ll work my way down.

“Thigh Symptoms” appears in a box to the left of the woman and lists a number possible choices.

Unable to move?  (Barely, but still like totally a check.)

Unable to bear weight?  (Currently regretting anything I’ve ever eaten that may have contributed to anything I have to carry atop these useless limbs, check.)

Pain and Discomfort? (All the checks.)

My three choices move over to another box and calculate my fate. The first option says “muscle strain,” which I scoff at. What, do they think I have a pain tolerance of a wet paper towel?! I scroll down and find something called Dermatomyositis. Yikes, whatever that is, it sounds bad.  15 letters of bad.  I skim through the description: Rare condition. No cure. Life-threatening!

Oh my gosh, I’m terminal. I’m a statistic!

I go back and click on Shin.

Pain or discomfort? (Check once again.)

This time an additional set of questions pop up.

How severe is the pain? (You can’t even begin to imagine how severe.)

Did the pain come on gradually or suddenly? (How about good morning, I hope you have a spare pair of stems?!)

Is it made worse by moving? (Is a rickety building made worse by an earthquake?)

Calculating.

Osteomyelitis. Possible surgery! Infected to my very bones!! IF UNTREATED CAN LEAD TO CHRONIC OSTEOMYELITIS WHICH MAY REQUIRE AMPUTATION!!!

I’m a terminal amputee!

I go back again and click on calves.

Pain and discomfort, unable to bear weight, made worse by moving.

Yes, yes, yes, obviously.

Blood clots in my leg?! Can damage lungs and other organs? CAN LEAD TO DEATH?!

I’m a terminal amputee with rupturing organs and days to live. Oh sweet Carolina what a day.

How am I going to tell my parents? What will the medical books say about me? Who’s going to play me in the biopic?

My stomach growls and I am overcome with a warm, fond feeling, remembering all the mornings I’ve spent watching the Price is Right, eating Honey Nut Cheerios. Such simple, beautiful times. This may be my last bowl; I should really make it count. With slow, determined steps I make my way to the kitchen, kicking something under the table just as I reach the oven. I take hold of the granite countertop and look down to see it’s one of my running shoes. I wonder why that’s….wait. What did I do yesterday? Was yesterday morning boot camp? Yes, now I remember. All those laps and lunges around the asphalt. The need to puke. The attempted thank you smile to the coach that came off as a mini stroke.

Wait a minute.

Maybe…maybe I’m just sore….

(*Note: This is a fictional story about the REAL dangers of WebMD. While useful, the information provided can and will cause you to make ridiculous conclusions about your well being, use wisely my friends.)

The Road to Mt. Whitney (Part 5: The Summit)

Like the mornings of many life altering events, our journey to Mt. Whitney started at IHOP.

The group met at our house at 8:00 a.m. and was knee deep in syrup and eggs by 8:30.

Once we were fully charged with sugar and carbs, we hopped in the car and started the 3 hour drive to Lone Pine. On our way, Tom, our training aficionado, our group leader, or Lt. Tom as Natalee and Kristine began to refer to him, made a right turn off the highway towards Fossil Falls, about 45 minutes from final destination.

In scientific terms, Fossil Falls is the product of the diversion of the Owens River over a basalt flow in the Indian Wells Valley.

In my terms, Fossil Falls is a collection of nifty black rocks piled up at perilous heights that you can sit on and make your dad’s knees knock together at the speed of light.

Observe:

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(That’s me in the white circle)

We arrived at our home for the night, the Dow Villa Motel, around 3:00. We dropped our stuff off in the room, changed into our hiking boots and grabbed some lunch at the Totem Café across the street. (I recommend the Totem Bird Sandwich)

On the agenda after lunch was a short acclimation hike. It was our way of reminding our hearts, heads, lungs, and legs of the task at hand. The hike was easy, a quick mile and half jaunt up and back on the same trail we would be hiking the next day–minus our 25 lb packs.

At 5:30 the next morning, our alarm clocks started sounding. Maybe it was the nerves, but I swear to you my alarm clock had never sounded so ominous. It was like Jaws was swimming in the carpet beneath me, ready to pounce if I didn’t hit the off button.

We met at the hotel restaurant right after the doors opened at 6:00 a.m. and sat down for what would be the last supper…well no. The last breakfast? Not quite. The last hot, non prepackaged meal we would eat for the next two days. Closer.

When looking at the menu, I kept in mind the food I had packed for the next two days:

-2 packs of cinnamon Poptarts

-4 Clif Bars

-2 Ziploc bags of pretzel crisps

-2 Ziploc bags of wheat thins

-2 packs of Mentos

-1 apple

-1 Subway sandwich

With that in mind I had 2 big pancakes, fruit, and 4 glasses of water.

At 8:00 we arrived at the base of the trail known as the “Whitney portal”.

First things first, we peed. We wanted to take advantage of the last “real” bathrooms we had access to. The quotes are necessary. There was no real plumbing, so the toilets were more like the entrances to a black hole that has no apparent bottom. (Let’s just say that if someone in China has finally discovered how to dig through the center of the earth to steal an Eggo waffle, I hope their path doesn’t come in contact with the Whitney portal.)

With bladders empty and stomachs full, we strapped, clicked, buttoned, and tied everything on our packs into place, took a few photos at the Whitney sign, and took our first steps onto the trail.

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We had 6 miles to cover on our first day.  Starting from the sign, we walked 1.5 miles up to the shady spot we found on our acclimation hike and took our first break. On our way there we passed a few hikers who had completed their hike and were on their way out. Some of them looked more tired than others, but all of them smelled the same. As we greeted and congratulated them, we all made a silent vow to finish the hike smelling slightly less toxic.

Our second break was taken at this log that marked the halfway point to trail camp.

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Sitting atop the log eating a Clif bar, Lt. Tom informed us of what was to come on the rest of our hike to trail camp. There were a lot of hand motions and directional words involved, but once I heard the word “meadow” everything else turned to Charlie Brown mush. With such an immense task at hand, the thought of there being a meadow, a location whose name alone relaxed me, made me almost giddy.

Observe the giddiness:

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If there was a way to describe the meadow to someone who hasn’t been there in the midst of a Whitney hike, I think I would say it was like being hugged by a laughing baby. You just didn’t want it to end.

But it did.

After the meadow the trail began to weave into some granite stairs and gravel switchbacks. In the miles leading up to the meadow, Lt. Tom had warned us to conserve our energy for the infamous granite stairs. Each step counted, he said. Each avoided deep knee bend, counted.

I spent the first 3 miles of the hike staring at the trail like a video game, picking the least steep, least energy exerting route. Step, step, move 2 inches to the left and step on a rock, step, step, move 4 inches to the right and step on another rock. It was a science.

The buildup to the stairs didn’t disappoint. After the gravel switchbacks faded into stairs, the stairs turned into more stairs and all that was left to do was step and breath. My trekking poles were a God send; I used them like a second pair of legs. I was like a deer learning to walk, except more sweaty and not as adorable.  And while at times the stairs seemed never ending, there were occasional breaks:

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Eventually though, the stairs stopped coming. Eventually we found ourselves at trail camp, eating apples and giving collective fist bumps to every member of the group.

This is when things got weird.

While training for Whitney, you hear a lot about the physical obstacles. You prepare for the altitude, you prepare for the mileage, you prepare for the weight in your pack. There are some things however, that you cannot prepare for.

1) Camping. Now, this may be small potatoes for some. Some of you might Bear Grylls the crap out of the wilderness and eat raw Ostrich eggs and make shelters out of moss. I, however, had never been camping. Not any kind of camping. Not backyard camping, not childhood summer camp camping. Nothing. And if you would have told me a year ago that my first camping experience would be on a mountain at 12,000 ft. I would have laughed in your face. But there we were Thursday afternoon, unloading our bags and setting up our tents. I was rooming with my dad. We staked down our residence on a nice gravelly patch and my dad built a 1 foot high stone wall to block the wind. I blew up my thermarest (a pad that goes under your sleeping bag to keep you from rolling onto a rock dagger in your sleep) and laid out my sleeping bag. I was ready to camp, I thought. I had all the right materials.

What I thought would happen: Once the sun went down I would hop in my sleeping bag, sleep a nice long sleep, and then wake up and kick the rest of the mountain’s ass.

What actually happened: At 5 o’clock, a breeze picked up. Our bare arms were covered with sleeves and then our sleeves were covered with more sleeves. Our heads were covered with beanies and then our beanies were covered with hoods. We walked around, shivered, paced around, shivered, ate some snacks, shivered. Was the sun ever going to go down?! We paced a little more, trying to warm ourselves up. We played 1 ½ rounds of charades, threw rocks at marmots, but the breeze kept at it, sending most of our group into their tents to escape the cold. Then, at 6:30 there was a break. Lt. Tom and I could feel it. It had to be 10-15 degrees warmer without the breeze. We set a goal, 8:30. We figured that would get us past sundown and give us 10 solid hours to sleep on and off. We started talking about the hike we had ahead of us the next day, Lt. Tom tracing the path in the air with his index finger. Suddenly we heard a loud dragging noise coming from behind us. I, of course, thought that it was a bear barreling toward us to rip out our throats and steal my poptarts, but it ended up being nothing more than a rockslide on the mountain face behind us. I say “nothing more” not in a lighthearted way. By nothing more I mean I assumed there was nothing more for me to have to worry about. I thought I had the paranoia covered from every angle. But as I stood there, watching the boulders race down the mountain, leaving dust in their tracks, I quickly added “death by rockslide” to my list of worries. I put it right under “sleepwalking into a stranger’s tent” and right above “freak tarantula plague”.

At 6:50, the breeze came back and we only made it 20 minutes before retreating to our tents. Once in my own tent, I was faced with a whole new set of obstacles. I was too hot, I was too cold, my legs cramped up, my butt cramped up, I couldn’t breathe, I was starving, I had to pee, I couldn’t sleep, and was that a bear lurking outside or just me breathing loudly into my own hand?

At 1 a.m. I couldn’t take it anymore. The last thing I had eaten was a Subway sandwich at 4 o’clock and after listening to the war cries of my stomach I was afraid it was on the verge of morphing into a cannibalistic Tarzan. To add to that, my bladder had started to feel like one of those big buckets at a water park that begin to tilt over and spill when a few too many drops land inside. So, in the dead of the night, with the stars blazing brighter than I’d ever seen before, I went charging out of the tent in my underwear and a head lamp to water the gravel. Going pee was actually the easy part. It wasn’t until I’d opened our bear container and spread our food out on the ground in search of my pretzels that I began to rethink the whole midnight snack idea. I whipped my headlamp back and forth in the dark, hoping the light would not be met with some unfamiliar beady eyes. I was convinced that a creature of the night was hiding behind a boulder and had been waiting for someone to unlock the container designed to outsmart their claws.

I JUST WANT SOME PRETZELS, I DON’T WANT TO DIE. 

I didn’t die.

I munched, got at least 45 more minutes of sleep over the next 5 hours, and emerged from the tent the next morning, with my camping cherry popped.

2) Marmots. To be fair, on this topic, we were warned, but we still didn’t really know what to expect. Marmots are essentially like beefy squirrels. They would be used as the before picture of Extreme Makeover Acorn Addict Edition, except they don’t just eat acorns, they eat anything and everything that can get their grimy little claws on. It took about 15 seconds after our arrival at trail camp for us to have our first marmot sighting. It was an average sized guy, we’ll call him Dave. He popped his head over one of the rocks at trail camp, eyeing all of our backpacks a.k.a food gold mines. Troy proceeded to throw a rock at Dave. (Don’t worry PETA, he missed.) We also missed Ben, Nathanial, Ethan, Diane, Jason, Jessica, and Crush, but that didn’t stop them from dropping by, every few minutes, all evening.

3) Wag Bags. One of the first things we had to do when we reached Lone Pine was pick up our hiking permits that we drew at the beginning of the year. While retrieving those, we were given a rundown of the rules of hiking Whitney and 7 wag bags, one for each of us. We were to put these bags in our packs and use them, should nature of the non-pee variety ever call.  I stuck mine in the top pouch of my pack next to my headlamp and my poncho, I figured they could hang out; start a club called “the things she probably won’t use.”

After we arrived at trail camp, it took a solid 20 minutes for our bladders to catch up. Maybe they had gotten stuck on the granite steps, I don’t know, but when they woke up, it was like they’d been dormant for weeks. All the liquids we’d been drinking to stay hydrated began to race to the finish line, every 15 minutes. Any inhibitions about peeing in the wilderness immediately went out the window. An hour into being at trail camp we were climbing up boulders to find new pee spots, and bragging about new real estate we found to recycle our hydration.

As far as the wag bags go, we made up a song, a snappy little jingle that had accompanying head bobs and rhythmic clapping. We figured that if it happened, it happened, and if it did, there should be a theme song.


 

Day 2 on the mountain started at 6 a.m. which could not have come soon enough. After spending 11 hours in our tents, we were all ready to get our legs moving up that mountain again.

The summit was 5 miles from trail camp. The plan was to hike to the top, do a little dance, hike back down to trail camp and pack up, and then head back down to the land of pizza and toilets.

First on the agenda: the 97 switchbacks that led from trail camp to trail crest.

Now, picture a switchback as an M laying on its side. The trail leads you from the bottom of the M to the top, then brings you back to do it all over again. Now picture 33 sideways M’s laying on top of each other, and you’ll have a pretty good idea what we were looking at from our tents.

Due to the up and back nature of the morning hike, we were able to leave our big backpacks in our tents and change into our daypacks that only held our water and snacks. This would prove to be immensely helpful as the elevation began to rack up with every switchback.

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By the time we reached trail crest we only had 2 miles and 1500 feet left to the summit.

The trail began to wind around the back of the mountains we saw from trail camp, giving us a beautiful view of the land and lakes on the opposite side.

After about a mile, a grey hut on top of what appeared to be a distant hill came into view. This hut acted as an emergency shelter for hikers in the case of a sudden onset of inclimate weather. It also marked the top of Mt. Whitney.

By the time this hut began to look like a human wielding structure rather than a lego, my adrenaline had reached an all time high. Any shortness of breath, body fatigue, or dehydration I had felt before vanished with each step towards that summit.

The last half mile was probably my favorite part of the whole hike. Hikers heading down from the summit gave us the right of way as we took our last steps toward victory. We were congratulated, commended, and high-fived and before we knew it, we were sitting at the top of the highest peak in the lower 48, looking out at the world beneath us.

As I looked out, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and accomplishment. When I looked up, I saw nothing but sky. There was absolutely nothing above me. In that moment on that mountain, I was on top of the world. (You know, kind of.)

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If you are ever feeling uninspired or unimpressed with yourself or your accomplishments, take a moment to look back at where you started. Chances are you have no idea how far you’ve come.

When we started our hike down that mountain and let the summit fade into the background, we had no choice but to relive every step of the hike we had just completed.

We hiked the 2 miles back to trail crest and went down all 97 switchbacks. We packed up our camp and reassembled our backpacks and hiked down every granite stair and gravel switchback. We soaked in the meadow, ate Clif bars on top of our log and passed by our shady rock. Then, with a final wind of the trail we saw the sign, the car, and the end of a successful trip.

As I relive the experience and look at the pictures that are almost a week old now, I can’t help but smile. A year ago I would have never imagined that I would be able to do anything of this magnitude and today I’m already dreaming about what I can do next. Don’t let doubt or fear control anything that you do. Our bodies, minds and hearts are made to do great things if we give them the opportunity. So get out there and do something.


 

Here is some additional information for anyone that might want to try this hike or hiking in general:

These are all the hikes my group and I did while in training for this trip. (All are located in California)

Camp Seely (3 miles): Crestline

Mission Peak/Three Trees (4 miles): Granada Hills

Hummingbird Trail (4 miles): Simi Valley

Lizard Rock/Wildwood Park (5 miles): Thousand Oaks

Towsley Canyon (5 miles): Santa Clarita

O’Melveny (5.5 miles): Granada Hills

East Canyon (6 miles): Santa Clarita

Mt. Baldy (13 miles): Mt. Baldy

Mt. Lowe (13 miles): Upland

Mt. Wilson (14 miles): Sierra Madre

Backbone Trail (15 miles): Malibu