Saturday, October 3, 2015

15 Months

15 months into my fitness journey, I'm still obese, just like last month, but there's kind of a difference: this month I didn't try to be less obese. This month I coasted and maintained, because this month I had two big achievements, and I decided to spend a couple of weeks slightly off program to reflect on that.

Actually, I may have three achievements, if you count that I now live in a way that "slightly off program" means, "I still walked seven miles every day, but a couple of times I had candy, cake, and cupcakes".

I'm still holding at 225 pounds. Still obese, but this month I hauled my obesity 13 miles across Tennessee for a half marathon, and doing it didn't kill me. That's an achievement from 15 months ago when walking across campus for less than a mile left me wheezing and sweaty.

The day after the half marathon, I climbed a mountain. This is my other achievement for September.

Clingman's Dome is the highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I've been to it once before this, with my parents. We'd read online that the path from the parking area to the observation tower at the top of the dome is fully paved and only a half mile long, but did not realize until we go there that the trail is extremely steep, so much so that it's not considered wheelchair accessible. It rises continuously for a half mile at an angle sharp enough that wheelchairs, strollers, and bicycles are forbidden on the fully paved path. My parents and I opted not to climb it that day, although they offered to wait in the parking lot for an hour while I climbed it if I really wanted to.

I did really want to, but didn't think I could.

One flight of stairs left me panting. 3XL shirts were straining to stay buttoned on my torso. My feet were so swollen at the end of the day that I didn't have ankles. I knew that I wouldn't be able to climb for a half mile without stopping repeatedly, sweating, and making a spectacle of myself, so I told my parents that I didn't want to make them wait in the car for that long, and that I'd come back and do it another time. That time finally came the day after the half marathon. I waved my friends off in their car, got in my car, and had a choice.

Left turn, I go straight home to do laundry, lay on my couch, and enjoy two recovery days off from work.

Right turn, I drive into the park and climb a mountain.

I turned right.

That early in the morning I didn't really encounter any traffic on my way to the parking area. Once I turned off the main road onto the road to the Clingman's Dome trailhead, I did not encounter a single other car during the slowly climbing seven mile drive. I did encounter a lot of fog, though, and noticed that the temperature was slowly dropping as I approached the parking lot. When I left the motel, the thermometer in my car said it was a balmy 74 degrees Fahrenheit. I was wearing shorts and a polo shirt, which was maybe not the best outfit for the temperature in the parking lot:

Clingman's Dome hike 6

Fortunately I'm a little slow to clean out my car, and still had my gloves, fleece, and insulated headband from the 5K I did on Valentine's Day sitting on the backseat. I bundled up, and headed out into the fog.

Clingman's Dome hike 8

Clingman's Dome hike 9

Clingman's Dome hike

Not only was it cold and foggy, it was silent. On my climb up the mountain I passed one other person, and he was on his way back down. I was moving kind of slowly, since I was still a little stiff and sore from the half marathon, but I made it to the observation tower at the top in about fifteen minutes.

Clingman's Dome hike 10

The observation tower doesn't have stairs or an elevator. You start at the bottom of that curved ramp and follow it all the way up:

Clingman's Dome hike 7

I had it all to myself, although the views seemed slightly less spectacular than I was promised:

Clingman's Dome 11

Clingman's Dome hike 4

Clingman's Dome hike 3

Clingman's Dome hike 2

Still, I climbed a mountain.

Clingman's Dome hike 1

15 months ago, I wouldn't have been able to.

Fitbit says that I have walked 2747 miles since July 2014. Only one of those was on Clingman's Dome, but I feel like that one was important.


nan said...

Great post - and great photos.

Justin Bower said...

Well done. I do think there's a not-too subte life lesson here....when in doubt, climb the mountain.

As for the view, well, the park is aptly named I suppose. We had the same view for most of our time up there (which ironically was the same day we met up with you as seen here ....boy do I look haggard in that picture). There was one minute when the fog parted for a minute and the view was amazing, but then it returned as suddenly (literally like a curtain falling) to pea soup. I would have loved for it to be so deserted though...