On the Hill: A lesson in lung capacity | AspenTimes.com

On the Hill: A lesson in lung capacity

Carolyn Sackariason
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

ASPEN ” It was clear as the night sky during Saturday’s Summit for Life that I have been partying more than training.

That rude awakening came over me like a Mack truck in the beginning of my descent up Spar Gulch. It was then that I realized that my climb to the top of Aspen Mountain was going to be an uphill battle against my nicotine-laced lungs.

Yes, that’s right. I am a smoker, and after Saturday’s dismal performance, I am ready to attempt a bigger challenge than trekking 3,200 vertical feet over 2 1/2 miles. I quit the cancer sticks once before, about a month before I ran the Los Angeles Marathon in 2006. But after three months, Marlboro got the better of me, and I resumed the nasty habit.

I had always prided myself on the fact that I can run between 20 and 30 miles a week, climb hills and ski fast without stopping to catch my breath even though I smoke. But now at 40 years old ” 28 of them as a smoker ” the fun is over. I had a hard time swallowing my pride Saturday night, not to mention catching my breath. I simply can no longer live a double life.

The uphill race started out fine but as soon as the vertical rise got steeper, I started staring at the ground and hoping I wouldn’t pass out. People were passing me left and right and I kept thinking to myself, “please don’t let yourself be last!”

I kept turning around, hoping to see a string of head lamp lights behind me. That, and the free pasta and beer at the party at the Sundeck, were my only motivations. And luckily, I made it to the top just shy of two hours. I was hoping for much less, but without any training, I guess I can live with it.

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The event benefitted the Chris Klug Foundation, which brings awareness and education to organ and tissue donation. There were people who participated in the climb that have recently had transplants, and they are the real inspiration.

I will think of them when I embark on kicking my habit. If you see me around town, don’t ask me how it’s going. I may have committed in print, but that doesn’t mean you have to believe everything you read.

csack@aspentimes.com

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