Summit for Life ascent a grueling challenge | AspenTimes.com

Summit for Life ascent a grueling challenge

I couldn't believe the words came out of my mouth last Friday when I said to our publisher, "I can't wait for Monday."

I just wanted Saturday's Summit for Life to be over and not hanging over my head any longer.

It's been several weeks since my friend Kim Allen asked me to do the nighttime race up Aspen Mountain benefiting organ donation through the Chris Klug Foundation.

With a couple of other races eluding her due to injuries this past fall, my friend wanted an event to train for and reach a goal, and she needed a partner to help achieve it.

Always up for a challenge and my inability to say "no," away we went slogging up our mountains to get in shape.

It's not like we were out of shape — at least not until we started ascending Aspen Mountain. That climb, at a 3,267-foot vertical elevation gain, is a bitch. There is no other way to say it.

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It didn't feel that way when I did that hike a couple of times a week in my younger days, but now it's nothing but brutal.

I did get some validation, though, when I passed a friend in her 20s at the beginning of the second climb in Spar Gulch when over 400 of us were making the ascent on Saturday night. She said: "It never gets easier, does it?"

No, it doesn't. Not for me anyway. We made it under two hours, despite the cold I was battling. That was our fastest time, so I guess I should be happy.

There are three main sections of the hike that I mentally prepare for. The first is Little Nell when my anaerobic state hasn't kicked in. Then there's the gulch, which is so much steeper walking up rather than skiing it. The final slog is the Silver Bell run, which is really a fairly easy climb but not after battling the first two.

I had to really dig deep as I began the climb in Spar. And what I kept going back to was the article I read in this paper that morning about Brian Hinsley, an 18-year liver transplant recipient, or Samantha Rick, who received a double lung transplant due to her childhood diagnosed cystic fibrosis. The Chris Klug Foundation at the event honored them both.

They've had to dig really, really deep in their lives — sometimes just to get out of bed or continue living.

So with them in my mind and serving as my inspiration, I attacked that mountain the best I could.

When I got to the party at the top, Hinsley addressed the crowd in the Sundeck and told us, "You rock." So do you, Brian. Thanks for making the effort to live and to Chris Klug for bringing awareness to organ donors.

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