Grand Teton Dream Climb Training Updates from Sarah and Charlie
This XM Bulletin entry chronicles the efforts of the Grand Teton Dream Climb winners’ — Sarah and Charlie — efforts and strategies for preparing for their epic climb.
WANT TO CLIMB THE GRAND BUT AREN’T READY TO FOLLOW IN SARAH’S AND CHARLIE’S FOOTSTEPS? No worries! You don’t have to train like this to Climb the Grand. Sure, this is what some hardcore athletes do to stay in shape, but let’s face it, some people just like to suffer!
7/3/11 – Hey guys! We’re officially 11 days away from flying out to Jackson! Charlie and I can’t even put into words how excited we are. We recently received a shipment of Marmot gear that we will use on our climb, and we tested some of it out in the Maine wilderness this weekend. We were afraid to wear it at first because we’re not used to having nice gear, but everything we wore stood up to the overgrown trails and rock-scrambling on our hike. Both of us noticed that we are able to hike faster, and we felt so good at mile 10 that we RAN the last mile to our car!
While we were on the summit of North Brother in Maine, we had a realization. The mountain we were sitting on had an elevation of 4,150 feet, and the town of Jackson sits at an elevation of over 6,000 feet. In other words, we were breathing in more oxygen on the top of a mountain than the people at the base of the Grand were. What this means is that our bodies will need to acclimate to the thinner air out west, but we are confident that our training will keep us strong on our climb.
We’re both really happy about how much stronger we’ve gotten through Mountain Athlete’s training program. Just the other day, I realized I was able to do 13 clapping push-ups when I could only do 3 on my knees two months ago! Even though Charlie and I prefer being outside, we love the results we’re getting from all our hard work. Although our official training is soon coming to an end , we both agree that we’re going to continue working out in the gym and eating our “limited” diet after our climb. This transition was very difficult at the beginning of our training, but both of us feel much better mentally and physically because of it.
Since this is our last blog before our climb, Charlie and I wanted to thank everybody one more time for all their support the past few months. Our friends at Marmot, Exum Mountain Guides, and Mountain Athlete have been great at keeping in touch with us and supporting us through our training. Also, we couldn’t have done this without the motivation from our friends and family at home. Thanks again, and hopefully the next time you hear from us will be from top of the Grand! Bye!
6/14/11 – Hey everyone, can you believe this our second-to-last training blog before our climb!? You heard right, Charlie and I will be heading out to Jackson Hole in one month! We are still in shock that we won this contest, so thinking about how we’ll be climbing the Grand in five weeks is still hard to believe. Although time has been flying by, we feel that we are very prepared to do this climb. Mountain Athlete has done a great job getting us in shape, and we’re still breathing hard with every workout. One exercise that we’ve been doing a lot is step-ups, which we do about twice a week. Right now we’re at 600 step-ups, and next week we’ll be at 700. I don’t know what’s harder: the actual exercise or keeping count of all our reps!
Our newest exercise that we love to hate is called “Leg Blasters”. One round of leg blasters consists of 20 squats, 20 lunges, 20 jumping lunges, and 10 jumping squats. If you want to know what it’s like to have your legs on fire, do one round of these. Or, if you want, do ten minutes of sandbag getups, 3 rounds of leg blasters, 4 rounds of mini leg blasters (half of everything in the normal leg blasters), 40 pushups, and 600 step-ups with 15 pounds on your back (25 if you’re a guy!). If you think you’re up for all that, feel free to give me company during my workout tomorrow!
Now that we’re more than halfway through our training, Charlie and I are surprised at how well we’ve been doing physically and mentally. By this time, we expected to be sick of our diet and hating the gym. Surprisingly, neither of those has happened. We’ve gotten so used to all these new changes that they’ve become a part of our lifestyle, which is great! Charlie even manages to ride his bike to work every single day, in addition to his workouts. Go Charlie!
As some of you may know, Marmot is supplying us with clothing for our training at home as well as for our climb up the Grand. We recently received our shipment of training gear, and we are so excited at how comfortable the clothing is and how well they fit! Thanks Marmot!
That’s all for now. Enjoy the video, and join in if you want! See you in a few weeks!
5/31/11 – Hey everyone, it’s time for another round of “Where in the World are Charlie and Sarah?!” Well, this time we are in the tiny state of Rhode Island where my current rotation is. Charlie and I just came back from an adventure to Jerimoth Hill, the highest point in Rhode Island at a whopping 812 feet. Although it was an easy hike with no view, it was still nice to get out of the gym and breathe some fresh air.
Speaking of the gym, Charlie and I are still working our butts off five days a week. We are both amazed at the amount of weight we can lift after just over a month of working out. My biggest accomplishment this week was being able to dead lift 100 pounds. Not too shabby, considering I could barely lift half of that at the beginning of the program! As our workouts progress, Charlie and I are learning new exercises to challenge our bodies in different ways. One of those is called Jingle Jangles. At first glance it sounds like a really fun exercise with a cool name, but in reality it’s torture. Jingle Jangles are very simple – all you have to do is sprint 5 yards back and forth for thirty seconds, touching the ground at each end. Then you get to rest for thirty seconds. Then do it 23 more times throughout your workout, usually after a tiring exercise such as hang squat cleans at your maximum weight.
Another simple, yet daunting exercise we do is called step-ups. All you have to do is step up and down a 17 inch box. 500 times. With 15 pounds on your back (25 for guys!). You know what’s even scarier than that? I looked ahead at our training schedule and by the end of our program we’ll be doing 1000 (yes, one thousand) step-ups with 30-40 pounds on our back, followed by a 3 mile run. I guess I can’t complain because we are training to climb a mountain after all, and step-ups are about as close as you can get to that!
Training occupies an hour to an hour and a half of our day five days of the week, and the other 23 or so hours are spent thinking and/or dreaming about food. As you already know, we are on a limited diet with one cheat day a week. Surprisingly enough, Charlie and I have gotten used to eating mostly fruits, veggies, nuts, and meat. The first few weeks were pretty rough, but now neither of us craves carbs/sweets like we used to. In fact, we’re so used to this diet that we barely even feel the need to cheat on our cheat day (although we did eat a massive amount of ice cream last week)! And you know what else? The one time this month that I ate ice cream instead of a healthy dinner was the one time I was unusually sore following a workout. Coincidence? I think not!
That’s all for this week. Next time you see us we’ll be in New Hampshire and/or Maine. Maybe we’ll even climb a real mountain and give you something nice to look at other than our sweaty faces! See you in two weeks!
5/15/11 – Hello again, this time from Northern Maine! If it seems like we are always somewhere new, it’s because we are. I just moved up to Bangor, Maine from Southern Vermont last week to start a new job, and Sarah moves to a new place every month for rotations, everywhere from Providence, RI to Burlington, VT to Portsmouth, NH. All this moving around has made it challenging to get into a good workout routine, but we have been sticking to it and have been making progress.
Within the last week, we have both moved from the hypertrophy cycle of our training into the base fitness cycle. Although we can’t see any physical differences, both of us are starting to feel a bit stronger and we are noticing that we are already seeing gains in the amount of weight we can lift. The workouts are difficult, but the most challenging part has been going at it five days straight. When we wake up sore, which is every morning after a workout, the last thing we want to do is go and work out some more. The first few minutes of pushing through the pain are always the most brutal.
Even though the workouts are physically and psychologically challenging, we both agree that they are not the hardest part of the training program. This award goes to our new diet, which doesn’t allow for bread, pasta, grain, potatoes, corn products, sugar or candy, except for on our weekly cheat day. For Sarah, who is a bit of a picky eater, this list eliminates about 60% of her former diet. She has been having trouble finding a large enough variety of meats, veggies and fruits to keep her satisfied. For me, I spent the entire winter eating rice and pasta almost exclusively for two meals a day due to my limited budget, so my body is still adjusting to the huge change in diet. All I want to eat right now is a huge plate of spaghetti and a loaf of garlic bread.
Cheat day can’t come soon enough…
Changing the subject, we spent some time last week interviewing family and friends about our trip for this week’s video. We caught up with my buddy Ty’s mom, Mrs. Keay, who has known me since kindergarten to chat for a little bit, and then moved on to my family. Sarah and I sat my parents and three sisters down on one couch to get their feelings on the trip. It quickly turned from us interviewing them to a question and answer session, where they learned that the Grand Teton is in Wyoming, not Hawaii or Nebraska, and that its height is not 3,000 feet or 14 miles, but is actually 13,770 feet tall.
Two months to go! Now what’s for dinner???
4/23/11 – Greetings from South Carolina! Yes that’s right, South Carolina! Since I just finished my ski patrol job and Sarah got an unexpected week off from school, we were able to take a last minute trip down south to completely thaw out after a long winter. Don’t worry though; we still made time to continue getting ourselves in better shape for our REAL training and for the climb. We brought our bikes down and spent a lot of time riding on the beaches. South Carolina is pretty flat, but the sand provided a unique kind of resistance for our legs.
During our first ride, we saw tons of people out surfing and decided we wanted to give it a try. We were going to rent a board, but then found one that we could buy on craigslist for half the price of a rental. Sarah and I have been spending hours at a time in the 73 degree water with our “new” retro 80’s surfboard. We haven’t learned much except for the art of wiping out, but paddling around sure is a great upper body workout.
Now that our vacation is coming to an end, it’s time to buckle down and start our REAL training. Multiple people have told us how hard this training program is going to be, but we haven’t really taken the warnings too seriously. We should have. Rob Shaul from Mountain Athlete just sent us an 11-week training program and diet that will take us up to the week of our climb. We just finished going through it and we are going to get our butts kicked. We will be at the gym five days a week and have a two-day recovery period at the end of the week. For our diets, six days a week we are limited to as much fruit, veggies and proteins we can eat and one day a week we can eat whatever we want.
Rob sent us each one other thing with our training program. A bag. A big, empty nylon bag. We were confused until we got to the third page of the training program, where we discovered that we are supposed to fill it up. With sand. Or rocks. Or wood pellets. We can fill it with whatever we want, as long as it weighs 80 pounds. Then we are supposed to put the bag over our shoulders, stand up and then lay down. And then get back up with the bag. And then lay back down. And get back up. For 10 minutes. And that’s on the second day. And that’s just the warm up…
If in two weeks you don’t hear from us again, you’ll know what happened. We’ll be stuck crying under a big bag of sand…
4/28/11 – Hey everyone, it’s Sarah! Charlie and I have started Mountain Athlete’s training program and I have a few things to say:
- I am really, really sore.
- For some strange reason, I ENJOY being sore. It reminds me that I’m pushing my body as hard as I can.
- The people on Mountain Athlete’s website make sandbag getups look easy. I don’t know if I’m ready to embarrass myself with a video of me doing that yet!
- I never realized how much motivation I could get from complete strangers. After only a few days at the gym I have had numerous people come up to me asking what I’m training for and that they’re impressed with how hard I’m working. One man took the time to help me improve my form, and others come up to me every day to give me words of encouragement.
In conclusion, things are going very well. I am “enjoying” our training program so far, and I look forward to going to the gym every day (although I sometimes question whether my sore muscles will be able to lift any weight). Having my mind set on climbing the Grand gives me a reason to train, and even though it’s intense I know it’s going to make me so much stronger in the long run. Until then, I will continue to avoid being crushed by my sand bag….