day 1: a wake-up call

The Russian Princess knocked on my door quietly at 5:45 a.m., a small courtesy to other guests who weren’t participating in the 6:00 a.m. stretch class. Unlike every other session, the early morning stretch was completely voluntary.

We had attended every one of these classes in Malibu 3 years ago, and planned to do the same this trip.

Dedicating a full 45 minutes to deep stretching is a luxury that neither she nor I could afford in our day-to-day lives, so while waking up at that wholly un-holy hour wasn’t fun, it seemed a reasonable way to prepare our bodies for the abuse they would be asked to endure each day.

Immediately following stretch, we headed into assessments. You know, the ones we had missed the day before because of the cluster-fuck with the rental car.

I knew the news wouldn’t be great.

I knew I had taken my workouts down a few notches after my gallbladder tried to kill me. And by a few notches I mean about a million.

I knew there were a couple of days when I was so busy with work that my ass never left the chair for 12+ hours. And by  a couple of days I mean approximately half the work days in any given work week for the past several.

I knew the news wouldn’t be great.

I stepped on their fancy machine and held my breath.

And then reality showed up to the party.

Reality is a goddamned asshole.

I have some dignity, so I won’t share my specific weight, BMI, % Body Fat or % Lean Muscle Mass stats with you but, because we like to keep things real around these parts, I will tell you that my starting weight was just a few pounds lower than my starting weight was 3 years ago. And by a few, I mean exactly 2.

That after having lost ~18 lbs in 2013 and maintaining that loss through 2014.

The sting of reality’s cold, hard slap stopped me in my tracks.

I don’t remember what, if anything I said to head trainer, Sharon. Dejected, I left the office, walked up to The Russian and declared, “Well that was depressing.”

She commiserated. We even joked for 5 seconds about the fact that she was 1 lb heavier than me. Of course she is a full 2 inches taller, so there should be a lot more then 1 lb difference in our weight.

During breakfast and even during the drive out to our hiking location, my mind fixated on my weight gain.

In other words, I brought a really unhealthy mindset to the assessment hike.

Big mistake. Big. Huge.


The Day 1 assessment hike is the one that allows the hiking guides to observe and assess each individual’s hiking abilities and speed, and report back so that the hiking program manager can group them into suitable hiking groups for the balance of the week.

What I didn’t realize at the time, but now know to be true, is that the Day 1 hike is pretty much the toughest of the week. They will go as far and as fast as the fastest members of the group. It ended up being one of the longest of the week, and featured no rest stops. If you needed to stop, you could, but the hiking guides were not making stops, per se.

Coming off the disturbing news about my weight re-gain, I went into this hike with a chip on my shoulder. I had something to prove.

So when a small number of hikers (2nd, 3rd and 4th week returning guests who were well acclimated to the hiking thing) had gotten out to a fast start and created a gap between them and us, I decided to run to catch up.


Even The Russian admonished me, “What are you doing? Don’t kill yourself on day one.

I poo-pooed her, “Nah, I’m feeling good. Just a little run to loosen things up.

I may have actually believed myself.

And then reality showed up again.

The Southern Utah altitude (I hadn’t acclimated yet) when combined with my preparatory exercise regime (basically the equivalent of a senior citizen mall-walker) turned out to not be the best set of circumstances for success.

And this hike never ended. It just kept going. And going. And going.

The climb seemed relentless.

When do we finally get to go DOWN??? Why is it ALL up???

The pace was relentless.

Who ARE these people and why don’t their bodies need rest breaks? They must be some sort of hiking cyborgs. I hate them all. 

And then we hit the sand.

Sweet baby Jesus. …What fresh hell is this??? Who put sand dunes in the middle of these mountains? What in the actual fuck? 

That sand did everything it could to break my spirit. It most certainly broke my knees. I felt them creaking the rest of the hike.

And yet the hiking cyborgs never slowed down. It was a freak show and horror movie combined into one.

I hated my life with a passion in that moment.

While I’ve blocked out most of the trauma of that hike in much the same way I’ve blocked out the horror of natural childbirth, here is what I had to say in my daily Facebook recap:

The hike was awesome, and then brutal, courtesy of a long stretch of deep sand which did a number on my knees. Gave that hike everything I had (perhaps not the smartest choice on Day 1, as that will set the pace for my hiking group placement for the rest of the week).

My knees were a hot mess by the end of the hike – but I iced them down during the lecture, then had some acupuncture done on them this evening + chiropractic for my messed-up neck. Hoping the neck adjustments end my headache because I can tell you that doing what I did today with a massive headache was a monumental effort. Proud of myself for pushing through.

I think it’s kind of cute that I was acting all optimistic and cheery on Facebook when I was so hating every moment of my existence that day.

After that ass-kicking hike, we mercifully had a lighter afternoon with one Circuit Training class and one torture session known as, Court Challenge, followed by stretch class.

Final stats for the day: 

  • 27,801 steps
  • 11.8 miles
  • 2,342 calories burned (vs. 1,200 consumed)
  • 3 blisters (2 for me, 1 for the Russian)
  • 1 new pair of hiking boots (for her because she had somehow outgrown the ones she brought with her.)
  • An unknown # of toenails at risk of falling off (to-be-continued…)
  • 1 chiropractic appointment (me)
  • 2 acupuncture sessions (one for each of us)
  • 1 deep tissue massage (her)

With spirits mainly unbroken, we agreed to do it all again the next day.

Keep moving,

xoxo nancy

p.s. If you’re interested in details on the various workout programs, please click here and scroll down to the workout called “Court Challenge”.

p.p.s. To jump right on over to Day 2, click here.

88 thoughts on “day 1: a wake-up call

  1. Oh Nancy!
    I bet you were still fitter at the start of this one than at the start of the last one despite the weight!

    I can completely understand the “i have something to prove” mentality I would be exactly the same and then I would cry a lot because I should be able to do it!!

    that court challenge looks awesome (which just shows how weirdly screwed my perspective is these days!!)

    • I was still fitter, for sure. What I didn’t share was that my % body fat to % lean muscle ratio was better than 3 yrs ago, despite the weight gain, so at least there was that bit of good news. And it was good to see that muscle memory kicked in straight away and allowed me to do everything I attempted to do, so there’s that as well. 🙂

      The Court Challenge was brutal – but I think that’s because I was coming off such a tough hike, my knees were ruined, and my mind wasn’t quite right yet.

      • Yes!! I thought that might be the case weighing nearly the same with less body fat and more muscle is not at all the same as just nearly weighing the same!!
        Really hard to make your mind accept that though!
        So you were still way ahead of where you were!!
        Yes… It does look brutal as well as awesome and I don’t think I would want to do it after that crazy hike!! I might have just thrown myself if the mountain for a break! I am good at that 😉

      • I can believe that! On balance it is probably not worth it…although you do get a good story out of it!
        You have to pick your point well though…those were some blummin big mountains you were on!

      • Here’s what I found both 3 years ago and again this time: the program is as hard as you make it I witnessed some people barely pushing themselves. Granted they were still doing a lot more than someone sitting on their sofa, but not necessarily leaving their comfort zone. Then I saw others RUNNING up steep inclines. You get out of the program what you put in.

      • Yeah, it doesn’t seem worth going on something like that and not pushing yourself though! You can stay at home and snuggle up in your comfort zone!!
        Oh I really wish I could have come with you! Even with the hell hike in which you would have witnessed how terrible a person I am to go up a mountain with!!

  2. So perfectly written and so entertaining – you do not disappoint, Nance! I had tears over the sand dune part! Sharing your experience (as well as the Russian’s) is so inspirational, and makes me so proud of you 🙂

    • Aw, thanks Kel. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to tap into those feelings, considering they took place 5 weeks ago. (Wow, I’m behind!) Turns out, I guess I felt those feelings so deeply that the memories came flooding back.

      Glad you enjoyed my internal dialogue. It was even more colorful in my head. 🙂

      • Thank you, lovely. I hope to get something banged out this week – although with a 3 day trade show, today thru Wednesday, and traveling back to Toronto all day Thursday…

      • Your fans aren’t going anywhere… at least I’m not for the foreseeable future! Take care of yourself with that traveling – lots of bugs around right now… I’m sick (again) with a nasty cold. 😦

      • Ugh! As soon as my head hit the pillow last night an incessant cough started up. I wasn’t sure if it was some weird psychosomatic thing: I had just read a blog post about another blogger who’s super sick. Anyway, this morning I feel okay. Plan to drink my weight in water today and replenish my Zinc and Vitamin C supply (out of both). Fingers crossed the bug stays away.

        Feel better soon, you. It sucks to be sick. 😦

    • Yep, it was a real desert turtle, and that bad boy had been through some stuff in his life! That shell was pretty banged up, Kate. Consider myself very fortunate to have crossed his path!

      No toenails lost yet for me (purple, but haven’t fallen), but the Russian appears to be losing a few. I should check in with her and see if it’s happened yet.

      • Oh, man, that’s tough! Discovering the “racer’s loop” way to tie my shoes to anchor them to my ankle has saved my toes, I am royal, which means my second toe is longer than my big toe… and I can’t tell you the damage it has suffered on long walks!! Let me know as I’m morbidly fascinated!

  3. Well written post, NT ~ sorry your Start Stats started you off on the “wrong foot” with a chip on your shoulder and a sense of having something to prove. But your stats for the day . . . WOW!

    Still. Not. Jealous. :mrgreen:

    • It was a wake up call of the most abrupt variety, NH. I think it’s exactly what I needed though. Proof positive that I needed to move more – something I’ve been doing in the 4 weeks post-trip. Now let’s just hope that another organ doesn’t try to kill me. Those bad boys really know how to mess with my exercise mojo.

  4. Well congratulations, Nancy! You actually managed to make some great laughs out of some bad-ass disappointment. I know the feeling of being back at the starting line, and it’s deflating as hell. Know that my good thoughts are heading your way. Peace, John (P. S. I’ve lost some weight because of medicine that I’m taking and have started walk-running again. Main benefit: my inner-thighs aren’t chaffing themselves pink and welty. Yee haw!)

    • Yay for no thigh chafe! Speaking of which, for the Thanksgiving weekend, hubby and I went to San Diego, where – get this – we wound up walking >35,000 steps and 14.4 miles one day. The fact that I had decided to wear a skirt and bare legs was a massive tactical error. Hello inner thigh skin rubbed raw. 😦

  5. Oh, Nancy, this sounds horrible and wonderful all at the same time. Horrible in that I’m sure it was miserable. Wonderful in that you faced it, fought it, and conquered it. Well, at least I assume you conquered it since you’re writing this. If you were still stuck up in that sand, desiccating, you probably wouldn’t have been able to post this today…

    As always your humor makes for a great read!

    • It’s funny, I had worried about tapping into those feelings, that pain in my knees, the mental struggle, given it’s been so long. Well, on Saturday Ed and I took a day trip to St. George, Utah and hiked a trail I had missed (will blog about that in my Day 4 post). Everything was going just fine Saturday until BOOM…sand! Even Ed was all, ‘wow, hiking through sand sucks’. And I was all, “Dude, this isn’t nearly as deep as the shit I dealt with on Day 1.” 🙂 It did serve to remind me of the hell I endured that day though. 🙂

  6. Hi Nancy! I can’t decide if you are amazingly inspiring or incredibly crazy!!!! You do put yourself through some torture on a semi-regular basis. The good news is that you share it with all of us and make us laugh–AND make us really glad we didn’t do the same thing. I’m looking forward to hearing about Day 2! ~Kathy

  7. I couldn’t help but smile at your description of trying to prove something going out on the first hike. Once upon a time, I might have done the same thing (ok, ok … I have)

    You are one crazy, focused, high-achieving woman!!

  8. Nicely stated. I believe you nailed it. !!! But I learned to love that place #Movara and have booked for next year. I hope you didn’t lose any toenails.

    • Hi Beth, Movara was awesome, as was BLR Fitness Ridge in Malibu 3 years ago. It’s hellish while you’re doing it, but it’s completely transformative and life changing in the best way possible!

      No toenails lost yet for me. One us deep purple, but holding strong. Need to check in with my girlfriend to see how hers (4 of them) are making out.

  9. You are my hero. It is so freaking hard to create life-long habits, especially when everything in us conspires to do the opposite. You’ve been through some massive changes in the past year or so. MASSIVE. You’ll figure out how to make everything fit. I know it.

    I’m in the same boat. New career that keeps me NOT MOVING for much of every single day. Don’t like exercise. Find every excuse to keep digging through my to-do list and not move. I’m paying for it, and I’m forcing myself to get out and move every day.

    I feel your pain. Even the knee pain. xoxo

    • The struggle is real, my friend.

      It took that wakeup call to show me that I can’t miraculously maintain weight and health without working for it. Not enough hours in the day… 😦 I just need to learn to get really selfish with my time. My life depends on it.

      Your schedule has been BONKERS too. I feel your pain so much.

  10. Wow. I would have thought they’d start gentle and work you up to the Hike From Hell. Hiking through sand? And the schedule looks like you do nothing but exercise all day. Did you at least get good sleep each night, or were you sore?

    • The schedule is exercise all day. 🙂 The fact that day 1 included an extra lecture + one purely instructional class (more observing than exercising) was an anomaly. The rest of the week was all exercise, all day.

      But, yes, slept like a baby every night – despite being sore. 🙂

      • Funny you should say that, two sisters who we met that week brought a bottle of wine for each night they were there. 🙂 I have to imagine it impacted their results by week’s end. 🙂

      • I kept saying things like, “I’d give my left arm for a cup of coffee” – this despite the fact that we actually packed some individual sleeves of instant coffee (Although we never used them.) When I heard about the wine, I thought, “I’ll be right over!” – truth is though, while it sounded heavenly, I knew it was counterintuitive to what I was there to do. Plus, we all know how dehydrating booze is, so that would have messed me up big time.

        I said it 3 years ago, and it was just as true this trip: some people pay the money and make the time but they don’t really show up, if you know what I mean.

  11. Even though you had the weight gain to content with I am sure you were fitter and stronger than last time and that is still a great achievement for the body. I am looking forward to hearing how the week pans out 🙂 X

  12. Sounds hellacious, Nancy. How did you get out of bed the next day? You must have been very sore! I’m sure it’s all going to end up very well, especially when you post the companion photo to my favorite one. Keep moving!

  13. This sounds like the kind of torture I would pay money for! Loved the recap, loved the pictures, and adore your spirit and attitude. I had knee surgery over a year ago and am just now getting back into regular running. Between an aging body and a year lay-off…the result is humbling.
    Your little post might be the push (over a very high ledge) that I need!
    Awesome! I want to hear about your next day, too~

  14. Oh wow, Nancy. Sweet baby Jesus and all you’re still my hero! I miss my exercise routine so much… I miss the good/bad and ugly feelings all rolled into one sweaty package and hope I can find my way back soon. One thing is for sure though, I’ll skip hiking through sand. 🙂

  15. What beautiful views, and the little dude, you could enjoy on your leisurely 😉 hike the first day! You’re very good in putting yourself back there, Nancy, even after some time – you bring us right there to hike with you. I think I might have lost a pound or two 😀

    • The pictures got much better in subsequent hikes because we actually stopped for photos, took a few 2 min rest breaks, etc. i.e. We hiked like normal hikers the rest of the week. 🙂

      • I took 3 of the 6, with the Russian taking the balance. 3 photos on a 3 hour hike. 🙂 I actually got a solid 90 second to 2 min break when I was forced to sit on a boulder and remove my shoes and socks to get rid of the 5 lbs of sand that had found its way in there. 🙂

      • Now add an elevation of 4,000′ above sea level and a 10% hill incline to that sand and you’ll have that joyful experience of the Day 1 hike. 🙂

  16. Dear GOD, woman! That first hike!! WTF??? Were those other people human? “Sweet baby Jesus. …What fresh hell is this???” – ha,ha,ha,ha! You never fail to crack me up so much with your commentaries. Sand after that killer hike? Why do they try to kill people at these places? That has got to be their goal.

    I cannot wait to hear the rest of the story. You are truly amazing and loca all in one! 🙂 By far, the funniest part of the post (for me) was the ending when you wrote, “p.s. If you’re interested in details on the various workout programs, please click here and scroll down to the workout called “Court Challenge”. BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

    Glad you keep moving for the two of us. 🙂

  17. Pingback: day 0: let the games begin | my year of sweat

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