Greatest Of These Is Spirit

“The five S’s of sports training are: Stamina, Speed, Strength, Skill, and Spirit; but the greatest of these is Spirit”  Ken Doherty

Mt. Rainier Meteor

Mt. Rainier & Meteors,- August 12, 2016  Photo credit: Tim Burke Photography

I’ve been on vacation with my boys in Seattle.  I decided take them to Seattle for a week vacation to show them the sights, and to visit my youngest sister Vanessa, who lives there.  But it wasn’t just a vacation, it was to support Vanessa in her two-year training quest to climb and summit Mt. Rainier.

By most estimates, only 185,000 people have summited Mt. Rainier.  At 14,416 feet, starting at sea level, it is an extremely difficult climb.  More than 10,000 people try every year to summit, but only about 4,000 make it.  It takes two days, if you decide to continue past the half way point.

Vanessa has never been what you would call athletic.  She has asthma.  She’s a “delicate flower” by her own admission.  She’s the “baby” in my family with our siblings.  Vanessa is very healthy and trim, but had never climbed a mountain before.  Vanessa has allowed me to be a part of her journey for the past two years.

It’s not been easy for Vanessa. She’s battled injuries, asthma, and like every athlete, self-doubt.  Vanessa wanted to climb last year, with her best friend, Charity. After much thinking, she decided to wait a year to be fully prepared, while Charity successfully summited last year.

Just two weeks to go before her climb, Vanessa had a freak thing happen at the store, where someone’s grocery cart turned over on her foot, severely bruising it.  Vanessa couldn’t even put a shoe on, it was too swollen.

Vanessa didn’t panic.  She saw her doctor, and massage therapist.  They worked out some of the bruising. I talked to her on the phone days after this happened, and she said no matter what, she was going to put on her boots and climb.  That is courage- that is strength-that is spirit.

Vanessa’s cell phone didn’t work on Mt. Rainier, but Charity’s phone worked!  Charity texted me Thursday afternoon saying they had  both made it to Camp Muir, the halfway point, and Vanessa was doing great!

I was so excited.  Here my little sister, was halfway to her goal. I knew though, Camp Muir, was where you had to decide, if you could commit to the summit.  I had no way of knowing on Thursday, how hard that decision would be for Vanessa, and how deep she had to go to be able to commit.

She felt like she was the having the hardest time climbing- like she was the weakest link. That is not a fun place to be.  She felt like it was so much harder than she had thought.   Five members of their group decided at Camp Muir, not to continue.  Vanessa considered not continuing.  The guides told her she could do this.  I feel like they evaluated her and saw in her, her spirit.  They knew she had this, but needed the encouragement to continue on.

Vanessa committed to the summit.  But as they left at 1 AM to summit by sunrise, Vanessa was realizing this was much more difficult than she had ever imagined. Her rented boots, didn’t fit properly, they were hurting her feet and causing blisters.  Her helmet wasn’t a good fit- it was causing a lot of pressure on her head. She felt nauseous from the increasing altitude.  She was having a major asthma attack, due to her being exposed to down.  She couldn’t breathe and that was causing her to have a panic attack.  She told me she seriously considered telling the guides she was done- they needed to take her back- even though it would have been dangerous for the rest of the team.

One of her guides told her she was in control, and to keep breathing.    Vanessa said it helped her to keep going.  That is who my sister is, she doesn’t give up and she finds a way.

I don’t think I could have been any more excited had I climbed Mt. Rainier myself, when I received Charity’s text early Friday morning that her and Vanessa were standing on the summit of Mt. Rainier!  I teared up for Vanessa and Charity, because I know.

Mt. Rainier

Vanessa (in the red coat) & Charity at the summit of Mt. Rainier, August 12, 2016

I have never climbed a mountain. I have no idea what it takes to summit one of the world’s most difficult mountains. But I know what it is, to have a goal. I know what it is like to devote everything to achieving that goal. I know what it is like to sacrifice, and have blood, sweat, and tears, to achieve something you’ve worked so hard for.  I know what it is like to give up extra activities, times with your family and friends, and your free time, to train for your goal.   And I know, no matter what, Vanessa will have this for the rest of her life- she achieved what she set out to do.

That is incredibly inspiring for me.  Because Vanessa’s Mt. Rainier climb is my marathon.  It inspires me like nothing to this point, to know that my baby sister achieved her goal and that makes me want to achieve and excel at mine, that much more.

We are alive when we accomplish our goals.  It’s not always easy.  It’s not always fun.  It’s easy to sit on the couch,  watch TV, and not do anything.  But when you get a taste of greatness, of excelling to your personal best- that is the moment you start living.

I am so proud of Vanessa and Charity.  Their spirit of never quitting and keeping on, is my new inspiration.  Strength, stamina, speed, and skill, are crucial, but spirit- it is the soul of training.  It’s the backbone of every great achievement.  It enabled my sister to be in the minority of Mt. Rainier summiters.

I’ve often said it doesn’t matter what you goal is- it’s being committed to achieving it.  Accepting no excuses.  I saw that from my baby sister this week.  I plan to utilize her success to the best of my ability for my goals.  I hope I can run my marathon, in the same spirit my sister and Charity climbed Mt. Rainier.

Congratulations on your summit to Mt. Rainier, Vanessa and Charity.  You are inspirational!

Rainier 2

Near the summit – Mt. Rainier

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