Climb Every Mountain – The Early Days

I now had one-and-a-half years to prepare for Mt. Rainier. Well, we had.

“Plenty of time!” said David. “Don’t worry. We’ll get you there.”

I wanted to believe ‘cos I was so nervous and unsure. This really was going to be the hardest thing I had ever done in my life. Did I really say I wanted to climb a mountain for my 40th?

The first order was to have our fitness assessed so the team can design an individual training programme for TH and I. “Oh joy,” I thought. Not only will I have to embarrass myself in front of supreme athletes, I’ll also have it on record about how poorly I’m doing. TH, on the other hand, was all pumped. He saw it as a chance to further improve his fitness and get some handy tips on how to work his ‘problematic’ calves.

On the day of the assessment, I was feeling edgy. Not because of it but ‘cos BDE was taking part in a Singapore Specials contest and she’d have to show a talent. I had no idea what this was going to be as BDE only knows a few basic commands and she’s not liable to do them on command. I was plagued by the thought of standing on stage in front of a crowd addressing a dog determined at times to do her own thing. I’m not sure if that affected me but the assessment didn’t end well. Everything was fine till I completed a set of back extensions. I stood up and the room spun. Then I started to feel nauseous and my head started throbbing, my saliva thickening. I was finding it difficult to swallow. It felt like the onset of a migraine but I knew it wasn’t. I didn’t know what it was though. I told our trainers I wasn’t well and we wrapped up. Thankfully, it didn’t take long to get home, as I was feeling worse by the second. I took some painkillers and climbed into bed clutching my head, trying to breath normally and whimpering. I wanted to chop my head off! Exhausted, I fell into a fitful sleep, all the time worrying about the contest. After a couple of hours, I managed to recover sufficiently to take BDE for her competition and to our surprise and delight, she took first prize. First prize!

BDE looking cool

BDE posing with her trophy

We were so proud of her, so extremely proud of her. Best! Dog! Ever!

Till this day, I don’t know what hit me. I think it was a combination of things.

I'm marginal

I’m marginal

When we received the report from the team, I was classified as ‘marginal’  and my goal was to reach good or high performance. I had 11 strength training exercises of 3 sets each with 8 – 12 reps on top of cardio work. Back extensions were part of it but I’ve never done them since.

Looking at the programme, life, as I knew it, wasn’t going to be the same again. For a start, I’d have to exercise consistently. In fact, the right word is train. I would need to factor in the time and really block it off, no excuses whatsoever. I would need space in the wardrobe for a whole new set of clothes. There will be sacrifices and pain. I had to develop healthy living habits – eat better, sleep earlier. I needed a new life!

Once I thought it all through, I was psyched. I felt ready to embark on this great big adventure except no one sent the memo to my body. My first gym workout was a disaster. I could barely run for more than 10 minutes and I was lifting weights that felt heavy though in reality read 3lbs. It wasn’t even the pain after the session or how tired I felt that killed. It was the pain the following day and the day after that, and after that. And somehow I had to motivate myself to do it all over again?

I moaned and whined to TH. Fortunately he understood and patiently explained the ins and outs of starting a training programme, especially for novices like me. You know what I learnt at 38 years old? That everyone feels pain, even pro athletes. They’re not immune contrary to what I always believed. Honestly, I found it comforting. I don’t know how or why I thought that people were either born able to do all this sports stuff or not. It never occurred to me that people struggle initially. Anyway, TH suggested ways to better manage each session and egged me on.

The gym became my second home

The gym became my second home

So I kept at it. The first few weeks were difficult. I couldn’t see the benefits of training and I wasn’t feeling any buzz from exercising. Where’s that feel-good factor that everyone talks about? Then one day, snap. Without realizing it, I was running longer and feeling less tired, I was able to complete my weights training comfortably and I felt goooooooood. Slowly, I was able to increase the weights too, one bar at a time. But I won’t lie; it wasn’t all up, up and away. Some days were rough and my training went back to square one. Groan. TH assured me that this was perfectly normal.

We were reviewing our progress with David and Ed one day when they said: “We think that you guys should climb Mt. Kinabalu this year. It’s a good test for your fitness and adaptability in high altitude. It’s 4095m, close to Mt. Rainier. July will be good.”

What?? It’s now March.

“There’s time. Don’t worry,” David said calmly.

Errrr….

(Note: Timelines are off for this series of posts as they were meant to be published in the last quarter of 2013)

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A dog is just a dog but it isn’t just a dog

Tomorrow (08/03/13) marks BDE’s third year with us. As she lies on her bed looking at me, like a statue, I remember clearly the first time we saw her at the SPCA.

BDE kept looking out towards the door

BDE kept looking out towards the entrance

She stared out of the kennel, unbothered by and displaying no interest in us. How things have changed since.

Getting a dog was my idea, cooing at strangers’ dogs – me, imagining my future dog’s name – me, reading books about caring for dogs – me. Wary of animals – TH. But he gave in to my constant hounding. So although he was very much involved in the process of choosing our dog – he went along for puppy viewings and also chose BDE – when she finally came home, he had no idea what to do.

The weeks and months that followed were not difficult really, not by a long shot compared to what many new dog owners face. TH though couldn’t figure how to connect with BDE. He couldn’t get her to do what he wanted and she seemed afraid of him, which made her listen and respond even less, which of course made him angrier, which made her more fearful and so the cycle went. Then one day, he got it! He finally understood her, on his own terms, and began building his own bond with her. Don’t get the wrong impression – I’m still Alpha.

Over time, as BDE settled in and opened up, a few things became evident. BDE is obsessed with food. Obsessed. A lot of people say their dogs are greedy and that most dogs respond easily to food. BDE is a cut above that. When there’s food around, she goes into a frenzy. She’d approach strangers, plead, jump on them, follow them like the pied piper and I’m all forgotten. So it follows that BDE has no loyalty. Feed her and she’s yours. BDE dislikes being physically close. Hug her and she stiffens, lie next to her and she turns away. You can literally see her discomfort. But she would come to us for pats. She’d rest her head on our laps and look ever so lovingly. And the second we reach out to pat her, she’ll turn around and sit, giving us her back. BDE mostly does her own thing. Any command needs to be given as a command. Say it nicely and you might as well be talking to a wall.

I have no stories to share about BDE sensing my moods and comforting me. When I freak out over my number one horror, she runs away. A friend once remarked that her new dog is “just a dog”, unlike her previous dogs which she determined had superior qualities. It occurred to me I could say the same of BDE. This revelation hit me and honestly, I felt somewhat disappointed. Yet, I know better than that. BDE may not have great doggy-human senses and there will be no tales of heroism or undying love, but she’s not just a dog.

BDE's happy smile

BDE’s happy smile

BDE makes us laugh with her antics, she helps diffuse stress and tension with her constant seeking of pats, her smile puts a smile on people’s faces, she is an ice-breaker. She brightens up every single moment.

In fact, I could say that of all dogs who share a bond with their human. You won’t see a scowly, grumpy owner and dog on their walks. Can’t say the same for parents and their kids.

One day, TH and I were talking about stuff when he said: “Let’s clone BDE so we’ll never lose her.” It’s funny how many of us would accept the death of a person. It is after all inevitable. But when it comes to our dogs, I know many wish they could clone theirs and hold on to them forever.

Happy 3rd Anniversary BDE!!! We’re so glad you’re in our life. We call you the best dog ever but you’re so much more than that.

Master and servant

I’ve had my dog for nine months now. I call her the best dog ever (BDE). We adopted BDE when she was 2.5 years old. It was love at first sight when we saw her; anyone would have fallen immediately. She’s BDE.

When we were planning our first vacation after adopting her, we had no idea how we were going to manage BDE. Fortunately, a friend came to our rescue. She has two dogs and looking after BDE wouldn’t be a problem, she said. We packed BDE off with a few favourite toys, her food, her batcave and a lot of nerves. Thankfully, everything turned out well. She’s BDE! And she remembered us when we returned to pick her up. The crazy joy on her face was priceless.

In planning our next trip, I completely messed up on the dates – it didn’t work well for our friend – and so I felt BDE should go to a boarder. Trouble is, it’s late.

I spent the last three days Googling and Yahooing. There is a lot of information out there but no single site that is truly comprehensive. It has been a tedious three days of search, call and sorry-we’re-full.

I finally found two places. One’s a pet shop, the other is a couple with an online pet shop working from home in an apartment that is smaller than ours with three other dogs; two of which yelp almost non-stop and to the point that BDE avoided them and sat under the table. Right now, I can’t decide which would be better. Well, I do know actually. It’s just that I’m hoping there’s another option. What – I’m not sure since I’ve exhausted the web and I’m emotionally exhausted.

BDE deserves the best, and I feel terrible that I didn’t think this through thoroughly. TH’s consolation is that we’ll only have to run this course once. Moving forward, it’d be a matter of making early reservations for BDE’s home away from home.

As I’m typing this, I’m nervous all over again thinking about the new environment that BDE has to adjust to for two weeks. Will she be happy with three other dogs? Will her temperament change after being in a noisy hyper home? Will she become more anxious upon coming home?

A friend commented that it’s clear now who owns whom. Sure is! I’m fretting away here while BDE’s sleeping peacefully, like she always does. Bless!