How to See What You’re Made of: Climb a Mountain…17 Times.

Several months ago, I said ‘Yes’ to the dare (ahem challenge) of a lifetime. I clearly had no idea what I was in for, and a part of me knows I did it because it sounded ‘badass’, and who doesn’t want to be a badass? And then it got ‘real’, and I got nervous….and scared. I had formally committed to do something I really had no idea would be possible, both physically and mentally, and I had made that commitment, on a big level—as I challenged Chris Roussos, the new, and notably epic, CEO of 24 Hour Fitness, one of the most iconic, and biggest fitness brands on the planet to do this with me…and he also, didn’t even blink before saying a resounding ‘I’m in’.

You see, my own athletic career was cut short (or eclipsed rather) by an injury, and I agreed to do this, just after femur surgery while still on crutches Then taking it a step further and committing to a team of three other individuals of whom I have the utmost respect and was terrified of letting down (special shout out to 24 Hour Fitness CEO, Chris Roussos, World Class Spartan Racer, Matt Novakovich, and the Woman who runs over 80,000 Group Fitness classes across America, Micki Stary – clearly NO weak links on this team). Needless to say, I REALLY truly didn’t trust my body, but some greater force told me I had to do this, and with the support and accountability of this mighty team I stuck with it.

Fast forward… I have just gotten back from this ‘29029 Mountain Ironman’ challenge, and while I am proud to say, I achieved the measurable goal, 17 summits, what I really conquered was so much more. This was one of the most memorable, life changing events of my life. As Jesse Itzler said, no one will understand the difficulty when we try to explain it later. But really, thats a metaphor for life: No one really understands what we go through, what our personal battles are figuratively or literally, what mountains we had to climb to become who we are today.

I wanted to share an incredibly poignant and heart felt post from one of the fellow climbers from the weekend. This will be the very first time I’ve ever taken someone’s personal post and shared it here (with his permission of course), but I felt it was that powerful.

No matter who you are, what you’re dealing with, what your own mountains are, I believe there are so many tenants to resonate with here: from learning your own personal limits and knowing when to push them, to seeing the bigger picture (it’s not always about achieving a vanity goal or something tangible and quantifiable), to the power of community – we don’t do anything in this world alone, life is about relationships, the journey and how we want to spend it.

My personal lesson, the mantra which rang through over and over in my head throughout the weekend, especially in the hardest of moments was this:

Your defining moments come when it gets hard, really hard, when all you want to do is give up or give in, take the easier road. It’s in those moments, when your decisions define you, and make you the person you become.

Enjoy the read, and I encourage you to share, comment ALL of the above (and below).

Here it is from Alan Stein Jr,

“I signed up for the #29029 Everest Challenge to challenge my soul, push my physical – mental – emotional limits and to connect with extraordinary people.

I’m beyond thankful to report that I did all 3.

With full humility, I did not complete all 17 ascends (I did 12). And I would be lying if I told you that part of me wasn’t very disappointed in myself for not accomplishing my goal.

However, I can proudly say that I’ve never felt more satisfaction from not reaching a goal than I do at this present moment.

I had a transformational experience… I learned a lot about myself… I learned invaluable life lessons… I made new friends… and I was able to stay in the present moment the entire weekend.

I am not an endurance athlete by any means. I have completed a marathon, a Cross-Fit type competition, the infamous Hell on the Hill Challenge… and even played college basketball… and this was far and away the toughest thing I’ve ever done. And it’s not even close.

The running joke amongst the climbers is that it is impossible to accurately describe how hard this mountain was. Calling it a ‘hill’ is laughable and there really aren’t words or even pictures that do it justice. This thing was a beast.

I had a pseudo-strategy that didn’t work well (in hindsight). I did 5 climbs on Friday night and chose to go to bed early (11pm) to be well rested for Saturday and Sunday. I should have kept climbing Friday night (lesson: never postpone work… get it done early).

I got up at 6am on Saturday to begin again and chose to pace myself. I took extended breaks after each climb and enjoyed some wonderful food, a killer massage and some engaging conversations. But again, in hindsight, I wasted too much time during those breaks.

Before I knew it… it was late afternoon on Saturday and I had ‘only’ completed 10 ascends (lesson: slow and steady wins… consistency matters).

My decision to stop climbing on Friday night (while many others kept going) and to take long breaks on Saturday(while many others didn’t) is what knocked me off pace.

So around 2pm on Saturday I had to make a choice – do I step on the gas, hone in on a singular focus and push myself as hard as possible to finish the remaining 7 in the allotted time? Or do I simply continue chipping away, climb after climb, but do so at a pace that will allow me to enjoy the total experience?

I chose the latter – and don’t have an ounce of regret. Once I removed the self-imposed pressure of ‘getting all 17’… I was able to have some fun and forge several very solid friendships. I connected with a few people that I know I will be friends with for years. I also chose to shift my energy from myself to supporting and cheering on my fellow climbers.

And while every single participant has my full admiration and respect – those that completed all 17 climbs – I truly commend you for achieving something remarkable. You are in a very special club and should be eternally proud. I had a few friends in particular that showed unparalleled grit in finishing… it was inspiring to watch!

I feel so strongly about this group – that if/when I ever see anyone wearing the #29029 logo… I will give them a heartfelt hug and buy them a drink on the spot. We created a special community that I’m honored to be a part of.

To help offer some perspective, here is the background of a few of the participants (all of whom said this was the toughest challenge they’ve ever done):

  • A guy who has rowed across the Atlantic Ocean
  • The world record holder as the fastest man to climb the highest mountain on each of the 7 continents
  • A member of the Spartan Race Pro Team
  • 2 former NFL players
  • The fastest man to complete the Hell on the Hill Challenge
  • The lead personal trainer on NBC’s The Biggest Loser
  • A woman who will be running 7 marathons in 7 consecutive days on all 7 continents
  • Countless marathoners, ultra-marathoners and elite fitness professionals

I’m beyond honored to have ‘shared a mountain’ with these immortal athletes.

Lastly… I want to acknowledge every person that was on staff and made this event happen. Events like this are the definition of teamwork… and this group was flawless. From the event organizers to the operations team to the EMT’s to the folks supplying the food and encouragement at the rest stations to the photographers & videographers… you all added so much value. I appreciate you and will be forever grateful.

To steal a concept out of Jesse’s philosophy… statistically speaking… I have about 2,000 weekends left in my life. And I’m so thankful I invested one of them on this experience.

Alan Stein, Jr.
@AlanSteinJr on all social platforms