Lawdy, folks. Where does the time go? It’s like the world has spun off its axis: both the Sox and the Cubs are atop their respective divisions. What’s next? Actual Spring weather in May (i.e. perhaps a temperature warmer than 40 degrees and cooler than 85)? Belle ceding control of the house back to me? Me posting something on my blog? I’m tellin’ ya, anything seems possible.

So, climbing this monster is on my agenda:

Angels Landing

The hike to the top of Angel’s Landing. Yes, it’s just as scary as you think it is.

If you remember, in February on my way to Vegas for a family reunion I took a very short side trip to Zion National Park and absolutely fell in love (because while Vegas is awesome, just look at this scenery … beats watching drunk people any day). And I declared my love with a non-negotiable edict:  I’ll be back.

(just like Arnold Schwartzenegger but without the accent)

And I wasn’t lying — I have officially planned my Fall trip back to the park. And it turns out that I’m not the only one who is completely entranced with this idea, so I’ve got a posse coming along with (because a climb with near-death experiences is always more fun with friends!). With that comes another non-negotiable edict: get into good enough hiking shape that my heart doesn’t burst out from my chest while attempting any of these climbs. Because that would be messy. And I’m guessing my posse wouldn’t be too keen to clean up after me.

A plan is needed. While there are expressway overpasses that can be “climbed”, the one place in the Chicago area that might be able to help me out is Swallow Cliff, home of what used to be legendary toboggan runs. While the tobogganing was closed in 2004, the stairs up to the top of the run remain and have been a favorite of gluttons for punishment for years. There are 125 stairs to the top (supposedly it’s about 100ft of “elevation gain”), which sounds much easier than I find it to be. Of course, the folks who are bounding up the stairs two at a time might disagree, but I find it a literal breath-taking challenge.

Here’s what I’m subjecting myself to, at least twice a week:

swallow cliffs

Swallow Cliffs stairs. My biggest fear is tripping on the way down and taking out a dozen people with me. While that YouTube video would definitely go viral, I’m not looking for that kind of fame.

Not quite as terrifying as Angel’s Landing, but let me tell you, by about the 5th round of these, standing at the bottom and looking up elicits almost the same reaction. I know that this will eventually get easier (it HAS to get easier at some point…), but right now I trudge upwards, trying to keep my heart rate at a non-heart attack level. I’m attacking it with a plan — I time the workout and once the workout is about 10% faster than it started out being, I add two more flights of stairs. I’m finding that taking the “how many flights to do” decision out of my hands and putting it into an algorithm gets better results. I mean, who can argue with math, right?

I’m still at the beginning stages of this; I recently graduated to 10 flights of stairs, but other factors conspire against me as well. The seemingly light-switch speed change from late winter to summer has suddenly reminded me how much hot and humid can really suck the life right out of you. Still – I’m there getting it done. No promises on what Utah weather will be like, so no sense being a wuss about it now. Character building, right?

Here’s my entire plan for being able to conquer Angel’s Landing in October:  doing stairs at least twice a week, shooting for three times a week, and upping the number of flights as prescribed (also, sandbagging to avoid upping the number of flights is explicitly not allowed… baaaaad Laura…). Progressing through the 5×5 Stronglifts lifting program, hitting that Mon/Wed/Fri to build some muscle and make me stronger. And trying to get out for a long hike at least once a month.

All I can ask of myself is to do the work. I can’t control results, but I certainly can control what I put into it. Some might say, no pain no gain. I’d rather think of it as sweating now for more fun later on, like saving for retirement except shorter term and more scenic. All I know is that I haven’t been this excited about a trip in a long time; between the park and my awesome posse, it’ll be a blast as long as keep my heart inside my chest.