By: LOWA Ambassador, Alexandra Garcia
By the time this article is published, the countdown timer will be reminding me I am T-4 months from Denali. This big, intimidating, exhilarating, somewhat larger than life goal will be a mere school semester away from reality. The day this article is published, I will also very likely coming out of my 6-week post-op follow-up appointment, eager to receive the go-ahead from my orthopedic surgeon to start weight-bearing exercises.
The week before I was to start Uphill Athlete’s 24-week Mountaineering Training Plan, I went downhill mountain biking, and a big drop took me by surprise. I went nose-first and over-the-bar, shattering and displacing the upper part of my right radius bone into 5 pieces. The ulnar collateral ligament in my elbow also took some of the force of impact, although I didn’t come to know that until days after surgery, when the immediate pain of a major fracture subsided and every other minor pain from the accident became noticeable.
About a month before, I had told my friends at LOWA that I wanted to share monthly journal-type reflections in the time leading up to the trip. Originally, I wanted to open with honest discussions on how I am approaching preparing myself in every capacity as I take on what will be, no doubt whatsoever, the hardest thing I have ever done. It has been a journey of introspection, careful analysis, a lot of training, monthly engagement with my all-women team, gear planning, and so much more work. I take a lot of pride in my growth in adventure sports and the spirit by which I take on these difficult challenges in the outdoors, and I wanted to share this perspective because I am likely to become the first Puerto Rican to ever summit Denali. This island girl on the highest point in North America, retelling the story of who I and my people are, what we can do, where we can reach.
I never really considered that before I would even start to write, I’d be stopped by of the explosive pain I’d had in recent years. I’ve spent weeks “not doing anything”, giving my body time to heal. Prior to the accident,“ every minute counts” was the mantra. After the accident, I had to press pause when all I wanted was to go, go, go. Practice knot-tying, begin specified training, hone climbing skills at the gym, take weekend winter backpacking trips to test my gear–that was all part of “the plan”. The plan is now modified, riddled with constraints, compressed, and ultimately, still in question.
Will I go to Denali? I believe that answer will become clear in the next few months. I know this injury is a huge set back; I live and experience its limitations in daily life. I’m clear that I need to be an equal and capable teammate, and right now activities like self-arresting a fall, setting up a rescue pulley system, or shoveling snow at camp aren’t possible. Will they be possible in 4 months? Again, I don’t know. Only time will tell, and time is what I feel I’m lacking.
How does all that make me feel? Honestly, not much other than determined. I’m committed to showing up, taking physical therapy seriously, being diligent and methodical with every other non-physical aspect of this goal, giving this preparation period my all. I don’t know what lies ahead other than hard work and an optimistic view of what can come from the uncertainty. A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor, right?
2024 promises to leave no stone unturned. I’m here, arms and heart wide open to the thrill of this scavenger hunt, putting together the pieces of who I’m meant to be as I get ready to step foot on mountains near and far. Summit will be a nice bonus, but the journey is the greatest adventure.
Content courtesy of Alexandra Garcia