El Capitan and the Pikes Peak Challenge

"Son, this is as close as we get." My father's words struck me like a cheap shot to the gut. I was so exasperated that I set my 35mm camera aside and didn't even take any photos. The big family trip: 25 states, 20+ national landmarks, and 20 days and one of the places I wanted to see more than any other had been dashed away from me. Despite being early summer, the conditions were horrid and the weather had turned south. As we pulled out of the visitor's parking lot and drove down the mountain, I watched out of the back window of our town car as backpackers and jeeps made their way up to the summit ahead. Under my breath I mumbled: "Pikes Peak, I'll be back for you."

That was 11 years ago this summer (For those with short attention spans, like my own, here is the 100-word version of this entire post). "Life is a daring adventure or nothing at all." You have to wonder that someone who pens those words must have really seen and experienced the best of the world. Someone who has taken life by the horns and lived to tell about it. You may imagine someone like Jacques Cousteau or Edmund Hillary penning those words. But no, it wasn't. Those words are attributed to Helen Keller, one of the world's most prominent deaf-blind people. Think about it. Some of the most momentous experiences of your life have probably either been seen or heard. Maybe it was a scene while traveling or the lyrics of a song while at a concert or hearing a significant other tell you for the first time: "I love you". Yet, here we have Helen Keller, who in essence says that if life isn't a daring adventure, than it's nothing.

I can't quite put my finger on the exact moment, but there was a time last year that I came face-to-face with my life. I considered my life to be the "nothing at all" of that quote and I was resolved to do whatever it took to start over, make life a daring adventure, follow my dreams, and live life on my terms. In just one year, I've taken a cross-country road trip, lived as an expat in Costa Rica, traveled through North America, transitioned from part-time to a full-time writer, and moved 2,500 miles across the country to my favorite city. I did all of that in 10 months.

Hear me out: Not one bit of that makes me superior to you. However, I want to communicate that if there's something you REALLY want to do, you can do it. I did those things because I wanted to. At times, I was cautioned by people close to me against doing them. Yet at the end of the day, I have to sleep with the decisions I make and not other people's opinions of me. I did what I wanted.

And so it is, that as a new adventure is beginning for me in San Francisco, I'm committing to more adventures along the way. The last year has been marked by challenging my career, happiness, friendships, and other facets of my life, but it hasn't involved challenging my body. I made a commitment this week that I wanted to do something, at least annually, that would push my body to the limits. However, I wanted to start on my own turf and not go too crazy. Therefore, Mt. Everest and Mt. McKinley were both out. However, thanks to the inspiration of others and encouragement of friends, I registered today for the Pikes Peak Challenge on September 10th in Colorado.

First of all, for those serious athletes, this isn't the marathon. There is a marathon up Pikes Peak. Well this isn't it. My ass isn't running. I like Guinness milkshakes, burgers, bacon, and cupcakes too much to 1) Run a marathon, 2) Run an uphill marathon, and 3) Run an uphill marathon up one of the tallest peaks in the U.S. The Pikes Peak Challenge is an all-day event, hiking 13 miles and 7,500 feet to the summit at 14,115 feet. The annual event raises money for the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado, which provides support and services for survivors and family members affected by head injuries.

pikes peak1
pikes peak1

At its core, I'm doing this because I want to. I'll receive a t-shirt I'll probably never wear and a medal that will find a drawer somewhere. I won't get famous and don't even have a shot at accolades, as this isn't a race. I wanted a new and different adventure and this just feels right. Plus, I'll get to see parts of Colorado that are often only seen in photos or from inside cars. However, in order to participate, I need to raise at least $150, which goes to the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado. While $150 is the requirement, I'm shooting for $600. You can donate directly on behalf of me by visiting the Pikes Peak Challenge website. That way, your contributions go straight to the source and you don't have to worry about your check getting lost in the mail or me using your hard earned cash on food trucks.

PFAQs (Possible Frequently Asked Questions)

  • Are you doing this for a girl? No. I've done some crazy things in the name of "romance", but this isn't one of them.
  • Will you be live tweeting or blogging? No. It's Pikes Peak and my first 14er! I have no interest in technology on that day. The only technology I'll be concerned with is how to turn on the hot tub afterward. Plus, I don't want to be that slow guy that has to turn around before the summit and hike down because he wasn't staying on pace, but instead tweeting.
  • How long have you been training for this? Since I moved to San Francisco on June 7th. I mean have you seen the hills in this city? Seriously, I'll start training this weekend. The first task is to get a new pair of hiking shoes, as I don't believe Chuck Taylors are a viable option.
  • Are there incentives for raising certain amounts of money? Yes, there are rewards that are being offered. I intentionally didn't look at that portion of the packet because I didn't want it to be the driving force of me choosing a certain goal.
  • Are you scared? Well not until you said something! All of this, from inception to G-chat conversation to registering, took about an hour because I knew if I waited any longer that I would talk myself out of it. I have a hard time committing to doing the same thing for hours, such as walking...uphill. As long as I put the investment into getting onto trails and working up to the day of the hike, I think it's going to be a lot of fun.
  • Where can I sign up too? You can register on the Pikes Peak Challenge website, but you have to register before August 26. They only accept 450 participants, so I recommend signing up as soon as possible.


  • I've committed to doing an annual adventure that challenges my body.
  • I'm kicking this commitment off by participating in the Pikes Peak Challenge, which is a 13-mile, 7,500-foot ascent to the top of Pikes Peak (14,115 feet).
  • You can donate to the Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado directly on my behalf by going to the following website and choosing my name from the hiker drop-down list.
  • Follow your passions and do what you want.

If you've made it this far, give yourself a pat on the back. I really do try to keep my posts under 1,000 words, but I've exceeded it this time to share with you something that's important to me. You're probably wondering what El Capitan in the title means. In this case, it has multiple meanings, just as I'm sure this adventure will have for me. As legend has it, way back in the day, El Capitan was the original name given to Pikes Peak by Spanish settlers. That was until Zebulon Pike came exploring through Colorado in the early 1800s and the mountain was renamed. However, the term "captain" has especially rang true for me this year as it is the core of the last few lines of one of my favorite poems, "Invictus", which I find appropriate to quote, since the poet, William Ernest Henley, was disabled.

It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.