At 5:30 on September 14th, it looked unlikely. Gasping for breath with pain in my chest, I watched my friends seem to skip up the trail and wondered if I had it in me. Panic set in. Only once before had that happened. Climbing a smaller mountain with my husband last summer, I couldn’t catch my breath and began to panic. I have always been able to count on my conditioning. Athletic all my life, I have maintained a fitness level without a ton of effort. Even after periods of laziness, I could get back in shape quickly. Accepting the invitation to climb a 14ner with dear friends, I threw myself into a month long training after a period of sporadic hiking during our build. Between that and my natural conditioning, I knew it would be tough but I figured I could do it. Of course occasionally, I wanted to bow out from laziness and some trepidation – maybe I will come down with a cold, maybe the weather will stop us, maybe my friends will cancel… The night before I tossed and turned for hours. When the wake up came at 3:40am, I was beyond groggy. Starting on the trail at dark was magical, the stars were our guide and I kept my headlamp off to feel the dark around me. Starting fast felt fine – for a minute – and then before I could say anything the shortness of breath and pain in my chest began. Immediately I did what any good perfectionist will do, I made myself wrong lamenting how it used to be, worrying about disappointing my friends, being embarrassed about my lack of conditioning compared to theirs mixed in with panic at not being able to breathe. I let them know of my struggles and we slowed our pace but at barely past the trailhead, I wondered how I would make the ascent.