MURRAY — For anyone who takes physical endurance challenges seriously, there is one mission that seems to top them all … climbing the highest peak in the world, Mount Everest.
For the many who have tried and the few who have succeeded, this is a task that takes years of preparation and training. One cannot just say, “I’m going to go climb Everest,” then travel to Nepal on a whim to attempt it.
Or can they?
Though it does not include such hazards as sub-zero temperatures, vicious winds and the always-present effects altitude can have on one’s body, there is a way to experience this challenge. It is called the Jacob’s Ladder device and Murrayans Christian Dinh and Crisann Chandler have committed to the “Climb Mount Everest Challenge” that makers of the apparatus have made to anyone willing to try it, all 29,035 feet.
“That’s a number we’ve gotten to know quite well. It’s easy to remember, certainly,” Chandler said. “Many know the 29,000 part, but you always have to remember that you’ve got to add that 35 on there, you know?”
Chandler is no stranger to these types of challenges, having competed in several 13.2-mile half-marathon road races, as well as 26.2-mile marathons. In fact, she won the women’s division of the Murray Half Marathon in 2018.
Her partner for this endeavor is also very familiar with the idea of a physical challenge or two. Earlier this year, Dinh completed a 45-mile run in a single day and he has also joined his father — Tung — for some of the many physical challenges that he has attempted and conquered, such as attempting to match the number of names on the National Vietnam Memorial wall with sit ups, more than 57,000, in 30 hours.
“I’m also trying to get ready for a 100-mile race in March that I’d like to do, the Chattanooga 100,” he said of a race that will take competitors through a mountainous course through East Tennessee and North Georgia. “So I’ve already been putting in a lot of running miles.”
However, Christian admits that the Jacob’s Ladder challenge that awaits is going to be quite grueling in its own right. The concept is simple enough … all one has to is literally climb the ladder that is included and operates on a pulley system.
However, climbing a ladder for 29,035 feet, even without the added altitude factors, is quite taxing.
“I’ve been telling (Tung) about this thing for quite some time abut how this is the most intense cardio piece of equipment you can get because you can push yourself on it. You can make it go really, really fast or you can go kind of slow. It’s literally just an endless ladder and if you can keep going, you keep climbing, It doesn’t stop,” said Christian, who is also in the early stages of his own mixed martial arts fighting career. He has compiled a 7-3 record and is preparing for a fight in 2021.
“We picked it up two or three weeks ago, and what I’ve seen with it is that it’s good for anyone because it’s very low-impact. People with injuries to their knees and ankles, they can do this without putting all of that pressure of stomping the ground while running. So, I’d say it’s very friendly to anyone because of not only how low-impact it is, but because it’s also based on how fast you want to go. You can go slow or you can burn it out and do as many feet as you want in a short time.”
“When he first showed this to me, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ This is a totally different exercise from running. It’s kind of intimidating, just looking at it,” Chandler said. “I’ve just had no experience with it before, but it’s neat how it works. Running gets your heart rate up, but (the Jacob’s Ladder) seems quicker to me because you have to be in a different position, but you have to use your whole body when you’re doing it too and you have to actually concentrate a bit more. At first, when you start, it feels a little awkward and a little uneasy, but you have to realize that you have control and you’re not going to fall off.”
Christian also said that the machine allows for a log-in system that allows a user to track the amount of distance traveled during a workout. He said many people taking the challenge are doing it in increments, accumulating feet in several workouts that eventually result in the magic number.
Anyone who knows the Dinh family, though, probably knows to expect that some difficulty will be involved. After all, Tung has completed several of his challenges in minimal times, as in hours, non-stop.
Christian and Chandler are hoping to complete their climb in about seven hours.
“We’d like to get it done before that,” Christian said. “I did an hour straight on it not too long ago and I got 5,022 feet.”
“I’ve been working out on it now for a few weeks and I’ve made it up to 30 minutes straight,” Chandler said. “Thirty minutes doesn’t sound like a long time but when you’re trying to keep your feet per minute up to a certain level, it’s a challenge.”
It may come as a shock to many to know that Tung is not participating in this challenge. Every five years, he has undertaken some form of physical endurance to show how grateful he is to reside in the United States after his family was one of the last people to escape Vietnam in 1975 as Communist forces took control.
His last such mission was in May when he completed 13,500 abdominal wheel rollouts in 45 hours, which matched the number of years since the Dinh family came to America. Tung is already planning a challenge for the 50th anniversary in 2025.
“It’s time to pass the torch to the next generation,” Tung said of his decision to not participate in the Everest challenge, which is slated for Jan. 16. “But it’s so nice to see a male and a female do it together.”
One way or another, though, Chandler believes Tung’s competitiveness will lead him to Jacob’s Ladder.
“I still can’t believe he’s not doing it this time,” she said, remembering how she performed 1,000 ab rollouts to support Tung during his Journey for Freedom in May. “That was tough too, but you know what I’ve learned? He can do anything he puts his mind to.”
Tung said he hopes that what his son and Chandler are doing will serve as a reminder of the importance of fitness, especially at a time where New Year’s resolutions will be rampant. As for Christian and Chandler, along with the pride of knowing they completed the challenge, there is one more bit of incentive involved — a T-shirt.
“T-shirts are always good for that,” she said.