I recently announced on Facebook my decision to quit drinking coffee. This declaration was met with some disbelief and horror given my erstwhile penchant for drinking coffee. I’m still a little bit surprised at how personally people take it when you announce that you’re choosing to do something differently with your diet. I promise, I didn’t quit coffee in order to disrupt social conventions and that there is a legitimate reason for my choice. That reason is a combination of two factors: type 1 diabetes and El Capitan in Yosemite.

I failed on El Capitan in 2012 during Project365 and I vowed to return, but conveniently avoided doing so for a number of reasons that all seemed legitimate at one time or another. No one wants to fail and it’s even less appealing when people are watching. It’s also a lot more difficult being marooned on a tiny island in a vertical sea of granite for days at a time when you know that your body could revolt against you at any point, potentially with dire consequences. It’s incredibly committing to feel medically vulnerable in a position that is so isolated.

Fear. It either becomes the reason to DO or to NOT DO.

Once I chose to let fear into the decision making process, I stopped making forward progress. Everything devolved into a circular holding pattern. It’s totally reasonable to be afraid of having a low blood sugar on the wall. It’s fine to be afraid of getting dehydrated and cramping up, or hauling too much extra or not enough extra. It’s not ok to let that fear paralyze you.

Fear is a useful ally if it’s not allowed to dominate the conversation. For that reason I am training. Preparing. Working out ways to mitigate situations that I am afraid of. That’s what the next several months will entail–and here is where the decision to quit coffee comes in. I have found that one of the biggest factors that hindered me on past bigwall climbs has been dehydration which leads to cramping. Dehydration has also gone hand in hand with my most erratic blood sugar swings–which is anecdotal, but it is a pattern that I’ve noticed.

It’s also worth noting that low carb diets definitely leave you more vulnerable to dehydration if you don’t take consistent and fairly aggressive action to mitigate the diuretic effects of carb restriction. This is definitely one of the downsides that significantly offsets the blood sugar stability and energy that I have enjoyed in the last year of following a ketogenic diet. There’s always a catch! It’s not a deal breaker for me–it’s a trade off. Coffee is part of what I’m choosing to sacrifice in order to be able to climb further and harder–and hopefully it will make it easier for me to stay adequately hydrated.

I will follow up on this in upcoming blogs because I am genuinely curious to see if this change will impact the way that I feel and my blood sugar as I am training. I have to say that so far I don’t miss the jittery nerves, anxiety and insulin resistance I used to experience every morning with my coffee.