April 17, 2012

From House Organ: To the summit of Kilimanjaro, with Dad


by Leslie Hill

Beth Ann Sastre, M.D., would never describe herself as an “adventure seeker,” but New Year’s Day found her at the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, as the first sunrise of 2012 painted a brilliant orange across the horizon and all of Tanzania spread out below.

Four days of grueling hiking through rain, wind and cold had brought the assistant professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt’s Primary Care Clinic to 19,341 feet, the highest peak in Africa. About 20,000 people attempt the summit each year and nearly a third fail to reach it.

Sastre counts herself doubly successful — she conquered her own physical challenge and helped her father reach his lifelong goal of climbing Kilimanjaro.

“This was certainly out of my comfort zone and something I thought would really physically challenge me. I was excited about the opportunity to help my dad reach his dream and to do something I wasn’t quite sure I was physically capable of doing. But I was also very nervous about training and preparing and doing something really hard,” Sastre said.

Sastre’s father, Richard Copeland, is a business professor at Stetson University in Florida and would absolutely describe himself as an adventure seeker.

“I’ve rafted the Grand Canyon and been skydiving. I like to do unique things. It makes me feel more alive,” Copeland said. “Kilimanjaro was something I wanted to do a long time ago but thought my time had come and gone.”

Over the last six years, Copeland and Sastre have hiked about 200 miles of the Appalachian Trail together, in three-day stretches at a time, and that inspired them to tackle Kilimanjaro together.

Copeland started training 11 months out and Sastre at six months, with a combination of stair climbing, biking and strength training.

“I work a lot of hours, so it was just what I could fit in my schedule, probably five-six hours per week,” Sastre said. “I have to put in a plug for the Vanderbilt Orthopaedic Institute because when I started training I developed some knee pain. I ended up working with some physical therapists and trainers there. They all knew my story and everybody was incredibly encouraging in helping me get ready for this.”

Read the rest of the story from the April issue of House Organ here.