Operations manager Brent Tucker woke today with Everest in his sights.
Today the 34-year-old Henderson man will stand on the start line of the Hillary 16km race through Auckland's Waitakere Ranges Regional Park. It is no walk in the park: the trail climbs and descends relentlessly along the formidable Te Henga coastal walkway with precipitous drops to thundering west coast surf.
Tucker is understandably nervous. Once a competitive rower and rugby player, he is engaged in a ferocious battle to regain good health.
"For the past 10 years I've really only been working on expanding my waistline. Suddenly I was 34 years old and 145kg - I got winded chasing my daughters down the hall. I made a decision to do something - anything.
"I started jogging and was quickly enticed into the trail-running community when friends convinced me to do the Xterra Series. I had a fun time, met some great people and found a sport where people are inclusive and don't have their heads up their butts - not even the top guys."
Tucker saw a Facebook post calling for submissions to be Hillary Aspirers. Race director Shaun Collins was searching for three participants to blog their journey towards "conquering their personal Everest" at the 2016 event.
Choosing Tucker was an easy decision, laughs Collins: "Brent sent us a very funny slideshow outlining how - among other things - he should be chosen because there is more space for sponsor logos on a big guy's shirt.
"He is a trail running 'newbie' and is using it to lose a heap of weight - 16km will be his longest run ever so he is a true Hillary Aspirer."
The Hillary plays out along some of the most stunning trail in New Zealand, passing through lush forest, along wild beaches and dipping into a handful of eclectic coastal communities from Whatipu to Muriwai.
Collins himself waged an epic battle to bring the event to fruition.
Now in its third year, the event attracts elite competition such as Andrius Ramonas, Fiona Hayvice and Australia's Lucy Bartholomew.
Tucker's road to good health has been tough, he recalls. "I am prone to rolling and spraining my ankles. I quickly learned to lift my feet and look where I'm putting them, otherwise I would be limping home and off the trails for a while.
"I would be lying to say that - at the start - those little breaks were totally unwanted."
Despite a love affair with off-road running, he admits to a couple of annoyances.
"There are two things that detract from the enjoyment for me. Insects are attracted to light so if you are running at night, they fly towards your head torch. A broken nose from playing rugby means I breathe through my mouth, so strapping a light near my mouth isn't a great idea!
"At least the bugs are good for protein and low in cholesterol.
"The other annoying thing ... [is] breaking spider webs woven across the path during the night. It looks like you're fighting off invisible ninjas as you are running along trying to remove them from your face."
Chafing and challenges aside, Tucker is no quitter. He has lost more than 15kg and has set a goal to hit 100kg by August - his 35th birthday. It will be the first time in 12 years he has hit that weight.
"I will finish the race. It won't be a podium or first half - most likely near last - but there will be no quitting. And if my being out there encourages someone else to get their arse off the couch, it can't be a bad thing."
What: 16km, 34km, 80km trail run
Where: Waitakere Ranges, Auckland
For more information: www.thehillary.co.nz