I remember buying the first Outside magazine. I was still living in Rockford, Illinois, but had the outdoor-adventure bug. I was pretty blown away when I was on the cover [December 2000]. If you're an outdoor athlete, it's like being a musician on the cover of Rolling Stone.
I was tested in 1997 at the University of Washington, and a few doctors basically told me that I was a freak of nature. The genetic twist that I had—my aerobic capacity and larger-than-normal lungs—all those parts and pieces helped me do what I did.
It doesn't matter to me what people said about what I did or how I did it. Whether people liked it or didn't like it, I could have cared less. The climbing at 8,000 meters is risky enough as it is. I wanted to be safe and have fun. I've been "Steady Ed" for a while.