Monthly Archives: November 2012

REI in Richmond

I really like this REI. It’s not as busy or picked over like the ones in NoVA and the lay out is much better than the one in Greensboro. Usually I find some good deals but alas, Cyber Monday proved to be a stupid day for me to go in and hunt for deals IN person. I didn’t find any good clearance deals, which is unusual but it’s probably because people raped the store on Black Friday.

My intention when I went in was to get a few more pieces of gear for Kilimanjaro. Specifically I wanted some convertible pants, that female pee catcher thingy (don’t even laugh…I don’t want to get out of my tent under Arctic conditions to find a place to squat), and possibly a bag liner or some trekking poles. In the end, I left with nothing.

The pants all sucked. Seriously, they all fit like a bad leotard. Too tight in the hoo haa. Who made those things? Certainly not a woman! Why do men expect “ball room” but so many women’s pants cut so deep you’d think they were attempting a pap??? Anywho….

The bag liner was ridiculously expensive and I am going to try to catch it on sale. Same with trekking poles. I saw a good deal on some down slippers (which was recommended by a friend who has a friend who went up Kili and said they were great…yadda, yadda, yadda, so forth and so on). However, I passed. I don’t see it as a necessity item and considering I am a broke public school teacher, I need to focus on the essentials right now.

Yeah…so that’s it. I walked away with nothing. Oh the female pee catcher thingy…there was NO way on God’s green earth that I was going to get in line and slap a pee catcher down on the counter without other items to serve as distractors. NO WAY. It’s a bit like tampons or enemas. If you buy those things, you really try to have a cart full of other items that take the glare off the fact you’re buying something that handles/deals in disgusting bodily fluids. I mean, sure…we all pee, we all crap (or don’t at times, hence the need for an enema) and half of us bleed, BUT…that certainly doesn’t take away from the social awkwardness of slamming a big industrial size box of said items down on a counter and smiling back at the 18 year old clerk. Or is it just me?  I digress…the point is, I didn’t get it. I will wait until I can hide it under some convertible pants or trekking poles.

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Of Monsters and Men (and Mountains)

Ok, so this post doesn’t really have anything to do with Kilimanjaro but I will still try to make some connections for continuity’s sake. Ha!

So this past summer I heard “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men. Then I went to Iceland and fell in love with everything from that gorgeous island in the North. When I came back I got their album and memorized EVERY since song. So catchy and so gorgeous. I love the imagery in their songs. Whenever I hear one, I immediately think of a beautiful place in Iceland. I was so bummed to find out that I was a day late in catching them live in Reykjavik. How awesome would that have been? The only thing cooler than that would have been watching Sigur Ros play in Iceland (but I did get to see them on their opening night in Philly this past summer…and was front row and could count the hairs on Jonsi’s hair…so yeah, massive street cred for me!).

Anyway, when I found out they were playing in Richmond I bought tickets. They played last night at The National and put on an AMAZING performance. I absolutely love live music but this band took the experience to the next level. Other than Gogol Bordello, I’ve never really encountered a band that interacted and engaged the audience as much! It was such a great experience to be a part of a giant collective singing, clapping, etc. ALONG WITH the band. They also seemed so humble and genuine as artists and the smiles on their faces as they played really demonstrated their love for what they’re doing. This all sounds cheesy but if you had been there, you’d totally agree!

Okay..>Kilimanjaro connections: Well the opening act, Civil Twilight, is from South Africa. Ok, that’s a stretch but hey, it’s the same continent, right? lol Civil Twilight was very good and I enjoyed their performance. Talented guys.

Sleep deprivation. I didn’t get home until 2:30 and had to drive 3 hours to get home. I then turned around and got back up around 5:30. I thought today would be hell but I managed. I feel like this was a good test for the summit night. Apparently on summit night you get little sleep and have to push through sleep deprivation, exhaustion, cold, etc. to make it to the top. This was just a small test of what I can expect (again, I realize this is a stretch but I am trying to make connections instead of having a random post about an indie band).

Overall, it was a great night and it drove home the point that life is best when you jump in and get your head wet rather than sticking your toe in to test the water. Sure, I could have stayed home, saved a lot of money, effort (driving), and got a good nights sleep but there are few experiences as great as seeing a really amazing band play a small, intimate venue. I may be getting old but I’m not ready to live life like a suburban walking dead. I’m happy that at 37 I’m still road trippin’ to see bands play like I did when I was 17.  I am also excited that in six months I will be globe trottin’ to climb to the roof top of Africa and go on safari.

Anyway, check out the video of the show last night!

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Movies, Miles…and more?

To start off, I decided to go on a test run in order to determine if my IT band/knee was still injured. I ran a one mile test run at my normal pace on a flat track and everything felt fine. I’m excited! Now I am going to slowly increase my mileage until I am up to approximately 7-9 miles by the new year. I want to start marathon training in January so I need to make sure I have my mileage up. I post this information because it all ties into my fitness for Kilimanjaro.

Speaking of fitness, I took a Body Flow class this weekend. Holy Cow. I am out of shape. My triceps are KILLING me. Granted, yoga and pilates can be great workouts but all this running with no weight training has taken a toll. I will NOT make that mistake again. I will make sure I make time to cross train.

On Youtube I watched “Kilimanjaro -Rooftop of Africa” which was an IMAX movie. I’ve seen part of it and honestly, it may be part of what put the idea of Kilimanjaro in my head long ago…not sure. Honestly, the movie was short in content and a little too Disney for my taste but it was still great to see the scenery and get a dose of what I can expect. I will say watching them climb some parts made me nervous. Did they climb the Western Breach? I dunno.

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Wire Transfer to Africa

I finally wired my deposit to Warrior Trails, the safari company I’ve enlisted. I was pretty nervous to wire money. My only experience with wire transfers to Africa involved badly worded emails from a Nigerian prince. I never had the guts to take him up on his offer to hide $4,256,781 in my account. Nonetheless, wiring money to Africa is apparently a necessity since many small African companies don’t deal with credit cards. I wired 30% to them. I guess when I get to Arusha  we will find out if I got ripped of – haha (biting nails). Seriously though, I’ve read lots of great reviews and Cathy, the rep in Canada, has been so kind and very quick to respond to emails ( I guess the Nigerian prince would have too though…yikes).

Has anyone else ever wired something to another country? Did you end up bankrupt and penniless? lol

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My Magic Slippers!

So I bought my boots! I FINALLY tracked down a dainty size 9 Oboz Sawtooth Mid. I had to drive to Blacksburg (45 minutes) to get them but it was worth it. I was shocked REI didn’t have them but that’s okay because I ended up buying them from a small business and I’d rather support them than a big box company, even though I love love love REI.  I like the boots a lot and I cannot wait to start breaking them in. Much to my chagrin, it’s supposed to be rainy and cold tomorrow so I probably won’t try tomorrow; although, if it’s not raining, I might take them out for a short spin. I have six months to break them in…I think that should be adequate. I will keep everyone posted on what I think. Btw, this was my ONLY Black Friday purchase. Image

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Training and Fitness

ImagePart of what carries one to the top of Kilimanjaro is fitness. 8 days of climbing a mountain requires strong core, leg muscles, and stamina. I feel I have the cardio down. Running half marathons (and hopefully a marathon this spring) has trained my lungs and heart to be strong and efficient; however, my IT band injury has demonstrated that my leg muscles aren’t as strong as they need to be. I also know that I have a very weak core. I also know I need to lose approximately 5-10 pounds. Ok, ok…I don’t NEED to but I want to. Part of that is easily solved in a week by diet. But more on that in a moment….

My plan is this: Until the New Year I plan to hit the gym 3-4 times a week and focus on strength training (weights and core). Once I feel my IT band is sufficiently healed and recovered, I will start integrating running into my training again. I plan to start with 2-3 miles and then work my way up to 6-7 miles. Also, I am buying new hiking boots for Kilimanjaro on Monday and plan to start hiking at least once a week in them. At first I will just hike in the boots but eventually I plan to load my pack, equivalent to what I will carry on the mountain, and start hiking with the pack on. During the Winter months I will probably just stick to hiking  more local mountains like Mill Mountain or Read Mountain, especially during the week. On the weekend I might hike Tinker, Sharp Top, or even McAfee’s. 

Diet: I really have to reign this in. My diet is horrible: lots of sugar, soda, and just carb loaded crap. I have to start eating better. For a year I did so well but stress has crept in and I am a stress eater. My first goal is to eliminate sugar and soda. Soda is a tough one because I have such emotional attachments to it. It makes me feel comforted,despite the fact it’s essentially poison. Crazy, huh?

Anyway, I plan to eat more fruits, veg, and lean proteins. Also, cutting out snacking too (Sadness! I heart snacks!). 

Okay…well it begins today. Starting weight is 120.2. My goal before I reach Kilimanjaro is to be between 110-115 lbs and a much stronger core and leg muscles (ripped arms would be okay too…haha). 




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Plane Tickets and Pain

Since I last blogged much has happened. To begin with, I bought my plane tickets. What a goat rope that was! There aren’t many carriers that fly into tiny little Kilimanjaro International Airport so my choices were limited. I narrowed my choices down to KLM and Ethiopian Airlines. KLM code shares with Delta so I was able to check flights via the Delta website and actually found a GREAT deal on a flight out of Dulles. It only had one connection through Amsterdam. It also left later in the day which seemed perfect. Sadly, Delta engages in some shady “bait and switch” tactics. For example, once I decided to buy the ticket, I went through the complete booking process including providing my credit card number. When I hit submit, it came back with a message that essentially stated, “Sorry, the price JUST went up. The ticket will now cost…”. The price increase was nearly $500. Not believing my eyes, I decided to try again. Same thing. In disgust, I called the customer service line and spoke to a nice lady in Minneapolis who, unfortunately, couldn’t help me. Needless to say, that soured me against Delta/KLM. It’s just as well though…I’ve read that KLM loses baggage left and right on flights into Kilimanjaro. With Delta/KLM out of the picture, that basically left Ethiopian Airlines. I found a a good deal from Dulles which connects in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. With airfare out of the way, I am now able to focus on other things, which is good.

I forgot to mention that I also booked a safari. My trekking company offered a tour but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted and it was more expensive than what I wanted to pay. I finally settled on Warrior Trails, which is run by a Maasai warrior. They’ve received really good reviews on Tripadvisor and my communication and interaction with them has been great.  I will be on safari for two days in Lake Manyara National Park and Ngorongoro Crater.

The title of this blog is Plane Tickets and Pain. I’ve discussed the plane tickets, now let me explain the pain:

Today was the Star City Half Marathon.  As many know, I’ve been training since August for this. I’ve been a mentor for Fleet Feet and have really enjoyed every minute of it. It was a perfect day for a run but boy was it cold this morning! I don’t remember the last time I was THAT freezing. I think it was around 30 degrees.

Despite the beautiful weather, the run didn’t go as I expected.  On Halloween, a student broke my toe which made training grind to a halt. I was so upset and worried I’d miss the race but luckily my toe healed in time! There’s bad news though: It looks like all that limping took a toll on my legs. Around mile three my knee started hurting on my left leg (the one with the bum toe). I knew immediately that it was my IT band. It increasingly became more painful as I ran and I went from the front of my pack to the back. Going up Avenham was where it all started to fall apart for me. My knee just continued to tighten up and by the time I made it to the top, I had to stop and stretch. My group went ahead (which was great!) but by mile 10 I was starting to have doubts I’d even make it. When I got to mile 11 I stopped to stretch out again. However, when I tried to take off, my knee locked up and wouldn’t even bend. Yikes! I limped and hopped along for about 1/2  mile. At one point, I felt certain there had to be blood in my mouth because the pain was so intense I was biting my tongue to keep from crying/screaming. Far off in the distance, I heard, “Rhonnnnddaa. Rhonnnnnddda”. I thought the pain had gotten so intense that I was just hearing things…a sort of audio mirage, if you will. Turns out it was Nikki! Yah! She came to my rescue and walked/ran with me all the way to the finish line. Now that’s a friend!

The day wasn’t a complete wash though. Despite feeling lots of disappointment, pain, and fear that I may have an injury that will be hard to shake, I learned some things along the way. First of all, I learned that even when something hurts terribly, I have the perseverance needed to reach a goal. This is going to be important when I get to Kilimanjaro. There will no doubt be days that are painful and grueling. But I know that I have what it takes to muscle through pain and reach the summit. Second, the cold this morning really drove home the fact that being near the summit is going to be brutal. I will need to be prepared for that. Today it was 30 degrees but the summit temps can reach 10-20 BELOW zero. Yikes!  Despite my Northern European ancestry, I don’t do well with cold AT ALL. In fact, I think I might be descended from the equatorial Swansons and would be happy to start a colony on the Sun.

So that covers the pain….and I think that’s all I have for now. Next week I plan to buy some gear when I visit REI. I will enthrall you with those details another time though.

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The Journey Begins

I’m doing it! I am going to climb Kilimanjaro! I thought it would be a great idea to create a blog and write about my journey. I will be posting my thoughts, the planning process, etc. Then, when the time comes, I will blog about the climb itself.

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