Monthly Archives: December 2012

Forget Yellow Fever…I’ve got Kilimanjaro Fever!

Someone went to Africa and all I got was this stinkin' Malaria!

Someone went to Africa and all I got was this stinkin’ Malaria!

With my trek now slightly less than six months away I decided it was time to start getting some of my travel vaccinations. I called around to several different “travel clinics” but all seemed to require an act of Congress to get an appointment. What’s the big deal? I just need a few sticks and some ‘scripts. Thanks to the magic of Google, I’m pretty sure there isn’t much a doctor is going to tell me that I haven’t already discovered through my own research. I finally called a place called Doctor’s Express which bills itself as an urgent care facility. I’ve heard great things about them and they actually returned my phone calls, unlike some other places. Score! They were very helpful over the phone and detailed everything that I would need as well as the prices. Best of all, they told me that they get clever with insurance billing and try to make sure they use codes the insurance companies will accept. Unfortunately, most insurance companies won’t cover travel vaccines and medicines. I found this out recently when I contacted United Healthcare to see if they would cover. They confirmed that they do NOT cover anything of the sort but cheerfully proclaimed they would treat me upon my return should I contract Malaria, Yellow Fever…Ebola, etc. How’s that for logic?

Impressed with Doctor’s Express, I stopped in after work to get the first series of vaccinations. Everyone was quite friendly but I was shocked when no one knew where Tanzania is on a map. Sadly, this included the doctor. I explained that it is in East Africa and he still looked at me with a blank stare. I proceeded to tell him that it is south of Kenya. Bordered by Rwanda and DR of Congo. Still nothing. I found that a tad shocking since I take for granted that educated people are familiar with the world in which they live. Granted, I’m a bit of a geography nut but come on….

The doctor was very nice, despite his geographical shortcomings. He was very happy to prescribe me all the meds I needed and didn’t try to push unnecessary vaccines such as rabies (he told me to not pet any animals haha). He also said I didn’t need to bother with Polio since I had the vaccine as a kid. He said he felt a booter was unnecessary. In total he recommended Hep A, Hep B, and Typhoid. The good news about Typhoid is that instead of getting a shot, I can take a pill known as Vivotif. It contains live Typhoid vaccine (sounds frightening!) and then I’m good for years to come. Yah! When I walked out I had a right arm full of Hep A, a left arm full of Hep B and four ‘scripts. One for Cipro in case I get traveler’s diarrhea, Diamox for altitude, Doxycycline for Malaria, and the Vivotif. I have to return in one month for the second dose of Hep B and then again just before I leave for one more dose of Hep A and Hep B.

The cost of all this: It remains to be seen. I should know in a month or two when the insurance statements roll in. Luckily I have secondary insurance so I’m praying between the two insurance companies, someone will cover something. I did get a great deal on the meds though. Insurance covered all of them but the Vivotif. I paid $60 for it. Still, it beats 4 weeks of pea soup diarrhea or worse, death.

Typhoid vaccine

Typhoid vaccine

Yellow Fever- the doctor told me that according to the CDC I didn’t need Yellow Fever since I come from a country where it’s not endemic. Still, I have concerns about the fact I have a layover in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Will the fact I stop in a country where it is endemic be cause for the officials to ask for a Yellow Fever card? I’ve heard rumors on Tripadvisor and Lonely Planet that the Tanzanians will ask for proof of Yellow Fever at JRO, regardless of nationality or where you originate.  If you are unable to produce it, they take you to a separate area, vaccinate you on the spot and charge $50 for it. The thought of having a syringe anywhere near me whilst in Africa makes me shudder and the reason is simple: HIV.  😦

So with the fear of a dirty airport syringe full of HIV looming in my mind, I decided to write to the Tanzanian embassy in Washington, D.C. to find out first hand. They wrote back and said I don’t need a Yellow Fever vaccine. Whew! I plan to print that and take it with me in case I am chased around JRO by a Tanzanian with a needle!

In other news, I am still slow going on my workout. I’m so fearful of what’s going on with my knee. While I know it’s nothing TOO serious, my fear is pushing myself too hard with running or weights and causing serious damage. Today I went to the gym and had a good but pretty laid back workout that included lunges, squats with no weight, leg press, adductor/abductor machine, lower back exercises, and aqua jogging. The last one sounds silly but it really was a good workout. I did ten laps around the family pool and it was pretty tiring towards the end. My reward as a nice soak in the hot tub.

Finally, I’ve been reading as much as I can about Kilimanjaro. One book I recently read was Kilimanjaro: One Woman’s Journey to the Roof Top of Africa. Frankly, it was just okay. I was surprised it got such glowing reviews. The author provided some good info but I just didn’t really appreciate her “voice”. She didn’t have much of a sense of humor about anything and I thought she often seemed grumpy. Also, some of the book was just a little too “zen” for me. I much preferred Kissing Kibo and A Walk in the Park. Right now I am reading some blogs. I found a really good one: http://kilimanjaro.malinikaushik.com  It’s very detailed and very interesting and I am learning a lot from her. One of the videos she has posted to her blog is one in which the porters are singing the arrival of the climbers at the Mweka Gate. I get chills when I see it! How awesome would it be to arrive, victorious in reaching the summit, and to be greated by this sound? I hope I get the same treatment! It would be a dream come true (I seriously have tears just thinking about it!) Also, is it weird that I’m already sad at the thought of saying goodbye to the porters, the guides, and the mountain? I’ve not even arrived and yet I already dread the thought of forging relationships with people and a mountain that I will be forced to leave behind? I’m ruled by my heart, not by my head. A hopeless romantic…in love with the world!

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Doctor’s visit

So if you’ve kept up with my blog, you’re well aware of my leg/knee/IT band issue. Lord knows I’ve harped on about it long enough. After much careful self imposed rehab I finally decided to seek professional help and went to see Dr. Delmas Bolin in Salem. He is affiliated with VA Tech in some way and works on their athletes so that seemed like a good sign. He specializes in Sports Medicine and I like think I’m a athlete- haha.

He took some x-rays of my knees and hips and declared I have gorgeous bones and nothing is wrong with the skeleton portion of my body. Yah! No arthritis- double yah! What he did say was that my left leg was LONGER than my right and my left hip was wider than my right. Great. That’s just what I want to hear…my hips are getting wider. *boo, hiss* He stated that my sacrum was misaligned as was many parts on my left side. He also stated that I had tibia torsion. Long story short he declared he could fix me and proceeded to manipulate and adjust my body. He claims he has me fixed and that I am clear to run starting to day (but on flat track for awhile) and that I can also begin marathon training next month. Super excited!!!!

I was very sore last night from all the manipulations and I’m hoping it’s a good sign that things have been put back into place. I am concerned that my adductors are still very sore and tight. I’m hoping that goes away. If not, I will return because I think he was great!

In gear news, I found a great deal on a pair of Mountain Hardwear rain pants. I will need them during the rain forest portion of the climb on Kili.  They were on sale at Walkabout Outfitters – 50% off! I love a good sale! Now I’m trying to find a good deal on some fleece pants. I really want the Mountain Hardwear Microchill fleece pants but I’m not paying full price. I will keep stalking REI and Moosejaw websites.

Bad news on the gaiters. They’re too big so I sent them back to Moosejaw but they can’t do an exchange because they don’t have my size right now. Sadness! 😦   On the bright side, I found them on Zappos.com for the same price (free shipping!) so I bought them. Hope they fit!

In less fun news, my heart goes out to the CT families who lost loved ones yesterday. So tragic. As a teacher, I can’t imagine something like that happening at my school. Praying for them all.

 

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Cold Weather

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This is more in line with what I had in mind

Winter finally arrived today. Sort of. It’s been unseasonably warm here (Virginia, USA). On Saturday I was in short sleeves. While I’d normally embrace that, I just cannot get into the Christmas spirit when I’m sweating (slight exaggeration…but only slight, mind you). I wanted to get a Christmas tree but couldn’t bring myself to do it when the weather is so warm. But Lady Meteorology finally took a turn and it was a lot chillier today. Tonight it’s supposed to be in the 20’s! That’s more like it! Ordinarily I hate Winter and the cold but in the past few years I’ve grown to appreciate the stark beauty of Winter and so long as I can crank my heater into the upper 70’s, I’m happy. What’s this all got to do with Kili? I’ll tell you! Tonight when I left work I was so cold and I suddenly realized that I will spend a good portion of the climb feeling the way I felt tonight (or worse!). I’m so cold blooded and naturally have a low blood temperature. That means I don’t do so well in the cold. It takes layers upon layers just to keep me from convulsing with shivers. How will I stand the extreme cold that awaits, particularly on summit night/morning? I’m already stocking up on warm clothes and chemical warmers. Forward planning!

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A Typical Elementary School

In other news, I am getting sick (again!). Working in a school is one step below working for the Center for Disease Control. Being around 300 sniffling children is akin to working in a petri dish all day long. Disease and pestilence abound! Once you get over one thing, the next malady strikes. Aye ya ya! The latest bug seems to be some sort of lower respiratory infection. I am hoping to cut it off at the pass but we shall see.

Also in medical news, I have two appointments for my leg. Tomorrow I go to a chiropractor to see if my hips are misaligned. His name is Josh Gilbert and he comes highly recommended by friends in the running community. He, too, is a runner and is actually the head of a group who organizes races around the area. Hoping he can help. I am also scheduled to see a sports medicine doctor on Friday. Supposedly this dude is the best. *fingers crossed*. Between the two, I’m hoping they can resurrect my Lazarus of a leg. I’ll keep you posted!

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Six Months to Go!

It occurred to me as I was watching Youtube videos of Kilimanjaro climbs that today marks exactly SIX months until I get on a plane for Tanzania! My climb doesn’t begin until June 12 but as far as I am concerned the adventure begins June 9th when I get on the plane in Dulles. It’s going to be the longest six months ever. I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas. It’s horrible to wish one’s life away but I can’t deny it…all thoughts are focused on one thing: Kilimanjaro!

This weekend was a physical fitness roller coaster. As you may know from my previous posts, I’ve been having IT band issues ever since I ran the half marathon on a broken toe (stupid in hindsight, I know, I know). I’ve done a few short turns and had no problem (two 1 mile runs and a 3 mile run). Yesterday morning I woke up and decided I’d run  3 to 5 miles. My legs felt a little tight and in passing, just before leaving I hopped on my foam roller and rolled out my bum leg for literally 20 seconds. It didn’t feel that tight so I decided to go for it. I drove to one of my favorite spots and jumped out of the car and took off up a gravel road. Things were fine for the first mile or so but I noticed going up a hill that my knee felt “odd”. I didn’t think too much of it because I wasn’t in pain. At precisely

This thing can really hurt!

This thing can really hurt!

1.78 miles into the run I felt that dreaded pain in the side of my knee that meant only one thing: IT BAND. UGH!!!!!!!  The amount of disappointment cannot be described. I really thought all the IT band misery was behind me. Apparently not. Broken and defeated, I walked back to my car. I knew that running through it wouldn’t work. I got back in the car, fought back tears, and drove home. What was to become of my dream of running a marathon in April if I can’t get this IT band under control? I’m supposed to start training in a month. It’s been a month since the half….what will happen? 😦

When I got home I decided to roll out some more, believing that it was tightness that was causing the problems. I had already planned on going hiking to McAfee’s Knob and didn’t want to totally give up on any training so I pressed on with my plans. Trooper had no problems running up the trail but my hips were really hurting. I’ve NEVER had a problem with sore hips so I just couldn’t understand what was going on with me…sore IT band, sore hips on both sides. WTH???

McAfee's Knob

McAfee’s Knob

We finally made it to the top. What a glorious sight! If you’ve never seen McAfee’s Knob you need to go! It’s gorgeous. It’s the famous outcrop of rocks that is often used in photos or drawings of the Appalachian Trail. I’m so lucky to live just a few miles from the Appalachian Trail and I think that, growing up here, I sometimes take for granted just how magnificent the natural world  is around Roanoke! One of the interesting things about the hike was the number of VA Tech students. It seemed like half the university was on this mountain. Luckily they were all very friendly and offered to snap off some pics of us while we were on top. 🙂

The hike down was painful. My hips were SCREAMING. It really concerned me because I’ve done this hike numerous times and it’s never been a big deal. It’s approximately 8 miles round trip and took approximately 3 hours round trip. I think this mileage is on par with what I will be hiking per day on Kili. With each painful step, I started to wonder what I had done to myself and if this was something permanent? I tried to tell myself that this was just good training and practice for the pain and endurance I’d have to face on Kili but it was little comfort. Nothing is worse than wondering why your body has failed you.

We finally reached the car and I was so happy to go home  and rest. On the drive home I pondered all the things that could have caused all the pain, both running and hiking? I kept going back to the foam roller. I foam rolled and that’s when the pain started. Did I aggravate my muscles? Should I have avoided it? I got on Facebook and started asking for advice from my friends. One main theory emerged. Dehydration! My friend Joe asked if I was dehydrated and I answered, “Absolutely!”. To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember the last time I had water. I’ve been on a Dr. Pepper bender. Ugh, I feel ashamed but it’s true! I love that stuff. It’s the devil’s elixer but I swear I am so addicted. My love for the stuff deserves it’s own blog but it’s due more to the emotional attachment I have to it rather than taste. Enough about that!  One other suggestion to relieve my pain was an ice bath. I’ve done them before and find they do help but omg, are they painful! I decided I really needed to do it so I bought a 10 pound bag of ice and jumped in the tub. It instantly took my breath and I screamed at the top of my lungs but within 5 minutes, I no longer felt pain and managed to sit in it for 20 minutes.

Necesito agua!

Necesito agua!

Back to the water….Joe said that it’s no wonder my muscles were hurting. He said I was basically running on beef jerky. He said imagine taking a steak out of the ‘fridge and letting it sit out. It would lose it’s pliability and become tough. He made a really good point and at that moment, I vowed to drown myself. In the span of 4 hours, I drank 64 ounces of water. It, along with the ice bath, did some good because when I woke up this morning I felt really good!

In addition to the water, I also know I need to do some strength training…specifically, my glutes. I have the worst butt ever. It’s a white girls butt and has no muscle tone whatsoever. To make things worse, I am a runner so that means I have weak gluteus medius. When these are weak, it causes the IT band to work harder, causing issues. Wow…sound familiar? Anyway, I went to the gym today after church and did some abductor and adductor exercises. I also did some leg raises, calf presses, leg presses, and back exercises. Everything went well but I could tell that my adductors were weak. I started to suspect that this was also the problem when earlier on Saturday I attempted to roll them out and they were excruciatingly painful! I thought as a good reward for all this working out would be a good soak in the hot tub. I also felt that it would really relax and loosen my muscles.

This is what I had in mind...:(

This is what I had in mind…:(

After changing into my swim suit, I went to the pool area and found that the hot tub was broken. Noooooooooooo! I really wanted to soak! My only other choice was to get into the heated pool, which I did, and did some aqua jogging. Sounds stupid but it felt good and was a pretty good workout. As a “jogged” (I hate that word. I’m a runner, not a jogger), I decided that I’d hope in the sauna afterwards and dry off and cook a bit in an attempt to relax my muscles. Excitedly, I ran to the sauna only to find it cold and dark. The light wouldn’t work and I waited a good 20 minutes for it to warm up but it never really happened. Talk about a kill joy. 😦

After my cold trip to the sauna, I dried off and decided that it was time to try out my IT band with an easy, flat run at the track. I decided I’d run 2 miles since my trouble started last time at 1.78. I took off and ran 8 easy laps and had NO problems. My knee still felt kind of “odd” but I had no pain while running. Thank God!

So what now? Well I plan to do the following:

1. Stay hydrated. This means drinking at LEAST 64 ounces a day. This should be easy enough as it’s only two full Nalgenes.

2. Stretch before running. I am the worst at this. Taking off on a run without doing ANY stretching or exercise was probably just too much to my cold, contracted muscles.

3. Run MORE! I think I’m taking too much time off between runs. When I was training for my half marathon I ran four times a week. Now I’m lucky to run once a week. I need to try to run at least 3-4 times a day, even if it’s just short distances/

4. Strength training to build my leg and glute muscles.

5. Yoga and constant stretching> I think all this running has caused some of my muscles to lose their flexibility.

I don’t know if these things will fix the problem but I do know that I am willing to do ANYTHING to be in my best possible shape for Kilimanjaro. I definitely want to do marathon training and run Nashville BUT if I had to choose, it would definitely be Kilimanjaro. I feel like everything I do for the next 6 months is all about reaching the top!

Sooooo….that’s my weekend. Full of disappointment but also hope! I think I’m learning lots of lessons that will help me on the mountain. I’ve learned that health and fitness are things you must continuously work on and never take for granted. You can feel great one minute and horrible the next. Finally, water is everything. I watched a video tonight that said that on Kilimanjaro, water is like medicine. Dehydration is a terrible thing and I’m learning that it can really wreak havoc on one’s body.

On that note, I’m off to guzzle 16 more ounces before bed and get a good night’s sleep (which I never get).

Zzzzzzzzz

Zzzzzzzzz

Goodnight!

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Books, British, and Gaiters…oh my!

ImageI recently downloaded the book ” A Walk in the Park” by Jonathan Chadwick. It’s about “an average couple”  from England who climbed Kili. It was a pretty entertaining book and I learned quite a bit about the trek as well as lots of British slang.  I also confess that it scared the bejesus out of me! All the discussion of poo splattered bathrooms perched on rocky cliffs made me write “haz-mat suit” on my list of things to pack. Yikes! Also, I’m not quite sure how I feel about the woman projectile vomiting her way up to the summit. Should I feel nervous that I, too, might hurl my innards out in my quest for glory? Should I feel bolstered by the fact that, despite her profuse vomiting along the trail, the guides pushed her up to Uhuru and she reached her goal in the midst of agonizing wretching? Yeaaaaaaaaaahhhhh….I dunno. :/ I will say that she did remind me of myself. She was tenacious and absolutely refused to give up. I say this, not in a bragging sort of way, but as a true confession of my personality. My dogged determination can be an asset but other times, it can become down right dangerous and life threatening. I hate to admit defeat, give up, or raise the white flag. Had I been a soldier, I’d have died before becoming a POW. Once I fix my eyes on something, I REFUSE to throw in the towel. While reading this story, I will say that, though I admired “Jen’s” determination, I was quite worried she was going to die of HAPE. It concerns me a bit that I might also push myself to the point of physical exhaustion and sickness JUST to accomplish my goal of summiting? Is that really determination or just stupid stubbornness? I can’t say…

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Zee quickest way to get us up zee mountain is to tell us zee Germans are at the bottom!

I do know one thing though: British peeps are hilarious! Nothing is as wonderful as British sense of humor and this book had some good examples. I love dry wit and they’re masters when it comes to it. I’m truly hoping that I meet some Limey’s on my journey. I’d love to climb to the top with a few. I’m of the belief that one can never have enough British friends; although, if I am perfectly honest, I really only have one. Even the one I have isn’t a “real” friend. His name is Martin and he is a Facebook friend. I’m not even sure how I got him, really. One day we just realized we were on one another’s FB list but couldn’t figure out how. The common link is music: We both love the same bands so my theory is that the New Wave gods somehow put us together. Anyway, the point is, I’d love to have some British friends that I’ve actually met in person. Conversely, my nightmare is getting linked up with a group of French people or worse yet, French Canadians. Not sure I can handle 8 days of contemptuous, chain smoking, jack wagons who have a collective disdain for deodorant. I’d rather die of altitude sickness. ;

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These!

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Not These!

In other news, my gaiters came in the mail! They seem nice. I’ve yet to try them on to see if they fit. I will say that, after going to REI and seeing a pair of Gore-tex gaiters, I’m a little disappointed I opted for a cheaper version. That’s just the gear geek in me though. The truth is, aside from Dolly Sods (where the boggy terrain is perfect for gaiters), I probably won’t use them much after I return from Kili. I bought Outdoor Research Verglas, which were highly rated, and I am confident they will be all that I need (and then some). I’m hoping we get snow soon and I can try them out! I will keep everyone (haha..I said “everyone” as if ANYONE is ACTUALLY reading this) posted on them. The one person who IS reading this is undoubtedly perched on the edge of their seat to hear my gear updates!

redneck_hunter

Bubba better not shoot my pup!

My Dragon’s Tooth climb for this weekend is cancelled. Ross has other plans. I’ll find something else to do. I’m pondering Tinker Mountain on Saturday. It’s a good leg stretcher but the problem with the woods right now are the hunters! I don’t worry about myself but I do worry some stupid redneck will mistake my pup for a deer and shoot. I’d hate to miss my climb because I’m in prison for avenging my doggie!

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Mill Mountain

Troopiehike

My hiking buddy

Yesterday was a big workout day. I went to Body Flow, which is proving that I’m quite inflexible. I then went for a 3 mile run which was nice. My knee felt fine but I was amazed by how quickly the body gets out of running shape. I ran a respectable time in my usual pace. I then decided to begin my official “Kilimanjaro Training” and break in my new Oboz hiking boots by hiking the Star Trail up Mill Mountain. The round trip is 3.4 miles. I decided to take Trooper, my loyal doggie, with me. We had a great time and Trooper really loved being in the woods.

My boots were GREAT! They felt super comfortable They didn’t feel stiff at all and honestly, felt as if they were already broken in. What a difference from my last pair of hiking boots. Those things were TERRIBLE! They were old school leather boots with stiff soles. I am sure they would be great if you had to pick one pair of shoes to last through eternity as I’m positive they’d survive a nuclear holocaust (they’re THAT rugged and tough) but hiking with them felt like having cinder blocks on your feet.  I’m pretty sure if they ever find Jimmy Hoffa, he will have a pair of those boots on. Aye yai yai! I also wore new Smart Wool socks that are thinner than the usual thick things I wear. I wore them with Smart Wool liners too. First time wearing liners, despite hiking my entire life.

Mill Mountain

Mill Mountain

The hike was lovely! I really enjoy Winter hikes. The leaves are gone and you can see lots of views that one misses in the Summer or Fall. The trail wasn’t too busy and Trooper and I mostly had it to ourselves. It took us 36 minutes to climb. I think it would have been less had we not stopped to visit other dogs. We made it to the top without stopping and without a lot of effort. I felt good about the hike. I was happy to see how quickly we made it to the top and it’s good to know that I can hit this trail on the way home from work sometimes. My first goal with this training is to make it up Mill Mountain sub 30 minutes. I don’t think that will be hard if I don’t take the dog. After I do that, I will start carrying a pack up the mountain. I also plan to add in other mountains on the weekends. I am fortunate to live in the Blue Ridge Mountains and just minutes from the Appalachian Trail so there is no short supply of good hikes! Next weekend, providing the weather is nice, I am planning to hike Dragon’s Tooth with friends. Now THAT’S a good climb!

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