Monthly Archives: March 2013

My first post injury race



Yesterday I ran in my first race since hurting me knee during my last half marathon, the Tail Chaser 5K which benefited the Roanoke SPCA. People were encouraged to run with their dogs and I considered taking my Yellow Labrador, Trooper; unfortunately, Trooper isn’t the word’s best (or fastest) runner. I’ve tried on numerous times to take him running but it’s a miserable experience that entails him running at full speed for 1/4 of a mile then suddenly sliding to a stop to sniff a flower or nibble on some deer poop. Attempts to restart him are met with great resistance and if required, he will resort to going dead weight in the grass whilst looking up with a “You can’t make me” expression. So as you can see, if I had any chance of finishing the race, Troopie had to stay at home. 

As always, when the race began, I started off too quickly. I had promised myself not to be competitive because there was no way I’d set a PR. I was simply there to test out my leg and enjoy myself. Nonetheless, I constantly looked at my Garmin to see how I was doing and felt irritated with myself when my pace slowed. By mile two my legs felt awesome but my lungs were talking about a boycott. 

Running with dogs proved to be treacherous. Dog fights were breaking out, dogs were zig zagging around like lunatics and I even caught a Golden Retriever trying to cheat! I kid you not! At the turn around his human ran to the end but that shaggy cheat cut corners and skipped some cones. I called him out on it but he shook his head and tossed some slobber my way. Punk. 

The good news is that I finished under 30 minutes so I’m proud of that time. It wasn’t a PR but it was a good run for me. The more I run the more confident I become in my fitness level which will be vital on the mountain. 

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Well it’s official: I’ve got all my gear now. It’s kind of a sad thing, really. I quite enjoyed searching every outdoor gear website for things that I needed. In fact, I became a little obsessive about shopping Sierra Tradingpost  and REI websites for good deals. The sad part is the amount of money I’ve spent. Wow. In gear alone I’ve spent the equivalent of Tanzania’s GNP. Wowza! 

The last thing I purchased should arrive tomorrow. It’s a pair of convertible pants by Mountain Hardwear. I tried them on at REI but knew I could do better than the $80 pricetag; thus, I waited….and waited…and waited. Wanna talk about some serious predatory skills? I have them because I stalked the Yuma pants all over the internet. Finally, I saw that REI had them for $37. Score! Unfortunately for me, they were sold out. I “chatted” with one of their reps online who, after much scouring of her inventory database, told me that only one store in the U.S. still had them in my size for that price. She suggested I call them and have them ship them. So I did! It was quite an adventure that involved a poor sales rep hunting through the clearance racks until she found my size. Still, I am excited I got them at a good price. Oh yeah…Thanks to Mo at the Paramus, NJ REI for helping me. 🙂

The only thing I have left to get are just small items like baby wipes (no showers on Kili), Nuun (gotta stay hydrated at altitude), and some sort of thin, light long sleeve shirt for the safari. Being so close to the equator I will fry in two seconds and I’m really not trying to bring home melanoma as a souviner. Also, apparently color is something to which one must give great consideration. White scares away the animals and dark colors attract the mozzies and the Tsetse flies. Guess that leaves beige, eh? Just as well. I hear that after driving around all day looking at game, you’re covered in dust and filth anyway. 

Feeling much better, knee wise. I’ve been able to run regularly on it with little to no pain. The key has been stretching, I believe. Tomorrow I pick up my race packet for a 5K I am running on Saturday. I’m pretty excited! I know it’s just a lil’ 5K but it will be the first race I’ve run since my injury so mentally, it’s a big deal. Just knowing I can get back out there and race feels good. 

Spring Break begins tomorrow afternoon and I plan to use the time to do some serious training. Also, in two weeks I am going backpacking. Yah! I haven’t been in awhile so I’m anxious to test out all the new gear I got. After my last backpacking trip I bought a new pack. Can’t wait to test it! 

I have just a week or so over two months until I hit the mountain. I cannot wait! Yah! 



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Travel Moment # 1

This blog is quickly turning into many things other than Kilimanjaro and I’m fine with that. Afterall, I don’t plan to abandon it after I finish Kilimanjaro. I will continue to write about my adventures here. With that said, this morning I remembered a good time I had once in Ireland and I thought I should track wonderful moments in time so that I never forget them. From time to time, as I recollect, I will post them here. So here’s the first one:


The Quays in Galway, Ireland.

I will never forget the night I spent drinking cider and listening to bands play at The Quays pub in Galway, Ireland in 2007. It was jam packed and the bartender was a great guy! A young group of people were in the corner playing various songs including “Wild Irish Rover” but the highlight of the night was when they started playing Johnny Cash songs. The whole room erupted into the loudest, racous singing I’ve ever heard! I remember singing “Folsom Prison Blues” and banging my glass on the bar in unison with everyone else. It seemed so absurd to be standing in an Irish pub listening to old American country music. Amazing how you can have the time of your life with a bunch of absolute strangers all because of a common love for live music. I think it’s the small moments like this that make life so much fun.

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September 20, 1951 – March 22, 1997

My mom’s name was Cora. Sixteen years ago, on this day, she died, finally finding peace after suffering from ovarian cancer for about a year. When she died, I felt relief. I know that sounds horrible but when someone you love is suffering in such a horrific way, you want nothing more for them than peace. You cease caring about your own selfish need to keep them alive and close to you.

At the time of her death, I didn’t appreciate her as I should. I suppose that’s probably typical of most young adults. I was 22 at the time and still a kid, honestly. She and I had so many problems throughout my life. Problems I won’t go into on a public blog. Still, she was my mother and I loved her. It was only as I approached 30 that I truly started to feel the void she left. It was then that I finally started to understand and appreciate her struggles, her triumphs and her dreams.

I don’t know much about her early life. I do know her life was never an easy one. She never talked about it to us and what I do know, I gathered from eavesdropping on hushed conversations as a child. Other things were revealed just last year by her cousin as I stood beside her grave. Decades of mystery unfolded and my appreciation, heartbreak, and empathy for her grew as did my aching desire to have her back and tell her all the things the stupid 22 year old girl should have said before she passed on.

Here are a list of things I want the world to know about my mother.

1.My mom was a fearful person.

She was afraid of bees, water, dogs, the dark…everything it seemed. She used to annoy me with her panic stricken pleas to “be careful” whenever my brother or I approached even the smallest amount of water. I remember going to a pool when I was 3 years old. I can still hear my mom (though I cannot see her in my memory) telling me to stay in the kiddie pool. Yet, I could see my cousins and brother, being much older than me,  frolicking in the “big pool”. I can STILL remember feeling anger because I wasn’t allowed to be in that pool as well. My dad loves to explain to anyone who will listen that I was a very obstinate, sassy child and I guess what I did next proves it. I don’t remember climbing the slide but I do remember going down the slide at the pool and landing in the water and on my own, swimming over to my cousins. Apparently, my poor, fear stricken mother watched all of this and lost her mind! My dad said that a man jumped in the pool and pulled me out and my mom thanked him for “saving my life”. Hearing this I supposedly became furious and threw a temper tantrum because I insisted I was fine and didn’t need to be “saved”. Ha! The purpose of the story is to highlight just how vastly different my mother and I were. Even as a toddler I didn’t posses the fear and anxiety she felt about things. But I also didn’t have the experiences she had. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I made the connection between her fear of water and the death of my cousin Timmy (her nephew). He fell through ice and drowned when I was a baby. I spent years resenting the fact my mother had panic attacks if I stepped near a fountain….never realizing she was well intentioned or that her fears were rooted in tragedy.

2. She was as mean as a rattlesnake! Gracious, did she have a temper! My mom was absolutely terrifying when she was angry. No kidding, I’m pretty sure the phrase “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” was originally “Hell hath no fury like Cora scorned” because if you angered her, she’d burn the house down just to spite you. Luckily I am not quite as volatile but I confess to having some of her venom. Much to my chagrin, I also seemed to have inherited her amazing ability to hold grudges. My mom, bless her heart, could wait out just about anyone. If she decided she wasn’t going to speak to you, you may as well forget it. It was almost comical!

3. She was one of the most giving people I ever met. She’d give you just about anything you ever needed, which is ironic considering how angry she could get. If you needed something, she’d make it happen.

4. She was also funny! I’m so lucky. I am blessed to have two parents who were/are comedic genuises. They taught me everything I ever needed to know about sarcasm and irony. I used to LOVE listening to their conversations at the dinner table. Their conversations taught me more about life than any classroom I ever sat in.

5. She loved to play games. I used to love it when she’d challenge my brother and I to a game of Aggravation or Life.

6. She was very smart. I was always amazed by how much she seemed to know about things. It was wasted though. She didn’t have the self confidence to maximize her potential. That breaks my heart.

7. She had the most beautiful handwriting I’ve ever seen. It was impossible to forge (I tried).

8. She was crazy. I’m pretty sure she was bi-polar. It’s either that or demon possessed-ha! Seriously, it’s the only explanation (the bo-polar, not the demon possession).  I loved her but the truth is, she was unhinged. Her behavior was so unpredictable and you never knew where you stood with her. One minute she was manic and buying me anything I wanted. The next she was chasing me around the house with a butcher knife.

9. She was a voracious reader. I’ve never met anyone who read so much. She went to the library at least three times a week. The odd thing was that she read “Harlequin romance” books. HAHAHA! I could never understand it as a child but as an adult I realize it was her escape. ANyway, her love for reading rubbed off on me too. I used to tag along with her to the Fincastle library and still remember getting my first library card! I have her to thank for my love of books!

10. She loved God. I don’t talk about my faith too much. However, I owe my faith in God to her. When my brother and I were kids, she insisted we go to Sunday School and Bible School even if she didn’t always go. Even if my family acted like heathens all week long, she made sure that my brother and I knew about Jesus on Sunday. One of the things that has brought me the most comfort since her death is knowing that one day we will see one another again in the presence of God in Heaven. I am thankful, eternally, to her for giving me the chance to love God. As a kid I protested so much, especially since I was a tom-boy and the mere thought of wearing dresses felt worthy of a war crimes tribunal in The Hague. These days I don’t protest church and I’ve come to appreciate dresses. 😉

The last time I spoke to my mother was on March 20, 1997. It was my birthday and she called from her death bed in the hospital to sing happy birthday to me. Two days later she died. She was 45.

A few years ago when I decided I wanted to climb Kilimanjaro, I told myself that I’d do it when I turned 40 as a gift to myself. Just this past year I started to realize that life is not promised. It wasn’t promised to my mother. I started to think that I should live my dreams now and not postpone them for the future and so, my dreams of Kilimanjaro started to take shape. Without a doubt, my quest to reach the summit is motivated, in part, by my mother. Her life was so short and I don’t think she lived a particularly happy life. I also don’t think many of her dreams came true. I think circumstance and fear squashed many of them for her. So despite the fact my mother would have been afraid to fly, been afraid of African animals and insects, been afraid of altitude and subzero temps, been afraid of disease, etc, I carry the memory of my mother with me up the mountain. I think the greatest memorial or tribute I could ever pay to my mother is to live a life well lived. Afterall, she never got to do the same.


My mom, my dad, my brother…and the gorgeous baby is me! 😉

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In order, Ireland (2), Canada, France, Bahamas, Mexico (2), United Kingdom, Hungary, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, Croatia, Italy (4), Macedonia, Greece, Austria, St. Lucia, Iceland…and soon Ethiopia and Tanzania. Yah!

I have a blessed life. I am so thankful. 


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3 Out of 4 Ain’t Bad!

Last time I posted I mentioned I used KT tape. So far, it’s pretty good. I like it. It held up well overnight. I’m a wild sleeper and move all around the bed. Don’t ask me what I do and no, I don’t want to be videotaped because my luck, I’d see someone standing over me ala Paranormal Activity. Zoiks! Regardless, the KT tape stayed put. I do think it helped with some pain. I might take some to Kili.

According to my training plan, I was supposed to run 4 miles today BUT I was very worried I wouldn’t even be able to run 1 mile. I psyched myself up and went to the gym because the weather outside was pretty windy. If I was going to fail, I didn’t want to do it while being blown away by the wind. Also, I felt it was important to stay as flat as possible since downhill can aggravate popliteal issues. My goal was to get to one mile and judge from there. I eventually made it to three miles with NO pain so I felt that was a good place to stop. I definitely could’ve continued because I felt really good thanks to the SUPER SLOW pace but I didn’t feel the need to push it. One mile short of my training plan seemed like a fair compromise given the nature of my anatomy right now. Afterwards I went and stretched really well. I forgot to say that I also stretched like crrraaazzzzzy before I started to run because my glutes and hamstrings were uber tight. I think this really helped and I can see how, in the past, my lack of stretching has added to this problem. I also decided to do a better job of icing down. In the past I used to take ice baths and those work so well but it takes a LOT o’ courage to shimmy down into a tub full of glacial water. So instead, I’m just wrapping bags of frozen peas around my knee. Oh…and I’m gulping NSAIDs. Yah! :/

I got a lot of Kili loot today! A new headlamp, a Steripen, a small leatherman to replace my gigantic one that is M.I.A., some compression sacks, etc. Oh yeah..REI FINALLY gave up the dividend and I got a water proof compression sack for my sleeping bag. From all that I’ve read, it can rain a lot on Kili and frankly, I don’t want to risk a wet sleeping bag. I also ordered my Sea to Summit Extreme Liner for my bag. I might try it out when I backpack in Catawba. We shall see. 

That’s it for today. Gotta go practice my Swahili. 

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Saga continues…

Just when I become hopeful, this injury bitch slaps me back to reality. Oi vey! Things were feeling great and on Saturday I did my “leg” workout including some heavy calf raises. In hindsight that was a bad idea. I woke up Sunday morning with a lot of pain in the knee…similar to the knee pain I’ve had running. Went to visit Dr. Hagy today (it was just a coincidence that I had a follow up appointment. He thinks it’s possible the cyst is back. Great. 

Tonight in desperation, I bought some KT tape and I’ve taped my leg. I might also buy a strap, though my PT advises against them. He says it allows one to ignore the underlying problem. Probably true but not comforting when you just want to resume activity. 

In other news, I’m lonely. March is the worst month for me. It can’t be good when the Ides of March, my birthday (getting older), and the anniversary of my mother’s death are all in the same week. The whole month leaves me depressed. The weather doesn’t help. In like a lion, out like a lamb? I somehow seem to miss the lamb part. March always feels like “in like a lion, out like a pack of hungry hyaenas”. It does, however, make me want to fly a kite. One of my best memories as a child was flying kites in March with my dad.Maybe it only happened a time or two but it’s forever embedded in my memory. Maybe I need a kite! Back to the lonely part. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s the month, I dunno…but I feel distant from so many of my friends, even my closest ones. I feel like the age of Facebook has made the whole word ego centric and no one is interested in actually being a friend when the chips are down. Everyone just seems to be a on a surface level with one another and show off their photos of their happy life. God forbid you actually need someone with whom you can talk about life problems. It’s become a world where one is expected to produce a vaseline smile, even when you’re hurting because it would be bad form to feel downhearted when others are having a great time. Just push the “like” button, darn it! This has NOTHING to do with Kilimanjaro other than a stupid analogy between friendships and the snows on Kili that came to mind. Just now I realized that even old friendships, just like ancient glaciers, eventually melt away. Heartbreaking but a natural process, I suppose. Without glaciers, you can’t have lush valleys. How big of a moraine will it leave though? 

I want to end this post on a brighter note than injuries and broken friendships. Lemme think, lemme think. Oh I know! I’ve been teaching myself Kiswahili. Did you know that the people are Swahili and the language is Kiswahili? I didn’t until I started studying it. “ki” means “the language of” so it goes in front of all the other language names. So Kiswahili means the language of the Swahili. Kiingereza means “language of the English, etc. I really like it so far. It’s such a sing songy, rhyming language and it makes a lot of sense in my head so far. I downloaded the first lesson from Pimsleur and it’s going really well. I know a lot of people like Rosetta Stone but personally, I prefer Pimsleur. It’s what I used to learn Albanian. Rosetta Stone (I used it for French) seems to teach a lot of vocabulary and that’s great but Pimsleur has you speaking and understanding conversations within 30 minutes. Right now I can greet people and ask how they are (Jambo! Habari gani?), I can say I  understand English (Ni nafahamu kiingereza), I don’t understand kiswahili (sifahamu kiswahili), Do you understand English? (U nafahamu kiingereza?), yes and no, thank you, please, excuse me, etc. etc. I’m pretty excited about all of this since most of the porters don’t speak English. I think when one travels to another country, it’s polite to attempt to speak the native language. It’s a sign of respect. Granted, it won’t get your far in France (My friend Michelle can attest to that) but it seems to work everywhere else. With regards to the porters and guides, I will rely on them on the mountain so it’s important that I can express gratitude and respect to them. 

Habari za usiku!

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Milo, the Kilimanjaro Treat.



I’ve been reading a ton of Kili blogs and the one word that continues to surface blog after blog is: Milo. Apparently it’s some sort of chocolate drink that the cooks serve up on Kili. Now apparently it’s not like hot chocolate. I’ve never heard of it. But apparently everyone but the United States drinks it; yet, everyone blames another nation for responsibility. I’ve seen blogs that refer to it as an Australian drink, a Tanzanian drink, a South African drink, a German drink, etc.Not sure who Milo belongs to but imagine my shock and awe when I passed the “clearance” rack in the back of Wal-Mart and spied my friend, Milo! Yep, there he was with some intense Xavi Hernandez lookin’ dude on the label. Yeah, that’s right. A soccer player (that’s football to my international readers…that is, assuming I have ANY readers). Soccer. Player. This, my dear readers, was obviously never intended for American consumption. In the United States, only children under the age of 10 play soccer so the truth is, Xavi or whoever that dude is, has no marketing appeal to Bobby and Becky. This probably explains why it was on the clearance rack.


Be sure to drink your Ovaltine!

Now, take a look at the picture. What Ireally find interesting is that the price tag confirmed all that I suspected. The price label says “Hispanic drink”. See! Everyone in the world but America loves Milo. And that, dear readers, is what concerns me. I’ve got a suspicious feeling that ol’ Milo over there tastes like the dreaded Ovaltine. Blech! Ovaltine. You know that stuff. It’s what poor Ralphie was conned into drinking by Little Orphan Annie. So the whole point of this blog entry is to state for the record that I think Milo is Ovaltine’s international cousin and I won’t be drinking it on the mountain. Instead, I’ll just carry up individual packets of my preferred international friend, Swiss Miss.




I’d rather have THIS Milo in my tent on Kili. 😉

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Long day, long run day

One thing you should know about me: I have thick skin and I have a high tolerance for caca  but talk smack about my friends and I’ll cut you fly into a rage. Well today that happened and if you couple that with tolerating other people’s hateful remarks, I had a rotten day. Actually, it’s been a yucky week. I’ve been conducting a informal “sociology project” and though I am not finished, all data seems to indicate one thing: people suck. So ya know, I’m pretty excited to jet off to Africa and trek up a mountain ALL BY MYSELF for two weeks. Nothing but me, some dudes who speak Swahili and some exotic animals. Sounds like a good time to me. 

As I mentioned, I was pretty angry this afternoon and on my way to the gym, I just seethed and simmered. That’s not healthy. So I asked for prayer and between the prayers from friends and a nice 4 mile run whilst listening to the New Order station on Pandora, I feel much more zen. 


On this chart, Kili would be right under Denali at 19,340 feet. Higher than the jet I fly in on. Yikes!

So enough about that. Let’s talk about the 4 miles. Today was my “long run” day. I need to switch it to Saturday but this is just how it worked out for now. I’m pretty stoked that I was able to run 4 miles with no pain! Granted, it was a slow run but I don’t care. I am thankful to be running. I can’t say this enough but I give all the credit to God. I prayed so much for this so slow or not, I am just so happy to be running again. I am also much more confident about  Kilimanjaro. For awhile I was worrying less about AMS/HAPE/HACE and more about my knee but luckily that’s changing and I’m fearing the knee less and the AMS/HAPE/HACE more. The thought of slowly drowning in lung fluid, coughing up blood, vomiting profusely, and feeling as if someone is sticking an ice pick through my skull has taken top billing on my fear list. Well, I say fear list but that’s not true. I don’t really fear anything about this challenge other than failure. I will gladly endure some acute AMS if it means I can summit. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer to pop my Diamox and dodge that bullet though. 


Look at those guns (and I don’t mean the rifle!)

Moving right along, I’ve become more and more interested in bodybuilding. I have no desire to become one of those tranny looking women but I long for Linda Hamilton ala Terminator 2 arms. Ha! Google Jamie Eason and that’s what I want to look like. That’s hot! 


I need this or I will die. Hurry, REI! You’re my only hope (Star Wars reference)

Finally, what is going on with refunds? The IRS is sitting on my tax refund and it’s been “processing” for months. I was supposed to get it back at the end of February but it seems the IRS is understaffed and I heard that some refunds might not go out until October. Grrr. Then to add insult to injury I am waiting for REI to send out my dividend. At REI if you become a “member” you get a dividend rebate on the money you spend throughout the year. Well this past year a hefty amount was spent at REI and the rebate should be sizeable. I’m waiting on it to buy my bag liner (see photo) and some other odds and ends. The REI website says mid-March. Tomorrow is mid-March so maybe this weekend? Hopefully it, along with the tax refund, comes soon. 

That’s it for me tonight. But before I go, beware the Ides of March.




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Gate Keeper

While looking for photos to include in my last post, I realized that Londorossi Gate, the gate I will pass through via the Lemosho route is quite ghetto shabby compared to Machame Gate. Machame Gate has an aire of authority, a very “enter here for a grand adventure” sort of vibe. Very Hemingway. Very King Kong. 


This screams African adventure! Majestic!







Then there’s Londorossi. Three sticks stuck together with some elephant dung. 


Sad lil gate.

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