Monthly Archives: April 2013

The Return of Cysta and the IT Band

So much to talk about. I have been fundraising under the name of “Climbing Kili for Kids” in an attempt to raise money for two orphan based charities in Africa. Today I am proud to say that the goal of $2,000 was reached! Yah!!!! I’m so excited about that.

Next, Cysta the Baker’s Cyst is KILLING me! It hurts so badly and the pain is odd. It’s so subtle in the location that I often think my pain is elsewhere. The pain radiates in other parts of my legs and I believe this is because Cysta is lying against a nerve (so the doc says). Nice. I wish I could get it aspirated before I go to TZ but no one wants to mess with it. *sigh*

I go back to the chiro tomorrow to check my leg strength to ensure my hips stayed aligned. I hope so! I need my legs to be in good shape for the Broad Street Run which is on Sunday. I’m doing everything humanly possible to ensure the IT band pain doesn’t surface. I have KT tape, an IT band strap, I’m drinking H2O like crazy, I’m stretching, I’m strengthening….and I even tried Chi running. I’m torn between getting in a few practice runs or just allowing my legs to rest before Sunday. I might go out on Wednesday for a 3 mile leg stretcher just to see how things go.  So scared!!!!!

The death of me is going to be Cysta and the IT Band. Sounds like a Phil Spector group. 

 

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Snap, Crackle, Pop

As I mentioned the other day, my leg has been KILLING me. Lots of pain, tight muscles, etc. from my hip down to my ankle. Yesterday I got a deep tissue massage but frankly, it didn’t do much to relieve any pain. Neither has stretching. 

Finally realizing that my hips must be out of alignment, I went to see Josh, my chiro. He took one look at me and said my right hip was a LOT higher in the back. He said my right butt cheek was much higher! Wow. He said that my left side was probably compensating. He then cracked the day lights out of me (I sounded like a chinese fire cracker factory going off). 

So now I wait. I wait to see if this changes anything. I pray it does because I have the Broad Street Run in 10 days. :/ 10 miles with misaligned hips and IT band pain won’t be fun or even possible. 

That’s it for now. 

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It’s back

Saturday my 8 mile run turned into a 6 mile run. At mile 4 I could tell I felt really tight. By mile 5 I felt a weird twinge in my knee. I stopped and stretched but at mile 6 I realized I shouldn’t do anymore. IT band pain was back! Talk about disappointment! I was two miles from my car so I just walked back. Luckily I stopped early enough that I felt no pain when walking. 

I tried stretching and and massaging it as my PT had done. I massaged it so much that I actually left it bruised. I won’t bore you with the details but I think the causes are as follows:

1.Dehydrated. I had very little water and lots of soda

2. Tight piriformis. My left side always gets tight. When it does, that’s what happens

3. Not stretching enough. I’ve been stretching after runs but I’ve not been rolling

4. Not strength training my glutes enough

Gonna try some things and pray for the best. I have the Broad Street Run coming up in two weeks. I will be so upset if I cannot finish.

 

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Catawba Challenge

When I was a little girl my dad used to take my brother and I hiking. Often we climbed Tinker Mountain and other parts of the Appalachian Trial. I am pretty sure it was those hiking trips that fostered my love of the outdoors and my urge to walk every trail I see.

During those trips my dad often talked about how great it would be to hike the entire trail from Georgia to Maine. He acknowledged it was a pipe dream but said he would settle for hiking from 311 in Catawba to 220 in Daleville. It’s not a terribly long trip. Only slightly over 19 miles but not a casual day hike (though I know people who do the trip in a day). Well my dad hasn’t done it yet.; however, I put nothing past him. Last year at the age of 70 he hiked with me down into the Grand Canyon and kicked my butt on the way back up and out of the Canyon so who knows what that man will do! As for me, from the moment my father mentioned the hike when I was a little girl, the seed germinated in my mind and I promised I’d get around to it one day.

SAM_0085One day arrived last weekend. My usual hiking crew, consisting of “Father Time”, “The Marlboro Man”, and “Aqua Man”, decided it was time to do the Catawba Challenge. Initially we planned to strike out together but due to all sorts of schedule conflicts we all started our hike at varying times. We decided to rendezvous at McAfee’s Knob Friday evening. I was the last to hit the trail and when I arrived the other three were already there. We took a few photos before setting off to find a suitable camp for the night.

With our spirits high and our packs not yet feeling burdensome, we put some good distance between us and McAfee’s. Knowing the night promised a lot of wind we tried to find a camp site on the eastern side of the ridge. Unfortunately there were not a lot of flat areas; however, we did manage to find a semi flat place near a clearing. With the sun hanging low in the sky, we felt it was the best we were going to find that day so we dropped our packs and started setting up camp.

One of the great things about backpacking is that you don’t have all the crap one tends to drag along when car camping. A tent, a sleeping bag, and a pad and bam! You’re done! The Marlboro Man out did us all! He simply brought a hammock and a sleeping bag. Low drag, high speed!

Marlboro Man and his Hammock

Marlboro Man and his Hammock

After setting up camp, throwing our food in a bear bag, and getting a fire ring built, we decided it was dinner time. While the men folk prepared the food, I set my attentions on building a fire. Luckily most of the wood was rather dry so it didn’t take long to get a nice blaze going. It’s interesting how proud one feels of the fire they build while out in the woods. I’m sure it’s been happening ever since man first built a fire but I couldn’t help but look at it and think, “Yeah!!! I did that! I started that fire!”. Must be a primal thing.

After eating freeze dried chili mac (which Father Time wasted by dumping half of it on his pants), we sat around the fire and chit chatted. Around 9:30 we finally called it a night and headed to bed. I wished Marlboro Man luck and hoped that the bears would leave him alone. The joke all night long was that the bears would treat him as a tether ball or a pinata!

In the middle of the night I awoke the roaring sound of wind. It was odd because I could hear it in the trees at the top of the ridge but couldn’t feel it against the tent. It seems we made a wise choice when selecting our camp site because we were really buffered. Had we slept higher on the ridge or on the western slope, we would have ended up in Oz and surrounded by very short people.

Building a fire!

Building a fire!

Birds woke me up at first light and I realized just how warm and toasty I was in my bag. My North Face Hot Lum bag was a wonderful investment and I think it will serve me well on Kilimanjaro! Unfortunately, I think the others got a little chilly during the night.

After eating breakfast (for me, some granola and blueberries), we packed up and headed up the trail. The hike along the ridge between Tinker Cliffs and McAfee’s Knob was really beautiful. We saw some gorgeous views of Carvin’s Cove as well as the Catawba Valley.  Our goal for lunch was Tinker Cliffs. We all agreed that once we arrived there we’d break for some food and a rest.

As I walked along in front, I took in the scenery and pondered many things. I must have been pretty deep in thought because I didn’t notice the HUGE anaconda black snake lying across the trail until I almost stepped on him. Now I won’t lie…I screamed! Not because I am afraid of snakes but there’s just something freaky about seeing one when you don’t expect it. This isn’t the first time this has happened. For some reason black snakes LOVE to lie in the middle of the trail and wait for me so they can giggle as I scream my head off. Last time it happened I was walking on Read Mountain. Anyway, once my brain processed that it was simply a harmless non-venemous snake, I was happy to check him out and marvel at his size. He didn’t budge an inch and I suspect it was because he was so cold. After admiring him, we gave him the right-of-way, walked around him and set off on the rest of our journey.

Views of Carvin's Cove

Views of Carvin’s Cove

Once we reached Tinker Cliffs we took our packs off and snapped off pics like paparazzi. We also enjoyed our lunches. It’s amazing how even the most simple snack can taste delicious when you’re in the woods. It was pretty windy so as much as I enjoyed the view, I was a little uncomfortable out on the cliffs despite the abundant sunshine. After taking a 30 minute break we loaded up and headed out. We passed a few day hikers who asked if we were “thru-hikers”. Ha! I guess we had a lot of gear on our backs.

Chillin' on Tinker Cliffs

Chillin’ on Tinker Cliffs

We continued on to Lambert’s Shelter where we took another break and collected water from the creek. As we rested Aqua Man ran into some friends of his! Ha! Small world. We enjoyed some nice conversation with them, realized we had more common friends, then wished them well as they continued on. Before we set off, we reviewed the map and decided to camp at Angels’ Gap.

An hour or so passed and we arrived at Angel’s Gap. It wasn’t the best place in the world to camp AND it was also only 3:00PM. At that time we made a group decision to continue on. HUGE MISTAKE. In that moment, we all still felt fresh and talk of BBQ at Three Lil’ Pigs clouded our judgement. So…we kept hiking.

The next part of the story seems to drag on forever. At least, forever is how long it felt as we climbed up and down the sawtooth ridge. The uphills I didn’t mind. I never mind uphill. In fact, I have a gift for being able to plow non stop up the steepest grade. Unfortunately, I’m a wimp on the downhills. I hate them. They make my knees ache so badly. A vicious cycle of up/down continued on for miles and miles. Once we reached Hay Rock we realized we should have just camped at Angel’s Gap but it was too late to stop at that point. We had to press on despite protests from our joints. Here’s the thing: 25 pound packs don’t feel that bad for the first 8 miles…but once you pass 10 miles, it starts to suck. In fact, Father Time and Marlboro Man later admitted that in their lowest moments along the trail they toyed with the idea of hiding their gear behind a tree and coming back for it later! HAHAHA.

Things started to get pretty rough for some of the crew. I gotta say, I think running has really paid off because I felt really good until the last downhill section off the mountain. Unfortunately, I don’t think everyone else felt so good. In order to help Marlborn Man, who at one point was on his knees in the middle of the trail with his face down to the ground (I wasn’t sure if he was stretching, praying, or plotting my death for being one of the crew members who pushed to continue on), I offered to carry some of his gear to lighten his load. He gave me his sleeping bag which was quite heavy. I kept trying to motivate and encourage. Sometimes I even ran ahead to scout out the trail for the turn off (hoping that if I could encourage them to push on just a bit more, they’d be rewarded with downhill).  I felt like Papa Smurf with my exclamations of “Not much further now!”. At one point, sensing I might end up like one of the unluckier members of the Donner party, I decided to just shut up. I could sense my motivational speeches of “Every step makes you stronger” and “That which doesn’t kill you…” were wearing thin and it wouldn’t be long before I ended up with a camp trowel in the back of my skull. :/

Finally! Just as the sun started getting low in the horizon, we reached the part of the trail when it turns and heads off the ridgeline and down to our parked vehicle. Father Time ditched everyone and disappeard. I think the call of BBQ was too great. As for me, the minute we hit the downhill my legs started to curse me. With every step I felt the 25 pounds I was carrying on my back and the 5 pounds of gear in my hand that belonged to Marlboro Man. I tried to stay within sight and ear shot of Marlboro Man and Aqua Man. With light fading and everyone feeling fatigued, I worried that someone might stumble and break a leg.

Eventually we reached the bottom of the mountain and we all seemed to walk a little faster once we were within 1/4 mile of the vehicle. When we finally reached the truck, few words were exchanged. We needed calories! We made a bee line to Three Lil’ Pigs for some dinner.

I didn't realize he had a perm

I didn’t realize he had a perm

We walked in looking like younger, less bearded versions of the Unabomber. I’m sure we smelled awesome! We didn’t care though. All Marlboro Man and I wanted were glasses of Dr. Pepper. Immediately upon sitting down spirits soared! We were chatty, friendly, and full of life. We tallied up our miles and realized that we hiked over 13 miles since breakfast! Not too bad with full packs! We congratulated ourselves and agreed that thru hikers are complete badasses!

It was a fun trip! It was a promise fulfilled and I think this was great practice and training for Kilimanjaro too! I think we’re going to talk about this one for a long time to come!

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Mill Mountain Run

ImageA few days ago my friend Robert asked me to run Mill Mountain with him. Mill Mountain is the local mountain that stands dead center in the city. Living in Roanoke there are plenty of mountains as we are nestled right in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains but Mill Mountain is special because it’s our “city mountain”. 

It’s about 3 miles up via the main road. But wow, what a climb! It has one or two small stretches of semi-flat but for the most part it just climbs and winds. The downhill is super fast too. 

Flash forward to today. I was looking forward to the run since it’s been since the fall since I last did it AND I knew it would be great training for Kilimanjaro and my upcoming 10 miler. However, the heat was cray cray today! It was 90 degrees! That’s insane since last Thursday it snowed. I was a little nervous about the heat and my allergies but knowing that I promised Robert made me feel accountable to not back out. I am glad I didn’t either.

It was a great but hard and punishing run. I had to stop a few times mostly because my heart was ready to explode from the combination of heat and incline. Still, I was proud that I was able to run just about the whole thing minus a few oxygen breaks. When I got to the stop, we stopped for a few to talk to some fellow runners and some young people who were simply enjoying the wonderful weather. I did notice that my left shin felt “bruised” and when I touched it, it definitely sang a bit.

On the way down I took it easy and slow, paying careful attention to my stride so as to land mid-foot. I am naturally a heel striker so I wanted to avoid excessive breaking as I went downhill. After 6 sweaty miles, we finally made it back to the car. I was exhausted, sweaty, and burning alive but otherwise, felt great!

I am so glad I went. As Robert says, “every step makes you stronger” and he is right. I’d love to start running this at least once a week until I go to Kili. I think it will be great training!

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Killer Trees

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Ouch! No wonder I hurt! Look at that nasty thing

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This White Oak is on the Oak Ridge Estate off Route 29 in Nelson County. If I am within 20 minutes, I always go to see it. The photo doesn’t do it justice. In real life it’s massive and beautiful!

I am sick. In fact, last night I felt like I was dying and it’s all because of this:_______. That’s right, you cannot even see what has me so sick because it’s pollen. Tree pollen to be more precise. I’m not sure which kind though I suspect it’s either birch, maple, or oak since those are the ones in full production and blitzkrieging my town right now. If it’s oak, I am going to be crushed because I LOVE oaks. I’ve fought with family members who wanted to chop down oaks. I’ve talked to oaks. No lie. Seriously, I’ve talked to oak trees. Why? Because big ones are so old and it amazes me that something that was grown when my grandfather was a child could still stand. I LOVE them. There is an amazing oak tree near Lovingston that I’ve actually driven 20 minutes out of my way just to see. Do you get that I love oak trees? Yeah, I do. So if it turns out that they are the things hell bent on destroying me, then I’m going to die of a broken heart…then I am going to torch every one I see. Hahaha! Actually, every allergy season when I start to feel like trees are slowly trying to choke the life out of me, I start to think of that M. Night Shyamalan movie about plants that want to destroy the human race. I think it was called The Happening. It was a pretty stupid movie and the scariest thing about it were Zooey Deschanel’s gigantic eyes blinking from behind those bangs. Nonetheless, I always think of it and wonder if trees aren’t trying to destroy me to avenge their kinsman I used as a Christmas tree last December. Am I over thinking this? Blame it on the antihistamines. 

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I love her…but yeah, her eyes are big.

Allergies are no joke. I never really understood the agony of people who suffered them until I developed them myself, which was just a few years ago. Oddly, I don’t really get the sneezing, sniffly thing. Instead, at the first hint of an allergen, my immune system immediately jumps to the nuclear option. I start running low grade fevers, get body aches, wretched headaches, fatigue. It’s awful. 

To try to combat the evil sex dust, I’ve been taking a cocktail of Zyrtek, Claritin, and Patanase. Zyrtek used to work like a charm but not so much these days. The Patanase seems to be working but I think it’s a steroid and it dries my sinus cavities out so badly. Last night I felt so horrible that I decided to start using surgical face makes while I am outside or in the car to avoid inhaling as much pollen as possible. I think it has helped!

So all of this brings me to running. The weather is GORGEOUS! Last Thursday it snowed so for it to be 80 degrees outside is wonderful; however, I feel so torn because the beautiful weather means horrible allergies due to the increase in pollen production. Therefore I feel like my choices were as follows: A. Live like Bubble Boy and stay indoors until May when the trees quit spreading their seed all over town, B. Run on the treadmill at the gym, which sucks and isn’t good training in my opinion, C. Run outside in the pollen then die a slow death or D. Run but look like a fool by wearing surgical mask. I opted for option D. Not only did it allow me to run and limit pollen intake, it also seemed like it might simulate some low oxygen Kilimanjaro conditions (haha). 

At first I felt pretty stupid as I took off down the trail. I chose to run in Greenfield because it’s a rural area and though there are usually people there, there are generally fewer than in more populated areas. I decided to run 4 miles. I was pretty slow because I was so tired and run down by the allergies. Also, I always forget how tired my legs feel after wearing heels to work. I need to stop doing that! 

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Is this Luke Skywalker or just me running? Hmmm

Luckily I only encountered a handful of humans. I am certain I got some weird looks but since I refused to look up, I can’t say for sure. But judging from the hush that fell across people as I passed, I’d say I confused the day lights out of many of them. I’m pretty sure I looked like Luke when he was riding a Taun Taun on the ice planet Hoth. Normally when I run out there around sundown I worry about crazy rapists. There was one time in particular that I felt I was being stalked as I ran. Today one car did drive by twice and at first, I started to get that “Uh oh, Ted Bundy!” alert in my head but then I realized that they were probably just trying to figure out what the heck I was doing. Besides, I must have looked absolutely insane and I feel certain that  crazy recognizes crazy and leaves it the hell alone. 

I didn’t really have a hard time breathing unless I was sprinting down a hill. Only then did I feel it more difficult to breath. A few times I pulled the mask off to get some air but I quickly put it back on because my sinus cavities immediately started to burn. I convinced myself that this was the pollen burning it’s way through my skull. In reality, it was more likely just the pain of pure, unadulterated air passing through my bone dry, steroid spray burnt nostrils/sinuses. 

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Asians make it seem so normal.

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Wow!

So that’s my story about allergies and the extremes to which I will go to feel alive while the trees get it on with one another. I have an appointment with my allergist tomorrow. Hopefully  they can offer me something additional that might give relief so that I don’t have to keep wearing the mask. After all, that look might work in Tokyo or Seoul…but not in Roanoke. Sorry.

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Ready to Change

I’m so ready to be in Tanzania. I wish I could go today. Not just because I am anxious to start my climb or go on safari and see amazing creatures. I’m ready to go because I am so burned out on the United States of America. American life is wearing my down. I’m so sick of it here. I hate the rat race. I desperately long for a more simple way of living. Unfortunately, it’s hard to live that way in this country. Everyone is racing to get ahead at work, to upgrade their lifestyle, to have a better car, a bigger house, a prettier spouse, overachieving children. It’s a place where value is placed on commodities, not on character. It’s an idiocracy. A place where we numb our discontent with sports, movies/television, video games, shopping, and of course, the ultimate opiate of them all…Facebook. And so, I’m tired of it. I am tired of the artifice of it all. Like Neo, I am ready to unplug myself from the Matrix. Image

I’ve been reading a lot about the porters who help climbers up Kilimanjaro. They work for scraps, really. I think I read they make approximately $20 bucks a climb. Imagine that: 8 days of hard labor, slugging up equipment in a dangerous, low oxygen environment, without the proper clothing just to earn $20. But here in America we complain about the cost of our Netflix subscription. I’m not suggesting that as Americans we are bad people. We’re not. But I do think we are clueless. I remember living in Albania and seeing poverty, true poverty, for the first time and feeling sick to my stomach about the excesses in which I indulge. In Albania my dog lived a better life than the children across the street from me. I think that’s why it angers me so much in this country when I see the level of entitlement that some people have. We have an entire generation of people who think life owes them something. That their existence, their survival  comfort, depends on someone else. I’m not suggesting that there are not poor, hurting people in this nation. There are…but it’s nothing compared to the abject poverty that exists in other places around the world. The bottomline is this: we are a nation of spoiled, petulant children. This statement includes myself. 

Maybe it’s the winter of my discontent or just a mid life crisis but I yearn for something more than this routine, self absorbed life I live. Climbing this mountain is so much more than just an opportunity to post cool Facebook photos. It’s more than just a chance to grab a t-shirt that says “I Climbed Kili”. I’m desperately hoping for a spiritual experience on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. I want to be changed by it. I want it to mean something. Something important, something life altering. Something bigger than me. 

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Small

One of the best feelings to experience, for me, is to stand underneath a star filled sky and grasp the enormity of the universe. I love feeling tiny and insignificant in comparison to God’s creation. Excuse me for a moment while I talk about my faith….but I love knowing that I’m nothing more than a speck of dust in this universe, a creature so tiny that I could be lost at sea and never found, yet God knows me. He knows me by name, he knew me before I was in the womb. So given that fact, surely he has big plans for me, right? I definitely feel like this trip, this journey, this magnificent adventure to Africa is a part of it. I feel like it’s the beginning of something. It has to be because I don’t want it to just be another stamp in my passport. 

So far I’ve raised $1050 for the orphans in Africa. That’s a good amount of money and more than I originally expected to raise. But now it seems it’s not enough. I desperately want to get to $2,000.I want to be able to say that , collectively, a group of friends and I made a small drop of change in a sea of suffering that exists in this world. There are such good people out there, doing such wonderful things. Sadly, I am not one of them…but I want to be. Until then I really want to support and build up those who are fighting the good fight…battling to make a difference in the world, even if that difference is to one small child in Zambia or Tanzania. 

So yes, I wish I could click my heels and leave today. I’m desperate to find my place, my purpose and I am hoping that standing on the world’s tallest freestanding mountain will allow me a better view of what that is. 

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