Denali November 2004

TA’s Denali Support Team #8 11/28/2004
Top of the Morning to You,

It’s been sunny here in St. John’s for two days in a row. I’m very confused and delighted. Happy Belated Thanksgiving to all my US friends (and to my Canadian friends who like to eat turkey twice in the fall). While I did my run on Thursday I thought of all that I’m grateful for and I was very appreciative of having you along on this Denali journey.

Life in the Philosophical Realm

I thought I would wax on philosophically for a bit this morning…sun-induced of course. I’m thrilled with my Denali training and when I think about it, I realize that I’m already on the mountain. Each time I step out to run, or lift, or stretch, I’m figuratively on the mountain. It’s not a 35-day expedition, it’s a nine month expedition. Mountaineers speak about being “on approach” to the mountain. In the Himalayas, the approach can take two or three weeks and provides much needed acclimatization to the country, the altitude and to the heavy pack. So, I feel as though I’m on approach to Denali and though it is a long way to the mountain, there is much to learn and adjust to.

By framing training as part of the climb, I remain in the present moment rather than drifting ahead to the future. I set out to enjoy each and every step and lift and stroke. This is what helps me do it all…several folks have asked “how do you do it all?” I pondered that for a while and realized it was a combination of circumstance, attitude, organization, personal wiring, support, and terror. The circumstances of my life right now allow me great freedom and few responsibilities. My attitude keeps training fun and very relevant. I’ve got my training pretty organized-I book training times with myself at the beginning of each week and make adjustments day by day to make sure the key training goals get met. My personal wiring allows and craves a great deal of activity in the course of a day and week. I’ve surrounded myself with a great support team that cheers me on and gives me folks to report to-that keeps my motivation high. And finally, Denali is a terrifying place…the conditions can be so harsh and trying and the route we are doing is so remote, I’m terrified that I might not be prepared enough so that leads me right back into the gym or the pouring rain.

A few folks have also said they get depressed when they read my e-mails because they could never do so much…what I will say is to this is what I say to folks who I work with in the gym…it doesn’t matter how much you lift, it matters that your muscles are working hard-almost to their failure point. This stresses them and prompts them to get stronger over time. The amount of weight it takes to stress my muscles is different than the amount it takes to stress your muscles but both sets of muscles are working equally as hard. I think this transfers over to life…we all have our journeys, we all have our Denali’s, the level at which our beings are taxed, our rough spots and the spots with glide over with ease. We are all wired differently. We’re all doing the very best we can in each moment.

Our world and our school systems teach us to compete with each other-compete for resources, access, opportunity and recognition. When we compete and compare ourselves to others, we either come out ahead or behind, inferior or superior and neither position is ultimately helpful. Let’s recognize and celebrate each step we take along our paths, build bridges over the evitable torrents and know that way forward is constantly changing…

OK-enough wax for one morning.

Life in the Ring of Fire

This week’s ring of fire wouldn’t be visible to most. Unless you watched me fairly carefully. If you watched, you might notice that I was acting as if I had a wedgy much of the week. And in fact, you would be right.

This week’s ring of fire began last Christmas when Leo and cousins went shopping for thongs. At the time, of course, I was aghast and couldn’t understand or comprehend such a piece of clothing. Leo remembered this discomfort and thought it would make a good challenge for me. So she and I made a shopping date last Saturday. She quizzed me on a few things and then decided that I needed “a good thong.” I, of course, thought there could be no such thing. She decided we needed to shop at La Senza…a lingerie store…the first I’d ever ventured into. I was relieved to notice when we arrived at La Senza that it neighbored Sport Chek, a sporting goods store. I knew I would be able to balance out my energies after La Senza, after a little yin, one needs yang. After an entire store of pink, feathery things, one needs hockey gear, running shoes and punching bags.

I hesitated at the door, took a deep breathe, and plunged in. Never in my wildest dreams did I know there could be so many variations on bras and underwear. Never in my wildest imaginings did I ever thing I’d be choosing a between a synthetic or cotton thong, between stripes or snowflakes, jeweled or embossed. Never say never. A fish out of water. A goalie crossing the center red line. A poodle among elephants.

We decided on cotton pretty easily. That narrowed the choices down considerably and soon it was down to a few pairs: the pink one with snowflakes and detachable jewel and the double strapped black with plastic embossed star won out. I placed them sheepishly on the counter mumbling something about Christmas presents and ran over to Sport Chek. I gave Leo the detachable jewel from the pink pair-she was thrilled. Not sure if one can truly call a thong a pair.

I won’t go into the gory details but let’s say it was a week of experimenting with staying is an discomfortable place, that changing in a co-ed hockey locker room was a challenge, that I’ve concluded that I would rather wear a dress than a thong, and that I have no idea why panty lines are so evil that people chose to wear thongs voluntarily.

Life in the Gym and on the Run

One of the things that keeps me going is noticing the progress I’ve made. I realized that since my long run increases by 5 minutes each week, that each week I do something I’ve never ever done before in my life. It’s pretty fun to recognize and celebrate such moments, which I do regularly with my chief vice: Vanilla Dips from Tim Horton’s. When I first started training in August, (I trained for a month before committing to the climb and before telling anyone what I was doing) I was doing 1 and 1’s. This means I walked one minute and I ran for 1 minute for a total of 20 minutes. Each week the time I ran increased by one minute until I reached 10 and 1’s (10 running, 1 walking). Then I began to extend the number of 10 and 1’s I could do. So now four months later, I can run for 40 minutes straight and for 90 minutes using 10 and 1’s. It’s step by step, time on task, progressive challenge, and progressive gain.

In the gym Thursday, it was a leg yin day. Yin days mean lighter weights and more repetitions-Steve has this particular technique called the envelope technique that is guaranteed to make your muscles burn. Thursday-it was leg press-envelope day. I put 270 pounds on the leg press and then pushed hard to see how many times I could move the weight in a minute. Then I put on 450 pounds and pressed it 6 times twice. Then some unique circumstances came together in a moment and I closed the set finding some amazing place in my mind and body and pressed 360 pounds 60 times in a minute. The guys beside me looked at me like I was some kind of alien (the press machine was singing with the rapidity of the movement) and then one guy walked up to me and said “that was rad!” I did the math…360 pounds times 60 presses = 21,600 pounds. I’d moved 20 thousand pounds in a minute, almost 11 tons….in a minute!

I’d never thought of a gym work out in that way so I got curious and got out the calculator to see what I’d truly been up to and to be able to celebrate (yes, it’s a theme). So I added up the weight I’d moved each day…keep in mind sometimes I move the weight inches and sometimes I move it by the foot. Monday I moved 40,710 pounds, Tuesday 44,620 pounds, Wednesday 8,280 pounds, Thursday 105,040 pounds, Friday 9,015 pounds, and Saturday 7,485 pounds for a grand total of 282,519 pounds for the week. 141 tons. Wow. Amazing. Way cool. Who would have thought? Bodies are amazing. My body is amazing. Yours is too!

So, I have one more week of extensive lifting and then I’ve completed the program and will have to figure out what comes next. Have a great week, celebrate something, stay well and take care. Thanks to you for coming along on the climb.


TA’s Denali Support Team #7 11/21/2004
Good Morning,

How was your week?

I had a good training week. Got in all my strength training and cardio work-outs. I really enjoyed my long run yesterday. I caught one of the few rain free times in St. John’s of late. The air was crisp and the low angled light danced on the shores of Quidi Vidi Lake. The sleeping ducks barely raised a feather as I sped by and I wondered what they thought of all these humans running circles around them. I expressed gratitude to the universe and my training program that I was out taking in moments of minute beauty and awe-the joys of being out of bed early on a Saturday morning.

Life in the Ring of Fire

Leslie has spent a fair amount of time with me. She strength trains in the mornings with me and she joined me for a Grand Canyon backpacking trip last year. She knows of my fondness for chocolate. She knows of my intense fondness for baking. She knows I would rather eat brownie batter raw than cooked. With this is mind, she treated me to a very interesting ring of fire challenge this week.

Leslie told me of the brown paper bag. She promised to deliver it at hockey on Monday. Monday came and went…no brown paper bag. Then she said Wednesday at yoga it would be deilvered. Wednesday came, no Leslie and no paper bag. My anxiety increased-just what was in the paperbag? Friday arrived with Leslie and the brown paper bag. On the front of the bag is written denali (struck through), denial, (struck through), and then Denali again in black felt tip marker. There was a brilliant ring of fire out of orange construction paper and in the center of the ring were the instructions…

Mix, bake, and give away these brownies without licking the spoon, the bowl, or eating a crumb.

“Yes indeed!” I thought. Leslie had hit the nail on the head-a true ring of fire challenge for me-one that cut straight to my heart (and belly). In the Grand Canyon, Leslie witnessed me eating brownie mix straight up and dry, mixed with peanut butter into fudge, as batter before baking on my whisperlite, and as pure unadulterated chocolate bliss once baked. Any of you have travelled with me in the field would have similar observations. A low sounding whistle escaped from my lips…I was in for a heck of a time.

I went out for my long run and knew I needed to undertake the challenge immediately upon my return. I was a tad bit nervous since I was ravenous but I knew it was then or never. I knew I needed to do it fast. Set to it. Not really think about what I was doing. Somewhat like crossing an ice fall…you know the danger is there, you know you need to move fast, and if you stop to think about what could happen, you’d never be there in the first place. I set the oven to pre-heat and jumped in the shower. I heard the oven beep and jumped into action.

Read the instructions. Pour mix into bowl. Don’t drop last bits of mix from bag into mouth. Throw bag quickly into garbage. Heart racing like a drum beat. Add eggs. Add oil. Consider tying tea towel around face to control accidental impulses. Grab wooden spoon. Begin first of 50 strokes advocated by the mix instructions. Panic as chocolate dust becomes airborne and is received by scent receptors. Increase stroke candence. Try to get through the ice field fast. Don’t slip. Concentrate. Wipe batter from sides of bowl. Not let finger touch batter-that would be too great a temptation. 50 strokes. A huge number. Grease the pan. Pour batter into pan. Grab for spatula. Scrap bowl. Breathing hard. Will I make it through? Throw pan in oven, slam door shut. Phew. Bowl is crying out. Spoon is crying out. Spatula is crying out. “Lick me.” Thrust all three into sink…overflow with water. What a waste. Breathe deeply. A hugh sigh. The first trip through the ice fall is complete.

Bake for 30 minutes.

About 15 minutes in, the smell. You know the smell. It is only a smell that sugar, chocolate and fat heated at high temperatures can make. The receptors begin to fire almost repeatedly. I’m back in the icefall. What goes up must come down. Got to make my way through it again. Visualize success. Make a platform from an old cereal box. Wrap with foil. Wait for timer to ding. Open oven-senses assaulted by the escaping heat wave. Put knife in brownies-comes out wet. Bring knife close to lips, remember I’m in the ice fall and thrust into sink with other utensils-that was a close one. Take brownies out of oven. They are perfect. Quickly slip them from pan onto platform. Run downstairs. Out the door. Around the corner. Ring doorbell. Pray Gillian is home. She answers the door mercifully quickly. I hand them over-she seems to be expecting them. I turn for home. Exhausted. Exalted. Elated. I had survived the return trip through the icefall.

I faced the denial of Denali and rose to the task. The task was great training for the 30 days of denial on the glacier…denail of color, warmth, comfort and for facing things that are hard…thanks Leslie for the brilliant ring of fire challenge.

Thanks as well to all who sent music…I’m loving having new musical inspiration to listen to… Here are some of the pieces that you all suggested:

Wind Beneath my Wings- Bette Midler
Another One Bites the Dust – Queen
You Shook me all Night Long – AC/DC
I gotta get through this – Daniel Bedingfield
Sandstorm – Darude
Anything Norah Jones
I can see Clearly Now – Holly Cole
Lost Together – Blue Rodeo
5 Days in May – Blue Rodeo
That’ll be the day – Buddy Holly
It’s a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
The Duet in ‘The Pearl Fishers’
The opening of Carmina Burana by Orff
In your Eyes – Peter Gabriel
For Rent – Dido
Adagio for Strings – Samuel Barber
Better Things – Dar Williams
Soundtrack from Climb Against the Odds
Soundtrack from Deliverance
Supernatural – Carlos Santana
Cruel, Crazy beautiful World – Johnny Clegg

One person suggested that when I was in Edmonton, she could loan me a Nepali music tape so I could connect with my inner sherpa.

Have a good week. I’m thrilled to have all of you along on this journey.

Warmly, TA

TA’s Denali Support Team #6 11/14/2004
Hello to All,

Greetings from the end of Week One in the Frugal Realm…where DOES he get these names? Actually, Steve, the guy who wrote the book I’m using as the basis for my training, says “the frugal realm will blur your everyday life. The edges of your world will soften because the program will bend you, shake you, and test you until you have met and become intimate with my higher self.” He says this cycle is designed to make or break me-it will rid me of useless emotional clutter, energy wasting activities and desires, and outdated attachments. My life will become spartan but focused.

Not sure I buy the making or breaking part but I agree with the spartan and focused life. This cycle involves weight training six times a week in addition to all of the other training activities. Once again, I saw some terrific strength gains after the rest week. Steve prescribes a double dose of a lift called a “hang cleans” in this round. Basically it involves holding a barbell at the length of your arms, focused your attention, bending your knees lightly to store energy and then erupting into a jump while throwing the barbell above your head-it’s pretty impressive-especially if you include a big grunt or chi yell. On Thursday, I had a powerful morning in the gym and was able to make a big strength leap to the 55 pound barbell and I did 10 sets of 5 reps of hang cleans-so basically-in common english, I threw 55 pounds over my head 50 times-watch out Mr. Incredible-I’ll give you a run for your money (just saw the movie tonight-I liked Finding Nemo better).

Steve also prescribes something he calls dead lifts. A barbell is on the floor-I bend at the waist and grasp the bar and stand up with it-it gives a great hamstring stretch and works on lower back strength-after the rest week, I jumped 65 pounds to a dead lift of 115. So, I’m all for rest weeks-even if it can be a bit of a challenge to get moving again.

Speaking of getting moving again, Steve didn’t prescribe interval training for this cycle…no running up hills while sucking wind, no profound thoughts about dog crap-just sustained cardio. I can’t beleive I’m saying this…but I miss them…they teach me to start again, and again, and again, and they break down a work out into bite size chunks. On my daily sayings calendar this week, I got a Japanese proverb…”fall down seven times, get up eight.” I think intervals teach me to get up again and again and to treat each moment as new.

My long run is up to eighty minutes and is climbing 5 minutes a week…so I can currently run longer than I ever had before in my entire life and I can lift more weight than ever before…by God, I think all this is doing what it is supposed to…get me ready to go up a very big hill.

Speaking of the big hill, while I was down in the US, I picked up several books on Denali…WOW…I already knew what I’d gotten myself into but now, there is no doubt…way cold, way lots of snow, way lots of fear, and a way lots of adventure. One of the books had a good picture of the route-I’ll try to get it scanned and sent out sometime soon.

A few of you who know how active I am, have suggested some Ring of Fire challenges that involve inactivity…just before I went down to the US, Maureen, my friend and colleague invited me over to her office for an afternoon of fine and detailed macrame knot tying and this week, someone else suggested that I attend an upcoming 4 day meditation retreat.

Good thing I practiced with Maureen-as the retreat had me sitting still for 6-7 hours a day for 4 days. I will admit that I slipped in some weight training, yoga, two hockey games and a long run around and between the sitting sessions and I learned an incredible amount by sitting still. On reflection, I realized that the retreat was great training for sitting out 5-day snowstorms on the mountain when there is nothing to do except shovel snow, melt snow for drinking water, and lie in one’s sleeping bag.

So I had a great first week in the Frugal Realm. I managed to get in all six workouts, five hockey games, four days of meditation retreat, three yoga and step classes, two turtle doves and one academic paper in a pear tree. Next week should be grand as well and then the last two weeks typically get harder and fatigue sets in.

In preparation for those last two big weeks, I’m asking you to e-mail me with your favorite inspirational music…what songs or pieces of music move you? What gets you moving? What moves your heart and soul? What piece of music do you turn to when you need comfort? soothing? solace? What piece of music makes you laugh, smile, and feel joy? Please send me the name and artist of any piece music that strikes a chord in you…if you’ve got the MP3 file-you can attach that-if not I’ll go find it at the Apple Music Store…then I’ll make an inspiration CD with all the music you suggest and use it to power through workouts when my body gets tired. Thanks in advance.

Thanks as well for all your e-mails of support, checking in and insprirational quotes-keep them coming-they are a joy to receive!

How’s life on your end? What’s up? What’s new? Drop me a line and let me know how your Denali training is going.

Take care, TA

PS. I’ve got new growth beginning to form on the legs and the timber company is considering clear cutting again 🙂

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