Denali December 2004

TA’s Denali Support Team #11 12/18/2004
Happy Only Seven Doors Left to Open on My Advent Calendar,

Greetings from YVR (the Vancouver airport). I still think wireless internet access is magical. So cool to sit on the floor in an airport, open the laptop and talk to friends around the world. Way cool and way magic. (Imagine me saying that in a valley girl accent).

I’m fresh from a “Body Pump” class I attended with my friend Maria this morning in Vancouver. An hour long lifting class to music that really did pump one’s entire body. It felt good to be back in the gym after the week off. Actually it felt good to have the desire to be back in the gym.

Last week was humbling. It was a rest week and I think I had forgotten how tired I get by the time a rest week comes along…add a fifth week to the cycle and 4.5 hours of time change and I had little motivation to do anything all week except nap. I did do three amazing hikes at various elevations around Orcas Island with ny dear friend Kristen…one with such wind we called it “Little Denali.” It was easy to get down on myself for not doing my runs and for wondering if I would ever get back to it…but true to past form, this morning I awoke feeling rested and eager to get back at it. SO the big lesson for me of the past week is rest when my body asks for rest, trust my process, and to practice self-compassion always.

I’m attaching my Denali Christmas greeting for you. In case my subtle artwork is lost on you, I’ve turned the mountain into a Christmas tree a la photoshop. If you look closely, you see a white line that shows our intended route up the mountain.

Oh-they are calling my flight. Have a very merry holiday season. I wish you all the besy of love and joy and adventure and compassion in the new year.

Take good care,


TA’s Denali Support Team #10 12/12/2004
Happy St. Nicolas Day to All,

My bags are packed, I’m ready to go, the taxi’s waiting, he’s blowing his horn…well not quite yet…in 4 hours, my neighbor Brian will take me up to the airport. As usual the week flew by and I can’t believe it’s less than two weeks to Christmas. Life had a few ring of fire elements this week-no need to reach into the hat. Monday blew very cold temperatures into St. John’s-minus 9 with 75 km/hr winds. Many remarked that it was perfect training weather for me…indeed it was perfect weather for freezing my pipes. I left the house at 6:00 am Monday morning and when I returned at midnight there was not a drop of water in sight. I sighed, “Oh well,” and tramped off to bed.

Tuesday was equally cold and windy in the morning. As the alarm went off, I heard the wind whipping around the eaves. It was tempting to roll over and go back to sleep. Instead, I got up put on my running clothes, added an extra layer on top, wind pants on the bottom, touque, neck gaiter, gloves, and went up to run around Long Pond so I could shower at school. Those of you who live in St. John’s know that the MUN campus is a wind tunnel of gale force magnitude. I stepped outside of the car into the minus 25 wind-chill, got an instant ice cream headache, declared myself insane for wanting to climb Denali, and started to run. Tuesday night, I brought water home from the arena to flush the toilets.

Wednesday I had a great day in the gym. It was fun to be back on the Green Tara program (first four weeks) and have concrete evidence of how far I’ve come in the last 15 weeks. I didn’t manage to call a plumber on Tuesday and thought I might get to it on Wednesday but the weather was supposed to get warmer…so I prayed to the anti-pipeburst goddess and hoped. Carried water home from the arena again. When I turned the water back on to test it, the pipes had thawed and I gave thanks to the Goddess of Procrastination…I don’t often worship her but this week was so full that I didn’t much have a choice and she saved me 60 bucks in plumber’s fees.

Thursday, the weather warmed enough to snow. So, I awoke to a 4-inch blanket of white in the dark foggy morn. Rolling over once again seemed like a grand idea. Instead, I wracked my brain trying to figure out where to run intervals on a snowy morning…I started out towards Quidi Vidi Lake thinking I might use the steep hill by the rowing clubhouse. I ran down that hill a ways and realized that it had already been polished into arenalike ice-I could have skated intervals on it but running on it would have been an invitation to disaster. I decided to keep running towards the back of Signal Hill-the site of the original intervals and cosmic dog crap.

First light was just coming through the fog, steely grey waves crashed along shore and I stepped off the road onto the snow-covered trail. Pure white awaited. I checked out the footing and the soft snow had good traction…once again 2.5 months later, up the back of Signal Hill breathing as if I had an egg in my mouth…5 one minute intervals followed by 3 three minutes intervals. Each interval took me higher on the hill.

I could mark my progress by my footprints in the snow. I thought it quite profound to have the opportunity to see my footprints. I was struck by how rare it is for us to get to see the footprints we leave…whether they are physical, emotional, or spiritual footprints. How can we really know the impact we leave behind? The morning was so still, not a breathe of wind-just the crunch my footsteps on the fresh snow and my efforts to catch up to my breath overflowed my ears. I was filled with a deep calm abiding and a sense of the absurdity of running intervals in the dark and fog and four inches of snow, however I would not have traded the experience for anything…indeed; the most profound learning often comes from the most absurd situations.

Friday had me back in the gym for another “EE-GAD” workout that no longer seems very ee-gad…somewhat ordinary in fact. I was able to move up to 65 pounds for the hang cleans…pretty amazing. Saturday had me doing my long run…100 minutes and 9 miles later, I refueled on my latest favorite…Zachary’s home fries. During my run, I ran by the homes of 12 friends…Beth, Liz, Leo, Susan, Jen, Natalie, Janine, Leslie, Jen, Mary, Brian and Mona. I bade them a silent hellos and wondered what they we up to on such a fine weekend morning.

So week five of the Frugal Realm has closed and tomorrow begins REST WEEK! Yeah! I’m off to the other side of Canada to visit my friend Kristen on Orcas Island, then off to Edmonton to visit my family (and practice more cold weather immersion), and the to Colorado Springs to visit Liz’s family. I return to St. John’s on Dec. 30th-just in time to run the Resolution Run at the Running Room.

Have a great week and a great holiday season. Thanks for being there-I appreciate you often.

With warmth and gratitude and holiday cheer,


TA’s Denali Support Team #9 12/5/2004
Happy Fifth Day of my Chocolate Filled Advent Calendar,

I knew it was going to be a long week when I accidentally ordered a Vanilla Dip (VD) at 9:00 am on Monday morning. I usually limit myself to one VD per week and save it for a special celebratory moment or for a moment where I need a sugar sponsored boost…and there I was… with one in hand at the dawning of the week. I was in a saddened shock. I couldn’t give it back though. So I made the best of it and took a big bite. It was the softest, most delightful VD I’ve ever had. Now, I suspect some of you are wondering about my VD thing…well, it goes something like this…

Eating a VD is something of a spiritual experience for me…first off, one must always have a VD with a cup of tea. Balance. It’s about balance. Yin. Yang. Sweet. Bitter. Can’t have one without the other. Then there are the multi-colored sprinkles on the top. Color cacophony. Crunch. Playful. Combined with soft, fluffy fresh fried dough. Balance. Yin. Yang. Teeth pass by crunch into soft, rush of sweet washed down by bitter. It’s all there. In a matter of milliseconds, a universe of sensations combined with a rush of insulin and serotonin. Within a bite, the whole world looks brighter and I’ve nurtured an instant connection with my inner child. Who could ask for anything more?

That reminds me of a funny VD story…I had just begun to buy my tea and donut at the Tim Horton’s in the university aquatics facility. One day I walked up and the woman at the counter said…”a tea and a vanilla dip.” I was surprised-she had my order exactly right and I’d only been there once before. I looked at her and said…”how did you know?” She said, “I remembered you because not many adults order vanilla dips.” That’s me…always at the looser edge of any continuum.

It was a bit of a long, hard training week and so, I did have another VD around Thursday…the beautiful thing about training this hard is I can eat practically anything I want to and not pay any big consequences.

Week Four of the Frugal Realm asked a lot of me…I had to will myself out of bed on Thursday, Friday and Saturday as four weeks of fatigue caught up with me. I was always glad once I was up and at it and I framed these acts of will as “good mental training” (as opposed to why the F*&^^$%$#$K do I have to get out of bed so early again?). In the midst of my long run on Saturday, I ran in the Santa Shuffle 5 km race. I was happy to post a time equal to that of my 5 km time I ran two months ago without a 65 minute “warm-up.”

I had a total rest day today…my body has never been so happy. I’m supposed to graduate into a rest week tomorrow but have decided to do one more week of training before leaving for Christmas travel. I’ll have to push through some fatigue and soreness but I think there is some good learning in doing that-especially as the expedition is 5 weeks long-and there will be many times on the climb when fatigue will set deeply into my bones. Also, the most dangerous part of the climb is on the way down-the vast majority of accidents occur on the way down from the summit so it’s crucial to train my body and mind to operate well while exhausted to the max. All good reasons but it’s mostly so I can take a few guilt free weeks off (or at much lower intensity) while I travel out west to visit family and friends for the holidays.

Thanks for all of your support. Have a good week.


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