Happy Fall Back Day, 10/29/2006
I had a hamster in graduate school. Her name was Gladys. She could bring smiles to the most staid members of the faculty. Gladys had a clear plastic ball in which she could freely roam the halls between classes. Last night, I revisited many of the fine moments I shared with Gladys as I climbed into the Hamster Ball during the Fog Devil’s first intermission.
Suited head to toe in hockey gear, I dove quickly into the clear, inflatable, human devouring beach ball. The staff re-inflated it and zipped it shut. With the blower no longer causing hearing damage, I realize that I was indeed, “The Boy in the Bubble” with my senses of sight and hearing muted by the vinyl casing.
I was now officially a human hamster. Sealed sock footed into the orb, I was granted membership as card-carrying affiliate of the “Officially Not-Claustrophobic Club.” Using a combination of running and pushing, I rolled out onto the ice to the starting marker lamenting the absence of my skates on my now chilled feet. I was racing the MUN Student Union president, as it was MUN Night at the game. I imagined the rink announcer creating high drama around the ensuing battle by pitting student against faculty, rodent against rodent.
Enclosed in my sensory depriving sphere, it was difficult to tell that the epic marathon had begun. Noticing my delayed start, I called on Phidippides, the messenger who hurried to Athens to announce the Greek victory at Marathon in 490 BC, to invigorate my effort (though I dearly hoped to avoid his fate as he died of exhaustion at the end of his heroic quest).
Being a reasonably coordinated human hamster, I quickly caught up and broke into the lead until I was hip checked by Scorch, the Fog Devil’s mascot, and sent flying inside my ball. I met my opponent head-on behind the net and knocked her off-course. Without further Scorch intervention, I sprinted to the finish.
Rolling off the ice, I was cheered by some girls on the concourse above as I gave up hamster life and crawled out of the ball–a sweaty but exuberant adventurer. When I embarked on the Road to Everest, I never imagined I would delay dinner at my boss’ house in order to play hamster as publicity for the climb but I am learning that I can never really predict where the road will lead.
It was actually a big week on the road. The Lap-a-thon was a grand success with 155 participants walking and running a total of 2557 laps, the equivalent of 58 Everests. The event raised over $1000 and they are still trying to count the change in the “Mountains of Money.” Each residence hall collected loose change and then transformed it into some kind of mountain. The creativity was amazing and I was touched by the efforts of the students. Actually the entire event was very moving–seeing the throng move around the track in costumes–having folks turn out en masse to support the climb was a real boost.
It was a big week in the presentation scene. I pitched a motivational speaking program to a potential corporate client and I spoke to the Newfoundland and Labrador Employee Assistance Program Association conference. I was a bit nervous as I was listed as “the entertainment ” following dinner. I wanted it to go well. Fortunately, the Village People always seem to get my audience into a good frame of mind and the presentation had folks laughing and ogling and ahing at the right moments. I sold so many toques after the talk that I had to place a second order.
Training went well this week and I am noticing some strength gains in areas that had plateaued for a while. I did my long session on Thursday because I’m currently flying west to visit my family and attend a conference. My four hours of hiking, biking, and running gave Marie some great material for her introduction of me that night. I’m eager for the increased light in the mornings now that daylight savings time has passed.
The Omamobile got some new bumper stickers this week. Actually, there is no more room on the bumper so they became door and hood stickers. I put one just below the lock on the driver’s door. It quotes Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do something everyday that scares you.” I put it there so I would see that reminder several times a day and act on it. I think it is useful to practice scaring myself. Climbing Everest will require that I manage, cope, feel, let go of, and be very comfortable with fear…thus I practice.
I’m starting to have a small sense that perhaps momentum is beginning to grow (how’s that for a tentative sentence?) around the climb and all of the various fundraising efforts. The Swiss crew held a chili dinner and made another wonderful contribution and one of my buddies from the Elbrus climb delighted me with an envelope of his generosity. I want to offer a HUGE thank-you to all of the folks who helped organize events, bought toques, cooked chili, organized teams, fed me, and otherwise made contributions to Everest-007 this week and every week. Your support and generosity, in all the ways they manifest, are deeply appreciated. I couldn’t be doing this without you. Have a good week, take good care, and do something that scares ya!
Total Vanilla Dips this week = 4, Total for the Climb = 10
Greetings from YYT 10/22/2006
The only thing more absurd than climbing the stairs of the education building on the Friday evening of a long weekend is trekking up the steepest hills of downtown St. John’s at 6:30 am on a Sunday morning in the dark in the pouring rain wearing 40 pounds on my back. That’s how I started my day, how about you?
Let me start off by offering my congratulations to Wally Berg and his whole crew on the “One Team, One Mountain” Everest expedition. After weeks of hard work and hard living on the mountain, they got the weather window they needed and 14 folks reached the summit early Wednesday morning. This was the team I was invited to join last May and I’m thrilled that the expedition came to fruition for them with a summit success.
Check out the reports and some amazing photos of the expedition at
The pace of life has been crazy this week since I got back from Switzerland or perhaps it seems so hectic in contrast to my time in Swiss land. I’m back training in the phase called the Cosmic Yang and I am trying to sort out what the changes in weather and daylight will do to my training schedule. It’s dangerous to bike some of my favorite country roads before daybreak but that darn sun is coming up later and later.
Total Vanilla Dips this week = 2, Total for the Climb = 6
A friend was checking into Tim’s as a potential corporate sponsor this week as there were 500 Tim’s folks running around St. John’s. As expected, their sponsorship agenda was full but they did mention it might be possible to provide me with all the Vanilla Dips I could eat (imagine that!) and all the coffee I wanted to carry up the mountain. Today, while training, I daydreamed of me drinking Tim’s coffee on the summit, capturing the event on film, and then bringing back the image and selling it to them for many many more dollars than sponsorship would cost on them on the front end. 🙂
The toques with the new embroidered Everest-007 logo arrived this week and they look great-it’s so fun to see the design come alive in stitching. I’ve already sold a bunch and am hoping for good sales at the lap-a-thon this week. The toques are $15 and make great Christmas presents. (hint, hint) Let me know if you’re interested in one, two, or twelve.
Speaking of the lap-a-thon, all those in St. John’s (and those outside as well) are invited to participate in the lap-a-thon at the MUN field house on Wednesday from 11 am to 1 pm. You can come for as much or as little of the time and walk as little or as much as you like. I think it’s shaping up to be quite the festive event.
Please register on-line at http://www.mun.ca/mundays/diversity/lap.php before the end of Monday October 23 so the Works will waive your entry fee to the track. You register on line but pay the $5.00 entry fee at the event-there will be prizes awarded every 30 minutes…
I’ll keep this update relatively short since it’s coming in such close proximity to the previous one. I hope all is well with you and that your Halloween costume is coming along fine.
Hello from Frankfurt 10/18/2006
I promised an update from Switzerland but didn’t quite pull one off. It’s amazing how five days can fly by so quickly and I could be back in the bardo of airport land full of fond memories and warm feelings.
Though I didn’t know it before my visit, Leysin has a long history of being the training ground for Himalayan climbers. I was actually the fourth Everest climber to speak at the Leysin American School in Switzerland–though the other three had managed to summit Everest before beginning their speaking careers. I spoke to the student body in two groups and I was very pleased to receive the complement that I was the first Everest presented to deliver my message in a way that was assessable to students. Given my mission to inspire youth, you can imagine how pleased I was to receive this feedback.
I met some of the students Saturday night at Canadian Thanksgiving, an annual tradition hosted by some Canadian teachers at the School. Given I’d missed out on the big bird meal in Canada, I was most pleased to participate in the tradition of stuffing myself with the traditional fixings. I brought cranberry sauce from Canada to contribute to the feast.
With a fledging connection from Thanksgiving, I was able to encourage some of the girls to lead the YMCA dance that launches my presentation. Their gyrations quickly lead to a Congo line and the rest was history–if I’d had 50 Freshettes,* I could have sold them along side my T-shirts that night.
The Grade Ten English classes at the school are reading “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer–perhaps one of the most famous Everest narratives. By coincidence, my trip corresponded with the later chapters of the book and I visited several classes answering questions such as “Are you scared?” “What things will you carry to the summit?” and “Do you think climbers belong on a sacred mountain?” I enjoyed stretching my mind around their questions, some of which, I’d not had the impetus to ponder before.
As far as reporting the number of Vanilla Dips I consumed this week, there is nothing to report. However, if you ask me about the number of Swiss pastries that crossed my lips, I might need to embarrass myself. Total Vanilla Dips this week = 0, Total for the Climb = 4.
Besides visiting classes, I was asked to be the guest coach for the Boy’s hockey team. The Leysin rink is the most beautiful arena I have ever had the privilege to skate on. It is a refrigerated rink that is open air but covered by a high peaked roof to protect it from the weather. The sun poured in from one side and the mountains threatened to distract me from my duties on the other. The regular coach got quite the kick of putting on my authentic University of Minnesota Golden Gopher gloves…I give anyone serious extra credit for being willing to place my 15 year old hockey relics on their naked skin.
I took much of the week as a rest week for both mind and body. I slept in each morning, read in bed, and generally indulged my inner couch potato who has been hibernating underground much of the last six months. I wasn’t totally immobile as I had to hike up to school each morning from the village but I didn’t lace up my running shoes the once. Brenda and I hiked to the top of the Bernuesse (2000 meters or so) on my first day in Switzerland and I was very pleased with how my body coped with the altitude.
Brenda and Jean-Marcel are lifelong friends. Brenda has known me since I was 12 when I was a Leader in Training at the Edmonton YWCA and she once had the great fortune to see me profess my undying love to a Hobart dishwasher at summer camp. Jean-Marcel helped me survive first year English at the University of Alberta and has been supporting my writing (and much more) since. Brenda lobbied her headmaster to bring me to Switzerland to speak to the school. Though I hadn’t seen them in over three years, we dropped into the easy comfort of old friends and spent hours catching up.
As I delivered motivational messages of moving towards big dreams to the students assembled from over 70 countries, I too, received a huge dose of inspiration. A few months back, Brenda touched me by informing me that she was dedicating her “cookie-fund” to my Everest climb. She bakes batches filled with delicious delight that only homemade can produce and the 70 boys in her care are eager for such treats. Joining her on cookie duty are Joe, Brady and Jeff. They are the senior student salesmen who take Brenda’s wares into the dorm and turn them into piles of Swiss Francs.
While I was visiting, I contributed to the effort by baking a few dozen cookies and brownies. The boys transformed these into several hundred dollars of contributions to my Everest expedition through both charging a brisk tariff for the desired sweets and by soliciting pocket change on their dorm sales missions. Each night, I was moved close to tears as Joe turned over the night’s piles of coins that quickly added up to a substantial donation over the course of my visit.
A cog railway can go seemingly impossible places. Brenda and Jean-Marcel took me on my first cog train ride from Aigle to Leysin, ascending some intensely steep angles I didn’t know a train could manage. Between the two regular rails is a series of cogs that prevent the train from plummeting down the mountain against gravity. A reassuring click click click emanates from below the train as the cogs engage and disengage as the train climbs from the valley floor.
I must admit that I often contemplate gravity these days and how I hope to outwit it for a few weeks come next spring. Given some luck and months of hard work, I will push upward into mountain environs that few have the privilege to tread. Like the cog railway, inspiration comes from and leads to the most unexpected and unlikely places. If I remain open, invitations and gifts surround me–I need only learn to accept them with grace and ease.
They are calling my plane–I’m off to flap over the Atlantic. Take good care.
* Female Urinary Redirection Devices that allow women to pee standing up
Happy Canadian Thanksgiving! 10/7/2006
There is something kind of pathetic about climbing the stairs of the Education building over and over again at 5:00 pm on the Friday of a holiday weekend. On the other hand, there wasn’t much competition for the elevator. My friend Deb tells me that when she reads my weekly updates, she either thinks I’m an inspiration or that I’m nuts. I am sure once she reads what I was up to yesterday when everyone was long home in anticipation of turkey feasting, she’ll declare the later once again. I think I might agree with her this time.
I always prefer to get my training commitments done first thing in the morning but sometimes life doesn’t allow so I have to suck it up and make it happen later in the day. It’s always much more of a fight than in the morning (and therefore much more of an accomplishment). Funny how that works, I know many folks who think exercising first thing in the morning is an excellent definition of torture.
Today was a “depletion day,” a day where I go out and perform intensive aerobic activity for hours on end, intentionally consuming less water and food than necessary. Sounds like fun doesn’t it? Actually, it is critical preparation for summit pushes where conditions or temperatures may prevent me from being able to eat and drink adequately. By practicing hitting the wall and pushing through it, I gain familiarity with how my body reacts, what thoughts and feelings hunger and thirst bring up, and I train my body to utilize different energy pathways.
The last “long day” of each training cycle will be a depletion day from here on out. Talking on the phone this morning to a friend, I kept calling it a “deletion day.” I kept having the image of the delete key on my computer keyboard–not the best image to be setting out with-though I did ponder at some point on my ride that long aerobic efforts often delete my sense of self and I meld much more into the present moment. I become the grass swaying beside the road, the fiery palette of leaves lining the highway, or the waves crashing against the jagged cliffs.
This was week four of the Green Tara training cycle. As I’ve experienced before, the fatigue grew within my body as the weeks of training built up. By Friday night, I felt like my body was encased in a flexible coating of concrete. I could move but my limbs and body felt much heavier and slower than usual. “Flexible concrete” is yet another fine paradox of this journey. I’ve told myself to keep an eye out for both paradoxes and paroxysms, both internal and external.
Today, at the end of my six-hour “D-Day,” fatigue overtook me once again. This time, instead of the flexible concrete type, it was the kind of fatigue that creeps in on silent kitty feet. It is a fatigue born of exertion that swells my muscles and soul with a warmth of accomplishment, eases me into a sweet bath of endorphic lather, and the sense that ultimately, this weariness will bring strength. Strength of both body and mind that will serve me on the tallest mountain in the world and many other places as well.
The highlight of the week was talking to both Grade Five classes at St. Francis of Assisi School in Outer Cove. These days my long rides often take me right by the school. The classes have hooked up with Canatrek–An educational yearlong expedition to climb to the highest points in each province and territory in Canada. (http://www.summitsofcanada.ca/canatrek/expedition/expedition.html)
The classes had participated in a live expedition broadcast from Ontario last week and I was able to answer lots of their questions about mountaineering. During the question period following my presentation, one boy asked me, “Will you come back to our school after you climb Everest?” I just about melted on the spot and in that moment, all of the trepidation of having paid the $17,000 deposit for the expedition on the credit line on my house also dissolved. I have the sense that if I keep reaching out, talking to kids, and digging deep, something will come together on the fundraising side.
For those of you in St. John’s who might be interested, Susan McConnell will be offering an Introduction to Buddhism session. It’s next Sunday afternoon Oct 15 from 1– 4 pm at the Lantern, 35 Barnes Rd. There is no cost to participants. All are welcome. If you have questions you can contact, Susan McConnell by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone – 576-8111.
As promised, I’ve begun the quantitative study of my Vanilla Dip ingestion-it was a mild week. Total Vanilla Dips this week = 1, Total for the Climb = 4.
Take good care and catch you next weekend from Switzerland. I’m heading over the Big Pond to speak at the Leysin American School and do some training in mountains over 500 feet.
Have you ever looked at a moment and wonder how you came to be there? Earlier this week, having arrived late at meditation, I explained that I was late because six weeks prior my friend had spilled coffee on her laptop. There were a few surprised looks around the room but when I explained they began to nod in agreement. And so today, as I drove out of the Sobey’s parking lot squirting chocolate Readi-whip into my mouth, I asked myself the same question, “How did I come to this moment?”
The short answer would be that I had been training all day, having jumped on my bike at 7 am to ride to Torbay, then stopped in at Quidi Vidi Lake to run the “Run for the Cure, then hiked for a few hours on the Southside Hills, then played a speedy hockey game and went to the grocery store with my hungry bear quickly coming out of hibernation. The slightly longer answer would trace back my history of Readi-Whip from summer camp whip cream fights back to my Oma (of Omamobile fame) when she would allow me to quirt the amazing stuff on her fruit torte and I would sneak a few squirts direct into my mouth when she wasn’t looking. The really long answer goes back to war-torn Europe and my great grandfather who was a newspaper editor who opposed to the Nazis (which is by the way, the same place where the I’m late for meditation story ended as well).
This week, as I prepared a list of website changes, I was reading what I’d initially written about TA’s Road to Everest. I began by asking, “Where did the Road to Everest begin?” I went on to try to answer….” When at one, chocolate plastered to my face, I learned to eat almost anything quickly? When, at three, I packed a butter and sugar sandwich and hit the road looking for adventure? When at 12, I joined the Leaders in Training Program at the YWCA and began camping outdoors in the winter? When at 16, I learned to rock climb and got my first taste of mountain summits? When at 37, I saw Everest for the first time? When at 40, I climbed Denali and truly understood the responsibility I have in making my own dreams come true?”
My path to Everest probably began at all of those points. Life indeed, is like a road with intersections and road signs along the way serving as punctuation. As of late, along the road to Everest, there have been lots of green lights, an occasional yield, and not so many parking lots. Having taken the big leap into the abyss, I find a deep well of commitment, resolve, and fear within myself. I draw on each to find an extra edge in training, when imagining making a “cold call” to a potential sponsor, and when facing whatever the path asks of me.
And indeed, I have the sense that the path will ask more of me that anything before it has, that I will have to dig deeper and wider, jump higher and further, and do the things that “I think I cannot do” to make Everest a reality both in my preparations and during the climb. I call this edge, my “Everest Edge,” and I try to go play on it as much as I can. I need to become familiar with it, touch it, feel it, run from it, run towards it, get used to its airy exposure, and practice staying on the edge when what I want most is to get off and to stay off when I most want to get on. Thus is the reality of edge play, a journey fraught with paradoxes and contradictions.
Along with the 18 hours of training I did this week, I spent some time polishing my sponsorship package. It’s now ready to go out to potential sponsors. If any of you on my support team, knows someone who knows someone who know someone who might have some connections to potential sponsors and you’d be comfortable hooking me up with the first person in the chain, I’d been most obliged. As some of you know, the prospect of fundraising for Everest terrifies more than climbing the thing (or at least that’s what I say now when the climb is still 6 months away), but when I can say that “so and so” suggested I call you or “my friend X said you might be a good resource” it makes such things easier for me…so drop me a line if you have any suggestions or folks that you might hook me up with.
You may also have noticed that the subject line of my emails has changed. In the process of preparing the sponsorship package, I realized that I wanted to focus attention on the underlying mission of my Everest climb-to inspire the youth of Newfoundland and Labrador to follow their dreams and to become more physically active. So, imagine me dressed as a mountaineering secret agent saying, “I’m Loeffler, TA Loeffler.” I’m hoping to be a secret undercover change agent who inspires kids without them really realizing that’s what I’m doing. So, that’s where the name came about…a play on James Bond and a play on the year that I’m doing the climb in…so welcome to Everest-007!!!
A number of people each week, ask me “How many Vanilla Dips have you had this week?” I’ve decided to nurture my inner quantitative researcher and conduct a small study entitled, “A Statistical Analysis of the Influences of Stress and Training Time, Duration, and Activity, on the Consumption of Multi-Coloured Glucose-Encrusted Carbohydrates by Everest Bound Mountaineers.” I’ll be recruiting subjects for the study as soon as I receive ethical approval for my research. In the meantime, I will keep a running total of the number of Vanilla Dips I consume as part of a pilot study. It was a two vanilla dip week that was nearly a three-but the Readi-whip stepped up to the plate.
Since I said I imagined myself as “climbing Everest” as of last week, and last week I had one vanilla dip, the total number of Vanilla Dips consumed thus far on my climb of Everest is three (yup-I studied calculus in college). Speaking of Vanilla Dips, I got the greatest piece of Vanilla Dip news this week, the Tim Horton’s on Portugal Cove Road will make Vanilla Dip Tim Bits on special request–I’m totally psyched–I can have Vanilla Dip Tim Bits at my Everest send-off party!!! Yahoo!!!
May your week be filled with sweet, multi-coloured moments of joy.