Avoiding “Insanity”


It’s near the end of the first week of my Camp Two training phase and it’s been an interesting week of activity and reflection.  This week was a bit of a rest week with a few parts of the training program forgiven to reduce the intensity for the week to a level of 60%.  The intensity grows from week to week and culminates in either a 90% or 100% week for the last one of each phase.  Having just come off the final 100% week of Camp One, I noticed a pull to want to continuously ramp up the intensity, however my past experience of overtraining tells me otherwise and I did my best to modulate those impulses.

I saw someone’s Facebook status update this week listing this familiar quote by Albert Einstein, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  It got me thinking about how I was training for Everest and evaluating what I was doing the same and what I was doing differently than in 2007.  When talking to former expedition teammates or mountaineering acquaintances, I frequently ask them the same question, “What will you do differently or the same this time round?”  I appreciate hearing reflections on their experiences and feel I can learn from lots by listening.

Hopefully by now, your curiosity is piqued and you are asking yourself, “What is TA doing differently this time?”  Here’s some insights into what I am up to…

Nutrition and fueling–I am being very intention and mindful about both what I am eating and the timing of meals and snacks.  I decided a few months ago that I wanted there to “be less of me to haul up the mountain.”  Whether I am carrying weight in my backpack or on my body, it’s still weight I have to propel up the peak so I set a goal of losing some body fat while preserving and building muscle/strength.

With the support of Allied Health Services at Memorial University of Newfoundland (http://www.mun.ca/hkr/ahs/about/), I’ve met with Holly Grant and she helped me set up specific parameters to use to attain this important goal.  Using her sport nutrition expertise, she’s chosen a calorie load for me to hit each day with specific goals related to the macronutrients of carbohydrates (55%), proteins (20%), and fats (25%).  I measure all my food and enter it into a training log–it takes about an hour each day to do all the logging of both my training and food but I’ve come to see it as valuable information and mini celebration of each meal well chosen.  Holly checks it frequently and gives advice on how to tweak the foods I am using for fuel.  As a result of this mindfulness, I notice I am eating very delicious meals that are made from whole, fresh ingredients, am eating slower, refueling directly after exercise with a mix of carbs and protein, and thinking food is a marvelous thing!

Rest and Relaxation–With hindsight, I realized that I went to Everest in 2007 having done too much and having slept too little…too much training, too much public speaking, too much of everything and not enough rest.  My goal for this attempt is to go to the mountain well rested and very eager to work hard.  In light of this, I have set a sleep goal of eight hours per night–this is a challenge since I naturally seem to need seven hours.  Like parents, with an early morning toddler, who need some extra rest, I have a morning curfew and don’t allow myself to get out of bed until I have reached eight hours of “horizontal” time even if this means lying quietly or meditating.  With Marian’s coaching, I’ve taught myself to go back to sleep in the early morning rather than rev the jets of my mind’s engine with everything I need to get done.  I have simplified my life greatly and reduced my expectations about how much and what I can get done.  I continuously ask the question of “Will this help me climb Everest or can it wait until after the climb?”  I regularly say “No” these days…a relatively new word in my vocabulary.

Enlisting Expertise–Before the launch of Everest 2010 Mountain of Learning last fall, I cobbled together a sponsorship invitation package for it.  Using a past template, I tried to put together something that might work.  Soon after that event, I met with Deborah Bourden at AppleCore Interactive (http://www.applecore.ca/) and she said her team could help me out.  Yesterday, their rendition of my sponsorship invitation got uploaded to my website and printed off…it’s stunning and beautiful and a reminder that there are times, I need to stretch and ask for the assistance of others.  Given my shyness, sometimes it’s easy to do something myself than walk through the fear to ask for help.  Please visit my sponsorship page (http://www.taloeffler.com/sponsorship.asp) and see AppleCore’s excellent work.  If you have any contacts that might be interesting in the benefits of sponsorship, please let me know.  I need your help in making such connections.

A few weeks back, I had the pleasure of doing a training session with Phil Alcock at Core Health Spa (http://www.corehealthspa.ca/).  After that session, I reflected on the strength training that I was doing.  Again, I had turned to past training regimes, read a few books, and put together a workable program that I was doing on my own in the gym.  Given my goal of going to the mountain as physically and mentally strong as I can be, I realized another change was in order.  Even though it meant a financial stretch, I knew I wanted to work with Phil intensively until I head off for the mountain.  He has the expertise to create a varied, demanding, and specific training program for me.  We worked together three times this week and he had me jumping up stairs two and three at a time, climbing down stairs on hands and feet, balancing on an upside down BOSU, and producing copious amounts of sweat.  With Phil pushing me, I work harder than I would on my own.

Similarly, a few months ago, in a wonderful exchange of a delicious dinner for expertise, my colleague Fabien Basset (http://www.mun.ca/hkr/research/) set up my training plan for the last four months before the mountain.  An exercise physiologist with expertise in both hypoxic training and coaching, he set up a periodized program to have me peak at the right time.  In programs I designed myself, I tended to peak early and risk overtraining.  He revamped the hypoxic training program into three sessions a week that utilize hypoxic exercise intervals followed by normoxic recovery intervals.  What does this mean in English?  It means I hike on the treadmill at a 15% grade wearing a 30 pound pack while wearing a mask that channels less than the regular amount of oxygen in room air for set intervals of intense work then remove the mask for recovery.  I’ll do a future update explaining the science and reasoning behind such a strategy but for now, I appreciate having access to Fabien’s vast expertise.

Climbing Team–In choosing my outfitter for this year’s attempt, I elected to go with Peak Freaks (http://peakfreaks.com/).  As is my practice, I like to “date before going steady” so I climbed with them in the fall of 2008 on Pumori.  I found I liked the small team ambiance and cohesion.  I am thrilled that the team’s leadership for next spring’s climb will be Tim Rippel and Hugo Searle (both of whom I climbed with in 2008).  A third guide I haven’t met yet will join them.  Additionally, I had the privilege of climbing with four of my teammates on that same climb.  For most of my climbs, I am meeting my colleagues on day one of the climb.  It will be great to already have a foundation on which to build a deeper camaraderie and trust.

On many of my climbs, I am the solo woman.  As a hockey player, I am superstitious (I always put my left skate on first etc. and I watch for omens or rituals that seem to contribute to winning and propagate them).  There are two other women on Peak Freak’s Everest 2010 team.  When I look back, I can see that whenever there as been another woman with me on a seven summits climb, I have summitted.  No guarantee but a wonderful omen and an opportunity for a different team climate than last time where I was outnumbered 60 to one.

Trekking Team–I am so excited and grateful to have company from home for the trek to base camp in 2010.  A climb of Everest is a long and intense 2.5-month group living experience and so it will be fantastic to have a team of four friends from Newfoundland trekking in with the expedition.  For the trek, I will be joined by Marian Wissink, Nadia Schenk, Natelle Tulk, and Jacinta McGrath.  All have been brave enough to follow me through the Grand Canyon and now are taking the challenge a little further and higher by coming along to Nepal.  We had our first almost-full team training session last night in the dark on the back side of Signal Hill.  We did hiking intervals and placed rocks on the summit cairn to mark the beginning of our shared journey.  Sharing the training and the climb with the WOKies in 2008 on Kilimanjaro was a life-changing event and I’m so glad to have such a fine group of women join me for the trek.

I realize it was a reflective week because I had two interviews about the upcoming climb.  One was with long-time Everest chronicler and climber, Alan Arnette (http://www.alanarnette.com/), and one with Bryhanna Greenough of The Scope (one of our local weeklies)…each interview provided thought-provoking questions and an opportunity to share my preparations for the climb and that got me thinking about what I was doing differently and the pulls to do the same as before (and expect different results a la Einstein).

A question for you…What do you need to do differently?

You can check out Alan’s interview with me on his website (http://bit.ly/4Kz2LM) or his Outside Magazine blog on Monday (http://bit.ly/4GXoWf).

Keep an eye on The Scope (http://thescope.ca/) for Bryhanna’s story.

Thanks for coming along on this Mountain of Learning,


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