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Thursday, April 24, 2008
Most appropriately, I've gotten a job at REI, Inc. (Recreational Equipment, Inc., for those of you who do not have the pleasure of living near one). I'd like to take a moment to rave about the company. They are unique in their upholding of values and community consciousness, and they take care of both customers and employees like every company does in Heaven and your dreams. I'll be getting healthcare in less than a month! Needless to say, I am thrilled to be a part of REI, and I hope to grow with the company for a long time.
As my life has been transforming in a way that combines work with play, I've realized a few profound truths about myself and I've reformed a few goals.
Firstly, I've experienced so many wonderful and new things since getting started with my training: I've conquered a distaste for heights (I love eeeet!), I've met the love of my life and many wonderful friends, I've developed a new perspective on my diabetes, I've learned the importance of grounding oneself with the outdoors, I've had a blast climbing, and I've discovered what I'm made of and what I'm here for!
Whew! Those are just a few of some of the things that I've enjoyed. All the hard work pays off, every time, all the time. In fact, the harder I work, the better I feel and the more fun I have! I couldn't be happier!
All of these new experiences and discoveries have brought me to re-evaluate my identity. I've always had big goals and big plans, and I feel lost without them, as anyone would. But I've wholeheartedly abandoned my previous ambitions of fame, fortune etc. for more meaningful goals of self-discovery, teaching others, and powering past my previously self-held perceived limitations.
I suppose, in summation, that's what life is all about! This experience has led me to develop the keenest and cleanest sense of self-identity and purpose I have ever had. I'm fully motivated to take the potential that I see and mold it into a great thing for myself, and others!
My diabetes, my climbing, and my passion for social change all combine in my desire to be a professional athlete with a social consciousness and a propensity for mobilization. I want to use my passion and my abilities to better the world around me, and I intend on further developing these ideas.
I hope that if you read my blog, you take away this one truth: that you can make lemonade out of lemons, as my aunt likes to say. So you have diabetes-- or epilepsy, or obsessive compulsive disorder, or ADHD, or you are overweight, or undermotivated, or anything else! It's not a limitation or an obstacle if you see it as, rather, a purpose.
Identify what you believe holds you back about yourself. When you've established a clear picture of what it is, then you can turn it around into a reason for being. This is what makes you uniquely strong and it gives you an edge - appreciate it! People who don't have such struggles won't get nearly as far!
You can't climb Everest without climbing Everest.
On that note, I'm going to go camping all weekend before I start working full-time, and i'll be doing some awesome climbing with my best buds. Sounds like a great time, and I can't wait! I'll be posting all kinds of cool pictures! Like this one (I didn't take it):
A climber on the crux of "Pure Fun," on Old Rag Mountain.
(Omnipod Update: it's amazing! I love it love it LOVE it and it's rocking my world. I'm PUMPED!)
Until next post, happy blood sugars! And get out there!
Sunday, April 6, 2008
After a year and a half of longing, I am finally using the Omnipod!
Different from most pumps in its tubeless insulin delivery, I am able to completely forget it's there! I feel, for the first time since my diagnosis, that I'm not a diabetic.
I usually prefer to wear it on my lower back, on my love handle. As I progress in my training, I'm losing a lot of fat, which makes it difficult to find adequate placement sites. No worries, though, as I have lovely ladyfat still, and the pod is happily placed there.
My stomach is my least favorite place so far, as I've noticed it seems a little more vulnerable to tearing off. Funny story behind that discovery: In a port-a-potty on a recent outdoor climbing trip, I was in such a hurry to get the heck out, that I very nearly ripped my pod off my stomach by pulling up my pants so fast. Oops!
Other than that, my pods haven't given me any trouble. In fact, I am absolutely in love with the system. Most especially, my blood sugar is easier to control, and I'm mostly within target range for the first time ever!
Wearing the Omnipod is very simply, the best thing I've ever done for my blood sugar.
I've also been doing a lot of outdoor climbing trips, checking out Carderock, MD, Great Falls, VA, and Sugarloaf Mountain. My favorite climbs so far are over on the VA side of Great Falls, mostly located in the section, "Aid Box."
Climbing outside allows me to really challenge myself with problem-solving for a dynamically demanding experience. I feel that I'm thinking just as hard as I am working physically, which makes for a truly satisfying experience.
The boyfriend, about to leap into Mather Gorge, Great Falls, VA.
Next time, I'll be posting more pics from climbing outside, and hopefully, lots of more good news about happy blood sugars!
Friday, March 21, 2008
For three days in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, myself and a group climbed ice and snow, gaining experience in technical mountaineering, ice climbing, and the maintenance of diabetes in sub-freezing and extremely physically demanding conditions.
We chose Mooney Mountain Guides, LLC. as our guiding service, and were accompanied and instructed by the fluent and brilliant Art Mooney for all three days. His superb guiding was comprehensive, challenging but not complex, and his companionship and support were invaluable. Further, he had reasonable prices, as opposed to such unmentionable guide megacorps that dominate the region.
Art, besides being an unfathomably skilled climber and guide, was a hoot and a half to be around. His charm and warmth won all of us over, and my entire group still sings his praises high as the skies. We're all immeasurably infatuated with him, as we find his skill and abilities awesome and inspiring. I can't thank him enough for providing our humble group with such a wonderful experience; it would not have been nearly so magical without him.
The name’s Mooney. Art Mooney.
On the first day, we were introduced to ice climbing, using basic top-roping systems, identical to what we use in the rock gym. Eric and I were able to belay immediately, as we had experience, and Art instructed our other partner, Luc, on proper belay technique. I allowed Luc to learn to belay for the first time on me!
This was my first time ice climbing, something I've been dreaming about since the beginning of the year. While that may not seem like a long time, it's felt like a vacuous eternity, filled only with insubstantial dreamings; frequent trips to the library to read books with ice climbing adventures, watching ice climbing videos on youtube, and sharing excitement with my friends.
Drawing upon my experience on the rock wall at home, I was able to meet the technical challenges without difficulty. For most people, the most challenging part of any type of climbing is the terror that can come with entrusting your safety and body weight to the seemingly nonexistent support above you (your rope). You notice it when you fall, of course, but a good belayer doesn't hold you like a baby-Johnny-Jump-Up.
It can be quite terrifying, and I've seen many new climbers lose themselves to the fear of the fall. Luckily for me, I was unabashedly unafraid of falling! The excitement of the moment, my enthusiastic vigor, and my pounding adrenaline washed away any fear of being up high. I was very focused, and I felt completely in my element; literally, cancer is a water sign!
This allowed me to focus on my technique and enabled me to fully enjoy the experience, which is a frame of mind that I've been working hard on establishing for many years. I would hate to be up there, knowing that when I get down, I'm going to wish I had've paid more attention to the scenery or the sheer joy of it.
Have you ever done something that was so challenging that you forgot to enjoy it, and when you were done, wished you had experienced it differently? This was a mental trap I was determined to avoid. For the most part over the course of my trip, I was successful in maintaining this.
Where this became difficult, however, was day 2. On our second day, we climbed Mt Washington. Usually, the weather conditions for a winter climb on this mountain are formidable beyond anything, anywhere nearby. Just today, the weather at the summit is severe; 124 mph maximum wind gusts and one degree above zero at its coldest. It's like being on Mars! Understandably, Mt Washington is nicknamed the, "home of the World's Worst Weather."
Despite MW's intimidating reputation, we were fortunate enough to enjoy a truly spectacular and mild day on the mountain, allowing us to make the summit! Winds peaked at 20 mph and temperatures hovered around freezing! One couldn't ask for prettier weather.
Admittedly, with more severe conditions, I would not have made the summit. My blood sugar ranged from 39 to 584, setting a personal record for my widest range in a single day. The initial approach after embarking from the trailhead was grueling, and in combination, I had taken too much basal insulin (which covers my hormones, a 2x day injection cycle). Stacking too many insulin shots on top of each other and the physical strain on my cold, sleep-deprived body (5 hours) caused my sugar to plummet into the danger zone.
My blood sugar is 39, if you were wondering why I look like a dead person.
On our first rest break after an hour of approach, my blood sugar read 39. I was shocked and utterly terrified to discover this, as I had no inking whatsoever that my blood sugar was so low. At most, I felt a little bit "off," or that something wasn't right. It was as if I couldn't put my finger on it, but it certainly wasn't as glaringly obvious as such a low number would be on any other day.
On the mountain, my heart rate and hormones were matched exactly between hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, and physical stress. Meaning, I couldn't tell the difference between the three. In conjunction with one or the other, they can mislead me to believe that I am fine. This is very dangerous, and I learned to set a regular and frequent schedule for checking my sugar. I should check it once every 30 minutes to understand its direction, in order to prevent such lows again. Had I checked my sugar 30 minutes into our approach, I might have prevented such a low.
Lesson learned and duly noted. yet, my sugar continued to lay low. I corrected my sugar based on the ration I've kept since my diagnosis; 17g of carbs to raise it every 30 mg/dl it is below 130. In fact, I overate! I probably had enough sugar to propel my reading into the 300's. Astonishingly, this was not the case. A short time later, my blood sugar was still under 100, which made me uncomfortable, as there is increased hypoglycemic risk. I ate a bit and moved on.
As we approached the summit around 5,500', I began to experience agony. I felt as if I were going to have a heart attack. My heart pounded out of my chest, I couldn't gasp enough air, and every move was dire pain and nearly impossible. The remaining path to the summit, only a few hundred feet of trail, felt like another mountain in itself.
Getting closer... From left to right, Terry Mooney; my guide’s wife, Eric, me, and Luc.
I could see it through the crystal skies, misrepresenting itself through the clarity as if close enough to touch. But it was a mirage; a hallucinatory vision to trip my reality. The summit was a couple thousand steps from where I stood, an inexorable distance. Every breath, every step, every time I decided to keep moving, I died, re-birthed, died and re-birthed again, crying hard behind my ski goggles. It was a sick quest for a prideful purpose; to be many things - a diabetic, a girl, a teenager - and still a successful summiteer. It was my salvation, my only choice, and also my hell.
Determined to sleep in the bed that I'd made, and resolved to enjoy the fruits of such a decision, I continued on and found myself at the summit, in a fatigued state of disarray and exhaustion. I was certain I'd never make it down, feeling as if I'd been drained completely.
My guide began to show serious concern, and my partner Eric, an EMT, recognized something inauspicious in me. My sugar read 71, but I felt like it should have been in the negative. My hormones undoubtedly influenced my emotional state, and I was terrified. This fear was involuntarily fed to my group, and very quickly, I felt that the situation was more charged than was conducive to my recovery.
My guide immediately took hold of my care, and kept talking to me, asking me questions, finding me food, forcing me to chew, and he offered me his own hot chocolate. I felt safe, though I knew, logically, that I was out of danger. Art's command of my recovery allowed me to focus on keeping a steady, calmed rate of breathing and just chewing and swallowing. With Art and Eric taking turns getting me food, warming it, and literally feeding me, I didn't have to expend any unnecessary energy.
The team on top! Moments before I checked my blood sugar.
After a few pregnant moments of tense recovery, I began to come into myself again. Even though my sugar was in a normal range, I didn't feel any change in my emotional experience of making the summit. Being there, where I dreamed myself to over and over again, was meaningless until it was coupled with the reality of making it down again. With the demand of the descent looming over me, I couldn't enjoy it at the top. I was only concerned with getting back to the car so that I could feel relief that I'd done what I said I'd do.
Just enough energy to make a raspberry.
Though we'd made it to the top, my journey was far from over. After descending to a hut located just above treeline, I felt that my blood sugar was amiss again. A complaint of lightheadedness brought my group to another tense standstill as I checked my sugar.
What joy! Praise the Heavens! I'd never felt so happy to see such a high reading: my blood sugar was 584. This relieved me of any fears I had about another low reading, which I was both expecting and dreading. I was in the clear; out of danger! I had finally escaped the imprisoning terror of being too close to a loss of consciousness.
When I read my glucometer, I felt washed over with air, like I could finally breathe again. Physically, I noticed an immediate difference. The peace of mind provided me with an entirely new frame to position myself in, in order to bound down the mountain with both joy and relief. The rest of the descent was marvelous, and I was able to go over everything in my head, internalizing and extracting hard-fought lessons.
“That’s one big trunk.”
When we made it to my car, I stripped off my gear and reclined in my trunk, blissfully exhausted and marinating in achievement. I'd done it! Now I was excited.
We went home and celebrated, now free of the dangers of the mountain and my own uncertainty.
Compared to our MW climb, our last day of play in the picturesque White Mountains was a day of relaxation and reflection. This is not to say, however, that it was easy! We climbed a 700-foot multi-pitch ice route that is a staple for local climbers: Willey's Slide.
Proudly, we practiced various self-arrest techniques, glissading, and I even invented a technique of my own: when descending a soft snow slope with fairly deep powder drifts, one can glissade exercising control in order to expend less energy. I call it the Eldridge technique. Look for it in the next edition of Freedom of the Hills: The Mountaineering Bible.
The ice climb was magnificent, and I felt both alive and at peace. I'd found the freedom and solace that only the Great Outdoors can provide. Finally, I felt like a real mountaineer! There I was, short-roped in with my group, alongside a North Face athlete and avid climbers. I was really living, the way I'd dreamed since I was a child - out there, in the Great White North, where the air is pure and the Earth virginal, and where I could stand in the humbling shadow of real wilderness.
This was the day I enjoyed the most, and I relished every moment. Art showed concern over my quieter moments, which were very out of character from the previous days of bubbly enthusiasm. Yet, my sugar was fine - I was simply at peace.
Anchored with massive ice screws, I hung off the ice slope, resting my body and mind, and regenerating my spirit. The great fall beneath me, and the long climb above me, centered me between the moments I left behind and the future I could look forward to, and for a time, I reflected on these in great joy. For the first time, I began to taste the addictive ambrosia that lures the climber's soul, enticing it to mountains, over crevasses, and through cold and fear.
There, I found what American mystic Joseph Campbell called "my bliss." And it is there, in the great beyond, that I hope to return soon.
Thanks to Art Mooney for the laughs and the photographs.
To view more photos, visit my public facebook album!
For more information on Art Mooney and his awesome guiding service, visit his website.
To view the current summit conditions on Mount Washington, and to view a live webcam of the mountain, visit their homepage.
Monday, March 3, 2008
At the end of every day that goes by that I don't train, I go to bed with a heavy feeling of malcontent, and I wake up reinvigorated. If this inspiration is too insubstantial, and I don't work out again, then the guilt accumulates to make me even more determined to end my frustration with visible progress and the adherence to my goal plans.
Basically, I feel like a lazy good-for-nothing, and I give myself no slack for it. It's simply unacceptable, as I have far too much riding on my success, and it is far too important to ignore and leave to fester.
This past weekend, I went on a marvelous outing to Great Falls Park, MD and did some rappelling and learned some technical skills for what is known as "aid climbing," or climbing a rock face using rope loops as "steps" and pull systems. Specifically, the "Texas Prusik," a technique useful for self-rescue when one's fallen into a glacier.
This guy's practicing the Texas Prusik on a tree.
What fun! The latter climb took me a long time, as I was practicing incorrect technique. It's much harder than it looks on paper! Conceptualizing it is one thing, but it can be very challenging indeed.
Rappelling in the Potomac Gorge. I'm up pretty high!
Lastly, I will be spending my spring break in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. A couple of friends and I will be climbing Mount Washington and Mount Lafayette, and also some ice faces! Ice climbing is a very specific and potentially dangerous skill, but I'm very excited to get started!
It's going to be a very cold climb, many degrees below zero, and most certainly below freezing. Wind chill's going to be killer, as the summit of Mt Washington is the windiest place on Earth (on record).
I'm sure I'm going to have a blast! Check back next time for marvelous pictures and hopefully, a story of a successful summit!
Monday, February 18, 2008
Which, of course, is staggeringly life-changing. Though I've always believed that I should be just as physically capable as a non-diabetic, I never thought I actually was. Since the beginning of my training in January, noticeable changes have been appearing in my physicality, performance, and appearance. This is truly an achievement for both myself and diabetics everywhere; to know that the condition does not have to dictate your abilities. Attitude and discipline are everything.
This past week or so was intense. As my climbing technique, strength and stamina are all increasing and developing steadily, I conquered my most challenging climbs ever at the rock gym; a couple of 5.9's a few times and one 5.10! I'm not at all solidly on that level yet, though, because even some 5.7's challenge me. I am hoping to master 5.9's very solidly within the next couple of months so that I can learn to sport lead, a much more demanding and dangerous style of rock climbing.
To feel my body changing is very exciting, and it's almost at a rate too fast for my consciousness and awareness to maintain. When I am up on the rock wall, my muscles feel much stronger than I can ever remember, and I'm moving in ways I don't fully understand. My creativity in climbing movements is surprising me, and it's encouraging to feel myself improving in my skill and ability. Needless to say, I'm still in the honeymoon phase of my physical training.
This last weekend was perhaps my most physically demanding of all. I managed to do a 7-mile hike over very rocky terrain with a 44-lb. pack (approximately 32% of my body weight) that lasted about 4 hours. Three days later, and my gluteus maximus is hurting so very, very good. Buns of Steel's got nothin' on that hike.
The hiking crew and I, far left. I'm the dipstick with the massive pack.
If that weren't tortuous enough, I just had to go climbing at the rock gym immediately afterward to bag those tough aforementioned climbs. Whoo dillay! I am hurtin' from my ankles, to my calves and things, to my back, shoulders, forearms, and everywhere in between. I need some aspirin, a massage, and perhaps a punch in the face for having lost my mind. Does anyone know a good masseuse/ dojo/ pharmacy?
Truth be told, I loved every minute of the grueling agony of physical exhaustion, and I had even more energy left over. In fact, I wanted to push myself further, but enough is enough! There is always time for more masochism later...
Since that hike, my blood sugar has practically resolved itself. In the graph, take a look at the last third of the readings. Those are my blood sugar results since the hike and following climbs. It may not be easy to see, but my blood sugar finds a much tighter range, with one high reading of 285.
This is a breakthrough in my understanding of how exercise affects my metabolism, and I'm excited for the good news. Also, I blasted through all of my emergency sugar while on the hike, so I can't be too careful about that. I'd rather carry too much than too little, and that's a lesson I don't ever want to have to learn the hard way.
Lastly, I will be doing a late winter climb of Mount Washington come March. Weather conditions ought to be crushingly cold and windy, perhaps below zero and >40 mph winds. I can't wait! What a great opportunity for me to get some instruction and experience with snow travel, crampons, ice axes, and self-arrest. Also, I'll be anxious to see how my glucometer and insulin will fare in such harsh conditions. I'd rather make some mistakes and learn from them on Mt Washington than Mt Rainier.
Friday, February 8, 2008
But then, that's why it's so great to keep a training blog - it's something to hold me accountable! What am I going to do, lie on my blog? That would neither serve me or you, the reader. I'm blogging about my real experiences, because I believe it's important to show the world what I'm doing, and because I believe everyone should be getting "out there," and challenging themselves to adopt a healthier lifestyle. Besides, if I'm not happy with what I have to say on here, then I'm motivated to do something to satisfy my hunger for stimulation and to push my limits some more.
Now that I'm heading into my fourth week of training, I can't believe a month is gone already. Officially, I have 20 weeks left until I get on the plane to Seattle-Tacoma airport. Sounds like a lot, but looking back, time really flies.
In reflection, I think that I've done a great job so far. In terms of fitness, I've managed to:
- become an avid climber of my local rock gym, hitting it for many hours several times a week
- establish a habit of going to my local fitness center to do one-hour workouts, encompassing warmup, cardio, strenth and flexibility training at least three times a week
- hike my first proper "summit"
- keep my motivation momentum going!
Also, I can tell that my physiology is changing. Not only does my body feel tighter, leaner and stronger, but I have a spring in my step and some power to my grip. Everything; standing, walking, all movements feel more precise and carry more power. In other words, I feel fitter than ever.
My blood sugar hasn't magically resolved itself to perfection (I'm very disappointed to say) but I have been monitoring it even more actively than usual - which can never be a bad thing! I'm also waiting for the green light from my insurance company so that I can go on the Omnipod. After trying it on, I realized there is no way I could ever use a regular pump. The Omnipod liberated me in ways I haven't felt since before my diagnosis, and that's peace of mind worth every penny. I hope my insurance agrees!
Logistically speaking, my flight is booked, I have a hotel in Seattle for a few nights after my Rainier attempt, and I've got a 5000-cubic-inch girly-purple expedition pack on its way to my doorstep, along with some nice hiking boots for outside training. Check out the pack!
With my new pack (as required by Rainier Mountaineering, Inc.) I'll be doing some serious pack training, which is one of the best ways to get in shape for a big climb attempt, according to most experienced mountaineers. Makes sense - replicate the climb itself for the most logical and effective prep.
While I'm waiting for my new toys, I'll be continuing to go to Earth Treks to get my butt beat on the rock walls, and going for dayhikes in the area.
Speaking of which, I climbed my first proper "summit" this afternoon, with the company of my mountain-climbing dachshund, Karma. Who knew doxies were such enthusiastic mountaineers? Karma, at least, is a powerhouse. Take a look at her as she absorbs everything from her vantage point at 1300 feet up at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain.
While 1300 feet isn't much to look at on paper, it was a good challenge for training purposes, and it was beautiful at the top, too! With a 25-lb. pack, I climbed to the top and watched the sun dip behind the rolling Appalachians. Being a monodnock, or a single peak that's lasted through the geological eras as its surroundings have mostly eroded, the view from the top was spectacular.
What a view! And what a nice reward for a good two-hours' worth of climbing. I picked up a couple of Sugarloaf quartzite nuggets as well, just for shiggles.
Looking forward to the coming weeks and months of training, I figure it's time for a concrete plan. Here's my training-goal calendar from here until Rainier:
Week 4 - 30 minutes every 3 days on steeply-inclined treadmill with a 25-lb. pack, plus regular workout routine of lifting, stretching and cardio
Week 5 - 45 minutes every 3 days as above with 35-lb. pack
Week 6 - 50 minutes every 3 days as above with 35-lbs.
Weeks 7-15 - 50 minutes every 2 days as above with 40 lbs.
Weeks 15-20 - 1 hour every 2 days as above with 45 lbs.
Besides my goals with a weighted pack, I will maintain my regular gym schedule at Earth Treks and with cardio and strength training. Also, I plan to climb Mount Mitchell in North Carolina before the winter chill is gone, which ought to happen in March sometime; Mount Mitchell is the higest peak East of the Mississippi River.
Until next week, happy blood sugars!