31 January 2012

EK Climbs Kili: Day 5 (Londrossi Gate to Mti Mkubwa Camp)


START: Planet Lodge (~1400m or 4600')
VIA: Londrossi Gate (2360m or 7740')
END: Mti Mkubwa Camp (2900m or 9500')

TIME TO MEET THE MOUNTAIN ALREADY! We start the day with a early breakfast (7am and the same food as yesterday) and as we are finishing, our bus shows up to Planet Lodge and it's time to load up. There is a Good Earth representative who gives us our hired sleeping bags and trekking poles for Chris. We meet a few of our crew: Mchami (waiter/porter) and Peter (cook) and also there are a few other guys who don't introduce themselves. We load everything on an awesome bus and hit the road.
The bus, a little later in our journey.
The first destination is the Good Earth office, where the gears rep hops off the bus after making sure we have everything we could possibly need. We are on a shortcut between Planet Lodge and Arusha-Himo Road and the road is...rustic. I'm beginning to wonder if the entire trip will be this slow, but when we hit Arusha-Himo Road (A23), it's paved and we speed along. There doesn't seem to be any speed limit, but there are random speed bumps every 5-10km or so. There's also plenty of traffic to pass on the 2-lane highway, and of course since Tanzania is a former British colony we drive on the left-hand side of the road.
Inside the Rainbow Super Deluxe.

After a few hours we pull over at a major intersection (at Boma La Ngombe/Sanya) and stop at what can best be described as a Tanzanian gas/convenience store. There, a whole bunch of guys get on the bus and one of them introduces himself as Godlisten - our guide. We chat a tiny bit but it's clear his main focus is getting his crew on board and accounted for. We are traveling with quite an entourage - a guide, an assistant guide, a cook, 6 porters, a driver, and assistant driver (trust me...very necessary!). Everyone piles in with their gears and we set off, northbound. Lots of Swahili is being spoken, and Chris and I are looking out the window in awe. WE ARE IN AFRICA! In the very far distance, we can see the outline of Kilimanjaro's Uhuru Peak, and it's surreal. There's lots of haze at lower elevations but the peak is faintly clear so it appears to be floating in the distance. It's a scene our dinky point-and-shoot cameras can't capture but as we get closer, I manage a similar picture.
One of our first glimpses of Kili.
After about 2-ish hours (total, from Planet Lodge), the road turns to gravel and the bus slows down. It's not graded gravel either - lots of ruts and washed out sections are everywhere. We trundle along this route until the road starts to pitch up and we approach the Pine Forest Gate. I'm not exactly clear about what the Pine Forest is but it seems to be an organized effort to farm pine trees, and we have to pay a fee to enter. The Forest isn't related to Kilimanjaro at all, except we have to pass through it to get to Londrossi Gate. The road turns to narrow, loose dirt doubletrack and small boulders start to appear. The driver has to really pay attention to his lines and it reminds me of mountain biking, except in a bus not designed for off-road use, with 12+ people on board. Cool. Along with pine tree cultivation, it seems some people have permits to grow potatoes, carrots, and cabbage. We see lots of people out tending/harvesting these crops. I'm glad our ridiculous bus can entertain someone out here.
Me, on the inside of Londrossi Gate.

Chris and me at the sign of advice. Read #6 closely.
Finally, we reach Londrossi Gate! Here, we have to sign into the park, and we first experience "the book". Every manned camp on the mountain has a ledger book where each tourist has to sign in, along with several items of data such as nationality, passport number, birthday, occupation, age, sex, tour company, guide, permit number, etc. It's amusing because each book asks for slightly different information, in a different order, but it's all for the purpose of keeping track of the tourists. We spend a while at the Gate because we have to do an official weigh-in for our porters.
Gears weigh-in. That's Godlisten in the tan shirt and shorts. The guy in the navy striped polo is weighing and recording.

I go into detail about why we chose Good Earth here, and those reasons were exemplified at the gate. All of the luggage has to be weighed, divided, and recorded to make sure that no one person is carrying too much. This process takes about an hour and then we load it all back in the bus and keep driving. Even though we're in the park, the first part of the Lemosho Route is driveable, and therefore we drive it. The road condition is the same doubletrack as before, and again I am amazed at the driving skill. Finally, the bus simply cannot go any more - the ruts have become more than wheel deep and we'll scrape out the undercarriage if we keep going. So the crew unceremoniously unloads our stuff on the side of the trail, and organizes it into loads as Chris and I eat a box lunch (butter sandwich, hard-boiled egg, baked chicken leg, potato chips, crepe, cookies, chocolate bar, and mango juice box).
This is the start.
Mareme and me a few km down the road. I look concerned about my heart rate.
And then, just like that, our hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro starts on a dirt path about 1pm. It's hot, exposed, and I can feel myself breathing harder than normal. I have a few moments of panic (I'm barely above 2500m and already I feel tired? How am I going to make it up to 5900m?) but I try to brush it off as nerves and keep going. Chris and I are hiking with Godlisten (guide) and Mareme (assistant guide) and the porters are on their own, an arrangement that is standard for the trip. There are pine trees on either side of the trail and we see a few MONKEYS cruising around the tree tops. They are black and white and sort of look like skunks. These are the first, last, and only large mammals we will see on the trip (there are some chipmunks in certain camps but nothing else). We reach the end of the doubletrack and the hiking path starts. It's no joke. Steep and rooty, it's great hiking and as we move into the shade, my heart rate seems to settle in. The four of us chat in English a little, Godlisten and Mareme chat in Swahili, and it seems like the next seven days will be really fun.
I'm hiking up Kilimanjaro!
Me and Godlisten in a burned-out tree trunk. Probably used to be a beehive in there.

Along the way, Chris and I focus on drinking lots of water. Hydration is the not-so-secret weapon to aiding altitude acclimatization and we are taking it seriously. Chris finishes his 3L before we get to camp but Godlisten tells him it's not far away. We roll into Mti Mkubwa Camp (means "big tree") at about 5p and our day's hike is over after we sign the book! Our tent is set up but our bags aren't here yet (only time this happened on the trip, and just due to logistics of the first day), so we just hang out and watch the goings on. There are lots of tents being set up - some sleeping tents, some dining tents, some cooking tents, and even some bathroom tents for those groups that paid for them. Our team has 4 tents - 1 for me/Chris, 1 for 4 porters, 1 for the guides + 1 porter, and 1 for the cook + 1 porter + the kitchen (which is basically a big propane burner).  Chris and I didn't pay for a dining or bathroom tents so we eat on a Masai groundcloth and pee in the regular camp outhouses (a hole in the ground with walls around it).
Mti Mkubwa Camp seen from our tent. This is the only pic I have of it.

When our bags arrive, I change into camp clothes (basically, a cotton tee for sleeping only and fleece pants) and Mchami brings some hot water over to our tent for washing - a custom we will go through before every meal in camp. After washing up, he brings over a snack - it's popcorn, shortbread cookies, and hot drink.
A view of snack & hot drink from later on in the trip (Barranco Camp).
Allow me a minute to explain hot drink. It was one of my favorite things about the whole trip. At every meal in camp (breakfast, snack, dinner, and some lunches), we were provided with hot drink. It consists of a thermos of hot water, 2 mugs, and about 8 different powder mix options: Milo chocolate drink, Cadbury Drinking Chocolate, Cadbury Cocoa, Africafe instant coffee, Nido powdered milk, Kilimanjaro tea, sugar, and masala tea spice. In the mornings I would make a mixture of Africafe, Nido, and one of the chocolates. In the afternoons I would just make chocolate and Nido. Chris liked the Africafe and tea. The red thermos held about 3.5 mugs' worth of hot water, and I often drank at least 1.5 mugs and would then ask Chris if I could use his share of the water for a 3rd mug. It's safe to say I was obsessed with hot drink. I miss that thermos. Towards the end of the trip we ran out of every powder except the Cadbury Cocoa and tea, but even those were still tasty.

The sign for Lemosho Route from earlier that day.
 After snack and hot drink, we have a short break before dinner so we continue the hanging out - I sit on a tree root and soak it all in. Pretty soon, Godlisten and Mareme come over to the groundcloth and we have dinner together. The food is pretty unbelievable - creamy zucchini soup, fried tilapia, fried potatoes, raw cucumber & tomato slices, and vegetable sauce (diced vegetables with a peanut flour/tomato paste roux) to pour over everything. Dessert is a sliced avocado. It's unlike any avocado I've ever eaten; it tastes sweet. I know my travel doctor told me not to eat raw vegetables, but I trust that Good Earth doesn't want me to get sick any more than I do, and I eat the cukes and tomatoes with dinner.
Some porters from earlier that day. They are not from our team but carried similar loads.

During dinner, we talk about the upcoming trek and Godlisten's plans for us. We show him the schedule Good Earth sent us (and I blogged about here) and he gets frustrated. He says that schedule puts an extra easy day early in the trip and then stacks hard days as we get closer to the summit, therefore hurting our chances of a successful summit bid. He proposes a new itinerary: instead of the planned medium hike to Shira I tomorrow and easy hike to Shira II on Friday, we will hike long to Shira II tomorrow, medium to Barranco on Friday, and then have 2 short days before the summit. Chris and I are easily convinced to spend our longer days at the lower altitudes and we agree to the changes. After all, Godlisten has been summiting this mountain for 12+ years and I've never been above 10,000 feet.
An African blood lily from today's hike.

It's dark by the time we finish dinner but it has been nice to hear more about our route from the people who will be actually traveling it with us. We tell everyone lala salama (Swahili for "safe sleeping") and pass out about 9.30p.
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30 January 2012

EK Climbs Kili: Day 4 (Arusha)

Note: click on the "kilimanjaro" label to read about the entire trip.

I wake at Planet Lodge at a reasonably normal hour (6am local time) after a reasonably decent sleep. I claim first shower and have the pleasure of about 3 minutes of warm-ish water, and then it's room temperature water for the remainder. The water pressure isn't that great either, but hey, I'm in Tanzania! Hakuna matata! I throw on some "town clothes" and go back into the main room. Chris is not there...uhhh, should I be worried?...then he comes inside from the balcony area (we have a balcony?!) and proclaims "It's f---ing paradise out there". Good morning to you too! But paradise is something I've got to see so I stick my head out of the balcony door and...he's right:
Mount Meru, from our balcony at Planet Lodge. 14,977' or 4,565m.
We can see Mount Meru from the balcony, but we don't even have to look that far to be amazed. The hotel is meticulously landscaped and maintained. I'm torn between appreciating its niceness and wondering how many gallons of irrigation water they go through each day. 
Panorama from the balcony of Planet Lodge.
Chris showers after me and there is no hot water for him either. We head over to the main building for breakfast at 9a. We are the only guests eating in the dining room so it's pretty quiet, but the food is excellent. We have the Planet Lodge special: fruit plate, 1 egg, piece of toast, tomato, bacon, sausage that looks like a hot dog, and a croissant. There is instant coffee on the table and we will soon learn to love the ubiquitous mixture called Africafe. After breakfast, we meet with David from Good Earth to go over details for our trek. Nothing he says surprises us, and at the end of our discussion, we get to pay him! Lucky us! At the end of the meeting, he arranges for another Good Earth driver to pick us up and bring us into Arusha for some lunch.
The LandCruiser we drove around in. Photo is courtesy of TripAdvisor.
We meet Joseph at noon in a Good Earth LandCruiser and we go into Arusha which is about a 5-10 minute drive from the hotel. Planet Lodge is so new that you can't even see it on The Google, but here is a quick map of some places we visited (some are from the last day in Arusha). Anyway, once in town we go to a Bureau de Change where we buy Tanzanian Schillings. Then we go to Arusha City Park Restaurant for lunch. Chris orders a meat stew with rice (wali nyama), I order a banana and meat stew (ndizi nyama), and Joseph orders a Sprite. We eat and it's all delicious, I am only hoping that my gut doesn't reject anything later! After lunch is over, Chris and I convince Joseph to drop us off at the Central Market to let us walk around the town. We don't want to spend the whole time in Arusha being sheltered by a vehicle, especially one that so obviously screams "tourist on board". Joseph agrees, we set a meeting point and time for later in the afternoon, and leaves us two last pieces of advice: #1: Swahili for "no thank you" is "hapana asante" and #2: Chris should carry my bag.
Typical scene outside Central Market. http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-photo/discovering_tz/1/1263222293/central-market-arusha.jpg/tpod.html

The Central Market is like nothing I've ever experienced. There are vendors everywhere, of every scale and level of sophistication. Some women are selling only a few carrots from a plate. Some are selling used shoes on tarps that cover several meters. Some have actual booths or carts. It is dense but not clausterphobic. Chris walks first and I am behind, so the bag (messenger style) is between us, but I don't really need to worry about its security because by and large people are ignoring us. I did not anticipate this; I thought the market was going to be a stressful solicitation event.
A typical vendor at the Central Market. http://interningtanzania.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/arusha-central-market/
I don't take pictures, mostly because I feel it would somehow objectify the market as a tourist attraction and not a way of life. (As I write this now I realize I WAY overthought things, but I am still comfortable with not having pictures. You can always see other people's here and here.) After the Central Market, we walk down to the Vegetable Market which was recommended by a friend of Chris'. It's similar to the Central Market except less organized, and more crowded. People still ignore us. When we get out to the street, a couple guys try to pick-pocket Chris, but there's nothing for them to find. We decide to cross the street and Chris darts through a small gap in traffic, but I wasn't paying attention so I stay on the 'sidewalk'. Traffic resumes and there isn't a good place to cross, but more pedestrians are sort of gathering on my side of the road. Eventually, we unspokenly decide there is a critical mass and we all start crossing together. Traffic stops. We make it. I feel like I'm starting to "get" Arusha.
The ShopRite (aka ShopWhite). http://gettingaround.tanzania.xp-travel.com/HighlightDetail-GettingAround.Tanzania-Get-new-supplies-in-Shoprite-Market---Arusha-2075.aspx

On the other side of the street stands what is fast becoming a symbol of African westernization - the ShopRite, which is a modern chain grocery store becoming more and more widespread in Africa. We don't buy anything but after the intensity of the market, it's nice to just walk through a few isles. As we are leaving, the power goes out. No one panics - it's a regular occurrence.

After the ShopRite we visit several little shops in strip malls on either side of the giant grocery store. it seems that this is a more touristy area of town since the shops actually have walls and windows and doors, and no Tanzanians are shopping here. We pop in a bunch of gift-shop-type places and I buy a postcard and a Christmas ornament. We also use the public toilets - squatting again! - before having an unusual coffee drink from Msumbi Coffee. It's called an iced coffee but it's very airy and not cold, sort of like drinking a whipped, room-temperature Frosty. Not exactly refreshing but still tasty. We still have an hour or so before meeting Joseph so we decide to just walk the streets of Arusha. We walk Sokoine Road to the Central Market and back.
Sokoine Road. http://www.panoramio.com/photo/59616337
The road is full of people going about their day. There are no stoplights or stopsigns in Arusha, so traffic can get a little hairy, but it seems to me that somehow everyone gets where they need to go. We see every form of hauling method - bicycles, mini-buses (aka daladalas), motorcycles, human-pulled or -pushed carts, people with loads on their heads, etc. It's bustling in the best sense of the word. It's been hot out but not oppressive. I wore my Tevas, black knee-length skirt, flowery tank top and a short-sleeve cardigan, and felt perfectly comfortable (both temperature-wise and culturally) all afternoon.
Chris sorts the gears at Planet Lodge.

We meet Joseph back at the ShopRite at 4p and he takes us back to the hotel. Since it's sunny and warm by Northern Hemisphere standards, we decide to try the (small) outdoor pool. I swim a few strokes of goggle-less butterfly and pronounce myself in shape. We eat dinner in the hotel, complete with local brews: Kilimanjaro lager for me and Serengeti lager for Chris. The rest of the evening is spent sorting gear in the hotel room. It totally feels like AR prep for me and I am giddy. I can't wait to get on the mountain tomorrow!
My gears all ready for the morning. CHALLENGE: Spot the Bonk Hard race shirt and tell me the race and year for a non-prize.

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28 January 2012

EK Climbs Kili: Days 1, 2, and 3 (Travel)

Note: click on the "kilimanjaro" label to read about the entire trip.

DAY 1 / 14 JANUARY 2012 / SATURDAY / STL --> LGA

After finishing most of the packing the night before, I meet Megan at our favorite coffee shop so we can caravan to my work (to drop off my car in the gated parking lot) and then to the airport (so I can, uh, get on a plane). I fly Southwest to Chicago-Midway and then into New York-LaGuardia. I land in New York and then realize I don't really have any plans or instructions to get to Chris' apartment. That's a little uncharacteristic, but nothing a cell phone can't solve. I call Chris* and get the skinny about taking the M60 bus to the E train...no problem. Except I am lugging a humongous duffel which threatens to permanently entangle me in the turnstiles. I'm sure I made a pretty comical sight at Penn Station but if there's one thing I love about New York, it's that you can look as ridiculous as you want and there's always someone weirder. So no worries.

I call Chris as I pop out on 14th Street and we meet on the sidewalk. It's an awkward hug since I have so much luggage but Chris helps out and takes my backpacks as we go to his parents' apartment. In all the years I've known Chris, I've never properly met his parents so it's great to finally meet them. The apartment is gorgeous and we have a delicious dinner of steak salad. Yum. I feel the need to pack in raw veggies since I won't be eating them in Tanzania. We do a little bit of gear rearranging, tip organizing, and football watching before bed.

DAY 2 + 3 / 15 + 16 JANUARY 2012 / SUNDAY + MONDAY / EWR --> AMS --> JRO
We make scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast before hitting the streets of Greenwich Village for some last-minute shopping. I need a spare camera battery, Chris needs some drink mix, and we both need cash. Once we get back to the apartment, we pack everything up and take some "before" photos, which remind me of my parents taking "first-day-of-school" pictures of me as a kid.

Then we take a cab to Penn Station, a NJ Transit train to Newark Airport, and an AirTrain to the terminal. I check my duffel and Chris argues vehemently to carry-on his 65L backpack. Somehow he convinces the agent it will fit in the overhead. We find our gate and I eat another salad while Chris charges his phone and we both watch more football. Gotta embrace our last minutes of America! We board a Delta plane for the overnight flight to Amsterdam and Chris' backpack does indeed fit in the overhead - victory!
The flight is not as bad as I thought it would be. Even though we're in plain old economy, beer and wine are FREE and we are fed actual meals. I have ordered vegetarian meals for all of our flights because airplane meat weirds me out. Except I forgot that vegetarian to the majority of people means "pasta with cheese", two food groups that I'm not especially fond of. So dinner is a cheese-filled pasta with pesto cream sauce. With some insanely sweet white wine.

I go to sleep after dinner and snooze over most of the Atlantic. I wake up over London and we are fed again - muffin, a banana, and orange juice. We land in Amsterdam just a bit after 7am, and the sun isn't even up! Those poor Amsterdamians! We just hang out in the airport as the sun rises, walking around a little bit, until it is time to board the flight for Kilimanjaro. This time it's a KLM plane and it has a name - Audrey Hepburn. Classic. Before we board we have to go through security AGAIN, at the gate. I guess Schipol Airport rolls this way? The flight attendants again cast their scorn on Chris' large bag but they allow him to carry it on when they see my small bags. I guess we equal each other out? 

The flight to Kili is LONG. Thank goodness for the excellent KLM hospitality - every seat in economy has a personal video screen with about 50 free movies to choose from. I watch Footloose, Crazy, Stupid, Love, and I Don't Know How She Does It. Please don't judge. Lunch is a delicious veggie curry! Awesome! I eat it as we go over the Alps! Awesomer! I try to nap a little as the sun sets because we have a few more hours to go. We finally land at JRO about 8.40p. It's such a tiny airport that after the MD-11 plane lands, it has to make a 3-point turn at the end of the runway to return to the terminal. There is no jetbridge - we just walk down some steps and across the tarmac in the general direction of this one door. There might be 1 or 2 airline crew supervising this - we are definitely not in America! It's dark out but warm and the terminal building has no air conditioning. Most of the passengers need to get their visa so we stand in a glomulous line for a while until it's our turn. The agent takes a quick glance at my entry paperwork, a slightly less-quick glance at my $100 USD, and then stamps my passport. BOOM. I'm in Tanzania.

Now we have reached the first of two rather large measures of the trip's success - has my checked bag made it to Kilimanjaro in one piece?. We go into the baggage claim area where there are many pieces of luggage circulating on a belt. I don't see my bag. I start to have visions of hiking in the same pair of underwear all week. And then, lo! A blue duffel appears! With the TSA locks intact! Rejoice! I will have clean clothes after all. I hoist the bag up and carry it into the reception area. Now it's the second rather large measure of the trip's success - do we have a driver waiting for us? There are many many people with many many name cards. I don't see anything familiar. Then, Chris spots a card with "Emily Korsch x2" on it and we meet our first Good Earth employee in the flesh. His name is Richard and he will be driving us plus 3 others to the hotel tonight. The others haven't made it through the visa line yet so we are instructed to wait outside with our bags. I take the time to use the toilet which looks like this:
Once the other tourists have been collected, Richard loads all of our stuff into a Good Earth LandCruiser and we are off to the Planet Lodge in Arusha. The drive takes about 45 minutes and although it's dark, I see several people out and about - walking down the road, congregating outside houses or bars, etc. I pinch myself several times on this drive. I am in AFRICA. 

We arrive at the hotel which is clearly a tourist hotel - it's gated and way fancier than any of the surrounding properties. The hotel staff greet us in the lobby with small glasses of juice and warm washcloths. Both are much appreciated as we sign in and are directed to our room, which features an amazing entry system (see photo). We are offered dinner but both Chris and I are too tired to be hungry, so we basically dump our bags in the room and go to sleep right away. 
Three days, 20.5 hours of flying, and almost 9,000 miles traveled have landed me in Tanzania, ready to start a wonderful adventure. I am giddy as I fall asleep, but so tired that it doesn't take very long.

*I know what people are thinking because some have asked me in person already - NO, Chris and I are not dating. We have been friends since sophomore year in college (same major). He is one of my closest friends and I hope that doesn't ever change. I happen to be (chronically) single but Chris has a great girlfriend (hi Casey!). So, stop your whispering already!
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27 January 2012

EK Climbs Kili: Preview

So, I'm back in the US and have lots and lots to share about my Africa trip. In short, it was amazing and I want to go back...tomorrow. I have a few lessons learned but in general, things went very very well for my friend Chris and me. No sicknesses, no injuries, no blisters, just lots of hiking and successful summiting.

Money shot:
Me and Chris at the summit. Our lead guide, Godlisten, is illuminating the sign with his headlamp.
Lots more to tell in the days to come!

View of the summit from Barranco Camp.

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13 January 2012

EK Climbs Kili: More Packing

Now we are onto the second phase of packing! To recap the first installment: I used Good Earth's recommended packing list I divided everything up into categories, and completed Foot Care, Pharmacy, Bathroom, and Small Gear. Now, I have these four categories remaining:
  • Big Gear
  • Town Clothes
  • Climbing Clothes
  • Paperwork 
Good Earth's list has: (my details in parentheses)
Day pack, for you to carry
Large duffel bag or backpack, for porters to carry (150L)
Plastic bags for storage (18L and 25L drysacks + gallon ziplocks)
Trekking shoes for hiking during the day, preferably warm, waterproof, and light
Tennis shoes or sandals for lounging in the evening
Hiking socks for warmer conditions (3-4)
Wool socks for colder conditions (3-4)
Sock liners to wick away moisture (2 + CEP socks)
Sleeping bag rated 0*F

I am mostly using my AR gear here. My pack is a 25L-ish GoLite VO24 pack with a 100oz bladder. I bought this after my first AR, knowing that I was hooked. I chose it because Team Virtus recommended them. I am bringing trail running shoes (New Balance 786) and hiking boots (adidas Terrex) for use during the day (depending on the terrain) and some old Tevas for use in camp. I decided to rent a sleeping bag from Good Earth since I don't currently own one that's warm enough. Sonja "before I kicked butt at Ironman I was a mountaineer" Wieck convinced me to bring a sleeping bag liner (for hygiene and warmth), and I'll also use this on the plane as a back-up blanket. Tents and sleeping pads are included in our trekking fee.

Good Earth's list has: (my details in parentheses)
Shorts (and 3/4 tights)
Pants, for hiking and for lounging in the evenings (trekking pants + comp tights)
T-shirts or Short-sleeved shirts (3 technical fabric)
Long-sleeved shirts, for hiking and for lounging in the evenings (2 technical fabric)
Long underwear (wool, 2 pairs pants, 1 LS top)
Fleece pants
Fleece top
Down jacket or ski parka
Rain jacket (or poncho) (REI softshell)
Rain pants
Underwear (10)
Sport bras, for women (4-6)
Mittens and/or gloves (Dakine outers + wool liners)
Wool or pile hat (wool)
Balaclava / neck gaitor (Buffs)
Hand and foot warmers (chemical activated)

The chemical warmers are in my "Small Gear" bag. I recently WON a special edition BUFF (!!!) that I will be bringing in addition to the ones from my brother (Christmas present). I lost one from summer camp and I am super bummed! I am bringing a range of clothing, most of which I wear on a weekly basis for workouts anyway. Do you think the porters will care if I hike in spandex instead of trekking pants? 

This is a category I have struggled the most with, mostly because we won't be spending THAT much time in town. But I am told the dress code in Arusha is conservative for women, so I am packing things that are breezy but also not bikinis. Which includes:

Long skirt
Short sleeve cardigan
Long sleeve cardigan
3 tank tops
Short sleeve t shirt
Trainers (trail runners)

Not really a category, but I'll use a mishmash of Town and Climbing Clothes on our inter-(or is it intra-?)continental journey. Definitely wearing my hiking boots, CEP socks, and yoga pants, and bringing 2 jackets: down and softshell. A few days ago I wrote to my good camp friend Kiwi (guess where she was born) for some advice about long flights and she made some great suggestions: bring chapstick/lotion for the dry plane air, bring your toothbrush on board, having travel info ready for customs forms, and drinking lots of water which forces you to get up and move around on your way to the bathroom.
huge blue duffle has everything. light blue backpack and green messenger bag are carry-ons.
So! There you have it! All packed up, mostly, kinda, sorta. Won't matter in a few hours because I will be ON A JET PLANE!! Wheeeeeeeeee! Pin It

07 January 2012

EK Climbs Kili: T-minus 1 Week

Close to this time next week, I will on a plane going to New York. Then on Sunday I will get on a plane bound for Kilimanjaro airport, with a stop in Amsterdam. Crazy! This whole trip has come together so quickly and I am glad it happened that way since I can hardly stand waiting. Here are the last-minute details I have been consumed with...PACKING! I love and hate packing. The list-making is fun, but the actual gathering everything together, in one place, clean, and then making it fit into one bag, can be stressful. I used Good Earth's recommended packing list, ameliorated by a few other lists I found online, and set to work acquiring all my gear. I divided everything up into categories:
  • Foot Care
  • Pharmacy
  • Bathroom
  • Small Gear
  • Big Gear
  • Town Clothes
  • Climbing Clothes
  • Paperwork
Today I finished up packing for foot care, pharmacy, bathroom, and small gear. And guess what, you get to see what I'm bringing with me!
It's all about the feet.
On Good Earth's list were:

I have this, but I haven't used it on my feet since my soccer-playing days. So I added a few things that I use currently and that are recommended by Fixing Your Feet: Hydropel, KT-tape, callus cushions, heel cups, nail file, toenail clipper, extra shoelaces, and small pocket knife.
The pharmacy is open for business!
On Good Earth's list were:
NSAID of your choice
Throat lozenges
Sunscreen (SPF 15+)
Lip balm with sunscreen
Insect repellent
Disinfectant/Antiseptic cream
Bandages and tape
Diarrhea medicine
Ace bandage
Melatonin (1-3mg) or other sleep aid
Malaria pills (Malarone)
Prescription drugs

I am bringing all of this, except the sunscreen is in the Bathroom bag. Just made more sense to me there.
Hi ho, hi ho, it's to the bathroom I go!
On Good Earth's list were:
Toilet paper (and baggie to carry used paper while on trail)
Small towel
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Handi-wipes (moist towelettes for cleaning)
Hand sanitizer
Glasses, contacts, solution (take contacts out each night to prevent blurred vision)
Comb, mirror

I am bringing all of this except the glasses/contacts stuff because I don't use those, and I am not bringing a comb or mirror. What good will it be to visually confirm how campy I look anyway? I am adding a few things to this list such as tampons, deodorant, a razor, and eyedrops, and the sunscreen from the "Pharmacy" is in this bag. 
Small gear to be brought with me while climbing.
On Good Earth's list were:
Water bottles and Camelback (2-3)
Gatorade or other drink mix helps with taste and minerals - I'm using NUUN!
Water filter or iodine purification tablets
Sun hat with brim
Ski or trekking poles
Headlamp or flashlight
Camera, film, tripod
Video camera, tapes
Extra batteries
Notebook, journal, pencil, and pen
Pocket knife
Electricity adapter
Energy bars, hard candy, snacks, and comfort foods
Playing cards, games, books, frisbee, football, kite
Chocolate or pens for village children, mementos for guides, porters, and other climbers
Umbrella, particularly useful in the rainy season
Plastic bags and zip-lock bags for waterproofing
Sewing kit
Salt, pepper, and spices for bland food
Business cards
Alarm clock
Swim suit for hotel swimming pool

I am not bringing film, a tripod, a video camera, or binoculars. I am moving the swim suit into the "Town Clothes" category. I am bringing 2 Nalgenes (1L each) and my 3L CamelBak (in "Big Gear" category). I am bringing about 500 calories in snacks for each day on the mountain, and it's a mix of Honey Stinger 20g protein bars, Clif bars, Honey Stinger gels, Justin's Nut Butter packets, Honey Stinger waffles, Gu Chomps, and Honey Stinger chews. I also added chemical handwarmers (10), an emergency whistle, and travel kleenex to this list.

Getting my ducks...er...bags....lined up in a row.
...in ditty sacks from REI and a dry sack from Sea to Summit! I named the ditty sacks just to add some cuteness factor. The small (2L) green bag has all my foot care stuff and is "La Nina". The medium (3L) red bag has all my pharmacy stuff and is "La Pinta". The more-medium (7L) blue bag has all my bathroom stuff and is "La Santa Maria". The even-slightly-more-medium (8L) green dry sack has all my small gear, is unnamed, and my stuff in there is too big for it to seal in a waterproof manner. This will change when I remove my trekking poles.

My next post will cover the other categories: Big Gear, Climbing Clothes, Town Clothes, and Paperwork. I haven't got those things together because, to be honest, I need to do some laundry before packing.

So...can you think of anything I'm missing? Anything that's not on the list and I should consider bringing? Am I going overkill? Any suggestions for naming the 8L dry sack (keeping in mind that I have a 18L and 35L for my clothes)? Please share!! Pin It

05 January 2012

On Being Coached

I haven't even been blogging for a whole month, let alone the entirety of 2011, but I've already closed the books on the year. 2011 marked an enormous change in perspective for me, which was mostly caused by my coach. Have I told you that story? Most likely not since I have...ummmyeah...TEN published posts. Well now is as good of a time as ever. Let me start at the beginning.
2010 USAT Halfmax Champs: first time racing on aero wheels.
My final triathlon of 2010 (oh, so long ago!) was the USAT Halfmax National Champs in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. It was the first race I've ever flown to (although my bike got to drive there with other St. Louis Tri Club athletes). I rode my road bike with clip-on aerobars and borrowed 404s. I ran in my trail shoes because my regular shoes hadn't come in yet. I had a decent day for my fitness at the time, but finished way down in the AG standings because lots of other girls were way fitter. And faster. But I was satisfied with completing my first almost-HIM (swim was cancelled). I said good night to the 2010 triathlon season, tucked it into bed, and got ready to go out with my off-road friends for some winter fun. Several weeks later, I got an email from USAT saying a roll-down spot for the 2011 ITU Long Course World Champs had made its way to me. Saywhaaa? I didn't know it would go down that far, but I guess with some girls aging-up and whatnot, I made the cut. I didn't have to think twice about this one...racing in an international race, wearing a USA kit, actually IN the USA? Sign me up!
2010 USAT Halfmax Champs: finish line.
As I began digesting the distances for ITU LC Worlds, I knew I would need help. A 4k (2.5mi) swim, 120k (74.5mi) bike with lots of climbing, and a 30k (18.3mi) run with more climbing sounded like something a little beyond my triathlon comfort zone. I had always scoffed at the idea of coaches before, thinking they were either for the uncurious, the lazy, or the advanced athletes (3 groups which I am not a part of). But the pressure of racing in a Team USA kit forced me to think about how to best prepare myself for this race, and deep down, I knew I couldn't do it alone.
The many faces of GoSonja!

Fortuitously, I read lots of blogs, and the author of one of those blogs just happened to post about this same time that she would be starting to coach in 2011, and was accepting a few athletes-slash-guinea pigs. I nervously wrote an email, trying to strike the right balance between tenacious and teachable, and sent it off. We traded some emails, mostly with me wondering HOW this was gonna work, but in the end Sonja's positive attitude, appreciation for the off-road side of me, and general bad-assery won me over and I signed up.
Ya know, just a little run on the Lost Coast. From http://gosonja.com/?p=5767

Signed up for what? Well, I was soon to learn (like many of her athletes do) that, in training, more is not better except when it is under MAF, faster is not better except when it's in the pool, and total health (body + mind) is the name of the game. Was I freaking out when I had HR caps in my workouts that limited my run speed to 13-minute miles? And dudes in basketball shorts were passing me? You betcha, but I kept telling myself "you paid this woman, now you follow her instructions". And follow them I did.

What do I think of coaching now? Well, I've signed up again with Sonja for 2012, so that should tell you all you need to know. In general, if you have the resources and can connect with a coach who you believe in and most importantly believes in YOU, then absolutely go for it. Having a coach released a gigantic amount of stress I didn't even know I was placing on myself. Being uncoached, I was always wondering...is it enough? Did I ride far enough today? Did I run fast enough up that hill? Did I do enough 100s in the pool? Training was never really...OVER...because I could always be convinced (by other people or myself) that I wasn't doing enough and maybe I really should sneak in that last fast run.
The beloved colored boxes of TrainingPeaks. Not my schedule though! Those "secrets" shall not be revealed! From http://www.trainstravels.co.uk/coaching/triathlon-coaching-package/

Some people have commented to me that they don't want a coach because they don't want stress about another person telling them what to do every day. I couldn't agree less. Having a coach that provides you with daily workouts REDUCES so much stress, it's great. I just execute what the little colored boxes in TrainingPeaks tell me, then I go to sleep. Easy. Done. No extra thinking required (except when writing my post-workout comments, and that's a GOOD think) and I am confident that it's finally enough. Good coaches know how to integrate enough training into your life schedule. That's why you pay them, and if your coach is putting too much on your plate, speak up!!
Now that's one full plate. Gross, eh? From http://www.nbcphillysandwichmom.com/?paged=2

Being coached as also opened up my mind to a whole new philosophy on training. I am more grounded in the development of aerobic capacity. Training has become much more personal: I do what's important for ME on THAT DAY, and everyone else can take their let's-race-to-the-top-of-that-there-hill and shove it (unless, of course, that's what on my "schedule" and I feel good, then game on). I have learned the value of recovery and many different ways to encourage it. And...bottom line...I AM FASTER.
Eloquence, defined! From http://chuckiev.blogspot.com/

Still isn't enough for you? Check out some much more eloquent words on coaching, from my former grand-coach, here.

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