I leave for Africa tomorrow. I am taking my kids to see their dad to Tunisia, so it seemed a perfect opportunity to go to Tanzania as well.
My best friend Nadia and I will be trekking Kilimanjaro via Umbwe route, here is a short description of Umbwe
"The Umbwe Route is generally regarded to be one of the hardest routes when you climb Mount Kilimanjaro but has spectacular scenery including a number of caves that can be viewed en route. The Umbwe Route often draws fit young people who are attracted by the route's designation as the hardest route on the mountain. The route is certainly raw and unkempt and very steep until it reaches Barranco at 3,984m, from which point it intersects the Machame Route. Only two days are spent reaching the same point that is reached after three days on the Machame Route and for this reason headache and mild nausea are relatively commonly on the Umbwe Route, even below 4,000m."
Make no mistake since Nadia was able to come, it will feel more like tweens on a sleepover listening to Justin Bieber than a climb.
We start climbing July 12 and we are set to be done the 17th. I am sure looking forward to this climb, it is suppose to be an amazing trek and maybe we will be able to see wild life.
Considering how crazy life is at the moment I am surprise to be feeling well, I have had some great runs.I sold my house and even though the original intention was to move to North Carolina after Charlie and I got engaged, I decided to move to Vancouver for a year to be with my sister now that she was recently diagnosed with Lupus. Muneca is doing OK, she is working hard on trying to figure out how her life is going to change if any. My kids are a bit stressed since dad is not crazy about us moving to North Carolina, so I am taking a year to sort things out. after a year in Vancouver my kids will get to choose where they move to, with dad to Malta or with me in North Carolina. I wish I have had those choices growing up. While it might be confusing and seem stressful, I cant help but loved that my life is so much different now, just a few years ago, I felt alone and vulnerable now it seems everybody want us and we are in the position to help. Is time to give back to the universe.
I wish everybody had the strength to not quit and find an easy way out,there were many times that I had my choices question and I almost did settle, fortunately, I am my own worse enemy or my best adversary and I am unable to do something that at the end doesn't feel right for me. and trust me for every time I cried, I ended up laughing ten times after. Is hard for me to know what's right for anybody else but myself, what I do know is acting out of fear, pain or ego is not something that will lead to a fulfilling life. I use those emotions to channel the courage necessary to get things done. I happen to think that obstacles are just opportunities waiting to be discovered.
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”Kahlil Gibran
People always seemed to know half of history, and to get it confused with the other half. Jane Haddam
It used to be so much easier to blog about my adventures. Nothing has really changed so it should still be the same. I start an adventure, work around the things that seem to be obstacles to what i want, go hard and try to accomplish successfully what i set out to do. In essence nothing has changed yet everything seems to be.
I just got back from Mt. McKinley after a successful summit. Except from a split toe, i got back healthy and happy about my performance.
From the moment I announced my intentions on climbing, i had to fight the wave of criticism, i tried to just put my head down and not pay attention but it just seem to be coming from everywhere. Many times i lay in bed wondering why? the advantages was that it was something that was getting attention, after all, that's always the goal, to do something noteworthy. I have experience something like this in the past when I decided to go to Japan, I was only 19 and i had the opportunity to go and work. Just like mountaineering, the risk were big and obvious, if the agent was not who he said he was i could have been sold to slavery, yet with my family blessings i left. It turned out to be a real agent and a wonderful father figure. It also open many opportunities to the rest of my family. I benefited greatly, got an education and managed to break the circle of poverty. Unfortunately I also paid the consequences, i never returned home, the whole town turning against a young unmarried woman leaving home to find opportunities. Was it unfair and bias? you betcha, my brother soon follow me to Japan and he was features in the local paper as a hero just as i sneaked the back door.
I found myself for many reasons in the same position, I am who I am and i have the feeling that I will continue to do everything I can for my loved ones. I guess is unnatural for a mother to want to risk her life in the hopes of a better life for her kids. My intention was never to foolishly risk my life, if anything understanding the risk made me pay more attention and never take the mountain for granted. I talked to many people about climbing and discover that it can be done safely.
So in spite of the wave of controversy i left for Mt McKinley May 18th. Patrick Delaney an accomplish mountain guide and friend was my companion in the journey. we arrived in Talkeetna around midnight and by the next day at 3:30pm we were on our way to base camp at 7200 ft. Things never slowed down after that, we didn't stay at base camp and we continued to camp 7800 ft carrying about 200 lb between both of us.
The next day we almost made it to camp 11,000ft, we build a shelter and camp at 10,600 ft, the weight clearly slowing us down. Let me tell you, slowing didn't really mean slowing, through it all Patrick and I maintained a relatively high pace. It was not until we carried gear to camp 14,000 that i had to talked to Patrick, we never climbed together before and i don't know much about mountaineering but i do know pace and heart rate, i knew that at the rate we were both going we were both going to end up getting sick, so after that Patrick granted me a steady pace and at the end we ended up faster just because we didn't have to stop much to rest. One of the advantages of been a female in the world of endurance is that we are more patient, it didn't bother me to see groups ahead of us, I didn't have anything to prove to them, taking care of me was of more importance.
The hardest days for me were the last 3, we had to carry gear from camp 14,000 to high camp 17,000 and then summit, Patrick's style is fast and light so we only carried a light tent, a couple of days of food and our sleeping bag to high camp. we climbed and slept with what we had on. On day 9 since we started the expedition at 5:30am we headed for the summit, i was tired almost immediately as we started, the only thought that kept me going that day was the desire to be done and come home. By the time we made it to the summit around 1:30pm i was cold and exhausted. I didn't unfortunately find nirvana, i wanted to come home. On the way down we came across other climbers on their way to the summit, it felt great to be done. Just before we arrive to camp, we came across two climbers on distress. One was suffering from frostbite on his right hand and was screaming from the pain, the other climber was just confused. Patrick quickly got them on their feet and helped them down the mountain. It was a tricky situation to help these two guys incredibly shaky and awkward on their feet, I understand why they say most accidents happen on the way down, it takes a lot more coordination but also it makes it psychologically hard since when you are going down you can see how high you really are. One of the guys slipped three times but Patrick managed to hold on to them until we finally got to solid ground. At the end instead of 10 hrs we ended up been out there for 12.
The next morning, we decided to go hard and try to meet the last plane to Talkeetna, we skipped breakfast and with only a litter of water we headed down from high camp to base camp, a loss of over 10,000 of elevation. We stopped briefly on camp 14,000 and 11,000 to get the rest of the gear and give away as much of the food we had left as possible, pop tarts were a huge success specially with the Koreans who never had them before. things where going great, i was in pain from trying to maintain some sort of control using my feet to try to slow us down but i knew that it was of no use to complain, we needed to get down no matter what.
Just before we arrived at base camp, only about 5k away, we came across a German man named Hans, just like my son, who asked if he would travel whit us, his friends had left him since they all had skis and he was snowshoeing. In no time Hans found himself in a hole. Patrick once more came to the rescue and got him out. It took us two hours to arrive to base camp going slow making sure not one of us ended up at a bottom of a crevasse. we missed the last plane but thanks to Patrick we both ended up nominated for an award thanks to rescuing climbers in trouble.
Over all, i was incredibly pleased about the climb, I felt strong and healthy, very fatigued but understandable considering we didn't have many rest days. The only one problem we encountered was when i left a bag of waste in one of the camps. I was determined to follow the " no trace left behind" rule always climbing with bags to dispose of waste, it's very sad that there are a lot of climbers who disregard this rule, follow instructions only until nobody is looking. The climb to the summit is full of human waste, i wish DNA was an option and every climber who disregard this rule would receive a nice notice in the mail. I was determined to bring it all the way down as instructed but left it in one of the camps when we stopped to retrieved our gear. the bags are marked with our climbing number so no need for DNA, it was double bagged and ready to be disposed. At the end I picked a $250.00 fine, ouch, but i still don't regret having done what i believe was the right thing.
So i guess you can see why it's hard for me to write, what it used to be a trait to be admired, persistence and undeniable commitment to my family became, egotistical, delusional. I haven't changed at all, i do take advantage of the media attention is creating, after all that was one of the goals i set out to do, but at the end, as long as I am home with my loved ones, we are smiling and laughter is heard more that screams or tears i will know that I am on the right path. I hope that my kids learn to never be afraid, to be true to themselves, to follow their passions with all their heart and to know that they have a mother who would do anything in the world for them.
Time is a companion that goes with us on a journey. It reminds us to cherish each moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we have lived.Captain Jean-Luc Picard
A few more weeks and I should be on my way to Mt McKinley. In my mind I am already there, i can see the mountain, feel the air in my skin, smell the wilderness around me and hear the stillness of my own breathing. I have wanted to be back climbing since Aconcagua. It is calling me back. This is the first time in my life that I am experiencing selfishness, I have always lived fully yet never forgotten my responsibilities. Now I want to do things because they make me happy and I expect everybody to understand. Sure they are still things that are positive. Happy is the new black.
Things have been kind of crazy around me, dating Charlie has both advantages and disadvantages, if you watch his movie Running the Sahara you will soon realize we are really the same person. But been apart and traveling so much leaves a strain on both our hearts and our pockets.
And then there is the documentary, to my incredible luck i was asked to be part of a documentary where they follow some women, all mothers and all doing things to help others, the documentary will air on a new channel been developed by a very influential woman(hint,hint)it was an opportunity of a life time and i couldn't pass it. It however left me feeling overexposed. The more the put a camera on my face the more i wanted to turn in to my family, i guess to counter the feeling. In an age of reality shows, most which i have never watch, it left me wonder how can they do it and not loose their soul a little everyday. I have done acting, but is a job, just like any other. A documentary is a story told about your life looked through the directors eyes. i am incredibly grateful to be part of if and will be ready to watch it on TV when it airs, it also allowed my son Karl to be a somebody for the few days they where in town, I loved watching him smile and been so confident. But what I am about to do is very serious and it needs all my energy and focus, so I am glad I can go back to my normal life, the best part of it is the part where I go out for a run or training, on my own, nobody watching,just me and nature.
My preparation for Denali is down to trying to stay fit but not overdoing it either, I have no injuries but I have been run down from not giving my body a break. I will write a full report with full gear info and more details just before I go, I am scheduled to leave May 17th and until then I will just keep my head down and try and stay focus.
I am back in Calgary after my amazing adventure. I don't think that i have ever worked as hard for a race before, sure they are difficult races but the stress never left even after crossing the finish line. Every single time something else kept coming up i simply tried to breath and told myself that I don't have to do what I am doing, even if I am doing it for my son Karl, I want to. As soon as i made it clear that I have fought hard for the right to tell the world that my son Karl deserves a cure then obstacles seem a lot smaller.
Sure they where times when I though, you have to be kidding me! overall, the experience was amazing. I had a camera following me around this time and many people asked me if that made it easier or harder. the truth is that after a while, it didn't matter, the camera was there to record the truth and that's what i intended on doing, pretend it wasn't there. Mario and i got along well, that was great since he got to see me crying,he was very respectful, but i knew he needed to do his job and they are after all doing me a favour.
Here is a list of the things that made my trip challenging and how it unfolded
Fri Feb 26th, my childcare person canceled, 6days before my scheduled flight
Sat 27th, the earthquake hits Chile and my flights get canceled
direct flights prices went from $700 to $3,000 in a matter of hrs
Sun 28th- direct flights raise to $6,000 ( no, you don't get to keep the plane for a week, I asked)
Mon Mar 1st- the search for cheaper alternative results begin (the coffee brew non stop that day)
Tue Mar 2nd 1:50pm- booked a flight to Salta Argentina
4pm My sister, Muneca, my best friend Nadia and friend Susan volunteer to look after my kids
11pm Pack my gear and go to bed
Wed Mar 3rd 4pm start my 41hrs trip to Salta, Argentina
Fri Mar 5th arrive in Argentina with no luggage, my only possession, my laptop,my school books, and the clothes i was wearing
Sat 7am leave by car to San Pedro de Atacama, 13 1/2 hrs drive. two flat tires, endless checkpoints later we arrive in San Pedro at 9:30pm
Sat 6th 9:30pm the hunt for gear begin, Miguel a Kunza hotel porter goes home to lend me his sleeping bag
Sun 7th 1pm, gear is complete, just in time for gear check, i get my bib and I am allowed to run the race
2pm. we leave to camp one
Mon 8th to Sat 13th Atacama race
Sat 13th 4pm my luggage arrives to hotel
6pm the hunt for a ride home begins after confirming buses are full
10:30pm a private car agrees to take me if I find one more passenger with both of us paying 2 1/2 times the price
11pm i convince Keven my Australian tentmate that Salta is a great city to tour, I carefully avoid telling him the ride is 13hrs with no restaurants in between so yet again we will be surviving on chips, and he has to lend me some money since I can't afford the trip back now, a great offer if you ask me.
Sun 14th 9m, Keven and I wait at the lobby for the car to take us to Argentina
10:30am after calling several times to confirm and they telling me they are just running late the office secretary tells me they are not coming, mis communications she tells me, did i tell you Spanish is my fist language?
2pm after hrs of trying to convinced them the company agrees to take us to Argentina
Mon 15th 1:15am arrive in Salta Argentina
1:30am to 4am chat with Charlie on Skype he lends me money to pay Keven back, he arranges to have money at a Western Union in Salta
8:30am, go to Western Union close to the hotel to pick up money, they refuse to give me the money since the transfer is not addressed by my full name, my middle name is missing, I run around in Salta for the next hr trying to find an other branch that will overlook this
9:45am Charlie runs to his local branch to add Angelica to the transfer
10am get the funds!
10:30am arrive at the hotel, pick up my luggage, leave an envelope in the front desk for Keven who is still sleeping and go o the Airport
10:45am check in and begin my 35hr trip home
Tues 16th at 12:35pm arrive in Calgary
I would be lying if I told you that i wasn't expecting things to go wrong, everything told me that maybe this was the not the best time to go to a race. I realized that I while I have been so busy fighting for my son, i have created a sort of image that I can do anything, the trust on my ability that people around me showed was unbelievable. There where times when I didn't want to go, i get tired sometimes of working so hard all the time. I am human, i had an opportunity to bow gracefully of a race, on the pretense that i had tried everything but while I could lie to everybody and make excuses i couldn't lie to Karl, had I really?
That's how I found myself in Atacama running 150 miles across the desert on borrowed gear, I didn't always have fun, and more than once I cried but it is a reality, two weeks out of my life is nothing if it means than my son might have an opportunity for a better life. Two weeks of my life vs the rest of my sons life, no contest.
I am schedule to speak at the cnib luncheon May 7th, it's a time for me to reflect on the time when i found myself alone with my two kids after the diagnosis made anybody close to me very difficult to cope with and they had to pull away. 4 years later I am surrounded by amazing people that are offering their support, to let me know my kids and I are not alone. I am doing these for my kids, but i think is also a wonderful opportunity to offer hope to anybody that is going through a hard time, that if we stay positive, things will get better.
If until now, the love of a mother has been an incredible source of strength that has brought fantastic things, now that I have the support and love of amazing people around me like my best friend Nadia, my amazing boyfriend Charlie, my family, I can only imagine what kind of change we can create in the world.
I have had a perfect day so far. I woke up early in yet another strange room and bedroom. I have been in Jacksonville, Florida for 3 days in support of my friends at Challenged Athletes Foundation. I especially had a blast with 6 year old Timmy, a below the knee amputee that just blew me away with his positive attitude. If he is handicapped, then we should all be so lucky. I ran the Gate River 15k with me good friend Chris Roman and about 18,000 other runners.
Okay, all that was fine but I was totally preoccupied wondering about Norma and how she was doing. And then the best part of the day happened, I got an e-mail from Norma!!! My phone “dinged” and was overjoyed to see her name on my phone. I was really frustrated by the lack of information that is available from these races. Although I have to say that the Racing the Planet folks did a good job considering they were in the middle of a giant desert. Today it was worth the wait for information. Here is what she had to say:
“i made it, it was a tough go physically but not mentally, i lost 3 other toenails and the sharp terrain cut through my shoes, it got better once i decided to slow down. it took me about 15 hrs to finish, too long. there where a couple of parts where i could run and i started to get on a rythm and then sharp hard terrain came and i lost all the time i won and a lot of people overtook me again, this happen several times and i was so frustrated but then i realized that’s what my son karl feels all the time, having to be tutored just to catch up to everybody all the time. so i became more determine to find a cure for him, nobody should have to work so hard all the time. Mario also asked me on camera if i was disappointed since i could have done so much better but i don't want to focus on what i didn't accomplish but instead i realized how amazing is the fact that i am here finishing the race given the fact that it didn't look like it was going to happen. the amazing support of everybody that came to my rescue. also, the team red hot chili runners, the 4 boys that came on the bus with me from argentina, 4 friends from london told me last night while on the course, we where all struggling, that they are going to donate the funds of next years annual fundraising to my charity, that's incredible, that i managed to inspire them. the boys are your biggest fans now, after playing Running the Sahara on the bus, and i told them that if we don't have anything on that date next year, we might come to london to join them at their fundraising party. well. we start at 12 noon and suppose to run 10k, then i will run to chat with you. i am looking forward to hearing your voice soon. love you baby.
Norma sent me one more short e-mail to say that she is FINISHED and very happy and tired. She is already trying to deal with the problem of getting home but having problems arranging for a ride back to Salta. She didn’t get to enjoy the finish for very long before having to deal with reality. But she asked me to tell everyone that she is fine and she could feel all of the amazing positive energy everyone was sending her way.
Norma will take back her blog in a few days. Thanks to everyone for tuning in . See you down the road. Charlie