Raising the Bar

If you have spent any time with me in the last 4 months, you have already heard me gush about how much I enjoy working out at The Bar Fitness every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6 am.

In January our neighbors Kaylee and Brian invited John and me to try a workout there so one morning we all piled into Brian’s truck and headed over. We walked into the gym and our trainer Ryan greeted us and encouraged us to “look alive, 6 am.” Friends Ross and Daradee were there to cheer us up as well. Between the 6 of us we produced plenty of sweat and I can say I became hooked on the challenge, the camaraderie, and the results.

The workouts involve a warm-up of 2-3 laps around the block. Then Ryan shows the group of 20 brave souls the 10 exercises we will complete in 2 or 3 rotations. These pictures show us doing Marine Rope Jumping Jacks, Treadmill Sprints, Tire Jumps, The Sled, Spin Bike Sprints, and Kettle Bell Swings. Not pictured were some planks Ryan threw in just because he loves us.

Cindy started going to Ryan’s small group training classes, and soon Larry started joining her. Here’s a pic of the Kili crew with our trusted torturer Ryan. Thanks for Raising the Bar on our Kili training, Ryan. We’ll raise a toast to you from the summit.

Ryan, Trish, John, Cindy, Larry at The Bar

2 Weeks to Go: Lit Review

One thing I like do do before traveling to a new country is read as many books about that place as I can. I have to say there are a lot of really (really) tedious books about climbing Kilimanjaro. I’m begging you–if your trip up Kili was 1. hardly bearable, or, 2. the first time you ever slept in a tent, PLEASE don’t write a book about it. Because the climb & whine narrative has been done. I’m sorry I wasted several hours on books of that nature, and I’m not even going to mention them here.

Instead, let me talk about some books that are really wonderful.

First is a book my friend Kevin Haworth sent me. He’s the Executive Editor of Ohio University Press & Swallow Press, and he has an African Studies Series with a slew of great titles. He and I had discussed the trip and he knew I was looking for some more comprehensive and culturally sensitive books in advance of our trip. This book Race, Revolution, and the Struggle for Human Rights in Zanzibar by G. Thomas Burgess is a perfect fit. I could not put this book down. Burgess completed extensive interviews with Ali Sultan Issa and Seif Sharif Hamad–leaders in opposing parties during the revolution of 1964. Burgess then molded their oral histories into compelling first person narratives. This brought political struggles to a personal level.

Second is the book In the Dust of Kilimanjaro by David Western, who was a British ex-pat raised in Tanganyika (that was the name for Tanzania before the 1964 union with Zanzibar). David grew up hunting wild game with is father. When David was 15, his mother Bea moved the family back to England because David’s father was killed by an elephant and David’s best friend drowned in the Indian ocean. David stayed in England through college, but went back to East Africa as soon as he could, where he devoted his life to the study of ecosystems, conservation advocacy, and wildlife planning.

I was astonished by this biologist’s ability to fully render his personal experience with narration and description while also explaining complex cultural, ecological, and historical concepts in such clear terms. I especially appreciated his descriptions of interactions with the Maasai and with local governments. And though much of the book’s action takes place in Kenya (not Tanzania), the research and programs David discussed gave me great insight into what we will see on our own trip through the Serengeti.

I still have a stack of books to finish, though I doubt I can get to them all in the next two weeks. But I will look forward to seeing them when I get home all in one piece.

Culture, history, and identity : landscapes of inhabitation in the Mount Kilimanjaro area, Tanzania : essays in honour of Paramount Chief Thomas Lenana Mlanga Marealle II (1915-2007) / edited by Timothy A.R. Clack.

Thin ice : unlocking the secrets of climate in the world’s highest mountains / Mark Bowen.

Under Kilimanjaro / by Ernest Hemingway ; edited by Robert W. Lewis and Robert E. Fleming.

Lessons from Mount Kilimanjaro : schooling, community, and gender in East Africa / Amy Stambach.

Gossip, markets, and gender : how dialogue constructs moral value in post-socialist Kilimanjaro / Tuu.

Mount Kilimanjaro : mountain, memory, modernity / edited by François Bart, Milline Jethro Mbonile

Kilimanjaro : a regional history / Ludger Wimmelbücker. v.1

3 Weeks to Go

Three weeks from now we will be on a plane to Atlanta, where we’ll board our flight for Europe. The thought evokes sheer panic in me, perhaps because when I imagine leaving, I know I’ll be second guessing all of my packing choices. I think I need to have everything perfect. I’m still missing an item here and there. We ordered prescription sunglasses that will be here in a week or two. I need to decide what to read on the trek and how to read it. Will I carry any books or will I read from my iPhone? Every time I think all the decisions have been made, here come 20 more.

One thing I know I’ve done right is the training. I have logged many miles and climbed many vertical feet. I have really enjoyed my time with Larry and Cindy on the mountain. We have put boots on just about every trail the park has to offer. John hasn’t joined us because he prefers to cover more ground. He likes to knock out 12-16 milers at a brisk pace. His hardest job in Africa will be slowing down to acclimatize as we climb.

4 Weeks to Go

We’re getting so close to departure. There are times I feel like we’ve done so much to prepare that when the time comes I might forget to go. This is close to my last packing run-through. I’m very happy with the way my gear has come together. I’m underweight and even have room for a few luxury items. This first picture shows 3 items that will not go on the trek: slippers, big camera bag, and the small duffle I’ll leave behind at the hotel. Everything else goes on the trek: the big duffle, the day pack, the trekking poles, the sun hat and glasses, soft camera cover and helmet.

Be Prepared

In the next picture, the two red bags are for safari, Amsterdam and Zanzibar and do not go on the trek. The rest packs into the big duffle. Here’s what we have from left to right.

Hand & foot warmers
Bug repellant & sunscreen
First Aid Kit
Camp Towel, Flashlight, batteries, bandanas.
4 hiking outfits
5 cozy layers: silks, wools, lightweight, heavyweight, and ultraweight
Heavy Fleece
Down Jacket
Rain Pants & Rain Jacket
Camp Shoes
-20 degree sleeping bag

And Away We Go

Now it’s time for a big fitness push: plenty of training, good eating, and sleeping well. I also just checked out 8 more books about Kilimanjaro from the library. I’m really getting excited about our trip.

5 Weeks to Go

May is by far my favorite month in Phoenix. The Jacaranda are full and purple. The Lady Banks Rose and Citrus Trees still smell sweet. My Tomatoes go so crazy I start to feel I won’t be able to eat them all or even give them all away. The mornings stay crisp: in the 60’s, while the afternoons peak in the high 80’s or low 90’s. It’s like living in San Diego, except we can afford it.

So it’s hard at just this moment to think about going to Africa. I wake up in my comfortable bed, snuggle the Vizslas as they wiggle their morning greetings. I go down and pour a cup of coffee and take it out into my garden to check on my beets and carrots, my peppers and squash, my petunias and snapdragons. The air feels lovely and cool. The grackles are grackling and the mourning doves give an occasional oo-OO-oo oo.

Penny in the Maters

I turn over in my mind the various reactions people have had when I describe our trip. “Are you afraid?” to “It will change your life.” to “I hope you don’t lose any fingers or toes.” And sure I have my own fears. But the biggest fear is lack of comfort. I look forward to the camping. Seven nights under the stars will be lovely. But I’m most afraid of the cold temperatures and the difficulty breathing at altitude. We’ll be sleeping at over 18,000 feet.

The trip is now 5 weeks away. We have only a few more items to get from REI, a few more packing run-throughs to make sure all our gear is in order. We’ll ramp up the training, of course, with more hiking, weight-lifting, track workouts to improve anaerobic conditioning, and yoga to keep us injury free. It feels impossible that we could do anything to prepare in just 35 days that we haven’t already started.

But here’s one thing. I think above all I’ll try to learn that I carry comfort with me. That comfort is not attached to my soft bed, or my dogs, or my garden, or the temperature, or any of my things. I’ll try to learn that comfort is being happy where I am no matter the circumstances.